3 Questions to Ask When Choosing a Salesforce Consultant

A Salesforce database can provide tremendous benefit to your nonprofit organization. At the same time, many nonprofits realize they need may also need outside help to implement their database more quickly, easily, or cost efficiently.

For some nonprofits, these questions lead to a guide, like those at Database Sherpa, and for other nonprofits, the questions point to a traditional Salesforce consultant.

Your journey can be both more positive and more successful if you can find the right fit from the start by asking three questions about what you hope to achieve with your database project.

1. How much can you engage in the process?

For many nonprofit organizations, implementing a Salesforce database is another one-time task that may seem outside the responsibility or expertise of your current staff. When you need outside help, you may look for a specialist who is prepared to complete the task for you.

One approach is to explain your needs to a consultant, who can then take that information and create a database for you. With this approach, there is little need for your staff to engage in the process of actually creating the database themselves. This option may be attractive for time-pressed groups that have little opportunity to come together with a consultant to explore how to maintain the database in the future, as needs change. 

There is more than one path to creating a new database, and at Database Sherpa we practice an alternative approach. We’re not consultants, we’re Sherpas. Just as Sherpas are known for their hardiness, expertise, experience and mastery of the mountains, we strive to earn the same reputation in guiding our clients toward mastery of their databases.

The Sherpa approach is a partnership, and as Sherpas we are more guide than taskmaster, more teacher than consultant. And just as mountaineers must have confidence in their Sherpas, so do we ask our clients to have confidence in us and themselves. Clients practice skills as they work with a Sherpa to design and build the database. We find that this approach works well for organizations that can invest time for their staff have more ownership of the database, a better understanding of both the data and the organization, and the ability to move forward on their own.

2. What do you hope to learn on the journey?

“It is good to have an end to journey toward; but it is the journey that matters, in the end.” ~ Ursula K. LeGuin 

For many time-pressed nonprofits, the simple goal is to implement a usable Salesforce database. When you consider engaging a consultant to complete the task, you may not expect staff to be learners in the process, although they may gain some incidental understanding about databases along the way. Primarily, you may expect your staff to serve as experts about your organization, supplying information to the consultant on how your data fits together and how you want to use it.

At Database Sherpa, the journey, or the interim steps of defining processes and workflows, is just as important as (and sometimes more important than) the outcome of a functional Salesforce database. Staff members gain skills to maintain the database, and a more enlightened understanding of your data. A discussion about how to add a database field may reveal that different internal groups have different purposes for the same field, which affects the entire workflow. This discovery can have value far beyond the database. 

Database Sherpa clients are working toward an outcome, and are also on a journey toward achieving peace with their data. Although we strive to bring each trek to its conclusion in a timely manner, we still want our clients to be involved in the journey, and that often takes time. We call it, “sharing the mess.” Occasional small failures bring knowledge and understanding, which is crucial to the success of database development.

3. How long will you need the Salesforce consultant’s services? 

If you’re like most non-profit organizations, you try to channel your resources into your programming, and plan your projects accordingly. Ideally you would get your Salesforce database up and running and finish the project, and at that point the consulting engagement should be complete. What many find is that unless your staff has sufficient knowledge about the database to be comfortable, it can be difficult to make that break from a consulting engagement. Organizations can become reliant on the consultant’s expertise. 

At Database Sherpa, your database is one artifact of a journey toward understanding your data. When the journey is complete, we initiate the separation. We remind the client how much they have accomplished, and how much more they will accomplish on their own. We also remind them of all the tools and resources they have at their disposal, and that we’re still available if they get really stuck. However, they have reached a level of independence with a functional database and workflows, and can move forward in confidence without further assistance.

When you’re considering what type of assistance you need with your Salesforce database, it can be worthwhile examine what you really need. These are just three questions that may help you find the right fit: How much can you engage, what do you hope to learn, and how long to you expect the consulting arrangement to continue? Then ask your potential database consultant the same questions, and see if your goals match their goals for you.