Salesforce Admins Podcast

Salesforce For Good: Billy Daly


The Salesforce Admins Podcast is back with another episode of our mini-series, Salesforce for Good, hosted by Marc Baizman, Senior Admin Evangelist at Salesforce and nonprofit veteran. We’re peaking into another corner of the nonprofit world talking to Billy Daly, Director of Data, Technology, and Evaluation at Baltimore Corps. We discuss their unique implementation of Salesforce and how thinking creatively about their processes has helped them use the platform more effectively.


Join us as we talk about how to look differently at your own process to get the most out of Salesforce and the steps you can take to implement effective process discovery.


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


The three components of Billy’s work with Baltimore Corps.


Billy’s the Director of Data, Technology, and Evaluation at Baltimore Corps. “What we do is focus on building capacity in the social impact sector in Baltimore,” he says, “what that looks like, functionally, is helping place really talented individuals in nonprofit governing agencies and social enterprises in Baltimore city in roles where they have the most leverage to actually do and affect change.” So it’s about finding good people, finding the right jobs for them, and then developing their career to put them in a position to make a difference.


With such a long title, we asked Billy to break down what he does in a little more detail. As he explained, there are three core pillars to what he and his department do. Data, as in what information they need to do their work more effectively. Technology, which they may need to develop in order to capture that information. And finally, information, which is how they analyze the data they capture to assess and evaluate the impact they’ve had.


It all started with a spreadsheet . . .


As to how Billy got onto the Salesforce platform in the first place, “I was brought into this by a spreadsheet,” he says. Coming out of college, he had a real passion for data, but he didn’t know how to exactly apply it. “Most of the markets and the systems that we deal with have some sort of a digital component, so how do we actually understand the role that technology plays in creating those inequalities that we see in the world?” That lead him to Baltimore Corps, where he was tasked with working with a huge spreadsheet to track all their applicants. He started looking for a better way to track their work, and the rest was history.


“Not unlike a lot of nonprofits, we use Salesforce—and specifically the Nonprofit Success Pack—to do a lot of donation tracking,” Billy says, “but that wasn’t actually the real reason we were drawn to it initially.” Because they place so many people in so many different roles, they not only need a way to keep track of where they ended up but also where they’ve applied and what happened next. It ends up looking a lot like an Opportunities model.


They also use Salesforce Communities as a way of engaging candidates and their hiring managers in the last stage of the process. They’re doing simultaneous recruitment of both the candidates and the employers and trying to pair them, so it’s a useful way to allow those two pools to communicate allowing Baltimore Corps to get out of the way. “At that point, it wasn’t B2B or B2C, it was almost like C2C,” Billy says. They ended up presenting this use case at Dreamforce, where they were really able to connect with the broader nonprofit community and share knowledge.


How to avoid painting yourself into a corner in your Salesforce instance.


As far as advice for other admins, Billy recommends you start with the sandbox. “It’s easy enough when there aren’t a ton of people looking at your instance and you don’t have a ton of records, but very quickly you can develop bad habits,” he says. You want to understand and outline what you’re trying to do before you make changes. “It’s very easy to be reactive,” he says, “but you can wind up painting yourself into a corner within your Salesforce instance.” You start with a simple picklist, but then ten requests later it’s 24 options long and it quickly becomes unmanageable. “Don’t just solve the immediate challenge,” Billy says, “think about how this immediate challenge that we’re solving likely to evolve so that way it becomes a more generalized problem and you can create a more generalized solution to that problem.”


Another big thing for Billy is working on really trying to understand when it’s necessary to create something custom to solve your problem. “When do you adapt the tool to fit your process versus when do you adapt the process to fit your tool,” Billy says. Salesforce naturally invites you to adapt the tool to fit your need, but sometimes you need to think more creatively about your process, like how Baltimore Corps uses a sales process to manage its applications.



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Full Show Transcript

Marc Baizman: Welcome to the Salesforce for Good miniseries on the Salesforce Admins Podcast. My name is Marc Baizman and I'm a Senior Admin Evangelist here at Salesforce. Before I was an Evangelist, I worked at and in the non-profit world and I made many incredible connections with people doing amazing things with Salesforce technology and non-profits. And I really want to share some of them with you. In this podcast mini series, we'll be talking to a variety of folks in the Salesforce nonprofit ecosystem including admins, architects, consultants, and employees. By the end of the series, you'll learn what makes the nonprofit sector special, how Salesforce Technology supports the mission of some amazing organizations that are making a huge impact, and you'll learn about the fantastic community of people that are making it happen. Get ready to get super nerdy and technical as we talk to Billy Daly, Director of Data, Technology, and Evaluation for Baltimore Corps. Let's welcome Billy to the podcast.Thanks so much for joining us today on the podcast, Billy.

Billy Daly: Thanks Marc. I really appreciate being on here.

Marc Baizman: Yeah, you bet. So glad to have you. So Billy, tell me a little bit about what you do and what Baltimore Corps' mission is?

Billy Daly: Sure. My name's Billy, obviously. My official title is the Director of Data, Technology, and Evaluation for Baltimore Corps, and Baltimore Corps is an organization. What we do is we focus on building capacity in the social impact sector in Baltimore. What that looks like functionally, is helping place really talented individuals in non-profit, government agencies, and social enterprises in Baltimore City. In roles where they have the most leverage to actually do and effect change in those organizations in the sector in Baltimore. That's really the focus of kind of what we do is help connect these individuals who are looking to actually have an impact in the sector with jobs where they can affect meaningful change and actually grow them into those roles. This way they're doing what they can to the best of their abilities.

Marc Baizman: Fantastic. And your title was really long, could you expand on that a little bit?

Billy Daly: Yeah, sure.

Marc Baizman: Tell me about what does your day to day look like? Are we-

Billy Daly: I know, right? Most of the time I shorten it to DTE, but the reason for it is because there is three core pillars to what I do and what my department does. Those pillars are data, meaning what we work with the team on is figuring out what information do we need to actually do our role, do our work, and everything that we do at the organization more effectively? What technology do we need to develop in order to capture that information? And then ultimately, how do we use that information and the technology that we've built to capture it to actually assess and evaluate the impact that we've had as an organization and as a sector?

Marc Baizman: That sounds amazing. So, can you give me a little bit of background on what brought you into the non-profit world?

Billy Daly: Sure, yeah. The one thing I often say when I kind of talk about how I found Baltimore Corps and my work with Salesforce and data technology in general is that I was brought into this by a spreadsheet.

Marc Baizman: Like so many of us, right? Start with a spreadsheet.

Billy Daly: Exactly, right? Yeah, it's always a spreadsheet that draws you in. But essentially I was really, really lucky to be connected to this amazing individual named Lucas who had gone to the same college as someone I knew at my college, that was an admissions counselor. And she's like, "Hey you're really interested in data. You're interested in using data and technology for good, I think you would really get along with this person."
And so, she kind of made a connection and we grabbed coffee. I learned a little bit more about what it actually looked like to work in the data technology sector. He was a software developer and I was kind of interested in that. I was also interested in database administration, all that kind of stuff. But I didn't really know what it included. I was like, "Okay I know algorithms are a thing. I know databases and SQLs are a thing but what are they really?"

Marc Baizman: What's your background? Did you have a background in technology and this stuff? Give me a little more color on that.

Billy Daly: Yeah, absolutely. No, no, sorry, I should've lead with that. So, my background is primarily in environmental studies and econ, that was kind of what I studied and what I was really interested in.

Marc Baizman: Perfect.

Billy Daly: But particularly what I was interested in in relation to those things, is sort of how do in particular markets and people's interaction with markets wind up yielding either inequal outcomes, right? Some people are participating in these job markets and obviously there's widespread discrimination both intentional and unintentional as a result of bias. And the same is true for the housing market, for all these different markets that kind of make up society. What I was really interested in understanding is how is it that sort of people who are on hold trying to do good in the world, how does that actually wind up yielding outcomes that are disparately effecting certain individuals from different identities, backgrounds, races, classes, etc? And the reason I was interested in data technology is thinking that most of the markets and the systems that we deal with have some sort of a digital component to them. And so, how do we actually understand the role the technology plays in resulting in those inequalities that we see in the world?

Marc Baizman: Super, super fascinating. And certainly-

Billy Daly: Yeah.

Marc Baizman: As artificial intelligence and facial recognition become more and more popular, we're seeing institutions that are using these things in the same way, in biased ways and feeding, giving-

Billy Daly: Totally.

Marc Baizman: ... biased datasets and so on. So, anyway that's a different podcast, but [crosstalk 00:05:40]-

Billy Daly: I know, right? That's a [crosstalk 00:05:41] long hour.

Marc Baizman: Yeah, for sure. And it's a great, great topic. So, you had this kind of background in looking at markets and inequalities and that lead you into data and living with data, so that-

Billy Daly: Totally, yeah.

Marc Baizman: And you met with Lucas and had a coffee and you're like, "Hey I should do some database type things." So, take us from there.

Billy Daly: Totally, yeah, and so what he was sort of saying is like, "Hey it sounds like you got this amazing interest and it really lines with the work that my roommate does." And his roommate was, lo and behold, the CEO of Baltimore Corps. I did not know that at the time but I was just like, "Okay, cool. Sounds great. How can I help? I'd love to build my skills around some of this stuff." And he's like, "Okay, well, the main thing that we really need you to work on, that Baltimore Corps needs you to work on, is basically help them clean up a spreadsheet that they're using to actually use information about candidates to make better recommendations around who should get placed where." Right? So that was sort of my exposure to Baltimore Corps. It was this big, massive spreadsheet that had the output of all of our applications and it was from there that I was really was introduced to Salesforce. And at the time, I'd never heard of the word Salesforce before-

Marc Baizman: Sure.

Billy Daly: I was like, "Okay, here's this cool thing." I know that it spits out into a spreadsheet but it was kind of from the spreadsheet and the task that was, "How do you actually help this organization make better recommendations?" that I was then introduced to all these adjacent possible options and things to actually explore in terms of how to use information better. To do the work of the organization better and also to sort of improve hiring decisions that are made by all of the organizations then that are in our sector.

Marc Baizman: Outstanding. So, Salesforce existed at Baltimore Corps prior to your kind of working with it, is that right?

Billy Daly: Yes, very, very briefly. And as I'm sure you probably know well, Marc, but I think we only had it for about six months. But a lot can happen in that six months-

Marc Baizman: Yes, indeed.

Billy Daly: Of onboarding. And so, what I walked into when I was sort of getting onboard to this project was a ton of custom objects that through the course of sort of onboarding the system, a lot of the folks who were on our team who didn't quite have as much of a technical background... Not that I was coming with much more expertise or experience. They had sort of gone the route of, as I'm sure many people have which is like, "Oh you know what, we need this thing and I don't see something that is named exactly this in Salesforce-"

Marc Baizman: Right.

Billy Daly: "Let's create it." Right?

Marc Baizman: Yup.

Billy Daly: Which is awesome. I think it was great, the enthusiasm with which they approached the project but obviously there was, as we all know well, Salesforce, can be so flexible that it can almost come back to bite us at the end of the day. [crosstalk 00:08:18].

Marc Baizman: Right. Right. It's sort of a classic new admin thing to do, right?

Billy Daly: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Marc Baizman: Which is like, "Oh, I can build a thing to do that? Great I'm going to do that."

Billy Daly: Yes. And like-

Marc Baizman: We were so busy building it, we didn't think if we should.

Billy Daly: Totally, yes, and also the idea of sandbox, was like, "What? There's a thing that you can do before you push stuff into production?" No, why do that? [crosstalk 00:08:37].

Marc Baizman: "That's a waste of time." [crosstalk 00:08:38].

Billy Daly: Exactly. But yeah, so totally. That was the context in which I joined the team and was first exposed to Salesforce.

Marc Baizman: Fantastic. Can you give us a time frame of when this was year wise approximately?

Billy Daly: Yeah. I joined the team in fall of 2015, I want to say? Which was about, like I said, probably six months after Baltimore Corps had adopted and kind of implemented Salesforce. And so, in that time it's been amazing to sort of see both like, how much I've learned about Salesforce and the amazing community that's there and just how much Salesforce itself has changed, which is really cool. Things that we wanted to do that weren't possible in 2015 are now out of the box and standard, which is really, really cool.

Marc Baizman: Very cool. So, can you give us a little bit more info about what Baltimore Corps is actually doing with Salesforce? So, go ahead and get technical. The nerds out there are going to love it.

Billy Daly: All right, definitely. So I'd say probably not unlike a lot of non-profits, we use Salesforce and specifically NPSP to do a lot of donation attracting-

Marc Baizman: And NPSP is the Non-Profit Success Pack for-

Billy Daly: Yes, thank you for [crosstalk 00:09:51]-

Marc Baizman: [crosstalk 00:09:51] Our avid listeners.

Billy Daly: For translating that for me.

Marc Baizman: That's okay.

Billy Daly: Yeah, so we use a Nonprofit Success Pack for a lot of donation tracking but that wasn't actually the real reason we were drawn to Salesforce initially. What we were initially drawn to it for was almost as an application tracking system in ATS. Because the main thing as I mentioned that we do, is we place people into roles across the nonprofit sector and government agencies. And so, our main program, especially at the time that allowed us to do that, was our fellowship program. What we were presented with at the time was, prior to bringing on Salesforce, we were mainly just using Google Forms and trying to manage all the applications that were coming in through Google Forms. Which was okay our first year because I think at the time Baltimore Corps had 20 to 30 applications, maybe. But then as soon as we hit over 100, it became very clear that it was unmanageable in a Google Spreadsheet, right?
And so, that was when we started to see the value of having people actually have contact records and being able to sort of create something like an application, right? And track it through its stage. What was cool was that the traditional sales pipeline of Salesforce, at least as a mental model, fits that notion of moving application through a pipeline really well as well.

Marc Baizman: To lead [crosstalk 00:11:08] to contacts kind of thing?

Billy Daly: Mm-hmm (affirmative). Totally, yeah. Right? So, your lead generation is the start. That's basically just us going out to recruitment fairs and saying, "Hey would you be interested in applying?" Lead conversion is then when we actually get someone to sign up and start an application. And then, really their application isn't converted as a... So, we don't quite use these objects because we decided we wanted to keep them for donations. But it's very similar, and as a mental model or in theory to opportunities. Because someone's application is an opportunity that you're sort of moving along this pipeline. And at a certain point, that opportunity's either won or canceled or whatever, right? And that's whether someone's submitted the application or is placed, stuff like that. So, we're kind of trying to kind of lean as we were building out the system. We were trying to lean on those existing models and frameworks as much as possible. Just because they've been tried and true and tested really well which is great. So, we wanted to make sure to use all the things that have been proven really well in normal Salesforce but then adapt it to our specific needs.

Marc Baizman: Got it. When in doubt go with standard objects rather than build your own custom stuff, right?

Billy Daly: Definitely.

Marc Baizman: Yup.

Billy Daly: Yeah, you really want to be intentional about when you create each one because like we were saying before, just because something doesn't have the name that you want it to say exactly doesn't mean that it doesn't do 100% of what you need it to do.

Marc Baizman: Right. So, correct me if I'm wrong here, so two kind of major functions is the fundraising aspect using the NPSP and your applicant tracking system using sounds like a bunch of custom objects?

Billy Daly: Yeah. Yeah. And the other thing that we did, this was a little bit of a later edition but it has been super helpful is using Salesforce communities as a way of engaging candidates and their hiring managers in that last stages of the process. Because basically at that point, that's when we sort of have screened all the applicants and they've sort of gone through the process. And we've have said, "Hey you all are finalists, we'd be happy with anyone who got placed into a role to actually join our fellowship program." And then we do the same sort of thing for employers. We do a bunch of recruitment for them, try to get opportunities like placement opportunities, jobs, internships, stuff like that. And then sort of do a similar screening which is like, is this role a good fit for the people that we have in the finalist pool, is it also something that would be aligned with our values as an organization?
And then really that's where we want to step out of the equation as much as possible other than providing some guidance and some recommendations. But really allow at that point, employers and candidates to actually express interest in one another. So candidates can say, "Hey, I'm interested in applying for this job specifically in the fellowship" and then we'll go through and make some recommendations and say, "These applicants are actually a really good fit for the role." And then hiring manages can then look at applicants. And so, what we decided to do for that because it was such a... At that point it wasn't B to C or B to B, it was almost like C to C, right?

Marc Baizman: Right.

Billy Daly: We were trying to connect hiring mangers who are clients to potential fellows who are clients. We decided, hey a really great way to do this is to leverage communities because it sort of provides that natural space where individuals can interact with each other on a platform that is built on Salesforce, which is great.

Marc Baizman: That's fantastic. That's awesome. A great community [inaudible 00:14:18] case. So, you mentioned the community a little bit earlier. I'd love to hear maybe a little bit more about the community and how that's played into your Salesforce journey?

Billy Daly: Yeah. So I would say honestly, the tool is phenomenal. Salesforce is an amazing tool. But the thing that by and far has made it hold the place in our organization that it holds is because of all the amazing people that are around it. And so I would say my first exposure to that community was probably through Dreamforce. We were really, really lucky, myself and my supervisor at the time Liz Gomez, we were lucky enough to be able to go to Dreamforce and actually present on our used case of Salesforce and specifically Salesforce communities. And through that experience, I was able to see, wow, we're not the only nonprofit using Salesforce and more importantly we're not the only nonprofit using Salesforce in this kind of unique way, right. During the presentation, a bunch of people came up to us and they were like, "Hey we're also running a fellowship program through Salesforce. We haven't really thought about using communities or we really like how you're using [inaudible 00:15:22] to do this." You know, blah blah blah. All these different tools. So sometimes the connection was on a tool specific level.
Other times, it was, "Hey we're using a totally different stack of technology here. In terms of which Salesforce apps and extensions were using. But we have a super similar use case, can there be any kind of knowledge exchange that happens there?" But the few people that really stand out and actually one of them wound up becoming a good friend of mine and a partner that we work with, that we've worked with on a regular basis is Katie [Mcfadden 00:15:51].

Marc Baizman: Spoiler alert, we will be talking with her later in the pod.

Billy Daly: Oh, nice. That's awesome. Yes, Katie is the best. But really what's great about Katie, is that she's also such a good connection to all the other amazing people that are doing great work in the community. But Katie in particular really helped us think through our data model. So kind of going back a little bit, like I mentioned when I first inherited Salesforce, there were just so many custom objects there and I think I was still learning the way that Baltimore Corp functioned a little bit. What our business model was.
And we were also still grappling with sort of the technical debt of our implementation or translation of that business model into our data architecture. And so, getting a chance to sit down with her and really work through, what is it that we're trying to represent in our data schema and how do we do that in a way that leverages as many, as you were saying Marc, as many standard objects as possible but also doesn't force those standard objects into things that they're not designed to do, right? And so, really bouncing those two things together. She was instrumental in helping us think through that stuff. And what was great, it wasn't just about her knowledge, it was also if she ever reached, if we were ever stumbling onto something and she's like, "You know, I don't know if I've seen this use case before." She could go and tap this amazing network of other nonprofit users in other organizations she worked with.
So, she was sort of also the door into which I met a lot of the other amazing people like you actually, Marc, who are doing great work both on the Salesforce side and on the client, customer, user side as well as the partner side. Sort of this great three pronged tool of amazing partner network, people who know how to use Salesforce really well and can help you implement it. Salesforce itself, which is like how do we actually build technology that makes a partner community and a customer community excited to use these tools, and then also the customer community which is hey, we know these tools are designed this way and we know our partners are helping us implement them this way but here's how we're actually putting the technology that we've built and adapted into use in real life instances like on the ground doing the work.

Marc Baizman: Sounds like the community has really been integral to your journey and to your growth. I'm curious, what was the hardest part of your path here? So you kind of came in, you had an org that was super built out. Maybe just some thoughts on what was challenging for you over the process of working with Baltimore Corp? It could be anything, could be humans. Could be tech, some mixture of both.

Billy Daly: Yeah, I think the mixture of both is always probably the answer there, right? I think for me, one of the hardest parts was there were kind of three core challenges. So one was even just conceptually wrapping your head around it. I think the one thing that I often, since I've gotten a little more familiar with Salesforce, I've gotten a chance to talk to a lot of organizations that are considering adopting it or they're in the early stages of implementing it. And I think there's sort of this, there's often this assumption that I think is really important to dispel and a lot of the best partners and the folks at Salesforce that I've talked to are really good and quick to dispel this myth. Which is that, because you have a tool that's so flexible, the thought is, oh now that I have this tool it'll just do everything for me. But in reality, most of the hard work that happens in terms of building out an instance is actually the work that happens internally which is it forces you to interrogate what business practices are actually core to our mission versus what things are just a result of ad hoc practices that we built up over time. It forces you to clarify what is the actual process and journey that someone who that we're working with that actually travels, when they interact with our organization.
And it also sort of forces you to sort of answer if we have to codify some business practices, which of those are the most important and where do we sort of allow for there to be flexibility but have flexibility in process rather than in the structure of the technology. So I think, that's sort of the first challenge. Figuring out internally what is the most important to replicate in our system. The second then is really more like you were saying around the technology which is once you've codified and outlined what that process looks like, then the challenge is like how do I actually implement it? And that's really more of a, sometimes can be a limitation around knowledge which is if you don't really know the difference between a Master Detail relationship and a Lookup relationship and what the implications of each of those things are, it can be really difficult to pick the right... And not necessarily in each instance is there a right or a wrong answer.

Marc Baizman: True.

Billy Daly: But it's hard to know the consequences-

Marc Baizman: Right.

Billy Daly: ...of the decision that you're making. And that's really where-

Marc Baizman: Maybe a report that you might be able to generate or won't be able to generate because of an architectural choice that you make early on.

Billy Daly: Totally. The big one is also always security access, right?

Marc Baizman: Of course.

Billy Daly: If you choose to meet, use a Master Detail relationship, you then lose the ability to specify security or visibility access on those two objects separately.

Marc Baizman: Right. Only the Master object, not the Detail, right?

Billy Daly: Yeah, exactly. And what's great about that is that if you understand those rules well enough, you can actually leverage the Master Detail relationship to your advantage but if not, they can actually become these huge constraints upon your data models and your governance strategy and stuff like that. And this is really where I think having, either talking to people who have already done it before is really helpful or talking to a partner is really helpful because the thing that Katie and I would always talk about is when you're first getting started you can probably figure out a lot of this stuff yourself. Because Salesforce has amazing documentation but the challenge is the roadblock that it might take me a week or two weeks to get and the dead end that I'll eventually hit if I make this architectural decision because I don't know and I've never done it before. She could see as soon as we get to the fork in the road.
And so she could say, "Hey if you go down this path you're going to hit this dead end." And not be able to make the decision for me but at least tell me, this is what's down the road and then based on that information, you can make the choice of which one is actually better. But yeah, that was sort of the second challenge and I think the third challenge which is probably the one that people feel most acutely is even if you have all the other variables fixed. You've got the process outlined in a way that everyone is happy with, you have the knowledge and you know okay, this is the design, here's the architects were going to use, here's the governance strategy. Here are the security settings that we're going to use.

Marc Baizman: Right.

Billy Daly: Then the question is, how do you do that while also flying the plane? And it's super, super hard because I can't tell you how many of the major migrations we've done have been happening at like 10:00 at night on winter break.

Marc Baizman: Right.

Billy Daly: Because it's like, okay, what is the time that we can do this and have minimal potential overflow of effects on the people who are actually using this on a day to day basis? And that's always the hardest part and I think that's really where it just comes... It's a matter of communicating with your team and saying, "Look", managing expectations. "There's going to be some bugs as we're switching things over. We're going to do it in pieces. We can't do it all at once." But it's those three things get together and I think that's why the community is so beneficial because they can help. Most of the time you can find someone in the community who has a similar business case. So, you can leverage their models that they put together and adapt them to fit your needs.
You can find people who have the expertise to help you correct or fix that delta between what you know now and what you need to know to implement this stuff. And then ultimately the community I think is most useful in terms of helping you figure out how do you actually roll this out in a real life project setting? Because that's the hard part is once you have everything figured out, how do you do it in a way that meets timelines and deadlines, doesn't cause a disruption but also gets you what you need in terms of the system that at the end of the day you really want to use?

Marc Baizman: Fantastic. All right. So tell us about some of the cool things that you've built, some of the problems that you've had to solve for. So, you've overcome these challenges obviously. Baltimore Corp is kind of using Salesforce wall to wall. Tell us about some of the cool things that you're really proud of. I know we've heard about the community. But are there any particularly thorny challenges that you're psyched that you got through?

Billy Daly: Yeah, that's a good question. I think the one other tool, a lot of times I think about this in terms of tools because that's obviously the power of Salesforce is there's this great amazing platform and then you can stack so many other things on top of it. And I think the biggest one that comes to mind initially is how we approach doing reviews within the context of our Salesforce instance. So just a little bit of background for this, when I first came on as I mentioned, that was right when we had shifted to using Salesforce to run our application process. And so, what we had done is basically shifted from a Google form to instead using FormAssembly as a way of intaking applications. FormAssembly is basically a really, really awesome form building tool. There's so many other great ones out there too but I've gotten the chance to know the FormAssembly community really well and that's the tool that we really love. But basically it just allows you to create a process where you can basically build something like a Google form, intake information, and then have that information get pushed to Salesforce and then you can also pull stuff out of Salesforce too which is critical to sort of the solution we had to this problem.
But the challenge that we were facing was once we got this information into Salesforce, we needed some way for staff at the time at least to be able to look through and actually review peoples' applications and then make recommendations. This way someone could then go back through and say, "Okay these five people said they wanted to move this person on." I should say, these two people said they wanted to move this person on and this one person said they didn't and then be able to actually make that decision around whether or not someone gets moved to the next stage of the problem, I'm sorry, the process. The problem with that though was as I mentioned, one of the things we're really committed to as an organization is effectiveness of an organization and also reducing the role of bias and discrimination in a process.

Marc Baizman: I bet applicant tracking is ripe for things like bias and discrimination.

Billy Daly: Oh yes, exactly. Totally, right? It's the perfect storm because what you have to do, is you have a lot of information. Some of it is really relevant to the decisions that you're making which is just when you're thinking about review, the decision is you move this person on or do you not. And some of it is totally extraneous like name, not really relevant to whether or not someone moves on. But also that can be really difficult to hide as only a step in the process, right? If we need someone internal to the organization to see the names sometimes, but we don't want them to see the name at this particular step of the process, that was really hard because you can't really use permission sets or security settings to conditionally hide or reveal. At least not at the time. I know there's been some cool things with the [inaudible 00:26:29] and stuff like that to work around some of the challenges in that sense but basically the problem was, we just had people who had to make these decisions, doing it for a lot of applicants at a time and had to literally just go into Salesforce, read through a record, and then basically go and create a new record that had their decision around whether this person should move on or shouldn't move on, etc.
So it became a lot of just hunting through Salesforce to find this information and having to sort of forcefully block out information that shouldn't be relevant. So, what we try to do instead was, okay well, how do we actually just extract the information that's needed and how do we make it so that way people don't have to think about... We want to take as much as the thought process into creating records out of the process, so this way they can just focus on the content and the decision around whether or not this person was a good fit for the fellowship or for the next stage of the process. So what we wound up doing was leveraging FormAssembly's prefill connector, which I was mentioning which is not only can you send information to Salesforce, you can actually also pull it back out which is really great. And that allowed us to basically accept information in one format, whatever the most natural way for people to input the information was, store in Salesforce in a totally different way. A way that allowed us to report on it most easily and then pull it back out and reformulate it in a way that made most sense for review.
So, obviously during the application process we need to know peoples; names. That's important to know in Salesforce as well, but we don't want the names to be visible when people are doing reviews. So, we could collect that information, store it in Salesforce but then filter it out when we were pulling it back into the report. And then we were also able to use Salesforce report self to actually generate a personalized cue for everyone of the reviews they had to do so this way they weren't going and trying to find each individual application and then going over the [inaudible 00:28:11] list and trying to find the create new review record, etc. We could just have a single report where people could have a hyperlink to a FormAssembly form. Fill that out, and then that would automatically do a lot of the record creation and updating peoples' statuses. And so, obviously that kind of described at a very high level but one of the cool things was, for me it felt like one of the best projects and challenges where we really got the chance to look at every single piece of Salesforce. Like there was security, access questions, there was using another form builder in connection questions. There was questions around data architecture, how does it make sense to translate the information that's put into this form into a way that stores the records most efficiently?
And so, it was kind of a cool culmination of all those different individual slices of knowledge that you learn through things like the Trailheads and stuff like that but applied in a really concrete way, solving an actual business challenge. So I don't know if I did a good job of articulating that.

Marc Baizman: Yeah, I think you did a great job. And if you'll allow me, it seems like it goes back to your original kind of background where you're trying to look at these systems and look at these markets if you will to reduce bias. You're actually applying a technology solution to try to do exactly that. Perhaps that's why it jumps out at you. There's the [crosstalk 00:29:32] piece but there's also the kind of mission piece too.

Billy Daly: Absolutely. Yeah. It definitely was one of the things that I was most interested in at that early stage. Because like you said, it's really sort of the... You can talk about reducing bias at a very theoretical level but on a day to day basis, how do you actually make someones job easier but also make it easier to do good as well which I think is really core.

Marc Baizman: Awesome. All right, well, we have only a couple more questions here. I'd love it if you could give some advice for other admins. Maybe advice to yourself way back in 2015 when you're walking into an org that has a million custom objects and you don't know where to start. But yeah, just any advice you might have for other admins.

Billy Daly: I definitely wish I could go back and give myself some advice. So there are also three things I think that pop out to me when I think about advice to share. So, the first one, maybe the first two... Well, the first one is really concrete. The first one is used sandboxes because I definitely... Even after I joined the team, I did not use sandboxes and I was like, "What's the point of a sandbox?" And I think it's easy enough when there aren't a ton of people looking at your instance and you don't have a ton of records but very quickly you can develop really bad habits. And let's say you implement something and you want to change it, it's much harder to go enroll back than if you just did it in an isolated environment. And it just introduces a much better work flow when you do something and test it out in a safe container and then you can selectively choose which of those changes you want to migrate over for production.

Marc Baizman: Sandboxes and change sets.

Billy Daly: Yes. Sandboxes and change sets, super, super helpful. And then sort of in part and parcel with that, so that's like the technological, that's a technology that allows for a certain type of work flow in terms of making changes to the work that you're doing. I think that sort of the process around that or the theory around that that is also really important that I would have loved to share with myself is, the importance of really... I think it goes a little bit both ways but the importance of understanding and outlining things before you make changes is so helpful because a lot of times it's really easy to be very reactive. Someone's like, "Oh, I don't see this... We need this field or this additional piece of information stored on this record." And the knee jerk reaction might be, great, we can go and create a field for that or we can add this option to a picklist. And the challenge is especially with the picklist one, I think this is a really good example, a very concrete example of this broader principle, is that when you are only responding to immediate needs or challenges reactively, you can wind up almost painting yourself in a corner metaphorically within your Salesforce instance.
Where at the end, with each request that comes in, it might just be a simple addition of an item to a picklist but then 10 requests later, you might have a picklist that's 24 options long and then on top of that you might need to store additional information so you might have picklist one and then picklist two. So one concrete example of this, maybe not with picklist but with this idea is when we were first translating our application into Salesforce and moving the process from Google Forms to FormAssembly and Salesforce, well, one of the things we were doing was we had people describe their past work experience. And it started off as just like, "Okay, tell us about an experience that was most relevant to the work that you want to do in the fellowship." And that was great because we could have just an open text box field. But then people were like, "Well, actually we'd really like to pull out" their title and the organization.
So we're like, great we can just add a title, a field, and we can add an organization field. So then what you have is like three new fields on the application object and that's fine. But then someone's like, 'What if we allowed them to do five experiences" and then what you start to do is, you're like, "Okay, then we'll have organization one, title one, and description one." And then organization two, title two, description two. And then what happens is-

Marc Baizman: I'm having flashbacks to some previous Salesforce orgs.

Billy Daly: Yeah.

Marc Baizman: I may have been an admin [inaudible 00:33:43]. Go on. Sorry.

Billy Daly: It is such a common thing though, right? And I remember actually the person I mentioned earlier Lucas, who kind of introduced me to Baltimore Corp. What was great was he was not coming from a Salesforce background but obviously database administration, whether you're talking about a CRM like Salesforce or a more robust MySQL database, is all really similar. And he was saying, a good design pattern... He called it like shallow and deep data, right? Or like a shallow way of storing that information is just continuously adding rows or fields to a particular record. But then the problem is as soon as you want to capture that same thing multiple times, you're going to start having... You start to lose sense of, okay well which of these records... I'm sorry, which of these fields corresponds to which other fields. You're almost entering this sort of metadata about these three records... I'm sorry, these three fields are actually almost a pseudo record together, right? So at that point, that was when he was like, "You actually want to start thinking about creating a new object where you can have multiple instances of that object that are then related to that parent application."
And so, obviously that's a super specific example of it but I think the broader trend or theory behind that is that you shouldn't just solve the immediate challenge, you should think about how is this immediate challenge that we're solving likely to evolve so that way it becomes a more generalized problem and what's a more generalized solution so that we can create to that problem. And a similar sort of one to that was like, at the time when I joined the team we only had one program. So we just had one object that was like, this is our application. But then as soon as we added a second program, we were like okay, well, which application is this actually in reference to? Because if you have an application for one program and an application for another program and you only have one application object, it becomes really difficult.
So there's couple different ways of solving that, you could have again like a picklist that has all the different programs listed under that picklist. But if there's other data about that program that you want to store, like the start and end date, like when does the application open and when does it close, then you can easily wind up painting yourself into the corner again and having the picklist that is the program and then the picklist that is the date field. Sorry, program start date, program end date. And you wind up going down the same path. So, I think that's at the broader trend. And I wish I could simplify it to a single thing but really thinking about how do you not solve the immediate need but come up with a solution that maybe solves the immediate need but also solves the more generalized case of that need I think is super, super important.
And then I think the last one is really just about really trying to understand when is the tool that you're building, or when is it necessary to create something that is custom or different from what exists already? Basically when do you adapt the tool to fit your process versus when do you adopt the process to fit the tool, right?
And I think that's a super difficult thing to figure out and there's not a right or wrong answer or a single rule that you can always use. But I think also with Salesforce, it sort of invites that kind of adaptation of the tool to fit the need. When in reality sometimes we were kind of talking about a little while ago, if you just rethink and think more creatively about your process and say, hey this is actually a sales process. Even though we don't call it that because we're a nonprofit and we don't sell to people. What we do is we form relationships, we navigate people through challenges. It's a journey, not a sales pipeline, right? But at the end of the day from a process and a system standpoint, they are really similar. Kind of leaning into that creativity a little bit more and saying, rather than trying to do it to adjust the tool to fit every single need, how do we actually use process to actually adapt what we're doing to fit the tool that we have available to us?

Marc Baizman: Fantastic. Wow. Well, three very concrete take aways there. Thanks, Billy. So my last question for you is what do you do when you are not at Baltimore Corp? What kind of fun stuff do you get up to in your regular life?

Billy Daly: Good question. I consider Salesforce and the work I do really fun.

Marc Baizman: Of course.

Billy Daly: But that is not the point of the question. I do a lot of biking and I do a lot of climbing, like rock climbing. And so that's really fun. I live in Baltimore City, so there's always a lot of really cool things to do in the area and there's a really, really strong biking community there. And probably my favorite thing to do in Baltimore is this thing called Bike Party. And it's the last Friday of every month and basically it's people from all walks of life in Baltimore City, from people who are really hardcore biking around in fixed gear bikes, like bike messengers, that kind of thing all the way down to people who may have just rented a bike for this one night, come together and it's like five to 800 people bike throughout the city and then end at like a brewery or like a parking lot that has a bunch of food trucks. And it's really just a really fun time where you see the whole vibrancy and diversity of the city in this one place and everyone is kind of doing their own thing but all have this shared goal which is to have fun and to bike and explore the city which is really cool.
So, that to me, biking is something I do both to get around the city, just commute. But it's also become a really big part of my identity and the community I'm a part of in Baltimore.

Marc Baizman: That's fantastic. Before we wrap up would you just give us a little bit of Baltimore slang?

Billy Daly: Oh man. Sort of the classically known one is hun. It is something that you refer to people as. You'll probably also notice and I might be called out by true Baltimore natives for adopting this but when you say Baltimore, if you're here long enough, you kind of start to drop the T a little bit. It becomes the D and then sometimes even just disappears all together. But I don't know if I'm quite an authority to speak on all of the Baltimore slang but yeah, those are the different ones. And the other thing too is you'll often hear if you ask someone where are you from in Baltimore, they won't tell you. They won't just name the city, they'll really name the neighborhood that they're from or that they live in because Baltimore is definitely a city of neighborhoods. So every single corner of the city has its own really rich vibe and history and it's one of the things I love most about the city because you can go a couple of blocks and be in what feels like a totally different place.

Marc Baizman: Fantastic. Cool. And which neighborhood are you from?

Billy Daly: So I specifically live in Abell, which is a super, super small neighborhood but it's kind of part of a larger neighborhood called Charles Village.

Marc Baizman: Awesome. Well Billy, thank you so much for joining me today on Salesforce Admins podcast. I think there's just so many great nuggets of advice that you gave. So, just really appreciate your time today and for all the listeners out there, hope they got some great stuff from you. So thanks again, Billy.

Billy Daly: Yeah, thank you so much for having me. It was great talking and I'm really excited to hear some of the other people who are coming onto the show.

Marc Baizman: You bet, thanks. I love being able to geek out with Billy and there were a couple of highlights I wanted to pick out from our conversation. I loved how Billy brought up the assumption that since Salesforce has provided such a flexible tool, some people think it can just do everything. But actually most of the hard work is done looking at your own process. To start implementing, there are questions that need to be answered that you won't find by yourself, like what is the journey of the user's business process? Then to go on and apply the proper technology and knowledge, that's the perfect moment to connect with the community to see who's done similar projects and guide you to make the right decisions. We talked about a bunch of different process discovery steps and how to connect with your stakeholders, partners, and community to maintain a healthy implementation of the platform. I hope Billy was able to spark some ideas and drive some motivation to get out there, keep learning, and growing your career. Thanks again, Billy, and stay tuned for the next episode of the Salesforce for Good miniseries on the Salesforce Admins Podcast.


Direct download: Salesforce_For_Good__Billy_Daly.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 5:00am PDT