Specifics of SFMC Implementation Project Lifecycle

Salesforce marketing cloud projects are often envisioned as standard SaaS implementation or Software development lifecycles projects. Although somewhat true, these projects may exhibit a number of important attributes that separate them from the rest of SDLC projects.

This article explores the common differences and then addresses some considerations that should be recognized by both the client and implementation partner sides, including how these important issues can be overcome to ensure a successful delivery.


Why implementing SaaS isn’t easy – and how to make it easier.

Having implemented over 25+ SFMC Projects in the past, I often hear the opinion that implementation of Salesforce Marketing Cloud is as easy as configuring your e-mail client; that is, a simple exercise that takes less than an hour at most.

Moreover, it is very common for clients not to fully appreciate and understand the capabilities offered by Salesforce Marketing Cloud. Instead, they see it as a platform to send e-mails, not an enterprise-level cross-channel marketing automation solution that enable companies to transform their marketing not only from customer retention point of view, but also in terms of ROI and optimisation.

This opinion is commonly represented among all clients involved in the project. These major misconceptions can cause a range of issues. These issues originate from the moment when a sales representative is selling the product and the client comes unprepared to the initial pre-sales discovery. It is at this moment when the implementation partner, consultant, project manager or a business analyst must start tackle the issue. The goal is to educate the client right from the very beginning.

The devil is in the details.

There is a major different between the standard Software Development Lifecycle and Marketing Cloud Development Lifecycle. During the standard SDLC, the stakeholders are usually knowledgeable of the system they develop or implement. This is simply not true in SFMC implementations.

The below image shows the standard SDLC (Software Development Lifecycle Process).

There are three major contributing factors to SDLC:

1. Marketing automation is something that everyone talks about but know very little about.

2. Lack of certified professionals from the implementation point-of-view.

3. Lack of technical expertise within the Digital Marketing team from the client point-of-view.

Therefore, it is essential to approach SFMC implementation from a highly structured, educational and articulated approach:

1. In order for implementation to be successful, it is important to select an implementation partner who has certified resources; Salesforce Marketing Cloud consultant is the safest bet.

2. It is also important to have a technically capable Business analyst in the client team, who has at a minimum attended the E-mail Specialist Training provided by Salesforce, or has worked on a platform for 12+ months

3.It is important for a client to careful organize the as-is marketing activities and to-be marketing activities using SFMC. This strategy should include input from experts who can review all IT related obstacles, data availability and required technical resources to enable implementation partner to accomplish their work.

The implementation will be much more successfully if these key topics are addressed, or at least until the next challenges arise.

Data is incredible important.

Another common issue I have commonly encountered during SFMC implementation is the lack of some technical knowledge, however, let us instead discussion about one particular grey area which often causes mishaps, namely the data.

Marketers have a strong vision on what campaigns to send, what journeys to create and what channels to use. However, they rarely consult with their data team, and typically make false claims regarding what is available to them.

It is no atypical to go through the discovery sessions where a marketing manager would state: yes, we do collect mobile phone numbers and we want to send SMS as part of the journey. In response we would design a solution based around SMS configuration. However, during the implementation when user data starts to arrive, whether in a form of a flat file or connector feed, we quickly realise that 90% of subscribers do not have mobile phone data because it was not defined as a compulsory field.

Educational SaaS Project Delivery Lifecycle

Educating the clients is paramount. This includes during the start of the project a session about the capabilities of the cloud, educating them regarding the gaps and known mishaps, guiding them through the as-is and to-be processes, and potentially hosting a session of “to-be planned” and “to-be possible” scenarios.

The below SDLC diagram is better suited for SFMC implementation, as it contains additional components within the entire process, such as training, creative design (or in most cases consulting on templates and best practices) and education, research and evaluation.

In most of standard software development projects these steps are either not required, or being omitted as much as possible. In SFMC these supporting activities are a must, we are dealing with marketers who are not very well aware of the capabilities that the cloud offers.

In conclusion, in order to have a more efficient implementation and ultimately a more satisfied customer, the initial stages of the SFMC implementation project should focus on education. This will enable your clients to better understand what they are seeking and what they need to achieve desired results.