Salesforce Admins Podcast

Today on the Salesforce Admins Podcast, we talk to Bear Douglas, Senior Director of Developer Relations at Slack.

Join us as we talk about how the powers of admins and Slack combined have the potential to change how all of our users work within our organizations for the better.

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

Why more channels can help with information overload

Bear and her team write Slack’s API docs, creates SDKs and developer tools, and runs programs for their app directory partners and customer developers—including Admins who may be building custom integrations for their team. “I felt like Slack had the potential to nail what it was going to be like to actually transform work,” she says, “so five years ago, I joined Slack because the platform team was the one talking about how we are going to integrate all of your tools to create an enriched experience.”

One thing they’ve found is that, for most organizations, it’s better to have more channels than fewer. “The more specific you can make a channel, the easier it is to decide whether or not you need to pay attention to that channel and at what cadence,” Bear says, “you can pick and choose what you need to be informed about in a much more granular way that actually can help with information overload.”

Slack’s best practices… for Slack

To get started, Bear recommends having a good template that every team can roll out for their own team channel. This helps create a clearer understanding of how to best take advantage of the platform.

At Slack, they have an announcement channel for each team, both for the people on it and anyone who might want news about the team and what it’s up to. Pinned there, they have their quarterly OKRs, any sort of roadmap deck to show what they’re working on, and a career ladder doc. There are also links to the common tools the team uses on a daily basis, both as a point of reference and for anyone who works with multiple teams across the organization.

Bear also suggests creating a user group for just your team so when you @channel you’re reaching them and not any lurkers you may have. 

Taking advantage of Workflow Builder

One other channel that Slack uses for each team is the “plz” channel, which is for any kind of request for help. They’ve used Workflow Builder to create a way to manage these requests. You can restrict the channel to only accept input from a request form, giving you a structure to determine things like context and the level of urgency.

The Admin Evangelism team at Salesforce uses something similar to field pitches for new content, with a public form that spits out posts to a private channel where they vote on suggestions with emojis. It gives them an easy link to give out in meetings and a clear process for how to manage feedback from around the organization.

“We are a friendly bunch and we really want to hear from Trailblazers and Admins about what they need that we might not have heard from our customers before,” Bear says, so if you have an idea, hop in the Slack community channel or reach out to the Customer Experience team, and stop by to say hi at TrailheaDX.

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Full show transcript

Mike Gerholdt: Welcome to the Salesforce Admins Podcast, where we talk about product, community, and career to help you become an awesome admin. Now this week, we're talking with Bear Douglas, who is the senior director, developer relations for Slack. Who's Slack? So Bear has the same passion for the Slack platform that we all share as Salesforce Admins for the Salesforce platform. Let me tell you, it comes through, she is one of the coolest people that we have had on this podcast. I'm so glad that she had time out of her day to spend it talking with Salesforce Admins. I think the potential for us to really change how all of our users work within our organizations with Slack is something that admins can drive. Let me tell you, I'm just super pumped for all of the amazing information that Bear shares with us in this episode.
But before I jump into that, of course, you've probably listened to the podcast. So you know that the news I have, "Is that available now on Trailhead? Is it the new module, the essential habits for admin success?" That's right. If you've been around in the ecosystem for a while, the webinar, the Trailhead Live, all the in-person event presentations that we've been doing around essential habits for admin success is now on the Trailhead platform, as a learning module, the link is in the show notes. So after you listen to this episode, head on over the Trailhead, be one of the first Salesforce Admins to get the essential Trailhead badge. If you look at my Trailhead profile. I have a badge, so you should get yours, but now without further ado, let's get Bear on the podcast. So Bear, welcome to the podcast.

Bear Douglas: Thank you. Thank you for having me.

Mike Gerholdt: So we're excited for Slack. I love Slack. We've been using it at Salesforce, and I want to make sure that you are on the podcast, so you can talk to all of our Salesforce Admin community, because I mean, I'm a user, but I see so much potential in everything that we do and literally every conversation I've had with you on Slack. I can feel the passion just seeping through that you share for Slack, that we share for the platform, and I feel like it's a really cool thing. So let's get started with kind of where you got started, how you got introduced to Slack, and how you came on board to be the... Is it developer advocate at Slack?

Bear Douglas: Yes. So I'm the senior director of developer relations, and I lead our team developer relations, which Slack encompasses. The group that writes all of our API docs on, where the group that makes our SDKs and developer tools, and then we also run programs for our app directory partners and customer developers. So that's people like admins who are building Slack integrations just for their team, not for any commercial distribution, but that can be really impactful for the organizations that they work for. So we are here to help all of them be successful on the platform and also be their voice back to the product team when they have feature requests, when they have things that they want to see from us and be embedded in the process so that we can be their representatives.

Mike Gerholdt: Wow.

Bear Douglas: Yeah. So that's what we do. I've been at Slack for about five years. Before I worked at Slack. I used Slack. I was at Twitter for a few years before that. In every job that I had had leading up to Slack, we did have some means of internal chat and communications, but Slack felt like a user experience step change that I got really excited about using definitely from IRC or of any other products that really only supported direct message type chatting. A funny story, my older sister, who I very much look up to was the PMM for Google Wave. Do you remember Google Wave?

Mike Gerholdt: I do. I totally tried Google Wave, too.

Bear Douglas: Yeah, and Google Wave was really cool, and I got to be an early beta tester because I had my inside connection to get an account. It was a really cool preview back then in 2010 of what more work communication could be like and how rich it could be and how centralizing communication around topic thread is in many ways, much more powerful than centralizing communication around groups of people, because groups of people have different sets of things that they need to talk about on any given day. If you're trying to find the record of the time, you talked with a given five people that might be your immediate team, it can be very difficult to find things and to have it rich with context about the discussion that you had and so on and so forth.
So there was this promise in those days of what Google Wave could have been to really transform work, and when I got to be using Slack and I learned about the platform vision, which is about bringing tools that you use every day in a lightweight way for quick contextual types of actions, not like you should be creating a Figma design inside Slack that's like a weird, layered, embedded experience, but more like you should be able to discuss the contents of the Figma file and see a rich unfurl. So you don't always have to bounce out to a design doc to be able to discuss whether or not you think something is captured accurately in there, right? So this vision that I had of like, there was a better way to work, and the user experience that we had at Slack was kind of one-two punch of this felt right, and I felt like Slack definitely had the potential to nail what it was going to be like to actually transform work through small incremental changes, through more approachable user experience of how you bring all these things together.
So five years ago, I joined Slack because the platform team was the one talking about, right, how are we going to integrate all of your tools to make this enriched experience? It's been a wild ride so far, and I think we're getting closer and closer every day to making this a reality, not just for the people who are power users of Slack and know all the features and all the details, but people who are having a more average use experience. Because we want to change this for everybody, not just the people who are [inaudible] on the secrets.

Mike Gerholdt: Right, right. No, oh, man, Google Wave. I have not heard that. Sorry to be stuck on that, but I haven't heard that in forever. I remember trying it and thinking to myself, "Oh, email ruined us. We're forever ruined by email," because if you think about it, I'm of the generation that went to the high school library to get online. So I remember pre-computer and post-computer as I was growing up, but I don't ever remember writing letters. You wrote letters every now and then, but I never had a business context for that, and that's what email was meant to be. Then suddenly it's meant to be this electronic version of it, right? Well, now really, the way we use it is just quick one-off notes to each other that since I've started 20 years ago, working in an office, the expediency at which you're expected to answer email is crazy, right?
So I bring that into contact because I feel like the same shift also happened when I went from Word to Google Docs. You would open up Google Docs, and it was just kind of this white sheet. There's no parameters as opposed to Word. The same, I feel is with Slack, right? Like it's this white area that allows for more free communication and collaboration, right? The idea of centering people around a subject or a topic as opposed to, "Well, I have to email these five people," and then there's this whole gross email thread, and then you're like, "Oh, but you forgot so, and so." Then you tag somebody in, and you've seen that, and it's like, "Ah, there's no history here. How do do we get up to speed?" There's not threaded discussions, and then people can't add in a document to really collaborate around it. So, sorry, I just had to nerd out with Google Wave, but I still feel that.

Bear Douglas: But for those of us who experience this other poor way of working, have, I think really grown to appreciate how much easier things are in that type of context. One thing that's very counterintuitive about Slack, or can be counterintuitive if you haven't worked in a larger organization, is that more channels can actually be a better way to work than fewer. Sometimes people think, "Channel overwhelm is going to be absolutely terrible and so we should have a maximum say, 15 channels for this group of 30 people working together." But the more specific you can make a channel, the easier it is to decide whether or you need to pay attention to that channel and at what [crosstalk].

Mike Gerholdt: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Bear Douglas: So for any given project at Slack, we generally have a develop channel, which is for all the engineering chatter. We have a GTM channel, which is about all of the go-to-market activity that might be relevant for it. We have feedback channel, which is meant to be a open forum for people in side the company to pass on product feedback, then the PM can pay attention to in triage, and a few other prefixes for the designs for a given project. So if you search the project name, you'll see all of the different channels that are relevant. But if you are part of the marketing team, maybe you want to be part of the GTM channel and you might want to be part of the design channels, but you're less interested in being in the engineering team daily chatter about what's going on with the development. So you can pick and choose what you need to be informed about in a much more granular way that actually can help with information overload.

Mike Gerholdt: I mean, I think you're 100% right, and that has to be the biggest eye-opening thing that you tell anybody when they start using Slack is, "No, don't limit the number of channels." Because I could 100% foresee any of my previous employers being like, "Well, as an admin, can you set it up so that people can't create more than X number of channels?" I could see that as the first question, as opposed to thinking like, "No, let's have it be as many as they need," because then you can get as granular as you want.

Bear Douglas: Yes, and we also don't charge by the channels. So there's no objection on the grounds of, "You got to limit the number of channels you-"

Mike Gerholdt: Right.

Bear Douglas: The flip side, though, is that you do have to be diligent about archiving channels once they're done. That, I think is something that can fall by the wayside if no one remembers, "Oh, I guess we are done with this project. It's time to spend everything down." Sidebar sections have also been a real game changer for things organized. I think, do you use them?

Mike Gerholdt: We can do an entire podcast on my [inaudible] sections. Full transparency, we got this amazing deck when we went all in on Slack. I think the one thing I navigated to was our team prior to this had been using... Was it Google Messenger or whatever? I think the hardest transition we had was part of our team was on one and part of the rest of the teams that we work with was on something else, and so my Slack was just kind of a whole list of channels and they didn't make any sense.
Then when I saw sections, that changed everything for me and you can use emojis in sections. I love sections. You can clap sections, you can mute all of the channels in a section. That's the best part of it for me, because I was going through today, I was like, "Oh, I got added to three more groups." And I was like, "Well, this is kind of like..." It's like budget and budget planning and sounds, payable stuff. So I just made a whole section of money bags. That's what I called it. Just like money. That's the fun part, is it can be as much of your personality as you want. Whereas some of these other messaging platforms, which we talked about briefly before I pressed record, was like... I don't know. It's like you shoot each other a message, and there's no real context or there's no real good way to share, or you can't find something, but sections are my jam. I probably have too many sections, but maybe not enough. I don't know.

Bear Douglas: Maybe it's like channels. Maybe you just need to be able to know which ones you can mute and how you most easily information. I think it's very individual, and I think our product team did too, which is why sidebar sections are always a user setting and not something that your admin can pre-allocate for you. We got long requests from admins who are interested in having some company-wide sections. So it's a user utility. So you decide, and you can put your money bag emoji wherever you want.

Mike Gerholdt: Yeah. I think the hardest switch for me coming from just... We'll say, email was the... Maybe I'm one of those few people, but the need I feel to burn down my inbox, right? It's like a task list, and then you go over to Slack and there's all these channels and they're all lit up and you're like, "How am I going to get through this all?" And you're like, "Oh, no, wait. This is just information for you to consume on demand." So anyway, we got a little off, we got a little on the sidebar, but so we talked messaging platforms. I think one of the things that really struck me... This was kind of early days of social, and Salesforce still has chatter, was the idea of, I believe it was intelligence.
I don't mean like Einstein. I mean, context plus content, right? Equals intelligence. So you're able to have the discussion in the relevant context so that everybody gets the relevant content. To me, that's where Slack just is so useful. I would love to know from your perspective, because you've been doing this a lot better than I have. I'm fooling around. I'm still trying to stop the VCR from flashing 12. I feel like some days. If we're helping Salesforce, admins get their teams up on Slack, what is the first thing to kind of help them roll out like, "Here's a good, best practice to get started with channels or sections"?

Bear Douglas: I would think that having a good template that every team can roll out for their own team channel would be helpful. So here's what we have in my team channel. It's called Team Devereaux, and it is the channel that we think about for both our team and also people who might be public consumers of news about our team and what we're up to. So that's our announced channel, and things that we have pinned to that channel are things like our quarterly OKRs, whatever goals you have for the quarter, any sort of roadmap deck so that people who are interested in what we're working on can come and browse what's there and also as a point of reference for people who are on the team. We have our career ladder doc posted up in there so that people have that as a handy reference as well, and then we have a few links to common tools and tips that folks on the team are using on a daily basis.
So if for example, you're in the type of role where you have to help our partners dig into any issues they might be having with our API. It might be a short list of common queries that will help you diagnose issues for partners. So all of that information being pinned to a channel can help people who are sort of casually housing, "What is it that your team does?" Get up to speed, but it's also a handy reference for everyone inside the team as well. It's also very useful to create a user group for your team, so that if you need to @mention people who are just on your team, but you need to make sure that they see a notification instead of having to @channel, a public channel that might be full of lurkers and interested folk, you can really just keep it to your team, and having that kind of template so that people don't have to wonder, "Well, what is the correct structure for a team channel and what should be discussed in there that would be helpful?"
Another common convention that we have at Slack that I wish more people knew about too, is we have that team channel and then we have a Plzease channel prefixed PLZ, and that's for when people come in with any kind of request that they want our help on, whether it's, "I would love to bounce an idea off somebody that I'm not sure is technically feasible." Or, "My customer had this question that I could really use help answering." We have a workflow that we've created in Workflow Builder, and if any of you have not used a Workflow Builder before you can find it in the upper left menu, click down, there's a section called tools and Workflow Builder.
What you can do with Workflow Builder is create a way that people put structured input into the channel. So you can say, "Give us a priority tag." So people aren't coming in with urgent things, that'll get marked as urgent or on the flip side, with no context about something that can really wait for two or three weeks that they've popped into channel, and you can ask them to fill out a form to get help and have that post inside the channel.
You can actually set up a given channel so that the only inputs are from that workflow. So you can really make sure that you get structured input from other teams about the help that they're asking you for, and between having the general team communication channel and this sort of Plzease interface for other people inside the company. It can really, really streamline how people can define the way that they should behave with internal teams. And it goes a long way to have these templates.

Mike Gerholdt: Yeah. So you mentioned workflows, which is another thing that I found and my team just went nuts on. We love it. So we have a public channel that we let anybody from the company in, and if they have ideas, the biggest problem we had was a bottleneck of getting information to us, right? Or, "I have an idea for a blog post," or, "So and so wants to be on the podcast," and they didn't know how to do it. So they would find somebody on our team, email them or find somebody on our team, DM them, right? So we had too many front doors.

Bear Douglas: Yes.

Mike Gerholdt: We set up a workflow in our public channel that allows them to submit an idea and that actually goes to a private channel that then everybody on our team can review. We have a little voting system that we use emojis for, and then we have a dedicated person that follows up on it. It's so cool.

Bear Douglas: That is cool.

Mike Gerholdt: It changed everything for us, right? We promote it in all of our meetings like, "If you have an idea, go here, click the lightning bolt and select submit content," right?

Bear Douglas: Yep. That's awesome.

Mike Gerholdt: I think, I bring that up because it was so freeing, the amount of visual things you can do to a message to enhance it, I'd love. Right? You can add gifts and there's emojis and reactjis. You can really spice things up as opposed to just sending somebody like, "Hey, do you want to go get coffee?" Right? Kind of thing.

Bear Douglas: Have you ever used the Block Kit Builder to send a beautifully formatted newsletter or-

Mike Gerholdt: I use Block Kit Builder every Thursday to promote the podcast internally.

Bear Douglas: Amazing.

Mike Gerholdt: Yeah.

Bear Douglas: That's like a power user pro tip, that I feel like-

Mike Gerholdt: It is, and I'm hoping we can get it a little bit more admin-friendly, because right now I kind of just know the lines of code I can edit, but a little more drag and drop, but that aside. Workflows to me were kind of that aha moment of, "Oh, yeah, this is cool. I really like this." I had the same thing with the Salesforce platform. So I'm curious for you having been at Slack for five years. I would love to know what your aha moment was. What was that moment that you're like, "I am all in on Slack. This thing is going to change work"?

Bear Douglas: Interesting. I don't know that I had one aha moment because at the point that I joined five years ago, I was already sold, and I think it was the cumulative user experience, nice touches that made it feel very friendly, like everything from the hilarious release notes to the moment when you're done reading all your messages and it says, "You're all done. Here's a pony." There was a friendliness to it and an approachability that I loved, but one of the things that I'm definitely most excited about over time is workflows and also some of the UI and UX improvements that we've made that make it really possible to parallelize tasks inside Slack. So recently-

Mike Gerholdt: Tell me more.

Bear Douglas: ... [crosstalk] recently. I mean, two years ago we released a product called models, which are popup overlays inside Slack, and you have to have a user interaction trigger for a developer to pop that up. Meaning I have to click a button or I have to launch a slash command. You can't just pop something up in Slack for me randomly, it's not the web circa 1997. You have to have a reason, and then we made those pop-over models pop outable so that you could have multiple Slack windows at any given time.
So if you were trying to complete a task that was a survey for a recent all-hands or filling out feedback for something that you knew was pending your feedback, you could keep Slack open and not be distracted by that task. You could go do it in another window, and I'm not sure I'm explaining myself all that well, to be honest, but that was a pretty transformative moment in the platform for me, which was the ability to not just have to interact with apps in the channel context. So they could have this separate space where you could take care of tasks.

Mike Gerholdt: Yeah, that's neat. Mine was, I was an admin in 2006, and I remember setting up my first dependent pick list, and rolling it out and everybody like, "Oh." So you select something at the top, like Apple, Microsoft, or Linux, and then below would give you then... It was dependent on your first selection. So you couldn't select Microsoft iOS 5 or something. Right? I remember setting that up and like rolling it out, and people are like, "That's really cool. That must have taken you forever." I was like, "Yep, sure it did." But just the power of like, "You know, I made a thing that normally looks like it would take code and I just deployed it right away and I could just easily edit it." It just felt super, super powerful. The same with like some of the Slack stuff that we do, it's you can almost kind of have a shorthand, right?
I think that's where I see a lot of this going is CRM 14 years ago when I started was how fast can you get a salesperson to update data records? Now the data record is updated through other systems and/or other interfaces based on contextual information put into something like a Slack. That's a future of CRM, right? It's not, "Did the person go in?" CRM 2007? Was, "Did you update your lead from new to first call?" Please, if you're doing that, you're so far behind. You should be, "No, the salesperson had a Slack conversation with the team about it, and Slack is updating Salesforce on all of these minor data points because the contextual conversation is happening in a collaborative space that moves that forward," right? The reporting in the CRM data is just how we look back and show progress, but the conversation's happening somewhere else. That's where I feel the next five years of CRM is going.

Bear Douglas: Absolutely, [inaudible] more. You can make that an automatic process instead of creating overhead where people have to report back or send information from one space to another, the more successful you are at keeping everything in sync. That's one of the big promises of Slack, is keeping everyone on the same page because everyone has the same view to a channel's data and conversation, and that helps keep everybody aligned.

Mike Gerholdt: As we kind of wrap up, because I want to make sure that [inaudible] cognizant of time. Can I just say I'm so glad that no one's Slack alert went off. That seems like a thing that shouldn't have to happen, but anymore coming out of the pandemic and spending two years on Zoom and GoToMeeting calls. I even saw it on a couple of documentaries about Silicon Valley. You could hear the Slack notification in the background.

Bear Douglas: Yeah. Luckily, I have my pres presenter mode notes about things that I have to turn off and on. So yeah. I'm glad that nothing got picked up, but the work was still happening in the background.

Mike Gerholdt: No, absolutely. Absolutely. So sending admins off, hopefully they enjoyed this episode. We brought up Google Wave. I think that might be the first Google Wave discussion. From your advice and your deep technical knowledge, we have Trailblazer DX coming up. Why, or should admins be thinking about Slack?

Bear Douglas: I'm curious to hear what they're curious about, and I know that's kind of a cop out, but I've given you some of my top tips for channel design. Some of the top tips for creating templates to set teams up for success. So they know what's expected of them, and what good team behavior looks like in Slack. But we are a friendly bunch and we really want to hear from the trailblazers and the admins about what they need, that we might not have heard from our customers before. So I want to make everyone aware of a few channels where they can reach us.
Obviously, if you're going to be at Trailblazer DX, please come and say hello, because there'll be plenty of us there to chat with. But you can also find us at the Slack community in general, which is We love to talk about Slack and our tips and tricks and how we can make it better. We also have an absolutely awesome customer experience team who are friendly and love working with admins on making their experience better, and you can reach them at I know that that sounds kind of impersonal, like an email address, but we're around constantly on email and on Twitter, and we're really excited to talk to you. So do reach out.

Mike Gerholdt: Yeah. Well, you've got to start somewhere, right? I mean, I remember that my first giving Slack feedback and the response I got was like, "Oh ,wow. You're like a real human that read it." And kind of figured out where I was coming from and was like, "Yeah, we really should have that, and we're probably working on it. We just don't have it right now." I was like, "Oh, my God, who are you people?" So akin to getting these plain vanilla responses right? From when you submit feedback to other companies, and this is like, "No, this is genuine. That's a really good idea. We should be doing it."

Bear Douglas: Yeah. Yeah. We have an awesome team, and a lot of people jump in at various different points. I enjoy helping out in the queue. I haven't done it in some time, but when we launched the redesign, which you might remember was right around spring of 2020, there was a lot of feedback coming in about that absolutely, and so more of us were on deck, and it was a great moment to have that direct connection with customers.

Mike Gerholdt: Well, Bear, I appreciate you being on the pod, and I look forward to hearing about all of the feedback that you got and we should do a follow-up podcast on that.

Bear Douglas: Sounds great. Thank you so much for having me.

Mike Gerholdt: You bet. So it was great to have Bear on the podcast. I look forward to her coming back and speaking more as the Slack platform continues to evolve and empower Salesforce Admins. If you are going to Trailblazer DX in April, find Bear, find the Slack team, hit them up. Start asking questions, because some cool tech that it's really going to help everybody in the organization, and it's just fun, new stuff to learn. So if you want to learn more about all the things Salesforce Admins, go to to find more resources, including any of the links that I mentioned in the episode, as well as a full transcript, of course, you can stay up to date with us on social, we are @SalesforceAdmns. No I on Twitter.
You can follow my co-host Gillian Bruce. She is back. Gillian K. Bruce on Twitter. Of course I'm on Twitter as well, give me a follow. I am @MikeGerholdt. I promise you my Twitter feed will ensure you don't miss a single cool article and/or maybe a fun picture of my dog, worth a follow. Anyway, let's stay safe, stay awesome, and stay tuned for the next episode. We will see you in the cloud.

Direct download: Slack_Best_Practices_for_Admins_with_Bear_Douglas.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 3:00am PDT