Yesterday my colleague, Shawn Jensen, wrote a blog discussing why colocation is not vital to the success of Salesforce projects. Today, I’m making a counterargument as to why colocation is essential to a successful project. While you can make solid arguments for or against both of our perspectives, the purpose of this friendly debate is to simply help you weigh the pro’s and con’s of both viewpoints in order to determine which approach is best for your organization.
Why colocation is essential for a Salesforce rollout
Salesforce functionality and infrastructure makes rolling out effective and efficient projects a true reality. Many other solutions have long project lifecycles or need large customizations to make them work. These are no longer problems with a Salesforce rollout, however it doesn’t mean that some traditional project requirements shouldn’t be adhered to and followed. Colocation is definitely an area where significant consideration should be made to keep the team under one roof throughout the life of the project.
Whether you are pursuing a waterfall, agile or some hybrid of both (Wagile) approach for your Salesforce project, you should consider colocation as the bedrock of your project’s success. The following benefits can be achieved through colocation:
- Information sharing
- Speed of delivery
- Clarity of focus
- Timely completion & achieving objectives
Looking at the above areas individually we can see the benefits truly outweigh potential cost implications
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Colocating teams share information effectively
One of the features of Salesforce is the ease of configuration or the ability to change fields, field names, objects, and security settings through point and click management of the solution. As such, many teams find a rush of activity and decision making during the configuration of Salesforce. Having everyone in the same room as the solution is changing gives decision makers a chance to see the solution emerge and not to wait until the final exposure of a specific feature, or the entire system, to approve the work being done.
Colocating teams move quickly
Salesforce is often purchased not only because it is a great SaaS solution, but because the organization wants to see business value early. As such, teams who colocate are notoriously quicker than ones that are distributed. It is often argued that if you give individuals a comfortable environment, often seen as their home office, they will work quicker. Having worked with both types of teams, it is clear that by leveraging everyone on the team in person, decisions are made quicker, backlog work completed within time boxes, and questions or feedback are made available to all members who can respond rather than a select few. By allowing teams to move at a quicker pace, the true benefits of Salesforce can be realized faster.
Colocating teams remove indecision and disagreements with effective moderators
Salesforce is an expansive tool that allows teams to leverage a great out-of-the-box solution while also quickly customizing it to meet their needs. As such, understanding that every team disagrees with the best process to implement at some point, and as long as effective moderators are identified, colocating teams are able to more quickly move past issues and problems, either within already defined requirements / processes or their functional area. Often project disagreements come down to how well parties interact, and by ensuring teams are working shoulder-to-shoulder, you can force any significant disagreements out in the open and deal with them.
Colocating teams know when to quit
Projects have a terrible habit of breaking the three cardinal rules of delivering a product that is 1) in scope, 2) on budget and 3) within time/time box. Although scope creep and budget overages are difficult to control for a number of reasons, time can be controlled through a clear understanding of what is being achieved and a team that wants to deliver an output by the project deadline. It is easier to sign up a team to a deadline when everyone is in the same room and commitment can be gained through personal interaction rather than through phone or email. Teams that are committed to getting a project completed will endeavor to cut out unnecessary scope and work to the budget to ensure they can finish on time.
When considering a Salesforce rollout, you will need to decide on whether you want to collocate your teams or have them distributed with major meetings taken together (e.g. discovery, design, demos and User Acceptance Testing). Before making a truly fiscal decision on colocation, you should review the potential benefits that the organization wants to drive and make a qualified decision. If you want the project to deliver the best possible solution, in the quickest time, and with a team who are in genuine agreement about its success, you may want to consider bringing everyone together for the life of the project.
 Cost is often the true driver of not collocating teams. Especially when using consulting teams to support your rollout, it may not be seen as an effective use of budget to have the team available full time. I will argue through the ensuing four points that teams who collocate are truly higher functioning and create more project value than if teams were dispersed.