How much do Salesforce Consultants cost?

As with any profession, there’s going to be a range of hourly rates, depending on who you ask, their experience and the additional expertise that they bring to the project. A newly-certified consultant might charge as little as £50 per hour, but for someone who has a good level of experience, you should expect to be paying something closer to £120-£150 per hour, considerably more if they’re a specialist in a particular niche.

Again, this is going to vary from one project to another; some consulting companies might turn up mob-handed, fielding a team of half-a-dozen experts in suits, each charging a pretty hefty hourly rate, to spend the first week workshopping their way into the solution space or whatever. At the other end of the spectrum, you’ll have more agile operators who tend to work in smaller teams with other experts, choosing their co-workers as the project demands. The cynic in me generally looks at the larger teams and tries to work out which members we’re paying £50+ per hour to gain their experience, which is why my internal cynic doesn’t get invited to parties…

In terms of project costs, it’s important to remember the fast, good, cheap model: “You can have it fast, good and cheap, but you can only pick two.” – In essence, this means that you have to play off the speed of delivery, the cost of delivery and the features being delivered against each other. In truth, any given project will involve a balance of these factors, and part of the discovery phase of the project will involve a discussion about which features we can slip to a later phase in order to deliver on-time or within-budget, or which additional resources we’ll need to pull into the project in order to deliver everything in the wish-list in the time we’ve got, and what this will do to our bottom-line for example.

To some extent, every project will follow some key stages:

  • Discovery
  • Design
  • Review
  • Implementation
  • User Acceptance Testing
  • Rollout

These stages may be run through once (waterfall) or a truncated version of the design/implementation/test process may be repeated in an agile implementation, but these are the key elements.

The scope of the project is the most critical element of how much this process is going to cost. It is vitally important to define this at the start, and to keep an eye on the project scope as it is delivered.

During the discovery phase, while ‘blue-sky’ discussions are ongoing, we’ll generally allow all ideas, but ultimately accept that some will be relegated to “Phase Two”. 

Understand that the extent to which you can control the size of the consulting/development budget will depend on your willingness to hear the answer “no.” If you’re working with Enterprise or Unlimited Edition, there’s very little that cannot be done in Salesforce, with the right amount of development. So the truthful answer to “Can we do x in Salesforce?” is probably “Yes!”, whereas the honest answer may well be “Yes, technically, but there are a number of reasons why you probably should do it this way instead.” or indeed “Ye-e-es, we could do that… But if we do it this way instead then it’ll save us two weeks of development time, even if it isn’t quite as pretty. Is drag-and-drop worth fourteen thousand pounds and a three-week delay?”

Sometimes, especially with early/pilot implementations, it can be advantageous to limit oneself to Professional Edition; working within the constraints of the platform allows one to concentrate on getting the business processes and data structures right, giving a stable, efficient basis upon which to build when later requirements exceed the capabilities of Professional Edition and require an upgrade to Enterprise Edition.

Regular reviews of project status are vital in keeping the scope under control. Progress against the timeline and the budget burn rate need an eagle eye. Ideally, project management should be a joint, co-operative responsibility of the client and consultant. 

“Scope Creep” is a little goblin who whispers phrases like “surely it’s easy to…” and “Okay, that’s great, but can we just…” into the ears of project sponsors, leading them to try to increase the scope of the project without affecting the budget. This rarely (never!) works…

There should be a change management process in place in case new requirements should arise during the delivery of the project. The impact of addressing these new requirements should be assessed both in terms of the project budget, and the timeline. It’s extremely unusual for new requirements to fail to impact either, if not both. 

There are two widely recognised approaches to managing the risk of project fees:

  • Time and Materials – Any time spent by the project team is charged to the client. If it takes my team thirteen man-days to build a new User Interface because the project sponsor didn’t like the Salesforce look-n-feel, then the project sponsor is going to be paying for another thirteen man-days. In this case, the risk is all on the client, and the change should have been managed from the time the new requirements were added to the scope, or we run a real risk of an unpleasant surprise when the final invoice is raised at project-end. 
  • Fixed Fee – The consultant will typically charge for an initial discovery project, taking a couple of days to set out in some detail the requirements to be addressed and the design to address them, working out how much effort is required to deliver what’s been specified (erring on the side of caution, as a rule) and then adding 10-20% wiggle room to allow for the unexpected. That’s the value of the project that the client is expected to pay; if the project is delivered more efficiently, then the consultant pockets the extra margin. But if something unexpected crops up, then the consultant is on the hook for the extra work required to address it, so in this instance the risk is carried by the consultant.

I do offer a third, hybrid option, where the risk is shared between the consultant and the client: The project is quoted as in “fixed fee”, but the effort to deliver is charged as time-and-materials on a monthly basis. As before, any changes to scope are managed as change requests, but if unexpected circumstances arise (which does happen) and the project slips into extra time despite the change process, the hours spent beyond the “fixed fee” value are charged at half-price. The consultant isn’t working for free, but the client isn’t paying out full price for the additional work required. This can work out to be a good compromise.

If you’ve any questions, or you think I might be able to help, I’d be delighted to hear from you! You can always email me, call me on +44 2393 96 06 42, request a (virtual) meeting or, if you prefer, fill out and submit the form on my Contact page and I’ll get back to you as soon as I can.

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