20 Questions for Screening a Salesforce.com Consultant

Some parts of vendor evaluation never change. Many folks boil it down to just three words: References, references and references. In the cloud, you really need to do a more thorough screening. References are important, but they are only part of the process.

By David Taber
Tue, March 12, 2013

CIO — This brief set of questions is designed to help you evaluate the suitability of a Salesforce.com consultancy. Since client requirements vary, there's no single "correct" set of answers to these questions. Instead, score the vendors on how closely they fit your organizational profile and current needs.

The good news here is that almost all of these questions can be generalized to fit most CRM platforms or cloud services and applications. For brevity's sake, we're leaving that as an exercise for the student here.

Before we get to the questions, though, there's one key issue to address, which I'll call Topic #0: Are you looking for a consultant or just a contractor? The difference is huge. A contractor will do what you ask, but will typically do only what you ask. A real consultant will be advising you, telling you what should be done—and then doing it alongside you.

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On to the questions. Each group is followed by explanatory text and things to watch out for in candidates' responses.

Salesforce.com Consultant Team Capabilities

A consultant firm's background matters little if the people who will actually staff your project are inexperienced. Be sure to ask the following questions :

  • Are they certified SFDC consultants?
  • Do they have MBAs or more than 10 years of non-consulting business experience?
  • Are they Salesforce MVPs?

Consultants love to play the bait-and-switch game. A proposal will be full of wondrous tales of experience and achievement at the firm, but no promises will be made about the individuals who will actually be on site for your project. Evaluate the specific individuals who will be involved. Generalized expertise at the firm doesn't do you much good.

Salesforce.com Consultant Team Experience

You also need people on your project who have been down this road before.

  • How many projects have they done that are nearly identical to yours?
  • How many projects have they done that are similar to yours?
  • How many projects have they delivered overall?
  • How many clients have they had that are of a similar scale to your company, whether it's Fortune 100 or SMB?
  • How does the team provide best practices on Salesforce—written communication, for example, or spoken reviews, or user-group leads?
  • How does the team provide best practices on your business processes? Does it have business experience in your field?

This is where a consultants' expertise can set it apart from mere contractors. What you want here is valuable insight into what competitors are doing, as well as best practice across your industry. Why? Because you don't know what you don't know.

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When evaluating a consultants' domain knowledge, don't be too narrow in interpreting "your" industry. Partial credit should be given for related businesses. That said, don't overvalue experience that's too far afield.

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