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Prioritize Governance

Learning Objectives

After completing this unit, you’ll be able to:

  • Describe the benefits of a governance framework.
  • Explain the key components of an operating model.

Nonprofit Cloud is a highly customizable platform that allows your organization to act quickly to make improvements and meet changing demands. That flexibility also requires your teams to collaborate and make decisions on how best to prioritize, develop, and support the ongoing evolution of the system. Without agreement around what changes to make, how to make them, and when, your dream house could end up with seven guest rooms, a single bathroom, and doors and windows that open to a wall. A governance framework sets the guard rails that allow your organization to innovate quickly while ensuring adherence to best practices and reducing risk.

5 Reasons Why You Need Good Governance

  1. Compliance: Many nonprofits require guidance when it comes to meeting grant or contract requirements. A governance framework helps staff adhere to any rules around access, data, security, and visibility.
  2. Cost Savings: Adopting standard processes around Salesforce planning and development can result in cost efficiency and savings.
  3. Delivery: A governance framework improves the development process so the correct skills are in place to accomplish projects in an efficient and rapid manner.
  4. Innovation: With a governance framework in place, IT or Sys Admins can see the big picture and better focus on key mission-driven goals. This allows the organization to move at their own pace, and quickly test and try out new ideas.
  5. Relationships: Perhaps the most valuable benefit of a governance framework is an improved working relationship between your end users and IT or your Sys Admin. Clearly-defined roles, responsibilities, and expectations accelerate processes and help the organization move faster.

Governance might sound a bit overwhelming for some organizations, but it doesn’t have to be.

Governance is basically just accountability–making sure that everyone in your organization is aligned to ensure the future success of your Nonprofit Cloud implementation.

Typically, an organization creates a governance framework by addressing five foundational processes:

The five processes, including Vision and strategy; business backlog; software development lifecycle; data strategy, architecture, and management; and communication strategy

  • Vision and strategy: Why are we doing this project and how will we know it’s successful?
  • Business backlog: How to prioritize the long list of features and functionality your teams want in Salesforce.
  • Software development lifecycle: How and how often your organization will roll out changes and updates.
  • Data strategy, architecture, and management: How your organization will keep your data clean and healthy.
  • Communication strategy: How your organization will involve and inform stakeholders about changes related to your systems.

If you want to dig deeper into how to create a governance framework, please check out the resources at the end of this unit. Once you have defined your organization’s approach to these five core processes, you’ll want to put in place the right team and decision-making structure for implementing the framework you’ve defined.

Put Governance to Work with an Operating Model

An operating model implements a structure to enforce your governance framework and helps answer questions like:

  • How do we prioritize the needs of different teams?
  • How do we ensure standardization and adherence to best practices for making improvements?
  • Who is accountable in various roles during a project?

Again, if you’re a small organization, your operating model might be relatively simple. For larger organizations, it might be more complex. The reality is that your operating model can and will evolve, but you should start with a solid foundation and clear processes to ensure there isn’t a gap between what you want to achieve with your technology and what actually gets delivered.

Governance operating models vary, but there are three common examples:

  • Centralized: Single set of processes focused on a single solution or single department.
  • Decentralized: Federated model with independent frameworks and potentially different sets of processes for different teams or units.
  • Hybrid: Each department has their own autonomy, but there is a global sharing of best practices and processes.

There’s no right answer for which structure is best for your organization. If your nonprofit is using a single Salesforce org, then the centralized option is most likely the best option. If, on the other hand, you have multiple Salesforce environments and multiple geographies or teams that operate in different ways, then one of the other approaches might be a better fit.

Let's check in with our fictional nonprofit, No More Homelessness (NMH), again. They are a medium-sized human services organization with a small IT staff and they are working with a consulting partner for implementation.

NMH is new to Salesforce and planning to implement a single Salesforce org for all of their programs. As such, NMH decides on a centralized operating model with a single Steering Committee and two program leads. This group will act as a central governing body that brings together stakeholders from across the organization to create a single group that is responsible for making decisions about their Salesforce org. Often, this type of governing body is called a Center of Excellence.

NMH operating model with an Executive Sponsor directing the Steering Committee, which includes Directors of Programs, Development, Operations, and IT

NMH’s Executive Sponsor is the Deputy Director of the organization. They are responsible for articulating the organization’s Salesforce vision and strategy and for ensuring all projects align with that larger vision. They also sign off on the resources required for each project and serve as the final point of escalation for issues that can't be resolved by the Steering Committee.

In addition to their Executive Sponsor, NMH has created a Steering Committee to meet as needed to make decisions about organizational priorities, ensure cross-functional alignment, and share both successes and challenges in current and future technology projects. Having committees with defined decision-making responsibility and practices can ensure that your projects can move quickly. The NMH Steering Committee invites their Executive Sponsor to their meetings and keeps the Sponsor up-to-date on the progress of various projects.

The Steering Committee at NMH sits around a planning table. Included are Director of Technology Allyson Harris, Program Director Gordon Chu, Development Director Aniyah Thompson, and Communications & Advocacy Director Cristina Jasic.

Next in NMH’s operating model are the Business and Technical Leads. The Business Lead will depend on the project, and they will assume responsibility for key functional areas including Change Management and User Training. For example, the Business Lead for the Self-Service Volunteering Phase of the NMH implementation will be their Volunteer Manager. The Technical Lead for NMH will be their System Administrator who will work closely with the Director of IT and their consulting partner. Like many roles at nonprofits, individuals on the project teams can hold more than one role from planning through implementation. For NMH, many of the project team roles, like Business Analysts, Developers, and Release Managers, are filled by their consulting partner.

Plan for Administration, Support, and Documentation

Another critical piece of your operating model to consider is your plan for consistent support, administration, and documentation of your system. For many organizations, an administrator will fill all these roles. Administering Salesforce is not like a typical IT position in that much of the setup, customization, and maintenance of Salesforce can be done with “clicks” not code. And a large part of the role actually involves translating organizational processes into Salesforce. As such, a Salesforce Administrator will often wear many hats and come with a variety of titles, such as “CRM Business Analyst,” “CRM Systems Analyst,” or “System Administrator.”

Gorav, NMH Admin, at his desk

Tasks commonly carried out by an admin include:

  • User management
  • Data loading and cleansing
  • Troubleshooting users’ issues/support
  • Creating dashboard and report templates
  • Updating/creating documentation
  • Ad-hoc user training
  • General configuration
  • New release preparation

How many administrators and other supporting roles your organization will need depends on a variety of factors, including whether admins have responsibilities beyond Salesforce and the volume of user requests. Typically, a ratio of one administrator to approximately 50 users is a good benchmark.

When you’re thinking about the responsibilities of your Salesforce Admin, don’t forget about documentation. Many internal admins find themselves answering the same questions over and over about common usage of the system. Taking a bit of extra time to create documentation that helps users be more self-sufficient can free up your admin to spend more time improving the user experience and driving better adoption.

Of course, good documentation can also be a lifesaver when your in-house experts move into new roles or leave the organization. Good documentation preserves critical institutional knowledge and protects your investment in the system.

For larger projects, be sure documentation is specifically called out in any release process to ensure documentation is created and/or kept up-to-date. And where possible, take advantage of Salesforce features that help guide users, like field help text and In-App Guidance.

Admins are key to your governance framework. After all, they’re the ones who will help deliver functionality and training, support and train users, and help ensure compliance. Find yourself one or two or three and don’t let them go.

Resources