Companies simply have to do more with less these days.  Resources have been cut to the bone and spending approvals on items as small as a few thousand dollars are required all the way up to the CFO.  When a project is evaluated the first question is always, how can we do this more cheaply and with less risk.  Can we do this in-house?  Why don’t we use Joe, have him add some more hours during his day to take this on so we don’t have to show an additional expense and/or go through a budget approval process.

In some cases this is the wise move.  Cash is hard to come by and getting outside assistance may be a luxury.  However, in most cases you get suboptimal results which in today’s economy has become the new norm.  Suboptimal results though scaled out to your salesforce or customer service operation though get magnified and increase costs significantly.  Worse yet, you increase the risk of the whole project being a failure.  And what organization is more important these days than your sales, marketing and customer operations teams?  Lack of usage, improper usage, decreased morale, inefficiencies and mistakes result in lost dollars.  This is not the area to compromise too much on.

I say this because we see lots of companies in need of what we call a “tune up”.  They tried to set up salesforce.com in a way they thought was right but in the end caused them problems.  This is the conundrum with powerful, feature-full products — there are 15 ways to skin a cat with Salesforce.com but probably only a few right ways to do it.  One customer struggled for nearly a whole year before calling in the cavalry.  Think of the wasted time and effort during that lost year and what could have been — not to mention the added cost of migrating all the old information to the new set up.  “Restarts” can be costly and you can lose credibility.

Still, you have smart people.  They could figure out anything given time, resources and energy.  Do they have that luxury?  And, can you sustain it ongoing as well.  Your core competence should be your business levers that drive your success and salesforce.com administration and set up is probably not one of your desired core competences.

So get off to the right start.  Setting up the right data structures, configuring the tool in the correct way and establishing a simple and scalable process is essential to a painless future (or at least less pain).  More importantly, it’ll mean more dollars for you in the medium to long run.