Ian Gotts, Founder and CEO
Ideas shape the course of history, and in some cases, they change the status quo of an entire industry. One such idea knocked on the doors for Ian Gotts, founder and CEO of Elements.cloud, which not only led to the inception of a technological powerhouse but also changed the modus operandi of Salesforce implementations.
Gotts initially worked with two other visionaries—Adrian King and Richard Parker—in developing industry-standard process applications before laying the cornerstone of Elements.cloud. “At our previous venture, we helped Fortune 500 companies in regulated markets enhance the value delivered through enterprise solutions. Once that company got acquired by a larger firm in 2011, I brought the band back together to do what we did previously, only this time we are initially targeting Salesforce implementations. We built an application that could support Salesforce and other apps like SAP, Oracle, Microsoft Dynamics, ServiceMax, and Workday to improve operational and implementation efficiency,” explains Gotts.
When asked about how his company catalyzes Salesforce implementations, Gotts replies,“The problems we are solving are the challenges that everyone has while implementing technology: Understanding requirements, getting agreement on business processes, documentating the configuration and providing end-user help.” Without a doubt, platforms such as Elements Catalyst—built by Gotts’ firm—function as the critical tools to support the implementations lifecycle.
The Seeds of Innovation
Besides touching on the origins of Elements.cloud, Gotts also highlights how cloud technology may have simplified some aspects, but the implementation methodology has not altered. The power of Salesforce means companies can customize to suit their specific needs, and download industry-specific extensions to extend the capabilities of the platform from the AppExchange. For example, if a consulting firm wants to carry out professional services automation, FinancialForce has a series of built-in applications to extend Salesforce in that area. Similarly, insurance firms or oil and gas companies can leverage Vlocity and LiquidFrameworks to bring in customization. However, a downside of these integrations is that documentation of processes and implementation configuration often gets disregarded. Though organizations benefit from the advantages of Salesforce, the speed of innovation is stalled due to the lack of relevant documentation. Forrester, one of the largest industry analysts, called this conundrum ‘the Salesforce@scale Dilemma.’
Consultants need to standardize their tools and approach to Salesforce implementations. That is precisely where our platform supports them and gives them a competitive edge
As Salesforce is used more widely, the impact analysis of changes slows down any innovation. The founders of Elements.cloud aspired to bring back the innovation that was lost in Salesforce implementations. They developed a central ecosystem for the implementation process, making Salesforce more agile—encompassing the documentation of business processes, configurations, changes, and training materials. “You could have requirements in as spreadsheet, process maps in a PowerPoint slide, training materials in a PDF, configuration recorded in a spreadsheet (or not) – with no easy way to keep it up to date. Consider a workflow built in Salesforce. Through Elements Catalyst, you can instantly see the requirements that generated the workflow, the processes that needed it, and other metadata inside Salesforce that use it, along with the associated training materials. Essentially, we pull it all together and give it context,” explains Gotts. “We call ourselves the documentation hub.”
Gotts’ narrative of what Elements Catalyst does showcases the critical role played by the company in Salesforce implementations. But the effect of any catalyst is understood effectively only when the entire reaction is studied.
For example, when consultants walk into a Salesforce implementation they need to understand what has previously been configured so they can assess the risks associated with the project, and the amount of effort to deliver the new customizations. Elements Catalyst gives an overview of the scale of the customizations. The app lowers the risk of changes associated with the project by visualizing every metadata and its dependencies. But it is also the place where the consultants can document their customizations so that clients can maintain it, and understand every aspect of the implementation for future innovation and growth.
“It’s like buying a new car with detailed instructions that allow you to drive and maintain it on your own,” adds Gotts. “Elements Catalyst makes it easier to get the same or different consultants back for follow-on projects. They can hit the ground running because they can instantly see the implementation documentation and analysis. And they only need to learn one tool they can use across multiple customers.
Elements Catalyst is rapidly becoming the go-to platform for consultants, and it gives them a competitive edge. In fact, a senior Salesforce executive said that “Elements Catalyst needs to be mandated on every consulting partner when they engage with clients,” he states. From a Salesforce Administrator’s perspective, Elements Catalyst enables them to understand how their implementation has been configured, do the impact analysis, and then make faster decisions on the changes they want to make. They don’t need to rely on consultants.
In a nutshell, Elements Catalyst assists a Salesforce Administrator, developer, consultant, and business analyst throughout the implementation lifecycle.
An Industry Standard for Salesforce
Gotts says that his company does not need to tailor or change the product based on the industry or size of customer. The common (problem) thread is not using a proven approach to analysis and documentation. They’ve released a book—Chaos to Control—which details simple, but comprehensive steps to de-clutter/clean up Salesforce Orgs and build a structured business architecture. The book guides readers through the practical steps of a number of use cases such as Lighning migration, Org implementation, review, clean-up and consolidation.
In the world of Saas, customers expect to get up and running on their own with limited training and support. Elements Catalyst offers a very rapid self-service onboarding – 3 clicks in 2 minutes and you are good to go. They also provide a comprehensive support site, and they are winning praise for their responsive customer success team. The merits of a low-touch, low-cost model is that Elements Catalyst is affordable for almost every one of the 200,000 plus Salesforce customers worldwide. The industry-agnostic Elements Catalyst platform supports customers across every industry sector, but its version controlled process mapping capabilities are a huge hit with highly regulated industries. Gotts says that while Salesforce implementations are a major part of their business, Elements Catalyst can provide the same benefits to any other platform ecosystem such as Microsoft Dynamics, Workday, and Oracle.
"The problems we are solving are the challenges that everyone has while implementing technology"
One of the interesting aspects of Elements.cloud is its ‘#OrgConfessions,’ a page dedicated to Salesforce Admins and Consultants who can submit anonymous implementation horror stories as a way of educating people in dodging the common mistakes made during implementations. “In the last couple of weeks, the confession page has gone viral and we have enough data to produce some meaningful root cause analysis. The results are enlightening, and we are printing a book for Dreamforce – the annual user conference attended by 160,000 customers,” concludes Gotts.