A 25+ year old manufacturer company best known for their innovative braces alternative, Invisalign. Align is 10,700 employees strong with, 1,900 Sales Reps and 650+ Support Reps. In 2021, they generated revenues of $4B+ and this is the story of how they scaled a 60-person, global Salesforce Center of Excellence as part of a massive digital transformation journey.
Business Analyst/Product Owner
The evolution of Align's Digital Transformation under Sreelakshmi Kolli
It doesn't matter what industry you're in - if you work at a company that's been around for 25+ years, ushering in large scale change is hard.
More than anything, it requires a clear vision and a top-down commitment to investing in digital adoption throughout every single facet of the business.
Digital transformation is a business philosophy - and it leads to the strategy that outlines problem areas, identifies how those challenges can be addressed with technology, and implements a clear methodology for implementing, supporting, and evolving that application portfolio.
This process takes tremendous commitment, investment, and time. Therefore, the ability to retain the key decision makers that jumpstarted these efforts is critical.
If you look at the role and trajectory of Align's Chief Digital Officer, Sreelakshmi Kolli, you clearly see how pivotal of a role she played in their success.
She joined Align in 2003, initially as a Software Engineering Manager.
In 2007, she moved into a Go-to-Market strategy role as Sr. Director of Business Operations.
Then, she spent 8 years (2012-2020) as the VP of IT; however 2 years in this role (2015-2017) were spent singularly focused on laying the groundwork for their digital transformation efforts as Head of Business Transformation. The efforts were termed "AlignOne", a 'big bang global transformation program'.
Ultimately, in April 2020, Sree was promoted to the role of Chief Digital Officer.
Frankly, this is the best title to describe her accomplishments.
The worst part about the term "IT" is that people assume "back office".
The term "Digital" implies innovative experience that really engage and delight.
How does Align use Salesforce?
In addition to the manufacturing and product development challenges that come along with building a $4B Dental Manufacturer, disrupting an industry that relies on brick-and-mortar businesses, and selling through doctors networks with in-person interactions presents a lot of operational challenges.
In order to scale like a business made for the 2000s, they needed to improve disparate systems, build stronger analytics capabilities, and digitize customer service to enhance the overall experience.
Sales, Service, and Marketing
Since Align has both a B2B (doctors/orthodontists) and B2C (patients) customer base, the need to unify Sales/Marketing and Support was even greater. Previously, siloed data meant a complete lack of historical customer data and an inability to build a unified customer experience, which Invisalign identified as a critical differentiator given price point their product carries and sensitivity of being a Medical Device.
It’s table-stakes for B2C companies in any field to build engaging customer experience and Invisalign took advantage of Heroku early on to build things like:
SmileView mobile app: “which applies machine learning algorithms to a potential patient’s selfie to show them a simulation of what they would look like after treatment”.
Doctor Locator app: ability for patients to quickly find a certified, trained Invisalign provider in the area.
Doctor Site app: a dentist-facing portal allowing them to upload patient records, review treatment plans, check the status of orders, and engage with other dentists across the network.
Central to their digital strategy is building customer experiences that remove friction or generally enhance the process that is otherwise thought of as a mundane, downright unpleasant trip to the dentist.
This has implications across Marketing engagement, helping to personalize communication and boost overall prospect engagement. And heavy utilization in the Support context, leveraging natural language processing to analyze intention and sentiment of support emails or chats, intelligently classify and route requests, and more.
On a regular basis, Align hires doctors to do paid speaking engagements on behalf of the company. The process of tracking these engagements and processing payments was all done manually through e-mails sent to Outlook and payments processed by someone in SAP.
They built a custom app as a Payment Tracker for streamlining how to track completed speaking engagements and automate payments.
The Salesforce Center of Excellence at Align Technology
A simple look at the evolution of Align's Salesforce team can tell you exactly when their digital transformation began.
Prior to 2018, Align had a peak of 5 people devoted to Salesforce (all in the U.S.)
Since 2018, they have grown the team to 60+ people across 5+ countries.
- (Sreelakshmi Kolli, California): Chief Digital Officer
- (Steve Huang, China): Sr. Director, Technology, APAC
- (Terri Chavez, California): Sr. Director, Finance Business Operations
- (Amos Snir, Israel): Sr. Director, Enterprise Business Systems
- (Gadi Barnea, Israel): Director, Enterprise Applications
- (Ankur Saraswat, Holland) Director, Digital Commercial Technology, EMEA
- (Prashant Kondawar, California); Senior Manager, Enterprise Applications
- (Arthur Rozner, Israel): Senior Team Manager, Commercial Applications
- (Chameen B, Switzerland): Senior Manager, Digital Commercial Technology (EMEA)
And a supporting team of 17 Salesforce Administrators, 14 Salesforce Developers, 1 Salesforce Architect, 6 Salesforce Business Analysts, and 10 Salesforce Product Owners.
Keys to Salesforce Success at Align
When it comes to digital transformation at this scale, it all comes down to prioritization and resource allocation. Beginning these planning efforts in 2015, the priorities outlined included:
- Building an ecosystem of digital platforms to deliver engaging customer experiences for the B2B (Doctors) and B2C (Patients) users.
- Digitize order processing, inventory management, and checkout flows with customer-facing tools.
- Enable seamless adoption of a Direct Sales strategy in new regions (EMEA, APAC and LATAM) and streamline the treatment planning process.
- A huge investment in change management and training throughout the entirety of the digital transformation journey
Headcount focused on 'Salesforce Effectiveness'
A highly prioritized role within the Salesforce team, which you see across the Administrator and Product Owner headcount is individuals specialized in Salesforce Effectiveness.
The chief responsibilities of this discipline revolves around change management, training, and enablement - the process of emphasizing internal user experience and ensuring that you drive high rates of adoption on the platform. Every team member focused on Salesforce Effectiveness spent time as a member of the organization they support, prior to being brought over to the Salesforce team.
This allows for a deep understanding of the business processes the Salesforce Effectiveness Lead supports and empathy for the user given their familiarity with the day-to-da challenges of the role and how technology could address them.
The Salesforce Development team is 14 people total; however, 4 members of the team are focused on Quality Assurance.
This includes 3 Salesforce QA Analysts and 1 Manager of Salesforce QA.
While most Developers and Technical Leaders would point to this as an absolute necessity in an organization of this size, you’d be shocked how often this is an under resourced part of Salesforce Development teams. In order to deploy scalable solutions in such a complex, multi-cloud environment, having a structured QA and release process and proper Dev Ops is a pre-requisite.
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