Salesforce Consulting Partners: Implementation, Optimization, and Managed Services

We discuss the 3 different types of Salesforce Consulting Partners, the services offered, and the right project for each.

What is a Salesforce Consulting Partner?

The most common definition of a Salesforce Consulting Partner is a company that provides professional services related to the Salesforce platform.

This definition is a bit too broad, so we break it down further to define the primary types of Salesforce Partners, the different services provided by each, and the use cases for when a company should select each type of Partner.

Type 1: Implementation Partners

This is what companies typically think of when they hear the term 'Salesforce Consulting Partner.' We define this category as professional services organizations focused on helping companies implement new instances of the Salesforce platform.

This could include a company that doesn't use Salesforce at all and is introducing the platform to their organization for the first time, often migrating away from tools like Hubspot, Microsoft Dynamics, or Zendesk.
It can also include companies that are using Salesforce in one area of their business and need to implement a new Cloud within another area of the business - for example, perhaps you are already using Sales Cloud as a CRM and want to implement Service Cloud functionality for Customer Support teams.
An Implementation Partner will assign an entire Salesforce Delivery team to the project and this team will manage the end-to-end requirements gathering, discovery, strategy & architecture, and implementation of the tool with individual Consultants serving as Salesforce Admins, Salesforce Developers, and Salesforce Architects.

A key characteristic of Implementation Partners is that they are working on fixed-scope projects, meaning they come in with very clearly defined tasks, they accomplish these tasks, and they leave.

Type 2: Optimization Partners

The second category is a set of Salesforce Consulting Partners that specialize in helping companies maximize the value of their existing Salesforce instance.
In these scenarios, they are typically working with companies that already have Salesforce implemented but it's not delivering as much value to the business as desired. Unlike an Implementation Partner, these companies are working with an existing Salesforce foundation and trying to identify new functionality to build, issues or bugs in the current code, and integrations that aren't functioning properly.

The pricing model these Partners work under is most often a monthly retainer. At the start of the engagement, a monthly fee is agreed to in exchange for a set numbers of hours that Partner will allocate to the project.
The expectation is for this to be an ongoing partnership.

A company will want to bring on Optimization Partners if they aren't sure what type of projects they should be thinking about for Salesforce. This is a platform designed to scale as your business evolves, so if you aren't constantly making changes to the tool then you will run into issues.

Type 3: Managed Services

The last category is a Consulting Partner that simply helps to support and maintain a company's Salesforce instance. Managed Services is the process of hiring a Salesforce team to handle the day-to-day support of the application.

While small projects will come up throughout the course of the engagement, this option is viewed as an alternative to hiring a full-time, internal Salesforce team. The term 'managed services' is interchangeable with 'staff augmentation' and can be viewed as a cost-cutting measure, especially if you don't need a team of dedicated Salesforce Administrators.

Alternatively, some companies will employ a team of Salesforce Admins and Developers in-house, who focus on the optimization and complex project work detailed above, but they will engage a managed services provider to handle the day-to-day user support. This ongoing work can consume a lot of hours and distract the internal team from moving the Salesforce roadmap forward, so it's helpful to offload it to an external vendor.

FoundHQ focuses heavily on Managed Services by matching companies with a network of 1,000+ Salesforce Consultants available for part-time project work.

Check out the Top 8 Salesforce Managed Services Providers! (Update in April, 2022)

Common mistakes when selecting a Salesforce Consulting Partner

A huge problem we see across the Salesforce ecosystem is that companies don't understand how the different types of Consulting Partners work.

Perhaps you are an organization that wants to optimize your current Salesforce instance, you know the work that needs to get done, but you need additional Salesforce Admins and Developers to actually help with the work. If you select an Implementation Partner, these firms are specifically looking to take over the decision making, which can create tension around who owns the Salesforce solution.

When selecting a Salesforce Partner, be sure to clearly define the specific Salesforce services you expect them to perform, ensure they have individual Consultants with the skill sets you need, and vet their track record of being a reliable Salesforce Partner to other successful businesses. In short, be sure to understand the type of help you need with Salesforce and find a partner focused on that service offering - not all Partners are the same and you can always work with an individual Salesforce Consultant instead of a vendor, which has a ton of benefits.

Reasons a Salesforce Consulting Partner might be the wrong choice

There are scenarios when hiring a Salesforce Implementation Partner is absolutely the right decision. If you are kicking off a large-scale, new Salesforce deployment then engaging with an entire team that works for a single vendor could make sense.

However, there are some common challenges of hiring a Salesforce Consulting Partner. You want to make sure that your interests are aligned with the goals of the Consulting Partner before starting a partnership. This simply means understanding their business model and the type of work that makes sense for them.
Misalignment occurs when companies hire an Implementation Partner and really needed a Managed Services Partner - in these scenarios, the company needs more time and hand-holding than the Partner is able to provide. Learn about the differences and how you can set your Salesforce project up for success or list a project and we will recommend the right type of Salesforce Consultant!

A Salesforce Consultant and a Salesforce Consulting Partner: Same or Different?

This question seems to cause a lot of confusion.

Salesforce Consulting Partners and Salesforce Consultants are not the same.

A Consulting Partner will employ many individual Salesforce Consultants, each with different skill sets. The term 'Salesforce Consultant' is a catch-all for any individual with Salesforce expertise - Salesforce Consultant vs. Salesforce Developer.

If your company is looking for help with Salesforce, you also have the choice of working with a Consulting Partner or an Independent Salesforce Consultant, which is an option worth considering and we cover more here.
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