Salesforce Admins Podcast

Today on the Salesforce Admins Podcast, we’re talking to Eric Praud, a Service Cloud Delivery Manager at Ladbrokes Coral Group. We discuss best practices for building formulas and how to ask and answer questions on the Salesforce community.

Join us as we talk about why you need to learn things with the mindset that you may need to teach them later, why it’s so important to avoid technical debt, and how to be better at asking for and giving help on the Answers community.

You should subscribe for the full episode, but here are a few takeaways from our conversation with Eric Praud.

Why it’s OK to get it wrong the first time.

Like a lot of people we talk to on the Salesforce Admin Podcast, Eric is someone who stumbled into the platform. He started out working thirteen years in the restaurant industry, but when he was looking to transition into technology he ended up working in Salesforce support. “You start with support and it feels like a sink or swim situation because you don’t know much, to be fair,” Eric says, “but it was the best schooling I could’ve had for Salesforce.”

These days, Eric keeps up with his support roots by keeping active in the community, where he tries to answer questions every day and is in the top three. He’s particularly focused on formula-based questions: “I just really like the challenge that is in the question, I like the logic of the formula, and I love it when it works out in the end,” he says. The big thing is to not be afraid of failure. If it’s complicated, you’re probably going to get it wrong the first time, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t keep trying.

Avoiding technical debt.

One problem Eric encountered on the Answers community had to do with how to create a formula to show what fiscal quarter a particular date would fall into. The fiscal quarters for this particular company never seemed to start on the same date, so Eric sat down with a pen and paper to work it out. It took him three days, but he eventually reverse-engineered the method behind the madness.

“You don’t want to carry technical debt,” Eric says, “will you remember, in five years’ time, that you have to go back to that formula? You may not even be there, it may be another admin who will have no clue what’s happening here.” Eric is always looking for an evergreen solution that will always work no matter what the circumstances are. In other words, spending three days to figure out the fiscal year formula now is worth it if it means that nobody will ever have to spend time on it again.

How to be better at asking for and giving help.

When it comes to the Answers community, Eric has some words of wisdom about being a good poster. “Remember that we’re here to help you, but help us help you,” he says, “remember to add a few screenshots, give us the data types of the fields that you mention.” Most importantly, describe the problem you’re facing in layman’s terms. Every business and industry is unique, but a little bit of context can go a long way, and not everybody is going to be familiar with your specific situation.

On the other hand, if Eric is giving answers, he has a few strategies for making sure he’s being helpful. “Sometimes you can tell when people are new at Salesforce,” he says. Sometimes they tell you straight away, but there are also some hints from the way they’re phrasing their questions. In those cases, it’s helpful to overexplain your formula so they have an understanding of not just what to do, but why they’re doing it. 


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Full Show Transcript

Mike Gerholdt: Welcome to the Salesforce Admins podcast, where we talk about product, community and careers to help you become an awesome admin. I'm Mike Gerholdt, and joining me today is Eric Prod to talk about building formulas as a best practice, evergreen solutions and wow, we also dig a little bit into how to ask and answer questions on the Salesforce community. It's super cool, I can't wait. Let's get Eric on the podcast.
So Eric, welcome to the podcast.

Eric Prod: Thank you very much for having me here.

Mike Gerholdt: It's great to discuss with our community worldwide, but let's get started with your background and kind of your expertise. Where did you get started with Salesforce and kind of evolve to where you are today?

Eric Prod: So I was actually working in the restaurant business for quite some time, like 17 years or so. And after a while, I got tired of it and decided to go into some kind of a technical job. So I found this job as the Salesforce support, that was about nine years ago. Loved it from day one, so I then became a Salesforce consultant for our company for about five or six years. And now I am the service cloud delivery manager for my company.

Mike Gerholdt: Wow. Service cloud, that's awesome. I think support is such a great way to dive into learning because you really have to troubleshoot and get in there right away. I tell myself it's like, if we're learning to teach, it's a very different level of learning because you also have to kind of regurgitate that and put that back in the context for somebody, so support's kind of a great way to jump in both feet all the way up to your neck, right?

Eric Prod: Yeah. Yeah, definitely. I mean, you start [inaudible] and it feels a bit like a sink or swim situation because you don't know much, to be fair, but as you said, it was the best school I could have had for Salesforce, for sure.

Mike Gerholdt: Now your super active on our answers community. So let's dive in there because it plays well into your support background.

Eric Prod: Yeah. I love going to the community. I try to go there every day, as much as I can, just to help people. I'm in the top three, I think at the moment.

Mike Gerholdt: Oh, so you be on the podium with Steve.

Eric Prod: I am. Yeah, I am. I'm hoping to get the gold medal from him, but I don't think it will happen.

Mike Gerholdt: You just got to pick your day and time, right?

Eric Prod: Probably, yeah.

Mike Gerholdt: You just plan it out. When Boston's asleep, that's when you hop on.

Eric Prod: Got to think about that now.

Mike Gerholdt: It's strategy. Strategy, Eric. We can get there. You're already on the podium. Well, that's cool. I think that really establishes why we're talking with you. I mean, to be top three in the answers community really says something. I think I've jumped in there quite a few times and tried to answer questions, and I'm like the fourth or fifth answer and I'm like, wow, how did you come to that so quickly? But what do you love to kind of dive into, or what are the problems in the answers community that you love to solve?

Eric Prod: The one I prefer, definitely formula based questions. So anything from formula feeds, validation rules, workflow rules, whatever. I just read the challenge that's in the question, I like the logic of the formula and I love it when it works out in the end.

Mike Gerholdt: Yeah. Because I see a lot of formula questions in our admin community and I'll be honest, formulas for me are still not a strong foundation. I can usually work through them, but I think the people that can build really complex formulas, wow, I admire that. Learning formulas and kind of wrapping your head around formulas, where did you get started kind of learning formulas and being able to help others with formulas?

Eric Prod: Yeah. So first, I think I'm lucky enough here that I've got a very logical mind. Two and two will always make four for me, it will not make 22 or anything else. So that's a good start, but then I tried, I tried, I tried and I failed, I failed, I failed. That's how I learned, to be perfectly honest. Do not be afraid of failing, you will not get it right the first time if it's complicated. So what? Do it again.

Mike Gerholdt: It's like math.

Eric Prod: Pretty much, yes.

Mike Gerholdt: I didn't get math right very much either. That's okay. So let's talk about some of the big problems that you've solved in the answers community and how we can help. When we did our pre-call, the biggest thing I wanted to help admins understand is I wanted to help them think like you, Eric, and I wanted to help rewire them into going through and troubleshooting and thinking very logically. So let's dive into, what was some of the big problems that you've solved in the answers community?

Eric Prod: Right. Well, it has to be that person who was asking for some formula to show what fiscal quarter a date would fall in. And the quarters seemed to be very funny, they never started on the same date. So what he wanted to do was simply to hard call a few dates for the next four or five years, and then go back to that formula in five years time and do it again. And I was like, there has to be a way to make it work every year for the rest of the time, for the next 100 years also, at least. And so I asked him for a spreadsheet with all his fiscal years from 10 years ago up to 10 years from now, I think it was something like that. I had 20 fiscal years in his spreadsheet. So I just looked at the spreadsheet, took my favorite pen and paper, I always start with a pen and paper.
I tried to figure out if there was a pattern there, and eventually figured out that the fiscal year started, so get ready, on the Sunday, the closest to the 1st of April, every year.

Mike Gerholdt: So that's easy.

Eric Prod: That was easy. So it just took a few hours to just find the pattern. But once I found the pattern, then I was like, knowing Salesforce, I don't know the formula off the top of my head, of course, but this has to be possible somehow. And again, pen and paper, opened a calendar, looked at some dates, tried to find how I could make that logic work. And eventually, after three, four days, I came up with a formula that now works for every single year, not just the next five years and if you input any date, it will tell you which fiscal quarters is date is in. So to me, the very important part here was that this had to be evergreen. It had to work, not for the next five years, it had to work forever. Unless they changed the fiscal year in the company, this formula will always work for them.

Mike Gerholdt: So as I'm sitting here listening to your answer, and I'm probably listening to the podcast, I'm out walking my dog and I'm thinking, yeah but Eric, you had all of the dates on the spreadsheet. You could've just put those dates in as a reference field in Salesforce. Why did you spend three days mulling through, figuring out what a formula would be for this solution?

Eric Prod: Well, again, just because you don't want to carry technical debt. Try to use best practices here. If you carry technical debts, will you remember that in five years time, you have to go back to that formula and that you have to, again, change those dates. You may not even be there in five years time. You may not be in that company, it would be another admin who may have no clue what's happening here. So I'm always trying to get what I call an evergreen solution, so something that will always work no matter what. And as for spending three days on it, well, maybe because I'm a bit stupid and I like pain, I don't know.

Mike Gerholdt: No, I don't think you're stupid, not one bit. Maybe the pain part, I mean. No, but the reason I asked that is, I think it's very easy, and I'm probably jealous of it too, you get something and you look at it, well, if we know the date, then let's just put that in as a reference field and we'll just run everything off it. And then in five or 10 years, who knows where it will be, and we'll fix it then. And you forget that five or 10 years, or maybe even a couple of years, if you're doing it monthly, comes up really fast. And the next thing you know, you launch into a new fiscal year and something doesn't work. And I think you're working through that solution and providing that evergreen solution is something super important.
And the technical debt level of it is also important to kind of understand. For the solution that I'm building, I love that you brought that up. How much am I creating or just moving work to a future date, right? Your three days spent meant that that time now doesn't have to be wasted ever again because that solution will continue to work. So I think that's a really cool way of looking at things. What for you, as you were kind of working through formulas and in your support role, and now in your current role, what's kind of the hardest part of learning Salesforce or something that you work through on a regular basis?

Eric Prod: To me, the hardest part of learning Salesforce, and as I said early on, I'm from a restaurant background so I had no clue about sales or service terminology. So really, to me, the hardest part was actually to try to understand the Salesforce terminology. I didn't know what an opportunity was, I didn't know what a lead was. When I was first learning Salesforce and people would say to me, yeah, this is how lead works, and I'm like, "Yeah, but what is a lead?" And for people, it was very hard to actually explain it. And then there's that click in your brain. I mean, at least that's what happened to me. I started to understand the terminology and once I passed that hurdle, I found it a lot easier to understand Salesforce.
And then after, it's like Lego. You build on top of your foundations. So once you understand Salesforce, once you understand the terminology and you can speak the Salesforce lingo, then you can start building on top of it.

Mike Gerholdt: I agree. I agree. In fact, I had a friend over the last few months, was getting into Trailhead and used to work in retail, and was always texting me questions like, "What is this and what does this mean?" And I had forgot I had just been on a different side of a business and in a selling setting for so long, that opportunities and leads made sense to me. And in retail, they don't. I mean, everybody's kind of a lead in an opportunity, I guess, if you look at it that way, you just don't categorize it. So yeah, sometimes the nomenclature trips you up.

Eric Prod: Yes, it does. And it's true that it's very easy to take for granted that all the people understand it, understand what you're talking about. So many times, for example, when I was talking about opportunities to do some customers, I had to talk about sales opportunities, they wouldn't understand the work.

Mike Gerholdt: Right. As you're talking through customers and you're looking at answers on the community, how do we also make admins better question askers, right? Are there things or components that you feel are usually missing in the initial question that people put out there that somebody like yourself is looking for?

Eric Prod: Yes. I mean, not all the time, obviously, but remember that we're here to help you, but help us help you. So maybe add a few screenshots, give us the data types of the [inaudible] that you mentioned. Those two things would help a lot towards a resolution. And most of all, make sure you describe the problem that you're facing in layman terms. We're not in your org. We don't know your company, so just give us as much information as possible.

Mike Gerholdt: Yeah, that makes sense. I think sometimes, when you're asking for help, you're so in the situation that you forget how much is just nomenclature that you know intuitively, much to our previous discussion, you forget other people aren't familiar with. So that's really good advice, really good advice. So let me flip the question. As admins are in the community trying to help each other, what is some advice or ways that you formulate your answers to be as helpful as possible?

Eric Prod: So it will really depend on the issue at hand. Obviously, if it's just a very simple formula and they've explained everything, then I would just give them the formula, "There, try this." But sometimes you can tell when people are new at Salesforce. Either they tell you straight away, "Look, I've just started. I don't know what's happening here." Or the way they phrase the question, you can see that they wouldn't be as experienced a Salesforce administrator. So then I would try to explain my formula. I would try to break it down as much as possible and say, "Well, look, this part does this and this part does that, and then we have a result. This does that, makes this result."

Mike Gerholdt: Makes sense.

Eric Prod: But it's not always easy.

Mike Gerholdt: No. And also I'm thinking through the answers I've given, sometimes we're wrapped up in our own context of, well, how come you don't know this, when we answer it and we forget that we're potentially explaining something new. So I think that's really relevant right now.

Eric Prod: That's true. That's true. That's a very fair point here, Mike.

Mike Gerholdt: Eric, it was great chatting with you. I'm glad we had this time to connect. I love recording podcasts with all of our Salesforce community from around the world. So thank you for taking time out of your day.

Eric Prod: Well, I'm thank you very much for having me here, really enjoyed myself.

Mike Gerholdt: So it was great to chat with Eric. I'm glad he could make time out of his day. I learned a lot. It still has me intrigued and I still love to dive into formulas and see how people are solving formulas. In fact, I'd love for you to share on Twitter, a complex formula you've solved or an interesting scenario, like Eric had of something that you've solved. First Sunday, I believe he said, before April. Boy, that's a math problem solved. But here are three things I learned from our discussion with Eric. One, it reminded me that learning to support your users is a little bit different. So with that in mind, as you're learning new things about Salesforce, either a new way of building something new terminology, learn it with the mindset that you're going to have to teach it to your user because you might have to.
And I think that challenges you to learn things a little bit differently, ingest it. I love Eric's background of being in support, that's really inspiring. And the second thing, and this is huge, this is why it's number two, I think it's the main part of this episode is technical debt. So in Eric's solution that we talked about, he could have just create a field to reference, he had all of those dates, but he went that next step and really thought about his technical debt and said, I can solve this as a formula, and now that exists as a solution for the next 10, 20, 100 years for that organization. And so that little bit of time building the right solution right off the bat means he doesn't have to carry that technical debt, very important for admins to understand.
And then the third thing is a good reminder, be as explanatory as possible in your questions and answers. So I know you need help and it's worth taking a step back and saying, do people understand what I'm talking about with this, or is this just a company term that maybe only I know? And the second is, as you're explaining or trying to help another Salesforce admin out in the community, make sure that you take a moment and be like, maybe they haven't heard this term before. And so take a moment just to explain it. It's really about how we support each other and I think that's a wonderful theme for this episode. So of course, if you want to learn more about all things Salesforce admin, go to to find more resources.
And as a reminder, if you love what you hear, you can be sure to pop over to iTunes, give us a review. I promise, I read them all. You can stay up-to-date with us for all things social. We are @SalesforceAdmns, no i, on Twitter. And you can find me on Twitter as well, I am @MikeGerholdt. Stay tuned for the next episode and we'll see you in the cloud.

Direct download: Best_Practices_for_Building_Formulas_with_Eric_Praud.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 9:18am PDT