Salesforce and the Four Agreements

Dreamforce was a whirlwind for me this year – between launching BrightStep Partners with Megan, meeting clients, business partners, and friends old and new, and generally trying to take in the fact that Dreamforce this year is literally over ten-times the size it was when I first attended – I think I was on my feet for almost 12 hours every day.  And, here’s what I learned from talking with countless individuals and organizations this year: we love Salesforce, but not all of these loving relationships are healthy.  So, how can organizations considering and using Salesforce build a healthy relationship with the platform before and after their implementation is complete?

In my most recent blog, I suggested that organizations considering Salesforce that begin their process with an RFP are starting in the wrong place.  But if an RFP isn’t the right place to start, then where is?

To begin answering this question, I want to introduce one of my favorite books, The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz.  These are very simple guidelines for living that, in my opinion, also apply to the world of implementing Salesforce:

  • Be Impeccable with Your Word – Speak with integrity and honesty
  • Don’t Take Anything Personally – Nothing others do is because of you
  • Don’t Make Assumptions – Ask questions, and express what you want
  • Always Do Your Best – Act without expecting reward

The hard truth is that implementing Salesforce isn’t for everyone, and isn’t always for the faint of heart: sometimes the healthiest relationship is the one you don’t have.  It’s easy to get caught up in looking at product strategy rather than platform strategy for organizations – especially when there are so many available products that are open to nonprofits using Salesforce.  Implementations driven by the promise of these new product(s) can offer a sense of immediate solution to the problems and questions nonprofits face, but don’t always consider how these products will fit into an organization’s greater need to align itself around the promise and the power of the platform for the long term.

How do The Four Agreements fit in to all this?  Each of the Agreements reflects a question that an organization should ask itself as it embarks on a hopefully successful endeavor to implement and have a healthy relationship with the Salesforce platform:

  • Be Impeccable with Your Word: Is Salesforce Right for Me?
  • Don’t Take Anything Personally: Do I Need to Change?
  • Don’t Make Assumptions: Do I Know What to Change?
  • Always Do Your Best: Am I Right for Salesforce?

Is Salesforce Right for Me?  Be honest regarding your organization’s needs, and act with integrity that encompasses the needs of your organization.  There’s a lot of momentum in the nonprofit sector driven by both the assumed “freeness” (like a puppy, as I’m wont to say) of the Salesforce platform and its obvious extensibility.  But could another platform perform equally well for your organization?  Are you willing to accept the tradeoffs and gains Salesforce offers?  Are you aware of what these are for your organization?  Be candid about what’s driving the real need for change at your organization, even if it stings.

Do I Need to Change?  Change is a double-edged sword.  Do my existing processes and procedures actually warrant switching platforms, or are they just in a state of disarray and require cleanup and evaluation of the departments they engender?  Divesting organizational and personal ego from the question of organizational change is a difficult endeavor, since the move to Salesforce can sometimes be driven not by need, but by desire.  And, if you are moving to Salesforce, what of your existing processes and procedures do need to change to better accommodate the best use of the platform, and not turn an implementation into a single person- or department-driven process?  Implementing Salesforce successfully should be driven by a holistic organizational change, and not a personal or departmental one.  Sometimes the investments of a single person or department can override a greater organization’s discovery and design of Salesforce, which, once baselines have been set inside the platform, can have long-reaching consequences for bringing others into it later.

Do I Know What to Change?  Assumptions about what needs to change at an organization can doom a Salesforce implementation to failure even before it is completed.  The hope that Salesforce, or selected products that an organization is implementing concurrently with it, are assumed to contain the “best practice” for the processes and procedures an organization wishes to move into Salesforce, is dangerous.  “Best practice” is merely supported, and not provided, by the platform.  While extended navel-gazing can also paralyze an organization’s adoption of Salesforce, being very concrete and realistic about what is changing through an implementation can support long-term success.  Sometimes, understanding what this change is requires stepping back entirely from Salesforce, and evaluating who the stakeholders in the implementation are, and how they are participating.  My critique of RFPs is that for many organizations, they capture the unchallenged processes, procedures, and assumptions an organization has about itself, rather than offering an alignment of mission, strategy, and desired change.

Am I Right for Salesforce?  Even if Salesforce as a platform matches your organization’s literal needs, you’re willing to invest in change alignment and change management, and you’ve ensured that no single person or department is the clear “winner” in discussions about what gets implemented, Salesforce still requires your organization to step up over time.  Are you willing to put the care and feeding into what will become a living, breathing, growing and changing platform.  I’ve written extensively about Salesforce and the “Puppy Talk,” in the past, but have you considered the long term cost and need of your adoption, and all the tools, licenses, administration, staffing and staff training, and other needs Salesforce will have?  You’re not buying an Excel sheet, you’re buying a platform that will reward many times over the efforts you take to keep it healthy throughout the staffing and budgeting lifecycle of a nonprofit organization.

The next step of raising the beautiful new Salesforce puppy that you’ve adopted is to develop a healthy relationship with it, and by examining organizational motivation and change readiness, that relationship can begin with a healthy start.

Co-Founder, BrightStep Partners • Salesforce MVP

Posted in Adoption, Change Management, Implementation Success, Strategy
3 comments on “Salesforce and the Four Agreements
  1. Joni says:

    This is a great blog! Love it!


  2. Lori Freeman says:

    All great points Tracy. It’s hard work to do the internal diligence around what are the highest priority problems to solve. Good stuff here for folks to absorb as they set out on their path to leverage technology to solve those problems.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. […] nonprofits is to let these purported solutions drive how they acquire technology, rather than an organizational alignment around the acquisition and a strategy for its implementation. There are many amazing organizations, such as NTEN and Idealware, that help nonprofits educate […]


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