When Transformation Fails


* For privacy purposes, Client’s real name has been changed to Frank and organization name changed to BlueSky technologies.*

When I met with a new client recently, Frank, the Chief Information Officer at BlueSky Technologies*, I was shocked to hear his short, curt responses to everything I asked him. I connect with people deeply and quickly, and I saw this challenge as a new relationship I had to figure out.

In the call, Frank ran me through his bullets of what BlueSky is wanting, asked me his list of questions, and quickly ended the call. The conversation was a tense interrogation, and left me curious.

I kept thinking about the conversation, his approach to the project and requirements. The next morning I went to the gym and couldn’t shake the feeling that there was something behind Frank’s responses.

I called Frank up first thing and said, “Frank, I know you just met me, but I need to ask you a favor”

He gave a short chuckle and retorted, “And what did you have in mind?”

I took a deep breath, and asked, “Frank, I want to help you. I believe I can. But I need you to be real with me for a minute. Can you trust me?”

Frank paused and finally stuttered, “This is what we are determining. I thought our conversation yesterday made that clear”

I knew he was feeling defensive, but I continued the conversation a tad further. “Frank, I know there is a big piece of this project you aren’t telling me. Now I know you don’t know me from Adam, but I can’t help you if you don’t tell me what you really need.”

The silence on the other side was deafening.

Eventually, Frank shared that this was his company’s second time starting this transformation initiative, that the first round failed, somebody at BlueSky got fired for it, and now it’s in Frank’s hands to save the project and find a new partner to do it.

It’s costing them twice as much as they initially budgeted for and he thinks it’s going to be difficult to meet all the demands his organization has. They don’t even think the project will succeed.

I told him, “Frank, I am sorry you are going through this. That is certainly an insurmountable amount of stress. But I want to thank you for sharing this with me. If you trust me Frank, I can work with you on overcoming every one of these stressors. But you have to trust me.”

Frank was hesitant. “You haven’t been hired yet, I don’t even know if I want your help”

I didn’t back down “Well Frank, I know I want to help you. And I am going to do whatever it takes to earn your trust.”

The Risks with Salesforce Transformation

In my decades in software and consulting, I have sponsored, sold and delivered countless projects. Given the vast power of the Salesforce platform and the transformational impact it can have on your organization, the stakes are high, and the risk of something changing is always lurking in the background. There are countless conversations and clarifications needed to drive a project to a successful conclusion. Ultimately how you work with each other will help the project succeed or collapse in complexity. Four main opportunities to discuss in every project:

    1. Project Budget
    2. Lack of Adoption
    3. The Wrong Tech
    4. Lack of Trust

In my next post I am going to follow up with a bit more detail on the items 1-3 above. As real and threatening as these risks are, they can be handled and resolved with the project team you chose, but only if you trust them and allow them to make the right decisions.

For that reason, lack of trust is the number one reason a Salesforce project fails.

When a business doesn’t trust their partner, nothing can move forward. Trust is the foundation of this partnership, and lack of it challenges all communication across and amongst the project teams. They see and sense the lack of commitment, suffer from poor communication, and as a result, the project team’s passion and commitment also suffers.

Without transparency and vulnerability, the ability to identify and solve for the heart of the issue is next to impossible. It can be hard to find a partner to trust, but here are some identifying questions you should ask to help make the fit more obvious.


Should you trust your Salesforce partner?

The best thing you can do is ask the right questions when interviewing potential partners. Here are some of my favorite questions I wish more businesses would ask:

This last question is KEY. Being able to converse on the small talk demonstrates the importance and value of the relationship and a shared personal interest. Each day, I work to build new relationships and create new friends through my work. I hope you feel comfortable asking questions like that during your Salesforce Transformation, and if you aren’t, that could be a sign there is room to improve mutual trust.

How to Strengthen Trust in the Middle of a Project

If you are in the middle of a business transformation and experiencing issues with trust, there are a couple ways you could approach this. The first step is to do whatever it takes to build trust back where there was none, or where it had been lost. If the quality of work is there and the relationship has good potential, then do whatever it takes to establish deeper trust, even if it means a slight delay in the go-live or a small budget change.

A later go-live or small cost increase with the same partner is could potentially prevent you from seeking the other (but often necessary) option:

Start the project over with a new partner you love.

It’s stressful and the worst news you can deliver mid-project, but sometimes shifting to a different partner is necessary to get your project back on track.

A part of why I love working at Uptima is the sheer grit of my colleagues. We have come in many times to rescue an at-risk project. Our team jumps in, re-establishes trust quickly, tackles the hard questions, and overcomes the challenges. Every time. There is something special about the people here, and businesses feel it when they come to us.


Back to Frank and BlueSkyTechnologies

We just wrapped up our project with BlueSky Technologies. The project was grueling, there were a lot of obstacles to get through, but together our teams worked through every issue and achieved the goals that the company had. The only way we could do that was mutual trust in one another. On time. In budget. Trusting each other.

It’s what we aim for every time, and I was proud and excited to deliver these results with Frank.

But the next time you find yourself deep in the woods of a project at-risk, ask yourself, “Where along the way did we lose trust?”

I hope you can repair that relationship, or find an honest one. It’s the most important factor in your project’s success.

by Lou Simon, Director, Consulting Solutions