Who Chooses the Tech? (A Cautionary Tale)

A few months ago, a client tasked me with integrating a marginally popular learning management system (LMS) with their mature and highly customized Salesforce instance. From the very beginning, the client has known exactly what they needed this integration to do. The directives have never been unclear, but the roll-out has been extraordinarily frustrating and needlessly painful.

The requirements aren’t all that complicated. We need a very simple series of actions to occur after a new student enrolls in an online training courses.

• A new Student record is created

• A new Lead record is created and associated with the Student record if the enrollee is net-new to the system, or an existing Lead or Contact’s record is updated and associated with the Student record

• Net-new leads have their lead source populated accordingly

• Leads and Contacts alike are added to both a catch-all Salesforce campaign to show us enrollment across the board and to individual child campaigns depending on the course(s) they enrolled in

• The Lead/Contact’s Pardot Score is adjusted for both general enrollment and course progression

• A custom checkbox field is populated on both the Lead/Contact record as a result of creating an account

These requirements aren’t outrageous by any stretch of the imagination, but it has required a great many hours of custom coding, planning, discussion, and testing (so much testing) to get it right. And it just shouldn’t be this difficult, not with Salesforce, and all the wonderful (native) integrations available.

In a recent meeting with this client, someone made a rather astute observation: “No one that made this decision is here to live with it.”

While this point was clearly made to help move the conversation along, it was somewhat jarring to hear it spoken aloud. He was right, of course; the decision-makers had never recruited feedback from the actual users or implementers of the system, and they certainly hadn’t attended any strategy sessions after they had made their choice. 

Had this process gone differently—if the decision makers had included the users and implementers in those early conversations—all of the subsequent headaches would have been eliminated outright. We simply wouldn’t have landed on this solution.

We’re nearly finished with this project now, but the next item on our agenda is to review better options when the contract with this particular LMS platform ends. While I’m keeping my fingers crossed that we do make a switch (it’s beyond question the right thing to do), I can’t help but marvel at the time we’ve spent making this poor solution work in the interim. 

For me, the takeaway here is pretty straightforward: don’t invest in new technology without consulting the people that need to use it. If you take the time to ask questions and understand both the short and long-term goals of your team, you just might avoid making a very costly and time-intensive mistake.

How something functions operationally matters just as much as the big picture. 

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