October 14, 2020
Many Federal Agencies are embracing digital platforms like Salesforce at increasing rates, to take advantage of the incredible power of their platform to lower their IT costs, yield a fast return on investment, and deliver significant functionality, “out of the box”. However, Salesforce is not a one-size-fits-all for Federal Agencies that often serve exceedingly diverse audiences and the need to comply with a variety of specific (and sometimes rigid) regulations. Even with its powerful low code platform, it can be surprisingly easy to deliver a Salesforce product with deficient usability, low adoption, accumulating technical debt, and a solution that does not meet the agency’s mission or needs.
Worse still, sub-par implementations might end-up so full of custom code that the benefits of using Salesforce as a configurable application get negated and the agency could end up with essentially the same legacy system Salesforce was meant to replace. Excessive customizations in the wrong areas of the solution mean not only a longer time to deliver and costly maintenance but they could potentially inhibit agencies from attaining their full investment in the Salesforce platform too.
Human Centered Design (HCD) can be commonly defined as a framework that emphasizes understanding and continual focus on the needs, wants, and pain of end users. In terms of solution delivery, it means driving requirements through empathy-led user interviews to uncover end user pain points, which process driven requirements can typically miss, and using a data-driven approach to assess where the team should invest effort in customized solutions. It also means facilitating continuous feedback loops with affected end users throughout the Salesforce build lifecycle, to recurrently confirm the solution is viable, feasible, and desirable.
Kathy Conrad, director of digital government for Accenture Federal Services recently gave her perspective. “Applying Human Centered Design to the Salesforce platform delivers robust solutions at scale that keep pace with rapidly evolving customer needs and achieving Agency mission outcomes,” Conrad said.
Combining HCD with Design Thinking methods, while leveraging a configuration-first approach to Federal Salesforce implementations, ensures the citizen experience is kept at the heart, while the Federal Government’s platform investments are maximized. This advances not only successful platform development and delivery but certifies user needs, Agency missions and business goals are all met in the final Salesforce product.
Accenture, recently named a Leader among Salesforce Implementation Partners in Forrester’s 2019 report, is no stranger to forging new paths of blended methodologies across multiple business groups (Design, Delivery, & Technology). Within Accenture Federal Services (AFS), we’ve used our own distinct Federal Government perspectives to create a proven process that embeds Design Thinking into our Salesforce delivery approach for Federal Agencies.
Aaron Jackson, Accenture Federal Services digital platform lead recently shared his view on the platform, saying “We’ve established a fit-for-federal methodology combining our Salesforce technical expertise with human-centered design, to deliver game changing user and customer experiences that stretch the boundaries of what these platforms can do for our Federal clients.”
Our approach starts with educating our clients and business stakeholders on the importance of this new way of working, promoting buy-in through sharing the successes that come from Human-Centered Salesforce experiences. We then engage our clients in Design Thinking workshops during requirements gathering phases to build an understanding of user needs, which reveal insights that inform our application configuration. We continue to weave design thinking methods and resources throughout our entire AGILE delivery process, with co-creation sessions, usability testing, and rapid prototyping occurring throughout our development cycles.
Internally, we are cross-training key members of our Salesforce Delivery teams to drive the configuration-first, user-focused mindset. Delivery Leads are trained on how to incorporate Design Thinking activities into the delivery lifecycle, our Salesforce Business Analysts are gaining HCD skills to ensure user stories are written with user pain and optimized user experience at the forefront, and our UI/UX Designers are being skilled in Salesforce configuration and the Lightning Design System to ensure their designs can be built seamlessly on the platform. These multi-disciplinary, cross-skilled teams are the fuel for delivering next-level Salesforce applications.
Using a Human-centered approach to develop requirements and deliver solutions based on well understood user pain points and needs will accelerate and deepen adoption, avoiding the need for downstream changes that too often result in costly customization. Accenture Federal’s ingenious approach to HCD-infused Salesforce delivery teams, optimizes the default Salesforce UX, focusing on configuration over customization, and enables delivery of a powerful platform that truly meets the critical pain points of our Federal government’s missions.