Should You be Customising Your Salesforce Org?

You have your Salesforce solution set up and running and it seems all you’ve got to do right now is relax and enjoy the moment. But, alas, you and your Salesforce end users have slowly started to notice that, as great as Salesforce is, it’s not perfect as is. Some fields are missing, reports aren’t all that enlightening, and processes just aren’t quite automated enough.

Sound familiar? Happens to the best of us.

And more often than not, it means resorting to Salesforce configuration, customisation, or some combination of the two.

Salesforce Customisation as a Concept

What is Salesforce Customisation?

This question is best answered by comparing Salesforce configuration and customisation. Very roughly speaking, Salesforce configuration means opening the platform’s “settings tab” and clicking different buttons to add or change fields, objects, tabs, set up automation workflows, create apps using a no-code interface and so on.

Salesforce customisation fulfils the same goal of adapting the platform in a specific way to suit your business processes but it entails much more serious actions that involve programming skills and code-level changes.

Why do Companies Opt for Salesforce Customisation?

Things like excessive manual data input, missing workflows for complex approval processes and lacking email automation can cost sales, customer service or marketing teams a lot of time. This way, all the big and small imperfections in your Salesforce solution keep your users’ productivity down, thus negatively affecting your revenue. To remedy this situation and improve Salesforce user experience, companies set out to customise Salesforce so that it supports specific bits of their business processes better.

What Tools are Used for Customisation?

You can customise Salesforce using a vast variety of tools. Some of them are Salesforce’s proprietary tools and others are delivered by Salesforce’s technology partners. Here are some of Salesforce’s proprietary customisation tools:

  • Visualforce is a front-end HTML-like programming language used for creating UI pages and components.
  • Apex is a back-end programming language syntactically similar to Java and C# used for working with user actions and objects.
  • SOQL (Salesforce Object Query Language) is an SQL-like programming language used for querying data in Salesforce.
  • Lightning components is a JavaScript framework used for building reusable components for Salesforce.
  • Salesforce Connect is an OData protocol tool that enables Salesforce users to interact with third-party system data as if it were stored in Salesforce objects.

What can be Customised in Salesforce?

Since Salesforce is indeed a highly customisable platform, you can alter virtually any element in it. All customisable elements can be roughly divided into three groups: UI (user interface), functionality, and integrations.

1. You can change the look and feel of the original Salesforce UI. Why do that? For example, an organization may feel that they need their employees to see their corporate colours and logos while working in Salesforce because it gives them a sense of corporate unity and reminds them of corporate values (especially relevant in home-office conditions). If so, they can customise Salesforce and give it a branded UI. And if an org feels that they can benefit from a better UX in their Salesforce solution, they can change page layouts as needed.

2. You can customise Salesforce functionality, which means:

  • You can customise system entities like objects, fields, reports, dashboards, tabs, templates, notifications, workflows, etc. Tweaking these is a major part of the Salesforce customisation and configuration routine that results in a Salesforce solution reflecting your business processes.
  • Simply altering these entities isn’t always enough. Sometimes customisation plans stem from the greater need to build massive multistep custom processes into Salesforce. For example, you may need your Salesforce solution to support complex damage reimbursement approvals, marketing content review, or tax evaluation processes.
  • Salesforce features and apps are great on their own (Einstein AI, Chatter, Virtual Assistant, etc.) but you may have to change them or even develop new custom features and apps to fulfil your objectives. For example, you can develop a gamification app to boost the productivity of your customer service agents.

3. You can build integrations between Salesforce and any other third-party system that you’re using: ERP, ITSM, intranets, social media, ecommerce platforms, accounting software, computer telephony, email. There are ways to avoid development efforts here, for example, by buying a ready-made connector for Salesforce and the system of your choice on AppExchange, but sometimes you need to do what you need to do. Especially if multiple systems are involved.

Is There Something Else I Need to Know?

Oh, yes, there is. First of all, you should know you won’t be able to customise Salesforce having just any Salesforce edition. 

Salesforce Sales Cloud, for example, limits customisation capabilities this way:

  • Essentials – No customisation capabilities at all.
  • Professional – Restricted customisation capabilities that may not cover your customisation needs (unlimited custom apps, 2 customisable profiles, 2 roles for the Roles and Permissions feature, only developer sandbox included).
  • Enterprise – Deep customisation capabilities with the Developer and the Partial sandboxes included.
  • Unlimited – Unlimited capabilities, hence the name.

Second of all, you should keep in mind that getting carried away with customisations is always a bad idea. There are Salesforce customisation vendors out there that will tell you how great customisation capabilities are in Salesforce and that they can customise the heck out of it changing practically everything in the platform to satisfy your every whim. But that’s a very deep rabbit hole. If you employ too much customisation, it will get very difficult to support, upgrade, and enhance your Salesforce solution. So, when you need to change something in Salesforce, you — or your customisation vendor — should first exhaust all standard configuration-related options and only then turn to customisation as a rescue. Salesforce itself recommends always trying configuration first.

Common Salesforce Customisation Use Cases

Besides the already-mentioned integrations, branded UI, altered page layouts, custom objects, and custom processes that can’t be built using relevant Salesforce configuration capabilities (Workflow and Approvals, Process Builder, Flow Builder), there are a couple more customisation use cases common in Salesforce.

Custom email templates and trigger. To achieve more with automated emails than just “thank you for placing your order with us” or “please, tell us how happy you are with our customer service team,” companies use Salesforce customisation capabilities to build custom email templates and trigger-based automation processes. For example, Salesforce automated emailing can help streamline invoicing procedures. However, such customisations may need Salesforce to be integrated with your accounting software.

Bulk operations. As your Salesforce solution grows, it gets more and more data and manually updating that data takes a lifetime. So that end users don’t have to do it all by themselves, many organisations run bulk data updates and, for example, weekly re-evaluate leads and opportunities.

Custom reports and dashboards. Necessary reports and dashboards can’t always be built using the standard Report Builder functionality due to its limitations regarding the amount of report columns, rows and filters. So, companies turn to Salesforce customisation to make their reports more visible and relevant.

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