Salesforce Admins Podcast

Today on the Salesforce Admins Podcast, we revisit our episode with Ko Forte, Salesforce Business Analyst at RGP.

Join us as we chat about business analysis, career transitions, and the BA mindset.

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

August was Business Analyst Month

For August, we took a deep dive into the Business Analyst skillset. We started by talking to Ko, a consultant who helps organizations as both a Business Analyst and a Salesforce Admin. She’s recently given a talk at some Salesforce events entitled “BA Where You Are,” so we thought we should bring her on the pod to hear all about it.

Ko’s talk is focused on developing the mindset and habits for a Salesforce Business Analyst role. It’s geared toward people who are admins and want to move into business analysis, as well as folks who might be new to the ecosystem and looking for a potential fit.

The Business Analyst mindset

For Ko, the key to being an effective Business Analyst begins with mindset. Before she starts work with a new client, she asks herself:

  • Who is this company?

  • How are they positioned in the industry?

  • Who are their customers?

  • What do they do to make money? And therefore, what’s important to them?

Thoroughly understanding these things grounds Ko with a clear understanding of what the company she’s working with needs their technology to do for them.

It’s also important to cultivate a mindset of compassion, both for why business processes are the way they are and for the people who will be affected if you make a change. People do things for a reason, and you need to understand those factors to find something that works.

Transitioning your career

The biggest thing Ko recommends for admins making the transition into business analysis is to not be afraid of asking questions. Someone else may be wondering the same thing and something that seems obvious to an expert might need to be better understood by everyone else on the team.

You should also start making a habit of turning the camera on for meetings. You want to create the impression that you’re reliable, you’re present, and you’re listening. Our brains have evolved to look at faces and, especially in remote work, it helps to show yours to the world. And, again, have compassion for everyone else attending a meeting by clearly communicating what you’re trying to do with an agenda and some goals.

Be sure to listen to the full episode for more about Ko, and why it’s important to take a look at your job description if you’re trying to advance your career. And we’ve included links to the other Business Analyst August episodes if you want to learn more.

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Full Transcript

Mike Gerholdt:

This week on the Salesforce Admins Podcast, we are doing a replay episode from Business Analyst August, which was we featured a lot of business analysts back in August talking about being and doing the active business analysis as part of being a Salesforce Admin and the whole BA mindset.

So, I'll include a link at the bottom for all of those episodes, but this really focuses on Ko Forte and kind of the business analyst mindset. Now, before we get into Ko's episode, I just want to make sure that you're doing one thing, which is following the Salesforce Admins podcast on the iTunes, or wherever you get your podcasts. That way, a new episode like this one will just download to your phone every Thursday and you don't have to think about it. So with that, let's get to our conversation with Ko.

So, Ko, Welcome to the Salesforce Admins Podcast.

Ko Forte:

Thanks, Mike. Great to be here.

Mike Gerholdt:

Let's get started. It's August already. Hey. Glad to be out of July. Felt like it was never going to end.

Ko Forte:


Mike Gerholdt:

But we're talking business analysts. Actually, I have quite a few episodes this month, spoiler alert, that will be focused around the BA. I know you and I have talked while Atlanta World Tour was going on. Tell me how you got started in the Salesforce ecosystem.

Ko Forte:

Sure. My journey to the Salesforce ecosystem came as a really great surprise to me. I was actually a theater major. I graduated from the University of Georgia with an MFA and just needed a quote, unquote, "Real job," in the interim. Definitely, graduating during a housing bubble and things like that contributed to that decision. But a lot of my friends from there were going to work for a small upstart tech company here in Atlanta, and they needed some entry level folks to do some data entry.

And so, I applied for that job and I got it. No experience needed or anything like that. You're literally just typing in numbers. But this company used Salesforce as their tool to build cases and quotes and opportunities and things like that. I was just very curious about this tool that we were using.

I said, "I notice that when I do this, then that happens. I wonder why? What's behind this thing that's making all this stuff do what it does?" That was really my introduction to what is Salesforce as a tool. Why are we using it? Why does it do what it does? How can I learn more?

Mike Gerholdt:

Wow. I would love for us to do some survey on the number of degrees that admins have that aren't tech.

Ko Forte:


Mike Gerholdt:

Because I'm a communication studies degree. I also did theater in high school and I loved doing it. So I can totally talk theater, but we won't on this podcast. You went to into data entry, which is as fun as watching paint dry, but it pays the bills. What got you into business analysis?

Ko Forte:

Well, it took some years, to be honest. Being at the level that I was and at the type of company that I was in, it was just, "We've got to do the job." That's first and foremost. As long as there's nothing else in queue, you can do whatever you want.

The company being smaller, I was able to talk to different departments and bring my questions to other people who knew a lot more than I did. There were thankfully enough supportive people around me to say, "Hey. Well, this is Salesforce. There's some help articles out there. You can understand what it does and study up on how this thing works."

From there, I just went on a journey of self-study. This was before Trailhead, so it was a lot of help articles and Googling and asking people around me, "What does this mean?" Befriending admins, befriending those people who were working in the IT departments and things like that to say, "Hey. I'm studying this thing. If you have any advice or if you can give me any mentorship, I would really appreciate it." Just building upon my knowledge from there.

Mike Gerholdt:

What do you do now then?

Ko Forte:

Now, I am a Salesforce business analyst. I work for a consultant agency and I am sent on different projects to help both in admin capacity and business analyst capacity for different Salesforce implementations and projects.

Mike Gerholdt:

You're the person who has to go into the bowl of spaghetti and untangle all of the noodles.

Ko Forte:


Mike Gerholdt:

It's always been the analogy. It's been in my head since ever I can remember of, "Here's our business processes and it looks like a bowl of noodles." You do a lot of speaking at community conferences. I know you talk about business analysis there. Can you try and tell me, what do you talk about there? How are you getting people into the BA role?

Ko Forte:

Absolutely. Recently, I spoke at both the Southeast Dreamin' in Atlanta and Dreamin' In Color, both two really great community conferences. My session is BA Where You Are. My session is geared towards developing the mindset and habits for a Salesforce business analyst role.

This is for people who are admins and want to expand their admin career into more of a BA role. Or for people who are not yet in an admin position. Maybe they're in customer service or sales or something like that, and they want to pursue a business analyst career. And I talk about the mindset and habits and competencies that can be developed in order to build a business analyst career.

Mike Gerholdt:

Let's dig into that. Help me understand. Because I feel ... You're very fortunate in that you get to do business analyst stuff all the time. I feel for a lot of admins, it's kind of, "Well, that's part of the project." That's part of the day-to-day is to jump into a department and figure out the challenge and then have to solve it.

Let's talk about that mindset. What is your mindset going into that first-time, say, meeting with a client or a department, knowing they've got a bowl of spaghetti that you have to untangle? What should admins ... How do they start being that BA where they are?

Ko Forte:

My mindset work happens even before the project begins. It's taking a step back to review, "Who is that company? How are they positioned in the industry? What do they do to make money? What's important to them?"

Look at their overall profile, so that as I walk into the project, I have more of a grounded understanding of, "This is who this company is and how they show up. This is how they make money and these are their customers." And so, I have their story of who they are, where they're going, and what they need their technology to do in order to support that mission.

Mike Gerholdt:

Wow. You start a long time before I thought, as any good professional should. As you're walking through some of these business processes, I feel like you are almost solving a mystery to some degree. Is it just the fact that so many processes are put together and then changed and are not well-documented? Where does it start? Where does the mess start?

Ko Forte:

I'll just offer that it feels less like I am solving a mystery and more that I am being content with being in the mystery that is happening. I am in the mystery as it is unfolding, and even I am an audience to it, but a compassionate audience to the process.

Because as a business analyst, you are both dealing with technical information, process information, but you're also navigating the human aspect. The emotions of making a transition from where you currently are to where you're trying to get, and the reactions to change that happen throughout all of that. Mystery is a good word, but we don't understand how many micro-mysteries there are within that process.

Because like many great teams, there's somebody on the team who is a rockstar, who everybody goes to them because they do the thing and they know the information. And if we ask them this one thing, they'll take it and they'll do it. That person is great and valuable and necessary, but that person usually is not writing down what they do, how they do it, so that when they're gone, it can be repeated by someone else. Or just to give transparency to what that process is and how they're solving it.

So as a business analyst, those are the things that I am looking for. That hidden knowledge and those people who are key players that make the magic happen and solve the mysteries for the business, but make those mysteries more transparent.

Mike Gerholdt:

I'm going to stitch a couple of things together. What part of your theater degree do you have to rely on most in those meetings?

Ko Forte:

I appreciate this question, because the parts of the creative mindset that are so valuable in this space has to do with having that capacity to sit and let things unfold, but also allow repetition to be comfortable. Coming to the table and setting up a meeting where you're giving people space to talk and share about what they do. That's kind of like a rehearsal. We're coming together. We're trying to get all the information out there.

But there's also a great deal of synthesizing that must happen. We talked about this piece of work that this team is going to do and this process over here, but what are the threads that link all those together to help us move this project forward? And that's something that you're doing with a text that's in front of you, that you're studying to put on as a performance.

You have to find the themes within. You have to find the patterns. You have to synthesize the information and bring it to that larger context of, "What is the overarching idea that we're trying to put forward when we do this play?" It's kind of the same thing. We're helping organizations navigate that change, and in the end, curtains up. We've got a great Salesforce implementation and all is well.

Mike Gerholdt:

I love the play theme because we can run with that. There's always a part of a play that I feel people struggle with. Or somebody has a hard time with their lines. What is the hardest part that you had to learn in being a business analyst that you feel maybe other admins are going to run into as well?

Ko Forte:

Absolutely. The hardest part for me personally has been the speaking up and showing up.

Mike Gerholdt:

Really? For a theater major?

Ko Forte:

Absolutely. It makes sense now as I look back on my journey, because I had that imposter syndrome. I'm here, but I really am not the smartest person in the room. I don't know if I'm supposed to be here. I don't know if I can measure up to all these people who are more technically inclined.

And that had to do with a lot of, "Let's just be quiet. Let's just hold that. I see this thing and I am curious about this and I have questions and concerns, but let me not rock the boat, because someone else over there is smarter than me." But I learned that level of insight and curiosity that I have and the ability to say, "This doesn't make sense. Can we go through that again," is actually appreciated in the end.

Because a lot of times in these IT settings, we're talking about things while somebody else is multitasking over there. Not everybody is fully at the table, and so things get missed. And if you're a person who's sitting in there and that is actually listening and attuned to what's going on and a question comes up ... That's a benefit, because someone else might have that question. Someone else might have that concern.

Shrinking back is really something that I encourage myself constantly to avoid doing. You want to bring relevant questions to the table. You don't want to just be taking meetings off the rails. You want to have the ability to say, "This could use some clarification." Not from a place of, "I know better and I am the smartest person in the room. You need to say that again." But from a real question of, "You said A and you said B, but I feel like that doesn't equal C." Or, "Tell me how that equals C."

Mike Gerholdt:

No. I can 100% understand that. The imposter syndrome part, I feel like you deal with every day. Because you're sitting there and all of these people know the process or pretend to know the process. And then, you're the expert and they almost look for you to, "Well, can you answer this?" You're like, "We are just in the learning about you phase. We are not into the solving about you phase at this point."

Ko Forte:


Mike Gerholdt:

What is one thing ... I feel like maybe you pick up on this a little bit more with your theater background, but dealing with personalities. I'm trying to dig into the mindset part of this, because I feel like a lot of it is understanding business process and what people are telling you. But I feel the other part of it too is dealing with personalities in a meeting.

Because you mentioned, and I could literally visualize as you were telling me, the person over there multitasking. The one person talking, who is super excited telling you about the process. And then, two or three other people that are like they have to be there. What would your advice be for admins who are going into this? Who are like, "Look, we're all in this room. We're trying to solve this." How do I manage personalities?

Ko Forte:

Managing personalities for me has a lot to do with helping people understand their value within the context of the meeting or the workshop that you're doing. So it's really appropriate what you said about feeling like I have to be here. That is definitely an energy that I've dealt with.

When you haven't communicated beforehand in your meeting agenda ... Or not having an agenda. That's a big one. Or in your meeting invite, "What is the purpose of this meeting? What are we going to do there? What are we going to talk about?" Those are big things that contribute to the feeling of, "I have to be here. I really don't want to. I have nothing to contribute." And that's not going to be the case.

So as much as I can, helping people have information upfront. Even if within that meeting we don't get through that whole agenda. Just having them understand, "This is a snapshot of what I hope to achieve here and what kind of feedback I'm hoping to get. Thank you so much for making the time. I'll see you there." That goes a long way to creating an environment of participation and shared value.

Mike Gerholdt:

I know every meeting is different. In every business analysis session, you've probably had 20 or 30 people and two or three. Is there a physical activity that you feel you do in most every meeting that really helps move it along? That may be a normal Salesforce ... Normal. That may be a Salesforce admin who is getting into the business analysis role and maybe doesn't know what to do.

Ko Forte:

Well, the one big one, since a lot of us are working remotely now and we are having Zoom meetings and video meetings and things like that. The biggest thing I would say is, "Turn your camera on." Even if you are not facilitating the meeting, you're not leading the meeting ... Even if you're not a BA. Especially, if you're not a BA and you're hoping to land a BA role. Turn your camera on. Let people see your face.

As human beings, we have evolved to enjoy seeing a person's face, seeing the eyes. That's going to be important to create an image of, "I'm a safe person. I'm a reliable person. I'm here. I'm present." That goes a long way. Having the ability to show up and be seen, and to be seen as someone who is actively participating and present goes a very long way.

Mike Gerholdt:

I 100% can tell you I react differently in a meeting when I see the organizer's face versus when I don't.

Ko Forte:


Mike Gerholdt:

Because I'm like, "Are you even paying attention? Are you phoning this in literally? Phoning it in?" I want to dig into a little bit of ... We talked a lot about inputs and managing stuff. We're never going to cover all of the business analyst role in a podcast. And if we are, it's going to be a long podcast.

Ko Forte:


Mike Gerholdt:

What are some of the outputs that you feel are different that maybe admins should shift to as they're doing more business discovery and business analysis work?

Ko Forte:

Sure. Just some simple things that I like to keep track of, especially if I'm working with other teams in their processes, is a process document. How do people currently do their work? And I like to say it doesn't have to be anything fancy. A lot of times when it comes to process documents, no one has written this stuff down. Because it's just the process and it's been transferred verbally from one person to another. We just know to do it like this.

But as you are creating that document and you are working with the point person to approve and authorize, "Yes. This is the process. We're good to go." So much comes out of that. Because then, you get to discover, "Well, that's what they do. Why are they doing it like that?" Or, "That's actually not the process. We need to figure out who told them to do that and why."

"This is the actual process. We need to tweak this process over here and make it more clear that this is the way, and not that." There's so much value that comes from that. Just knowing what people are doing and how. And then, where even the gaps are and the idea of, "We just started doing that. That's just what we do now." And the manager is like, "Well, I didn't know you were doing it like that. Why are you doing it like that?"

Mike Gerholdt:

Well, we started doing it that way, because we heard the consultants coming in.

Ko Forte:

Right. Right.

Mike Gerholdt:

It's like the chef getting the cookbook out. "Well, we started using this recipe the other day."

Ko Forte:

Well, a lot of times too, it happens because, "Well, that broke, so we couldn't do it like that anymore. We started doing this." Well, let's talk about this part that quote, unquote, "Broke." We can address that as opposed to making a whole other process to get around that thing.

Mike Gerholdt:

You never start fixing something until it breaks. Boy, let me tell you. That is so relevant for me right now. You have no idea. No idea. Documentation always comes up. I've managed admin track at Dreamforce now for many years. Almost every year outside of the shiny object that Salesforce is releasing, whether it's Dynamic Pages or Flow or whatever the hot new product is, the sessions on documentation are always the biggest.

The ways to store documentation, I've talked about this on the podcast. What do you like to give departments or give organizations and advise them in terms of a leave-behind? In terms of, "Now, we've documented this. Here's what I suggest, where to keep it, how to update it, how often to update it."

Ko Forte:

I'm actually working through that right now, because I'm rolling off of a project.

Mike Gerholdt:


Ko Forte:

What I decided to do was work with their current knowledge base. This is important because I want to be very sensitive not to create yet another space that they have to go to and that they won't go to. What are they actually currently using? Some organizations, they are blessed with lots of different tools.

Mike Gerholdt:

Sometimes they're rich in tools, but poor in knowledge.

Ko Forte:

Correct. Correct.

Mike Gerholdt:

Or they've got so many tools they don't even know where to put them. "Well, we could put this documentation in seven different places."

Ko Forte:

Correct. So as a consultant, if that's not a process that I'm there to solve for, I'll just ask, "Where will you find this? Where do you want this?" And in a place that everyone can get to it. So that's generally my approach. I actually want what has been created to be something that they can reference again and again.

Doing the work to prepare the documentation in such a way that it's not just, "Me, in my mind, I know exactly what that means," but making it for a general population that can go and get value from it after I'm gone is something that I'm really sensitive to. I want to put it in a style that they can easily read and get value from. And I want to store it in a place that they say, "We will come back to here and we will utilize this again."

Mike Gerholdt:

That's smart. How often do you recommend they update their documentation?

Ko Forte:

I recommend that documentation is reviewed quarterly. At least, quarterly. Because within a quarter, companies are reviewing what their goals were, what work they've completed, where they need to go to in the next quarter. It's just a good place to stop and say, "Is this still accurate based on where we last were and where we need to be now?"

But along with documentation that I create, throughout the lifetime of the project, I am adopting that company's documented information. When was the last time you reviewed your organizational chart? Or a job description? These are very valuable documents that a company provides and we hope that they manage pretty regularly, so that I know who key stakeholders are, how teams interact with one another, where they connect, and who to go to for certain information and guidance. So I'm constantly as the BA looking to interact with that company's documentation as it's stated.

Mike Gerholdt:

I've got to imagine that org chart is probably the least updated. I don't know. That would be a fun poll to ask people. I feel many companies I have worked at ... They always hand it to you in training or something, "Here's the org chart," but it's from 1982.

Ko Forte:


Mike Gerholdt:

You're like, "Wow. That's great." "We fired the guy that took care of it." You're like, "Cool. I love that even more so."

Ko Forte:


Mike Gerholdt:

As we wrap up, the one thing ... If you've ever presented an admin track or any presentation I'm overseeing. I always like to think of the one thing that goes through my mind when I'm done hearing a presentation, which is, "Cool. You gave me a ton of knowledge and I'm super excited to go do it. When I stand up, what should I do next?"

That's my question to you. After listening to this now for however many minutes, admins are like, "I need to do business analysis work even better." What should they do next? What's their next step?

Ko Forte:

What I would suggest is to first go and review your job description and understand for yourself, "Am I currently meeting this description as stated? Am I doing, to the best of my ability, what they are expecting me to do?" And then, from there, if you are, good job. Now, you can understand the ways that you want to start building out in this BA capacity.

I feel like that's the most supportive way for you to begin that journey. Because I don't want to put you in a position where you're like, "Well, I created these process documents and I had this workshop and I took meeting notes. I got all this documentation together. Can I be a BA now?" And they're like, "Well, you stopped being a great admin. We can't promote you to a BA, because you're not meeting your job description currently."

Make sure you're meeting all the needs and requirements there first to protect yourself and allow yourself to have the best possible path to where you want to go next. And then, start building relationships. That thing of turning on your camera? That's a simple one that you can do immediately. Start building relationships both horizontally with people who are in a similar state as you in the job. And then, vertically. Who's above you? Who can become a sponsor for you at your company? Who can be a mentor?

Who can you mentor? That's a very valid question to ask, because as you teach, you learn more. Your network is going to hopefully be full of people who can support you, who can encourage you as you do things like look into certifications and things like that. Because that's going to take not only mental space, but it's an emotional process to some extent as well. You want to be well-fortified in all the ways, so that you can expand your career in the direction you want to go, but keep your mental health intact at the same time.

Mike Gerholdt:

That was 8,000 pounds of awesome advice. You started with someplace that no one has ever started before. I feel the need to call it out. Take a second to look at your job description and make sure you're doing that well. Wow. Wow. Because I think we forget that, and I got goosebumps when you said that. You're so right. If you're going to move up, make sure you're doing the foundational work right.

Ko Forte:


Mike Gerholdt:

That is huge knowledge. Right at the end of the podcast. This is an amazing discussion, Ko. I could talk to you for days, literally. Thanks for taking time out and sharing some of your information with us, really bringing that mindset to what you do, inspiring admins, and being out there at community conferences and talking about this. Because it is so important.

Ko Forte:

Thank you so much for having me. It's really important to me and valuable to me to support people to share my journey. It feels like an unlikely journey. And so, that's why I'm happy to share it with others to say, "Hey. If I did it, you can do it." You can do even more.

Mike Gerholdt:

Yep. Absolutely. Absolutely. Wow. Well, thank you for being amazing at this.

Ko Forte:

Thanks, Mike.

Mike Gerholdt:

Okay. Was I right or was I right about Ko's advice on what you should do next? Literally, that might be the best advice I've ever heard about what you do next. So I hope you enjoyed that. I enjoyed the podcast. I will give you a hint that there is more business analysis podcasts coming up in August, because that's how the hosts lined up. And I am totally into business analysis stuff right now.

I think this is a great episode. What I want you to do is, if you'd do me a favor, I need you to share the episode with one person. Help us build the listeners. There's a ton of Salesforce admins out there that need to hear this. It's so much fun. I think it's fun to listen to.

Now, if you're listening on the iTunes app, here's how you do it. You just tap the three dots and choose Share Episode. Then, you can share it to your social feeds. Or you can text it to a friend and be like, "Hey. I just listened to the Salesforce Admins Podcast. I know you wanted to get into business analysis. Listen to this episode with Ko." That's literally what you need to do. It's not that hard.

Of course, if you're looking for more great resources, everything Salesforce admin is at, including a transcript of the show. And of course, be sure to join the conversation over in our Admin Trailblazer Group in the Trailblazer community. I know there's probably some BA questions going on over there. Don't worry. Links to all of those are in the show notes. And until next week, I'll see you in the cloud.

Direct download: Replay__Being_a_Business_Analyst_with_Ko_Forte.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 1:00am PDT

Today on the Salesforce Admins Podcast, we talk to Will Moeller, Salesforce Administrator.

Join us as we chat about why relationships are the key to building trust and engaging with stakeholders and end users alike.

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

Lessons from a clinical social worker

Will is my first guest with a degree in clinical social work, and I wanted to bring him on the pod to talk about how those skills have translated into his role as a Salesforce Admin. He first started working with databases and data via the Homeless Management Information System (HMIS).

When Will’s nonprofit got a significant grant, they decided to move their data into Salesforce. He quickly became a self-described fanboy. His career has taken him to other places, but there are some key lessons he’s learned from social work that can help you connect with stakeholders and end users alike.

Finding congruence

We focus a lot on the business problems we’re trying to solve and the technical solutions we’re going to implement. Will, however, urges you to attend to the relationships you’re building in your meetings with users and stakeholders.

A key part of building relationships is knowing your audience. High-level stakeholders are going to go into a meeting with very different goals and concerns than an end user will have. Will explains the concept of “congruence,” a term from clinical social work. It means taking the time, before a meeting with someone, to understand their perspective and how you need to frame things to get them to listen to you.

Navigating Diverse Audience Priorities

Different audiences are going to have different priorities. In a meeting with stakeholders, you need to frame things in terms of the bottom line. Convincing your boss to address technical debt will go a lot more smoothly if you frame it in terms of how it’ll save your business time and money as time goes on.

For end users, Will finds it helpful to focus on building trust. As he says, they’re going to come into a meeting with you thinking, “This is my job, I need to trust that you’re going to have my best interest at the front of your mind as you’re going through this.”

As Will says, the key here is taking time to understand the motivations of the people you’re meeting with before you sit down together. This episode is full of other great tips for managing your business relationships, so be sure to take a listen.

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Direct download: Building_Relationships_and_Breaking_Down_Silos_with_Will_Moeller.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 1:00am PDT

Today on the Salesforce Admins Podcast, we talk to David Giller, CEO of Brainiate. Join us as we chat about project management and how to push back with positivity.

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

Why admins need project management skills

It takes a lot of energy to keep up with everything going on in the Salesforce ecosystem. What David sees, however, is that learning how to do something isn’t the biggest challenge facing most Salesforce Admins. “The things people are struggling with the most,” he says, “involve all of the interactions that they have with end users and business leaders at the companies they work with.” In other words, admins need help with project management.

As David points out, admins love to solve problems. We want to show off our skills, make changes quickly, and—let’s be honest—play with some new toys. But we’re often so eager to jump in and implement a request that we don’t take the time to look at the business problem behind it that needs to be solved. 

Project management is problem-solving

What David is pointing at is the difference between being an order taker and being a problem solver. And being the person who just does what they’re asked to do is limiting for your career. What happens when AI gets smart enough to troubleshoot user requests and generate custom reports?

Talking to David made me realize an important distinction: the difference between customization and personalization. When someone makes a request, is it a customization that will help with an entire business process, or is it a personalization that will help that user with their part of the process? How will it affect everything else? What I’m getting at here is that admins need to create customizations that will scale, rather than personalizations that will help only a few users and could create other issues in the org.

The power of pushback

Solving problems at scale means that sometimes it’s your job to push back. Your users might not understand why you’re asking so many questions about adding a simple checkbox, or even suspect that you don’t know how to fulfill the request at all. When he runs into this, David will explain that while the feature is easy to add, he needs to make sure that it actually solves the problem and doesn’t create other issues.

The key here is to push back in a way that positions you as an ally, not an adversary, who is coming together with stakeholders to fix a problem. You’re a coach, a business therapist, a problem solver—in short, you’re on their side. 

In all of his consulting work, the most useful question David can ask a client is, “What is the problem we are trying to solve?” Focus on that, and you can position yourself as a problem solver and grow your career.

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Gillian on X: @GillianKBruce

Direct download: Effective_Project_Management_with_David_Giller.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 1:00am PDT

Today on the Salesforce Admins Podcast, we talk to Lizz Hellinga, Consultant and Salesforce MVP.

Join us as we chat about why clean data is more important than ever if you want to leverage the potential of generative AI.

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

Generative AI needs clean data

I brought Lizz on the pod to bring you an important message: clean data is no longer optional. “If your data isn’t ready for generative AI, your business isn’t ready,” she says. This was the theme of her presentation at Florida Dreamin’, and I thought it was something every admin needed to hear.

Everyone is excited about the new generative AI tools coming to Salesforce and it’s potential to revolutionize how we use data. Something that Lizz feels gets lost in the conversation, however, is that these insights will only be as good as the data you use to generate them. That’s why clean data is more important than ever before.

What is bad data?

This naturally begs the question, what makes for bad data? Some common examples Lizz shares include:

  • Duplicate data

  • Inaccurate data

  • Incomplete data

  • Stale data

  • Hoarded data

Hoarded data sticks out to me as something that isn’t discussed as much. As Lizz explains, not too long ago we went through a phase of “more data = good.” This has led many organizations to blindly hold onto data they’ll never use but are too afraid to throw away.

For Lizz, the key here is to work with your stakeholders to create a data governance policy. That way you’re clear on what data quality means for your organization and what data you don’t need to retain. As Lizz points out, reporting is a good opportunity to highlight why this is important to everyone involved.

How to get started cleaning your data for generative AI

When you’re looking at what data is most important to clean up for generative AI, Lizz recommends that you start by documenting the process you’re going to be working with. What are the essential data points in that journey? How does the data come in, and how can you make that easier?

It’s hard to get people motivated to clean up their data. Whether it’s the end of the quarter or the beginning of the new one, it’s never the right time. For Lizz, you need to talk about the why. You need to sell your stakeholders on what generative AI can do to make their lives easier, and why you need high-quality data to do that.

We get into a lot of specifics with Lizz on the podcast, so be sure to take a listen to learn more. And remember, now’s the time to clean up your data!

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Direct download: Why_Clean_Data_Is_Non-Negotiable_in_the_AI_Era_with_Lizz_Hellinga.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 1:00am PDT

Today on the Salesforce Admins Podcast, we talk to Shannon Tran, Principal Architect Director at Salesforce.

Join us as we chat about career changes, career progression, and chasing a vision.

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

The admin skill set is broad

Shannon is just over a month into her new role as a Principal Architect Director at Salesforce, so I thought it would be the perfect time to have her on the pod to talk about careers and how admins can branch out.

It’s easy to get caught up in a particular career path and chase the next title up the ladder, but that’s not the only way to grow your career. “The admin skill set is so broad,” Shannon says, “it can open so many doors for you.” She points to things we practice every day, like active listening or explaining technical processes, as examples of skills that can help you in a wide variety of roles.

Get a swim buddy

We all have different strengths and weaknesses, and it can feel like that creates walls for what we can and can’t do with our careers. As Shannon explains, we can invest a lot of time and energy into climbing over those walls, or we can look around and see if someone might be willing to offer us a ladder.

In the Navy SEAL training program, every recruit is paired with a “swim buddy,” whose responsibility is to “support them unfailingly through the trials and tribulations of their rigorous training program.” Shannon recommends finding a swim buddy for your career, someone in the same place as you who can share the load as you both work towards your goals.

Fake it till you make it

When you’re looking at that next job, it’s easy to get caught up in what qualifications you don’t have. But Shannon reminds us to think about it from the job poster’s perspective. They don’t want to hire someone who can already do everything because they’ll pretty quickly get bored and move on. “Growing isn’t just growing your title, growing is growing in your role,” she says.

The most important thing you do for your career is to believe in yourself and what you can accomplish. We talk a lot in this episode about the idea of “fake it till you make it” and how that’s been misunderstood. If you want to be a consultant, you don’t go around telling everyone you’re a consultant, you start acting like one. How would a consultant approach this problem? How would they document this process?

Shannon has a lot of great stories and advice for how to take control of your Salesforce career, so be sure to listen to the full episode for more great tips and a free pep talk.


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Direct download: Pursuing_the_Right_Salesforce_Career_with_Shannon_Tran.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 1:00am PDT

Today on the Salesforce Admins Podcast, we talk to LeeAnne Rimel, Senior Director of Admin and Developer Strategic Content at Salesforce.

Join us as we chat about the call for presentations for TrailblazerDX and why you should submit.

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

A focus on community at TDX

TrailblazerDX isn’t until March, but our team is already hard at work on all the great stuff we’re planning for you. TDX has always been a unique opportunity to learn directly from the product owners and engineers behind your friendly neighborhood platform and, this year, we’re excited to create even more opportunities to engage and connect. It’s almost like an in-person version of the podcast.

This year, we’re also programming all sorts of community-led content from Trailblazers like you. We want to dig into real-life use cases and implementations to see these products in action. That’s why LeeAnne asked me to come on the pod. She wants you (yes, you!) to submit a presentation and be a part of this year’s TDX.

TDX is not just for devs

TDX 2024 will be the AI developer conference of the year. We’ll be focused on how you can build the next generation of AI-powered apps for your business using Einstein 1. While Einstein AI is a big part of the picture, core platform technologies like user management, app building, dev ops, Apex, Flow, and APIs are all key ingredients in making these solutions work well.

As LeeAnne says, “not every session has to be an AI session.” And also, just because it’s TDX doesn’t mean you have to be a developer in order to present. We want to hear from admins, architects, and ISVs, too.

Different sessions in the CFP

There are all sorts of ways to get involved. There are theater sessions focused on a specific product with demos and slides, but there are also more intimate and conversational campfire sessions.

This year, we’re adding a new session type called the Deep Dive Panel. If you have a solution that you’ve built that could be interesting to look at in-depth, we’d love for you to share it at TDX. We’ll pair these real-world examples panel discussions with customer experts and Salesforce experts to break everything down.

The CFP is open now, but it closes on December 1st. So get started on your title and abstract soon and I’ll see you at TDX!

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Full Transcript

Trailblazer DX is the AI developer conference of the year, where you can learn directly from product owners and engineers how to build the next generation of apps on the Einstein 1 Platform and take your career to the next level. So it only makes sense that we talk with LeeAnne Rimel, senior director of admin and developer strategic content, about the call for presentations for Trailblazer DX. Now before we get into that episode, I want you to get sure you're following the Salesforce Admins Podcast on iTunes or wherever you get your podcasts. That way, you get a new episode every Thursday right on your phone. So let's get to that conversation with LeeAnne. So LeeAnne, welcome to the podcast. 

LeeAnne Rimel:
Hi, Mike. Thanks so much for having me.

It's November, but we're talking Trailblazer DX, which is in March.

LeeAnne Rimel:
It is, yes. We're talking about TDX. We never stop working on the next awesome event for our Trailblazer community. And we came off of Dreamforce and we dove right into TDX planning.

I mean, it's nonstop. Right? All the time.

LeeAnne Rimel:
Nonstop. I love it.

So let's talk about Trailblazer DX. What do we have so planned so far? And what do you want to talk about?

LeeAnne Rimel:
Yeah. So I'm incredibly excited for TDX this year. Actually, you and me both, Mike, have been around since the first TDX, which was in 2016. And to take us down memory lane a little bit, the origin story of TDX was very much around let's have a Salesforce developer conference and dive deep into product, connect with product owners, engineers, really make it about learning, about the technology, connection. And so we are really excited to have laser focus on those goals for this year's TDX. And really, I think TDX has always been about learning, but really dive in deeper to that deep learning, more technical content, more technical presenters, more technical opportunities to engage and connect and network, so we're super excited about this year's TDX.

Yeah. I always feel like TDX is kind of an in-person version of the podcast because I get to sit down with product managers all the time and talk to them about what they built and how they built it, and some of the concepts behind why they built things, like dynamic forms and stuff like that. And TDX is almost like you get to do that in person. You get to see the person that actually built the thing that makes you successful every day on stage.

LeeAnne Rimel:
Absolutely. So some sessions and some of the content will be things that maybe if you did go to Dreamforce, or watched some of the Dreamforce content, there will be some similarities there. And then at TDX, that's what we're going to do wall to wall, is these roadmap sessions, deep dive technical product sessions, solution oriented sessions, community led, Trailblazer led sessions focused on real life solutions that they've built, so we're really excited to I think have that opportunity to have Q and A with PMs, have sessions that are really built around that model. So I think we're looking at some different session formats and different ways to really cultivate that opportunity for discussion and Q and A, and asking questions of people who are implementation experts and also experts in the products, experts in the roadmap, so that we're all walking away with some deep learning under our belt and really feel like we've gotten answers in key areas that we need to continue building. 

Well, you mentioned, you teased out a little bit of the change in the format. I also saw there was for the first time, a public facing call for presentation, so that's new as well.

LeeAnne Rimel:
Yeah. So we're really looking at: How do we feature alongside all of this roadmap, technical deep dive content that we get from our engineers, from our PMs, from our solution architects, alongside that, how do we partner that type of content track with also community led content from our practitioners out in the field, if you will, our Trailblazers, who are hands on with these products every day and have built and learned a lot of lessons and built successful implementations with many of these different features and products, so that we can learn some of those real life stories and use cases? And so we're excited to see that. So yes, you mentioned the CFP. I'm going to do my little plug for the CFP.
We will have dedicated community space and track, and we're really excited to feature our Trailblazer speakers at TDX, so I encourage all of you, I know you're going to link it in the show notes, Mike, to go through and submit your session idea. So that could be a theater session, which might involve more of a product coverage, more demos, more slides, as well as a campfire is another session option, which might be more conversational, more of a panel, maybe more career focused, maybe no demos or slides usually in campfire, so more of a kind of intimate conversational vibe. And then we also have a new option on the CFP for a deep dive panel. So if you have a solution that you've built that is well-suited to do kind of a deep dive, technical walk through, and then are willing to participate in a panel discussion afterwards, we're going to be introducing that on the CFP as well. So really look forward to seeing all of your ideas and session ideas come through the CFP.

And the deep dive is a longer session version. So the amount of work and prep that would go into that's a little bit more than a breakout. Right?

LeeAnne Rimel:
Yes. It would be a bigger commitment to be sure. If you were involved or attended TDX '18 or '19, we had a session type called the extracurricular. And this is not exactly the same, but it's similar in many ways. It's a longer session format. We would be working together to identify people who would be on the panel with you, maybe a Salesforce product manager could be on the panel with you as well. So we have this kind of combination of customer experts and Salesforce experts. And yes, it would be a longer form presentation, so definitely more of a commitment, but really meaningful sessions.

I think when I've submitted for call for presentations for other events, I've always kind of wanted to know: What is the main theme, or what is the main vision that the organization has for this event? Can you kind of help summarize that up?

LeeAnne Rimel:
Yes. So TDX is the AI developer conference of the year. So really, a huge focus of TDX will be: How do you build the next generation of AI apps on our Einstein 1 Platform? So how do you build apps, AI enabled apps for your business? And a key part of that, it's of course our Einstein product coverage, all of our new Einstein AI products that are coming out, as well as that core platform technologies, so user management, app building, devops, apex, flow, working with APIs, all of these core elements are incredibly important to build performant AI apps. And so I would encourage, not every session has to be an AI session, but of course AI sessions, very popular. But then these core technologies, what are those foundational lessons that help people build great apps? I mean, really going not back to basics, because we want to have some deep dive lessons, but going back to those fundamental tenets of: What do admins, developers, and architects and ISEs need to know in order to build performant apps that can be performant AI apps? 

I know you said admin, architects, ISVs, but it's a developer conference. So if I'm an admin or an architect, should I submit to the CFP? 

LeeAnne Rimel:
Absolutely. So we definitely will have great learning experiences for developers and admins and architects and RISVs, so please submit your session. I think there is absolutely a very important place for all of those audiences. So we do call it a developer conference, but it's a wider reaching word developer that we're using here for really all of our technical practitioners will be prioritized at this conference and learning first for sessions, whether that's no code, low code, or code building, whether you're thinking about architectural tenets of building, or you're thinking about building partner app.

One of the things that I've seen as a track leader at Dreamforce, and somebody that's submitted for other events is, it's real easy and I think sometimes people view it as beneficial to submit kind of 101 content because events are always looking for that, as opposed to the 301 content, where it's a deeper dive and it's super advanced. And it's like, "Maybe the event organizer isn't going to take this because it's so advanced, and they're going to be worried about putting 200, 300 people in a room. And my session isn't going to do that, so maybe I just shouldn't submit 301 content." What would you say to that?

LeeAnne Rimel:
Submit it. We need it. Looking at, I've spent a lot of time, Mike, I've spent a lot of time looking at the numbers, if you will, for all of our events. And I spend a lot of time looking at who comes to Salesforce events, and to TDX, or to the Trailblazer Forest and tracks of Dreamforce. And there is a wide range of skill levels and a wide range of expertise levels with all of our products and features across all of our audiences. So there are absolutely admins and developers that are attending these events who have successfully built many flows, or know what they're doing, and they want to see these niche solutions that may be much more advanced, or maybe much more technical.
They want to go beyond maybe the learning tools that have already been available to them. And so I think definitely submit those. I think we're going to be looking for very much a breadth, so if you feel very well-versed to present an amazing flow 101 type session, please submit that. If you want to share some really edge cases of how you are pushing the limits with Salesforce technologies and building great solutions with them, and it is more advanced and it requires an existing skillset, submit that as well. We'll be looking for the whole breadth of level. 

Yeah. I've always felt like if you've gone to an event and felt, I could be presenting all of this, then that's what you should be doing, so that the event gets to that next level, so that more people like yourself can get farther into the learning journey, as opposed to letting it sort of plateau. What, if people are sitting down and kind of looking at their first quarter of the year, what else? We have sessions planned for TDX, how is that whole experience kind of planned out? What are we doing more of?

LeeAnne Rimel:
Yeah, more learning. I mean, that's if there's a TL;DR, it's going to be more deep technical learning. That's going to be the experience this year. We'll of course have workshops. We're going to have hopefully more workshops, more breakouts, really deep diving into more learning, more sessions. We will still absolutely have wonderful opportunities to connect and to network. So having special programming for some of our attendees, and having Q and As, and having spaces and opportunities to connect with your peers and with other Trailblazers and with product owners. Of course, we're going to have fun. That's always one of our values.

Do you know the band? Do we know the ... Is there a band? 

LeeAnne Rimel:
I do not know the band. 

That's okay. It's fine.

LeeAnne Rimel:
But the really having fun, diving in, connecting with the community partners, activities, events, so we're really excited about that, and then of course, giving back. How can we always build giving back into our experience? So I think if you're coming to TDX, I think it'll feel different than last year. I think TDX has not been around as long as Dreamforce, and I think we've always kind of been open to really listening to our customers and our community, and fine-tuning and shifting and changing and growing TDX. And so I think this year, we've heard very much from our community that deep learning, connecting with experts, that's what I want at TDX. And so that's what we are working on right now to really prioritize and deliver. 

Okay. So LeeAnne, it sounds like step one is really thinking about if you want to submit to the call for presentations. Can you give us just a quick overview of that and when it closes?

LeeAnne Rimel:
Yes. So the call for presentations, often called the CFP, so we use those interchangeably, the CFP is open right now. It opened at the beginning of November. It is closing on December 1st, and it is not a quick thing to write your title and abstract because you want to be thoughtful. We pick the sessions based on great titles and abstracts, and so you want to be thoughtful about it. So give yourself some time to sit down and really workshop and work on your title and abstract and make sure it represents the content you'd like to deliver. So the next step for all of you is to ... I recommend visit the CFP blog. It's got a great overview of the CFP and adds additional clarity and reiterates some of those points that I made around the session types and what type of content is the right fit for each session type. Read the blog, start working and start thinking about your session that you'd like to submit, and send us your submission. I think we really want to see your submissions and we really want to learn from our community and make sure that our attendees have the opportunity to learn from our community.
And so, Mike, I think you had an excellent point earlier when you said, "If you've ever been at an event and you said, 'We need more X content, or I could be delivering this content,'" please do it. We want fresh, new faces. We're very excited to open this opportunity up and to learn from our Trailblazers. So please consider submitting your CFP. Read the blog first, I do recommend. It just offers some helpful insight.

Awesome. Well, thanks so much, LeeAnne, for coming on the podcast.

LeeAnne Rimel:
Thanks for having me, Mike.

Trailblazer DX is an AI conference for admins, developers, and architects. I can't wait to see some of the things that are going to be presented there. Now please share this episode with somebody because I mean, seriously, sharing is caring. And I love the podcast. Do you have thoughts on this episode? Let me know in the Trailblazer community. I'll link it in the show notes. You want to learn more about everything that you heard today? Check out for show notes and a transcript of the podcast. So that's it for today, but stay tuned because next week, we're joined by Shannon Tran, who gives us her take on career growth and not chasing titles. 


Direct download: Trailblazers_at_TDX_with_LeeAnne_Rimel.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 1:00am PDT

Today on the Salesforce Admins Podcast, we talk to Cheryl Feldman, Director of Product Management at Salesforce covering all user access features.


Join us as we chat about best practices for configuring user access and what Cheryl is working on to help you out.


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

Everything user access

We’re so excited to have Cheryl back on the pod to talk permissions and more. As a product area lead, she’s in charge of all the features you use every day to define user access and user management. Think things like user records, profiles, permission sets, permission set groups, roles, org-wide default, etc.


As an admin and manager of admin for 18 years, Cheryl recognizes just how much work goes into configuring user access. That’s why her team is hard at work to make everything easier for you and, in the meantime, she’s here to share best practices that might help you out.

The right amount of access

Cheryl recommends thinking about user access from the eye of the principle of least privilege “You want to think about the least amount of access somebody needs to do their job, you don’t want to give them any less or any more,” she says.

Think about if you have a bunch of personas that need object access to the account object. If you do that via profiles, you’d need to go through every profile and modify them if something changes. It’s simpler, instead, to create one wide permission set for all of your account access and then use permission set groups to mute what you don’t want.

It’s definitely a lot of work to set up, but it’ll save you so much time in the long run because your permission sets can be reused.

What’s next for user access in Salesforce

If you’re looking to evaluate user access in your org, you should know that Cheryl and her team have put out several tools to help you. They’ve created an app, User Access and Permissions Assistant, that helps you understand what a user has access to and how they are getting that access. And there’s more coming in the Winter ‘24 release, including user access reporting on standard reports and dashboards.

Looking forward, they’re releasing a new feature (currently in beta) called User Access Policies. It allows you to describe the type of users you want added to a specific group, or permission set, or profile, and automatically assign them to it when a user is created or updated.

Cheryl is on a mission to, as she puts it, “summary all of the things.” It shouldn’t be so hard to figure out what a user has access to and why. That’s why she needs your help. Check out the links below to the IdeaExchange to see if you might be able to join Cheryl on her quest to simplify user access in Salesforce.

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Direct download: Master_User_Access_with_Cheryl_Feldman.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 1:00am PDT

Today on the Salesforce Admins Podcast, we talk to Ajaay Ravi, Senior Technical Product Manager at Salesforce.


Join us as we chat about AI, Einstein for Flow (which at the time of the recording was called Flow GPT), and why admins should pay close attention.


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

Do Androids Dream of Bohemian Furniture?

Ajaay learned a lot about AI when he led a team at Amazon tasked with building technology to recommend furniture. The only problem was that they were all engineers and didn’t know the first thing about interior design. They brought in some experts who could tell them what individual components made something a particular style, and used their knowledge to train the AI by giving it high-quality data in bite-sized pieces that it could understand.


What’s important to understand here is that any AI model requires training. And to do that, you need to break a concept like “furniture style” down into tags like “upholstery,” “seat,” “legs,” “paisley,” etc. Then you can give it a group of tagged images to try to teach it a broader concept, like “Bohemian.” Finally, you test it to see if it can identify new images that have Bohemian furniture in them, give the model feedback on how it did, and start the loop again.

Einstein for Flow

For Salesforce, Ajaay has been building Einstein for Flow. The goal is to create a tool where you can just describe the automation you need and it will build you a flow—automagically. They’re still in the testing and training phase but the possibilities are tantalizing.


Depending on what type of user you are, you might use Einstein for Flow in several different ways. For those that are already experienced with Flow, you can leverage it to eliminate some steps and work faster. And for people newer to the ecosystem, Ajaay hopes it can remove barriers to unlocking the full potential of the platform.

Learning to crawl

Just like with the interior design tool Ajaay built earlier in his career, Einstein for Flow needs some time to learn. For now, they’re focused on building simple flows of five steps or less with minimal decision elements and branches. But it’ll only get better as they keep working on it and getting feedback from test users.


Be sure to check out the full episode for more about what makes for a good prompt, what you can do to get ready for Einstein for Flow, and how AI can “hallucinate.”


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Full Transcript

Hey, Salesforce Admins. I am bringing back an episode that you might've missed in July, where we talked about what was then called Flow GPT. It's now called Einstein for Flow. And now that we're past Dreamforce, we can kind of dive into it a little bit more.
This is a really cool product that Salesforce is working on. And way back in July, I had the privilege of speaking with Ajaay Ravi, who is an engineer with Salesforce and, really, the tip of the spear working on all of this. We talk about AI and GPT and what is now Einstein for Flow, and really just why you as a Salesforce Admin should pay attention to it. So I want to call that out. Also, because we recorded this back in July, we do say “Einstein GPT” a lot, or “Flow GPT.” Of course, that naming convention has been changed, so we couldn't really go back through and change that. But this is a good episode. Dig into it.
Before you get into it, though, I just want to be sure you're doing one thing and you're following the podcast. So if you're just listening to this for the first time and you're not subscribed on iTunes or Spotify, go ahead and click that follow or subscribe button. And then, that way, every time a new podcast drops, which is Thursday morning, it'll be automatically put on your phone. And so you don't have to worry about it. And then you can just get in your car and ride to work or the train or ride your bike or take your dog for a walk. But anyway, this is a really fun conversation about Einstein for Flow with Ajaay.
Ajaay Ravi:
Thank you, Mike. Happy to be here.
We're talking about AI and GPT, and I feel like you are the right person to do that, so let's start off by just giving everybody a background on your history of AI and GPT and how you got to Salesforce.
Ajaay Ravi:
Yeah, absolutely. Primarily, I have an engineering background and I used to design hardware chips, primarily networking and storage chip sets, and then I moved into the management carrier after doing my MBA. My initial brush with AI was at my previous job at Amazon, so I was a product manager. I did create a product called Shop by Style, which is live on Amazon Home. Essentially, it deals with how do you sell furniture, heavy, bulky home furnishings to customers via the phone and online. Traditionally, those are things that customers would like to walk into a store, touch, see, feel, and then figure out if it passes the squish test or not, and then purchase it. But then our focus was on how do we actually get customers to imagine what a particular piece of furniture will look like inside their own house and how do we enable every single person to become an interior designer of sorts and give them the skillset to do that?
So that's where we put together a team of computer vision scientists and we said, "Let's go and let's teach an AI model how to recognize style and stylistically put furniture together," and we realized that none of us knew anything about style or interior design, given that all of us had engineering backgrounds, and we were like, "Oops, what do we do now?" And then, to be very honest with you, I did not know what Bohemian meant, and what is the difference between industrial and glam and California casual and...
Farmhouse chic. Don't forget about that.
Ajaay Ravi:
Absolutely. Farmhouse chic.
Ajaay Ravi:
So one of my first design [inaudible 00:03:01] was to hire some interior designers, actually new college grads fresh out of school. And they had two things. One was they had to come and teach blokes like us what style was about, and educate us on design and design concepts. And then they helped go through every single product or home furnishings product that Amazon sold, and tagged every single image with what style it pertained to. And that's when I realized that a single piece of furniture could also pertain to multiple different styles, and you had to break it down into the components. You had to see what kind of arm it had, what kind of upholstery, what kind of leather, what kind of back, what kind of seat, what kind of cushioning. Oh my God, they did a wonderful job.
So that was one of our first inputs into our computer vision models, and then we started teaching the computer how to discern style. And then we put together this product called Shop by Style, where now the AI could automatically go in and if there was a product that a seller or anybody posted on Amazon, it would automatically look at the images that they post and determine what kind of style it pertained to. A particular piece of furniture could pertain to multiple styles too. And then the best piece was depending on what it is that you're browsing, it could also recommend stylistically appropriate complementary products to go with it. For example, if you were looking at a couch, it could help you complete the look by suggesting a coffee table and an end table and a lamp to go with it. So that was my first foray into everything AI-related. And essentially, we used things like AR and VR.
Then how do we show these pictures on a phone and get you to just take a picture of your room from your phone and then superpose these images at scale, on that picture, and then help you visualize if you purchased all these things and put it in your house and whatever places that you wanted to, how would it look like and complete the look for you? So yeah, that's where I started. And then, after my time at Amazon, I moved into Salesforce. Seattle was getting a little too...
Ajaay Ravi:
... rainy and cold and snowy for my liking.
Oh, no.
Ajaay Ravi:
So as I like to tell people, I've spent three years in Cincinnati in the Midwest and I've paid my dues to the Midwest, and given that Seattle was starting to get snowy, I wanted to get out of there. So yeah, that brought me back to my origins here in the Bay Area. And then, yeah, it's been a wonderful journey with Salesforce. I started off as a product owner on the Marketing Cloud Einstein team, where we were building AI-driven products to help marketers reach their customers at the right time, on the right channel, with the right frequency to help them be successful and help sell more products to their customers.
Well, I can speak on behalf of maybe thousands of bachelors across the world that you've helped at Amazon design cool living rooms as a thank you, because that's generally how I shop when I'm on Amazon is I find one thing I like and then everything else that goes with it. Yes, I'll take all of that. I need basically that room. So thanks for inventing that and making us look good.
Ajaay Ravi:
Yeah. Well, you are very welcome. Like I said, I had an absolutely wonderful team that worked the magic behind the scenes, so I can't take all the credit for it.
Yeah, so I feel like I should just upfront let you know, I'm going to ask a lot of stupid questions or questions that I feel are stupid, but are questions that I think everybody's trying to figure out. In your description, you talked about furniture and having these interior designers come in and tag the images with the style. And when Salesforce launched a lot of Salesforce Einstein and the Einstein product and Next Best Action, a lot of the discussion for admins was, "Okay, we need to make sure our data's good so that we can train the data model," and it sounds like that was something you were working on.
I bring that up because the juxtaposition now that I feel is, and I did this the other day, I went to ChatGPT. I didn't train it on a data model. I just asked it, write a one paragraph summary of X, Y, and Z, and it did that. So, long question short, can you help me understand the difference between when you were training that data model to show only Bohemian-style furniture versus what's happening when I just type in a text prompt with ChatGPT?
Ajaay Ravi:
Absolutely. Yeah, that is actually a fantastic question. So whether you're typing a text-based input on ChatGPT or it is something more sophisticated and targeted that you're looking for, any kind of AI model that runs behind the scenes requires training. Even these LLMs or large language models as we talk about, like OpenAI's ChatGPT, that is also pre-trained on multiple different kinds of inputs and the responses and texts, just that we don't go in and personally train those models. Those models are already pre-trained and they are hosted by ChatGPT, which we just access.
Ajaay Ravi:
So the way I like to talk about models are I have a two-year-old and a four-month-old at home. It's like trying to teach them anything about how to communicate or language or anything in general. If I go to my younger one, who's four months old, and I try to talk to him, sometimes I try to talk world politics or philosophy, he just blinks back at me and all he says is, "Baba."
That's all sometimes I say too, when people talk world politics with me.
Ajaay Ravi:
Well, that is true. Unfortunately, I'm not good at talking baby language, I guess, when my wife drops me off with him. I need to find topics to talk to him about, so I just scroll the news and then I'm like, "Hey, do you want to hear about a new piece of news today?" Anyway, that's how my interactions go with him. It was the same with my two-year-old as well when he was an infant. But then you have to constantly keep, one, talking to them, and two, keep introducing them to these new simpler concepts because their mind is like a blank slate, and then they start forming these connections and maps as you keep trying to do things, as you keep trying to tell them things.
And you have to keep repeating. It's not only just once if you tell them, they just get it right out of the bat. Another example is my toddler recently, I told him he shouldn't be kicking the ball on the road when there's nobody present. And I thought he would understand that, hey, balls should not be kicked on the road. And what he understood was that particular ball, which was a soccer ball that he had, should not be kicked on the road. So he brings his basketball next and he is like, "Dad, can I kick this ball on the road?"
I like your kids.
Ajaay Ravi:
Yeah. And then I realized my instruction to him was wrong because I did not specify the fact that any kind of ball should not be kicked on the road. I just said, "Don't kick that ball on the road." So that's how it comes in. That's how you think about when you're training models. You have a certain kind of inputs that you're training the models on. For example, let's go back for the training that model to recognize furniture style. So essentially, if you look at training, it consists of two pieces. One is you have a training data set and the other one is you have a testing data set. So you first train a model to recognize or do something, and then you test it against various other inputs to see how it responds to your test scenario. So the thing is, you can't train it for all the scenarios that include your test also, because then tomorrow, if there is a scenario that comes up that it doesn't know about or that it hasn't seen, then it will react in a way that you don't expect it to react.
So what I mean by that is, going back to this ball example, I needed to tell my son repeatedly that he cannot kick the soccer ball on the road without supervision, he cannot kick the basketball on the road, and he cannot kick his bouncy ball on the road. So I had to tell him one after the other, patiently answer his questions. And then what I did was I just brought a tennis ball and then I gave it to him and I said, "What do you want to do with this?" And then he finally was like, "No, I'm not going to kick it on the road because dad said no kicking any ball on the road." I was like, "Okay, you finally got it," so that's essentially the thing. So you try to train a model by giving it a few inputs. For example, what we did was we took 300 pictures of different furniture types that were Bohemian, and then we broke it down and you have to do what is called labeling or tagging.
And then we labeled each one of those parts. For example, what is the arm? What was the seat, the cushion, the upholstery, the legs, the back, the arch of the back? And all of that, and then we gave it to the model and we said, "Hey, if you see this tag and this image, and if you can understand that this tag pertains to this image, these are what constitute Bohemian." So it repeatedly looked through all those 300 sets of images and tags that we provided, and it formed a neural network where it was like, "Okay, I think I now understand what Bohemian looks like." And the next step, what we need to do is the testing after the training is now we give it 600 new images that it has not seen, and then we tell it, "Now go and find out if this is Bohemian or not." And then of course you expect it to get it right at least a fair few number of times.
And then every time it gets it wrong, you provide feedback. You tell it, "Hey, for this image, you got it wrong." And then it learns from that feedback. So over time, the accuracy improves. That is what training constitutes. It's the same thing for the large language model. If you look at OpenAI, whatever text you're typing in today, there are billions of users across the world who have been typing in everything that ranges from, "Write me a poem for Mother's Day," to what I recently did was I wanted an overnight oats recipe that did not use nuts, so different kinds of inputs from billions of people around the world. It's continually learning. And then the best part is that is also feedback that is captured. And every time you think that ChatGPT hasn't gotten something right, you hit that thumbs down button so ChatGPT knows the model which was trained on some training data is now being used against testing data, and then it learns as it keeps going and then it keeps getting better.
And there's the same thing with the internal models that we have in Salesforce as well. One of the coolest things that we're working on right now is called Einstein GPT for Flow, because, as we know, Flow is a very nuanced and sophisticated product that our admins use. So we were just thinking about, "Hey, there is this new GPT feature where you can just talk to it in natural language and it can do something really technical and cool and just give you an output. Why don't we take that and try to help our customers and just have them describe a flow that they want to create?" And then we just automatically create it for them. They don't have to go through the steps of opening Flow Builder, bringing in different elements, actually configuring them, connecting them, and going into the property editors and making sure that they have the right information because all of this is time-consuming.
What if we just had them describe in two sentences or three sentences what it is that they're trying to do and then voila, just go ahead and automatically create it for them? So that I think is a long-winded answer to your question.
No, it's good. And you took us there because I did want to talk about why Salesforce is paying attention to GPT and what we're trying to do with Flow GPT, because I feel like at least my interaction so far with this new tech is, "Tell me how many pizzas to order for a birthday party," or like you did, "Help me find a recipe." And I'm thinking, so what are we trying to do here at Salesforce with that? But you tipped the answer of have the person describe essentially the automation that they need created in Salesforce, and then so what exactly are we trying to do with Flow GPT? Do we want it to create the entire flow? Do we want it to just get started or return a nice image of a pirate cat?
Ajaay Ravi:
That is a lovely way of putting it. I would like a pirate cat. So what we are trying to do is just, in very simple terms, make life easy for our customers. And that could mean different things for different people. For certain people, it might mean reducing the amount of time that they spent in trying to create these flows. For certain people, probably the barriers to entry or adoption is pretty high where they feel like they're new users and there are just a million options that are available for them. They don't know where to start. And there are some users who are like, "I manage multiple things during my day. I wear so many different hats, so I need some kind of personal assistant for me who can help do some mundane tasks if I just ask them to go do it without me doing it."
So there are these different kinds of use cases. So with Flow, what we are trying to solve is whatever it is for you that makes your life easy. Let's say you're an admin and let's say you are somebody who's an expert user of flow, how do we help save some time for you? So before I go there, there's one thing that I would like to mention. It is with anything that is AI and training-related, as they say, Rome wasn't built in a day, so you have to crawl, walk, and then run. Because it takes time initially for that training to happen, and then the testing is the slow crawling phase where the model starts learning. And then once the model slowly starts getting better, then you can start adding more complexity to the point where you can now start walking and then finally you can start running.
For example, with my two-year-old, I can only talk to him about balls in the road and kicking the ball right now. I still can't go and talk to him about algebra and trigonometry. He's not going to understand that. So my natural progression should be, I talk about this, and the next thing is I've taught him how to count from one to 10, and he can go up to 11 today, but that's all he can do. So he first has to figure out how to get to about a hundred, how to do some basic math additions and subtractions, and then once these initial few foundational years, you do it correctly, and then that running phase is very simple because at that point he would start grasping things much faster, and then algebra and trigonometry would become much easier.
Similarly, here, our crawl phase is we are going to start with simpler flows. Can we go ahead and reliably create flows that are four or five steps long, for example, that do not have multiple decision elements, multiple branches, just have simple formulas and things like that, or maybe even simple MuleSoft connectors and do something very simple? For example, as an admin, if there are let's say five different kinds of flows that you wanted to create, out of which two are simple, and we can help save some time for you by creating those simple flows ,if you just come in and say, "Hey, I want to send an email when a lead is converted to an opportunity and just send that email to this email address," done. We can go ahead and create it for you. We don't want you to go into Flow Builder, open it up, and spend all the time in doing it when you have other things to do with your time.
And like I said, there are some people who would want to come in and who are like, "Hey, Flow has a million options." Crawl here, which is basic flows. "I want to create some basic flows. I want to know how these flows are created, but what if I can just describe what I want and you can create a simple flow for me and then I can go and look it up, and maybe I understand how it actually works?" So that is essentially what we're trying to do here is make life easy and simple for our customers.
Yeah. No, that makes sense. As I've heard you describe this, and the ball analogy with your children I think is perfect, one thing that I just want to bounce this idea off you and see if I'm correct, can you tell me how important it will be for admins to correctly articulate what they want Flow GPT to do?
Ajaay Ravi:
That is an excellent question. So with anything GPT-related, your output or whatever you get out of it at the end of the day is going only going to be as good as what your input was or what you told it that you wanted. And given that natural language is something that is very subjective and different people can understand things in different ways, it is very, very important that we get that input very correct. So we call that as an input prompt, because prompt is the term that is used for anything that's natural language-related. So there are two things here. One is as we are training, we are trying to train the model to look for certain keywords in that input prompt and make certain decisions. So for example, if it looks at, "Create an email when a lead is converted into an opportunity," so the model recognizes the word lead there and says, "Okay, fine," so it is going to be a record keyword flow on the object called lead, and it makes those assumptions as it looks at the prompt.
In this initial crawl phase, it is very important for us to make sure that our admins that we are working with help give us as much detail as possible in those prompts, because the more specific they are, the higher are the chances of getting a more reliable output. And then, like I said, the second piece that is more important is feedback. So we are trying to collect feedback from customers. We don't want to take up too much of their time. Something as simple as a thumbs up, thumbs down mechanism. If you think that we really got the flow correct and we got the output that you expected or you wanted, just give us a thumbs up so we know, or if you think we were off target, give us a thumbs down, so what we would do is we would go take your feedback and then look at the prompt that you had and see where we missed. Why did we misunderstand your prompt? How can we get better?
The other thing is, to get absolutely great, if you were also to go in and create the right flow that you expected for the input prompt that you created and you gave us permission to access that. Now, that would be absolutely wonderful because not only do we know that we got it wrong, but we also have the right one that you were expecting or you wanted, so we can train our models even better, but again, that's a long shot. I'm not even going to go all the way there. As long as you can give me feedback to say it was thumbs up or thumbs down, then I can start training the model to better understand what your intent is and have it stop what is called hallucinating in the GPT world. Hallucination is when the prompt can start just going into some kind of loops and then the output is not always technically correct and it doesn't get you what it is that you wanted.
Ajaay Ravi:
And then at the same time, there are two things here. As far as we're talking about Flow GPT or Einstein GPT for Flow, one is we should be able to reliably get you a flow that can be rendered on the Flow canvas. And then the second piece is how accurate was that? So right now in the first stage, what we are targeting is to be able to reliably get you a flow. So whatever input prompt that you type in, and of course this is subject to ethical and legal guidelines. So whatever input prompt you type in, we want to make sure that we can take it, translate it, create a flow, and then render the flow on the canvas.
That in itself is a very hard problem. And once we solve that, the next step is did we get that correctly? Did we understand your intent? Then how do we tune ourselves to make sure that every time there is a prompt, we actually understand it correctly? And actually, we can even take this one step further. There is something called prompt engineering that is being discussed these days, is when as a customer or as an admin, they type their prompt, how do we help? Think about it as fill in the blanks. Can we provide you with a template of sorts where you just come in and say what kind of inputs and what kind of outputs to use? You just fill in certain blanks. Or can we add certain deterministic descriptions to those prompts above and below what you write in order to make sure that we pass on the right information to the model? So the reason there is a lot of research and work that's going on around prompt engineering these days is people have come to realize that that input prompt is so important to get the correct outputs.
Yeah, no, and I'll actually link to a podcast. We talked with Sarah Flamion at Salesforce about prompt engineering and the importance of it back in June, so you can see that podcast episode. I think as we wrap up, Ajaay, I'd love to know, I can't get my hands on Flow GPT. Admins can't. That's a thing that's coming. Absent of that, from your perspective, what advice would you give admins to get ready for Flow GPT?
Ajaay Ravi:
That is a great question. Yeah. Shortly, whenever you see that Flow GPT is available, please do go ahead and use Flow GPT as much as possible, because the more you use it and the more input prompts that you specify, the better it will become with the days and with the years. So eventually, there will come a point when you have a really complicated use case that could probably take days to set up, which Flow GPT can go and do it for you in seconds. But it takes all of us to come together with those simpler use cases at the offset or at the start and then provide that feedback. Even if it is as simple as just indicating thumbs up, thumbs down, please do do that. And yeah, we will make your life simpler and better as we go together.
You make it sound so easy, so go out and don't learn to kick a ball down a street. That's what I heard.
Ajaay Ravi:
That's precisely what it is, if you're on the street.
This has been fun. You are a fountain of knowledge. You probably have forgotten more about GPT than most of us know to date, so I appreciate you taking time to be on the podcast with us.
Ajaay Ravi:
Absolutely, Mike. It was lovely talking to you.
So, that was fun. I learned a lot. I didn't know AI could hallucinate. This is a new thing. Learning together, folks. Now, if you enjoyed the episode, can you do me a favor? Just share it with one person. If you're listening on iTunes, all you need to do is tap the dots and choose, Share Episode. Then you can post it to social, you can text it to a friend. If you're looking for more great resources, your one stop for literally everything admin is We even include a transcript of the show. And be sure to join our conversation in the Admin Trailblazer group, which is on the Trailblazer community. Don't worry, there's a lot of links, a lot of things I mentioned. All of that is in the show notes for this episode. So until next week, we'll see you in the cloud.


Direct download: Replay__Building_Einstein_for_Flow_with_Ajaay_Ravi.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 1:00am PDT

Today on the Salesforce Admins Podcast, we talk to Johnjoe Mena, a self-taught admin and Systems Associate Analyst at Salesforce.


Join us as we chat about how to get started teaching yourself Salesforce and what to do when you feel overwhelmed.


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

Working his way up

Johnjoe worked his way up at Salesforce from the mailroom—literally. “I still didn’t know what Salesforce was when I started working there,” he says, “but in my first and second years I learned so much.”


Johnjoe soon found himself at Dreamforce, working the trading post. As he was handing out prizes to customers, he came to a realization. “Every time I would hand a gift out, I would tell myself this could be me one day,” he says. The next day, he logged into Trailhead for the first time.

Getting started on Trailhead

One thing we hear from people all the time is how overwhelming it can feel to get started in Trailhead. With so many options, there can be a bit of decision paralysis in deciding what to do next. For Johnjoe, it was knowing when to step back and look at the big picture. He took a break and asked himself, “Why am I doing this in the first place?”


Johnjoe shortly came across the Credentials page, and that’s when everything started to fall into place. Looking through the overview of all of the different roles in the ecosystem, he found himself drawn to the admin page and got some guidance on what to do next. “Once I found the Admin Trailmix, the overwhelm went away,” he says, “everything started working for me after that.”

What to do when Trailhead feels overwhelming

One of the most amazing parts about Johnjoe’s story is that he managed to skill up into an admin role while working a full-time job. He leaned on Trailhead GO to get through reading material when he had time to fit it in, like on his commute. And he also points out that once you get started, Trailhead has a way of snowballing as you work towards your goals.


Finally, Johnjoe advises you to go at your own pace and not compare yourself to other people. Sure, there are people out there with a ridiculous number of badges but it’s not a race. We’re all still learning—what’s important is to find a path that works for you.


Be sure to listen to the full episode to learn more about how Johnjoe got started at Salesforce in the first place, and why nothing beats hands-on experience.


Podcast swag



Full Transcript

Mike Gerholdt:
This week on the Salesforce Admins Podcast, we're talking to Johnjoe Mena, or JJ, about learning Salesforce literally from scratch, from the very beginning. JJ is an actual Salesforce admin here at Salesforce, which I find super cool. I mean, you're the admin at Salesforce. And he just got a promotion to systems associate analyst, and we cover a lot. Boy, let me tell you, this is a great episode.
Now, before we get into it, I want to make sure you're doing something, and that is following the Salesforce Admins Podcast on iTunes or Spotify, wherever you're listening to us, because if you're doing that, then you're automatically going to get new episodes every Thursday right on your phone. They come out in the morning. We try to hit that early morning so that you've got it right away. If you're on East Coast drive time, Midwest, Mountain, especially West Coast, you're going to have them before you even wake up. So be sure to do that, because then, your phone is just going to grab the newest one, like this one, and you're not going to miss out on some amazing stuff that JJ has to give us. With that, let's get into our conversation with JJ.
JJ, welcome to the podcast.

Johnjoe Mena:
Hey, Mike, how's it going?

Mike Gerholdt:
Good. Why don't we get started, because you and I chatted before this and you have an amazing story. You also did a lot of work and helped the admin relations team out at Dreamforce this year in the Admin Meadow, because I got an email from one of my team members about having you on the podcast. But to introduce you, I'd love for you to get everybody up to speed to where you're at now, but if you could go back to the days of salad and give us a brief overview of how we got to the podcast today, but starting with the days of salad, I would appreciate that.

Johnjoe Mena:
Yeah, of course. As in the beginning, I started as a salad maker at Mixed Greens, located in San Francisco, California, which was about a two, three minute walk to the Salesforce building. I worked there for about a year and a half, and in that year and a half, I've met a recruiter. And he would always come in, come get his lunch, we'd always just chat, just talk about life. And the more and more he came, we just started getting closer and closer, building a connection. And out of nowhere without even asking anything about where he worked or anything, he just asked, "Hey, are you looking for a job?" I said, "Yeah, I'm looking for something. I don't have much on my resume." And he said, "Don't worry about it. Just send me what you have, and then, I'll connect you."
That same day, after he gave me his card, I went home home and my wife helped me write my resume because I didn't have anything on it other than working at the salad place, send it to him. Two days later, he called me saying that he got me a job in the Salesforce mail room at HQ. And then, from there, when I started at Salesforce is when ... I still didn't know what Salesforce was when I started Salesforce, which is funny, but as my first and second year I was at Salesforce, I learned so much about what Salesforce was and what they did.
And I just would poke my nose around where I shouldn't have and just looking through content, things that Salesforce provided for free. And I was also able to work with Vanessa Ng, who was on the Trailhead team, and she asked me to help at Dreamforce, at the booth. I think a lot of people know the trading posts where you hand out the gifts for going to demos, trails, you get prizes.
That's really where it really motivated me, when customers would come and they would come pick up their prize and they would say, "I'm here for my prize. I'm an admin, I'm a developer," and me handing them a prize motivated me to start this career as a Salesforce admin because every time I would hand a gift out, I would just tell myself, "This could be me one day, me being on the other side, as an admin." And I think going and working at Dreamforce and being in that environment just really motivated me. And then, right after that, I really got into Trailhead, I started doing, figuring out how to work Trailhead, I took classes. And then, once I got my admin cert, I started doing nonprofit work for Salesforce. And then, I would just say my career just took off, really. And then, now, where I'm at now, if we fast forward now, I'm a Salesforce admin for the real estate department, but I got promoted to a systems associate analyst now, but I still do the same work, admin slash developer work.

Mike Gerholdt:
Yeah. No, that's cool, and I think there's a lot of relatable parts to your story. Also, by the way, I really like Mixed Greens. I've been there. That steak salad is wonderful. I also feel like it's the joke on some Midwestern commercials where the guy goes to pay, and it's like 1975. It's like, "No, I'm just paying for my salad."
It's funny if you live in the Midwest, because we don't expect salads to be that much, but it's interesting because you got a job here at Salesforce, so you're very immersed in our culture, which obviously, not everybody is, or not everybody listening to the podcast is, but the way that you learned Salesforce, the platform, was the same way that anybody can learn it, which was through Trailhead.
And then, you also, I think, got a very unique perspective when you worked our training post booth, I think it was at TDX or Dreamforce too, to see the joy of people getting plushies and T-shirts and stuff. I'm curious, we'll go back to those days. You got a job here at Salesforce, but then, it's also, hey, I want to learn the platform. As somebody, and this is a lot of people, as somebody that's getting started in Trailhead, where did you start? What was the thing you sat down and said, "Oh, I'm going to do these modules first?"

Johnjoe Mena:
For me, when I first started Trailhead, it's a lot of stuff on Trailhead so you can get lost, but something that stood out to me when, even just on the homepage, really, was credentials. When you see credentials ... It just stood out to me. And when I saw it, I was like ... I would browse the modules that were there, the today ones, the ones that you can do off the bat just when you get on the homepage. But once I got into credentials and I started looking at the roles and I saw it said Salesforce admin, and then, as you look at what they offer, they have trail mix that you can just click and they have all of the modules for you in line and it's like a school, kind of. They give you all these courses in order for you to do so that you can learn what the product is, how the product works, and then, how to use it.
For me, those credentials, doing the certified admin trail mix is what really helped me just learn really what Salesforce was, and then, what an admin does. And I think having that trail mix ... I think trail mixes are awesome, awesome things, because they're just a bunch of trails put together for you, but you don't have to go looking for, what trail should I do next? Or if you do a trail and then you click on the next one, sometimes, it can take you to different parts of Salesforce. You start learning one thing, and then, you learn another thing, another product.
But the trail mixes, I feel like they're very focused on that one product, that one learning, and that's what really helped me because, like I said before, I didn't know anything about Salesforce. And then, doing the admin one, it teaches you about what Salesforce is as a company, and then, it goes into the product of what the product is, what the features are, and then, how to use the features. Trail mixes is the best thing, I think, that could be created for me, personally, because even for school, it's when the teacher gives you an assignment, you do it. The trail mixes, you see them like, "Okay, I got to do this one. And then, next, I got to do this one." And then, that momentum starts building. You know?

Mike Gerholdt:
Yeah. No, I completely ... Many in the afternoons I start and think, I'm just going to do these one or two trails, and then, it's almost like potato chips. Then, you're half a bag in, didn't even know you went that far. How did you get past that feeling of scrolling around and seeing how much content there was and just being completely overwhelmed?

Johnjoe Mena:
I would have to say that I took a break from Trailhead for a moment when I did get overwhelmed, when I started looking into Trailhead and I started doing trails and ... I really didn't know what I was doing because there's no ... You get badges and you get points, but it doesn't say, "Oh, you're building up to get a certification or any kind of certificate or anything." In the beginning, when I did get overwhelmed, I took a little bit of a break and I stopped doing Trailhead for a little bit. And then, when I got back on is when I just thought, what is the purpose of Trailhead? What is it going to benefit me? Why am I doing this? And I think, once I figured that, I was like, "Okay, I want to be an admin. Okay, how do I learn to become an admin?" And then, that's when the credentials, the roles started showing ... I started clicking where I should be clicking to find admin, the role, the trail mix.
And then, once I got found the admin trail mix is when the overwhelm went away because it just looked like, "Here's all the trails you need to do. Here's the order." And then, it just started just working perfectly for me after that because the way I was doing it, I was looking for ... I would type "Salesforce admin," and then a bunch of trails would just show up and I would start doing one. And I remember I would do ... I did intermediate trails, and then, all of a sudden, I was doing advanced admin trails, and I felt like I was just going everywhere. There was no trail, no path that I was going down. And then, once I found the trail mix, I felt, I was like, "This is perfect. This is telling me what to do, the steps, how to learn everything."

Mike Gerholdt:
Did you ever find yourself going back over different modules or different challenges? I know, on a couple occasions this spring, I had to build a demo on Flow. And mind you, Jennifer Lee's on our team and she's probably forgotten more about Flow than I've learned, but it was a point of pride for me. I really wanted to get into it and understand this new version of Flow.
And I was working through some Trailhead modules and, at a certain point, I found myself just going through it and being like, "Cool, got it done. Wait, I don't remember if I learned anything." And it's not that I didn't learn anything, it was that I was so focused on completing it and moving on that I'd forgot like, "No, I need to take a breath and actually soak this stuff in and go back to a couple different modules."
These are also modules that Mark Ross had wrote. Mark Ross is a Trailhead writer. He's been on the podcast before, and he had suggested to me, and he wrote them for Flow. And I remember going back and thinking, yeah, I remember doing that and getting this one thing, and then, just going back over the module, and it was almost like re-watching a film. I saw so much more. Did you ever go back and kind of redo some of those early Trailhead modules?

Johnjoe Mena:
Yes, I did, in the beginning. In the beginning, yes, I did. I started-

Mike Gerholdt:
So it's not just me. That's good.

Johnjoe Mena:
No. I think it's a lot of people, because when you start doing it, sometimes, you can get in that rhythm of just reading everything, getting to the questions, answering and just next, and you really didn't learn anything because you're going so fast just to complete it. So then, for me, that was, in the beginning, yeah, I would read really fast, read the questions, and then answer, and then move on.
And then, what happens is, when you're doing certain trails, then, you have to do the project once. And then, that's when you're like, "Oh," it's telling you to the next step, but you didn't do any of the steps before because you just read through everything, and then, you answered and you skipped what the project was leading up to. When that happened to me, that's when I started to realize, I need to slow down. Even the question ones, you just got to just read it at your own pace and just, how you said it, observe all the information or all the key information they're trying to explain to you and not really think of it as a race.
I feel like, sometimes, people can think Trailhead is a race, trying to get as many badges as you can. Also, you never want to compare yourself to another person's badges or points. Trailhead, it's your own trail. And I think, as long as you're learning and you're progressing the way you want to progress and you feel that this is benefiting you, I think that's fine, instead of comparing how many badges you have to your friend or to other people. For me, I have 400 badges compared to a lot of people who may have more, but I feel like I have learned a lot in those 400 badges that I've gotten.

Mike Gerholdt:
Yeah. That's a lot, dude, seriously. Are you a four star ranger?

Johnjoe Mena:
Yeah, I'm a four star ranger.

Mike Gerholdt:
Okay. I'm a three star ranger.

Johnjoe Mena:
[inaudible 00:14:11] two weeks ago.

Mike Gerholdt:
Oh, congrats. Oh, my God. That's awesome.

Johnjoe Mena:
Thank you.

Mike Gerholdt:
I want to reiterate what you said. You never want to compare yourself to someone else's badges or points. That's huge. Trailhead is built to be so gamified, but it's a competition that you're having with yourself, and the winner is knowledge. The winner isn't the points. And I think you saying that, man, that was just like, that hit me. That was serious.
You're working in Salesforce, you're doing Trailhead. It's no different than a lot of admins working their day job at an organization, or maybe even not working at an organization as a Salesforce admin. How did you balance ... I'm sure you've got a home life, there's stuff going on there, you got stuff going on at work and you're trying to do Trailhead. How did you fit all that stuff in?

Johnjoe Mena:
I would have to say it's a little of a mix. I know, for me, once I started getting a rhythm with Trailhead, I almost didn't want to stop doing Trailhead. When you start learning and getting into it, you don't want to stop. But then, I knew I had to take a break at times, but I would always try to find time when I had downtime at work, even five minutes, 10 minutes. If I could knock out a trail in 10 minutes, I would do that. I would try to pick that.
Or also just, they have Trailhead Mobile and I would do, on my way home when I would commute, I would do Trailhead on mobile and just learn there, because a lot of trails that were just reading and answering questions. My commute was about 30 minutes, so I would just sit there and just do my Trailhead on my way home from work and on the way to work. It's really ... I try to balance it as good as I could.

Mike Gerholdt:
No, your answer's good. I think you're reaching to be like, "Is there a better answer in my head?" No. I think it's that balance, right? It's also something new, and I would akin to, when you add something to your life, you're like, "Oh, how am I going to fit this in? My day is super busy already." Have you looked at the screen time on your phone to see how many hours you spend on TikTok? Just spend two less hours on TikTok. I'm guilty. And think about all the badges you could do.
But I think you were very poignant in thinking through rationally, "Hey, I've got this commute time, there's Trailhead Mobile. Now, I can't do everything on mobile, but that's okay. I can do challenges that are just questions that give me something to chew on my 30-minute train ride." And that's perfect, because it is a balance. And I think, sometimes, people race too hard because they're comparing themselves to other people's badges and points.
I did that for a long time. I'd say, "Oh, man, someone's got so many badges." And it's like, "Okay, cool," but that's the journey that they're on. You can equate it to something else like, I don't know, bank accounts. Cool. You know how many more people in the world got more money than me? A lot. But that's the journey they're on. And there's a lot of people that don't have as much money as me, and that's the journey they're on. But you can't compare yourself to that. Also, what's the point? I think thinking of badges and points for yourself as a celebration of you. You've done 400, cool. I've done 300. Awesome. That's great for both of us, not you're farther ahead and I'm farther behind kind of feeling. I really like that.
You mentioned briefly, at the end of your explanation, that you worked for nonprofit, and I know nonprofit stuff comes up a lot. I feel like there's both sides of the opinion on it. For new beginning admins, working at a nonprofit, not really a place to hone your skill because it is very high stakes. But also, I've been doing this now since 2006 and I'm still learning. I don't think, at any one point, we stopped learning. We're just very experienced. What did you learn from working at that nonprofit that maybe you weren't getting at Trailhead?

Johnjoe Mena:
I would say it was the real use case scenarios that I was exposed to. They had a use case, they wanted ... The nonprofit I worked for, they wanted to track their volunteers and track where the volunteer was going to be going to, what pet they were going to take, how many hours. I was experiencing the real hands-on scenarios, I think, and it was different from Trailhead because Trailhead, there's use cases, but this was, I getting the real experience of what an Salesforce admin really was doing on a day-to-day basis.
What I learned from there was just, they traded me as their admin and they would come up with a request, we would meet, go through the request, then, I would come up with the solution and we would build it, and then, we would present it and show them. And then, if they liked it, then, we would deploy it to their production org. I got to learn a lot of just hands-on, really, just working as an admin in an org.

Mike Gerholdt:
Well, I feel you're spot on with a lot of the nonprofit stuff and bringing it up because working with nonprofits, it's a little more high stakes, right? It's blue sky, green field of some of the solutions that you're trying to work through as opposed to a Trailhead module where you know where the solution is. I think that's very cool. I appreciate you taking time out and sharing your story with us. I really feel like you've given me some insight and just a little bit of a reset on what it can be like to be overwhelmed and prioritizing things, so I appreciate you coming on the pod.

Johnjoe Mena:
Yeah, thank you for having me, Mike. This was very exciting and fun to be able to share.

Mike Gerholdt:
Well, and congrats on the promotion as well. Look at this, you're learning and ...

Johnjoe Mena:
Thank you.

Mike Gerholdt:
And moving up. You're already ahead of me in badges, but that's okay because I feel like I've got a lot to learn too. Thanks so much for coming on the podcast.

Johnjoe Mena:
Thank you for having me.

Mike Gerholdt:
It was a fun discussion. I don't know if you can tell, but I totally got hung up on that. You never want to compare yourself to someone else's badges or points. It's about learning and feeling confident in yourself and moving forward. And boy, if you just didn't get that tidal wave of that feeling in this episode, go back and listen to it again because JJ really, very rightfully so, gives us a lot of lessons. And it's real useful stuff that I feel I see in here in the community, I see in here in the Trailblazer community a lot, overwhelmed and not sure where to go. I really enjoyed this call. I'm glad I had a chance to run into him at Dreamforce. I'm sure you will at some upcoming events.
Now, if you could do one thing, if you enjoyed this episode as much as I did, share it with somebody. If you're listening on iTunes, I'm going to tell you how to do that. You tap the dots, there's three dots, look for them. It's right in the interface, and you click "share episode." And then, a little share box will come up and you can post it social, you can text it to a friend, you can send it to wherever you would like.
Also, if you're looking for more great resources, everything Salesforce admin is at, including a transcript of the show. If you miss something, you want to go back and maybe reread it because you can't listen to it, I don't know why, there's transcript there.
Now, be sure to join our conversation Admin Trailblazer Group, literally the Admin Trailblazer Group. I saw this question come up so much that I booked JJ on the pod to help us answer this. This is where I get my inspiration as well. You can too. It's in the Trailblazer community. Don't worry, links are in the show notes. Like I say every week, until next time, we'll see you in the Cloud.

Direct download: Transition_to_a_Salesforce_Career_with_Johnjoe_Mena.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 1:00am PDT

Today on the Salesforce Admins Podcast, we sit down for another cup of coffee with Gillian, Josh Birk, Jennifer Lee, and me, Mike Gerholdt.

Join us as we chat about how to get help learning Salesforce when you’re new to the community and where to get guidance for Trailhead.

You should subscribe for the full episode, but here are a few takeaways from our conversation with the Admin Evangelist Team.

"I’m new to the community and I need help learning Salesforce, but I get lost in the different trails. Can someone guide me?”

Every month, Gillian, Developer Evangelist Josh Birk, and I sit down with a cup of coffee and a topic. This time, we’re also joined by the one and only Jennifer Lee. For October, we’re tackling one of our most frequently asked questions: how do I get started learning Salesforce?


Join us as we discuss:

  • Why it’s important to “learn the nouns” by reading Salesforce blog content to guide your work in Trailhead.

  • How learning to do a specific thing can give you the context you need to choose Trailhead topics.

  • Why you should pay special attention to hands-on Trailhead modules and community stories.

  • Why learning Salesforce starts with understanding why companies use it in the first place.

  • The importance of getting involved with the Trailblazer community, even if you’re just listening in.

  • Why everyone in the Salesforce community wants to pay it forward.

  • How to find your local Trailblazer community group.

  • What you can learn from working with your own personal dev org.

  • How Gillian made a Salesforce app to help organize her wedding.


Podcast swag

Learn more

October podcast episodes


Full Transcript

Mike Gerholdt:
So this month on Coffee With Evangelists, we're going to the Trailblazer Community for inspiration and discussion. Not that you aren't a daily inspiration for us, but this category of question really seems to pop up a lot. And that question is, I'm new to the community and I need help learning Salesforce, but I get lost in all of the different trails. Can somebody guide me?
So joining us this month, in October, maybe with pumpkin spice in their latte, is my co-host, Gillian Bruce, host of the Automate This and Everything Flow, Jennifer Lee and, of course, the godfather of Trailhead, Josh Birk. Welcome all.

Josh Birk:
Hello Mike.

Jennifer Lee:

Gillian Bruce:
Hello. Hello.

Mike Gerholdt:
Did you put pumpkin spice in anything? Do you pumpkin spice things now?

Josh Birk:
I don't avoid it, but I don't seek it out, either. I honestly don't see the appeal, to be frank.

Jennifer Lee:
Same. Outside of pumpkin seeds, I'm not really a pumpkin person.

Josh Birk:
The pumpkin seeds, that's a good ...

Mike Gerholdt:
I forgot about that. Like, roasting them? If you roast them in the oven?

Gillian Bruce:
Jen, do you do that after you carve your pumpkins? Or do you get pumpkin seeds from the store and roast them?

Jennifer Lee:
Pumpkin seeds from the store. I've not really carved pumpkins myself.

Mike Gerholdt:
Really? Oh wow. Heard it here first. Breaking news.

Josh Birk:
It's a task. It's a lot of work.

Mike Gerholdt:
It is, and it's not fun.

Gillian Bruce:
I disagree.

Josh Birk:
A lot of it's not fun. I love the carving part, but I kind of wish somebody would do all the prep for me and then just going to be fun.

Gillian Bruce:
You know like the gooey emptying out part of all the pumpkin guts? That's the best part.

Mike Gerholdt:
That is the worst part. I'm with Josh, I'm with you on the carving. With the reaching in for the guts and the stringiness?

Josh Birk:
It's not a texture thing for me. I get bored with that step so quickly and yet, I'm so I want to be methodic and make it the cleanest pumpkin inside as possible that I just get, I just get annoyed by it by the time I get to that stuff.

Gillian Bruce:
Just get a nice sharp spoon, and go for it.

Mike Gerholdt:
I carved a pumpkin, just on the inside.

Gillian Bruce:
I have a girlfriend who was so obsessed with pumpkin seeds that for the many years that we were both single and not carving pumpkins with families, she would literally come over, we would scoop out the insides of the pumpkin and stop there because all she wanted to do was roast the seeds. They're like, cool. So we have a hollow pumpkin.

Jennifer Lee:
Now, I don't know if you all have something like this, but we have a zoo that we go to in Rhode Island and during Halloween they have all these pumpkins that people carve and then they parve some really complex designs in them. There were like Martha Luther King, Michael Jackson. It's pretty cool.

Gillian Bruce:
That's next level.

Josh Birk:
I think they do that at the Lincoln Park Zoo here. I know they do Festival of Lights and stuff like that, which is usually pretty cool.

Mike Gerholdt:
I do have an empty field in my development and I would love to do, if you watch on, I think it's on, it used be on ...

Gillian Bruce:
Pumpkin chuckin'?

Mike Gerholdt:
Yes. Pumpkin chucking.

Gillian Bruce:
They do it in Delaware. It's amazing. I got to go there when I was in DC.

Mike Gerholdt:
Those things are Legit.

Mike Gerholdt:
People spend the whole year building those things.

Gillian Bruce:
They're basically these homemade catapults that people launch pumpkins off of and see how far they can launch the pumpkins. It is so fun. They do it this big huge field in Delaware. The limited amount of time I spent in DC I got to go view this in person one time. It was so amazing.

Mike Gerholdt:
I mean, they have trebuchets, as well.

Gillian Bruce:
Yeah, yeah.

Mike Gerholdt:
But the air cannons, the air cannons are the ones that send it football fields.

Gillian Bruce:
Wow. So fun. So fun.

Mike Gerholdt:
Oh, I just like the splat part.

Gillian Bruce:
And that's exactly how you start learning about Salesforce.

Josh Birk:
Take a pumpkin.

Mike Gerholdt:
Okay, so I pulled this question out. I mean, Gillian, Josh, Jennifer, we've all been around the community for, I told somebody I was like, "Oh, like a decade and a half." And they're like, "Oh wow." And I was like, "Oh God, that doesn't make me feel old."

Gillian Bruce:
It's okay, Mike, you started when you were 15. It's fine.

Mike Gerholdt:
I did, totally, yes. But I think we've had different onboarding experiences and I wanted us to put that fresh hat on of like, okay, so what if we were brand new Salesforce admins today, knowing what we know that Trailhead exists and there's help documentation, how would we tackle it? Because I feel like the beauty of hindsight is, oh, we know all this stuff now here's how I'd go back and do it, having known that, but not, right? So, that's what I'm throwing out. And of course, it's great that we have Josh on because you built Trailhead.

Josh Birk:
And it's interesting to me because how you phrased this, right, was like, I know I need to learn Salesforce, I know about Trailhead. It's not a lack of discoverability of Trailhead, the product itself. It's that Trailhead itself has gotten so complicated that it's hard to just jump in and take the right trails and just get to exactly where you want to go. Why that's interesting to me is that was partially the problem we were trying to fix in the first place. Trailhead used to be so simple. It was like, you're a beginner admin, go here, boom, you're done. Because there wasn't, I don't know how many badges we're up to at this point. Jen probably knows. I think you have them all, right?

Mike Gerholdt:
Right. I was going to say, "How many badges does Jen have?" That's how many we're up to.

Josh Birk:
That's how many we're up to. So it's interesting that we have developed ourselves into this problem, and I think that's really where it comes down to is, it's like I do this joke. Nobody ever asked me about the zebra that I have in my room. Well, why not? Because who would think I have a zebra in my room. Unless you know the noun, it's hard to go after the information itself.
So I think in this day and age where we don't have a lot of workshop tours, we don't have the beginning webinars, I think learning the nouns might be first step. Just start reading the blogs and start reading what is it like to develop and administer on this platform and then dive into the Trailhead, tracking those downs down. Because one thing about Trailhead is that it was intended to be atomic, which means that if you want to just go learn about flow, you can just go learn about flow. Or if you just want to learn about one thing, you can do that. So you can choose your own adventure, so to speak, when it comes to learning a trail.

Mike Gerholdt:
Josh, I can't help but think of your answer in the same way that college is difficult to navigate, too. You go back a hundred years, I'm sure colleges had what, 10 majors and now there's canoeing. I'm sure you could get a degree in canoe. You could probably get a PhD in ...

Josh Birk:
You probably could get a PhD.

Mike Gerholdt:
... water, hydration, floating. It would be something fancy. But the catalogs are super difficult, but people still manage to get through it. It's because, I think, there's one destination in college and I think we imply, or do we imply, that because other things, there's one way to learn Salesforce and people just can't figure out that one way.

Josh Birk:
And also people don't, not everybody learns the same way, right? Developers are, frequently people who like to go in and take existing pieces of code and then pull them apart and put them back together again, which is an exercise we have in places in Trailhead, I think, but not consistently. So, I'd be curious to know how many people rely more on say, stack exchange than ever before because of the level of complexity of the platform these times.

Gillian Bruce:
Well, and you said it's the way people learn. For me, I remember the one thing I took, God, I think I took ADM 201 three times before it finally stuck with me, and I still got out of that course at the last time I took it. I was like, "What did I just do? I have no idea." 'Cos I didn't have the context for how to use this. Now this is pre-Trailhead, but for me it was, "Oh, I should build an app to do this thing," and then going through and doing that, now also, this was right when we were transitioning to Lightning, so there was a lot of push to test and do things, but for me it was putting context behind, I'm trying to accomplish a thing and I'm going to go build the thing.
And the parts of Trailhead that really work for me are the projects, right? Because you're working towards completing a specific goal or task versus, here go play around and build a formula or this is how Omnichannel works. Like, okay, "But I need context. How is this fitting into the bigger picture of things?" So I'm a learn by doing person, which Trailhead has a fair amount of that, but I'm more project oriented in Trailhead than I am straight up modules.

Jennifer Lee:
Yeah, I agree with you, Gillian. I learn best by doing. And so back in the day when I was learning Salesforce, I became a master Googler, right? You go in there, because there wasn't a lot of content provided by Salesforce at that time. So you become a master Googler, you might be able to pull stuff up by ChatGPT, I don't know, but you Google whatever the topic is, Salesforce and then boom. Then you start going through the content and I found the community content was really great, just learning from the practitioners themselves and following along or on Trailhead doing the projects or anything that had the hands-on training. 'Cos then you're learning the concept, but then you're exercising the muscles and actually going through the step-by-step. And that's how I retain information better than if I just read it.

Mike Gerholdt:
Gillian, you brought up a good point, the context. I actually had a friend a while back lose their job in that big retail layoff and showed them Trailhead, and that was the biggest problem that they ran into. Mind you, they're a college graduate in philosophy, which I mean, again, degree in canoeing. But really smart guy, didn't understand why things existed in the platform because they didn't have the context. And so I'm wondering if people that are asking this question, are trying to learn the platform agnostic of having any context to either maybe having the role or how organizations would use Salesforce.

Gillian Bruce:
I will say in the dozens, I don't know, probably more than that, hundreds of presentations I've done as an evangelist in the last however many years. 'Cos again, I started Salesforce when I was nine years old, it keeps getting younger. It's weird. As the years go on, I started Salesforce as a younger person.

Josh Birk:
Sooner later, child labor laws are going to be ...

Gillian Bruce:
You're right. But the one thing that I have found that helps me explain what Salesforce is to people who don't know what Salesforce is, but know that maybe this is a career trajectory they might be interested in, they're like, "Okay, so how do I get certified? Okay, how do I do that?" I'm like, "Okay, but do you understand why people use this platform? Why do people build things in Salesforce? Why are there jobs for people who are Salesforce practitioners? Let's talk about big picture. Salesforce helps companies do X, Y, and Z." And you can pull out a handful of very general examples. And then doing that next level.
Salesforce helps companies organize their customers data because then they're able to do better marketing to sell their widgets better. And it's that kind of trajectory of that context and that bigger picture I find really helps. And so if you are net new, you're like, "Great, I need a new job, or I want to get into the Salesforce ecosystem," don't just do it to be part of the Salesforce ecosystem. Understand what the technology does for companies, why do companies buy it? And I think a lot of times we bypass that and go straight to Trailhead. And I feel like that maybe is a piece for me. At least, that was very important to understand before I started learning the technology on top of it.

Mike Gerholdt:
It's understanding why people would buy a car before you start working on the car to fix it.

Josh Birk:
Well, and even the presence of the car, because as evangelists we all know part of our problem is convincing people we actually have a platform. It's not just CRM, and it can be extended through all sorts of custom data and processes and stuff like that. So there's people running around in a car, but they don't even realize there's multiple gears. I don't know. I'm losing the analogy here, Mike.

Mike Gerholdt:
I know I boxed you in with that. Also, I could hear Gillian be like, damn, another Mike analogy about a car. Totally heard that.

Gillian Bruce:
No. I'm so used to them. I'm be like, well, I mean, Josh, to add for the metaphor, I think what you were saying is like, "Well, sometimes you need a truck to do it and sometimes you need a fast car and sometimes you need a rider mower." And it all depends on what you're trying to accomplish. But Salesforce can do all of those things.

Josh Birk:
I mean, I remember doing just a basic 101, here's how you build out a custom object type thing at a world tour. And somebody came up to me afterwards and they're like, "That was mind-blowing." And I'm like, "No."

Mike Gerholdt:
No, there's so much more.

Josh Birk:
You haven't seen the mind-blowing stuff. That was watching me put the rabbit in the hat and then being like, "I'm going to pull a rabbit out of my hat. That's how mind blowing that was."

Mike Gerholdt:
Well, object permanency sometimes.

Josh Birk:

Mike Gerholdt:
I mean, but I think to that end, it's so, understanding the why, maybe that's where they get lost. Because Trailhead shows you the how and absent of being able to connect it to the why, to me, it sounds like understanding just how to do things on the platform is maybe where they're getting lost because Gillian, to your point, I would learn Omnichannel, but I wouldn't understand why I would do Omnichannel. So I could understand how to customize it. I just wouldn't understand how to talk about it or why I should care.

Josh Birk:
And I think that's also speaks to, because our platform has gotten so broad. So we're talking about Salesforce Core for the most part, but I think you can ask those exact same questions about things like MuleSoft and even some of our clouds and things like that. It's like it's hard to know why you care until you've actually gotten into it, but it's also hard to learn it until why you care.

Mike Gerholdt:
Absent of Trailhead, what role would help documentation, which I feel is its own group of things. And then just turning to the community play for each of you.

Jennifer Lee:
I know when I first started, I was a data consumer of the Trailblazer Community. I was absorbing every single post that was posted, and then I was like, "Oh, well, this person has this problem. How did other people solve it?" And I'm like, "Oh, that's really cool." But I also recommend going to user groups, finding that local user group, going there and listening to what other people are facing, learning from their solutions as well, and networking.

Gillian Bruce:
Jen, I think there's something to that as just being around it to understand how people talk about it and what types of problems they're solving. I mean, I remember still to this day, one of the first recommendations I say to people who are like, "Okay, I'm net new. What do I do?" It's like, "Okay, yes, learn what Salesforce does, learn the technology, but honestly, go be like a creeper in the Trailblazer Community." Maybe not creeper, creeper is the wrong word, but hover.
Just listen. Just see what people are posting, see what answers are getting posted, see what questions are getting posted, see what's happening in their local Trailblazer group, even if you're like, "I don't want to go to a meeting yet." But just being around it and reading and consuming that I think is such a great way to get oriented in terms of, A. What are people doing as practitioners with Salesforce and B. What kind of problems are they solving and how? And I think that's, and even just the language, right? The jargon, what things are called, how we describe certain parts of the platform, I think that's one of the easiest things you can do to get yourself going in the Salesforce space.

Josh Birk:
I mean it's part of our special sauce. It's part of the thing that makes Salesforce the communities distinct. I've had so many people in interviews who talked about learning the platform, and it's hard for us, I think, to say it without it sounding like hype. But we have a community that believes firmly in giving back to the community, and they learn from the community. And so they want to teach you the community. And there's no way of saying that without it making it sound like, I'm just trying to hype it, but it's like we've got rad women, we've got Salesforce Saturdays, we have people who spend time helping other people for free on this platform. And not every tech community out there is like that. And I totally agree with you, Jen. It's like that, don't miss that because it's a special thing out there. And especially now post pandemic, I feel like it's even easier than ever because I think there's still a virtual Salesforce Saturdays that's going on. Wherever you are, there's something that should be accessible to you.

Gillian Bruce:
Well, and Jen and Mike, I mean, this is how you started your careers, right? I mean, you were members of the community, you were giving back, helping other people solve problems, being very active and participatory. I mean, you were evangelists outside of Salesforce before Salesforce hired you, right? I think that's what's so unique and special is because your authentic, there's an authenticity there to how vibrant the community is. 'Cos it's not just Salesforce pushing stuff out. It's what actual people are doing and saying and using,

Jennifer Lee:
Sorry. Go ahead, Mike.

Mike Gerholdt:
Look at these two evangelists, talk over each other. Go ahead, Jennifer.

Jennifer Lee:
So when I joined the community, I was like, "Oh my goodness, these people are just going out of the way to help one another. Don't they have day jobs? What's going on here?" And then when I attended my first in-person event, I think it was Dreamforce, and I was telling my family, I'm like, "Oh, I'm getting to meet these people in person. They're my friends, but I've never seen them before." And they're like, "What? How's that possible?" So, as I mentioned, I was a data consumer, and then eventually I had enough knowledge where I'm like, "Oh, I know the answer to this, so I'm going to start typing." And it was, okay, well, these people before me who knew Salesforce were sharing their knowledge, their time. Now that I get, I'm building up my knowledge, well, I want to give back, too, because someone before me helped me and I'm going to help the people after me. And it's just this natural thing of wanting to give.

Mike Gerholdt:
I think, so a lot of what you said, Jennifer, I was trying to think back as you were all talking, what was the catalyst that got me in?

Josh Birk:
Because I feel like that's the next hurdle, right?

Mike Gerholdt:
You kind of look at Salesforce, oh, there's a lot to learn. There's a lot of things on Trailhead and there's community, but it feels like a lot of work. And I often joke is being so passionate about vacuums that you would join a vacuum community.

Gillian Bruce:
It sounds like it would suck.

Mike Gerholdt:
I remember, so this was back when I was just turned 18 and it was 2006, because I'm following Gillian's Benjamin Button style of aging. But I was just fresh on Twitter, and I remember TweetDeck was a thing, and I started to call them like, "Oh, there's people I tweet about Salesforce." And up to that point, I had just tried to do it all myself. I'll just try to figure it out. And I remember I asked a question and I'm sure I can go back and try and find that tweet. It'd be cool.
But I asked a question and I got 20 responses. And one of the responses, somebody was like, "Hey, send me a DM and I'll give you my email because I think we can solve this. I just need more than ..." it was 120 characters or whatever. Remember when Twitter had that limit? And I remember that. So I did that and it was probably a Thursday or a Friday, and then over the weekend I made a remark to somebody. I said, "This guy from Canada is going to email me this solution, and they're totally going to do it on their own time." And I remember thinking to myself like, wow, that's pretty neat. Maybe there's more to this.
But it felt like, I don't know. And I think a lot of people approach that. They hear community and they hear all this stuff. I should be a part of it. And it's like, yeah, I don't, but it's until you just go out there and ask one question and then you see five different responses that are probably four different ways of solving a solution that you're like, oh, maybe there's something to this. And that was, for me, which then turned me into like, well, if I can get these answers and build this stuff, then why isn't, because Gillian, to your point, Salesforce wasn't putting that stuff out there. That was the gap, that was the void that Jennifer filled as well, too. Salesforce wasn't putting this stuff out there.

Gillian Bruce:
I mean, it's special. It is something unique and it's something really special. It's one of the magical things about our community. Our community. Magical things about the Salesforce, just ecosystem in general, is the community. And until you're in it, it's very hard to describe it. It's very hard to explain it. And I love the stories that you both shared about, yes, so my family didn't quite get it, and I thought this was really special. It's something you don't find in other technologies, other platforms. And I think if you're trying to orient yourself and figure out where do I start? What do I do? I mean, yes, of course you need to learn the technology and go to Trailhead. There's a lot of great things there. I would start with the admin basics trail, if you're going on an admin path, or beginner admin trail, I think is what it's called. But honestly, get in the community. I mean, if nothing that you've heard between Mike and Jen and Josh, just dip in and let it wash over you.

Mike Gerholdt:
I would add to that, simply ask yourself why you are trying to learn this and if it's interesting and fun for you. And I go back to that because I can still remember, Gillian, as you were talking, I was thinking back to the very first time, and this will date me to when I was 19 years old, in 2007, and I built my first workflow and it worked. And I remember sending an email to the sales team, and it was a simple workflow that literally just updated a field that was locked on a contact, based on a pick list value. And it was such a huge thing. And it gave me this sense of accomplishment that I feel probably was lacking that I wasn't getting in my current job. And that was that reason why. But unlocking that was, I was like, oh, I think I found something I'm passionate about.
And I've always heard this quote that was, if you find your passion, you never have to look for your drive, because it will always be there, right? And I think for Jen, I always look at how innate her skill is to build stuff in flow, but it's because she found her passion in flow. And I don't share that passion. I would love to. Mine exists in other parts of the platform. But once you have that, then it feels like the wind is at your back.

Josh Birk:
Well, I think the rise of flow is also interesting because it used to be developers would learn most of, they wouldn't get as expert in admin skills, but we were expected to know what a workflow was. We were expected to know what a validation rule was. We were expected to know what a formula was, et cetera. But flow is so much of its own skillset that it's, but also so powerful. If you want that thing in your resume that's going to help you get that next job, it's really an important one.
But I think it also just speaks to not just the number of products and companies that Mark has bought over the last 10 years, but just to the power and the complexity of the platform itself.

Mike Gerholdt:
Jen, Gillian, final thoughts?

Jennifer Lee:
I think what's also important is as you're learning Salesforce, whatever that thing is, whether it's writing a validation rule or what have you, spin up a personal dev org and you can sign up for that and that will be yours forever. And what I do is I play around with things, right? If I'm trying to learn something new rather than mess up my company's org? I go and play out in my own sandbox, play around with it and get familiar with it. Build apps.
Also use Salesforce for your personal lives. That's something that you're creating your own use cases, right? And then you're just using Salesforce as a solution, but then you're practicing using things in Salesforce.

Gillian Bruce:
Well, and Jen, that's basically exactly what I was going to say. But not only are you practicing using Salesforce and building out the app, but you're practicing all the other things that come along with being an admin. If you are building out an app for your own personal use case, right? You're figuring out what are the requirements? How am I going to test this to make sure it works? I am the user of this, right? I remember I built an app to help manage my wedding as an excuse to tinker around with things. And I was like, "Oh my gosh, how would I do a guest list? How would I do all the event pieces of this?" And it was such a huge learning curve for me, and it helped lock in so many of these concepts of not only how do I build the thing, but why do I build the thing and how do I make sure the thing does what I want it to do?
And I think there's no better way to learn than to build something for yourself. It also, if you make it nice, it's a good thing to demo if you're trying to get a job. Make a screencast, include it in the process of how you're looking for jobs. Shoot, post it on the Trailblazer community. Maybe somebody sees it is like, "Ooh, that person's got talent. I like what they're doing. Maybe they could be my next Salesforce admin." So it serves a lot of purposes, and so great recommendation done. And that is my number one thing to recommend to folks. Get your dev org, spin it up, build out your own use case. Use it as a demo going forward.

Mike Gerholdt:
I couldn't agree more. And that gives you even more things to showcase to somebody to show your skill. Well, this is a great discussion. Thank you all.

Gillian Bruce:
Thank you, Mike.

Mike Gerholdt:
Thank you.

Jennifer Lee:
Thanks for having me.

Mike Gerholdt:
If you enjoyed this episode, I need you, the listener, to do one thing, and that is share it with somebody that you think would enjoy it as well. If you're listening on iTunes, all you got to do is tap the three dots and choose Share episode, then you can post it to social, you can text it to a friend, put it on any of the socials. And if you're looking for more great resources, like some of the links that probably Jennifer and Gillian and myself mentioned, you can always go to Everything Admin, which is And, of course, there will be a transcript and links in the show notes below. And, of course, I know we mentioned the Admin Trailblazer group, so you can join the conversation there in the Trailblazer community. Don't worry, link is also in those show notes. So, until then, we'll see you next week in the cloud.


Direct download: Salesforce_Learning_Strategies_for_Newbies_with_Admin_Evangelists.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 1:00am PDT

Today on the Salesforce Admins Podcast, we talk to Kalpana Chauhan, Lead Salesforce Consultant at Mar Dat. Join us as we chat about Einstein lead scoring and the importance of high-quality data.

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

From math teacher to Salesforce Admin

Kalpana started out as a math teacher but, as her kids got older and she found herself with time on her hands, she discovered she had an affinity for Salesforce. That foundation has been incredibly helpful in her career as a Salesforce Consultant when she has to untangle something like validation rules. “Coding is easy once you understand the logic and flowchart of how it actually works,” she says.

Flows and automation have always held a special place in Kalpana’s heart. There is so much manual work that you can make unnecessary if you’re willing to sit down and thoughtfully analyze a business process. And new tools like Einstein are making that easier than ever before.

Scoring leads with Einstein

One of Kalpana’s clients needed help resolving issues related to proper lead qualification and marketing engagement. “The marketing team was eager to enhance their engagement with leads, while the sales team was seeking better clarity regarding which leads were sales-qualified so they could focus their efforts on conversion,” she says. 

That’s when Einstein came to the rescue. They worked through the AI Wizard and came up with three scores:

  1. Behavior, to evaluate how warm a lead is based on engagement.

  2. Engagement frequency, to figure out what marketing cadence is best for each lead.

  3. Send time optimization, to automate marketing emails to go out at the best time for each lead based on their engagement history.

Together, these scores helped marketing engage prospects at the right cadence while sales could pursue an optimal nurturing and conversion strategy for each lead.

Getting started with Einstein

If you want to start using Einstein in your org, Kalpana recommends starting by taking a close look at your data quality. “Data is the key,” she says, “the more data you feed in, the more accurate your results will be.” That means Implementing solid data validation rules and using screen flows to remove duplicate records. 

Getting up-to-speed on Einstein was easy with all of the resources out there from Salesforce. In addition to Trailhead, Kalpana found Bootcamps to be especially useful. “I love anything with visuals,” she says. She also recommends going to your local Trailblazer Community Group meeting to connect with other admins facing similar challenges.

Be sure to listen to the full episode to learn more about Einstein, email marketing, and data cleanup.

Podcast swag




Direct download: Einstein_Lead_Scoring_with_Kalpana_Chauhan.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 1:00am PDT

Today on the Salesforce Admins Podcast, we talk to Ketan Karkhanis, EVP and GM of Sales Cloud at Salesforce. 

Join us as we chat about all of the new Sales Cloud features that have gone live recently and how you can use them to transform your organization.

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

New features in Sales Cloud

Over the last year, Sales Cloud has gotten a lot of new features and updates. That’s why I was so excited to run into Ketan at World Tour London and get him on the pod. Who better than the EVP and GM of Sales Cloud to tell us all about what’s new?

One thing that the Sales Cloud team noticed was how often businesses have been turning to third-party tools to get things done. So they’ve overhauled features like forecasting and pipe inspection to give you more customization options and flexibility without having to use a bunch of different point solutions.

Drive adoption with Sales Cloud Everywhere

Another problem that Ketan and his team have been working on is how to help drive adoption. As much as we’d like it to be the case, most people don’t do 100% of their job on Salesforce. And the added hassle of going into and out of the platform can create a lot of challenges for users trying to fit it into their workflow.

But what if Salesforce could follow you into other applications and be there when you need it? Sales Cloud Everywhere aims to do just that, with extensions for Outlook, Gmail, and more that will give your reps access to your full CRM no matter what they’re doing.

We need your help

If you only take one thing away from Ketan’s episode, it’s that there are so many new out-of-the-box features in Sales Cloud that it’s practically a new product. If you’re paying for third-party tools, you might be able to save your organization a lot of money just by turning something on.

Most importantly, Ketan and his team want you to know that they need your feedback to make Sales Cloud even better. Try Sales Planning, or Revenue Intelligence, or Einstein for Sales, or all of the above, and let us know how we can help you transform your organization with Salesforce.

Be sure to listen to the full episode to learn more about Sales Cloud, and what’s been added to Unlimited Edition.

Podcast swag



Full Transcript

Gillian Bruce:
Welcome to the Salesforce Admins Podcast, where we talk about product, community, and careers to help you be successful. I'm your host today, Gillian Bruce. Missed you. Nice to be back. I'm here with a very special interview that I wanted to be able to share with you from Ketan Karkhanis, who is our EVP and GM of Sales Cloud at Salesforce. Now, he is a senior executive in charge of all things Sales Cloud. And we had a chat, just running into each other at London World Tour of all places. And it really sparked my idea to have him join us on the podcast, because Sales Cloud has gone under a huge reboot over the last year. There's a ton of new features that I don't think many people are aware of. So, we wanted to dig into that a little bit. And then also, talk about why Sales Cloud and core are developing the things they are, prioritization, especially in the context of AI and GPT these days.
And I promise you, Ketan is going to show you that, hey, core is getting a lot of love despite all of the hype around GPT, which is also very exciting. But we really focus more on that conversation around core development. And he gets into the importance and the role of Salesforce admins. One quick note before we get into Ketan's interview. At the time we were interviewing, the product we were developing was called SalesGPT. That has since changed. And now our AI products for sales is Einstein for Sales. And so, anytime you hear GPT, just think Einstein. So, without further ado, please welcome Ketan to the podcast. Ketan, welcome to the podcast.

Ketan Karkhanis:
Hey, thank you for having me, Gillian. So good to be here.

Gillian Bruce:
Oh, it's wonderful to have you on. I can't believe we haven't had you on before. So, first time guest, long overdue. Ketan, can you introduce yourself a little bit to our audience?

Ketan Karkhanis:
Oh, I sure can. First, a big hello to all of you. I mean this is exciting to be on this podcast with all of you. My name is Ketan Karkhanis. I'm the executive vice president and GM for Sales Cloud. For some of you, I'm a boomerang. So, I was in Salesforce from 2009 to 2019, then I left, did a startup and supply chain, and then I came back to do sales in my prior stint. I've done Einstein Analytics, Lightning Platform, Salesforce Mobile, all the things you probably want to talk to me about also.

Gillian Bruce:
Some things we're very familiar with in admin land, yes.

Ketan Karkhanis:
Yeah, great to be here.

Gillian Bruce:
Excellent. Well, we're happy to have you on. And since you are now leading Sales Cloud, we've got some good questions for you. So, first of all, I would love to know, and I think a lot of our admins are curious, what are some of the top things in Sales Cloud that maybe you think aren't being utilized enough?

Ketan Karkhanis:
Oh, that's a great question. Look, I'll tell you, and this answer might be slightly long. So, Gillian, you should keep interrupting me, because a lot has changed in Sales Cloud in the last year. One of the fundamental things we have focused on is there are two things that happened. Number one was we realized that there was this hyper proliferation of point solutions around Sales Cloud. To work on one opportunity, customers were using seven, eight different other point solutions. These are not market categories. They are features of Sales Cloud. So, one of the great examples I'll give you is forecasting. And amongst all us, our admin friends, we had not innovated much in that space earlier. And it's okay to be honest and say that.

Gillian Bruce:
We like transparency on the podcast, Ketan. Appreciate that.

Ketan Karkhanis:
But we really doubled down on it. And if you now go look at forecasting, you will see that there's still a long journey. I invite you to join me at Dreamforce. But things like customizability, things like bring your own columns, things like adding manager judgment, things like coverage ratio, things like a better user experience, which does not require a help dock. Things like pipe inspection. I don't know how many of you have turned on pipe inspection. Maybe it may not have one or two things you don't need, but it's the new list view for opportunities. Why would you look at opportunities in a list view? Why wouldn't you look at pipe inspection? And everything I said, it's part of core. It's not something new you need to buy. I have a lot of new things I can sell you to. You know me, I'll keep building new things.
But the idea is, how do we get more intrinsic value out? So, you asked the question, so I'll say, I invite you all to check out pipe inspection. I invite you all to check out forecasting. I invite all of you to check out... And I'm listing, Gillian, things which are not like, hey, you need to call an AE right now. These are things which are probably already there, you just need to go turn it on or something like that. The next thing I'll tell you is, look, one of the largest problems I've seen a lot of customers espouse is adoption. Gillian, you hear that from admins, and I hear that. How do I drive adoption? What do I do, right?

Gillian Bruce:

Ketan Karkhanis:
So, one of the capabilities, and it's a very counterintuitive thought, maybe this will work, maybe this will not work, but is we are like we were saying, okay, why can't Sales Cloud or CRM follow you wherever you go? So, let's say you are in Outlook. Yes, I use the O word, Outlook. I can do that on a Salesforce podcast, because hey, a lot of people use Outlook and it's a great email client. I mean, it's fantastic. But what if Salesforce side panel was there right with you? What if your entire CRM was accessible to your end user as a sales rep, while they were in Outlook or they were in Gmail? And even coming one more further is, what if you could do that while you are on LinkedIn? So, this is the idea of Sales Cloud everywhere. It's the Outlook extension, it's the Gmail extension, it is the anywhere extension that's coming out. And again, these are what we think core capabilities, and I invite you to try them. One last thing, because we've just innovated a lot, so Gillian, please interrupt me, okay?

Gillian Bruce:
Give us all the goodies. I love it. This is great.

Ketan Karkhanis:
Now, these were just examples, but you can make a long list of this theme. Now, if you're on unlimited edition. So, some of you might be on UE, you have a special bonanza for you now, because everything I said before is available everywhere. Now I'm focusing only on unlimited edition. We added a ton of capability to unlimited edition, which was previously add-ons kind of stuff. So, for example, conversational AI. How many of you have heard of conversational AI? It's a standard capability. ECI, Einstein Conversational Insights. Go turn it on, try it in UE. I'll tell you, sales engagement, some of you probably remember HVS. And again, transparency, there was some work to be done on that, which we have gotten done last year.
I know there was a little bit of a pause on that, but we have rebooted everything in the past 12 months. It's included in powerful cadence automation. Every inside sales teams needs it. It's out of the box in Sales Cloud UE. Automated capture, Einstein Automated Capture. Do you know more than 20,000 customers have already used Einstein Automated Capture? Are you one of those 20,000? If you are, thank you very much. If you aren't, why aren't you on that list? Because why do you want sales reps to enter data manually? It should be automatically synced. But anyways, I can keep going on, Gillian. There's just a lot. There's just a lot.

Gillian Bruce:
That is a lot. And you know what I really like is all of these features that you're talking about are, like you said, your team's been working on this in the last 12 months. But I mean really these are things that are going to help admins make their users happier. And so, especially when you were talking about basically the pipe inspection is a better list view that's going to give you so much more information. So, why train your users on how to use a list view when you've got this? And they can get the insights just from looking at the list of their opportunities. And then in context, I mean when you're talking about the extension, where you can bring Salesforce and your CRM in the context of which you're already working. Because the last thing a sales rep wants to do is switch windows or have multiple tabs open, as all of us are guilty of having too many tabs open as it is.
But the idea of having that contextual as you're looking at a LinkedIn, as you're looking at your email, that's fantastic. I mean, those are amazing features. And like you said, they're already part of your core experience. So, I'm going to use a Mike Gerholdt analogy here. "If you paid for the Ferrari, don't just use it to drive to the grocery store." You've got all these bells and whistles, you should use them. And I think another thing that I hear often when I'm at community events or at user groups, is you hear people that are paying for all of these third party solutions that do a lot of the stuff they don't realize core already does.

Ketan Karkhanis:
Yeah, I mean they're spending a lot of money. You could be a hero by taking all that out and showing your organization, "Hey, guys, I saved you a lot of money."

Gillian Bruce:
Exactly. Yeah. I mean it's one of those maybe not so secret, should be more overt awesome admin skills, is that if you are really truly an awesome admin, you're probably going to uncover so much money your organization can save when you open the hood and look at all of the third party things that maybe you are paying for, that you already have included in core. It's akin to declarative first development. Use what's out of the box before you go building a custom solution. And I think that is one of the things that we don't talk about enough, having that admin eye to look at all the things that maybe we already have on core, but we don't realize, or whoever was managing the org before you didn't realize.

Ketan Karkhanis:
Or maybe we at Salesforce didn't talk about it too much. I think, so there's some responsibility I need to take too, just because I can. And you're going to see me and my team... As I said, look, it's a new Sales Cloud. Simple as that. The last 12 months, it's a new Sales Cloud. And I invite you, I encourage you, I will gently push you and nudge you to take a look. And more importantly, the two motivation I have behind saying these things is, if you take a look, you will give us great feedback. And that's truly what we want is your feedback. But you can't give me feedback if you have not tried something. It's like a virtual cycle.

Gillian Bruce:
This is taking me back to when we rolled out Lightning back in, what, 2015. And we were doing all those Lightning tours with our product managers. I was doing a ton of them. The feedback we got from people when we were actually getting them hands-on with the new platform and how it worked, I mean every single piece of feedback got incorporated in some way. And I think that's one of the unique things and special things about Salesforce, is that our product is only what it is because of the feedback that we get from our customers. And we definitely take into account. So, Ketan, as leader of Sales Cloud, how important is it for people to give you feedback?

Ketan Karkhanis:
I'll just tell you all my best ideas are not mine. They're yours. So, if you want me to do something good, give me feedback. I'm half joking. But you understand the spirit of that comment, I think. So, it's really important we connect with each other in the true sense of the word connection. Look, you all have made Sales Cloud what Sales Cloud is. You are the reason Sales Cloud is here. And I really, really aspire for you to be part of the journey. The last year, we have rebooted it a lot. We have a lot of new capabilities across the board. And I ain't even talking to you about new things like... Do you know last week, Gillian, we just launched a new product called Sales Planning? Now sales Planning can be done native on your CRM. Do you know we've got a brand new product around enablement to run sales programs in context and outcome-based? That's brand new. We just launch a buyer assistant. That's cool. And Gillian, I'm not even talking about GPT. We are going to need a whole podcast on SalesGPT.

Gillian Bruce:
We can do that. That'll be the follow-up episode, because I know a lot of people are curious about that. But I think speaking of that, we get a lot of feedback, especially now because everyone's excited about AI. Everyone's talking about it, GPT, all the things, great. But the majority of admins I talk to are way more concerned with core features, stuff that their organization's already using. And so, you mentioned that the last 12 months, Sales Cloud has gotten a reboot. Can you give us a little insight into why there was a reboot? What is the priority with Sales Cloud and core features? And give us a little insider lens to why.

Ketan Karkhanis:
No, no, it's a very fair question. Look, the way I think about it is adoption fueled growth is a key strategy for me and my business. And I use the word adoption as the first word in that sentence, because it's really the key word. To me, one of the thoughts I have after talking to countless customers, I went on the road and I met so many customers, and I'll tell you, it was amazing. You sit down with the customer and one of my favorite questions is, how long have you been using Sales Cloud? That's my first question I ask them. And you will be amazed. Some of them were saying 10 years. I met a customer who's been using it for 18 years.

Gillian Bruce:
That's almost as long as Salesforce has been around, right?

Ketan Karkhanis:
Incredible commitment, incredible partnership. And then as I look at their journey and we talk to them, they're like, okay, here's where we need help, here's where we need help, here's where we need help. And how do you build that bridge for them to create a modern selling environment, to create a data-driven selling environment, to create a selling environment where reps are spending less time doing entry, but more time driving deals. And to do all of this, it's not just new capabilities or new products like Planning, like GPT, all those things I talked about, but it's also the foundation capabilities of, okay, let's ensure forecasting is amazing out of the box. Let's ensure a lot of our features are turned on out of the box. Let's ensure we are really funneling our energies into bringing more, I keep saying out of the box, out of the box, out of the box.
That's my way of saying core, core, core, core. But it also implies I want to simplify setup and onboarding. We have some more work to do there. It's not done. And I will be the first person to say, hey, need your help, but trust me, we are committed to doing it. I'm committed to doing it. So, there's countless examples I can give you around all these things we are trying to do. But the strategy is adoption driven growth. Element of the strategy is I really don't want our customers to use seven or 10 different products, because I think...
So, our customers are giving me feedback. They're like, "Ketan, and this is becoming a bit..." I have seven to 10 different tools I have to use, and this happens in the industry, it's cyclical. There's a hyper proliferation of point solutions, and then we go into a tech consolidation phase. So, that is a very key part. That's what we did with Sales Cloud Unlimited. We took all this. We are like, these are not add-on, we just get them. It's like, okay, Gillian, when you buy a smartphone or you just buy... Nowadays, nobody calls it a smartphone.

Gillian Bruce:
They're all smart now, right?

Ketan Karkhanis:
They're all smart, right? Yeah, exactly. But there's a point in that comment. Do you have to choose whether you get the maps functionality or not?

Gillian Bruce:

Ketan Karkhanis:
It's there. It's a feature, it's not a category. That's what we think when we think about things like sales engagement, when we think things like revenue intelligence, when we think about enablement, when we think about planning, when our conversational AI. These are capabilities of the new CRM.

Gillian Bruce:
I love that.

Ketan Karkhanis:
These are not categories. So, anyways, it was a great question. Thank you for asking that.

Gillian Bruce:
Yeah. No. And I appreciate the transparency. And I think what you described about the cyclical cycle, about how tack, the many, many points coming together into being one solution. And I think I feel though we're in the consolidation moment right now, especially with Sales Cloud, which I think that's pretty exciting. Now, in the last minute or two here, I would love to hear from you, Ketan. As someone who has been in the Salesforce ecosystem and at Salesforce for I think as long as I have, seems like forever at this point. Can you talk to me a little bit about how you view the role of the Salesforce admin in a successful-

Ketan Karkhanis:
You're the quarterback. You're the quarterback. Or if the people from other regions, I can use a cricket analogy, I can use a soccer analogy, I can use any analogy you want me to use, but you get the spirit of what I'm trying to say is yes, it's a critical role, it's a pivotal role, it's an important role. Because it's also the role that drives, not just governance and compliance, which is one way to think about it, but also what I call agile innovation. You can show the organization a way to move fast. The person who understands the power of clicks, not core, is connected to the community to bring those best practices from the community into your organization, is connected to product at Salesforce to bring that feedback back to product. You are also now the face of Salesforce in front of your organization, and that's why we love you so much.
It's a tough job. Look, it can be stressful, because you're juggling many balls. There's like every day you've got 10 things you're juggling. You are like, oh, I've got these five requests from this business unit, but I need to do this project, which is long-term. And I've still not gotten done with my data governance priorities, which I had. But it's a critical role, and that's why it's my commitment to you that I want to be held accountable by you. And I would aspire to be more connected to you. So, I don't know how we do-

Gillian Bruce:
Well, this is a first step, Ketan, now everybody knows who you are. So, you're going to start to get feedback as soon as this episode goes live, I promise you.

Ketan Karkhanis:
I had to open my mouth.

Gillian Bruce:
You asked for it. You asked for it. Well, Ketan, I so appreciate you coming on the podcast and giving us some context and insight to what's going on with Sales Cloud, priorities within Sales Cloud, some of the features that maybe we don't know about very much and that we should start be using. And then I also just really appreciate your insights and appreciation for Salesforce admins. I think it's always really helpful to hear from someone who's in the leadership position about how Salesforce really does view the role of the admin and prioritizes it and thinks it's so important. So, I appreciate you.

Ketan Karkhanis:
Thank you so much.

Gillian Bruce:
And we're going to do an episode about SalesGPT coming up soon. Don't you worry about that.

Ketan Karkhanis:
Yeah, yeah, 100%.

Gillian Bruce:
Thanks, Ketan. One quick note and reminder, SalesGPT has changed to Einstein for Sales. So, we're Salesforce, product names change, especially as we come into Dreamforce. So, just wanted to remind you of that. Anytime you hear SalesGPT think of Einstein. Well, that was amazing to have Ketan on the podcast. Appreciate his time. And yes, we are going to do more with him. So, I am looking forward to getting him back on to talk a little bit more about SalesGPT, which I know everyone is clamoring to learn more about. But I did appreciate his honesty and transparency about how Sales Cloud needed a reboot, how they're prioritizing reducing all of the different points of use of other products and other solutions, and trying to consolidate everything into one seamless Sales Cloud solution that helps you with adoption as you're trying to get your users on board.
I love the couple of features he mentioned that I didn't even really know about, was the extensions to bring CRM into your email or into LinkedIn, wherever you're working. And then, I mean, gosh, who doesn't love an improved list view, right? So, go ahead and check out the pipeline inspection list view. I mean, I guess it's technically not called a list view, but what a better way to look at your opportunities. So, we're going to do more with Ketan. I also thought it was great how critical he thought the admin role is, as we all know it is. But I hope that gave you a little insight into how our executive leadership views the role of Salesforce admin and how we are really prioritizing making the admin job easier and helping you make your users more successful. Enough from me. Thank you so much for joining us on the podcast today.
As always, if you like what you hear, please leave us a review. You can also get more information on my favorite website,, for more great content of all kinds. And if you'd like to follow us at all, we are on all the social medias. You can find us on LinkedIn, or Twitter, or X or whatever it's being called these days, at Salesforce Admns, no I, and all over LinkedIn as well. Thanks to the main host of this podcast, Mike Gerholdt, for giving me the chance to bring this interview to you. And I hope you have a wonderful rest of your day. I'll catch you next time in the cloud.



Direct download: Sales_Cloud_Core_with_Ketan_Karkhanis.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 1:00am PDT

Today on the Salesforce Admins Podcast, we talk to Garry Polmateer, CEO of Red Argyle, a Salesforce Consulting agency and a member of the Salesforce MVP Hall of Fame.

Join us as we chat about why admins need to be involved with cybersecurity at their organization and how to start planning.

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

Admins and cybersecurity

Garry and I go way back—we were both in the first class of Salesforce MVPs back in 2010. We recently caught up at Midwest Dreamin’, where Garry gave a great talk about why Salesforce Admins need to be involved in cybersecurity, so I asked him to come on the pod and tell us all about it.

It can often feel like cybersecurity is a secondary consideration for Salesforce Admins, that it’s too complicated to get involved with. While Garry isn’t here to scare you, he wants to remind you that there’s a lot you can do as an admin to protect your organization.

Running away from a bear

When it comes to reducing your risk of a cyberattack, it’s a little like running away from a bear. You don’t have to be faster than the bear, you just have to be faster than the people next to you. Hackers are generally looking for low-hanging fruit, and doing some simple things like enforcing MFA and password best practices is often enough to get them to move on.

However, Garry points out that good cybersecurity is a lot more nuanced than simply not getting hacked. A good security plan protects your organization from itself, whether that’s an accident that leads to a data breach or ensuring that you meet regulatory requirements. And if something does happen, you need to know what to do about it.

A framework for security

Garry lays out a simple framework for looking at security in your organization:

  1. Understand your risks

  2. Respond

  3. Recover

What Garry has found in his consulting work is that while most businesses have spent time on #1, they don’t have a clear understanding of what to do if something goes wrong. That comes down to three simple questions: What will you do? Who will you talk to? And what will you do next?

“Any admin can do this,” Garry says, “and having a communications plan that’s nailed down with some specificity is like an insurance policy for your peace of mind.” And if something turns out to be serious, you have an action plan in place for what to do next so you can act quickly.

Be sure to listen to the full episode to learn more about security considerations you might not be thinking about and everything you need to know about backing up data.


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Direct download: Make_a_Cybersecurity_Plan_with_Garry_Polmateer.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 1:00am PDT

Today on the Salesforce Admins Podcast, we talk to Christine Stevens, Senior Salesforce Consultant at Turnberry Solutions.

Join us as we chat about the keys to user management and why documentation is so important.

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

Start with documentation

Christine is another guest we’re bringing on from Gillian’s Skills for Success video series, where she shares her tips for user management. We couldn’t pass up the chance to bring her on the pod to hear more and ask some questions.

User management starts with a solid onboarding process and, for Christine, that comes down to good documentation. New users have a lot to learn and having clear process flows can help them make sure they’re doing the right thing.

Christine recommends showing the same process multiple ways, like a flow chart for more visual people and a step-by-step list for folks who just want the instructions. The same goes for In-App Guidance—some users love it but other users would rather have a printed reference next to them for help as they go.

Good documentation tells a story

When it comes to documentation, it’s important to remember that different industries have different terminologies that might overlap with Salesforce terms. Christine points out that an “account” might mean one thing to an accountant, a different thing to a lawyer, and yet another thing to a Salesforce Admin.

“Write the training like you’re telling a story,” Christine says. Whenever possible, put documentation in terms that make sense for the industry your users are working in. This makes it easier to follow and easier to update. What your users need to do probably won’t change that much, even if how they do it in Salesforce does.

Empathy and patience

Whenever possible, Christine recommends taking a close look at your company’s existing technical documentation. You can save yourself a lot of time by adapting it to fit with Salesforce, and it’s likely that there has already been a lot of thought put into how to document key business processes in a way that makes sense for your users.

Finally, Christine reminds us that the keys to user adoption are empathy and patience. Change is hard for anyone, so it’s especially important to take the time to listen to people and hear their concerns. If you can get to the root of the problem there’s often a simple fix.

Be sure to listen to the full episode to learn more about managing permissions, some new things coming in Winter ‘24, and how Christine reverse-engineered an abandoned Salesforce instance.

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Full Transcript

User management is one of the four core habits of a Salesforce Admin and big responsibility that we all take on every day. So it really only makes sense that I talk with Christine Stevens about user management, documentation and user adoption. Now, Christine is featured in our Skills for Success YouTube series that Gillian launched just right before Dreamforce. And if you've been following along with us on the podcast this month, I've called it Skills for Success September. And so we're going to round out September by talking about user adoption and user management. But before we get into the episode, be sure you're following the Salesforce Admins Podcast on iTunes or wherever you get your podcast. That way you get a new episode every Thursday right on your phone. It's like magic and I promise they all don't sound like this one because Dreamforce kind of wrecked my voice. So with that, let's get Christine on the podcast. So Christine, welcome to the podcast.

Christine Stevens:
Thank you so much for having me, Mike.

Well, I'm glad we are able to connect and round out September our Skills for Success September and talk about user management, which I mean that to me is the basis of success for admins within an org, for users, for really everybody. I mean, if users are using the system, then everybody's going to be successful. So let's dive into that. But first let's find out a little bit about you, Christine. How did you get started in the Salesforce ecosystem?

Christine Stevens:
Yeah. Sure. So I got my start in Salesforce back in 2014. I actually joined a small ISV partner called Accounting Seed. So they originally hired me as their bookkeeper. And I want to say about three months into the job, I had no idea what Salesforce was, one of my managers approached me and they're like, "You're going to be working on our support team. You're going to be helping our users get onboarded with Accounting Seed and Salesforce." And I'm just like, "Oh gosh, I know what Accounting Seed is because I've been doing the bookkeeping, but I have no idea how to use Salesforce." So they're like, "We'll send you to Salesforce training and all the shebang." So I went to Salesforce training over the summer of 2014. I really liked the class, I really liked the material. So I spent maybe about a month after that class studying for the Salesforce Admin Certification, and then I eventually took the test and actually passed the first time. And since 2018, I've actually been working as a consultant for various consulting firms.

Wow. Passed the first time. You're in a minority there. That's really cool. Because I know a lot of people don't pass the first time. Ironically enough, your story mirrors a lot of admins. "Hey, I'm working for this company now and I'm in charge of Salesforce." "Oh, cool. I know what that other thing is. I don't know what Salesforce is, but let me figure that out." I know in the Skills for Success series with Gillian on the YouTube channel, which we'll link to in the show notes, you talk about user management. So let's dive into some of the user management stuff because I know there's a lot around with profiles and permission sets and being a consultant, I'm sure you run into all kinds of nightmarish scenarios where there's lots of things set up. But at the core, as admins get orgs set up or dive into orgs, where should they get started?

Christine Stevens:
I would say the most underrated skills that I find that is not done on a lot of projects is documentation and training. I feel like those two things are when you're cutting the project budget, those are the first two things to go. But also I find those things important because when you're training, you want to give your end users documentation. They're going into a new system, they don't know how to use the system. And the first thing I've always noticed a lot of users ask is like, "Okay, you're showing me this cool system, I see this and that, but I feel really overwhelmed and I can't really absorb this knowledge right now. Where can I go after this training session to review what we just had? Or can I have a documentation on hand? So as I'm learning and navigating the system, I have a reference guide to refer to."
So what I like to do on a lot of projects that I work on is I do documentation. So I usually like to do process flows because we have some users who are very visual and if they see the process flow of how to do everything, they're able to follow that. And then I have users who just like to read a book of documentation. I also write documentation guides along with little screenshots. And I think that is really important so that they can see where they go and they just have that hands-on guide next to them as they're clicking around in the system and it gets them more comfortable and confident in using the system.

Yeah. Having done some implementation projects, I always know documentation is, it's like when you're building a house, they go, "Oh, we can paint the walls for you." "Nope, that's fine. I'll do it myself. It's totally going to save me money." And then you're a couple of hours into painting the first wall and you're like, "Should've paid for this, should've had somebody else do it." What's interesting, I thought you went a different route with documentation, so I'm going to go down your road with you and then come back. Do you find when you're building documentation for users that they enjoy having something that is outside the system? And I ask this because we have in-app prompts and we spend a lot of time on that versus having stuff help guide them through the system.

Christine Stevens:
So I've seen it go both ways in my experience. So I have some end users who like to have that outside documentation. They just like to have a printed copy of that document sitting next to them as they're on their computer, they have the document sitting next to them and they're clicking around in Salesforce using that guide. But then also I have users who like to use the in-app prompts such as the screen flows, the help text, the little pop-up icon when you're clicking on a field and you have the pop-up icon to see the additional information.
And then one thing I liked really doing in the past for UAT is when we built our test scripts, I worked for a company at one point where we designed a training app and we would load it into each of our client's sandboxes and we would load our test scripts, which contained the steps to test each process. So that information was in Salesforce. And what I've noticed what quite a few customers have done over time with that app is they would take our instructions if they were well written and turn that into their training documentation. So they would show users where to go in Salesforce and then they would just go into Salesforce, maybe have it up on another screen and just be able to navigate those test scripts as they're entering their real life information into Salesforce.

Yeah, that makes sense. How do you advise as an admin sitting here thinking, oh man, documentation. It always works out nice to start fresh when you have a new project. But for admins that are like, "Okay, I've got to go back and document some stuff." How would you recommend somebody tackle that?

Christine Stevens:
Yeah. So I've been involved in quite a few projects where I was thrown into the middle of the project as an admin. So there was a project I worked on last year and they had a Salesforce org that was about 12 to 15 years old and nobody on staff knew how to use the org. So what I did to figure out how things worked is I just dove into the backend of the system. I started looking at the Schema Builder to really understand the object data model, and then I just dove into the objects to see what kind of fields there were. I dived into the flows.
I started really looking into the flows and writing on a scratch sheet of paper what the flow did, what objects it was touching and then I ended up taking that. And the good thing about the company I worked for when I was doing this is they had templates of technical documentations that you could write. So I just took all that information that I documented onto that scratch sheet of paper and put it into that document, and I actually presented it to my clients and they were like, "Wow, in the 15 years we have this org, this is the first time we've had completed documentation." And they asked me, "Who showed you how to use the system?" And I was like, "Nobody. I actually took it upon myself to really dive into the backend myself to really understand how things worked."

Wow, that's cool. I love that tip of look for existing technical documentation because you know most companies have that.

Christine Stevens:

You're not starting from scratch. Okay, so I love where you went with the documentation question, you threw me a curveball because I wasn't even thinking about users and wanting to look at the process to understand what they're inputting in terms of the technology in front of them. I was thinking documenting user profiles and user management, and I thought that's where you're going to go. So I'm going to throw that at you, so here's your curveball. Which is, as a Salesforce Admin, I think it's always very important that we make sure that for security reasons, our profiles and permission sets and permission set groups are always up-to-date. How best do you recommend for admins or some of your clients to document that?

Christine Stevens:
Yeah, so there is an app that I've used in the past, and the name of it does not come to the top of mind. Because I know the issue with documenting profiles and permissions, it's not really easy to abstract that information out of Salesforce. At least that's how it's been in my experience. You do have to do some clicking around. So there was an app that I've used in the past that allowed for you to export your profile and permission information just so that you had up on, I think it put it into an Excel spreadsheet so that you had an Excel Doc and it had the different profiles listed along with the different permission sets.
I think the profiles were rows and then the different permissions for columns. Maybe I have that flipped. And you could see right on screen, okay, what does this user have access to? And when I showed that app to some of my clients, they were actually surprised at what they saw. They saw there were times that they had users who had too much access to the system because a lot of clients, their default is to give everybody admin access just so they don't have to go through that strategy of thinking of limiting access.
But as a consultant, I advise against that. And then another thing I advise against is always updating your profiles is you have these permissions, and I know you have, I think they're called permission groups now, where you can group the different permission sets together. So when I'm working with a brand new client with a net new Salesforce org, I encourage them to go down that route and use that app, and then we just go through it, clean up the permission sets. And I think with that app, you are able to directly load back into Salesforce those updated changes so that they could take effect immediately. Because I know with the user interface of Salesforce right now, you have to go through one by one on the objects and update the permissions, and I know that's a nightmare for a lot of people.

Yeah. Well, the good news, and I'll link to this in the show notes, I saw at Dreamforce, because we're coming off Dreamforce from not that long ago, in Winter '24 at the release readiness live that we did, Cheryl Feldman demoed that you can, A, now select all on permission sets. So that's in that video. And B, you can also see all of those permissions-

Christine Stevens:
Oh, wow.

... on a page. So there's some improvements coming. Everybody cheered, so I know I am underselling it by 1,000% right now. But everything you mentioned was stuff that's coming now in Winter '24 because, yes, I mean it can be a little bit of a who sees what, who saw what, and just set them up as an admin, I just need them... And it's like, "Right, but we need to do this with the right security in mind so that people aren't seeing things." To your point on documentation when doing training, what is your best advice for tackling and making sure that your documentation doesn't get out of date?

Christine Stevens:
I would say the biggest thing I've been focusing on in most recent years, especially as I do training and write documentation, is I find that my customers can consume the training better is if you write the training like you're telling a story or you're telling a day in a life story. So right now I work with a lot of clients that are law firms, so they like to hear the law firm terminology as you're going through stuff. So I try to relate it to the industry that they're in and the role that they're in. And as long as I write it as a story, it makes the updates easier. I noticed with a lot of training documentation that I read sometimes, it's very technical versus user-friendly. And I find when you write it in more of a technical nature, you have to update it more versus if you write it in a story mode, sometimes I find that I'm going through and maybe updating the screenshots and maybe the text here and there.

Yeah. Right. But the story sometimes doesn't change a whole lot because it's the same.

Christine Stevens:

Yeah, that's a really good tip. Plus, I mean, if you think about it, how has humans throughout the span of history moved knowledge and data before the internet or before, I don't know, chiseling in stone? We told stories. There were storytellers, they would go from village to village and knoll to knoll. I don't know, people lived in knolls I guess. Or maybe under bridges.
Let's dive into user adoption and I'm going to ask you a question. Yeah, here we go. First day at Dreamforce, we did these one-on-one consults in the Admin Meadow. I love doing them, they're super fun. They're a little challenging, I won't lie, there's a lot of people that came up that had some very challenging things. A couple individuals sat down and said, "So we've spent five years trying to solve this and we can't fix it yet." And I said, "Good, we're going to do it in 20 minutes." Tongue in cheek. One question though, this is the first person I had as a consult, they sat down, they said, "What's the secret to user adoption?" And that was their question. And I said, "Oh, well, let's talk about that." I'm going to ask you, Christine, what's the secret to user adoption?

Christine Stevens:
I would say in my opinion, the secret to user adoption is it's always evolving. There is no one unique way of doing user adoption. At least that's how it's been in my experience. It's really understanding, sitting down with your users and really getting to know them on a personal level and how they work. I find when I do those two things, I do find myself adjusting as I engage in user adoption with a lot of my users. I don't have the same training style for each of my clients, it shifts a tiny bit. And I would say the biggest personality trait to have successful user adoption is to be empathetic because sometimes I work with a lot of clients who are in the accounting industry and accountants, they love their QuickBooks. So when they're moving to Salesforce, they're either moving to an Accounting Seed or a FinancialForce. I think they've changed their name to something else that I forget off the top of my head.
But most of the time when those users are moving the Salesforce, they're pretty upset because they don't want to leave QuickBooks because QuickBooks is pretty easy to use and now they have this massive Salesforce system and they're just like, "Oh God, I just don't want to do it." And it's just the key that I get to get users to use the system is just to be empathetic and also be patient. Because sometimes I find with clients, we are going over some stuff over and over again, which helps me to adopt my user training. Sometimes the training might not be efficient or maybe I'm not using the language.
One thing I try to do is just really adopt in terms of speak the client's language versus the Salesforce language. Because if I use account, not everybody thinks account is an account. Some people think accounts are like client accounts. I know in the legal industry, accounts are parties. So really adopting that language because I find when I adopt the client's language, they are more likely to adopt this system faster because they know what account translates to in their language.

Right. Yes. I could not agree more. And in fact, sometimes I've stumbled in training and used a technical term, "Wait, I mean this instead." Everybody comes back and does that. So you mentioned training and I want to touch on that because I think there's a fair group of admins, I'll group myself in there, that actually really enjoys doing training. Training is a form of public speaking, so I'm not very scared of that. But there's also a fair group of admins that, if I can just send somebody a manual, maybe a link to a video, I'm good. What's your advice for admins that have to tackle that? Because there's definitely admins that are very outgoing that maybe only have 10 users and can be around all the time. And then there's definitely admins that aren't very outgoing and they might have 100 or 200 users, but they still need to train them.

Christine Stevens:
Yes. I would say on a personal level, myself, I'm actually not a very outgoing person, I'm very introverted. So that's something I've struggled with throughout my career also. What's helped me is I've actually invested time into public speaking. So I've gone to things like Toastmasters and really found things to talk about that I'm passionate about. And once I found things that I'm passionate about speaking about, that translated very well into speaking about stuff related to training and user adoption. So I think of it as a game. So when I'm doing those training sessions, I think of it like, "Okay, this is something that I'm passionate about." And just remind myself, what is the end goal. I try to set goals for myself when I'm doing these kinds of trainings. And I feel like when I have the goal and the passion, it feels like it's so much easier for me to get through those sessions.
And then I'll also say, what I try to do prior to those training sessions is I try to meditate or I try to take some quiet time because training, it can be exhausting. And when I take that quiet time and also time to rehearse before the call, I usually have a successful training call. I mean, sometimes there are people I speak to who can be quite difficult and usually when I encounter somebody who's difficult, I try to follow up with additional questions to ask them. Because sometimes when you follow up their question with a question or their frustration with a question, it causes them to pause and think about what are they trying to say or what's the point they're trying to get out there. And either they dial it back or they try to figure out a better way to phrase their question.

Yeah, the number of times you have to grit your teeth sometimes at that difficult person in training and you think, "Why are you doing this? This is making it harder." And then you sit back and it's that layer of empathy that I've always had to be like, "Oh, they just need this information in order to move on. They're not trying to make things harder on you. This is a gap that they need filled as well." I think this would be something that a lot of admins are very curious about. User management always falls under the house cleaning stuff, that we always have to maintain, got to make sure everybody's got, what I call, the right key to the right door, permission sets and profile groups and stuff like that. When you talk to admins, what do you advise them on in terms of reporting around user management that shows their ROI?

Christine Stevens:
So I usually ask them what are their key performance indicators? What are we trying to measure here? Are we trying to measure the amount of times user login? Are we measuring based on the amount of records that are being created in Salesforce? And I always find that as a consultant, this always varies. So the client I worked with last year, they measured success just based on the number of intake records. So they were a financial services company and their key performance indicator was just the number of clients they onboarded each month. So when I first joined the project, they noticed their client onboarding was on a decline and we started the investigation of the reason why. So I did a couple of interviews with some of the admins on the team and I also talked to some of the end users and the end users had a lot of complaints about the system.
So I was working as a business analyst on this project. So I just went through, documented all their concerns and then I went to the admin team and I'm like, "Okay, here's what I'm finding why they're not adopting the system." So one reason was they had to create accounts and at that point their account creation process was manual. And they also had a lot of fields on the account page layoff that they weren't using. So I worked with their admin team, so we ended up building a screen flow to do the intake and just having the specific fields that their agents cared about filling out when they were onboarding a client. So when we presented that to them in a demo session, there was a lot of cheering and clapping, they were like, "This process is so much more automated." And the first month we implemented that, their client onboarding was significantly higher than the beginning of the year. And that was just really cool to see. And we wouldn't have known that if I had not sat down and had the conversations with the end users.

Yeah. Man, I am right with you. I remember for the longest time, I had the hardest time getting salespeople to create contacts. And there was just a whole bunch of superfluous fields there that other teams needed. This was the days before Dynamic Forms, by the way. And the biggest thing that always stuck with me, and a trainer like yourself told me this, was nobody wants to show up to their job and feel stupid. And leaving a field blank on a page when they're creating a record, unintentionally made my users feel stupid because they're like, "Should I know this? Why don't I know this? Maybe I shouldn't be creating this contact." And it was that little bit that was just enough to stop them from hitting that new button. Which was a measure of their success as well, but we didn't uncover it until we got into some later project phases and I had a boss that asked for that and somebody finally stood up and says, "Half these fields, I don't even know when I create the contact."
And I was like, "Oh, well..." Workflows and record types at the time was how I solved it. But yeah, screen flows. I love that answer. That's great. Christine, thanks so much for coming on and sharing some user management. I love the documentation aspect of it. I feel like there's just never enough that we can do to really drive people through and help them understand and drive that user adoption. So I appreciate you taking the time out and being on the Skills for Success video series and then sharing some extra insight with us here on the podcast.

Christine Stevens:
Yes, thank you so much for having me on, Mike. It's been fun.

So that was a great discussion with Christine. I really enjoy the tip that she had about look for existing technical documentation within your organization and then copy off of that. I think sometimes when we're thinking we've got to write user manuals or we've got to write process documentation, we're starting from scratch and we don't know what's out there. Hey, I bet your organization has something out there. This is also a good opportunity for you to make friends over in your IT org, maybe they can help you with that documentation as well.
Now, if you enjoyed this episode, can you do me a favor? I just need you to share it with at least one person. And here's how you do it. If you're listening on iTunes, you just tap the dots and choose share episode. Then you can post it social, you can even text it to a friend, maybe a friend that's looking to build some user management adoption documentation. And of course, if you're looking for more great resources, your one-stop for everything admin is, including the transcript of this show and links to that YouTube series. Be sure to join the conversation over in the Admin Trailblazer Group in the Trailblazer Community. Again, links are in the show notes. And with that, until next week, we'll see you in the cloud.

Direct download: Christine_Stevens_on_User_Management.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 1:00am PDT

Today on the Salesforce Admins Podcast, we’re replaying our episode with Sarah Flamion, Research Architect on Salesforce’s Research & Insights Team.

Join us as we chat about what recent advances in generative AI mean for admins and the Salesforce platform.

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

What is generative AI?

Generative AI is a blanket term for algorithms that can generate new content: text, images, code, voice, video, and more. It does that based on what it has learned from the existing data you give it.

Sounds complicated, but one of the coolest things about generative AI is that the interface for it is natural language processing (NLP). You can describe what you want it to make in plain English and it will spit something out at you.

The human in the loop

One thing that’s important to understand about generative AI is that it’s not an encyclopedia, it’s a completion system. Fundamentally, the way it works is to identify patterns and then predict the next thing in the sequence.

A new field is emerging called prompt engineering, which is focused on how to talk to these models to get better results. You can adapt the model to specific knowledge by “grounding” it with data that isn’t public, for example, your brand voice or information about your industry. You can also give it feedback on its responses, which gives it a chance to learn and improve thanks to “the human in the loop.”

The main takeaway from all of this is that generative AI “supercharges the things that the humans can do,” Sarah says. You can make an image and then have the model give you three variations on it, or get a quick first draft for the opening of a piece of content you need to write.

Jobs to Be Done and Salesforce

For Salesforce, there is a lot of potential to make users’ lives easier. You might be able to automatically log calls based on an AI-generated transcript of the conversation, or clean up old data that was perhaps sloppily entered.

Sarah and her team often look at their research in terms of Jobs to Be Done. Businesses generally have a list of jobs they’re trying to accomplish and then use tools, like Salesforce, to help them do those jobs. The thing is, the tools might change but most businesses will have the same Jobs to Be Done, even over decades. Generative AI stands to shake that up, both in terms of what businesses need to get done and who can do those jobs.

Be sure to listen to the full episode for our in-depth conversation with Sarah and why change management just might be the most important skill for admins in the future.

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Full Transcript


Hey, Salesforce Admins. Boy, last week was busy with Dreamforce. And even if you didn't get to go, I'm sure you saw a lot of the news around AI and generative AI and GPT, and boy, just a lot of things going on. So in the spirit of making sure that you're staying up-to-date, I'm going to rebroadcast an episode that I did not that long ago, literally just a month or so ago, with one of the generative AI specialists that we have here at Salesforce. So listen in. This is a fantastic conversation that I have with Sarah.


So Sarah, welcome to the podcast.

Sarah Flamion:

Thanks. I'm happy to be here.


Yeah. Before we get started, just give us a brief history of Sarah's journey to Salesforce.

Sarah Flamion:

Sure. So I have worked at a couple different large enterprise organizations. I worked at General Electric back when they had a Capital Services division. And then, I worked at a company called MedPlus, which is part of Quest Diagnostics, a big lab on their electronic medical record. So I like big software.

And I interviewed with Salesforce. I was interested in switching to a more established research team. And I interviewed on the day that ExactTarget got acquired by Salesforce.


Oh, wow.

Sarah Flamion:

I tell people I've been with Salesforce exactly as long as ExactTarget has.



Sarah Flamion:

Exactly. That's right.


Perfect. Well, I appreciate you sharing that with us, but we really want to... I really, really, really, really, really want to dig into generative AI because I feel like I can't shake a stick or go to any social post without people talking about it or my friends talking about it in tech. So I'll just start off with the obvious question. What is generative AI?

Sarah Flamion:

Well, it's a great question. I think a lot of people are still on the learning curve about it. When we talk about generative AI, we are generally referring to algorithms that can create or generate, that's where the name comes from, new content. And that can be text. It could be pictures. It could be code. It could be voice. It could be video, and it does all that based on what it's learning from existing data.

And the newer cooler thing about generative AI is that it's creating that content in a way that's controlled by natural language. So people can just conversationally describe what output they want, and they don't have to have special expertise to get that out.


Okay. That makes sense. So hearing that from you, I'm wondering why is everybody freaking out about this?

Sarah Flamion:

Sure. So it might be worth explaining a few more things about generative AI to help it make sense. If you think about AI, we use this word called a model. It's basically like a computer program or an algorithm that can be trained on large amounts of data, and it can learn patterns and relationships between those, and then use that to do things.

Generative AI has these large language models. They sometimes call them foundation models, but they're different in that they're huge. So all these models have little parameters that can be configured to tweak how it behaves and functions.

And the foundation models behind generative AI have billions of parameters. And they've been modified so they can ingest just massive quantities of data. So you'll hear a lot like the term GPT. That is a famous model. The G is for generative.

The P means pre-trained, and that is kind of the secret here, where it's trained on this huge broad set of data, not unique to any particular task. And it can learn in a, they call it, self-supervised way, but it can learn without a human having to control all the learning. And then, the T is for transformer. That's a capability that allows the model to understand relationships.

But people are freaking out about it. I think right now, we have an AI research team that published a blog post called, If You Say It, You Can Do It, the Age of Conversational AI. But in it, they talk about how the world is primed for this type of advancement.

I think all of us have had the experience of information overload where there's just more to consume than time. So there's more emails and Slack messages and texts and podcasts, articles that look interesting than any human could really ingest.

And we're all also working a lot. There's increasing workloads and this pressure to do more with less. And the article, they refer to trapped potential, but you've probably worked with people who have ideas, but maybe not the skills to execute them. So they have an idea for an app but can't maybe make it happen, or something they want to do at work, but they lack some sort of skill that's required. So we're sort of ready for this new kind of fundamental way to interact with our tools. And then, you get this fundamentally new tool. So the timing was right.

Generative AI is different from previous ones in that it can generate new content. So it's not something that previously existed. It can make net new things, and it can make them in unstructured ways, so long texts or images or videos. So I'm sure you've seen examples in the past of AI being able to identify photos.

So you can classify a photo as a dog or a landscape. And now, it can make a new dog or a new landscape based on what it's seen. So if you ask it, it can generate this new thing. And it also can be used for a wide range of tasks.

So I commented on the broad data that it's trained on, but AI in the past was pretty narrow. So it was designed to do a thing like language translation or image recognition. And shifting from that narrow to this really wide possibility is a pretty fundamental change. So the same tool can be used to do just this incredible array of things, and that's pretty transformative.

You'll also hear people talk about it being multimodal. So that's just a fancy way of saying it can process and generate output that isn't text, which makes it a lot easier to interact with as a human person. We're much more multimodal in the way we talk. We use words, but also we make sounds, and we're using visuals and gestures. And so, the more conversationally we can interact with the technology, the more natural it is.

And I think as part of that conversational thing, you'll see that if you've played with any of the tools, you can ask it to do something for you. You can ask it to produce output. And then, you can interact with it, and you can say like, "Well, actually, that's not what I wanted. I thought it would be, can you make it less formal or, I want this image to be more in the style of this other thing," and it'll adjust it. So it's adapting based on what you're telling it, which again makes it feel more conversational.


On our previous podcast at the end of May, talked with Josh Burke, who is big into Midjourney and generating images from that. And I said, "Can you just do a demo for me?" And I was so fascinated that he was able to just put in... I think he put in cat on a pirate ship.

Sarah Flamion:



And it came back with that. And then, he's like, "No, but change this and make it in the style of Van Gogh." And I thought to myself, "Oh, well, this is going to be interesting what comes back with." And it understood that.

Sarah Flamion:

Yeah. And you'll see... So OpenAI introduced ChatGPT in late 2022. And the public-facing person hit 100 million users in two months, which is the fastest growing app of all time. And I think the conversational nature of it is really what is behind that. It's so easy to do.

My sister was talking about her daughter is a kindergartner and has been writing stories and wants pictures for them, but they're very specific pictures. And she's been using Midjourney to create a purple cat in high tops skateboarding in the neighborhood.


Totally [inaudible 00:08:39].

Sarah Flamion:

Yeah. So it's such a low lift that you can really play around with it. Yeah. So it's been pretty fascinating thing to be a part of.


So without getting too technical, just thinking ahead here, what are some other concepts that myself or Salesforce admin should understand about generative AI?

Sarah Flamion:

Sure. I think, fundamentally, one thing that is worth understanding is that it's not a big knowledge repository. It's not just like a giant encyclopedia where you go and find the answer. It's really more of a completion system. So the tool is predicting the next element of a sequence based on the information that's been trained on.

So if you give it a sentence like today is a rainy, it can predict the next plausible text like day. It doesn't just always pick the highest probability word, that makes it sound really flat and kind of weird. Those parameters that we talked about kind of changed that. But it's probably important to understand that what it's really doing is going out and completing sequences rather than acting as a repository.

There's also some language that you'll hear. So if you're looking around at generative AI, you'll hear it talk about prompts. And those are just as natural language descriptions of the task could be accomplished. So the example I was giving earlier, give me a picture of a cat who's purple and is wearing high tops and is skateboarding.

You'll probably hear the term prompt engineering a lot. That's kind of a new field that is out there now, which is where you design and formulate these really effective instructions, which we're calling prompts to guide the output or the behavior of the model that you're using.


And when you say-

Sarah Flamion:

Oh, go ahead.


Oh, sorry.

Sarah Flamion:

No, go ahead.


I just wanted to make sure I understood that. When you say the prompts to guide the behavior, you mean the behavior of the AI, not the behavior of the person putting in or giving a text?

Sarah Flamion:

That's right. The behavior of the AI. So you are telling the generative AI model what you want from it, and there are techniques that are increasingly being learned about how to do that in really effective ways. And the instructions that you're giving it are called prompts, and the technique of getting those prompts to be better and more effective is called prompt engineering.


Gotcha. Okay. Wanted to make sure, because-

Sarah Flamion:



... old-school Mike of the technology of the 21st century prompts are like, "How do you get the right input from the person on the keyboard?"

Sarah Flamion:

Yeah. It's also worth knowing that generative AI models are adaptable. They can constantly be tweaked. So there's lots of parameters that can be adjusted. But you can also take specific knowledge. So knowledge from a domain, like finance or healthcare or an organization or a particular task, you can inject it right into the prompts. That's called grounding them, or you can also adapt the model to specific knowledge.

So you can train it. You can take a model that's been pre-trained. And then, you can do some additional training basically on an industry or a specific subject matter. And that lets you use the generative AI in ways that aren't... on information that isn't public. So you can say like, "I want you to generate an email that uses my brand voice," or you want to use a huge amount of data to perform a task without entering it all into the prompt.

So that adaptability is really interesting and is super powerful. It's also kind of continuously getting better. So they can be fine-tuned these models where you can teach it basically what a good prompt is and what a good output for that prompt is. So when you see this type of prompt, this is good output, that's kind of called demonstration data.

You can also train it on big sets of data, or you can get human feedback on it. So you can have people enter a prompt and get back maybe four different outputs and say, "This is the best one. This is the second best one." And it will teach the models how to improve, so that real human feedback can also be taken in as input by the model and then used to make it better.

So we're in the early stages really, but these models are just continuously learning and getting better. And so, it's going to be a really exciting space as we watch what's possible as they learn.


As I try and learn. This might be a dumb question. Actually, it feels dumb, but it might not be. Is it possible that the generative AI is also building its own prompts as it's learning because you gave that example of it comes back with four and you're like, "Ooh, I like two the best?" Does that then create its own prompt or am I using that term-

Sarah Flamion:

I'm actually not sure.



Sarah Flamion:

I think typically, when we talk about training, it's more in terms of understanding the right sequences of things to put together and reaction to a particular instruction.


Yeah. Okay. So just trying to put two and two together. Man, that's so cool. Well, we talked about pictures a lot. But what are some other things that generative AI is kind of really good at?

Sarah Flamion:

So a lot of the capabilities are around jump-starting things. So you've probably experienced that if you've messed around with it on your own. You can create a first version of something, a quick draft. You can use it to create content at scale. So like, "I want a bunch of product descriptions for this product catalog."

It can be used to transform content. That's pretty interesting. You can take content and then transform it into something really different, like a real remix. So I want this image, but I want these three different variations of it, or, personally, I was reading a blog recently where it was asking for product recommendations. And people in the comments were posting products that they loved.

And then, somebody use generative AI to go through all the comments and take out all the recommendations and put them in a categorized spreadsheet. So you can really transform things in different ways. It does an amazing job of summarizing data. So in a business context, maybe you're in a really long meeting. Then, you want to summarize it, or there's a huge set of texts and you want it to summarize and tell you, "What are three things I need to know from this big set of information."


So in the realm of why does this matter to me, I'm hearing it's really good at expanding or synthesizing information.

Sarah Flamion:

It is, yes. And it can just do these things at a speed and a scale that humans really can't, which just supercharges the things that the humans can do. If you're hitting writer's block, you can quickly get a starter for a paragraph to help you get going again or if you make an amazing image, you can quickly make it into three variations.

So there's lots of work that is just really manual for us to do, where now, we have this super powerful tool that really anybody can harness to do these things. So before, you have to have this really specialized capability in order to write code or generate these variations or summarize data. Somebody has to go through it and pick all that out. And so, having these tools at your disposal to do that is just really powerful.


Yeah. No. I can't help but think back to... So the early to mid-90s, my mom was in a call center. And she used to get these call scripts of, "Okay, so if a customer says this, then do this." Right?

Sarah Flamion:



And the good call center people like my mom was could memorize those, and she didn't even have to flip through. She knew when somebody said something, exactly what to go to next.

And I remember early versions of working in a call center where we would try to write prompts for people. I guess I'm thinking of that as you're telling me this because we're talking prompts, but probably in a different way of asking generative AI to do something, make a cat on a pirate ship, and then come back with stuff. I guess outside of that, what are the ways that this feels kind of new and different?

Sarah Flamion:

So we've talked about it a lot. But I think the conversational nature of it feels very new. It can democratize a lot of what can be done because you just have to be able to speak regular language to invoke it. I think that introduces some weirdness also. And you see that play out in the media a lot, that as we're building this, typically, when we're having a conversation, we're conversing with a sentient being on the other side.



Sarah Flamion:

And it's hard to remember that, in this case, we are having a conversation, what feels like a conversation. But the thing that we're conversing with is not a human. So there's a lot of work that's going into thinking about how we push back against that natural human tendency to think of the thing we're conversing with as a person. It's interesting too in that it has variable output.

So if you give the same prompt a couple times, you can get different outputs. And that feels really different than a lot of technology today where we sort of lean on consistency and are used to the idea that if you do A and B, you get C. So that's kind of a different thing.

And then, I think we talked about the adaptability earlier, but you'll hear this concept sometimes called human in the loop. But it's the idea that feedback from humans can continuously improve the model, and that's kind of a fun new aspect of this. So it can be explicit like maybe you thumbs up or thumbs down some output that you got to let it know if it was good, or it can be implicit.

So we can track how users interact with generated content. Are they just immediately accepting it? Are they making edits? Are they ignoring it? How are they interacting with it? And you can make some inferences and do some research around that too.

So I think those are all things about generative AI that feel different and that, like I said, it's all pretty new. So there's a lot of fun research to be done about how to help people interact with these things and what those patterns should be.


Yeah. I mean, the first point that you hit on for me is you can give it the same prompt and get something different back is really like, "Whoa." That to me feels like, "Okay, there's something going on. Who's the wizard behind the curtain there?" So shifting a little bit towards Salesforce and some of the stuff that you do on the team, what do we already know about our customers and AI that could apply here?

Sarah Flamion:

So our research team has invested a lot of time in understanding something we call jobs to be done. The idea behind the jobs to be done theory is based on this belief that people buy or hire products and services to get a specific job done. They're trying to do a thing in order to achieve a particular outcome or set of outcomes.

And we do research in that way because it helps give us a framework for discovering and defining the jobs and needs and then understanding how our customers think about the success of those.

So as we're thinking about generative AI, there's a couple ways that those jobs to be done factor in. The first one is kind of obvious. We're going to help people achieve the existing jobs to be done, but in better ways, so they can get to the success metrics that they're looking for, just more effectively or more easily.

So sometimes you'll hear people call that augmenting. You're helping someone achieve their desired outcomes with more satisfaction and more efficiency, reducing manual workarounds, that kind of thing. When we talk to customers just generally about the value they expect to realize based on AI and generative AI, that comes up a lot.


Yeah. I can understand that. I mean, that also sounds a little broad, right?

Sarah Flamion:



We're going to help do things more effectively and efficiently. Do you have an example or a few examples you could give us?

Sarah Flamion:

Oh yeah. There's lots of them. So some of the things that kind of immediately jump to mind, most systems like the Salesforce work best when they have really good data being entered into them. But if you've entered data into them, it can be time-consuming and manual. So using a tool like this to make that data entry easier would be a good example of augmentation.

Another example is we talked about summarization. So maybe you want to summarize a conversation that you had with a customer or a meeting, or you want to summarize a really good resolution to a support issue. So your mom is handling a case, and she has a great resolution, and you want to summarize that so you can share it broadly. We have a lot of developers in our ecosystem. Developers can use tools like these to help write code or generate test cases.

It can be great for inspiration. So you can get a first draft of an email that you want to send, or an image that you want to use in a marketing campaign, or maybe a presentation or a proposal. You can get past that writer's block or you can brainstorm a bunch of ideas.

So the other day, I had an idea for something I wanted to do inside the company, and I needed a name for it. So I was brainstorming using ChatGPT, what are some good names for this? And then, you can take that, and you can polish it or kind of adjust it.

And the nice thing is, because it is a tool, you can just scrap ideas that are bad. It gave me a whole bunch of ideas that weren't great. And it took me two seconds. So I can just say, "No, not like that. Here's what I was thinking, something like this." And then, I got a bunch of better ideas. You don't have to feel badly about taking or leaving the content.

Also, we talked about generating content at scale. It can also help people look at huge amounts of data and ask questions of it, interrogate the data with more natural language or spot patterns. So without writing queries or code, you're just speaking what you're looking for and being able to find it.

And then, it can enhance conversations. So you gave the example earlier of having the service call or support call. You can harness these huge bodies of information and information about the brand or the customer, and you can put that and inject that into the context of the conversation itself to make suggestions.


Well, I don't know about that whole developer and test cases stuff, because everything I know of developers, they love writing test cases.

Sarah Flamion:



Tried to say that with a normal face just to see.

Sarah Flamion:

So it just really can amplify what you're able to do.



Sarah Flamion:

And then, I think if we go back to the jobs to be done, everybody has things that they do that are more fulfilling to them than others. So you're looking at your workday, and you're recognizing and pieces of it are more fun, or more interesting or more engaging to you.

And so, personally, I'm really optimistic that generative AI is going to help people free up time to spend on those more fulfilling jobs to be done. So if the data entry piece is a necessary task that you have to do but isn't your favorite part, we can help expedite that so that you have more time to think about interesting ways to connect with your customers or build proposals for new projects, just more interesting and rewarding ways.

So that to me is what is most exciting about all of this. I am obviously a big proponent of Salesforce. So we have seen the incredible things that our trailblazers can do with the tools they have today. And if we can make it easier for them to complete the kind of rote, mundane, time-consuming tasks and surface information to them that might have been hard for them to get before, it just feels like the creativity that, that could unlock is going to be amazing.


I mean, you're saying the exact same words I've been saying for years about all of what we call declarative tools that we build on the platform. What do you want your developer spending time doing? Do you want them writing mundane validation rules or just using our validation rules? Do you want them writing these insane business processes, or would you rather they go write some really cool stuff, and not to put this on the admin, but the admins building the flows that are the meat and potatoes, getting everything done.

Sarah Flamion:

Exactly. I also think it's interesting to think about, we know the jobs to be done that people are trying to do today. And typically, if you read about jobs to be done, they're typically pretty evergreen. So they don't change a lot. The ways that you accomplish them might. But the job you're trying to do might be the same for 50 years.

But with generative AI, it feels like there's a possibility to start to see really new jobs to be done. So things that just weren't even in the realm of possibility before are now something that you might think about being part of your role. So just as a personal example, I have three kids, and they really enjoy laughing at how old I am and talking about all the things that we have every day now that weren't possible when I was growing up. So the fact that we didn't have cell phones or navigation systems just kind of blows their mind.


They'll never know. They'll never know the excitement of seeing the blinking red light on the answering machine.

Sarah Flamion:

Exactly, or how cool I thought I was when I could print out MapQuest directions and fold them up and put them in my dashboard.


That was the thing.

Sarah Flamion:

That was the thing, right? But if I think about when I used to write school reports, I would look stuff up in an encyclopedia or go to the library-


For hours.

Sarah Flamion:

... and I would have a limited amount of sources.



Sarah Flamion:

It would take forever. And now, if I look at what they're doing, my daughter did a report last year about paleo artistry, which she learned about by asking questions of the internet about how we know what dinosaurs look like. And she found all these interactive, really interesting resources, but she also was able to find a paleo artist through social media that she could interview.

And just the amount of expansion and what is possible for them versus what was possible when I was growing up really is pretty breathtaking. And it bends my mind a little bit to think about what is going to be possible for my grandkids because of what is emerging now.


Is paleo artistry the art of drawing dinosaurs as to what we thought they looked like, or-

Sarah Flamion:

It is. Yes. They're artists and they kind of combine that artistry with science to take the scientific information that we have and then render what that would look like.



Sarah Flamion:

And there's a lot that goes into all the plants in the background have to be-


Right. Certain kind-

Sarah Flamion:

... contextually appropriate. It was a pretty fascinating little report.


I've never heard that word. This is so cool. Okay. Come on, do a podcast about generative AI, learn about paleo artistry.

Sarah Flamion:

Paleo artistry. Yeah. But I think about just the stuff that they're going to be able to understand and learn about and know because you can just so easily access this information kind of... It's pretty amazing.


I mean, I-

Sarah Flamion:

I also think it's going to be interesting.


You and I wouldn't have run across it unless the word was in the encyclopedia.

Sarah Flamion:

That's exactly right. And then, you only get one perspective, whoever wrote that article.


Sure. Hopefully, they liked paleo artists.

Sarah Flamion:

Yeah. We're at a pivotal point, I think. You talked about it earlier, but the people who do the jobs today have to have particular skills to do the jobs. And I think with generative AI, we're going to see some of the job performers changing, so new roles. People who had ideas but couldn't tackle that job before might be able to now, or new groups within an organization working together in different ways. I think that kind of organizational shaping is going to be a really interesting aspect of research as well.


I mean, you look at how organizations are structured now versus 50 years ago when things are very different based on just the jobs that we're doing. Yeah. It's also crazy to think that most likely the kids born now will have a job that doesn't exist maybe for another 20 years.

Sarah Flamion:



Who knows? So as you're going through this and you're reading about the research, what kind of concerns do customers have around some of these capabilities?

Sarah Flamion:

So I think anyone who's thinking responsibly about these technologies is also thinking about the risks and the concerns and how we best handle those.

Salesforce has been in the AI space a long time. So we pioneered AI for enterprise in 2013 with Einstein. And I think our latest count, we have over 60 AI features. So we've had lots of opportunities as researchers to talk to customers about AI. Our customers understand the importance of accuracy and quality.

And so, I think there's some worry that generative technologies are going to churn out content that isn't great, so low quality code or wrong answers to questions or mediocre marketing content. And I think they've seen stories on the news about generative AI making toxic or really strange kind of weird content. I think there's concerns about security and privacy of data and the data of their customers. And customers talk to about they want to have agency and what's going on. So they don't want to just totally lose control of their craft and their domain or see a decline in their skillset.

At Salesforce, we talk a lot about how trust is such an important value for us. And I think we're going to have to really lean into that as we bring this generative AI tech to market. I know we're not deep diving today into Salesforce, but it's worth the admins who are listening, knowing that there's lots of smart people really invested in how we build this in the most responsible and thoughtful way possible.

And that includes not just how the technology is being built. So we are building some of our own models, but also how it's being leveraged by our systems, how those interfaces work, how we're training it, how we're going to use data cloud technology to ensure that we're basing these capabilities on really good clean data. And then, especially from a researcher perspective, how we make sure that the people, the humans who are using it are informed and engaged in the right way.


Yeah. All very valid. So as we kind of wrap up, a couple questions. I think I see admins being on the frontline of helping organizations understand AI and probably GPT inside of Salesforce. What suggestions do you have for them?

Sarah Flamion:

I think our knowledge and understanding of change management is going to be more important than ever. So just because we can augment all these jobs and have all these amazing new capabilities, people won't just adopt it because we have, as humans, a preference for doing things the way we do them now, what we call that status quo bias.

And, sometimes, we also talk about this psychological inertia, which is the idea that it's difficult to get people truly invested in change once they've kind of solidified the way that they're doing it now, their ideas and their habits.

So if you're trying to combat those tendencies and drive adoption, I think, first, admins need to think about the culture of their organization. Every organization has kind of different feelings about things, and you need to use that to frame how you're talking about enrolling out these capabilities.

So an example of that might be if you have a team with a lot of high trust in data, they might respond really well to sort of data-oriented framing metrics about the productivity improvements for particular roles, for example. If you have a team who's maybe less data oriented but much more relationship driven, maybe, you're highlighting how AI might free up some of their time by taking care of some day-to-day tasks so they have more time for relationship building. So I think some of it is around framing.

I think the second thing is really focusing on value. So the more obvious the value and the clearer it is, the more you can push back against that status quo bias. So highlighting the solutions that are available, benchmarking before and after changes, so you get that social proof of what is possible.

I think prioritizing really role-relevant information to help people super clearly understand what's in it for me. So rather than kind of blanket statements about success, really identifying this is what's in it for you as a service agent. So this is what's in it for you as a marketing specialist.

I think being clear about how we bridge from output of the models to action and then making sure there's lots of feedback mechanisms. I probably lean toward that because I'm a researcher, but you want your teams to be able to share input and talk about what they're loving and what they're nervous about and ideas that they see for how to use it so that you can kind of meet them where they are.

And then, the last recommendation we'd have is you share success stories and be really honest about the time commitment required to adopt these changes. There's a little bit of a learning curve with any new thing. And I think the more honest you can be about the payoff and also what it takes to get there, the better. And then, we generally suggest rather than focusing on one major long-term goal, look for kind of smaller targets where you can quickly see success, and iterate as you go.


Your second point was huge because it was exactly the bailiwick that I feel I've done a lot as an admin, which was focusing on here are the tasks that this takes off your plate so you can do this part of your job better because you're already great at it. Maybe that was the salesperson in me, but that was completely how I sold some workflow rules and validation rules to salespeople.

Sarah Flamion:



You don't have to worry about doing this. It's going to take care of it for you, so you can spend more time on the phone because that's what you're good at.

Sarah Flamion:

And our admins have such a pulse on where the folks in their organization are struggling and where they really shine. So they're the perfect people to help craft that narrative. They can really point to specific examples and say it in ways that their teams can hear.


Yeah. No. 100%. Sarah, you taught me, and I think everybody listening, more about generative AI than I knew heading into it. So this has been a very productive time. One last question I love to ask, and it's totally fun. It has nothing to do with everything we talked about.

Sarah Flamion:

All right.


This is why I put it at the end, but I think it's always fun to find out the hobbies that people have when they work at Salesforce, because a lot of times, working in technology, there's nothing physical or tangible. I often the met the builder of the house that I live in. He said, "It was a very proud moment when I finished your house because I got to drive by and show my son that I had finished this house."

And I often think admins, I can't drive by and show their son, "Look, son, here's the flow I built today." And as a product manager, it can be the same way. So I was wondering if you would be so kind as to share with us any fun hobby that you may have.

Sarah Flamion:

Yeah. I spend a lot of time cooking. I really enjoy probably for the same reason you just pointed out. I like the tactical like tactile output of it. It brings me joy. There's like a creative element to it. You can start with a recipe and add your own ideas and come out with something really new.

And then, I'm a mom. So there's also-


There's a-

Sarah Flamion:

... a productive aspect to it. Yeah. It feeds my family. So I really enjoy that. I've also got some kiddos who are pretty artistic. And so, we've been spending a lot of time doing art. So I've been learning a lot of new techniques and tools from them, but that's been a pretty fun side gig as well.


Okay. I love it. I also enjoy cooking. I can follow a recipe, but don't send me to the store with those shows on the Food Network where they sent... Here's $50 and you got to make a dinner. I just come back with a pre-made dinner. I need a recipe. I'm a good [inaudible 00:37:43].

Sarah Flamion:

Really, I'm not a great baker. I think the precision is not what I'm looking for. I like a little of this and a little of that and maybe [inaudible 00:37:49]


Exactly. I have learned that there's a difference between cooking and baking. I am not a chef, but I like to cook because I can add a little extra, and it doesn't mess everything up. But baking, everything, it's a leveled cup. I forgot to level it. Well, it's ruined. Awesome. I'll still eat the brownies anyway. Not a fan. Sarah, thanks so much for coming on the pod today and giving us a lot of generative AI knowledge.

Sarah Flamion:

It was great. It was my pleasure. Thank you so much for inviting me. And I certainly encourage anyone who's listening to share their feedback with us. It's a space where there's lots of research to be done and still to do. So if you are at Dreamforce or Connections or you're part of our research program, we really do want to hear from you because there's a lot that we're all collectively figuring out, and I think there's a lot of possibilities. So I'm looking forward to the creative input from your audience.


We'll see what the next year is like.

Okay. So I don't know about you, but I know a ton more about GPT and generative AI than when this podcast started. So I also feel like I could finally get the Jeopardy question right as to what GPT stands for. So if you enjoyed this episode, can you do me a favor and just share it with one person? If you're listening on iTunes, just tap the dots and choose share episode. Then, you can post it on social. You can text it to a friend. I have a feeling you're really going to want to do that with this episode. Just saying.

Now, if you're looking for more great resources, your one stop for everything admin is, including a transcript of this show. And be sure to join our conversation in the Admin Trailblazer Group in the Trailblazer Community. Don't worry, link is in the show notes. And, of course, until next week, we'll see you in the cloud.

Direct download: Replay__Sarah_Flamion_on_Generative_AI.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 12:00am PDT

Today on the Salesforce Admins Podcast, we talk to Anthony Cala, Senior Salesforce Consultant at eVerge Group and a US Army Veteran.

Join us as we chat about how he tackles problem-solving and all the volunteer work he does with nonprofits that support veterans.

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

From veteran to Salesforce consultant

Anthony is another guest on the Skills for Success video series, and we wanted to bring him on to hear more about how he gets started solving business problems with Salesforce.

As a US Army Veteran, Anthony got his first experience with Salesforce working with the Wounded Warrior Project. He got hooked on creating reports and dashboards, and very quickly transitioned into a career on the platform. Today, he works as a consultant helping all sorts of organizations solve business problems with Salesforce, and also mentors veterans and organizes events in his spare time.

Start with user interviews

Whenever Anthony is asked to come into an organization and overhaul a business process, the first thing he does is figure out what he’s starting with. He interviews everyone involved and documents how things are getting done right now. That groundwork is a crucial step on the way to using Salesforce to improve and scale that process.

Another touchstone for Anthony is creating thorough user stories and personas. When it comes to conducting user interviews, empathy is key. “Turn on your webcam,” he says, “smile!” Always remember that there are people behind any business process, and you need to understand where they’re coming from to create a business process that works for them.

Getting experience with nonprofits

A common piece of advice for new people is to gain experience working with nonprofits, but how do you find an organization that needs help? Anthony, who works with three organizations on the weekends, tells us that he started by volunteering for things he was interested in. The Salesforce came later, once he got to know people and mentioned what he does for a living.

Because of the discount Salesforce offers, nonprofits will often have a bunch of cool features and tools. So you can get experience with things like Community, Tableau CRM, and ServiceCloud that you might not have access to at a for-profit organization. “It’s a win-win for both parties involved,” Anthony says.

Be sure to listen to the full episode to learn more about all the work Anthony does with these organizations, and why it’s so important to him to be there to pick up the phone.


Podcast swag



Full Transcript

Mike:     Problem-solving, as we define it on the Admin Skills page, is solving business problems using the Salesforce platform. So you know what? It makes sense that I would talk to Anthony Cala, who is a veteran and consultant, who is on the Skills for Success video series, which is launching this month, September, about how he tackles problem-solving.
       Now, before we get into that episode, be sure you're following the Salesforce Admins podcast on iTunes or Spotify, wherever you get your podcasts. That way, you get a new episode, boom, right on your phone every Thursday, in the morning, all set to go. So with that, let's problem-solve with Anthony Cala.
       So Anthony, welcome to the podcast.

Anthony Cala:  Thank you. Thanks for having me.

Mike:     Great. Well, we're following along with the Skills for Success series, which also launched on YouTube that Gillian put out, and there's quite a lot of episodes, but you're in the problem-solving episode. So let's kick off and talk about problem-solving today. But before we do that, why don't you tell us a little bit about yourself and how you got started in the Salesforce ecosystem?

Anthony Cala:  Wow, that's a story in itself. I started my Salesforce journey first in the military. I was in the military for over 16 years, 10 years active, six years in the Guard. And my second job out of the military, I was working at Wounded Warrior Project. And their CRM system was Salesforce. And had to learn it, loved it, was a super user, power user, making reports and dashboards. My job at the time was to create events to empower Wounded Warriors and family support members for post 9/11.
       And over the year that I worked at Wounded Warrior Project, traveled 148,000 miles, created 75 events. It was my dream job, traveled a lot. After I left Wounded Warrior Project, got lucky, got an opportunity to work at a great company called Tableau Software. And before I went to Tableau Software, I took my Salesforce Admin class in 2013, and didn't pass the admin exam, but still stayed and stayed focused. And continued learning and stayed, and did Salesforce admin work at Tableau. Primary job I created all the registration platforms for Tableau Conference '14, '15, '16, '17, and '18. And enjoyed it. It was a lot of fun. But I wanted to advance my career, and became a consultant.
       I've been a Salesforce consultant for almost five years now, and really enjoy it. I think for me, every client is different. I have over nine certifications, and I think they're mostly, in my opinion, just mostly declarative. I'm hoping to get Dev One. I want to get more coding. I'll be taking a CPQ with Americus, a veteran nonprofit that helps veterans and military spouses with Salesforce classes. So I learn very well with other people I could bounce ideas off of. So I'll be taking CPQ with Americus in October.
       But just in my career, just really enjoy giving back to Salesforce community. When I'm not actively implementing projects, on the weekends, I have a Better Call Anthony Cala, just do it for fun where I can help veterans, military spouses, and first responders where they're either looking to get into Salesforce or looking to get into IT. They have some questions about the Salesforce Fellowship program, or they need some help bouncing ideas off their resume. So some things that I do.
       And then I also volunteer with an organization called Higher Ground USA, where I'm helping them build a customer community where veterans and first responders can sign up for events that are happening in their local community through the Community Resilience Unit Ambassador program that Higher Ground's has launched.
       And then also I create adaptive events in Florida. We'll be conducting two adaptive water-skiing events in October, and then also a stand-down event, Topgolf. And the idea is to help veterans and first responders that just want to go out and meet other people in the community that need some mental health support. There will be some other programs that are supporting veterans and first responders that will be there, and hopefully those can help empower them as well.

Mike:     Wow, that's fantastic. And thank you for your service. We really appreciate that. And I really appreciate all that you're doing outside of just your day job to help veterans and those that served, our first responders, because we wouldn't be in the place we are without their help and their support, so that's very cool.
       I have to think of, as we kind of talk about that in problem-solving, it seems almost so logical to have you on because I believe a lot of what you would do in the military is immediate and long-term problem-solving. So what is the first kind of hurdle that you find most people, most Salesforce admins face when working in problem-solving?

Anthony Cala:  Wow, that's a great question. Just last weekend, I was volunteering and lady asked me some recommendations for in her career, what to do next. And one of the biggest things when I'm meeting new people coming into the ecosystem is I really think people need to get a business analyst acumen. And that also is just a basic problem-solving understanding.
       And the question I get asked a lot is is where do we start? And sometimes as consultants, we don't know where we start. We start with understanding what a customer is currently using because somebody was using something differently before Salesforce. So I think that there has to be some type of empathy as well. I always try to get clients or customers to give artifacts of examples of their current process or an existing process so that we can start with something because we're trying to build something here.
       And really, a lot of that really has nothing to do with Salesforce. It has to do with what they're doing outside, what's their process. And sometimes veterans and military spouses when they come out, they're like, "Well, I don't know how to ask those questions." I was like, "Well, just ask it." And they're like, "Well, what do you mean?" I said, "No, just ask the question. What is your current process? How do you take a lead for your business? Can someone go to your website and sign up and say I would like to know more about your business? Is an email accessible on a website?" And what I find is when just having that conversation with the military spouse and veteran, they're like, "Oh, I know that."
       So what I try to empower them is just put yourself as a customer. It's always easiest to think as a customer when you're trying to problem-solve. I think also with just getting started is being able to articulate and be able to take notes and take those notes and transfer them into usable tasks and usable stories that you can build something with and hopefully the project that you're on, if it's in consulting or if you're at a brick-and-mortar using Salesforce, you're using agile methodologies to really release your features.

Mike:     Yeah. So what I heard in part of that answer, and I think this is something I'd like for you to expand on, is putting yourself in that person's role. As a consultant and as an admin, often you sit across from people that do very different jobs from you and you're trying to iron out what the process is, where the problems, where the gaps are. I think you mentioned the word empathy quite a few times. What are some things that you do and that maybe you've learned in your experience are good ways to understand that person's point of view or gain a sense of empathy for the person that you're working through the process with?

Anthony Cala:  Yeah, there's a couple things to unpack there, but I think the biggest thing is is that we are in a climate now where all of us work remote and all of us sometimes forget to turn on that webcam. And so one of the biggest things that I try to instill in people is turn on your webcams, smile, because that might be the only person you'll see for the day. But try to put yourself in their position by getting to see them and just explaining to them that everything will be okay, everything will be fine. You're here to help them. You're a new Salesforce admin, but that's okay. You're here to document their process to hopefully improve their process, to scale it, to make it better.

Mike:     No, I think that's a really good point is you can forget that sometimes there's somebody else on the other side of that little logo when it's moving and they need to see them.
       One thing that I think is easy to kind of jump to when you're problem-solving, and especially you've probably run into this when you're learning new features or when you've just kind of seen some new products or done a different or a similar implementation, is to hear somebody's problem and go, "Oh, I know the solution for that and I know how to fix that." And I'd like to call it solutioning on the fly because as the person's feeding you the problem, you're already solutioning it as opposed to hearing the entire problem and the entire process. What are some things that you do to kind of combat maybe that solutioning on the fly?

Anthony Cala:  Wow, that's a good one, because as a consultant, we get that a lot actually.

Mike:     Yeah.

Anthony Cala:  But I think it's just timing. I think that when it comes time solution, it's when you've clearly outlined that, "Hey, this is the time that we're going to be doing some discovery in a call, and this is where we're going to take some time solution."
       Solutioning is not a good time when you're on a standup, a 15-minute standup, when you're checking in with your developers and you're checking in with your admins and saying, "Hey, what are you working on today?" I think you just have to just set a dedicated time for people to have enough time to go through a few user stories. I think that it's best to write a solution first and a user story to kind of understand what the persona is. And even if we can go back a little bit, I think that any project or any feature, I think it's best to define what the personas are.
       So in Salesforce, it's going to be is this for backend? Is this going to be for a service agent? Is this going to be for a sales agent. Or for the front end, it can be is a customer going to be able to file a case? Is a customer going to be able to see his cases? Is this customer going to have access to a portal where they can follow their case?
       And so just in my overall experience, I think it's just easiest just to work in a user story, persona-based, "Hey, this is what the persona's for. This is the feature." And then I think it's good to have an acceptance criteria to validate that the feature was done successful.

Mike:     Yeah, no, that's really good. You mentioned you do a lot of work outside of your day job consulting. I'd love to jump into that.

Anthony Cala:  One of my new volunteer projects that I'm working on is with Higher Ground USA. They are an organization that was founded in Ketchum Valley, Idaho. They do a veteran and first responder and couples retreats, week-long retreats. They do events like learn how to ski, learn how to scuba, learn how to surf, and they have these events spread throughout the United States, California, Idaho, and some in the West Coast, as well East Coast.
       And now they are branching out into a new program called CRUA, Community Resilience Unit Ambassador programs. And so I am one of 27 ambassadors that are spread out the United States. We have a small budget that we are able to do events for veterans and first responders. Some of the events that some of our ambassadors have done are, they've done some scuba classes, scuba diving, they've done fishing, and they've done some backpacking and hiking trips. I will be doing a Topgolf event on September 17th in Tampa, and that's going to be for first responders and veterans. So that's police, fire, and EMS.
       And then also I'm partnering with a adaptive water-skiing organization called Ann's Angels. We'll be doing a adaptive water-skiing in Sarasota and Lakeland in October. And they'll be on my Linktree. You can sign up if you meet those qualifications.
       But the mission is to help empower veterans that are seeking mental health support, and hopefully this will help stop veteran suicide because there are 22 veterans a day that are committing suicide. And so one of the things that I just want to do is to make sure that no one after me has to figure out what resources are out there.
       So this Topgolf event was really stemmed by me. Four months ago, I was that veteran in crisis. I've been traditionally giving back to the veteran community, but I myself needed to call the Veteran Crisis Line. And I did. And through my journey of my mental health fitness, I navigated some different mental health support that I needed and I used them. And they will actually be there at the Topgolf event.
       So I'm hoping that the next veteran looking for a resource that maybe they might see an event that I have, or there might be a veteran that might be at an event and they say, "Hey, talk to Anthony." That's really where the name came from. I saw Better Call Saul, one of the famous shows. So I was like, "You know what? Better call Anthony Cala." It's just a slogan. It's a marketing slogan. And it's actually worked. I think in the last five months I've helped 40 veterans and military spouses on Better Call Anthony Cala. And it's just fun to do on the weekends, to help somebody that just needs a little bit of help just to get that little push for either some interview prep or the resume.

Mike:     Yeah. Of course, the difference being you're not selling burner cell phones out of a circus tent in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

Anthony Cala:  Yes. Yeah, no I'm not.

Mike:     So you do a lot of volunteering and thank you for doing that. I think one of the things that admins definitely we always talk about is how to elevate your company and your career and your community. When you're looking to reach out or help an organization, what would be some advice you would give fellow Salesforce admins for finding a nonprofit or finding an organization to work with?

Anthony Cala:  Wow, that's a great question. I met a local nonprofit called Quantum Leap Farms, and they're my farm now. They provide equine therapy to veterans and first responders. And I found them by just Googling them on Google. And as luck would have it, they were having a retreat, a four-day retreat, and I signed up for it. And I was participating in the event. They were doing AART and equine therapy and yoga. And it was just what I needed in that time. And somebody asked me what I did on my day job and I said, "Salesforce." And then they said, "Oh, we use Salesforce."
       And so I think as a veteran or first responder, as you start to participate in events or programs, you'll find that most of everybody uses Salesforce. And most veteran nonprofits, the ones that I know, are mostly volunteer ran. Higher Ground's right now has 25 employees, but they have over 600 volunteers that help them in their everyday operations. So there is always a nonprofit that is looking for someone that understands Salesforce admin or just Salesforce speak.
       So just by me just sharing what I did on my every day, I help Quantum Leap Farms. And so one of the things that we'll be doing over the next month is building a horse app and a goat app. And part of that is to track their health, when they're fed, when they clean out the barn. And I always wanted to do that on Salesforce. And to me, it's fun.
       So when I am interviewing for new jobs, [inaudible 00:18:33] says, "What do you do on the weekend?" I say, "Well, I still do Salesforce stuff because it's a lot of fun to me." And what you'll find is when you start going and doing volunteer work with nonprofits, because Salesforce does offer them a considerable discount, they have the bells and whistles, they have what I call the cool kid toys. They have stuff like Tableau CRM. They're using stuff like Community. They're using Service Cloud. So you really get experience on clouds that you might not every day get experience on.
       So it's a win-win for both parties involved because you're learning, but then they also need help themselves. So it's really cool once you just start telling people about Salesforce.

Mike:     Yeah. No, that's neat and I appreciate that. Anthony, I want to thank you for hanging out with us today and talking problem-solving and volunteering and some of the work that you're doing. I think it's really cool and it's a really good complement to the video that you helped Gillian produce in the Skills for Success series.

Anthony Cala:  Thank you so much for having me. Thank you so much for Salesforce putting on the Military Trailhead program because people like me use it, and we hopefully send the elevator back down and help more people. So thank you.

Mike:     Absolutely.
       So it was a great discussion with Anthony, and again, I'd like to reiterate a big shout-out and thank you in appreciation for your time served in the military. I personally appreciate that. I also really appreciate all the work that you're doing for veterans with PTSD and suicide prevention, as well as canines for Veterans. Those are all very near and dear causes to what I support as well. And of course, in case you missed it or you didn't, the links to everything Anthony's doing will be in the show notes. There's a Linktree there because he's got so many amazing things that he's working on.
       Now, if you enjoyed this episode, I need you to do me a favor, and I really think this is going to be pretty easy. I'd like you to share it with one person. If you know somebody, just while you're listening in iTunes, all you got to do is tap the dots and it'll give you an option to share the episode. Then you can post it on social, you can text it to a friend. And of course, if you're looking for more great resources, your one stop for everything admin is, including a transcript of the show.
       Now, be sure to join our conversation in the Admin Trailblazer Group. That's in the Trailblazer Community. Don't worry, just like everything I mentioned before, the link is in the show notes. So with that, until next week, we'll see you in the cloud.

Direct download: Anthony_Cala_on_Solving_Business_Problems.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 12:00am PDT

Today on the Salesforce Admins Podcast, we talk to Emma Keeling, Salesforce Consultant and Nonprofit Community Group Leader.

Join us as we chat about the skill of project management and some best practices to help you keep things organized.

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

Why everyone needs Project Management skills

Emma is one of our guests on this month’s Skills for Success video series, which breaks down the skills Salesforce Admins need to succeed in today’s world. And even though we brought her on to talk about Project Management, she actually doesn’t call herself a project manager. But she uses those skills all the time as a Salesforce Consultant, which is kind of the point.

When we think of Project Management, we imagine an array of timetables and Kanban Boards, and, indeed, there are some project managers who use those things to do big jobs at large organizations. What Emma does, however is a little different. She keeps her team on task, on schedule, and working together effectively. And those are skills that every admin should have.

Start with the starting point

Often, your starting point is figuring out what you’re even starting with. Is this a new process or an old process? Has it been documented before or are you coming in to make those decisions? And what are the priorities for the organization? Sometimes someone is saying they need this feature or that feature but the problem you really need to be solving is something else entirely.

“One of the key things is people,” Emma says, “if you’re doing an implementation, you’re probably not the expert on everything.” If you’re adding a new feature for fundraising, for example, you probably need to talk to the people doing the fundraising to figure out the best way to do things.

Timelines for your organization and your people

Even if you’re not a Kanban Master, you need to be aware of what timelines are important for your organization. For the nonprofit world that Emma operates in, November 1st is an important date because it marks the start of the holiday giving season. That means you probably want to get anything related to donations squared away and tested before it sees heavy use.

You also want to be aware of how timelines affect your people. Is everyone busy at the same time, or are their schedules independent from each other? Who is going to make plans based on the timeline that you’re outlining? It’s crucial to communicate which dates are firm and which dates are flexible. And it’s important to build in flexibility in case the unexpected happens.

Be sure to listen to the full episode for Emma’s four key Project Management skills for admins.

Podcast swag



Full Transcript

Mike:  This week on the Salesforce Admins Podcast, we're talking with Emma Keeling about the skill of project management and some best practices that Emma uses to keep things organized. Emma is a Salesforce consultant and nonprofit community group leader. Now, before we get into this episode, which I know you're going to want to check out, I want you to be sure you're doing the following. So if you're listening to Salesforce Admins Podcasts on iTunes or just wherever you get your podcast, make sure that you are subscribed or following the podcast. That way every Thursday you will get a brand new episode dropped right on your phone automatically, so then you don't have to think about it. Boom, new episode. Yay. All right, so with that, let's get to our conversation with Emma. Emma, welcome to the podcast.

Emma Keeling:  Thanks for having me, Mike.

Mike:  Well, I'm glad we had a chance to connect as part of the Skills for Success series. Jillian's having you on, and I also wanted to talk too, because you are in the project management video I'll say, but as you told me before I pressed record, you're not a project manager. So let's start there. What do you do in the Salesforce ecosystem?

Emma Keeling:  So in the Salesforce ecosystem, I am effectively a Salesforce consultant. I started my life back in corporate hospitality where I was the expert of a product that wasn't Salesforce, that then got migrated to being built on, and I was the admin for that and suddenly had to become the Salesforce expert and basically an accidental admin. And then after about three years, I kind of got to the point where I was the global product manager and they were starting to talk about moving me to onto other products that weren't Salesforce related. And at that point I was like, no, because I want to do Salesforce and I also want to stay hands-on. I don't just want to do product management as such. So that's what I did.
   I went freelance, started doing hospitality stuff and then Covid hit, and that gave me a real good opportunity to diversify and I jumped in full feet into the nonprofit world. And we're now more than three years on and that's going really well. And yeah, so I'm Salesforce consultant, but with that role comes a lot of project management, right?

Mike:  Yeah.

Emma Keeling:  So I am currently spend about half of my time working with one client where I am the project manager for their Salesforce implementation. And I'm actually working with another partner, which is really interesting. So there's another partner on the other side actually doing the implementation. And when I was asked to do that role, they were like, "We've been recommended you for this and we are looking for a project manager." And I was like, awesome. I was like, I have project manager experience, but not your typical project manager.
   I remember project managers when I was in the big corporate hospitality world, and they were drawing their massive diagrams and they were timetabling it out to almost the minute. And I had more than one project manager telling me, "Well, you can't now change your mind about that." I'm like, what? That decision that you made three months ago and you didn't really know what the product could do, but at that point you said you were going to do X and you now want to do Y. Well, you can't do that because it's not in the plan. And I was like, okay. So I'm like, I'm not one of them. It's like I'm more, what I would say is a taskmaster, don't get me wrong. I can run to a timetable. We can sit and look at timings and work out. Do they make sense? I can juggle diaries and that sort of thing.
   I can work with vendors and help timetable that in. But to me that's a slightly different form. I almost feel like I'm more of what I would call an internal project manager. I'm not that external project manager you bring in who all they've ever done is big projects that are really needed in some of those, say Fortune 500 companies. I'm sort of a slightly smaller scale project manager. I was told very clearly by somebody that there's no way you'll manage to project manage this project in two days a week. And I was like, well, I'm like, let's see how it goes. And actually it's gone very well and we're actually going to deliver on time and on budget. So it's working.

Mike:  So you're a good project manager. And I think that's the reality of it. There's different levels of project management. There's the full on people that are dedicated. They come in, everything's a Kanban chart, a swim lane, they've got Gantt charts, everything. That's their world. Then there's kind of everything in between, all the way down to admins that just have to manage a lot of tasks. And I think project management is, that's why we include it in the Skills for Success series, one of those things where exactly as you put it, how do we manage all of these tasks so that we're not overwhelmed and we get stuff done on time and hopefully like you on budget.

Emma Keeling:  Absolutely. And that's I think the real key. Like you say, there are people who do this as a full-time job at that high level. And interestingly, the partner I'm working with on this particular project, they have one of those people, but actually she's also not full-time, she is working multiple projects, but she's the person who's already managing a Smartsheet where she's got all of those dates, but then we just kind of dovetail in together because what I'm managing is those priorities. I'm managing a lot of organizational priorities and a lot of, you talk about tasks. So when I'm working with any of my clients on any of the work I'm working on, whether that is just supporting an admin with some of their questions and almost being there kind of, what's the word? Their person to just go to just bounce ideas off almost... it's a little bit like that.
   It's like consultant, but it's like it's literally consulting as in I'm not necessarily building stuff. I'm just helping them with their conversations. I'm helping them with their, is this the best way for me to do this? I'm an admin, I'm a solo admin, is this the best way to do this? And then so through that I'm managing tasks there and I'm very much, you need somewhere to keep your tasks that you're never going to manage to keep everything in your brain or just on a notepad. So I use ClickUp, that's kind of my product of choice. And in there I put all my tasks in there and they're all by client and they're there, ready for me to go through, add notes on, copy and paste emails in. There's loads more it can do, but I kind of really just manage that.
   And then I also have to being a consultant, manage my time, so I attach time to them. And I choose to use ClickUp just to be clear, rather than Salesforce, just simply from a potential growth perspective, Salesforce licensing, as we know, can get a little bit pricey, and I do get an org as a partner, but I kind of went, you know what, ClickUp works. Somebody suggested it to me, I'd seen it in action with somebody else, and I was like, do you know what? I'm going to try that. But you could easily do it in Salesforce, particularly if you're a solo admin.

Mike:  I was going to say, let's start there at the basement level, as a solo admin or an admin that's maybe just spun up an org or doing all the implementation themselves, what were some of the things as a project manager that when they put that hat on that they need to think about? Because there's a lot to do, right? There's new features, there's existing features that they need to roll out and maybe bugs. When Emma jumps in and has to sort all that out, do you start by prioritizing things or where does your project management start?

Emma Keeling:  So I guess it depends where you are and what you are handling. Because I would say no project ever looks the same, but one of the key things is people, right? Figuring out what people you've got. Because if you are doing, say, an implementation, you are probably not the expert on everything. Even if you are implementing a new feature as the Salesforce admin, you may or may not be the expert on that feature. So if you are implementing something for fundraising, you're probably going to need to talk to the people in fundraising to find out what they really want.
   Also, are you starting from totally new? As in no one's ever documented any of this before to actually there's a load of stuff here that somebody's written down and given me. So really that starting point is almost figuring out where you're starting. So like, I have all the stuff, let me take that away. Let me process it, let me validate it. Or you're starting with conversations with people. And you're really trying to understand the lay of the land, particularly even just with an organization, right?

Mike:  Right.

Emma Keeling:  You are going to have far more success with Salesforce, with exec buy-in. Exec buy-in, I used to, I'll be honest, I used to scoff and be like, huh, yeah, really no, you really do. Having that exec, and I would say almost that probably level below, depends how big the organization is, but probably that level below, you want your exec to be on board, your top CEO. You want them to be well and truly on board, but you need a good foundation of people around that and you need to know who your players are. You need to know whether they're pro Salesforce, anti Salesforce, whether they've got good technology knowledge or whether they maybe struggle a bit more with technology adoption.
   You want to be trying to get all of that sorts of information and really understand your people. And then you want to start understanding what's key here and you want to understand what's key right at the top of that organization or as I say at that second level to really understand it's not the person who came to you first who wants something most importantly, it's not the person who shouts the loudest. This is where it all kind of dovetails almost into that product management role that I historically did. Because you're really then kind of going, okay, so I've got somebody here in grants who says, all these things are really important, but actually when I talk to the person at the top, they're saying, "No, no, no, our focus at the moment isn't our outbound grants, it's our fundraising and getting our funds in." And that's where you've got to manage your people.
   So you've got to manage your people and be like, grants person, you are amazing. I love your energy, I love all your ideas. Let's take all of that. And then you start almost building out things like roadmaps and you go from there. Now this is where the world of let's say project management, product management, just being an admin all collides because whose role is that? Is that one person's role? Is it lots of people's roles? At least I would say if you are a small organization or maybe you're not, but there's just an admin and you kind of think, oh my God, we really could do with more people. You still need to do a little bit of each of those. Because you've got to have somewhere where you are documenting what's important, where you are kind of reviewing what's important, and then where you are almost getting down those almost business as usual type tasks.
   And also then looking at things like timelines and dates. If you are being told that fundraising needs something for the holiday season, and if your holiday season, if it starts 1st of November, let's say that's a common date that's battered around in the UK, it's like 1st of November is when all this has to be in. Now, if you are in September and you are being asked for a massive piece of functionality, that's where you kind of have to do the pause and the so what did you do last year? Oh, okay, so you do have a solution in place. Do we want to do this? I have recently witnessed somebody try and roll out brand new donation pages in the middle of their biggest campaign period, and they came to me and said, "Oh, this seems to be a problem." I'll be honest, I didn't project manage this one. I was just on the kind of sideline.
   And they came to me and they said, "We're having problems with these and we're really worried, it's impacting our campaign period." And my first question was, well, my first point, I guess it wasn't even a question, was why would you do that now? And I think that is kind of also where your project management comes in. It's sitting down and saying what else is happening in the organization? The organization I'm working with at the moment is going through, we have three really busy periods a year in programs, so you know you've got to work around them, but do you have to totally work around them? I actually found out that the key person I needed in that team does a lot of work at other times of the year. Her work is not tied to those programs times. And it was really key that I figured that out because I initially was trying to block out time, kind of going, oh no, we're not going to be able to use this person during this time.
   And actually when I started talking to her, she was like, "No, no, no, I can do that, as long as I know in advance." So I think that's a huge amount about project management. It's getting all those people, knowing your people and getting them in the right place and knowing building relationships, being able to go to somebody and say, I need you to do this, and I know you don't really have time, but is there any chance you can do this because maybe something's moved forward in a project, maybe something was delayed, maybe something has just come up. The people are really, really key.

Mike:  Yeah, I think that's an important aspect to bring up is too often I think we forget when we're doing a new rollout or even adding a new feature, what other things are going on in the organization at the same time and how will this adversely or not adversely affect somebody? Is it our slow period or is it our busy period? Because if it's your busy time, everything's got to work. Everybody's stressed out anyway. And then if you're rolling something else out on top of that, boy, what is the reception going to be like? I think that's a really great point to bring up.

Emma Keeling:  Yeah, absolutely. And only last week I was chatting with a guy called Tim who does the human stack, really interesting concept of not focusing on the digital but focusing on the humans over the innovation and how that works and really interesting. He's on LinkedIn and people should go check him out. But what I saw, I was reading some articles and one of them was, it was basically a coffee cup where with an implementation or anything, like you say, it could just be a new feature. You are basically pouring more into that person's coffee cup and actually what they need is a bigger cup. They can't just keep taking on more and more. But I think sometimes as a project manager, it's really key for you to ask that question. So ask the question of who is going to do this? Do we have time to do this? Do you have time to test this?
   Those things that even though in a meeting, one of the things I will try and do is bring groups of people together so that I don't have to repeat the same conversation over and over again. And you also know that everybody then heard the same narrative. So the project I'm currently working on, we're about 10 months in. It's going to have been about a 12 month project when it goes live. And we've probably had big meetings I would say about every two months where we've really, I've brought up a timeline and I've looked at the next couple of sprints and just called out what is happening, who is responsible for what, and that might be as simple as it's our responsibility as the client versus it's the implementation partner's responsibility, allowing people then to call up and go, actually all my team's on holiday that week, for example. And you actually have that.
   But the other thing I've also cautious of doing is giving them a whole project plan and people going away and making full plans based on that when you're like, actually some of those dates further down the line could be fluid. So being a little bit cautious and making sure that things are caveated. And as much as people say, don't write everything on a presentation slide, still writing stuff on a presentation slide that says (TBC), next to certain dates. Just so that when somebody says, but you said the date for that training was going to be on that day, I can say, I did say it was to be confirmed and allowing you that space to breathe because actually a lot of what happens in a project isn't necessarily down to the project manager, even if you are the solo admin.
   So you could be the solo admin who's working on a new piece of functionality, who then gets pulled into another piece of work that really is an organizational priority. So I know somebody who works in a charity to do with children affected by war. Now, you can imagine when the war in the Ukraine started, they got very much, their organizational priorities changed. So that isn't the project manager's fault or the admin's fault when actually that piece of functionality doesn't happen. That's something outside of their control. We all face this with Covid, but that can happen on a lower level. People are sick. So you also need to bake in time. You need bake in time for what if somebody's sick? What if somebody isn't available to test? Is there a backup person? Can that backup person test and is there output valid? Because I've worked on many projects where one person will say, "Yes, that's absolutely fine," and they may be aren't the main decision maker.
   Main decision maker comes back and says, "Ooh, sorry, but I'm not happy with that decision." And you kind of go, okay, well we asked and you said the other person could make the decision, but okay, this is real life and you have to be willing to pivot and you can't be responsible for everything. When somebody's son is sick and they can't make it into the office that day, there's nothing you can do about it. And I'm always very clear with whoever I'm working with, whoever I'm reporting into, let's say whether that's my client, whether that when I was internal, if that was my manager, I would almost make that quite clear of I can only be fully responsible for this to a point.
   So especially when I work with clients, I have to kind of highlight, I can't force your team to do this. I can give them all the tools to fish, teach them to fish. I can get on a call with them and sit with them while they do testing, say, but if they didn't want to come to the call, I can't. So there's kind of a level where you have to say, there's only so much I can do and also how much do you want me to do? Because when you look at a client, they might not want to pay you for all that time. And even internally, if you're an internal admin, they might not want you to spend hours just sitting with users while they're going through testing. So that's kind of where you need that exec. You need that next level up. You need that next level where we say, hey, team, this needs testing. You've been sent all the information. You've been sent a deadline. Please work towards that deadline. Please let us know if there are any problems. You almost need that backstop, right?

Mike:  Right.

Emma Keeling:  And that backstop can't always just be you. I talk a little bit about playing good cop, bad cop. I also find I kind of need to be good cop as much as I can be. Don't get me wrong. Sometimes I have to play bad cop and I have to be like, no, sorry, that doesn't work. And in some roles that's more of a requirement than others, but sometimes you have to figure out who you need to keep on the side. And if you know that you need to have a team be really happy and you have to, maybe they're under a lot of pressure. Maybe they've got people off sick, maybe they're down a team member because somebody moved on to another role, you sometimes don't want to be the person who has to say the final no.
   And I don't always think that that's a bad thing that you need to bring somebody else in who maybe says, "Hey guys, I don't think we can do it like that or hey team, let's think about moving that back. Can we move it back a month?" You need people to help you with those conversations.

Mike:  Yeah. When you think through the skill of project management, because you do this for as a consulting and admins manage projects a lot too, what would you say are the three most important things that you've learned that help you successfully manage a project?

Emma Keeling:  Now, that's an interesting question because I obviously did the video with Jillian that kind of goes with this, and I can guarantee that whatever I said in that video is going to be completely different to what I say now. And there's a reason for this, right? Because there are that many skills that I had to pick out what skills I was going to talk about in that video. So I would say our top skills, at least how I feel today, let's say, are I think people skills. And you can intertwine that with things like leadership.
   I think strong people skills, being able to talk to people, being able to understand people, being able to understand what motivates people, even down to things like are the people in your team, people who are there early in the morning and that's when they have great time? Or are they the sort of person who you're better getting on a call? Or are they the sort of people you can just send a slack message to and they'll just be like, "Yep, send over some more information in text form. I'm fine with that." Really being able to understand people is important.
   I think it is very important that you can understand time and budget. So being able to understand how long do I have for this piece of work? How much money do we have? And then be able to also convert that into what does that look like at the end? Because if I have a low budget, but we really need this sort of functionality, in what ways can we achieve that? Is there a lower cost way to achieve it? Can we build an MVP, that minimum viable product? Can we do that instead?
   And actually if that isn't going to meet our use case, do we build anything at all? Do we actually go back to the drawing board and we go back to the leadership and we either A, ask for more money or if you've already got to the point where there isn't the more money, do you go back and say, Hey, do you know what, maybe we're better to start with something else. Maybe we're better not to do priority one on the list because maybe we need a round of funding for that. Or maybe we need to wait until our budget comes in for next year. Or maybe we've got another in-house resource who can work on that, but they're working on another project. Try and figure out where are we best placed to use that money and use that time.
   And then I think the last thing is probably, and I'm toying here between is it important to be able to use tools and software and that sort of thing, or is it important to have industry knowledge? I would say if I have to put it in a top three, I mean to both equally, it's important, so I'm going to push it to four. So I would say you've got to be able to manage your time as a project manager. If you can't keep track of your tasks and what you are doing. If you don't remember to send out the email, if you don't remember to chase somebody, if you don't manage to collaborate effectively in JIRA or Google Sheets or whatever that is, you can't really expect to be able to bring everybody else along for the ride. So you've got to be able to do that.
   And then I think the last thing really is that industry knowledge. Now, don't get me wrong, I've worked with some very, very good project managers who actually, their industry knowledge was much lower. But you end up caveating that with a lot of time spent with them, learning from subject matter experts to be able to have those questions, to be able to talk about a product or a solution or an industry, and particularly the industry, don't get me wrong, it can work. And as I said, I've been in the nonprofit space now for about three and a half to four years. So I'm not going to say I know everything about nonprofits. I don't. And I try and ask a lot of questions to learn more, but you really have to up that knowledge. And I think to be successful, you need to learn about that industry or at least be willing to learn. I find it very difficult with project managers who suggest they don't need to know anything about the industry to be successful in it, because I just don't think that's the case.

Mike:  Yeah, I would find that hard. I had some great discussions in community groups too about I want to be a Salesforce admin, what industry should I be in? I'm like, well, an industry that you're aware of and are familiar with, because otherwise you're really setting yourself up for a steep learning curve, thinking that through of having to learn the industry as well.

Emma Keeling:  Yeah, totally. And I think if you are going into maybe a role where you are in a team and you maybe don't know that, you maybe get a faster ramp up because people around you can help bring up that knowledge. And I think if you apply for a role and you don't have that, and I think you then just have to be very clear with people. Like "I don't have the knowledge about this, but I want to learn, so please tell me more or please tell me where I can find out about this." I've even found things like over the lunch table discussions helpful. When I've been on site with a client and you sit and have lunch and you can be like, Hey, tell me a bit more about legacy donations and legacy donors and where that comes from and how does that work and how do you find legacy donors, for example?
   That was a really interesting discussion. And at the end of it, I was like, wow, I've actually learned loads and I can then share that knowledge. But I think if you don't have industry knowledge, you really need to make sure that people you are working with do or that it's quite accepted that you don't, and you need time for that. So you need to factor that in, right? I once went and did a piece of work in a financial services company. It was only a short piece of maternity cover. I'd never wanted to work in that sector, and I was right. I didn't enjoy working in that sector, if I'm honest. But what I did find was I was able to ask the right questions because I've done stuff historically where maybe I haven't known the answer. So I've had to ask lots of questions, but it was challenging. It was challenging.
   And the people who knew I didn't have the knowledge that was okay because they made sure that they started discussions with explanations of why we're doing this, why is it important? And you have to ask all those whys. Where I was put into conversations with people who didn't know I didn't have the industry knowledge, that was really difficult. Because people immediately assume that you do have that knowledge and they aren't always receptive to the fact that you don't. So I would say definitely steep learning curve. Try and start somewhere where you've got knowledge or at least be clear with people that you don't have the answers.

Mike:  Yeah, absolutely. Emma, you've done a really great job of exposing us to some of the things that you do and don't do as a project manager and thinking about project management as a skill. So I feel this was a very good compliment to the video that you put out with Jillian. So appreciate you taking time out to be on the podcast.

Emma Keeling:  Thanks so much for having me, Mike. It's been fun.

Mike:  Yeah, thanks so much.
   That was a great conversation with Emma. I think she really brought out a lot of things. Boy, one part that you always have to think about is how much other change is going on in the organization as well. So, now if you enjoyed this episode, be sure to share it with one person. If you're listening on iTunes, just tap those dots and choose share episode. Then you can post it to social, you can text it to a friend. I'd really appreciate it. And of course, if you're looking for more great resources, your one stop for everything admin is, including a transcript of the show in case you missed anything. So be sure to check that out and join our conversation in the Admin Trailblazer group in the Trailblazer community. Don't worry, the link is in the show notes. And with that, until next week, we'll see you in the cloud.

Direct download: Emma_Keeling_on_Project_Management.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 12:00am PDT

Today on the Salesforce Admins Podcast, we sit down for another cup of coffee with Mike, Gillian, and Josh Birk.


Join us as we chat about the ever-changing nature of work and preview Skills for Success September.


You should subscribe for the full episode, but here are a few takeaways from our conversation with the Admin Evangelist Team.

How we work, then and now

Every month, Gillian, Mike, and Developer Evangelist Josh Birk sit down with a cup of coffee and a topic. For August’s Coffee Talk, we’re reflecting on the ever-changing nature of work. How things have changed in our work lives, technology that has changed the way we work, and a look ahead to our Skills for Success series.


Join us as we discuss:

  • How email has gone from something you’d check every so often to something that’s in your pocket.

  • How Slack has helped with email overload.

  • Camera on or camera off in videoconferences?

  • How perceptions of work-from-home have changed.

  • Why changes in our work lives are opportunities and what that has to do with business analysis.

  • The Skills for Success series coming to YouTube this September.

  • How that’s going to tie in with upcoming episodes on the podcast.


Podcast swag

Learn more

Business Analyst August episodes



Mike:  To wrap up Business Analyst August, we're chatting about the ever-changing nature of work, so how things have changed in our work lives, maybe notable changes in technology that have changed the way we work, and maybe even discuss some crazy processes that we've had to unwind as admins or being in the tech world. I don't know.
   We'll see where this conversation goes. But I also have Jillian on to give us a preview of the Skills for Success September, which is next month's theme, because we're also launching that as a YouTube series. To help me do all of these fun, conversational things, joining me is fellow podcast host Gillian Bruce and host of the Dev Podcast and evangelist Josh Birk. Hi, everybody.

Josh Birk:   Hey, everybody.

Gillian Bruce: Hello.

Mike:  Let's start with the ever-changing nature of work, which is what business analysts deal with all the time. I'll just throw out there, I was thinking this is probably the lowest of low-hanging fruit, but how email has changed. Because I remember a time, I don't know, many, many years ago, when I used to go to the public library to check out a computer to check my email. I didn't do that every day, and now it's, what, I mean, how many times have you checked your email this hour?

Josh Birk:   I feel like it checks me at this point. It's just watching me. I think it's a bidirectional route now.

Gillian Bruce: Well, I think it's been quite an evolution, right? Because it went from like, oh, there's this new thing called email that you check when you can, to being like, this is the thing that runs your work life. I literally would spend all day just in email answering things, to now I check it once, twice a day maybe, because everything I do now is Slack.

Josh Birk:   That's right. If we're centering an email, we've definitely drifted away there. I remember my first days in the cubicle, the company had a proprietary... It was a proto email kind of thing.

Mike:  Oh, they built their own thing.

Josh Birk:   They built their own thing, and then they got Outlook, but the proto email thing had the ability to cancel an email. If your recipient hadn't opened the email, you could cancel it and they'd never see it. They never knew you wrote it. The entire company went up in arms because they suddenly lost the ability to send their bosses angry email at midnight and delete it at 6:00 AM.

Gillian Bruce: Wow. Because with the unsend now is you have to do it within the first five seconds after you hit the send button or something. Interesting.

Mike:  Ridiculous. I remember pre cubicle land when I was in retail and part of your morning startup besides counting your drawer was checking the company email. You had to sign in. I mean, you never responded because it was basically just one way, like here's the thing from corporate, or here's the stuff that's on sale.

Josh Birk:   Right.

Gillian Bruce: Well, and I also remember, I mean, you used to have to physically be at a computer to read your email. I remember my first few office jobs, I had to wait until I got into the... Commute into the office, fire up the computer, and then log into the email. Whereas I mean, gosh, now it's like I just roll over and look at my phone and I can see the email, to the point where I now have to have a really good boundary about, no, we're not checking work email until it's a very normal hour to do so, because then I'll just start doing things. It's also interesting how that has changed.

Josh Birk:   I will always recommend people to have two phones, which is not a phrase I thought I would say five years ago, but it's like have a work phone, have a life phone. And that way if you want to go walk the dog, just leave the work phone at home, just turn it off for a good couple of hours.

Gillian Bruce: I've had Slack creep in that way.

Mike:  I've always been a two work phone kind of guy. Always two. That way, you go on vacation, my phone can just do whatever.

Gillian Bruce: I used to be very good about turning off the apps or even uninstalling the work apps because I've been a one phone person for the last 14 years. I'm starting to realize, okay, maybe it's getting too complicated to untangle the unification of both personal and work on one device, and maybe I do need to go to two devices at this point.

Josh Birk:   Speaking of that, because I was just realizing my work phone is not really a phone. If you look at the call history, it's all spam and lies and misinformation. Nobody from work calls me on that phone, which is fine because almost nobody from work ever actually calls me anymore. And yet, I remember once again going back to my cubicle days, I remember being told the strategy of when to call somebody when you had to talk to them.
   You don't call at 9:00 because everybody just got in the office. They haven't had their coffee yet. You don't call around noon because they're probably out to lunch. Strategize how you're going to have a phone conversation with people, and now it's just like I don't talk to people. I think there might be a mental emergency if somebody calls you on the phone.

Gillian Bruce: Well, now your phone doesn't even work if you try to call. Half the time I try to make an outgoing call and it fails.

Josh Birk:   Oh, I mean, I just don't even answer. I got a call the other day. I was like, oh, neat. They can leave me a voicemail.

Gillian Bruce: Thank goodness for transcription of voicemails. You don't even have to listen to it. You can just see what's written in the... Gosh, Josh, you're bringing back so many vivid memories of like remember all of the learning how to use the complex phones in the office.

Josh Birk:   Conference calling. Conference calling.

Gillian Bruce: All the headsets everybody would wear and everything was a GoTo Meeting or Cisco. It was a whole other culture and things that we did. I still have a technical landline at Salesforce that I don't know how you would even access. Occasionally I get an email with a voicemail from that line that I never check. That was a whole thing. How do you record the right greeting and how do you know how to dial the extensions?
   I mean, that's a whole nother thing that, I mean, people these days probably have no idea what that even means. If you're starting in your professional first ever office job at this point, the concept of a physical intercom, one of those big phones with all the buttons on it, would just be like, "What is this?"

Mike:  I mean, you remember those UFO looking phones that they had in conference tables with speakers and all the... I remember every Monday we would have a sales call and people from the field, that's what we called it, called in, and we're all sitting around a table and it's like, Bing. John Smith has joined the call." And then it's either they're in their house or they're driving, and that was cellphones mid '90s, which is like a wind turbine. Can you hear me? Can you hear me? Go on mute, John.

Josh Birk:   I will confess, one thing I miss about those days is when I was working in a consulting firm, we would have conference calls. If the client was, shall we say, particularly rowdy sometimes, somebody would just put a plastic cup over the speakerphone and all of a sudden they sounded like they're just like [inaudible] Then we just all laugh at them without them knowing. Harder to do that...

Mike:  You do that now, everybody's on camera. It's all Zoom and Google Meets. It's super easy to join. You actually have to say why you're not on camera.

Gillian Bruce: That's the thing. How quickly has that culture shifted? I remember, this was probably three years ago, this was before the pandemic, which I think also drastically changed a lot of culture around this, but I was with a couple of friends and we were together, but we were still working our respective jobs for a few hours until we were doing whatever we were doing.
   I don't know if it was weird. It was like we're doing a wine country thing or something, but we're all in our respective corners doing work and I'm on video calls. One of the people is just on an actual phone call most of the time, and all of us looking, "What are you doing? The expectation is not to have your camera on?" They're like, "No. Nobody does that." We're like, wow, that's different.

Josh Birk:   I mean, I've been remote since well before the pandemic. It used to be you were expected not to be. You were distracting people if you were on camera. And then the pandemic hits and it's like, "How dare you not show your face? You're not being social."

Mike:  That changed. It was also kind of weird too, because when you were... I've been remote, let's see, 10 years now. There was a period of time too where you had to have your camera on because it's like, are you really at your desk slaving away over a keyboard? Because the perception of work was, well, you work from home, you're just out lollygagging, walking around and enjoying the weather, while the rest of us are stuck in cubicles, slaving away over hot keyboards answering emails.

Gillian Bruce: Before those of us who were office based, we're all forced during the pandemic to be home-based. That was absolutely the perception from those of us who had to go to the office every day. Oh, cool. You just woke up and turned your computer on. Congratulations. Yeah, that's working. And now I'm like, actually, I prefer to go office because I don't have to work as hard in the office. I chat with people, and I'm late to meetings, and I have an excuse not to go to a meeting. It's so fascinating how that has shifted for me.

Mike:  Sorry, the elevator, I'm stuck. I can't make it.

Gillian Bruce: Meanwhile, those of you who are back to back meetings at home are like, come on, people. You office slackers.

Mike:  Click, click. Why are you so late? Why are you 10 seconds late?

Gillian Bruce: I was getting coffee and having a chat in the hallway with so-and-so.

Josh Birk:   I had to change rooms, which feels so weird.

Gillian Bruce: I couldn't find a room.

Mike:  When you work from home and people are like, "Well, I had to change rooms," you're like, "Oh, yeah, that's weird."

Josh Birk:   Like what, to the living room? I don't understand.

Mike:  I know. Why? Why did you have to change rooms? I never get kicked out of my house. Well, August was great. Gillian, you said you listened to Amber's podcast. It rounded out the whole Business Analyst stuff.

Gillian Bruce: It did, yeah, because it connected like, hey... I mean, it connected to what we just talked about. Mike's very thematic. There's different moments in time where work cultures shift and how you interact and get work done shifts. Being a good business analyst is all about identifying those opportunities and figuring out how you can make that happen, well, in the Salesforce world with Salesforce technology.
   But I think what I really liked about Amber's podcast is it kind of tied it together because it's like, oh, it's not specifically tied to one specific platform, but the advent of something like Slack really gives you an opportunity to reexamine how your team works together, what is productive, what are the outcomes, how do you maybe take a step back and look at this strategically to find ways to make people more productive and happier. It was good. Good job, Mike. I enjoyed Business Analyst Month.

Mike:  Well, good, because next month is actually a pairing or a cousin to what you're launching on the YouTube channel. Let's talk about the Skills for Success series.

Gillian Bruce: Yes. Well, Mike, you are also a part of this.

Mike:  Very small. Real small.

Gillian Bruce: You know what, small but mighty.

Mike:  Like 30 seconds.

Gillian Bruce: It was a great 30 seconds, I'll tell you. We are launching a five part video series on YouTube all about skills for success. We go through all of the 14 skills that are in the Salesforce Admin Skills Kit. It's not just me talking about them, it's actually experts and industry leaders within the field. We have real life awesome admins, some of whom, Mike, I know you're going to have on the podcast, and we have industry leaders. Mike, I'm sorry, I'm calling you an industry leader because that's what happens when you do this stuff for a long time.

Mike:  Because I answer a lot of emails.

Gillian Bruce: Yeah. Well, yeah, probably more Slack messages now. We have some industry leaders. We also have some people who have expertise in hiring Salesforce administrators to get that employer perspective on why these skills are important, how you develop them, how you represent them to potential employers, what employers are looking for. It's a fun series.
   We had some fun, as we do with our YouTube series, injecting some fun in it, but it's a really great way to hear from different faces and different people and perspectives and hopefully really help you get a more in depth view into how these specific skills can help you be a successful Salesforce administrator.

Mike:  Yeah, it's really cool. As of this recording, I've already spoke with one of the guests, which was Emma Keeling, to talk about project management. I'm trying to delve into some of the people that you had on that video series. What was the things that you wanted to talk about but maybe ran out of time, or what was other things that maybe are left on the cutting room floor but are still really good?
   Emma and I had that chat and I've got a few other guests coming up that will be part of the series. Of course, we can't feature all of them. You have so many people on the videos. Thankfully, there's not that many Thursdays in September.

Gillian Bruce: We got lots of awesome admins out there and lots of experts in these arenas. It was really fun to work with all of them and put this together. I'm happy that you're going to have some of them on the pod to dig a little deeper and get that full picture, that longer soundbite from the 45 seconds or whatever they are. I mean, Mike, you talked about change management, I believe.

Mike:  Yes. I talked about a lot of things.

Gillian Bruce: And Josh, I also know that you were part of the series. I think you had a product management section you talked about?

Josh Birk:   Something along those lines. I think I pretended to be a product management expert. I just talked about a feature for 15 minutes straight I think was the right thing to do, right?

Mike:  Wow, 15 minutes.

Gillian Bruce: Oh, you'll have to tune in to find out how it all turns out.

Mike:  I'll link to those in September too, so that the podcast can share the love with the YouTube series and back and forth.

Gillian Bruce: It's like they're connected or something.

Mike:  Look, let's be honest, as you're listening to this, we're like, what, 10 or 12 days out from Dreamforce too.

Josh Birk:   Don't say that.

Mike:  Because that's going to happen in September, but that doesn't happen to everybody. Now, you have this whole series of videos and podcasts to listen to in September as the leaves fall. I don't know, September is that weird fall month where it's like, is it summer? Is it fall?

Gillian Bruce: Well, in San Francisco it's summer.

Mike:  Heat advises already at the coffee shops.

Josh Birk:   Are you getting any of those heat advisory stuff over in Iowa?

Mike:  Oh yes. It's going to be melt your face hot today. Not going outside. But who knows what winter will be? I don't know. Pick one.

Gillian Bruce: I mean, I'm looking forward to... San Francisco summer is literally beginning right now. It goes from late August until mid-November, and this is the second day in a row where it's gotten above 70 degrees and it's glorious.

Mike:  Wow.

Gillian Bruce: I mean, it's been foggy basically from May until a week ago consistently. It's really nice to see the sun and get some warmth, and I'm soaking it all up.

Josh Birk:   Well, as I look over at my dashboard, it's going to hit 102 here tomorrow.

Gillian Bruce: Oh!

Mike:  Yeah, we're in the same boat, Josh, because it's just really in the heat advisory, because our dew point, I don't know what your dew point is, but they always say in the Midwest, it's not the heat, it's the humidity. Oh, it's both right now.

Josh Birk:   Oh, it's both. Yeah, it's both. I think the weather report today is something like 85, but feels like death.

Gillian Bruce: Wow. Well, you will be here in San Francisco with me soon, and you'll enjoy this beautiful 71 degree weather with a, let's see, I'm looking it up, a 72% humidity or the dew point is 61.

Mike:  Oh, well, that's not too bad.

Gillian Bruce: No. I mean, it's humid for us. It's abnormally humid, but it's beautiful.

Mike:  But Gillian, I bet Josh's dew point is probably the same as mine. We're in the 80s, 80 degrees. I woke up this morning literally all the windows in my house were wet because the dew point and the temperature were like one or two degrees apart.

Josh Birk:   This is the time of year we're reminded that Chicago was built on a swamp for sure.

Mike:  Full of concrete.

Gillian Bruce: Come on out to the dunes of San Francisco. It's glorious.

Mike:  And then when you're not in Chicago, and this is a real thing, you can look it up, I don't know if I'm going to say it right, but it's not evaporation, but it's evapostoration or something. It's literally the fact that Iowa and some neighboring states, but really Iowa has so much corn with so much moisture that it raises the humidity level. Because as it heats up, the corn evaporate. It's all over The Weather Channel, and you can smell it too. When you walk outside, it smells like corn.

Gillian Bruce: In like a good way?

Mike:  Oh, very good way. Very good.

Josh Birk:   I can see that one falling either way.

Mike:  Right. Right. No, this is a very good corn on the cob on the grill. You're like, ooh, let's go get some corn from the farmer's market.

Gillian Bruce: Speaking tangent, because we like talking about food, I made the most epic elote salad a week ago. Elote is that Mexican street corn basically. They grill it and they put a bunch of aioli on it. Deliciousness.

Mike:  I've wanted to do that.

Gillian Bruce: And cotija cheese. I made a grilled corn elote salad that I still think about. I think I might have to make it again tonight. It's basically you grill the corn, you put a bunch of tomatoes and avocado and cheese and deliciousness. You mix it together. Holy moly! I mean, Damon and I ate the entire bowl in one sitting.

Josh Birk:   Nice. Nice.

Mike:  You kind of live like a Mid-Westerner because I will confess that it is sweet corn season right now. It's almost at tail end. I really need to go to the farmer's market. But we've had sweet corn for dinner, same as the elote salad, just on the cob with butter on your cheeks. Look at that. Well, there we go. That's how we're going to end it, butter on our cheeks or mine at least anyway.

Gillian Bruce: Butter makes everything better, right?

Josh Birk:   Yep. Secret ingredient.

Mike:  Real good butter. If by chance, by chance you enjoyed this episode, maybe pick a different one and then share that with one person, because that would be awesome. Here's how you do it. If you're listening on iTunes, all you got to do is just tap the dots. There's three little dots. You choose share episode, and then you can post it to social. You can text it to a friend. Maybe you text an elote corn salad recipe. We'd love that too. There's more recipes.
   There's more resources on our website, which is literally everything admin,, including a transcript of the show. I will bug and see if we can get Gillian's recipe just because that would be fun and it'd be great if it showed up in the show notes. Be sure to join the conversation in the Admin Trailblazer Group in the Trailblazer Community. Don't worry, the link is in the show notes. Because remember, everything is on With that, I will see you in the cloud.

Direct download: August_Coffee_Talk_with_Admin_Evangelists.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 12:00am PDT

Today on the Salesforce Admins Podcast, we talk to Pei Mun Lim, Consulting Coach and Trainer at Zenhao and the author of Salesforce Discovery 101.

Join us as we chat about two critical skills for Business Analysts, emotional intelligence and active listening.

You should subscribe for the full episode, but here are a few takeaways from our conversation with Pei Mun Lim.

Two Business Analyst skills every admin should have

Pei has spent her entire career in consulting, with over a decade of experience in the Salesforce ecosystem in a variety of roles. She helps people use technology to solve real-world problems, and business analysis skills are crucial to help make sure they’re actually addressing the core issues. We brought her on the pod to talk about two skills that are foundational for doing that well: active listening and emotional intelligence.

Pei discovered the power of active listening and emotional intelligence quite accidentally when she started volunteering for a crisis lifeline where she talked to callers in distress. “I noticed that my projects started getting a lot easier,” she says, “and that was because I was listening a lot better and I was able to navigate human communication and relationships in a much better way.”

Emotional intelligence

When someone is asking for a particular functionality, it’s important to realize that human emotions are always at play. Emotional intelligence helps you gently peel back the biases, assumptions, and preconceptions behind a request to get at the real business problem and what you can do about it.

Pei points out that people communicate in several ways beyond the words that they’re saying. Her advice is to be observant of all of the nonverbal cues someone is sending. If that doesn’t match up with the content of what they’re talking about, you need to ask some more questions.

Active listening

The biggest driver behind resistance to change is fear. As Pei puts it, people are concerned with questions like, “What does this mean for my job security?” or, “What does this mean for me as a person?” Showing empathy and that you care about those concerns can go a long way toward helping people to open up. That means having the emotional intelligence to acknowledge their fears and then using active listening to show that you understand.

“Active listening is not a passive action, it is an active posture,” Pei explains, “you’re trying to see the world from the other person’s point of view.” Beyond simply showing that you’re paying attention, you’re actively trying to listen without judgment. And, she notes, that includes showing that you want to understand them better by asking follow-up questions. That’s how you get to the real underlying issues at hand.

Be sure to listen to the full episode for more about how you can practice emotional intelligence and active listening in your day-to-day life, and so much more.

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Direct download: Pei_Mun_Lim_on_the_Skills_of_a_Business_Analyst.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 12:00am PDT

Today on the Salesforce Admins Podcast, we talk to Amber Boaz, Slack Community Group Leader, Salesforce MVP, and Principal Salesforce Consultant at Cloud Giants.


Join us as we chat about how you can eliminate ineffective meetings using Slack best practices.


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

Meetings, all the way down

Amber is a self-described “serial user group and community group starter,” including the local Slack community group in Durham, NC. She recently presented at Southeast Dreamin’ on how Slack can help you eliminate ineffective meetings, so we wanted to bring her on the pod to hear all about it.


The life of project-involved people—admins, consultants, etc.—is filled with meetings. But meetings are expensive! You need to get everyone in the same room when they could be doing other things, not to mention the time it takes to schedule them in the first place. Luckily, Slack can be an incredibly helpful tool for cutting down on unnecessary meetings while still making sure that everyone is aligned and informed.

Using Slack tools

Amber points out a few different ways Slack can help you. If you have meetings that are just updates about a customer or project, you can probably share all of the information you need in a channel on that topic. Delaying messages can help with folks in different timezones, and Slack Connect can help you make bring external stakeholders into the loop.


Amber also wants to point you to Workflows as a way to save on meeting time. You can set it to give someone a message with the five things they need to know about the project whenever they join a channel, for example, so you don’t have to spend as much time onboarding.


When you do need to come together to troubleshoot or talk something out, you can often bring people together with the huddle feature without having to go through the rigamarole of scheduling a full-blown meeting. Using short video clips can help you do that asynchronously, or just keep senior leaders in the loop and share your successes.

Not all meetings are ineffective

So even if you know all this, how do you have that hard conversation about whether or not a regularly scheduled meeting is actually productive? One thing that Amber suggests is modeling good behavior by canceling a meeting and giving a status update instead. It’s likely you’re not the only one thinking about it.


It’s also important to remember that you can’t and shouldn’t replace every meeting with Slack—building relationships is important! “The purpose, fundamentally, of a meeting is getting together with your colleagues,” Amber points out, “and that, ideally, should be enjoyable.” Slack is for the boring stuff, so your meetings can be about solving a puzzle or making a hard decision together.


Be sure to listen to the full episode for more about how to identify unproductive meetings, channel naming conventions, and so much more.


Podcast swag



Full Transcript

Slack stands for Searchable Log of All Communications and Knowledge. Let's hear from the Slack Community group leader, Amber Boaz, about how we can replace ineffective meetings with Slack and get some best practices for some Slack change management. Now, before we get into the episode, can you be sure you're following the Salesforce Admins Podcast on iTunes or wherever you get your podcasts? I'm telling you this because that way you get a new episode every Thursday, boop, right on your phone, it's like magic. So speaking of magic, let's get Amber on the podcast. So Amber, welcome to the podcast.

Amber Boaz:
Thanks, Mike, it's great to be back.

I know it's been a while. We should do this every ... Less than five, six years at a time.

Amber Boaz:
That sounds like a great idea. I'll pencil you in for 2028.

Right, right. It sounds like run for president, Amber Boaz 2028.

Amber Boaz:
I like it.

Amber, since it's been a while, and I feel like you and I are old hats in the community, what have you been up to? What do you do in the Salesforce world?

Amber Boaz:
What have I been up to? So I am back at consulting. For those of you who are not stalking my LinkedIn profile, I moved. I've been vacillating back and forth between being a customer and being a consultant. So I'm back to consulting and loving it. Working for a company called Cloud Giants. Also, for those of you who know me, I'm a serial user group, community group starter, and so I have started the local Slack Community group here in Durham, North Carolina.


Amber Boaz:
Good stuff.

You did a lot with Salesforce Saturday too, right?

Amber Boaz:
I did. I started the local Salesforce Saturday. In fact, last week was our seven-year birthday. We would-

Oh wow.

Amber Boaz:
I know. It's amazing, isn't it?


Amber Boaz:
I handed that off at the first of the year, I had some personal stuff I needed to handle. The folks who are leading that are amazing and awesome, and I adore them and miss them terribly. That group still meets every single week.

Wow. And serial because you handed it off. Also, serial because ... I feel like you were on stage with me way back 100 years ago when they started the MVP thing.

Amber Boaz:
Not the very first class, I was second class.


Amber Boaz:
I know, I know.


Amber Boaz:
I'm not quite as cool as you are.

Sure. Boarding group two.

Amber Boaz:
Yes, yes. Boarding group two. I'm not part of the first class I'm business class.

Business class.

Amber Boaz:
I have extra legroom and bulkhead.

Right. I mean, I think it's the same it's just the seats are different but it's okay. Amber, you sent me this really cool deck, that you'd been presenting, of replacing meetings with Slack. I scrolled through it. Can you give us an overview of what that is? Because you presented it what at Southeast Dreamin'?

Amber Boaz:
I did. The gist of the meeting is, here are 10 ways to replace ineffective meetings with Slack. In the deck I talked some about the metrics around effectiveness of getting everybody in a room, having a meeting. I don't know about you, but I have a lot of meetings. My Tuesdays I average 11 meetings every Tuesday. And that's my busy day. Today I only have seven, to give you an idea. That's the life of a consultant, but that's also the life of an admin, and a manager, and a folks ... Project involved people. So talking about ways to replace some of those meetings with asynchronous communication via Slack. So, for example, using channels to replace your meetings. If you're meeting about a customer or about a project, having a channel for that customer or that project so that you can communicate with stakeholders about it in that channel rather than having everybody get together at 3:00 on Wednesdays.
Using something like delaying sending your message. That I use a lot with my colleagues who are in other time zones. I work pretty heavily with folks in Europe and so they aren't on the same time I am. Writing my thoughts out, giving my status, and then delaying the sending of that so that I don't interrupt them and their family time. And then using Slack Connect to include external stakeholders. For example, we have several clients who we are in Slack channels with coordinating on meetings, coordinating on decisions, just coordinating in the Slack channel about the work we're doing together, consultant and client so that's really cool.
Another great way to just get rid of those super ineffective, bringing people on board meetings ... I don't mean hiring because that's a bigger thing. But bringing newcomers up to speed quickly on a project using something like a workflow in Slack where you can ... Whenever somebody joins the channel it gives them, here are the five things you need to know about this project, or here are the 10 things, or here are the seven things, however many things you have to tell them so that they can get up to speed quickly. You can set up a workflow to do that. You set it up once and then anytime anybody joins they get that message immediately. You don't have to remember to do it, you don't have to send it at a given time it just is automatic.

And I was just thinking through wow, 11 meetings on a Tuesday that's-

Amber Boaz:
I know.

Of course, at Salesforce we're heavy Slack users as well.

Amber Boaz:
Oh, I'm sure.

I have used ... The delayed send thing I think is probably the most underutilized feature. And I love using it, especially when our team is in London World Tour because then I can be all snarky and ha-ha send it at 1:30 AM which is right before they're walking in to think, oh wow, Mike's up. No. I'm just-

Amber Boaz:
No, no, he's definitely not.

I just know how to schedule a thing, that's all.

Amber Boaz:
I've used it to congratulate folks. I was getting ready to go on vacation, and one of my team members was coming up on their two-year anniversary with the company, and I scheduled it to send while I was on vacation so that it happened on the day of. But then I put a little disclaimer of, I'm sending this from the past to the future so that it didn't look like that I was working on vacation.

Right. But then you didn't have to-

Amber Boaz:
Exactly, exactly.

I mean, because you didn't have to oh, I got to log ... Oh, I'm two hours late.

Amber Boaz:
Right. Or 10 days late. Because I was going to be gone for a big chunk of time and I didn't want this employee to feel like they were forgotten just because their anniversary landed on my vacation.


Amber Boaz:

Yeah. I've had stuff like that happen too. I love all of the ideas of this. And I think they're all relevant because ... Especially for me. I've done this before where I've canceled meetings and just said, "Just post your updates in a Slack group."

Amber Boaz:

Because then I can read them when I need to. A lot of what you get at in the deck, an underlying theme that you don't really call out, is context switching, right?

Amber Boaz:

So you're able to just focus your time and then oh, okay, so I have 20 minutes in between meetings now, let me catch up on something in Slack in a way that makes sense for me as opposed to dropping everything to have a meeting and then pick back up something. You can have that unbroken mental time to really focus on something.

Amber Boaz:
Right, right.

One part I want to dig into ... Any admin or business user that goes through your deck or here's your talk is like, I'm on board. How do we do this? How do we start doing this? You point out the video thing. I think the video, the recording, a two, three minute video thing ... We did that last year for a large part of the team leading up to Dreamforce because we were in different time zones, we were traveling. And me being on central time I was generally ahead of everybody so I could-

Amber Boaz:
You're always ahead of everybody.

Get up ... Right. Not East Coast, you guys are up too early. I could get up, record a video, and then boop schedule send that, and then be moving on with my day. I think the part that I want to dive into and help admins ... Where do we have this conversation of talking with people who haven't seen the deck, stakeholders, and saying, "Let's talk about this incredibly wasteful meeting that we have every Tuesday where 20 people sit on a Zoom call and 15 of them clearly aren't paying attention and they're sending emails while two people talk and report something to you?

Amber Boaz:
So I think some of it is just modeling good behavior, right? I can't make the meeting today here's my update. Don't tell the internet this, but I have used the, I'm at a dentist appointment here's my update. And then-

You're not at the dentist that often?

Amber Boaz:
I'm not at the dentist that often. My dental hygiene is spectacular, thanks for mentioning it. But modeling that behavior of, hey, we can do this asynchronously, here's a quick update. One of the things that we do in ... For one of our bigger projects is we literally use a Slack workflow to remind everybody to fill in their daily standup. What did you work on today? What did you work on yesterday? What are you working on today? Where are you stuck? It's got emojis in it, and it's animated, and all the things to get people excited about it. Because it's asynchronous, I can go back and go, "What did we do three weeks ago?" I can go search. When was it that Grant said he was working on that ticket? Find that information in the past.
To not answer your question. The value in it is the searchability but also in the asynchronous and synchronicity of it. Getting your stakeholders to understand ... You mentioned the meeting of 15 people where of those 12 are paying attention. I call those book report meetings, right, because it's-

Show and tell.

Amber Boaz:
Right, exactly. You give your status and then I give mine. And if, even once, you can turn it into a hey, here's a clip of my status update, and then you don't have to do a meeting. I'm sure there are exceptions to this. In general, folks don't want to be in that meeting. They don't want to have to show up and pretend like they're paying attention, in general. There are some weirdos who sometimes do. So giving people that out of hey, it's the middle of August, folks are on vacation, school's get ready to start, folks are doing their last hurrah to the beach, let's do this. Let's try this. Let's just experiment. Let's try this meeting asynchronously and see how people like it, and then talk about what worked and what didn't. Fundamentally, it's about iterating. Not every single meeting can be replaced with Slack, let's not pretend that's real, but a lot of them can. A lot of them can. You don't want to overclock, if you will, onto replacing ... This is about replacing ineffective meetings with Slack.

And good call out because I did skip over that work area effective. Just go for the whole thing.

Amber Boaz:
All meetings. Never have a meeting again.

All the meetings, everything. Clear your calendars, folks. You've been a manager. I didn't ask if you're currently a manager-

Amber Boaz:
I am.

But I've been a manager. What is something that when you made this transition you had to work through that you weren't used to, right? I come from ... We're of that generation where we've probably worked for a lot of bosses that required us to be at our desk by 8:30 or you weren't working.

Amber Boaz:
Right, right.

I know those norms are shifting, but there's still a lot of people, a lot of stakeholders, a lot of executive management that are of that generation that they need to see the people in the room. I've worked in sales where oh, Bob's not on the call. Well, Bob must be running late he's slacking again. And it's like no, Bob's not, maybe Bob has a flat tire on his way to the office.

Amber Boaz:
Maybe Bob's on the phone with a client closing a big deal.

Right, right. Yes. But what was something that ... Even with the shift to working from home more, managers have to just be ... Not resigned to the fact but accepting of the fact that okay, so people are going to get their work done and they may not start at 8:31.

Amber Boaz:

Right? And so if we're going to have this meeting, and it's normally a Tuesday at 10:00 AM, as a manager do ... What were things you changed?

Amber Boaz:
So I think there were a couple things. The flexibility of ... Well, let me say this. Because a lot of my colleagues are in Europe, a lot of that you had ... That's the only time they're available to meet. So if you truly do need a meeting it's a morning meeting. If I ran the world I would be able to sleep until 9:00 AM every single day. I don't run the world.


Amber Boaz:
I mean, the day's young. That presence for those meetings is important to build the relationships. Let me differentiate a little bit between meetings where you're literally just reporting a status and meetings where you're having a discussion or building relationships. And those are two different things. If it's just about the status, I closed eight deals, I created a permission set group, I ... If it's that, you can do that asynchronously with something like Slack. Getting in a room and having that conversation is dumb. If, however, it's "Hey, did you go see that hot new movie this weekend? Did you" ... "How are your kids? Which beach did you go to?" That relationship building I believe still needs to happen. I prefer it via Zoom because I like working from home on my treadmill rather than in the office, but if in the office so be it. Not every meeting has to be boring, and painful, and awful. Because the purpose, fundamentally of a meeting, is getting together with your colleagues. And that ideally should be enjoyable or at least not painful.

Right. Right. I think you've given the example ... It seems like a pretty low-hanging fruit example of the book report or the readout for an ineffective meeting. If it's not that apparent, what are some things that you look for, or that admins in working with their business units can say, "Here's five meetings that I think could be Slack channels or hosted there as opposed to time on the calendar?" Is it characteristics?

Amber Boaz:
I think anything where you are just giving a status. Where it's just a status. How are things? Those often are weekly. Sometimes if you're lucky they're monthly or quarterly. Those are low-hanging fruit, right? You can give me the status of the thing in a Slack channel. Where decisions need to be made. We need to get all of the stakeholders together in a room to thunderdome it out on a big new feature. That isn't where you ... You wouldn't do that via Slack. The boring stuff should happen via Slack. And the engaging, interesting, puzzle solving, whiteboarding, those aren't the right place. Slack isn't the right place for that discussion.
You're looking for meetings where it's ... Somebody prepared slides, and they're going to go through the slides with you, and it's the same order of slides that you saw last week and the week before. Or you're the one preparing the slides and it's the same slides it was last week. It's just painful. That's, in my opinion, wasted time and energy where you could just do a quick clip. Here's what we did, and here's what's happening, and here's how it's going. Red, yellow, green trend line up to the right, screenshots if you want because that's easy enough to do, and close it off with an animated GIF. And Bob's your uncle, there's your status meeting.

No, I like that, I like that. So if we were to rework this presentation, what are some things that you can add to an effective meeting with Slack?

Amber Boaz:
Add to an effective meeting? Sorry.

Because I think we're trying to replace okay, ineffective meetings.

Amber Boaz:
Oh, I see.

Let's say we've got good meetings going. Is there also a way that we can carry that into Slack so that we don't lose that momentum between meetings?

Amber Boaz:
Absolutely. I mean, I think sharing anything that was shared in the meeting. Any links, any slides, anything that was created as a function of the meeting. Any documentation. Oh, in this meeting we created eight Jira tickets, and four Asana tasks, and five cases for the various teams in our company, here's the links to all of those. For the record ... I'm using air quotes, you can't see those.

I can totally see it on an audio podcast in my head.

Amber Boaz:
In your head you're seeing the air quotes. Good, good, good. Those assets from the meeting, and sharing those so that there's a record of what happened. You asked me about decision criteria for what ... How to look at a meeting. Let's say you go on two weeks vacation, and I hope you do, the meetings that you miss where you literally aren't able to attend, where when you come back, you don't wonder what was covered, those could be replaced with Slack, right? If you're coming back and going, "Oh, darn, I missed that meeting where Amber and I were going to discuss the thing, and she probably made a decision." That's different from Fred and Sally did their slide deck dance again, and Oh darn, I missed that one. Ha ha ha. Maybe that's the decision criteria. If you truly weren't able to be present because you were off gallivanting on a beach someplace, as you do, and would not have missed it, then that is a meeting that is a good candidate for replacing with Slack.

What do you give as a suggestion for people who manage channels to ensure that people don't feel overwhelmed or feel, I just can't even keep up with the Slack thread anymore?

Amber Boaz:
Some of that comes down to folks self-identifying that they're overwhelmed. I can't help you if you don't tell me you're overwhelmed which is fair. Talking through how to update your sidebar, how to group things, how to mute channels. Lord knows I'm in plenty of channels that are muted that I check when I have the brain space or the time to check them. And that's okay. That's the whole point of having those features in Slack. And it's okay to leave channels. There are sometimes when you don't need to be there anymore. You're not on that project anymore, you're not working with that team anymore, you can leave that channel no harm no foul. Part of it is owning your own destiny, right? I don't need to be here, this isn't useful information for me anymore. I'm going to mute it, and if I don't miss it for two weeks, two months, whatever I'm going to leave the channel.

I couldn't agree more. I feel like the only thing missing is I would just love to see a channels that I own. That would be great. Just let me filter on that somehow.

Amber Boaz:
You could put them in the sidebar in a group.

Sometimes you create a lot of channels very quickly. As we tidy things up. Do you enforce or do you have any naming conventions? Because I feel like I've been at companies that had various different ways of messaging each other. With Slack, you can name things anyway. Do you enforce ... Enforce, I'm using air quotes you can totally see them.

Amber Boaz:
I can.

Naming conventions or that? Or do you suggest admins do that?

Amber Boaz:
There are suggested ... Slack has, in their training materials, pretty strong opinions about how you should name channels. The way I tend to think about it is ... In the beginning of the Slack name ... And you do want to standardize, right? Let's just agree that they need to be standardized. What your standard is, however, I think is way more up for debate. The way I have seen it done successfully is you start with either ... You start with some sort of prefix. In our company, we start with our company initials. If, however, it includes a client it starts with EXT as an external, then it's the client name, then it's the project name because we also have multiple projects with the same client. So, for example, EXT Acme, as an example. PRM project. EXT Acme service contract. EXT Acme, right? You have those multiple channels ... So you have the context. Because we also have different teams working on those different projects with those different clients. So it just depends on what your business does, and how you're structured, and who is using Slack.
You may have sales and there's one big sales channel, an all sales, and then you may have sales by region, and then by district or whatever your breakdowns are so that you can ... Managers can communicate to their team, or VPs can communicate to their bigger team. It just depends on how you're structured. I think standardization is a hill I'm willing to die on, you should be standardized. But what that standard is is what works for your organization.

No, I agree. I believe it was a validation rule that I built in a few Salesforce instances to enforce naming conventions on opportunities.

Amber Boaz:
I love it, I love it.

Got to have that stuff.

Amber Boaz:

I do love the ... Especially that you call out when it's an external channel. Important because people can get clicking around in a hurry and you don't want to make a mistake.

Amber Boaz:
Right. Exactly. In the consulting space, the last thing you want to do is ... You have your client channel by name and then external client channel by name, and putting, "Hey, I need help with stakeholder X who's being particularly prickly."

And stakeholder X is in that channel.

Amber Boaz:
Exactly. Whoops.

Awesome. No, it's good to know I'm being prickly. Completely understand. Fabulous. Well, it was good catching up with you.

Amber Boaz:
Always a pleasure.

It's been a while. I didn't know you were a Slack Community group owner. No surprise there because serial community.

Amber Boaz:
My name is Amber and I have a community group starting problem.

And I'm sure you use Slack for that.

Amber Boaz:
Oh, absolutely. I absolutely do. I'm not being facetious, I absolutely use Slack for that.

No, I feel you have to. That's one of those things I've always said, the CEOs of Holiday Inn have to stay at a Holiday Inn because otherwise, it would just be weird, right?

Amber Boaz:
One would think but I'm quite sure that there's plenty of cross-pollination.

I'm sure. Well, that's on them. So it was a fun chat catching up with Amber. In case you don't know I have known her boy, for almost over a decade now. She's been in the community as a serial community group leader and creator as you could say. I want you to do one thing. I need you to share this episode with somebody. I bet you've got somebody that's listening, and friends with, and really wants to know more about Slack or saving them time. And here's how you do it. If you're in iTunes, all you have to do is tap the dots and choose share episode, and you can post it social, you can text your friend, and then they can listen to it right on their phone. I super, super appreciate it. Now, if you're looking for more great resources, don't worry. Everything admin is at including a transcript of the show. Now, be sure to join our conversation, the Admin Trailblazer group, that is over in the Trailblazer Community. Don't worry, all the links are in the show notes to this episode. So until next week, we'll see you in the cloud.


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Category:general -- posted at: 12:00am PDT

Today on the Salesforce Admins Podcast, we talk to Toni V. Martin, VP of Salesforce Marketing and Communications at Bitwise, Salesforce MVP, and founder of Systems to Success.

Join us as we chat about why you might already be a Business Analyst, the flavors of business analysis, and how to get the experience to take that next step in your career.

You should subscribe for the full episode, but here are a few takeaways from our conversation with Toni V. Martin.

Why you might already be a BA

Toni got her start on marketing automation platforms and then sales enablement on Salesforce. “I was on the admin path, the way everyone starts out,” she says, “but it wasn’t a good fit for me, I was really more interested in improving business processes.” She asked for some advice from Stephanie Foerst, a Salesforce MVP based in Atlanta, who suggested going into business analysis.

But could Toni really just become a Business Analyst? Didn’t she need a bevy of certifications or years of experience? “According to the International Institute for Business Analysis, anyone who performs business analysis tasks is a Business Analyst,” she says, “and that’s probably everyone listening right now.” Today, she trains other people in business analysis and produces events like the Salesforce Business Analysis Virtual Summit through her organization, Systems to Success.

The flavors of business analysis

One thing Toni realized, as she gained more experience in business analysis, is that there are actually many different types of BAs. Toni likes to call them the “flavors” of business analysts, and it helps to understand what makes sense for you.

At SMBs, you’re probably doing business analysis as part of some other responsibilities, like being a Salesforce Admin. At larger organizations, the roles will be split and more specialized so you may only get your hands dirty when you’re prototyping or testing. When you’re looking at BA paths, you need to ask yourself: do you want to be more functional or do you want to be more system agnostic? “You need to know, going in, what flavor you’re looking for,” Toni explains.

Whatever your flavor, Toni reminds us that one of the most useful skills for any Business Analyst is knowing when to say “I don’t know, let me look into it.” Salesforce is a powerful platform that can do just about anything, but sometimes that comes with a ton of added costs or a significant time investment. Give yourself permission to get more information before you commit to something.

The BA fairy

If you want to get into the world of business analysis, you can get started by studying for the Business Analyst Certification. Toni was part of the team that put it together, and she’s been thrilled to hear from everyone using it to take their careers in a new direction.

And while a certification can certainly help you get that next role, Toni reminds us that experience is crucial. “There’s no BA fairy that waves her magic wand and pronounces you a BA,” she says. But if you’re an admin, you’re already doing tasks that require business analysis and you probably just need to find a way to highlight those skills.

Be sure to listen to the full episode for more about getting Business Analyst experience in your current role, how to get started with Trailhead, and the advice Toni got from Mike that transformed her career.

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Category:general -- posted at: 12:00am PDT

Today on the Salesforce Admins Podcast, we talk to Ko Forte, Salesforce Business Analyst at RGP. Join us as we chat about business analysis, career transitions, and the BA mindset.

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

August is Business Analyst Month

For August, we’re taking a deep dive into the business analyst skillset. We get started by talking to Ko, a consultant who helps organizations as both a Business Analyst and a Salesforce Admin. She’s recently given a talk at some Salesforce events entitled “BA Where You Are,” so we thought we should bring her on the pod to hear all about it.

Ko’s talk is focused on developing the mindset and habits for a Salesforce Business Analyst role. It’s geared toward people who are admins and want to move into business analysis, as well as folks who might be new to the ecosystem and looking for a potential fit.

The business analyst mindset

For Ko, the key to being an effective business analyst begins with mindset. Before she starts work with a new client, she asks herself:

  • Who is this company?

  • How are they positioned in the industry?

  • Who are their customers?

  • What do they do to make money? And therefore, what’s important to them?

Thoroughly understanding these things grounds Ko with a clear understanding of what the company she’s working with needs their technology to do for them.

It’s also important to cultivate a mindset of compassion, both for why business processes are the way they are and for the people who will be affected if you make a change. People do things for a reason, and you need to understand those factors to find something that works.

Transitioning your career

The biggest thing Ko recommends for admins making the transition into business analysis is to not be afraid of asking questions. Someone else may be wondering the same thing and something that seems obvious to an expert might need to be better understood by everyone else on the team.

You should also start making a habit of turning the camera on for meetings. You want to create the impression that you’re reliable, you’re present, and you’re listening. Our brains have evolved to look at faces and, especially in remote work, it helps to show yours to the world. And, again, have compassion for everyone else attending a meeting by clearly communicating what you’re trying to do with an agenda and some goals.

Be sure to listen to the full episode for more about Ko, and why it’s important to take a look at your job description if you’re trying to advance your career.

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Category:general -- posted at: 12:00am PDT

Today on the Salesforce Admins Podcast, we sit down for coffee with Mike, Gillian, and Josh Birk.

Join us as we chat about community conferences and tips to get started speaking at events.

You should subscribe for the full episode, but here are a few takeaways from our conversation with the Admin Evangelist Team.

Community conferences

Every month, Gillian, Mike, and Developer Evangelist Josh Birk sit down with a cup of coffee and a topic. For July’s Coffee Talk, we’re sharing our love for community conferences and explaining why they’re such a good opportunity to get into speaking at events.

Join us as we discuss:

  • Fun things to do with your off day from our conference veterans.

  • Why bad weather is the key to Midwestern niceness.

  • How to use community conferences to dip your toes into public speaking.

  • What makes for a good speaking topic.

  • Why it’s so important to know your conference.

  • What you can learn by attending conferences before you try speaking at one.

  • Our favorite places to eat when we’re at conferences.

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Category:general -- posted at: 12:00am PDT

Today on the Salesforce Admins Podcast, we talk to Laura Pelkey, Senior Manager of Customer Security Awareness & Engagement at Salesforce.

Join us as we chat about how to be a security-minded advocate within your organization and what it could do for your career.

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

What security means for admins

Even though Summer is the time for vacations and fun in the sun, Laura wants to remind us that security threats don’t take time off. That’s why it’s so important for every organization to have security advocates: people who are consistently vocal about security.

You might already be doing all the good stuff we’ve talked about in past episodes, like password enforcement and TFA, but this is about taking it a step further. It’s thinking like a security leader and looking into the future by requesting budget to address security debt or get more help on your team. “As a business professional, as an admin, as someone who’s in charge of aspects of data security, you’re leveling up by acting this way,” Laura says.

Having security conversations

Things have changed since 2020. More people are working remotely, and more and more business operations have gone digital. Hand in hand with that, the responsibilities of an admin have increased.

Security is a big job that touches on all areas of your business. So if you encounter a problem that you can’t address with the security tools in Salesforce, how can you be proactive and partner with security allies across your organization? For example, if you notice phishing emails targeting your users, you could work with IT to create some training around what to look out for.

Where security advocacy is going

Being a security advocate has a lot of benefits for you, too. Being proactive instead of reactive will save you a lot of time and headaches. In our phishing example, your users receiving that training could mean you get a suspicious email forwarded to you instead of having to do damage control after your Salesforce org has been compromised.

Security advocacy could even take your career in a new direction. Laura points out that her own job in security awareness didn’t exist ten years ago. “This is a huge value add to your career,” she says. As a Salesforce Admin, you are the expert on what needs to be protected in your org, so make sure you get a seat at the table.

Be sure to check out the full episode for info on the Trailhead Security Superbadge, and what Laura has to say about imposter syndrome.

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Category:general -- posted at: 12:00am PDT

Today on the Salesforce Admins Podcast, we talk to David Carnes, Chairman & Chief Evangelist at OpFocus and the author of Mastering Salesforce Reports and Dashboards: Drive Business Decisions with Your CRM Data.


Join us as we chat about writing a book, tips you can apply for your own content, and, of course, reports.


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

Content opportunities

David was contacted by one of his favorite publishers, O’Reilly Media, to put together a book about Salesforce analytics. “They asked me to put together a proposal,” he said, “and I really didn’t have to think too much about the topics because I had a lot of them in my head from hosting the Dashboard Dojo.”


The entire journey started with blog writing and speaking at events. David got his start with a 20-minute theater presentation at the Boston World Tour. “There’s just so many great events to speak at,” he says, “so there’s a really nice way to leverage the content that you develop and your thoughts around a particular topic.”

Why reports and dashboards are crucial reporting tools

One thing he’s seen time and time again in his consulting work is that most companies wait too long to invest in a proper Business Intelligence tool. “The reality is that for the majority of users in the world, the only reporting tool they may get is reports and dashboards,” he says.


The Dashboard Dojo is driven by that need, creating a place for people who want to improve their Salesforce reporting skills to meet and learn together on a regular basis. It’s a webinar format where anyone can ask questions. Those recordings are then published to a broader audience through their podcast and on YouTube.

Reporting tips and tricks

One major topic for the book is what you can do when you combine reporting with other Salesforce features. “If you ever get stuck in reporting, keep in mind that formulas solve all kinds of problems,” David says. Trending can also be a powerful tool you can use to show how things are going. “It’s something that your executive leadership needs but doesn’t always ask for,” David says. These features are available out of the box but you need to know about them to use them.


Whenever you create a dashboard, David recommends that you ask to sit in the meeting where they use it to make business decisions. It’ll instantly give you ideas for how to make your reporting even better and you’re there to answer any questions that may come up.


Be sure to check out the full episode for settings you might not know about, how to keep reporting in mind when you’re building apps, and the difference between writing and editing. And, obviously, read the book!


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Full Transcript

Mike:David Carnes wrote a new Salesforce book called Mastering Salesforce Reports and Dashboards, and it's out on bookstores now. And I know many of you won't likely be writing a book, but many people in the community create content. So I wanted to talk to David about content creation, because he wrote a book, and how he sustained writing things that he learned about himself while creating content, and also just where his passion for reports and dashboards came from. So let's get David on the podcast.
So David, welcome to the podcast.

David Carnes:  Thank you so much. Really excited to be on with you today.

Mike:Well, we've chatted a lot and I feel like we run into each other annually at a New York World Tour event or some sort of Salesforce event, but it's really cool. So you wrote a book called Mastering Salesforce Reports and Dashboards, tell me about that.

David Carnes:  It was really quite an experience. My favorite, favorite tech book publisher, O'Reilly Media, reached out, it was about just a little less than two years ago saying, "Would you consider writing a book on Salesforce Analytics?" And they asked me to put together a proposal and I really didn't have to think too much about the topics because I had a lot of them in my head from hosting the Dashboard Dojo. I submitted the proposal and off we went. So they told me it would take 15 months, it took me almost 18 months. But I was paired with a wonderful editor at O'Reilly and we literally just finished up the process today. So it's up on Amazon and the print versions will ship, I think three weeks from now.

Mike:Wow. I mean, I've never written a book, I've thought about doing it. I've done the math on it, the number of words that an average content creator writes in a blog post times the number of blog posts I've written and I think I've written two or three books.

David Carnes:  I bet.

Mike:It's just, they're incohesive, they don't go together very well. But now I know most people probably won't write a book. I mean, you're in the kind of next level air. But I think that content creation is something that everybody does, from creating presentations to go to Salesforce events or community events or even internally people are creating content where. What are some of the things that you learned writing a book that you think could parallel very well for admins creating content?

David Carnes:  I think for me it started right with writing blog articles, and I heard a really great tip at tech event probably 15 years ago, which the suggestion was something along the lines of answer every question with a blog article. And a lot of people will start writing a blog article and sort of inadvertently write a chapter of a book and blog articles really don't need to be a chapter of a book, they could be something a bit shorter. And the answer to a question is something that's really valuable. And a lot of times people are searching on the web for specific questions and they find an answer in the form of a nice cohesive blog post.
For me, it started with blog writing and then submitting to speak at different events. And I think one of the entry points for me was speaking at the Boston World Tour, and you gave me a shot for a 20 minute theater presentation, and I was talking about report and dashboard features in lightning that I thought were pretty exciting. This must have been five plus years ago at the Boston World Tour, but from there, there's just so many great events to speak at. I was given an opportunity to speak at Dreamforce and started with a 20 minute theater session, and then the next year put in for a longer session at Dreamforce. And then they're all the Dream events, but there's a really nice way to leverage content that you develop and your thoughts around a particular topic.
In my case, I felt like there wasn't a lot of content related to reports and dashboards, and I knew that for most organizations the leadership needs to make decisions on what's going on within the organization, and the way to do that is leveraging reporting tools. So there was sort of a need in the marketplace and something I was willing and able to go deep on. I also started the Dashboard Dojo, now almost three years ago, and that's been really fun to pick a topic and just go deep on the topic, whether it's formulas or joined reports or whatever the topic.

Mike:What is Dashboard Dojo?

David Carnes:  So Dashboard Dojo is a group that I started three years ago, we meet once or twice a month and we just dig into reporting topics. So we had a dojo session earlier today. So anyone is welcome, anyone that wants to learn about or discuss reports and dashboards, we do it in a webinar format. We allow people to ask questions, we allow people to come off mute. We do it in a webinar format mainly because we know that the majority of the listening will be on the recordings. So we've had some of the recordings. In fact, the number one recording was a hands-on session on custom report types. And that one topic more than any, it's probably 10 times the viewership on YouTube.

Mike:Yeah. Now one thing that struck me, because when I think books I think permanency. I've got books on a shelf behind me that I go back and reference. I write content for the admin blog, you talked about that and doing your webinars. How did you tackle writing a book? I mean, you said they contacted you two years ago and the book's coming out now. How did you tackle staying relevant given the tech industry? I don't even know we knew AI or some of the features that we're talking about now two years ago.

David Carnes:  Yeah, it's very exciting. There was one additional chapter that I added to the book that wasn't in the original set of chapters, which is the Analytics Tab, and that's just coming out, it's generally available in the summer '23 release. So very, very exciting. Lots of new functionality available. And that was sort of a nice example of something that it was more than halfway through the writing that I realized that the feature was introduced in beta a year ago, and I got started with it. The Salesforce engineering team has been wonderful to me to answer questions and sort of dig into things because some of the documentation isn't fully there yet because it's new beta functionality. I did have to rewrite one chapter, which was on the mobile reporting. So earlier this year, Salesforce released the newer version of reporting on mobile devices, and it's so fantastically different that I needed to get back in there and rewrite the chapter.

Mike:Wow. You mentioned, well, the mobile reporting, which wait, because I'm sure more things will change too. If you had to sit down and write a book and I polled 100 admins, I don't know that reports and dashboards would come up as one of the things to write about. And every presentation that I have seen you give has always been around reports and dashboards. What got you hooked on reports and dashboards?

David Carnes:  My company, OpFocus, we're a consulting shop. We've been working in the Salesforce space for 17 years, we're coming up on our 17th anniversary within weeks. And since day one we've seen companies struggle without proper reporting tools. Most companies wait too long to invest in a proper BI tool like a Tableau or CRM Analytics. And the reality is that the majority of users in the world, the only reporting tool they may get is reports and dashboards. So that's one reason I felt like the audience was there for the book.
I think with any content generation, finding something that you're passionate about is sort of important because you're going to have some long nights, whether it's writing or preparing a speech or setting up a demo. The number one class that I took, it was a summer course at Harvard many years ago, it was on database management. And it opened my eyes to how important the structure of data is and then how important data is for driving decisions within organizations.

Mike:So one question I have for you, this is just me kind of needling, do you think we organizations have too much data? Is it just too much to report on, to get together to try and use for decision making?

David Carnes:  Oh, I think there is a lot of data. I think it's very important that we be able to zero in and maybe zoom out on the data as well. And I think part of speaking at events and hosting the Dojo and writing the book on reporting is to help people really zoom in and try to drive good decision making. But certainly companies are awash with data and some of these new announcements that Salesforce has made relative to AI or with some of the Einstein functionality and just getting in this whole realm of predictive analytics, it's very, very exciting.

Mike:Well, so let me needle you on that because we'll see a bunch of stuff, I mean, Salesforce back in June had an AI day and there's going to be announcements at Dreamforce, forward-looking statement, I don't know what they are. But in the world of AI and GPT tools... Just the other day somebody sent me a blog article and they're like, "Oh, you need to read this." And I took two seconds. I opened up the URL and scrolled, and it was this huge blog post, huge. I was going to run out of battery power if I kept scrolling to the end. I thought to myself, you know what? I bet ChatGPT can just summarize this. So I just put in the text from the article and said, "Give me 200 word summary on this." And I guess I did a pretty good job. I mean, I read it. I was like, oh, okay. Maybe that's what the article's about. I need to go back and read the article.
One of the things that I wonder with reporting and the amount of data now that we're creating is will we use these AI tools to just tell me... I don't need to read the whole book report. This is me playing Biff in Back to the Future. Marty, just write the book report for me so that I can re-transcribe it. Do you see AI heading in that way for reports and dashboards? Just tell me what I need to know. Tell me what decision I should make.

David Carnes:  Yeah, I think there're probably a couple of steps in the middle. One would be getting toward more natural language requests for specific information. How many net new logos did we have in Q1 versus Q2? Something like that. So stepping toward natural language is one area and having a response from something that's intelligent enough to figure out what it is that I'm asking for. Then you get toward the generation of reporting output. I mean, it's amazing to see all these demos, whether it's at TDX or at the World Tours, the New York World Tour most recently for me, but see all this generative output and thinking what that could mean for reports and dashboards. I think it's very exciting.

Mike:You mentioned, well, you've been in the ecosystem for a long time. Looking back, what do you think your book would look like had you written it when you first started back in 2006?

David Carnes:  Oh, interesting. It's amazing how many features have been there for years and years. Whether it's cross filters or historical trending or even things we could do with custom formula fields. So I think there would be less explanation of features and more explanations on how to do things because you probably needed to combine more things to achieve an outcome. And that's really one of the goals in writing a book like this. It's like, okay, here are all the tools that Salesforce provides, and it's through the effective combination of these tools that you can do really interesting things.
One of the things I talk about in the Dojo a lot and at presentation at Dream events is, if you ever get stuck in reporting keep in the back of your mind that formulas solve all kinds of problems. Whether it's converting a data type, whether it's concatenating text, whether it's getting a ratio to appear a certain way, there's all kinds of things we can solve with formulas. And what I'm getting at is that through the effective combination of features, you really get some powerful outcomes. So writing the book on here are all the features, that's one thing. But then here's some ways to consider combining them to really achieve powerful outcomes.

Mike:Yeah, no, that's a good point. You've been in Boston as a user group leader for a while now. What is something that you definitely had to include in this book because it always comes up when you start talking about mastering reports and dashboards from user group experience?

David Carnes:  I'll give you two answers.

Mike:Oh, bonus.

David Carnes:  One is formulas, and so chapter five's all about formulas. And the reality is we could do a whole book on solving problems with formulas because they're just so useful. And with the ability to have a role level formula on a report or have cross object formulas on joined reports, which are super powerful, that's really exciting.
Another area that I want more admins and report writers to take advantage of is trending, and we have a number of ways to achieve trending. One of the later chapters in the book is all on trending. And it's something that your executive leadership needs, but they don't always ask for. And some of the features require a checkbox to turn them on or require you to know about a special report type that's available that offers a monthly snapshot. Just out of the box it's there, but if you don't know about it you don't know about it. But I want people to take advantage of trending because it is so powerful and helping people make good decisions through reporting.

Mike:So along that trending line, this is the next level question that I'm going to ask, what are things that admins should listen for in meetings or when gathering requirements to be like, "Oh, they're looking for a trending report?"

David Carnes:  I'm really glad you asked this because I feel very passionate about this. One thing. For anybody who's creating a great report or creating a great dashboard, ask to sit in the meeting, just sit in the corner and just listen, but the next time that leadership team takes a look at that report or uses that dashboard because you'll hear things and there'll be in a couple of categories. One will be that they don't understand something. Another will be that you'll hear them say, "If this could only" dot, dot, dot. So that's one category answering your question.
I think another with regard to trending, you get a lot of questions, especially from sales leadership was like what fell out of the pipeline since last week? And we have an amazing feature, I think it's called historical trending, it's been in Salesforce for more than a decade. It's a checkbox to turn it on the opportunity object. And you literally can compare what was in existence in the pipeline last week versus what's in the pipeline this week. And it's great, and you can see pluses and minuses and change dates and things. But I've had that request probably the most over the years from head of ahead of sales or a director of revenue operations who's running a meeting just trying to figure out and explain what changed since last week. And it's such a powerful feature, it's not a complicated feature, but it does require a checkbox to turn it on.

Mike:Yeah, often there's always a setting.

David Carnes:  There's always a setting for something.

Mike:I think one thing that I always think about is reporting always feels like last. And I think you mentioned that early on, reporting's always last. I know because of history and because I've heard you speak, reporting's actually first. What are some considerations that admins should think about when building apps so that they can actually report on the things they need to report on?

David Carnes:  Do you know, Aaron Krier has done some really nice work in the area of architecting for reporting, and it's such a great topic. That class that I mentioned that I took, that summer course on database management all those years ago, sort of learned about how joins work, how data is structured, and the concept of normalized and non normalized databases. So that was really good foundational information for me. But I think understanding the data model is one, and there are a couple of ways that you can learn the data model. So there's a tool that we can see in setup called Schema Builder. And it's not a new tool, but it's a nice way to visualize how the tables are organized. I was asked to report on a much older CRM system many, many years ago, and I asked that software company and had to beg them for the data model. They sent it to me, it had 400 tables, and I printed them all out lovingly. I taped them to the wall because it was my only way of understanding how the data was structured so that I could report on it.
I feel like in your Salesforce works you have to do the same. Whether you're using CPQ or whether you've built out custom functionality or you're taking advantage of the nonprofit template. There's specific data model that's unique to your org and it's important to get to know that to be able to write reports effectively.

Mike:Yeah, no. Geez, it had to have been a big wall. Thinking of, you watch all of those movies where people, the ropes and they get the strings tied together.

David Carnes:  Oh yeah. [inaudible]-

Mike:Tracking bigfoot.
As we wrap things up here, I'd love to know what is something you learned about yourself that you didn't know before you started this book?

David Carnes:  Oh, that writing is different than editing. That's one thing. I was paired with an amazing editor, and it was actually the same editor that Phil Weinmeister had for his two books. And Phil was someone who kindly spoke to me before I said, "Phil, I'm thinking about writing a book, could I talk to you?" And we'd only met once briefly, and he was so gracious. So he gave me some advice. For me, it was establishing a rhythm of writing, like figuring that out. Although for me, it was kind of all over the place. Sometimes in the middle of the night, sometimes in the morning. But probably the bigger thing that I learned was around editing that it's amazing how many passes. And then this idea of working with an editor who gives you feedback and then you need to triangulate their recommendations back into the book. It actually took me longer often to edit a chapter than it did to write the chapter, which sounds nuts. But yeah, so lots of learning all around. I appreciate you asking.

Mike:Yeah, no, I mean I think that's all part of content creation. Whether you're writing a book or a script for a video or something, oftentimes getting the idea out there can feel daunting, but it's refining the idea. And that can be challenging too. Editors have a lot of patience, I've worked with editors before and, boy, they should be up for sainthood.

David Carnes:  Yes. I was thinking similar words, religious [inaudible]-

Mike:You hand them something here, please read this and just look away. In there somewhere is my idea, I promise you, please tease it out.
David, it was great chatting with you. I'm, I'm glad we had a chance to connect and I look forward to seeing the book and catching up with you some more.

David Carnes:  We'll see you at Dreamforce. Thank you so much. And for anyone that's listening, if you're interested in the Dashboard Dojo and learning, we try to meet every month at least once or twice. So it's just

Mike:Perfect. Thanks David.
So it was a great discussion with David. I am always amazed by how much he knows about reporting. And let's do trending reports a little bit more, let's get into that. Now, if you enjoyed this episode and I just need you to do me a favor, here's what it is. If you're listening on iTunes I want you to tap the dots and choose share episode, and just share it with one person. Just share with them, "Here's an amazing podcast. I want you to subscribe to it and start listening to it." You could also post it to social, I'd love that, or you can text it to a friend. If you're looking for more great resources, be sure to visit your one stop for everything admin, which is And we also include a transcript of the show so in case you missed something. Now, be sure to join in our conversation in the Admin Trailblazer Group in the Trailblazer community. Don't worry, link to that is all in the show notes. So with that, until next week, we'll see you in the cloud.

Direct download: David_Carnes_on_Writing_a_Book.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 12:00am PDT

Today on the Salesforce Admins Podcast, we talk to Ajaay Ravi, Senior Technical Product Manager at Salesforce.

Join us as we chat about AI, Flow GPT, and why admins should pay close attention.

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

Do Androids Dream of Bohemian Furniture?

Ajaay learned a lot about AI when he led a team at Amazon tasked with building technology to recommend furniture. The only problem was that they were all engineers and didn’t know the first thing about interior design. They brought in some experts who could tell them what individual components made something a particular style, and used their knowledge to train the AI by giving it high-quality data in bite-sized pieces that it could understand.

What’s important to understand here is that any AI model requires training. And to do that, you need to break a concept like “furniture style” down into tags like “upholstery,” “seat,” “legs,” “paisley,” etc. Then you can give it a group of tagged images to try to teach it a broader concept, like “Bohemian.” Finally, you test it to see if it can identify new images that have Bohemian furniture in them, give the model feedback on how it did, and start the loop again.

Flow GPT

For Salesforce, Ajaay has been building Flow GPT. The goal is to create a tool where you can just describe the automation you need and it will build you a flow—automagically. They’re still in the testing and training phase but the possibilities are tantalizing.

Depending on what type of user you are, you might use Flow GPT in several different ways. For those that are already experienced with Flow, you can leverage it to eliminate some steps and work faster. And for people newer to the ecosystem, Ajaay hopes it can remove barriers to unlocking the full potential of the platform.

Learning to crawl

Just like with the interior design tool Ajaay built earlier in his career, Flow GPT needs some time to learn. For now, they’re focused on building simple flows of five steps or less with minimal decision elements and branches. But it’ll only get better as they keep working on it and getting feedback from test users.

Be sure to check out the full episode for more about what makes for a good prompt, what you can do to get ready for Flow GPT, and how AI can “hallucinate.”


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

Today on the Salesforce Admins Podcast, we sit down for coffee with Mike, Gillian, and Josh Birk.

Join us as we chat about what ChatGPT has to do with New Coke and ponder the mystery of the McRib.

You should subscribe for the full episode, but here are a few takeaways from our conversation with the Admin Evangelist Team.

Opinionated launches (and lunches)

Every month, Gillian, Mike, and Developer Evangelist Josh Birk sit down for a cup of coffee and hit the “record” button. For June, we’re talking about opinionated launches: launches in the tech world—or elsewhere—that drew attention and, most importantly, a whole lot of opinions.


Join us as we tackle the big questions:

  • McRib: Hero or villain?

  • Apple Vision Pro: Next big thing or next Crystal Pepsi?

  • The problem with EV charging ports

  • Self-driving cars: questionable tech or questionable roads?

  • Josh Birk’s Tales From the Photo Booth


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

Today on the Salesforce Admins Podcast, we talk to Deon Louw, Financial Planning and Analysis Manager at City and Provincial Properties, triple-star Ranger, MuleSoft mentor, and avid Composer enthusiast.

Join us as we chat about MuleSoft Composer, why the community is such a good resource, and how integrations can lead to a digital transformation snowball.

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

From accounting audits to Salesforce

Deon started his career in accounting, specializing in external audits. “While that’s a great profession and really interesting, I realized that I just loved technology more,” he says, so he started trying to figure out how to change careers.

When, through a series of coincidences, Deon ended up looking after a Salesforce org for one of his clients, he felt like he had finally found his calling. He was immediately struck by how powerful the platform could be as a business tool and the potential it had for automation. He could apply his skills in a new way, and that only became more apparent as he added MuleSoft to his toolkit.

Becoming a MuleSoft Mentor

Deon’s company originally handled a lot of business processes manually, so moving to Salesforce was a game-changer. But that meant the rest of their business needed to keep up. Deon started looking into ERP platforms and how he could use MuleSoft Composer to unlock even more automations. “It allows us to scale without having to increase headcount at every single step,” he says.

The community helped Deon immensely on his journey and he’s been giving back by becoming a MuleSoft Mentor. He helps people work through issues they face on the platform and connects people who face similar challenges with the resources to solve them.

A digital transformation snowball

One thing that Deon has found as he’s brought more automations to his organization is that digital transformation starts to snowball. Once people see how getting rid of manual processes can help them get more done, they start looking for other areas where technology can help them and they bring their own ideas to the table.

At the same time, Deon’s organization is relatively small, and so one major challenge he faces is figuring out how to add layers of automation and integration without bringing on more people to manage everything. Luckily, MuleSoft Composer strikes the perfect balance of keeping everything manageable for a small team while still enabling the powerful integrations Deon is looking for.

Be sure to check out the full episode for more about MuleSoft mentors, how Deon thinks about integrations, and why the MuleSoft Composer community is so amazing.

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Full Transcript

Mike:  MuleSoft Composer makes it easy to build process automation for data using clicks instead of code. Dion Lowe is a triple star ranger MuleSoft Mentor and avid composer fan. So in this episode, we're going to find out from him what he was able to accomplish using MuleSoft Composer. Now, before we get into that episode, be sure you're following the Salesforce admins podcast on iTunes or wherever you get your podcast, that way you get a new episode every Thursday right on your phone. So let's get Dion on the podcast. So Dion, welcome to the podcast.

Deon:Mike, thank you so much.

Mike:  Why don't we get started, just introduce everybody to where you are and how you got to being a Salesforce admin and also I'll tip the cards, I know you're an admin of another platform too.

Deon:Yes, so I've had quite an interesting journey. I started off my world as a chartered accountant and in external audit, and I realized that while that's a great profession and really, really interesting, I realized that I just love technology more. So I went down a route of changing careers and then through a number of interesting occurrences I ended up looking after one of my employer's Salesforce platform and I realized how incredibly powerful this is as a business tool, not only for the collection of information, but actually for building out processes and for efficiencies and ultimately automation.
 And I've been doing that now for a while, and I've loved every moment of it because I've been able to take a set of skills and I've been able to replay those skills and reuse those skills at different companies in different industries. And to your point, recently, I've been very fortunate to be able to take everything that we've learned in Salesforce and apply it to a new system, to a new ERP system, which has allowed us to further the depth of what we are able to do within the business.

Mike:  Yeah. So I think that's interesting because that also leads us to a MuleSoft Composer discussion. But before we get to that, when I was introduced to you, I was told that you are a MuleSoft Mentor, so I would love to know what a MuleSoft Mentor does.

Deon:So MuleSoft Mentor was a thing I came across as I joined the MuleSoft greater community and MuleSoft Mentors are these people that have not only just a passion for the product, so they know the product, they've worked with the product, but they're also end users. So these aren't people... No one's a Salesforce employee, no ones a MuleSoft employee. These are people that live and breathe these real world challenges. But MuleSoft's come along and said, but hold on a second, I really like what you're doing or I like your engagement with the community. Can I please get effectively more of that? So MuleSoft Mentors are these groups of people that work with the product, but they're there, they're active people, they're active participants in the community, and they really do champion it from not a sales perspective because hey, I'm just here solving a problem and this is how I do it.
 And because they're not sitting on a sales side, they're not sitting on a Salesforce side, they're normally not even sitting on a consultancy side, they're able to talk to people about what they've done with the platform. They run into the real world challenges. I was doing X, Y, Z, I couldn't do this. And they're able to take that knowledge and proactively feed it back into the community, which is just what's great about the overall ecosystem is that you have these communities that identify these opportunities for people and engage so wonderfully with that.

Mike:  Well, I think that's a great, great description. I teased a little bit in the intro, but you're Salesforce admin, so you got that platform. You have an ERP system. What's it like owning multiple platforms at an organization?

Deon:It's really daunting, but quite exciting because all of a sudden these businesses, so take our business as an example, we really are saying, well, we understand that digital is the future. We understand that we need to do more online, we need to do more automation and all these buzzwords, but we're a small business, so all of a sudden the pressures just keep growing. But with that, because we're a small business, because we're agile, the opportunities grow with them. So while I'm fortunate that I could at least get Salesforce buttoned down and operating effectively before the ERP system came around, it is challenging because there are big responsibilities that the business is becoming more and more reliant on.

Mike:  Right. I think... Well, first of all, I've never been in your chair before, but one of the things that I have done that I'd be interested to dive into is that discussion that a business has with, okay, we have Salesforce. Boy, it would be great, and I'm sure in your case it was, it would be great to get this ERP data in, or a reverse of that was wouldn't it be great if Salesforce could push this over to our ERP system. I'm figuring one of those two had to been mentioned in a room somewhere for you to move forward. So I would love to know what were some of the topics or issues that came up as you were considering, we need Salesforce and our ERP system to be integrated so that I can automate things with Composer.

Deon:So our journey really does start with Salesforce, and we deployed late 2020 and we deployed because we had to. This business is incredible and I'm really proud of what the business does, but it was all done on paper. Our billing was incredibly manual and time consuming and just not scalable. And I think I speak for any businesses that you want to be able to scale, you want to be able to grow, but you want to be able to do so effectively. So Salesforce started off as a way of being able to do, to start building out that scale. And then due to Salesforce and actually what we were accomplishing with Salesforce, we were really starting to push against the limitations of what our existing, and I can't even call it an ERP system, but what our existing accounting system was capable of.
 And that's how the new ERP system discussion came up. But from the get go, we recognize that it can't be manual because the value of looking at a new gen ERP system and having next gen software like Salesforce in the business is absolutely not more processes. It's absolutely not, well, now I've got to go and download files and upload, or I've got to manually integrate. So from the day that we started mentioning ERP, it was, well, how are these going to talk? Because that's where the value for us comes in. That's where knowing that from an operational perspective, my business can operate, and from a data accounting finance perspective the business can seamlessly follow. That's how we know that not only do we drive much better client engagement, but better holistic understanding of where we are as a business and just allows us to scale without having to increase headcount at every single step.
 And all the discussions that I always have about scale, but this isn't that important. Then you start asking, "Okay, well how many people are you willing to employ just to import data?" And then people are like, "Oh, hold on. That's not what I meant." Then you start saying, "Okay, well this is the solutions." And then you start trying to sketch out to people that it's not just to say, oh, we can just do, we're just pushing invoices from Salesforce or payments statuses or customer information, it's well, yes, we're going to start there, but integrations go both ways. And the more you integrate means, the more data you can aggregate and the more meaningful decisions you can make off the back of that data. So for us it was, well, you can't do the one without the other because you lose so much value by not doing it.

Mike:  That's a very good point. And you said something huge, integrations go both ways. So what were those early considerations that you were talking about in your organization that you think other admins should write down as like, oh, these are the things you need to start asking right away when we talk integration.

Deon:So I guess there's two parts of it is, especially in smaller businesses, it's about building up that use case to say, okay, well, it's great having the information, but what does that mean? And that's absolutely what needs to be done, but unfortunately due to how complex the overall, call it SaaS landscape or tech stack or whatever buzzword you want to use because of how complex that's becoming, when you start looking at integrations, integrations are a beast on their own. And you really need to start thinking, okay, but what does this mean for my organization? So similar to the point that I made earlier of saying, well, how many people are you willing to employ to run to import data? The same type of questions need to be made about your systems and your integration layer to say, well, are we willing to deploy an integration layer that then needs to be serviced by someone?
 Is that an employee? Is that a consultant or is there ways that we can do that differently? And that's being very blunt and probably jumping ahead, but that's how we landed up on MuleSoft Composer is to say, well, you start going through all the purchasing, the consideration to say, well, okay, I want something that's reputable? I want something that I know is out there that's got a community that I can turn to and get support on. I want something that's easy or something. But actually what you need is you need something that slots into your business and you need something that's manageable, that's not going to increase the workload of the team that you have or require you to go and hire an additional person just to look after something that's really supposed to solve problems and not create them.

Mike:  Yeah, oftentimes you're adding, because you're adding another layer there and you can create, now we have to have somebody that almost needs to monitor the telephone lines.


Mike:  And you took my next question, but did you even look at anything besides Composer?

Deon:Oh, absolutely. We had to do our due diligence and that's the right thing to do. And we looked at, I very excitedly looked at the Anypoint platform because it is just so impressive and so powerful, but unfortunately it just, it's just that little bit too complex for us considering that we're such a small team. And we looked at other tools either be it no-code tools or other call it low-code tools. And some of them were impressive, some of them were dismal from the get go. But really what it came down to for us is how reputable is the product? Do we have relationships that support that product? And again, we're a existing Salesforce customer, so it wasn't that we needed to build that relationship. So we had existing relationships. Everything that we were looking at integrating in our, I say MVP, but it was our core processes.
 Everything that we looked at integrating already had connectors. So it was out of the box. And the big thing that I was pushed on very, very hard by the leadership team is saying, okay, this is great. You understand all these words, you understand how this works, but what happens if I need to move you into another part of the business? Or what happens if I for whatever reason lose you so I move on or something else happens? What's going to happen to this platform then? And for them, that was a really, really big part of the buying considerations because if it's not easily maintainable, then I don't want it because yes, while it might work now, I can't afford to take on that headache and that uncertainty that it's not going to work easily in the future.

Mike:  Yeah, I think you had a unique perspective in that you owned both platforms you were integrating. To take a step back, if you didn't own one of those platforms, let's say your ERP system, what as a Salesforce admin should you ask for in terms of, I need to push data to you? What should that data look like and what data are you giving me? I think sometimes we start talking integration and you can feel like you're a little bit over your skis as a Salesforce admin because you're not quite sure what that means on the other side. So what were some of the things that were very beneficial for you to be able to look at your ERP system and map that to Salesforce?

Deon:So what's interesting about that is our ERP system was a new purchase for us. So it wasn't that these two systems had been running side by side for any period of time. And just to be clear, our integrations ran from day one, which is something that I'm immensely proud of, but it's testament to how easy this was to set up. But what that meant for us is that actually, while I own both systems, I had to learn a lot about the data model, especially within the ERP landscape. And effectively we had to understand, well, initially I started stressing over how does this data fit together and how am I going to map it and what am I going to do? But again, another great thing about MuleSoft Composer is that it does a lot of that back end translation for you.
 So it starts to translate field names and data types to common language or to platform specific language so that when I talk to our ERP implementation guys, they see something and they're like, oh, okay, well I know what that is, even though I might not know what an object is in Salesforce or what this field record was in Salesforce, I do know what that same field is in the ERP system. And that translation, I cannot overemphasize how valuable that was for us because again, everyone was talking in a language that they were comfortable with.

Mike:  That's a good point. Your post integration, I guess you were post integration on day one, which is unlike anybody, but-

Deon:Really proud of that.

Mike:  Yeah, exactly. Right. I mean, hey, we've been integrated since day one. You know, like okay. You win. What does the roadmap look like now after that initial integration? What are the conversations that you're having with the organization?

Deon:So the overall roadmap's been really, and this is probably not the right word, but it's been really fun. Because we've had the basics buttoned down from day one we've been able to leverage all the new functionality that MuleSoft is bringing out and there's quite a lot of it, which again is why this is such an exciting product. But the conversations with the businesses has been really, really fascinating. So I've always been tech first. This is my bread and butter and I love it, but the business isn't. But giving people exposure to integrations has really allowed them to see the art of the possible. So now my conversations have gone from stress over the basics, and we're talking this in a couple of months to conversations of saying, "But hold on a second. I do this process. Can we not do something here?"
 Or, "Hold on a second, when this happens I know you've got this tool, can't you make something else happen?" And from my perspective, from a digital transformation perspective, I can't tell you how exciting that's been because we've now been able to focus on the business efficiencies and the automations and the improvements and not, oh, but now I've got to spend three weeks trying to build a code or deploy a solution to, well, while we're having this meeting, let's quickly spin something up. Let's quickly run a test on it. And that's been incredibly empowering and transformative as how this business looks and thinks about technology.

Mike:  That's really great. As we wrap up, I want to go back to that mentor piece that I asked you about earlier, because I always try to end on, I don't know, something great for people to work for. As a MuleSoft Mentor what is one question that you feel you answer quite often?

Deon:It's really about I'm struggling to do X, Y, Z in this specific use case, can someone help me? And it might sound silly saying this, but it just goes back to how strong the community. Is the MuleSoft Composer community feels so active that you've got people that'll jump on that answer, typically mentors because of the role that they play in their community, but they jump on those answers. And within the matter of a day, couple of hours, but maximum a day, you've got these people with unique perspectives, guys working all over the place with all this different experiences supporting either the incoming cohort of MuleSoft users or the guys that are just struggling with a problem. And I really can't think of any other community that I've at least been part of that is as proactive as solution orientated in a constructive manner as what the MuleSoft community is and I think that is largely thanks to the MuleSoft Mentor program.

Mike:  Yeah, this as well. So often when I go to Salesforce events or user groups or community events as an admin you can feel like, oh, no one else has this problem. There's no way anybody else has this problem. And then you bring it up at a birds of a feather table and you ask the question, six other people nod their heads because they were-

Deon:Everyone turns and they're excited.

Mike:  "And you have that problem too." "Yep." You really all, there's like 10 business problems in the world. We're all trying to solve them. They just, they have different names, different process names.

Deon:No, absolutely. And it's about, and that's what I've always just loved about the overall community is that there's no right or wrong way. There's perspectives or there's experiences and people are so open, or most people should I say, are so open about talking about that. And the more that people talk about it, the less closed off people are. And without a doubt, that's been life-changing for me as an admin in this community coming from technically a non-technology background because I know that there's no question too silly or too small or too complex that won't be engaged with, and I can't think of a better tech stack to place my bets on.

Mike:  Yeah, no. Well, Dion, I think you summed it up perfectly there with the more that we talk about challenges that we're confronting, the more we learn from each other. And I just can't think of a better place to end this conversation. So thanks so much for coming by and telling us about what you've done with MuleSoft Composer and good work on owning two platforms.

Deon:No, thank you. And thank you so much for having me, and thank you for championing the admin journey. It's really appreciated.

Mike:  Well, it was a great discussion with Dion. And of course, if you enjoyed this episode, can you do me a favor and just share it with at least one person? If you're listening on iTunes, all you need to do is just tap the dots and choose share episode. Then you can post that show to your social feed. You can text it to a friend. If you're looking for more great resources, your one stop for everything admin is, including a transcript of the show. And be sure to join in our conversation, the Admin Trailblazer Group in the Trailblazer Community. Of course, don't worry about it. Mentioned a lot of things. All those links are below in the show notes. So until next week, we'll see you in the cloud.

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

Today on the Salesforce Admins Podcast, we talk to Sarah Flamion, Research Architect on Salesforce’s Research & Insights Team.

Join us as we chat about what recent advances in generative AI mean for admins and the Salesforce platform.

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

What is generative AI?

Generative AI is a blanket term for algorithms that can generate new content: text, images, code, voice, video, and more. It does that based on what it has learned from the existing data you give it.

Sounds complicated, but one of the coolest things about generative AI is that the interface for it is natural language processing (NLP). You can describe what you want it to make in plain English and it will spit something out at you.

The human in the loop

One thing that’s important to understand about generative AI is that it’s not an encyclopedia, it’s a completion system. Fundamentally, the way it works is to identify patterns and then predict the next thing in the sequence.A new field is emerging called prompt engineering, which is focused on how to talk to these models to get better results. You can adapt the model to specific knowledge by “grounding” it with data that isn’t public, for example, your brand voice or information about your industry. You can also give it feedback on its responses, which gives it a chance to learn and improve thanks to “the human in the loop.”

The main takeaway from all of this is that generative AI “supercharges the things that the humans can do,” Sarah says. You can make an image and then have the model give you three variations on it, or get a quick first draft for the opening of a piece of content you need to write.

Jobs to be done and Salesforce

For Salesforce, there is a lot of potential to make users’ lives easier. You might be able to automatically log calls based on an AI-generated transcript of the conversation, or clean up old data that was perhaps sloppily entered.

Sarah and her team often look at their research in terms of “jobs to be done.” Businesses generally have a list of jobs they’re trying to accomplish and then use tools, like Salesforce, to help them do those jobs. The thing is, the tools might change but most businesses will have the same jobs to be done, even over decades. Generative AI stands to shake that up, both in terms of what businesses need to get done and who can do those jobs.

Be sure to listen to the full episode for our in-depth conversation with Sarah and why change management just might be the most important skill for admins in the future.

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

Today on the Salesforce Admins Podcast, we talk to Andrew Mangano, Director of Product Management for Mobile at Salesforce.

Join us as we chat about the new features coming to Salesforce Mobile in the Summer ‘23 release.

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

Why Salesforce is about interactions

Andrew comes to product management from a background in data science, which is why he was originally brought into Salesforce. This gives him a unique perspective on how to make data-driven decisions to build what customers need the most.

Before all of that, Andrew started in retail, which really informs how he thinks about Salesforce. For him, it’s all about interactions. While the rise of mobile is often framed in terms of how it’s caused people to disconnect from each other, Andrew sees an opportunity to reconnect. He wants Salesforce Mobile to help make your interactions with your customers more one-to-one and face-to-face.

The power of mobile

“The power of mobile is being able to get out there and do things more efficiently that you really couldn’t do before,” Andrew says. You can have all of the information you need, immediately accessible from the field. And you can share that information instantly throughout your organization so everyone is up to date.

Andrew’s team been trying to make data easier to navigate so your users can put away the phone and focus on the interaction. They’re releasing Dynamic Forms for Mobile in Summer ‘23 you can help your users spend less time thumbing through lists and more time getting things done.

Offline access to your data

A common misconception about Salesforce Mobile is that it’s meant to be somehow replace or stand in for the desktop experience. However, Andrew points out that it’s more about adoption and engagement. It’s about putting Salesforce in the hands of employees that wouldn’t otherwise be on the platform and giving them access to new tools and information they haven’t been able to use before.

Bringing Salesforce to new places with mobile also introduces new challenges, namely, what if you need access to your information in a place with spotty internet? They’ve engineered an offline solution for that, coming in this release, which will let you still access the data you need even if you’re not connected to the cloud.

There’s even more coming soon, so be sure to enable all objects for Dynamic Forms and stay posted.

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Category:general -- posted at: 3:00am PDT

Today on the Salesforce Admins Podcast, we talk to Jenny McNamara, Salesforce Admin at CINC.

Join us as we chat about how she became obsessed with Flow Builder, the importance of mastering the basics, and why you need to get yourself to a Salesforce live event.

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

Be the translator

Jenny started as a business analyst, serving as the scrum master for multiple teams in her organization. When the Salesforce team needed more help, she jumped at the chance to specialize and become an admin. In both roles, you need to be able to translate what people are saying into the why behind it.

“Technical people and client-facing people don’t always speak the same language even though they’re all trying to accomplish the same thing,” Jenny says. A stakeholder may ask for a new data field when what they really want is a way for that information to show up on a dashboard. And tech person may not want to do that because it makes the org a mess. You need someone with an understanding of both sides of the organization to step in and translate.

Flow all night

When Jenny first started focusing on Salesforce, the thing that got her hooked on the platform was learning Flow Builder. She was still a business analyst at that point, but the Salesforce Admin on her team was having trouble building something and asked her if she could look into Flow a little bit so he could bounce ideas off of her.

Jenny sat down for a quick glance at what Flow was all about, just enough to help out. Before she knew it, she had learned enough to solve the problem in a single night. Some people binge Netflix, Jenny binged Flow Builder.

The magic of Salesforce live events

We met Jenny at TrailheaDX, where she was really excited to dive into the fundamentals. “The better your basics are, the more of the foundational things that you really master, the better you’re going to be at everything,” she says.

Getting to live Salesforce events has been so important to Jenny’s career in Salesforce, and she recommends it for people at all experience levels. You never know who you’ll meet, and you already have something in common to talk about. You can learn about something you didn’t know existed, which could take your career in a new direction. You might even find yourself staying up all night to learn more.

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Category:general -- posted at: 3:00am PDT

Today on the Salesforce Admins Podcast, we sit down for coffee with Mike, Gillian, and Josh Birk.


Join us as we chat about the Summer ‘23 Release, Einstein GPT, and what makes a Dreamforce speaker submission stand out.


You should subscribe for the full episode, but here are a few takeaways from our conversation with the Admin Evangelist Team.

Summer ‘23 Release

May is coming to an end, which means the Summer Release is just around the corner. The team has been hard at work on content to help you get up to speed on everything you should know. Be on the lookout for even more content, with on-demand Release Readiness Live videos for Admins and Devs, and the Learn MOAR blog post series both coming out soon.


We talk through some features we’re looking forward to, both large and small, from horizontal alignment on dynamic fields to custom property editors. There’s a lot to look forward to!

Einstein GPT

There’s been some buzz about Salesforce and AI lately, specifically the announcement of Einstein GPT. We already have some content out there about what admins can do with it right now, but there’s a whole lot more info coming soon.

As more and more AI is incorporated into Salesforce, what we do as admins is naturally going to shift and change. Some things will definitely become easier to accomplish, but the value we bring in understanding business processes and translating them into a solution that works will be even more critical.

Submit to present in Dreamforce 2023

We’re currently looking for presenters for the Admin track for Dreamforce 2023. As someone who reviews submissions, Mike recommends focusing on a few quality abstracts that you’re really excited about instead of trying to apply with every idea you can possibly think of. “It’s not about the number of cupcakes you show up with, it’s about the quality of the cupcake,” he says.

If you’re looking for ideas, a good place to start is in the Trailblazer community. If people are talking a lot about something over there, it’s probably going to be a topic we want to cover. And be sure to listen to the full episode for more about the Build a Blog series, and the theory that the Flintstones actually takes place after the Jetsons.


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Category:general -- posted at: 3:00am PDT

Today on the Salesforce Admins Podcast, we talk to Skip Sauls, Senior Director of Product Management at Salesforce. Join us as we chat about why data is so important to reporting, what some big-data terms are, and some fun hobbies that Skip enjoys outside of building awesome products for Salesforce admins.

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

The data lakehouse

Skip is the product manager in charge of the ecosystem for Data Cloud, which unifies data from Salesforce and other sources to give you a single source of truth for everything your organization knows about your customers. This will make it easier to do everything from generating reports and dashboards to implementing new apps across the organization using the data you have, no matter where it’s coming from.

For admins, Data Cloud will remove the need to move data around every time you want to use it somewhere else. This reduces the risk of using old data or accidentally opening up a security vulnerability. Instead, you’ll keep your data in a centralized “Data Lakehouse” (both a data lake and a data warehouse) and pull it from there when you need to use it for something.

What you get from centralizing data

Centralizing your data management in one place has a number of other benefits. For one thing, it gives you a framework for making important decisions about which source is the most authoritative so you can resolve any conflicts that may come up when there’s a disagreement. What’s more, it’ll minimize situations where reports and dashboards don’t match up because they were created from different sources or pulled at different times.

Today, when new data comes in from somewhere, you can’t necessarily be sure how long it will take to update in your other orgs. With Data Cloud it’s all in one place, which means any changes will be reflected everywhere simultaneously. And if you need to figure out why a report is telling you something different today than it did yesterday, you can go back and look at a snapshot without having to dig through multiple orgs.

The future of Salesforce

Going forward, the hope is to build more and more Salesforce features that are used in multiple orgs on top of Data Cloud, separate from individual platforms. This gives every platform you use access to the same powerful tools like advanced analytics. It’ll also make it possible for third party platforms to work directly with Salesforce capabilities, offering more flexibility for your org. 

This all gets even more exciting when Skip starts talking about the possibility for building apps that can be reused throughout an org, or even users creating things with generative AI. The streamlining provided by Data Cloud will make all of that possible.

Be sure to listen to the full episode for more of Skip’s thoughts on the future, and what Evel Knieval’s stunt bike can tell us about where technology is headed.

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Category:general -- posted at: 3:00am PDT

Today on the Salesforce Admins Podcast, we talk to Elizabeth Bochanski, a newly-certified Salesforce Admin and MidAtlantic Dreamin’ Volunteer Committee Member.

Join us as we chat about prepping for your first Salesforce certification and why in-person networking is so important.

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

Taking the leap and becoming a Salesforce Admin

Elizabeth was working in sales for a mortgage company when they announced they were switching over to a new platform: Salesforce. While many of her coworkers were grumbling about having to change their routine, Elizabeth was excited about all the ways this new technology could make their lives easier. She started making suggestions and, without knowing it, became a power end user at her organization.

During the pandemic, when everyone was stuck at home, Elizabeth happened to be hanging out with her cousin who happened to be an accidental admin. Togther, they sorted out an issue she was having in her org. That’s when Elizabeth realized that maybe she should pursue this admin thing more seriously.

How to make studying a hands-on experience

At TrailblazerDX this year, Elizabeth dove into the Camp Quick Start area. It was exactly what she was looking for because, as she was studying for her certification, she had realized that hands-on learning was key for her. “Going into learning Salesforce, you need to have an idea of what way you learn,” she says.

For Elizabeth, one thing that really helped was to get into an org and do things while learning about them. “When I was taking a practice test and got a question wrong, I would go and find the answer within the org,” she says. She also highly recommends finding a study group for the shared motivation and support.

The importance of in-person networking

Going forward, Elizabeth has her sights set on getting better with Flow, understanding security, and diving into Object relationships. She’s also thinking about what comes next, like getting the Platform App Builder and Business Analyst certifications. She already has experience working with admins on business processes from her time as a power end user, so it’s a logical next step.

The other thing that Elizabeth emphasizes is the importance of networking. And not just virtual networking, but in-person events. It’s how she met her mentor, and how she ended up being a guest on the pod. You never know who you’re going to run into at a live event, and where a chance meeting might take you, so put yourself out there.


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Category:general -- posted at: 3:00am PDT

Today on the Salesforce Admins Podcast, we talk to Gorav Seth, Salesforce Platform Manager at Ashoka, and Eric Smith, Technical Architect at RafterOne.

Join us as we talk about the flow solutions they came up with to improve their processes in their orgs, and how you can get started building your own flows.

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

25+ years of Salesforce experience in one episode

We brought Gorav and Eric on the show to talk about their upcoming appearances on Jennifer Lee’s Automate This! YouTube show. If you don’t already tune in, now’s the time to start. They’ll go over the cool Flow solutions they came up with to improve things at their orgs. But first, a little bit more about our guests.

Gorav has a background in plant biology but got involved in the ecosystem when he migrated his nonprofit to Salesforce and fell in love with the technology. Eric’s been in technology for over 45 years, and his path took him through a telecommunications company that was using Salesforce essentially as a Rolodex. He quickly realized that they were barely scratching the surface of what they could do with the platform, and started building things to help his team of product managers do their jobs better.

Collectively, they have over 25 years of experience in Salesforce.

Why automate?

One thing we wanted to ask our guests is how they think about automations and why you should build one. For Gorav, it’s about the massive improvements you can make to usability on both the front end and the back end. For Eric, it’s also about improving data quality and data security. “A well-designed automation will reduce steps for somebody that has to interact with it and improve the quality of the data that comes out of it,” he says.

On Automate This!, they’ll each share a pretty nifty Flow solution they found to replace a clunkier process. Gorav consolidated multiple notifications into one rich text email that gave his users all of the information they needed in one place. They ended up replacing something like 10 workflow rules with one streamlined flow.

Eric’s users needed to constantly refer to the case number they were working with but were spending a lot of time trying to find it. He created a utility to highlight field data on a Lightning record page using a screen flow and saving a ton of time.

Starting with Flow

Flow offers a lot of possibilities for simplifying and improving things but it can still be intimidating when you’re starting out. Eric recommends breaking your process down into the smaller steps that need to happen in order to get from point A to point B.

And, Gorav adds, it’s an iterative process. You can and should use the debugger to understand what’s happening and why. Take it one step at a time and focus on improvements to your process. “We’re not trying to rebuild this stuff,” Gorav says, “we’re trying to say, ‘How can we do this better?’”

There are a lot of great tips in this podcast about the importance of learning in your career, when to use subflows, and more, so be sure to listen to the full episode and don’t miss their appearance on Automate This!

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Category:general -- posted at: 3:00am PDT

Today on the Salesforce Admins Podcast, we talk to Brandon Van Galder, Technical Consultant at Arkus, Inc.


Join us as we talk about his tips for getting started with Flow, how omni-channel automation solved a big problem for him, and his tips for breaking into a Salesforce career.


You should subscribe for the full episode, but here are a few takeaways from our conversation with Brandon Van Galder.

Tips for your first Salesforce interview

Before Brandon had ever heard about Salesforce, he was an elementary school PE teacher. When he was feeling burnt out and looking for new opportunities, he happened to hear about Trailhead and the Salesforce Admin role and pretty soon, he was off to the races. He spent about a year as an admin and is now currently a technical consultant with Arkus, Inc.


Going from doing a bunch of online training to sitting in an interview and proving that you have the skills to actually be an admin is a big step, and one that many people struggle with. “I would recommend building a custom app in Salesforce,” Brandon says, “find something in your personal life that you can potentially track in Salesforce and build some automations, and then you can talk about that in your interview.” For example, Brandon built a mileage tracker to help him with training for a 5K race.

Mastering the learning curve for flows

Brandon will be appearing on Jennifer Lee’s Automate This! YouTube channel soon to talk about omni-channel automation. “When I first was learning, I was deathly afraid of flows,” he says, “but now I can’t look back, I can barely even use Process Builder after being a Flownatic for the last year or so.”


One important thing to keep in mind as you get into flows is that you’re going to get better at it as you go. When Brandon first started, he was trying to send email notifications with flows and it took him about eight hours to get everything working correctly. These days, he can build the same sort of thing and fully test it in a single hour.

Why you should always read the release notes

Brandon had chats coming in from three different sources and a lot of them were getting missed, especially around shift changes. They really needed to know who was online and when. And it just so happened that Salesforce had recently added custom components that could get the availability of agents. It just goes to show that it’s worth it to keep up-to-date on the release notes!


You can learn more about how Brandon solved his problem with automation on Automate This!. And make sure to listen to the full episode to hear his tips for getting started with flows, what to look out for when you’re implementing automation, and more.


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Full Transcript

Mike Gerholdt:  Welcome to the Salesforce Admins podcast. We talk about product, community, and career to help you become an awesome admin. And this week we are talking to Brandon Van Galder, who is a technical consultant at Arkus, but previously a Salesforce Admin and staying on that theme of automation, little bit of omnichannel, little bit of career switching in this. So it's like a chopped salad. There's a lot of little bit of everything in it. That's what I'm going to call this. With that, let's get Brandon on the podcast. So Brandon, welcome to the podcast.

Brandon Van Gal...:Hey Mike. Thanks for having me.

Mike Gerholdt:  Let's get started. For those that don't know who Brandon is, tell me a little bit about Brandon and how Brandon got into the Salesforce ecosystem.

Brandon Van Gal...:Well, that's a good story. I'll start. Before I even knew what Salesforce was, I was a teacher and I actually taught elementary PE for most of my career. And then just got burnt out and I heard a podcast where they talked about becoming a Salesforce Admin and how you can make pretty good money, and the training for that was pretty simple, and they had this thing called Trailhead and just signed up for Trailhead after listening to that and fell in love with it immediately because I love badges and points. Fast forward two years later, still teaching. I landed my first role as a Salesforce Admin at a company called Scale Computing, and I worked there for a little over a year, and now I am currently a technical consultant with Arkus, Inc.

Mike Gerholdt:  Wow. Okay. Was it my podcast? You could say it's my podcast. If not, that's okay.

Brandon Van Gal...:It was not. It was the ChooseFI Podcast.

Mike Gerholdt:  Darn it. Okay, that's fine. I'm going to listen to that now. So that PE, we're going to have to talk about that at the end of the show. You realize that because I think Foursquares should make a comeback because that was a huge PE game for me, but spending that time starting off as a career change before we jump into all the flow stuff, because I know that's what people want too. What was the learning for you moving from being an educator to getting that first Salesforce job? Was this nights and weekends you were just one or two modules or here or there, or was this very deliberate? You set a goal of within two years, I'm going to be out of education. What was that time period for you?

Brandon Van Gal...:It was semi deliberate. I did have a two year plan where I did use nights and weekends and more during spring break, fall break, Christmas break, and especially summer break. I would get a lot of my learning done then, and then transitioning into the business world quite different than the education world. I had to learn that at my first role as well. Just the nuances of business and how it differed from education and that first role was a great learning experience. I landed with a great team. Shout outs to Kelly and Rebecca, if you're hearing this, thanks for all the healthy [inaudible].

Mike Gerholdt:  Of course they are.

Brandon Van Gal...:They really took me under their wings and showed me how to do things.

Mike Gerholdt:  So I get a lot of questions and I'm spending a lot of time on this. I get a lot of questions like, man, that had to have been a hard interview because you're sitting across the table from somebody and you're like, look, I've just done a whole bunch of stuff online. What was the contributing factor or what was one piece of advice you'd give new admins that are looking to make that career change and going through that path into landing that first job?

Brandon Van Gal...:I would recommend building a custom app in Salesforce. I built out a mileage tracker app for running. I did it during COVID and I started training for a 5K, so it aligned with what I was doing in my personal life. So you can just find something in your personal life that you could potentially track in Salesforce and build it. Built out some automations and then you have that you can demonstrate during your interview and talk about and share your experiences of what you did on the platform.

Mike Gerholdt:  I like that. I've done that quite a bit actually in some of the stuff. So you mentioned automation. Let's get into that because I know on Jennifer's automate this episode, you are going to talk about omnichannel, which is very specific. I will say very specific because we've had a lot of her guests on the podcast, but what got you into automating with omnichannel and doing some of that?

Brandon Van Gal...:Yeah. Well, when I first was learning, I was deathly afraid of flows. I was like process builder all the way. I'm going to ride this till it dies, and now Salesforce is basically not supporting it as much anymore. So had to learn pretty quick how to do flows and now I can't look back. I can barely even use Process Builder and look at it and debug it anymore. Trying to figure it out. It just doesn't make sense to me after being flown addict for the past year or so, and then specifically omnichannel at my role in scale computing, we had chats coming in from three different places and a lot of them were getting missed. Hence, the deep dive into omnichannel flows.

Mike Gerholdt:  What was the hook? What made things click? And I asked this because I know I've done a previous podcast with Eric Smith and Gworth and they said, "Start with screen flows," and screen flows are a great way to get your teeth into flow. Was the screen flows that got you or was it something else?

Brandon Van Gal...:For me, it was more sending email notifications using flows just because that's what I was doing in the business and I know you can do it just with email alerts, with workflows and things like that, but we had some unique use cases where we couldn't use flows for that. I mean the first time I built it probably took me eight hours to do one, and then as I got better, I could whip one out in less than an hour, completely tested. And just seeing that learning curve speed up is really helpful and encouraging to myself to use it more.

Mike Gerholdt:  Yeah. What is one area when you're sitting down with a business, and this can be in your previous job as an admin or your current job as a consultant. What are some of the key words that you feel other admins should listen for when determining how much or where to add automation?

Brandon Van Gal...:When someone says, 'We do this all the time and manually," that's a good spot to look for. In some cases you can't automate it, but in a lot of cases you can just with the power of Salesforce. So that's what I look out for when asking questions to clients and business units.

Mike Gerholdt:  So then conversely, because we love to automate all the things, what are red flags that you listen for as well when you're like, I could do this, but it means you're going to get 500 emails

Brandon Van Gal...:When they say, I want to email every time, If you hear the word every time or on every status update or something like that, that is definitely a red flag where you can say, "Hey, let's pump the brakes here." Maybe having a report that shows these and then it gets emailed out once a day or once a week would be a little bit better than getting 500 email alerts in one day.

Mike Gerholdt:  Yeah, no, that makes sense. Are there, because I'm always noodling around in an org, creating stuff. As you look at flows and flows that you've created in the past, are you now seeing just having done this for a while, ways to combine flows together or ways to minimize the number of flows that you're creating?

Brandon Van Gal...:Yeah, absolutely. Early on, I'd never used the invocable flows, but recently I've been using that more where I create at least one section of that flow and can reuse it in multiple different flows, being triggered by different actions. That's been huge. And then I've also used the save as a new flow where instead of having to rebuild it from scratch, you can save a previous flow as a new one and then make whatever minor changes you need off of that, where maybe the decisions might be a little different or the loops might be a little different. Yeah. So I've used those two things.

Mike Gerholdt:  Yeah, no, that makes sense. I know because I'm just looking through at different flows that I've created and sometimes it's so easy and tempting to click that, create new button and you forget all the other stuff that you've added into an org. A little bit back on omnichannel, I think before we pressed record, you were talking about how that got started. Where was some of the omnichannel work that you did and how did that inspire you for automation?

Brandon Van Gal...:At scale computing, we had chat capabilities come in from three different websites, one being like the company's main website, one being the community user portal, and then one being the partner portal. And what was happening is usually during the tier one support agent meeting, they would all log off and then any of the chats that were routed to the tier one agents were being missed. And it just happened to be during that 30 minute window that helped us figure out what to do from there.

Mike Gerholdt:  Yeah. It never fails. It's always right during the shift change or something when everybody presses the little chat button on your site. So thinking through just, you are a school teacher, you moved into the ecosystem, what now do you do to just outside of the daily work to keep up to date with skills, with new features of flow? How do you plan that out?

Brandon Van Gal...:I read the release notes specifically towards flow automation. That's one of the loves. I skip over some of the other stuff I don't necessarily work with every day, but I like to see that. And that came in handy when we were building out this omnichannel flow. We were manually trying to get the availability of the agents and then all of a sudden in the next release, Salesforce had these custom components where you could get the availability of all the agents in a specific queue. And that was really helpful. And knowing that's coming down the pipeline really helps you sustain on top of those. Looking at Trailhead when they update those or make new trails is a good way to stay on top of it too, because it includes that new functionality and then watching some YouTube videos that come out every once in a while via it, Jen's automate this or how I solved it, you see how other people solve issues instead of being just stuck in your own mind, you can see how other people think about flows and use them to solve problems.

Mike Gerholdt:  Yeah, no, that's great. As you build and possibly rebuild flows, what advice would you give on some best practices that you do for user adoption or people really understanding, here's the implication of clicking this button or what this means.

Brandon Van Gal...:Documentation is huge and screen recordings of the steps that are triggering the flow or what happens when you click the button are huge. In my current work now, we record videos and then share them with the clients at times so they can see, hey, when I update this status, something's happening in the background, but this is what it looks like on the front end so they can see the changes that were made.

Mike Gerholdt:  No, that makes sense. Especially with stuff when it's going to just trigger because the record was saved. I think behind the scenes maybe sometimes a user doesn't always know everything else that cascades out as a result of that. So that's good to know. What part of flow and automation is a little bit, lack of a better term here be dragons for you. It's a little unknown. You need to learn it, but it's still off in the distance.

Brandon Van Gal...:I'd say some of those newer components that I just haven't touched yet because I haven't had the business use case to use. And then when you open your mind to everything on the app exchange, what's available out there, be it from unofficial Salesforce, they have some great flow components that I just haven't used, but I've seen in other people's flows. Just trying to wrap my head around what is possible. I think I'm 25% level right now of knowing what flow can do. I feel there's so much more out there that I just don't even understand or comprehend at this point.

Mike Gerholdt:  I don't know if anybody's at 100%.

Brandon Van Gal...:Yeah. There's a lot of things with outbound messages or platform events, things like that that I just haven't touched that I still need to learn about because those are pretty powerful as well.

Mike Gerholdt:  So I asked this on previous pod because I know we'd done a blog post that was probably, Jennifer did a blog post on this, but how often do you find yourself using subflows?

Brandon Van Gal...:I do it on rare occasions. There's one client I'm currently working with where I did use it where it ranks records based on their score. So if a record is created or updated, I can call it, if a record is deleted, I could call a subflow. That ranks everything. So a couple of different use cases personally that I've done. It's just not something I've had to use that often.

Mike Gerholdt:  Yeah, absolutely. Moving into the world of teaching, did you have a favorite PE activity?

Brandon Van Gal...:Absolutely. I was a dodge-ball fan.

Mike Gerholdt:  You call that dodge-ball in schools?

Brandon Van Gal...:You just call it throwing and catching skills and then it's okay. And I'm not big on having the kids sit out for a long time.

Mike Gerholdt:  They would have to catch your way back in.

Brandon Van Gal...:Do some exercise or whatever to come back in the game and keep it like a nonstop because if you keep it nonstop, then they're having fun.

Mike Gerholdt:  Do you ever do the dodge-ball with... We used to put these boxes in the back of the gym and so in addition to getting all the people out, you also had to knock the boxes down.

Brandon Van Gal...:Yeah. We had you use cones or bowling pins on the back. We'd call it pinball bombardment, but same thing, dodge-ball rules, but the real objective for the game was knock down the pins. If you do that type of thing.

Mike Gerholdt:  You win. You get the whole thing. Yeah. Even if nobody's out, you can knock both pit. We did that. Yeah. Of course, immediately when somebody says dodge-ball, I go right to the movie Dodge Ball.

Brandon Van Gal...:It's classic.

Mike Gerholdt:  Yeah. Well, this is great. I feel like we delved into some automation and even touched on little career stuff as well. For people looking to make that switch to go from A to B, whatever A is to either getting into consulting or looking at an admin or consulting job, what was one thing that kept you going?

Brandon Van Gal...:I just really fell in love with Salesforce. Once I started digging in. I didn't know what it was when I heard the podcast, I'd listened to the podcast twice, Google what it was, look at what Trailhead was I had, I didn't know what a CRM was when I first started, but I'd say, "Yeah, just give it a try." Jump on Trailhead, do a couple of modules, and then if you feel that itch and you like it, just keep going because there's a position out there for you.

Mike Gerholdt:  Yeah. No, that's great. And then ball house fails, we can always get a game of dodge-ball together.

Brandon Van Gal...:That's right.

Mike Gerholdt:  Awesome. Brandon, thank you so much for being on the podcast.

Brandon Van Gal...:Yeah, thanks for having me, Mike.

Mike Gerholdt:  So it's fun to have Brandon on the podcast and talk about automation and the way he approaches things. And also it was learning journey. I couldn't help but dive into that. And it wouldn't be the Salesforce admins podcast if we didn't talk about something fun like dodge-ball or Foursquare. Did you have a favorite game while you were in school? I like foursquare. But I'd love to hear it. So send me a tweet, let me know. Also, if you still play that game, good for you because I would love to mark out some chalk on my driveway and get a Foursquare game going. But anyway, I digress.
 If you want to learn more about all things Salesforce Admin, go to to find more resources, including any of the links that we mentioned in this episode as well as a full transcript. You can stay up to date with us on social. We are @Salesforce.Admns on Twitter. Gillian, my co-host is on Twitter. She is @GillianKBruce. And of course I am at Mike Gerholdt. So with that stay safe, stay awesome, and stay tuned for the next episode. We'll see you in the cloud.

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

Today on the Salesforce Admins Podcast, we talk to Melissa Shepard, Salesforce CTA and CEO of Lizztech Consulting.


Join us as we talk about how to approach automations in your org and why asynchronous processes are so powerful.


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

Simple questions for automations

Melissa started as a Salesforce Developer, working on integrating Salesforce with some of the other systems they were using. “I like to think of integration as a backbone for the bigger, more robust automations that you can build,” she says. And if you think about it, bringing in data to Salesforce and sending it out to other platforms is at the core of what you’re trying to do with automations.


In the first phase of a project, Melissa recommends getting a firm grasp on what you’re trying to accomplish. Those simple questions are so important: what is the process? What is the end goal? “It’s not even thinking about the technology but understanding what’s the problem you’re trying to solve, first,” she says, “and then you decide how you’re going to solve that problem with the technology.”

When to rebuild

When you’re coming into an org that’s been around for a while, Melissa recommends getting a good lay of the land. Understand how everything was built and why it was built that way. If you’re missing documentation, make sure to do that as you go to make things easier later.


You should especially be on the hunt for processes that are similar but with slight variations. Sometimes you can really simplify things by turning that into one flow with multiple paths. And if you come across something that’s being used multiple times, it could be a good candidate to break out into a subflow.

Asynchronous automation

“You can do so much in Flow nowadays that you could do with Apex,” Melissa says, with looping, updating records, and doing things in batches. And there are some great tools like Orchestrator and MuleSoft Composer that make integrations easier than ever before.


Melissa feels that asynchronous automation is one of the most overlooked features in Flow. You can get a lot of benefits from running a process outside of normal operating hours, including more processing power and better performance for your users. She actually has a presentation coming up on this very topic, so if you’re interested in learning more you should catch her talk.


Melissa will be appearing on Automate This with Jennifer Lee later in April, so be sure to tune in for more about how your automations can be well-architected.


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Full Transcript

 Mike: Welcome to the Salesforce Admins podcast. We talk about product, community, and career to help you become an awesome admin. And this week we're talking with Melissa Shepherd, who is a Salesforce CTA and CEO of Liz Tech Consulting. Well, you know about Well Architected automation. If you haven't picked up, we've got a little bit of a theme going. These last few episodes, we've talked last week with Tom Letty about Well Architected automation, talked about some new Trailhead classes around Flow and hyperflow. And coming up, boy, there is some really good stuff coming later in April and early May around cool Flow solutions and some omnichannel stuff. So I'll just tease that out. But of course, Melissa is also going to be on the Automate this series, which is Jennifer Lee's YouTube series, so be sure to check that out. I'll also post a link to it. We get her on the podcast first, so by the time you get to watch her on the video, you've already seen a podcast star, but enough of me talking, let's talk automation and some really cool stuff with Melissa. So let's get Melissa on the podcast.
 So Melissa, welcome to the podcast.

Melissa:Thank you.

 Mike: We're talking a lot about automation and I think it's appropriate to have you on. But before we head into that, give us a little bit of a backstory. How did Melissa come to Salesforce and join the Trailblazer ecosystem?

Melissa:Well, thank you for asking. That's an interesting story. I actually just wrote a really long blog post about all that because a lot of people don't know my journey or where I came from. It actually started back in 2006. So I was a developer and I was brought into the IT department of a small but kind of startup company to help build some customer and partner portals in .net to interface with Salesforce and also do some other customizations written in .net. And one of the systems I had to work with was Salesforce, so I had to build these portals and also I saw an opportunity to integrate Salesforce with our other systems to help the users not have to do double entry to help alleviate errors with information they were entering into the system.
 So this is actually a form of automation. I like to think of integration as a backbone for some bigger, more robust automations that you can build. So that was how I was introduced to Salesforce. And I really loved working with it and decided to keep working in that space and ended up at an integration middleware company working on the Salesforce adapter and the core software. It was written in multiple languages, so I was still in that development role, but still touching Salesforce. And then when I left there, I just went off and did Salesforce consulting around 2009, 2010. And that's what I've been doing ever since.

 Mike: Wow. I think you're the first person I've had on the podcast that has been doing Salesforce since '06, like me.

Melissa:Oh wow.

 Mike: Yeah, you said '06. I was like, oh, do you remember those days of page builder where you used to have to select and then select where the component went and it wasn't wizzy wick and it took you hours to do the simplest thing?

Melissa:Yeah. And I also remember not having sandboxes, and then when we finally did have sandboxes, we had to build things in the sandboxes and then rebuild them all in production.

 Mike: Yeah, I get a lot of grief for that when I talk to people and tell them. Early days, I would build things two or three times. Why? I mean, I remember chain sets coming out and thinking, oh cool, I'm so used to just building and rebuilding things now that I think I might be faster.


 Mike: Oh, interesting. So I think you're so spot on that integration is really a form of automation. A lot of the podcast that I've had recently where I've spoken with people, we've always talked about automation just within Salesforce and broadening that even bigger to automation outside of Salesforce, just bringing in data from another system as a way to do that, yeah, I'm on board with that.

Melissa:Or pushing it out to another system. So instead of user having to enter something in Salesforce and then going and enter that in the other system, your backend integration's going to push it from Salesforce to that other system. And that's an automation,

 Mike: Right. A 100%. I mean a lot of it is, how do we get things just done in Salesforce, but it's also what are the other systems that people live in? So yeah.

Melissa:Someone that's in an architect role, a CTA role like me, we care about that. We care about the other systems that interact with Salesforce and how all these automations within Salesforce are affecting these other systems or the data that's coming into Salesforce are going out and not just on platform.

 Mike: So tell me and help everyone think, when you sit down with somebody, where does your mind go for automation in terms of planning, even just your first app or the first phase of a project?

Melissa:So I always like to understand what it is they're trying to accomplish. So it always starts with the user. The user usually needs to do something. So having an understanding of what it is they're trying to accomplish, what is the process, what is it that they need to get to? What's that end goal? Or sometimes it isn't user, usually it is, but sometimes it isn't. Like I said, sometimes it could be that backend process that's performing some sort of automation behind the scenes and that could be done with things like Flow or code. So it's not even thinking about the technology, but understanding what's the problem you're trying to solve first and then you then decide how you're going to solve that problem with the technology.

 Mike: Yeah. So step two, and one of the things that I asked Tom was I think it's very easy once you have apps built and you kind of have things going to jump into Flow and create these little one-off Flows. You mentioned as an architect, I'll dive deeper into that. As an architect, how do you resist that urge to keep adding rooms or keep adding closets to a house and really thinking methodically about how you build that automation solution?

Melissa:So understanding what you already have built is a huge part of that and where you need to maybe add on or modify. So instead of just adding something new, you have to understand the house that's already built and maybe there's something you can already use and just modify it a little bit or take advantage of something that's already existing. So sometimes you're not always the architect that built that house, so you have to gain an understanding of how it was built. I actually just went through this before talking to you how I like to sit down and understand current state. So what's the process? What are the processes like now? What do they look like and what supports those processes? And is it in flow, is it in Apex? Are there triggers? What is going on behind the scenes and what was built to understand what's there? And sometimes there's documentation, sometimes there isn't. If there isn't, then it's a good idea to document all that because then you have that to refer back to when you do need to go and add in new functionality or make changes. And that's the best practice.

 Mike: Oh man, I would love to see documentation everywhere and unfortunately it's kind of like when you go on a road trip, you forget how you got there 'cause you were in such a hurry to get somewhere.


 Mike: You mentioned processes and kind of getting an idea of current state. I think a lot of people right now are trying to get an idea of current state because they really want to migrate off of process builder and into Flow. As an admin or developer architect looking at current state, what are places that you look at that maybe are the first stop because they're over automated or they have overly too many things that could really be migrated into a simple Flow?

Melissa:Yeah, that's a good question. So it is those areas of process builder and current flows where you want to look at how you can maybe combine things together. So looking at things that are similar processes, but maybe some slight variations. I've actually had to do this exercise before in an org merged scenario. So multiple orgs getting merged into one, lots of automation built in each org that was very similar. So there was an exercise of going through everything and understanding the logic. So this was actually workflow and process builder that I was analyzing, understanding what each one was doing, the processes that were happening and then seeing where everything could be combined, but where there was just some slight variations, then you would have different paths to take within your Flow.

 Mike: Yeah, I think oftentimes there's so many paths that cover over, I'd be curious. I mean anecdotally, I'm sure you run into this a lot where you find processes that update processes that have other processes that re-update them.

Melissa:Yeah. You have to be careful with that too, right? Because you're in an infinite loop of updates. So yeah, definitely. You've got to be careful there and I always like to look at things that are very similar and then where it makes sense to break something out into a subflow, something that's maybe being used over and over multiple times, that is a good candidate to go into a subflow.

 Mike: I was just about to ask you, how often do you use subflows?

Melissa:Yeah, where it makes sense.

 Mike: Where it makes sense.

Melissa:It's actually the same concept as development in Apex. So you have things like functions that get called for different purposes and you put them in maybe helper classes. So they get called by all kinds of different code. So when you see something that is getting reused, you want to push that out into your helper class that can then support your other code. So that's the same idea as a subflow.

 Mike: Oh, I like that. Subflow is like a helper class.

Melissa:Right? Exactly.

 Mike: I had a lot of fun discussions at TDX and I'm sure you've had a lot of fun discussions maybe even just today. How often should somebody go back and revisit Flows or processes that they built in order to make sure that they actually reflect the way that the business does business?

Melissa:That's actually a good question. That's going to depend on how often the processes within the business change. So if a business has processes that stay pretty much the same, I couldn't see that as being something that's really critical. But if it's a business that's growing and changing and their processes are changing or they're acquiring other businesses, you absolutely need to go in and look at those processes. So mergers and acquisitions, that's something that at a more higher level, global level that someone like a CTA is caring about. We care about how these mergers and acquisitions are affecting current business process and how it's affecting the current technology within Salesforce and also in the entire enterprise. So those are the scenarios where you're going to really need to go back and evaluate current processes against newer processes that are coming in. I've had to do that to support organizations that were merging together, their processes were different, had to really go in and look at everything, what can be merged together, what needs to be separate, and just understand how that all can live within the same system.
 So yeah, I guess it's going to depend on the business. The business is going to drive that.

 Mike: Yeah, understandably. And hopefully the business keeps you up to date.


 Mike: So I've had that as an admin too where three months later you're looking at something like, we don't do things that way anymore. Since when? Since you have told me?

Melissa:Right, exactly. Yeah, and that's interesting. So I think that's where the admin still has to play that role of advisor as well. When the business is not telling you things, you get to be more liaison with the business, have a point of contact that you can go to, maybe sit down or review things with. As companies grow and get bigger, they create these centers of excellence that are overseeing these types of things. But when you're just in a lonely admin at a company, you don't have that kind of structure in place, you kind of get to play that role yourself.

 Mike: Yeah. You have to be a thorn in their side. That's the way I always looked at it

Melissa:Yeah. And play that role of advisor. So maybe instead of waiting for them to come to you, maybe trying to find out what's going on or things changing, how are things going and how are the processes working for you and just check-ins.

 Mike: Okay, so in looking at Flows and a business process changes, at what point do you think I need to modify and add on and build a more complex Flow or should I build a new Flow?

Melissa:I would say if the process is very different. So you look at the current process you're building for and the existing processes that are covered in your existing Flows, and a way that I like to do that is having process diagrams. So there are tools out there that can help you create those process diagrams so that you can understand your current business process that you don't have to go through and understand every single detail of the flow. And really understand what they're all doing so that you can decide if one of them is similar enough to what you're building for. If there's enough, and it's hard to really pinpoint that point where it's enough. So I always like to say if you see at least a few similarities in something, then maybe that's a good candidate to build off of. If there's not enough, it also depends on how big it is too. So that's a hard question.

 Mike: Well, and a lot of times there's no right answer, right? I mean, for sure I've looked at Flows and thought we could add on to this, but at what point is it going to be so incredibly hard to troubleshoot and to debug?

Melissa:Yeah, exactly. And got to look at, am I going to make this one Flow too complicated? Does it make sense to just put this new process into its own Flow? Is it small enough to where it's just a slight variation and it's similar enough that it's not going to overcomplicate. So I'll just add on and modify the current one. So that really does take some analysis. Like you said, there's no right or wrong answer there.

 Mike: Yeah, because if you've been working in Salesforce since '06, you remember workflows and how little we could do with those, but it still felt like a lot.


 Mike: And then we went to Process Builder, which was like an animated process diagram and now we're in the new Flow builder. What about Flow now for you is the most exciting?

Melissa:I would say the fact that you can do so much in Flow that you can do with Apex nowadays, that's exciting.

 Mike: Such as?

Melissa:Just some of the logic that you can build in and then you can even call invocable actions in Apex. So if there is something that some complex logic that you need to run that you just can't build and flow, you can then just call your Apex there. But just a lot of the things you can do like looping and getting records and updating records and doing stuff in batch. And there's just so much power in the Flow now as opposed to what you could do with Workflow or Process Builder that you don't need to just go to Apex to do some of these more complex business processes and error handling and things like that. You can even build tests for your flows, which is great. So it's a little bit more like building tests for your code.

 Mike: Because we started talking about integration and then we got off that a little bit. What is some of the biggest stuff that you are excited about looking at? We now have Orchestrator as an option.

Melissa:So yeah, there are some great tools like Orchestrator, MuleSoft Composer that are helping to build an integration. So a couple of the things that are exciting with Flow is there's HTTP callouts, so you can make direct callouts to endpoints from within Flow. There's external services, that's another way you can integrate. There's also platform events. So you can create platform events with Flow or not create them, but write records into your platform event, which can then be subscribed to you by something like MuleSoft. There's so much integration capability out of the box now within Salesforce. And because there is a lot, you want to understand which one you would want to use for each of the different types of use cases. What's a fire and forget versus what's a request and reply? And those are patterns that architects really care about. So you have certain use cases for certain patterns and then you have the technology that you want to use that's the best solution for each of those patterns.

 Mike: Two questions as we wrap up both ends of the spectrum. I think the first one, it's very fortunate for people, the longer they're around the technology, the more they see it evolve, the easier it is to kind of grasp the concept. But for you in understanding Flow, what was the one hook that made everything click?

Melissa:So I really got into it when I had to build a custom process off of opportunities to interface with Field Service Lightning. And I can say really got hooked because I had to build this custom process and it just made it so easy to build it and get it done, didn't have to go to code. It made it so fast to get it done and delivered the functionality that was expected and needed.

 Mike: So conversely, thing that got you hooked, what do you find or what do you think is the most overlooked feature in Flow?

Melissa:Now? You can do things synchronously and asynchronously within the same flow and maybe the asynchronous stuff is probably the stuff that's most overlooked. And I actually speak on asynchronous automation specifically, and I actually have a presentation that I'm going to do specifically on all the ways you can automate asynchronously with Flow. Because that's even something that's not well understood and there's different ways to do it. And being able to understand when you'd want to use one versus the other I think is very powerful. So that probably is an area that is overlooked and not well understood as to when and why you would want to use it.

 Mike: Yeah, I mean, without seeing your presentation completely understand, I mean I think with Flow we think of how do we make something happen right now? When this either record happens or field changes or something, how does it happen right now as opposed to not right now? I guess is the easiest way to put it.

Melissa:That doesn't have to always be instant gratification in something that you learn as you grow as an architect is you really like to take advantage of asynchronous processing. There's reasons for it. You get more power out of the platform, you can allow more for your users so you're not tying up resources for them to get their jobs done. So where I was going with this is now we're talking about Salesforce Well Architected and Well Architected is telling you that you really want to try to use asynchronous processing as much as possible.
 Synchronous when you absolutely have to, and there's certain times when you have to use synchronous, but there's also certain times when you have to go asynchronous and there's ways you can do that with Flow. So that's an exciting area and that's where I like to start talking about what are these well-architected concepts, how can we start applying them? What are the different ways we can build them into our automations? And that that's actually one of my presentations I actually did at Dreamforce, asynchronous automations presentation. I do that at some community events and like I said, I'm also going to be doing one specifically on how to go asynchronous with Flow.

 Mike: And we talked a lot last week with Tom Letty about Well Architected. So I'll be sure to put a link to the previous week's podcast, keep people listening in the show notes so they can listen to that.

Melissa:I think admins should get to know Well Architected as much as they can because it's just going to help them become better admins and grow into architect level if they so wish.

 Mike: Absolutely. In fact, we've had calls with that team because the goal is to build the best possible application, right? And fun fact, in May I have Gorav, Seth and Eric Smith on about their Flow solutions. And Gorav has a very similar one where it was actually a reporting thing that we talk about because we don't need that constant... I'm sure you've heard or been across the table from some sales manager that had to get an email every time an opportunity closes. And it's like you don't want 600 emails. That doesn't help. You really want one email that's summarized of the hundred top opportunities and you don't get that by firing off an email every single day or every single time. Exactly.

Melissa:Yeah, that becomes more noise. And then you can even take advantage of things like notifications as well within the platform if you don't want to get too many emails.

 Mike: Right, yes, exactly.

Melissa:Which can then have your records.

 Mike: So I'll end on this question for you, Melissa. If an admin or anybody listening is ready to get into automation, and this is similar to a question I ask Gorav and Eric, what should be the first thing they should look at?

Melissa:As far as to how to automate?

 Mike: I leave that very open for a reason because I think it's important to understand businesses definitely need to automate processes and there's automation in Salesforce and as we've talked, integration is also automation. But it's one thing to build an app, I think it's the next thing and take that app to the next level and start adding automation to it. Where did you start?

Melissa:Usually you look at where pain points are for your users, where maybe they're doing things multiple times or there's repetitive tasks. If you can bring value to your users and your business, that's where you want to look and that's where you want to start trying to build an automation. So you really want to understand those processes, look at where you can alleviate some issues in the process and then figure out the right technology to bring in, whether it's Flow or something else that's going to be developed like Batch Apex or something because you can automate with Apex as well. It's not always just Flow. Sometimes there's better use cases for going to something like that, but Flow is such a powerful tool like we've talked about that you just really need to understand the process to know which tool to use, if that makes sense.

 Mike: It absolutely makes sense. And thank you so much Melissa for spending time with us today. I appreciate you coming on the podcast.

Melissa:Yeah, no problem. Thank you for having me. Really enjoyed our discussion.

 Mike: And of course we appreciate Melissa taking time out of her day to talk through Well Architected Automation. Only took me an entire episode to get that out verbatim, but boy, it has been a trip. Talk and flow these last few episodes and automation. I hope you enjoy it. It's more to come. And of course, if you want to learn more about all things Salesforce admin, go to to find more resources, including any of the links that we mentioned in this episode, as well as a full transcript. Now you can stay up to date with us on social, we are at Salesforceadmins no I on Twitter, my co-host Gillian is on Twitter. She is at GillianKBruce. And of course I'm on Twitter as well. I am at MikeGerholdt. So with that, stay safe, stay awesome, and stay tuned for the next episode. We'll see you in the cloud.

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

Today on the Salesforce Admins Podcast, we talk to Tom Leddy, Principal Evangelist, Architect Relations at Salesforce.


Join us as we talk about how admins can build well-architected automation solutions.


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

Salesforce Well-Architected

Tom is here to tell us about a new program the Architect team created, Salesforce Well-Architected. It’s a framework organized around the principles you need to understand what healthy solutions look like in Salesforce. “There’s a lot of great information there regardless of what your role is,” Tom says, “I think the lines between what admins do and what architects do are blurred these days.”


The Well-Architected Framework will help you get a handle on how to think about the big picture when it comes to making decisions in your Salesforce org. For example, how to put together a security model that is strong, scalable, and meets everyone’s needs over the long haul.

What makes something well-architected?

One of the things they cover in-depth is how to create well-architected automations. How do you make something that will scale and will actually add value to your business? Because, as powerful as automations are, if you’re automating a process that doesn’t make sense in the first place then you might be hurting your business more than you realize.


What needs to happen first is business process optimization, asking questions like: Why do we need to do things this way? What other business processes does this affect? Is this process repeated elsewhere in your org? Only when you’ve gotten all that straightened out do you start to build.

Why you need to remediate technical debt

This is especially important as everything is moving over to flows. We have the opportunity to look at things that might’ve been over-built in Process Builder and rethink them moving forward. There’s an architecting term for that: technical debt.


Every org will accrue technical debt over time. Maybe you’ve acquired new skills and that you didn’t have 6 months ago. Maybe Salesforce has added a new feature that makes everything easier. Whatever the reason, you need to make business stakeholders aware of the long-term benefits of remediating technical debt—building a foundation for better solutions in the future. And, like any debt, you need to pay it off little by little or it’ll just grow even bigger in the future.


Tom will be appearing on Automate This with Jennifer Lee later in April, so be sure to tune in for more how your automations can be well-architected.


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Full Transcript

Mike Gerholdt: Welcome to the Salesforce Admins Podcast where we talk about product, community, and career to help you become an awesome admin. And this week we're talking with Tom Leddy, principal evangelist, architect relations at Salesforce about how admins can build well architected automation solutions. And we did get into a few other things like documentation best practices, and really some tips that architects can give admins. It's a super fun conversation. Tom and I had a chance to catch up after TrailblazerDX, and of course Tom will also be on the Automate this series with Jennifer Lee later in April. So if you're listening to this early in April, hang on for later in April because he's also going to be on Automate this. And if you're listening later, obviously go check our YouTube page. But fun conversation. There is a question I asked Tom at the end about some fun stuff that he does, and I promise you you don't know the answer. So with that, let's get Tom on the podcast. So Tom, welcome to the podcast.

Tom Leddy:Thank you. It's great to be here.

Mike Gerholdt: Yeah. Well, we had a chance to catch up at TrailblazerDX, which feels like not that long ago, but for anybody listening that doesn't know you or ran into at a big event, tell me what you do at Salesforce and how you came here.

Tom Leddy:Sure. So I am an architect evangelist. I'm part of the architect relations team. And what I do at Salesforce is my team is responsible for creating tools and resources to help architects be successful at their jobs. And I help to make sure that our ecosystem is aware of those tools and knows how to use them and where to find them.

Mike Gerholdt: Very succinct. So what'd you do before Salesforce?

Tom Leddy:Before Salesforce, I worked at a variety of different customers and partners and I've been working in the ecosystem for a little over 10 years and used to lead digital transformations. I had big Fortune 500 companies and worked for a partner for a little while and then got the call from Salesforce.

Mike Gerholdt: Yeah. That's how it works. Boy, I think back to the last, I don't know, 10 years. You said 10 years. And digital transformations to me feel like we were going from steam powered engines to electric cars overnight to some degree.

Tom Leddy:When I think about tech as a whole, but specifically the Salesforce platform and what it looks like now compared to what it looked like when I first started working with it, it's night and day for sure.

Mike Gerholdt: Yeah. I remember page builder having to double click because it wasn't even wizzywig. You just double clicked and move stuff. Yeah. Anyway. So we chatted at TrailblazerDX and stuff. I saw a lot of people at TrailblazerDX and probably in the community have heard about this, but I want to get up to speed. Tell me about what well architected is.

Tom Leddy:Sure. So Salesforce, well architected is a framework that we created. Then it's available on the Salesforce architect's website, which we can share the link in the show notes. And it is a framework that is organized around the principles that you need to see what healthy solutions look like in Salesforce and where to spend your time and what to focus on as an architect.

Mike Gerholdt: What if I'm an admin?

Tom Leddy:You know what? Actually, there's a lot of great information there, regardless of what your role is. And I think there's honestly the lines between what admins do and what architects do are blurred a lot really now compared to, again, when we go back to what it was like to work on the platform 10 years ago compared to today. It's hard to put people into specific roles I think now compared to maybe early on. So there's a lot of great information for everybody on the site.

Mike Gerholdt: So help me understand that because I feel like I can't speak for everybody, but I've lived in the admin world my whole life and I've always seen what architect's done, and I feel like, wow, that's super way more detailed than where my brain is at. But you said there's a blur there. What do you see in that blur?

Tom Leddy:Well, I'll take security for an example. So that's one of the topics we cover in, well architected, how do I physically configure a sharing rule, which is obviously good to know, but then how should I even be thinking about putting together a security model so that it's going to be stronger long term for my organization? It's going to scale, it's going to meet everybody's needs. And that's the guidance that we really put in well architected, which is how should I even be approaching this and what should I look for to know if something is set up the right way or if it's bad and there's something maybe I need to refactor. We have some of that prescriptive guidance and then some tables that have what we call patterns and anti-patterns where a pattern is something you can physically see in an org of if you see your security model set up like this and it has these characteristics, good job, keep going, you're doing great.
 And then an anti-pattern would be okay if you see these things, hold on, stop what you're doing and let's maybe rethink this. And you may have to even have a conversation with your business stakeholders where you're going back and saying, you know what, before we keep building something on top of this that's going to cause more issues down the road. Yes, it might delay this next project, or it might be a little bit more expensive, but it's going to pay off a lot more in the long run.

Mike Gerholdt: Then you're not building something on a house of cards?

Tom Leddy:Exactly.

Mike Gerholdt: So let's take that one step further because I know later in April you are going to be on Jennifer's Automate this YouTube series. So plug there.

Tom Leddy:Looking forward to it.

Mike Gerholdt: Which would be fun. But let's talk about what is well architected automation.

Tom Leddy:Sure. So automation, that's one of the other topics we cover and we talk about how to design good automations that, number one, will scale and we'll also, we'll actually create value for a business because I'm sure everybody has seen this at one time or another where somebody will come and maybe they'll ask you to build a flow or whatever it is. And they'll describe a process and you'll be thinking in your head, "Okay. Why are you even doing this way in the first place?" And then you push back and maybe ask a few questions, and really it comes out, well, nobody really knows why we're doing it this way, but we always have and now we want to build it in Salesforce. And then you want to be thinking, "Well, do you really want to automate something that you're not even really clear on why you're doing it in the first place?"
 So that's the first topic that we actually cover in well architected, is that business process optimization piece. And then we go in a little bit deeper into, okay, now you've figured out it's okay to build this automation, it makes sense from a business perspective. Now how do we actually build it in a way that is going to be scalable and sustainable over the long term? And that's where we start talking about things like data integrity and transaction handling and asynchronous versus synchronous patterns and those types of topics.

Mike Gerholdt: I hear you, because the crazy thing is, I'm thinking about some of the conversations I had at TrailblazerDX with customers that are looking at their automations, and of course, we're moving everything to flow now, which right fits really well with this well architected thing because I feel like we're architecting things even better now. We being the royal we of admins. But in terms of this is a good opportunity for us to look at, hey, what is some of the stuff that we might have overbuilt and process builder and move it over into flow?
 What is your approach for when stuff, I don't want to call it end of life, but the features degrade and something new comes in? Because often, especially when I was starting as an admin, the joke was you talk with a developer and they'd a few years later, six months later, look at the code they wrote now having skilled themselves even more and been like, "How could I have written this bad code?" Do you often find that you look at automations or work with people in automations? It's like, "How could I have automated this? Why did I build six pages of process builder?"

Tom Leddy:Yeah. All the time. And I can say I work people with people that would say something like that, but I would also say something like that myself. Because if I think about some of the automations I built maybe early on in my career, I'm even looking at myself going, "Did I really build that? What was I thinking?" And you're right. And we call that, we have a term for that actually. We call it technical debt, which is something that could be created for a variety of different reasons. One is I built something that now that I know a little bit more, I maybe I could have done it better and there was a more efficient way to do this. Another reason it can be created is because Salesforce comes out with a feature that maybe you don't need that automation anymore because it's available in as the standard part of the platform now.
 And there's a variety of reasons that you would do that. And the recommendation that we give is that to involve business stakeholders in any technical debt remediation, because if you make that just IT's problem, then what ends up happening is the admins are going, "We really need to fix this. This is not the best way to be doing this," and all you really have to go back to your business stakeholders with this. So if we fix it's pretty much going to work the same way that it works today from your perspective, but it's just going to be better "technically." And a lot of business stakeholders will say, "Well, we don't want to pay for that."
 So what we recommend is making sure that business stakeholders are aware of the long-term benefits of remediating technical debt, which is that it's building a stronger foundation that you can build even better things on in the future, and that they're willing to make that part of projects and things that they're willing to pay for throughout the course of the year, and that they're aware that it's necessary to do that, to keep your system healthy.

Mike Gerholdt: Yeah. I feel like that's the hard conversation to have is why aren't you building new as opposed to how come all you're doing is maintenance stuff? That was always a discussion that I had to have with my stakeholders was, here's the three features I can deliver because I also need to maintain the other stuff. What is your advice on conversations like that? How from an architect standpoint would you advise an admin to balance that?

Tom Leddy:Would be working to make sure that you've got a governance structure or is use the term COE, that includes both business and IT stakeholders. And when anybody is estimating how much is a project going to cost, how much is this implementation going to cost? Like you said, everybody wants to build new, but if you factor in the, okay, we're going to build this and here's how much it's going to cost to build it. Also, we're going to be maintaining it for the next X number of years realistically, how much is it going to cost per year to maintain and how much time are we going to need? And making sure that, that information is gathered and communicated upfront so that it's not a surprise down the road is probably the best way to handle that.

Mike Gerholdt: Yeah. No, that makes sense. I feel like the best intentions, whatever that saying is slips my mind, but I feel like when you sit down, one thing that I've always admired about architects is I feel like they have this very holistic view. And sometimes as we operate in a world that doesn't give us everything, I sat down with a couple admins at TrailblazerDX, and they didn't have the full business view yet, but they wanted to build for that scale. How do you work through that? What is an architect's mindset knowing... I always envision a house... knowing I have to build a house, but possibly five more additions to it.

Tom Leddy:That involves a lot of communications. Usually at the executive level too. And I think one of the unfortunate things that happens a lot to admins is you get put into a position where people expect to just give you a set of specs and say, "Okay. Go ahead and build this." And by the time that gets to you, the discussions about what are we going to be building in the future have maybe already been had. And then you don't have the opportunity to come back in and say, "Okay. This looks like it's going to meet maybe a short term need, but are you sure this is really what you want to do?" And I think the biggest thing to do there is don't be afraid to push back when you see scenarios like that where you're curious about it.
 And I think one of the things that you had mentioned a minute ago when you were asking the question is, well, what if we don't even know? And some of that comes with experience too, is knowing the right questions to ask. And I feel like that sounds like a consulting type answer, but the truth is, the more you work, more start to think about things and I feel like your mind goes there naturally. Because when I think about earlier in my career, when I started out, I was in that role where it was people would give me a spec and I would be like, "All right. Okay, whatever. I'll build whatever you tell me to build."
 And as time went on and I started to see what was happening as a result of some of the things that people had asked me to build 18 months ago that are now coming back to bite us as an organization, because what we built was really shortsighted over time, you get and you get that experience where you start to realize, "Okay. I need to be asking these questions first." And then it really comes down to when those questions start to pop up and you're not getting good answers, don't be afraid to hold off on something and keep pushing back until you feel comfortable.

Mike Gerholdt: Yeah. And unfortunately, that can be the hard part to do. What can happen often is admins come into a role and previous admins vacated it. And I want to talk a little bit about documentation here because as an architect, I always feel like you're in this room of blueprints and every wire and diagram and everything's methodically planned out and the admin's in a little bit of a messy cave, but maybe that's just the world I live in. What are some of the things that you would advise, especially around automation? And I bring this up because not too long ago it was process builder, all the things. Now it's flow, and we have Orchestrator. Plus we also have MuleSoft. We have a lot of other ways to integrate. What are some of the best practices that you feel architects could give to admins around documentation, especially around automation?

Tom Leddy:Actually, I'm glad you asked. So we have in our various well architected chapters, there are some links at the bottom to additional resources. And one of the chapters is called Simple and Simple, the way that we tell it, the overarching pillar is easy. And then Simple, talks about not over-engineering, and I like to tell people, easy doesn't mean that it's easy for you as an architect. It means that as an architect, you've made all of the hard decisions to make it easy for your business to get value out of your solutions. But underneath the easy/simple chapter, we've got a list of tools and resources, and there are some templates for documentation.
 So we've got a template that you can download for things like design standards, so naming conventions and specific processes that you might want to follow. And then we've also got one to download just simply for documentation and what fields do I need to be filling out and what information do I need to be providing to make sure that if I walk away from this project and hand it off to somebody else, they're going to have all of the information that they need. And I'm not going to be getting phone calls every five minutes to try and explain things that I don't necessarily even want to talk about anymore because I've move on to something else.

Mike Gerholdt: Yeah. Wow. Yeah. Or you're somewhere else.

Tom Leddy:Yeah. Or you've physically gone to a different company and they can't call you.

Mike Gerholdt: I've seen that actually a few times at user groups where they'll walk up and, "Hey, used to work at... Can you tell me what this thing meant?" I didn't explicitly write that down enough. Sorry about that. Tom, outside of drawing diagrams and writing incredible documentation and building templates for admins, what are some of the things that you enjoy maybe outside of Salesforce, hobbies, VTO, stuff like that?

Tom Leddy:So let's see. So I have run at least a half-marathon in all 50 US states and on all seven continents.

Mike Gerholdt: What?

Tom Leddy:Yeah.

Mike Gerholdt: First of all, I didn't even know that all 50 states had a half-marathon. I feel like first the Rhode Island ones basically just run across the state.

Tom Leddy:Yeah, it's pretty close. Yeah.

Mike Gerholdt: Wow. Okay. All 50. I haven't even been to all 50 states.

Tom Leddy:Actually worked out nicely. It was a good way to see the country and then the rest of the world as well.

Mike Gerholdt: Okay. That's really cool. And is those number things that come from it, or, I'm sure you have pictures too?

Tom Leddy:Yeah. I've got a bunch of pictures and yeah, I've saved my race numbers and medals and everything that I've gotten over the years.

Mike Gerholdt: Wow, okay. That's a trivia question answer, I would've got wrong. For sure. And all seven continents too.

Tom Leddy:Yeah. Actually, it was about a year ago now, but went to Antarctica and did continent number seven.

Mike Gerholdt: What?

Tom Leddy:Yeah.

Mike Gerholdt: Okay. Very cool.

Tom Leddy:Thanks.

Mike Gerholdt: Wow. You might win of all the answers for the rest of the year now.

Tom Leddy:Thank you.

Mike Gerholdt: I don't know how to top that. Yeah, okay.

Tom Leddy:It was a really cool experience too. And Antarctica in particular was number one because it's Antarctica, but number two, because I was actually supposed to go back in 2020 and the trip got delayed and then delayed again and delayed multiple times because of COVID. It ended up, when I finally got to go, it was the grand finale for this big long-running journey that I had started. It took me about 15 years total to do.

Mike Gerholdt: I mean, maybe there was nothing but it was there something that kicked off this like, "Hey, I'm going to do this in all 50 states and all seven continents?"

Tom Leddy:It was funny. So I had done some local races and then I had some friends that lived in other states, and I would go to visit them and just look to see if there was an interesting race to do during the weekend that I was going to be there. And after a while I got to a point where I realized, "Wow. I've run in 10 different states. That would be cool to do all 50." And then from there, I started actually making plans specifically to go to states around the races that I wanted to do in those states.

Mike Gerholdt: Okay. So do you have a favorite that stood out?

Tom Leddy:In the States, it would be Alaska, I think.

Mike Gerholdt: And why is that?

Tom Leddy:So it's during summer solstice.

Mike Gerholdt: Okay. So the sun never sets.

Tom Leddy:Exactly. And the way that it works is you do the race at around 8:00 AM, which is around the same time most races are, and the race is awesome too because it goes through downtown Anchorage and then out into the wilderness for the second half. So I got to see a moose standing alongside the course and it was pretty cool. But then when you come back, the idea is because it's light out all night, you go back to your hotel, take a shower, get something to eat, sleep for a few hours, and then starting in the evening, there is an all night festival in downtown Anchorage where they close off pretty much all of the streets in the city, and there's dancing and food and everything. And it's summer solstice fest that goes all night. And you don't even realize it's like two o'clock in the morning because the sun is still out. And it was a fun weekend.

Mike Gerholdt: Wow. I was going to ask, I mean, I wonder if you're sleep equilibrium or whatever they call that, it was way wacky?

Tom Leddy:It when I got home. I definitely noticed it because then I had to go back to my normal schedule of sleeping in the evenings. But when you're there, surprisingly, I don't know what the specific word is for the effect that it has on your brain, but because it's sunny out and it looks like it's two o'clock in the afternoon when it's really two o'clock in the morning, for some reason, your brain doesn't think that you're supposed to be tired right now.

Mike Gerholdt: Yeah. It's I think back to some of the shows when they're in space for so long. Can I just see gravity? Yeah. You get back home, you're like, "Darkness."

Tom Leddy:Yes.

Mike Gerholdt: Wow. That's really cool. Well, Tom, thanks for being on the pod and enlightening us on being well architected. I think some of this is so cool. I can't wait to see what you're going to talk to Jennifer about.

Tom Leddy:Thanks. Yeah. I'm looking forward to that for sure. And we'll actually some of the topics we talked about earlier with automated, and then we'll do a little bit of a deeper dive into actually building some automations too, so it's-

Mike Gerholdt: Because, I mean visual.

Tom Leddy:Yeah, exactly.

Mike Gerholdt: Great. Well, thanks so much, Tom. This is fun.

Tom Leddy:Thank you. This has been great.

Mike Gerholdt: So Tom wins half-marathon in all 50 states and seven continents. That's pretty cool. I mean, that's one of the fun takeaways I had from our conversation. There was so much in there, and it was really interesting to get that architect's perspective around thinking through business process and how we automate solutions and how we architect solutions and really that planning process. Some of that can be super exciting to get into. At least I find it exciting.
 Now, if you want to learn more about all things Salesforce Admin, go to to find more resources, including all the links that we mentioned in this episode, as well as a full transcript. You can stay up to date with us on social. We are @SalesforceAdmns. No I, on Twitter. My co-host Gillian, is on Twitter. She is @GillianKBruce, and of course you can give me a follow. I am @MikeGerholdt. So with that stay safe, stay awesome, and stay tuned for the next episode. We'll see you in the cloud.

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

Today on the Salesforce Admins Podcast, we talk to Stuart Werner, Principle Instructor at Salesforce, and Feroz Abdul Rehman, Senior Manager of Technical Curriculum Development at MuleSoft.

Join us as we talk about two new Trailhead Academy courses that can help you harness the power of automation and transform your business.

You should subscribe for the full episode, but here are a few takeaways from our conversation with Stuart Werner and Feroz Abdul Rehman.

Enroll in Trailhead Academy

Trailhead Academy is a collection of certified instructors who offer specific trainings you can take, as an individual or as a member of a company, to come up to speed on various Salesforce products. We brought Stuart and Feroz on the pod to share details about their new classes, both of which are focused on automation.

ADX301: Automate No-Code Solutions Using Flow

Admins are getting more and more interested in Flow, and there have been a lot of folks who cross-register for the class aimed at developers. However, one piece of feedback Stuart has heard a lot as an instructor is, “I know how to click but I just don’t understand why to click.” And so he got together with some other instructors to come up with a class to help admins learn how to think like a developer and use Flow.

The class starts with the basics of development: variables, control statements, algorithms, “all the fun stuff that might not be in a Salesforce Admin’s toolbox,” Stuart says. From there, they move on to look at specific use cases and learn how to analyze requirements and whiteboard a solution. By the end, you’ll be making powerful, automated solutions in a snap with Flow.

ADX350: Build Salesforce Hyperautomation Solutions with MuleSoft

“Hyperautomation is the new frontier,” Feroz says, “[it’s] all about the maximum amount of automation you can build into your daily processes that helps people focus on what’s really important.” It’s not just about saving 5 minutes here or there, it’s about finding all of the places where there’s potential for automation across your organization.

In the class, you’ll learn how to use all the automation tools Salesforce has to offer, from Flow to MuleSoft to Einstein Bots, and how to connect them together. The goal is to give you the skills you need to deliver business transformation through end-to-end automation solutions that improve the employee experience, deliver value, and drive innovation.

If you’re already familiar with some automation tools but you’re trying to figure out what’s next, this class is perfect for you.

Be sure to listen to the full episode to learn about how Feroz and Stuart approach teaching and why classes are a great opportunity to put yourself out there. And head on over to Trailhead Academy to get started.

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

Today on the Salesforce Admins Podcast, we talk to LeeAnne Rimel, Senior Director of Admin Evangelism at Salesforce.

Join us as we talk about the biggest mistakes admins make and what to do to avoid them.

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

What’s the biggest mistake new admins make?

About once a year, LeeAnne gets asked the same question: what are the biggest mistakes she sees new admins make? And LeeAnne is a great person to answer this question. She’s worked at Salesforce for a long time, including a spell as a tier-three support engineer. She’s seen literally thousands of implementations and, you’ll be glad to know, she has an answer.

“The biggest mistake that I see Salesforce Admins make is not asking why,” LeeAnne says. That means putting on your business analyst hat and understanding what’s behind what you’re trying to build. Not just how you’re going to implement it, but why you’re being asked for it in the first place.

Measure twice and cut once

Let’s take a common request: you’re asked to add a new field. LeeAnne points out that the bulk of your work is actually going to be done in the discovery process, where you’re interviewing stakeholders, talking with users, and understanding how it fits into the business process already in place in your organization. Is this something other business units will use? What will be the reporting requirements for this field?

That’s why business analyst skills are such a point of emphasis in the Salesforce Admin Skills Kit. When you ask why you’re building something, you’re trying to understand how it affects the user, how it affects the business units, how it affects the organization, and how it affects other dependencies. Only after you’ve got a firm grasp on all that and written your plan down on paper do you start to actually build something. In short, LeeAnne is a big proponent of “measure twice and cut once.”

Your time to shine

You might feel hesitant to push back on requests because it makes you feel like you’re saying no. But just building whatever’s been requested and not taking the extra time to understand the context means you’re missing out on opportunities to shine. It could be that several business units need to track something similar, and you can actually make a solution that works for everyone across your organization, or give them reporting they didn’t know they needed.

If you need help brushing up on your business analyst skills and getting a comprehensive understanding of what makes a solid discovery process, we’ve got you covered. Check out the links below and remember: always ask why.

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Full Transcript

Gillian Bruce: Welcome to the Salesforce Admins podcast, where we talk about product, community, and careers to help you be an awesome admin. I'm your host today, Gillian Bruce, and we are going to be joined by podcast frequenter, LeeAnne Rimel, my amazing teammate who had a really interesting thought for an episode, and I agreed that it was an important topic. So, I said, "Come on on the podcast, LeeAnne, let's talk about it." It's all about the biggest mistakes that admins make. So, without further ado, let's get LeeAnne on the podcast. LeeAnne, welcome to the podcast.

LeeAnne Rimel: Hey, Gillian, thanks for having me.

Gillian Bruce: Good to have you back. Now, I wanted to dig into something that you and I had a quick chat about the other day and I thought, "Hey, we should probably bring this to our listeners." This came up for you because you had just done a presentation to a group of students learning about technology in Salesforce, and it's all about the biggest mistakes that admins make. Now, I'm sure everyone's wondering what are the biggest mistakes. So, LeeAnne, can you give us a little more context about this conversation and this idea in general?

LeeAnne Rimel: Yeah. It's one of my favorite questions to get asked. I feel like at least once a year, usually more, someone asks me this question, whether it's on a panel, it's often when working with students who might be entering the Salesforce ecosystem in the next year or so. The question is always what's the biggest mistake you see Salesforce admins make, or what's the worst thing you can do as a new Salesforce admin. Understandable question, right? People want to avoid possible missteps, and totally makes sense.
   I have an answer for this because, Gillian, you and I have worked together for a long time. I've been at Salesforce for a long time. I've seen thousands of customer implementations. I was a tier 3 support engineer once upon a time for Salesforce which you spend a lot of time untangling maybe different things that have been built and understanding why they were built. I was a sales engineer after that for a while, again, often working with existing implementations and trying to understand why things were built a certain way. So, I feel like pretty sure about my answer, what's the biggest mistake, it's after many years, 15 years of seeing thousands of customer implementations, and the great thing...

Gillian Bruce: What's the biggest mistake, LeeAnne? I want to know. This is buildup.

LeeAnne Rimel: We've got the buildup. Well, okay. The great thing is that it's something that you can do or you can avoid this mistake whether you're a brand new admin or you're a really tenured admin. The biggest mistake that I see Salesforce admins make is not asking why, is not diving into their business analyst skills, is not evaluating why a solution needs to be built before they build it. And so, the great news is that no matter where you are in your Salesforce admin journey, you can ask why. As we grow our business analyst skills, as we grow our admin skills, we grow our language and our methodology and our toolkit of how we ask why and how we build out those solutions. But on your first day as an admin, if someone asks you to add a checkbox, you can ask why, and I really strongly recommend you all do that.

Gillian Bruce: Yes. So, I a hundred thousand percent agree with this and I think it's really interesting because a lot of times when you think about, "Oh, I'm scared about making a mistake when I build something or I'm scared about making a mistake in this implementation," that is actually, that's fine. Those are good mistakes to make because you learn something. It's like this idea of experimenting and continuing to iterate. But before you even get there, before you build anything, really understanding what it is you're trying to accomplish and what's the problem you're trying to solve.
   I mean, LeeAnne, you mentioned business analysis skills. That's one of the 14 skills in our Salesforce admin skills kit. It's also, if you look out there at job titles, when people are looking for Salesforce admin jobs, a lot of time you see business analysis even in the job title itself. There's kind of this magical marriage between business analysts and Salesforce admins, and if you have both of those skills at a very core level, it's going to enable you to be amazingly successful in your role. So, can you talk to me a little bit about that, more about that business analysis skillset, and how you employ that before you start building something in Salesforce?

LeeAnne Rimel: Yeah, absolutely. I don't know if anyone else's parents ever used to tell them the rule about measure twice, cut once, right? It's a good attitude to bring to building solutions as well. A huge amount of your work, let's say you're going to build an automation, business automation for one of your business units. The bulk of your work is not going to be the clicking around in Salesforce. The most meaningful and valuable part of your work is going to be conducting those stakeholder interviews, creating your process map, asking good questions about what needs is this serving, creating your user stories, really understanding the solution that you want to build and asking good questions about often as admins were approached by maybe heads of business units, "Hey, we need to track this. We need to add a field for this." That's a very common request. We need to add a field for this.
   It's not about saying no. It's about asking why. It's about saying, "Help me understand what is the business goal this is serving. Who does this impact? Do you want to report on this?" There's a lot of questions to ask so that when you build it, you're building the right thing and you're on that right path. So, I think really developing those business analyst skills is such a key. You mentioned it's one of the key skills for an admin or an admin skills kit, and it is so incredibly important is honing those skills of understanding why are you building something, how does it affect the user, how does it affect the business unit, how does it affect the business, how does it affect other dependencies. And so, if you slow down, if you measure twice, cut once, but I guess in Salesforce, it's like measure 10 times. Write it down, document it, make your plan, and then you build the solution. Then you add the field. Then you build an interior user experience.
   I think that that's just, it's so important. When we talk about making mistakes, just growing any skillset, you're always going to look back on things you built. You're going to look back on the first flow that you built and say, "Hey, I could have built that even more efficiently. I could have used subflows in a different way." Or, maybe you're going to look back at and develop more and more efficient formulas to write or more performant dashboards to create. That's really great growth to have and those are very okay paths and great paths to be on. But this exercise of Asking why, you can start from day one.

Gillian Bruce: So, actually on that, LeeAnne, so let's say I have been in an organization in a Salesforce admin role and I've been just kind of taking orders and just adding fields when people ask me to add fields or building the thing because they tell me that's what they want to have built, and I haven't done a lot of asking why. How would you go about trying to change that and shift that in my current role? Because it's a little weird to all of a sudden just change and be like, "Well, why do you need that?" And then people be like, "Well, why are you asking me why I need it? You just do what I tell you to do." How do you combat that?

LeeAnne Rimel: Yeah, I think that's a really great question, right? I think we approach this with a lot of empathy for our end users. I think that's always a great way. Writing user stories is kind of an act of empathy because you are imagining that you are that user working through a system and trying to accomplish a task, right? And so, I think approaching it in that way, it's not about, "Hey, you have to give me the right answer or else I'm not going to build you this thing you're asking for." It's, "Hey, I want to better understand. I'm interested in better understanding how you need this to perform. What's the problem that this is solving?" because there might be other groups you can interview as well. There might be a chance if you've got one sales group is requesting a field, is that a field that has a similar need in other business units and other sales processes, and maybe it should be a different... Instead of having multiple fields for each sales unit, maybe it's one field or maybe it's a custom object.
   So, I think just approaching it with empathy for your users is generally a good attitude to have, I think, and just saying, "Hey, I know," and you can say, "Hey, I know this is a little different than before. We're trying to make sure that we're building the right things in the right place to benefit everyone in the company, to benefit you. I want to make sure this is going to perform the way that you need to perform." And so, that might mean asking more questions about their expectations around reporting or expectations around flexibility in the future of that field or that request, but I think just being clear with how you're asking and why you're asking. So, just like you're asking why, it's okay to give them the why of why you need the why,

Gillian Bruce: It's why on all of the levels, all of the whys.

LeeAnne Rimel: But it's like if I'm going to ask you why, it's fair to provide some additional background on why, what I'm going to do with that information to make you my partner in it because that makes you my partner. If I'm like, "Hey, can we collaborate on this for a minute? Can we have a little interview?" We talk about stakeholder interviews. A stakeholder interview doesn't have to be like, "Oh, we scheduled an hour on the calendar that's titled stakeholder interview, and we're following this template." A stakeholder interview can be, "Hey, sales user that I work with, can I sit down with you for 15 minutes and ask you some key questions about what's difficult for you?" Or, it can be putting a user story together and then gut checking in with one of your stakeholders. Those are all business analysis. A lot of the interpersonal skills that many admins are so strong in, those are all business analysis skills.

Gillian Bruce: Yeah, and it's all before you start solutioning at all. I think one of the things that I heard you say, especially focusing on the empathy, like you said, it establishes the relationship with your users, but it also establishes with your leadership, it shows that you're thinking more big picture about where the business is going and how Salesforce can fit within the context of that. I think we've talked about this a fair amount on our team to various groups of admins, but really as a Salesforce admin, especially given the current environment that we're all in, we're asked to do more with less. This is a moment and this is an opportunity to really demonstrate that you do understand the business goals, you can connect the business goals with the skills you have and the technology skills that you have to deliver really impactful results pretty quickly. And so, I think especially tapping into this idea of don't make the mistake of not asking why you go into this, this is a really important thing to think about right now.

LeeAnne Rimel: Absolutely. I think it's an opportunity to uncover some gold mines really as an admin for where you can add value to your organization. Earlier I mentioned thinking about the user, thinking about the business unit, thinking about the enterprise, when you ask why and when you dive in and when you conduct stakeholder interviews and when you understand the context of these requests, it helps you understand the business and the things that are pains for the business and how you can potentially create solutions for those. That's an incredibly valuable place for a Salesforce admin to be, and it's a really smart place, career-wise, to be, to be positioning yourself to understand, okay, I see that we're wanting to dive into analytics more across these parts of the business, because not only does asking why help you build a better solution, you're the Salesforce expert, probably not your leadership structure, probably not your business unit leaders.
   And so, if you're building a solution that someone sketches out for you and they said, "Hey, I want you to build this exact solution for me," you might be missing some opportunities to really expand what that solution looks like and better serve the needs of the business. And so, the more that you ask why and you try to expand that and really create the right solution, it can just be an absolute career goldmine for admins to position themselves as really valuable to the organization and is really tied into the organizational goals.

Gillian Bruce: Well, and I mean understanding what different parts of the businesses need and understanding what Salesforce can do or what you can do with Salesforce as an admin. I've heard stories before where an admin says, "Oh, well this business unit was using this specific app for this process. They didn't realize we could do that in Salesforce which we already pay for. So, I'm going to just save us a bunch of money and say, 'You don't have to use that anymore and it's all going to be in Salesforce.'" You talk about a business understanding the value you can bring as an admin, that is huge.

LeeAnne Rimel: Absolutely.

Gillian Bruce: Yeah.

LeeAnne Rimel: Yeah, I think what you're talking about is kind of doing an audit of systems, right?, And so if you're looking for projects as an admin or trying to understand where you can add value, that is an incredible place to look for value ads, because if you are on, say, Sales Cloud or Service Cloud, you can create custom objects. You have platform access, right? I remember working with a customer and they were using I think Sales Cloud, and it was when they realized we were working together and they were showing me the different systems they used and the different places that they tracked things, and they were using, I think Evernote or something to track customer stories and it was how they were tracking, and they had this whole kind of complex template and they were adding Salesforce record IDs and it was a whole thing.
   I was like, "Oh, let me show you how we track customers first," because of course we do it in Salesforce. There was this moment where someone from the leadership team was a little resistant, like, "Okay, well, that's not the deal that we're talking about right now. We don't have any additional budget for that." It's like, "Well, actually, you're already paying for everything you need to create a customer stories app because we have a free app on the app exchange. You've got platform licenses. You've got access to this already." And then the admin there really advocated that and ported that over and made that one of their projects, and it was such a big win for that team. And so, I think as an admin, when you're putting on your business analyst hat, part of it is when you're conducting these interviews, when you're understanding what the company priorities are, when you're understanding where your stakeholder priorities are. Where are those opportunities to build great solutions using the tools you already have?

Gillian Bruce: Mm-hmm. I love that. That's a fantastic story, and yeah, again, it really demonstrates, hey, you use those business analysis skills as an admin. You never know what kind of things you're going to discover. I mean, talk about a leader who would not appreciate that, right? Oh, I'm already paying for a thing so I don't have to pay for this extra thing. We can get rid of that and just continue to pay for what we're already paying for. Yeah, especially given the world as it is now, that's the huge kind of impact that we can have as admins using those business analysis skills.

LeeAnne Rimel: Discovery is such an important, when I say ask why, really if you're Googling for and looking on Trailhead for content, asking why is really all about discovery. It's a huge part of it is discovery, and we'll share in the show notes some great Trailhead resources and admin resources to dive into that further. But doing that customer discovery, because your users and your business unit leaders are your customers, it's so illuminating because we assume that we know what people... Sorry, there's my dog. We assume that we know what people are doing as they're working with Salesforce all day, but we don't. That's why Mike Gerholdt, our colleague, coined the term SABWA, Salesforce administration by walking around, and that's another form of discovery. It's doing those interviews and research into how are people using Salesforce and how can we make their life a little better.

Gillian Bruce: Well, I know Riley's very passionate about this. I can hear that she cares a lot about asking why it's good. So, I just, I love everything you shared, LeeAnne. I think that this is a really valuable aspect for all of us to think about no matter where we are in our careers, especially as Salesforce admins. If you're brand new, your first day on your job as a Salesforce admin, what are the top few questions that you would ask?

LeeAnne Rimel: Well, if you're brand new as a Salesforce admin and you're dealing with an existing implementation, I think some of the most important questions you can ask is help me understand why was this built, help me understand why you're using this, or who's using this, and making sure you're asking the right people, right? That's a huge part of identifying your stakeholders and identifying who would ask. Make sure you're asking the right people. Make sure you're interviewing your power users as well as people who have admin rights and things like that. Sometimes power users are using things in a way that wasn't originally architected, but it's providing value for them, so you want to make sure you figure out how they're using a text field or something like that.
   So I think asking those questions, help me understand how is this built or why was this built, what was the goal for this, are you still using this today, when you sort of untangle that. Then I think at a really high level, if it's your first day at a company, understanding, and this is the questions when I meet with my leadership or have the opportunity to meet with leadership, I always want to know, what's top of mind for you, what's keeping you up at night, what are your top three things on your mind right now. If you ever have a chance to sit down or to meet with anyone in your leadership structure or in leadership in other parts of your company, or as your stakeholders, those are great questions to ask. You can expand outside of Salesforce. If you're a Salesforce admin at a company, it's great to ask questions about Salesforce, but also it's important to understand what's keeping you up at night, what are your top three goals and priorities right now, what's on your mind, because it might be things that you can help impact with your Salesforce implementation.

Gillian Bruce: Yeah, it's your job as the admin to connect the business goals and the overall goals of your leadership with what you and Salesforce can do together. I think that's a really important point. Well, LeeAnne, it's been so fun to have this excuse to talk about this very important topic with you on the podcast. Any final thoughts you want to leave with us before we end, we wrap up today?

LeeAnne Rimel: Every admin is a business analyst and has the power to be a strong business analyst and to continue to build those business analyst skills. One of the most important elements of being a business analyst is curiosity with that customer discovery. I think admins, it was curiosity that likely led you to learning this new skillset and learning how to be a Salesforce admin and exploring all these different tools and features. So, lean into that curiosity. You already have everything it takes to be a business analyst. Lean into that curiosity.

Gillian Bruce: I love that. Great note to end on. Thanks again so much for joining us today, LeeAnne. I appreciate it.

LeeAnne Rimel: Thank you, Gillian.

Gillian Bruce: Huge thanks to LeeAnne for taking the time to join me on the podcast today. Now, if you want to learn anything that we mentioned on the podcast, including resources about how to do discovery and how to ask why, please check out the show notes. We've got some great Trailhead content there, some great content in general to help you understand how to kind of hone those business analysis skills. We've also got links to our Salesforce admin skills kit, which has a whole section on business analysis. As always, if you want to learn anything more about being an awesome admin, you can go to my favorite website,, where you'll find the skills kit and all kinds of great blogs and videos and more podcasts actually very closely related to some of the topics we talked about today. So, check it out.
   As always, you can join the fun on Twitter by using #awesomeadmin or by following @SalesforceAmns, no I. You can find myself on Twitter @gilliankbruce, my cohost Mike Gerholdt, @MikeGerholdt, and our guest today, LeeAnne, @leeanndroid. Hope you have a wonderful rest of your day. Thank you so much for joining us, and I'll catch you next time in the cloud.

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

Today on the Salesforce Admins Podcast, we talk to Rakesh Gupta Senior Solution Solution Architect at IBM, a six-time Salesforce MVP, evangelist, Salesforce coach, and the creator of Automation Champion. 

Join us as we talk about how to fit blogging into a busy schedule and what to think about when you’re writing about a solution.

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

The birth of Automation Champion

We’re big fans of Rakesh’s blog, Automation Champion, so we brought him on the pod to find out more about the man, the myth, the legend. When he first got started, he would answer questions from the community to see if he could find solutions with automations that didn’t require code.

Rakesh started saving these answers in a gigantic Google Doc which he would share over and over again, but he started thinking that maybe there was a better way. The same questions would come up, time after time, and it would be really handy to put all the answers in one place. That’s when he took his first steps into the blogosphere.

Why you should start blogging

Mike is doing a little blogging of his own about, well…blogging and why admins should start doing it. So we wanted to get some tips from Rakesh about how he fits writing into his busy schedule.

The first thing Rakesh does is block out a couple of hours each weekend to plan his content schedule and research new topics. “I try to write [a post] four or five times before I publish it,” he says, “if I understand it well then anyone can, too.” He goes to the Trailblazer Community to look for new questions and, believe it or not, he still has material he has gotten to in that Google Doc.

It’s important to have confidence in the fact that your perspective matters. No matter where you are on your Salesforce journey, you’re going to have a unique perspective and a unique way of solving problems. As Rakesh says, you need to realize that there’s an audience out there that will resonate with the way you, specifically, explain things.

How Rakesh writes a new post

When Rakesh is writing a new blog post, the first thing he does is jump into his Developer Sandbox to see if he can get a solution working. He especially wants to make sure that he’s testing with enough records to tell if it will be useable at scale.

Most importantly, Rakesh tries to frame his solutions in terms of tangible business problems that anyone can understand. He’s always thinking about the perspective of someone who is new to Salesforce: will they be able to understand and implement this solution? If not, he’ll go back and make some edits.

Finally, Rakesh does a regular session on Saturdays called Salesforce Flow Office Hours. “Trying to build a Flow is the last step,” he says, “the first step is to spend time thinking it through, you have to create a Process Flow Diagram or write something down on paper so you understand how it works in real life.” If you want help with your Flows, hop in a session on Saturdays at 10 am (US Central Time).

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Full Transcript

Mike:  Welcome to the Salesforce Admins Podcast, where we talk about product community and career to help you become an awesome admin.
 This week, we're talking with Rakesh Gupta, a six-time Salesforce MVP, Author, Salesforce Coach and Avid Blogger on Automation Champion and he's been working on the Salesforce platform for over 10 years. So, I love that we get into quite a bit of blogging talk on this episode. I know Rakesh is super into automation, but with the launch of the Build a Blog series, I really wanted to pick his brain on what he does in terms of cadence and writing and unique content. And maybe being a little bit vulnerable and putting content out there that you got to revise. So, we do talk a little bit of automation, but you should be sure to check him out with the Salesforce Flow Office Hours, I want to get that right, that he hosts every Saturday and, of course, his blog which I'll link to in the podcast. But for now, enjoy this conversation that I have with Rakesh. So, let's get Rakesh on the podcast.
 So, Rakesh, welcome to the podcast.

Rakesh Gupta: Thank you for inviting me, Mike.

Mike:  It's been a long time coming. I feel like I've read a lot of your stuff. But for those people, the less than 1%, I would say, of the community that may not know everything that you do, can you just give us a brief history of how you got into the Salesforce ecosystem?

Rakesh Gupta: Sure. My name is Rakesh and I'm a Senior Solution Architect working at IBM. I started my career as soon as I got out of college in India as a [inaudible] developer. Then I was fortunate enough to join couple of Salesforce community events that happened around that time, lead by Kalender Patel and other Salesforce evangelist in India, and I learned about Salesforce. Right after that, I found the recruiting application work and I started learning Salesforce and working on Salesforce platform and I involved in community. That's how I learn and get most of the knowledge and use cases that I put on my blog on and how then later I started user group in Navi Mumbai, which called as Navi Mumbai Developer User Group. And in 2016, I started Automation Hour with Jennifer Lee and David Litton to help community to learn Salesforce automation process builder/Salesforce flow by using Salesforce use case that everyone implement in their org.

Mike:  So you do a few things. I feel like you hit on some really good parts. According to your site, you're six times Salesforce MVP. Holy cow. That's nothing to shake a stick at.
 Let's start with your blog. So Automation Champion, I know I promise you this, everybody on Admin Relations Team has read at least a couple of 100 posts on Automation Champion, and it's such a great site. I'm going to start with the site because I'm also doing a blog series that I will link to in the show notes encouraging everyone to start an admin blog. What caused you, on top of everything that you're doing, to go, "You know what? I'm going to start an Automation Champion site and I'm going to write blog posts for the community?"

Rakesh Gupta:I started this blog post when I was in India and I was posting page three Bollywood parties' picture initially. It was started as [inaudible] and then as soon I just started my Salesforce career, I come to know about, there are lots of community people, they are looking for solutions like for example, initially we have, or and I hunt those website to find use case, help people to solve their problem using automations without writing code. Some of them, you can able to do the code, but there are lots of possibilities and Salesforce introduce workload. Then ability to launch a flow from workflow and then later process builder. Now Salesforce flows. So there are possibilities that the solution and use cases one has can we solve without writing code. So what I initially did is I started writing those into a Word document 10 or 20 pages what document step by steps and posting into the Trailblazer community.
 And then later I realized, and then I found that lots of people have same questions again and again they're asking. And I started sharing the same Word document and I have Google Drive, which is approximately one gigabyte having 1,000s of those use cases. So I thought why not? I can put this in a format that everyone can take a look and implement it and if they have any questions they can reach out to me. So that is started and later I think it's true [inaudible] in the sales, he gave me an idea to change this because I'm doing most of the thing for automation. So change it to

Mike:  No, it's cool. I love it. And some of these are rhetorical, but I would love to know some of the questions that I get asked. Because I feel like as a fellow blogger, these are things that we know but you talked about you also did automation hour with Jennifer Lee and Jennifer Lee's on our admin relations team. And she writes a ton of automation stuff too. What was the unique value that you were like, you know what, I got to put this out in the world even though there's other people doing stuff like it?

Rakesh Gupta:Well that's a very hard question.

Mike:  I know.

Rakesh Gupta:So initially, see I'm from the background that coming from, I don't have lots of technical background in my family. My father is a retired teacher and my mom is housewife. So I see that people is struggling to getting into ecosystems and getting the use case that they are trying to solve by going through some articles. Because one thing that I believe is there is a user for every use cases, there are person that require the same intensity that you solve a challenge. For example, there are products, there are laptop, there are different kind of laptops and there are audience for each of them, there are movies then audience for each of them, those categories. So likewise, that's what I believe. If there are different people, how I can make myself unique in that front is when I get a requirement or use case from the community.
 Most of these use cases is come from the community and what I put is I put my thought how an individual who don't know anything don't have lots of technical background now like me and how they can solve this challenge. So that's where I started putting the process flow diagram. So let's take this requirement first, try to understand the use case. Don't jump into the solutions. You don't have to go and directly solve this problem, take this use case and then try to build a process flow diagram. Either you can do a paper and pen or any diagramming tools available in the market.
 So by doing that, you spend some time in the building, the pseudocode that call in the programming or you can use that's also in the logic building. So once you have that, now let's break down in the step by step. So what do you need first? What you need second and what you need third? So that you will able to understand not just by copy pasting the scenarios you have, it is matching with my scenario and implemented, you can able to solve it so that next time when you get the different requirement, you can do the same exercise one more time by yourself and you can able to solve this.

Mike:  I think you nailed it. There's so many use cases out there and there's so many reasons to share what you do that I'm surprised your Google Drive last as long as it did before you started the blog.

Rakesh Gupta:I still have lots of scenarios in my Google Drive that I have in my Twitter list to put into the blog post in a blog post format and there are lots of community people who is helping me to put this into the block right now.

Mike:  Well so let's talk about that because I think one of the things that if you're creating content for the community and running, you go to automation champion, you look at it and you're like, man, that must take him millions of hours a week to do. What does that look like? How do you categorize that time in your life to get that content out the door? Because you're busy, you're doing stuff, you're flying around the world, you've got a day job.

Rakesh Gupta:I spend my weekends to plan for at least next two weekends so that I am ahead in the content planning. So usually on every Sunday, four to five or four to six central, I spend two hours just to going through my content knowledge base that I have in my to-do list. So what else I can take this week or next week and try to implement for the community. And there are lots of other things like I write the blog post on Salesforce Flow, Salesforce religious and mainly part of related things. So I categorize them and there are some architect things as well. I started writing, so I categorize them and see what is most valuable thing that one can learn from me and my experience and I take one and start researching it, breaking it down, writing it, and trying to read four or five times before I publish so that if I understand then anyone can understand this,

Mike:  That's real similar to what I used to do too. I remember I used to do it on Saturday mornings because Sunday evenings usually my brain is mush. So I took advantage of that Saturday morning wake up brain, let's plan some content stuff. That was always fun.

Rakesh Gupta:Saturday morning I run Salesforce office hours for community 10 to 10:30. So I spend.

Mike:  So you just do more because you're not busy enough?

Rakesh Gupta:So every Saturday, 10 to 10:30 central, I spend 30 minutes to people if they have any questions come and try to solve online at the same time. And sometime I teach them how to think through this scenarios use case and how they can utilize their knowledge and they can learn something new. Some of the people when I talk to them, the problem, the major challenges that I see is they don't understand the data model and then there is something that I help them to learn. You can go to the Salesforce is schema builder that you can use to understand how the objects are connected, how this wheels are connected so that when you go and do the query it is very easy for anyone.

Mike:  You know this as well as I do for every problem or every challenge that you're trying to solve for in a business, there's probably three or 400 different ways to solve it in Salesforce. Are you ever concerned that you're not putting out a piece of content that's right?

Rakesh Gupta:Yes. If I agree, yes. Sometime when I saw some scenario that Jen or David or someone else put on this website, I feel like, this is good. And I think that is the opportunity for everyone to learn because no one is perfect. So that's where I see community and my friends like, this is the other way that you can think to solve some problem that I never think and this is good for me to learn and think about. There are different approaches as well that can solve and maybe that is more efficient way. And it did happen many times. So I make a note of it and next time I try to see if I can do solution differently or this is the best solution.

Mike:  I found myself at least, and there's different years depending on the iteration of the Salesforce release where depending on what the product or feature is that you're writing about, it could really change and it could really dramatically impact the solution that you wrote about maybe two years ago or even a year ago. And I think you're probably running into that a lot with flow and orchestrator and especially with some process builder. What part of working in automation do you find the part that you really want to write about the most?

Rakesh Gupta:You nailed it and you said very right. So Salesforce now move into the process builder to Salesforce flows. And last year Francis and Monira, we wrote at least 150 blocks, convert 150 blocks a process builder to Salesforce flows. And nowadays, I try to update all those blocks whenever you see there are new UI here and there in Salesforce, new variables. So I try to update those every day.

Mike:  Not because anything's changing or different, I say that tongue in cheek.

Rakesh Gupta:It is part lots of people following it and I feel like if I provide an hour a day to update those so it'll help for at least one people that would be I think sufficient.

Mike:  Absolutely. I noticed you mentioned your bio, you've been working on the Salesforce platform for over 10 years. In looking back, so let's see, it's 2023 that put you back to 2013, can you remember a point in time where maybe it was a feature or something that you learned that really felt like it was a turning point for you where you looked at that and was like, wow, this is a thing and it just changed my career?

Rakesh Gupta:It is. In 2013 when I was initial involved in community and I found lots of use cases that can automate, but again everyone providing the solutions using APEX code and that time I started learning about Salesforce Visual flow is what's calling us cloud flow designer/visual flow. So I started investing my time and you cannot imagine, some time I spend eight to nine hour a day or maybe whole night just to thinking about the solution that how one can solve because there was very less blocks and information available in the market and that was one of the game changing point for me in my career that helped me to think through what can be possible without writing code and that give me lots of knowledge, even information about the platform, knowledge about the platforms and help me to grow in my career. And that's how I started writing my blocks as well as books in Salesforce Process Builder and Salesforce flows.

Mike:  So you mentioned you used to write and probably still do maybe, I don't know, we'll find out a lot of what would turn into blogs on Google Docs. What is your process for creating content from the moment that Rakesh has the idea to the moment that Mike sees it as a post on automation champion?

Rakesh Gupta:So the first thing is I have lots of ideas. So I write it down and if the idea is I feel like could it be a business use case? And this is a very business use case. So I started first implementing in my Dev Sandbox where I can just try to see if it can be possible and test with at least 10 or 100 record to see if that is working and if that is working, that is again the success for a blog. If not, and it happened many times. So then that's the first thing that I do. And then next step is to start writing a blog post, which is basically now I have a format to think about how I can put in a format, like what business scenario that I convert this use case to, and then create a process flow diagram and think through and person who just joined Salesforce how he can see this use case and if I write in this week and he able to read this and try to implement.
 If not that's let's try to change it and try to add as many as step little steps, little a diagram or highlights so that one can implement easily in their org.

Mike:  Quite extensive. You mentioned Salesforce flow office hours, so on top of just everything that you're doing and you're super busy writing content, you decided to take, is it 30 minutes? 30 minutes?

Rakesh Gupta:30 minutes.

Mike:  On Saturday and do that. What are some of the things that you're accomplishing in office hours?

Rakesh Gupta:One, the couple of things that I accomplished is helping people and there are so many people that reach out, they were not able to build. There was one person from South Africa, he is working for a nonprofit and he just joined Salesforce a week ago and he was trying to build the flows and I built that flow for him on live-

Mike:  Wow.

Rakesh Gupta:... In the same sessions. And he was very happy because he said that it's going to help for his nonprofit tremendously. And then I helped couple of people, lots of people on the call to help them to understand and I feel I got happy when I see that people understand how to implement a flow, it's not writing, just go and try to build the flow. That is the last step. The first step is you have to spend timing in thinking it, you have to create a process flow diagram or you have to write down your thinking into a piece of paper so that you understand how this actually implement in real life and then implementing is the last step.

Mike:  I think sometimes people jump ahead, I'm sure you see that, right? They want to jump into a solution already and you need to back up and think about everything that you're trying to do. Especially now with some of the capabilities of flow, the amount of what you can achieve in a single flow compared to what Process Builder was and even backing up into the days of Workflow builder is just in incredible.

Rakesh Gupta:Yes. For one example a couple of months ago, you cannot able to query the get element by saying that, "Hey, can you give me all opportunity where account ID in the list?" Now Salesforce has that feature in flows where you can say, give me all opportunity where ID in the list. So these are the lots of things that one has to understand and think that this can be also possible with the flows like sorting and there are few other new features. So one has to keep up to date and think how they can implement this while thinking or designing a solution yielding flows.

Mike:  I think back to the days of when I was excited just to build a workflow and somehow Daisy chain all of them together with a checkbox and now that's very simple flow. So as we wrap things up, we talked about your blog, you're super busy. And I'm being selfish here because I'm also writing this Build to blog series that I'll plug again, for somebody thinking about starting a blog and not necessarily on automation, maybe they're going to write something on page design. There's so many features, there's so many topics to write on. If you were to give them piece of advice, what would that be?

Rakesh Gupta:First, remember there is a audience for each content, even though that content has written 200 times or 2000 times does not matter. There is a audience for everything and there is a person who match with your frequency. It is possible that if I explain to you something you can able to understand, but not every people, maybe it is possible that the way that you explain he can or she can able to understand. So that is very first thing one has to understand before writing content. And then second is write the genuine content. Don't copy paste from here and there.
 Write something meaningful that a business problem can solve. If you write something around business problems, it'll be very, very helpful for anyone and reader can easily relate. And if you break down in the step-by-step, which is very, very helpful for anyone who implement, for example, if someone comes and say, hey, how do write Apex class that look for encrypted fill and do the query because that query cannot be done in the Salesforce flow. So if you're writing a Apex class, if you're providing the court, that is good, but if you're provide entire court with the test class and the step by step explanation, I think that is where people get success with the content creation.

Mike:  Nailed it. I have nothing more to say. There is a piece of content for everybody and I could not agree more. I think that's great. Rakesh, we love reading your site and I'm so appreciative that you have the passion behind doing what you do on the site and hosting office hours and writing books and creating trainings like it. It's really fun to find that level of passion in what you do and then be able to translate that into fun bit of work to do outside of your day job, which I know probably doesn't feel like work. So thank you so much for coming on the pod, sharing your information. I appreciate that and I will be sure to link to your site in the show notes.

Rakesh Gupta:No, thank you so much Mike. Thanks for inviting me. This is my dream comes true. I listen your podcast from when you started as a button click admin. And from that day, I am a big fan of you, so thank you so much for inviting me and it is a pleasure.

Mike:  That was a fun conversation with Rakesh. It was good to catch up with him. Awfully busy person running a blog and doing office hours and I even saw an sight the written a few books, so holy cow, that's a lot of contributions. But if you'd like to learn more about all things Salesforce admin, go to to find more resources, including all the links, which I will include the special link to that build a blog series that I've got going, which I will definitely pull some snippets for this. And that goes all summer long that we mentioned. Be in the show notes. And of course there's also a full transcript for you to read in case you missed part of it. You can stay up to date with us on social. We are at Salesforce. Admins, no I on Twitter, my co-host Gillian is on Twitter. She is at Gillian K Bruce and I am at Mike Gert. So with that, stay safe, stay awesome, and stay tuned for the next episode. We'll see you in the cloud.

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

Today on the Salesforce Admins Podcast, we talk to Muralidhar Krishnaprasad, EVP of Engineering, Next Gen Customer 360 Data Services at Salesforce.

Join us as we talk about Data Cloud and all of the exciting innovations coming to help admins own all the data in their org.

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

What is Data Cloud?

Muralidhar is in charge of Data, AI, and analytics platforms at Salesforce, and we wanted to bring him on the pod to share the awesomeness that is Data Cloud.


Right now, we tend to keep our data in many different pools. Between Sales Cloud, Marketing Cloud, Service Cloud, and outside sources, we don’t necessarily have one single source of truth for what’s going on between a customer and your organization. Currently, getting something even close to that requires a bunch of legwork to migrate data back and forth. It’s expensive, complicated, and presents extra layers of security challenges for your business.

Data Cloud looks to make all of this a lot easier. You can bring all your data to the same place, with Salesforce at the center of it all. It’s simply a game-changer for everything from analytics to building applications to decisions and everything in between.

How Data Cloud empowers admins

While all of this sounds amazing, what does this mean for admins? With everything in one place in Salesforce, you’re finally able to manage all your org’s data and not just what’s already on the platform.

However, that means you get up to speed on the Data Cloud concepts:

  1. Bring data in

  2. Transform the data

  3. Harmonize the data

  4. Generate insights on that data

“As an admin, knowing that lifecycle of the data and how you can control and administer it will be the big work to be done,” Muralidhar says. But getting a handle on that will make it easier to protect your data and help your org use it in new ways.

How to get ready for Data Cloud

If this conversation has gotten you excited about Data Cloud, there are a few things you can do to get your org ready. Muralidhar outlines three steps you can take:

  1. Identify the systems you want to integrate with, both inbound and outbound.

  2. Make a plan for how you want to use the data and the security you need to protect it.

  3. Decide which users will need to access what.

Muralidhar recommends starting small and limiting the scope at first, and then expanding as you make things that work for you. He goes over some use cases, including how one bank saw a 35x (!) ROI on their marketing and the insights Mike’s favorite pizza chain, Casey’s, were able to uncover by looking at their data in new ways. 

If you’re as psyched about Data Cloud as we are, there’s already a Trailmix to help you get started and even more resources on the way.

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Full Transcript

Gillian Bruce:  Welcome to the Salesforce Admins Podcast, where we talk about product, community, and careers to help you be an awesome admin. I'm your host today, Gillian Bruce, and we have a very special guest, I'm sure all of you have been hearing about Data Cloud and all of the exciting innovations coming in that space from Salesforce. Guess what? We have the leader at Salesforce, our EVP of Engineering, NextGen Customer 360 data services at Salesforce.
 Joining us on the podcast, Muralidhar Krishnaprasad, otherwise known as MK affectionately here at Salesforce. He and his team have been developing these super exciting products, and I wanted to get him on the podcast to talk a little bit more about what these mean, what they are, and how we should start thinking about them as Salesforce admins. So without further ado, let's get MK on the podcast. MK, welcome to the podcast.

MK: Thank you, Gillian. How are you?

Gillian Bruce:  Oh, I'm wonderful. I am very, very happy to have you on the podcast today, and Mike is with us today as well.

Mike:  Yes, hello. It's going to be an awesome podcast. Can't wait.

Gillian Bruce:  We're going to have a data party on the podcast today.

Mike:  It's always a data party.

Gillian Bruce:  Okay, so MK, let's, before we get into it, can you just introduce yourself to our listeners and a little bit about what you do at Salesforce?

MK: Absolutely. Hi, my full name is Muralidhar Krishnaprasad. I also go by Murali or MK for short. I'm the executive vice President for engineering. My team, we deliver the data cloud that we are going to be talking about. Einstein that you guys might already know, the whole AI platform and then the analytics efforts with regard to Datorama and many others in Tableau and many others as well. So overall, think of it as data AI and analytics platforms being delivered here, and I've been here in Salesforce about four plus years. Prior to that, I worked at Microsoft building most of the Azure infrastructure dynamics and many others. And then I started my career before that at Oracle, building databases.

Gillian Bruce:  Okay, so you're a busy person these days because all those products you just mentioned that you're working on at Salesforce, there's a lot going on there.

MK: Absolutely. Really, yes. There's a lot of news you would've heard as well as we are also doing a lot of integrations across Salesforce and across the industry as well.

Gillian Bruce:  That's great. Okay, so let's dig into it. MK, can you explain to us what is Data Cloud?

MK: Yeah, in simple terms. So think of it as an admin. You're going to have various clouds today, sales cloud, marketing, commerce and so on. Problem that we often run into is businesses want to be able to really know what their customer is doing because a customer is not dealing with sales, cloud service, cloud marketing, they're dealing with your business. And so that means you really need to know what they have done. Have they ever opened an email you have sent them? Do they have service cases? Did salesperson make a call and try to sell them something or have they been on your website trying to browse something and purchase something? And this is common across all industries. It's not related to just finance or health. It's literally like every industry that you can think of goes through this motion.
 And so it's more than important more than ever. It's important as companies transition into the digital enablement in digital selling, that you need that single source of truth of what the customer has done with your business. Now that's easier said than done because today if you have to do that, that means you need to create sophisticated EDL pipelines. You need to go create data lakes or warehouses, bring all that data, create new models on top of it, redo all your security on top of it, and then again, figure out a way to take those insights back into these planes of engagement. And that's not just expensive, complicated, but also as you can see, everything you have done with regard to security, with regard to the data models, et cetera. And Salesforce kind of has to be re-done again, maybe multiple times because it's not just done once for data, you need to do the same probably for your ML stack.
 You need to do that for your eventing stack, you need to do that for everything to create a Lakehouse and so on. So people end up repeating this complicated maneuver four or five times. So what Data Cloud is really trying to do is to make that really easy where you can bring data from all these clouds and other sources right into the Salesforce platform so that as admins, you still have control of all that data and more. While being still open that you can now do all of these operations, whether it's a Lakehouse, whether you want to do ML with Einstein or other tools, whether you want to do analytics with Tableau or other tools, you want to build new applications, you want to do eventing, you want to do decisioning. It's all together in this platform. So that's going to be the power of data cloud.
 It has the ability for you to really bring that single source of truth about your business in one place, all managed through Salesforce platform concepts, and be able to enrich all these planes of engagement so your service person knows exactly what that customer has done with your business. Your marketer has all that data that it can do to personalize your engagement. Your salesperson will know exactly what they have done, whether it's a website or other places, and of course your commerce, you can personalize their purchase experience and buying experience. And now with Tableau and MuleSoft, you can bring all the data together and Tableau, you can really analyze that as well. So that is the power of Data Cloud.

Mike:  Wow. Coming back from vacation, I find it funny that we can sit and have a data conversation and talk about lakes and lake houses, and you could totally do a podcast that people would think we're talking about vacation homes, don't you?Help my vacation brain boil this down for admins, what should admins know about cloud besides the Lakehouse?

MK: Great point. So I think as an admin, you need to be thrilled that data is not leaving your ambit because before, if you think about it as a Salesforce admin, you are only administering your cloud, but most of the businesses ended up taking all the data outside. And so your security layer was gone right there, and all the business semantics you created is also gone because they're going to get recreated somewhere else on some other platform.
 With Data Cloud, you become that owner of all the data in the enterprise as well as all the Salesforce data in one place. So as an admin, you need to, number one, learn the data cloud concepts. So there are notions of bringing data, transforming data, harmonizing data, and generating insights on that data. And then Data Clouds allows you to be able to plug into various systems, including all the Salesforce, obviously all the Salesforce tools and clouds as well as external systems too. So as an admin, knowing that lifecycle of the data and how you can control and administer it would be sort of the big work to be done.

Gillian Bruce:  Okay. So get a little bit of work to do to get our arms around what data Cloud means for admins, but I like how you set it up there about how understanding, hey, it does give you... you're in control. I mean, all admins are control freaks, so that's a really good way of putting it. But in some ways, the idea of Data Cloud, MK kind of shifts the idea of what Salesforce can do.
 Can you explain a little bit about what is that shift and from someone who's maybe been an admin for a few years and hey, I understand that I have a fair amount of data all in Salesforce so that my service people and my sales people can all see what's going on with this specific account. How does Data Cloud really change that and shift that?

MK: Yeah, great point. I think what you're looking at is certainly today your sales and service is in the same place. If you install in the same org, that is your sales and service can see all that data and you can put the right security, et cetera. But more often than not in any enterprise setting, there's a lot more data out there. We cannot bring that into Salesforce today because either it's a scale problem or it could be other issues related to their backend systems.
 A simple example, your website clicks. You can bring in tons of information with everybody clicking on their website. You cannot bring that in easily today into your sales or service cloud. And if you look at all the other backend files or SAPs or other enterprise assets that are existing, again, it's very hard to bring all that data in because today our is built on a transactional platform and transactional platforms have their limits.
 They're awesome for transactional consistency, but they're not great at large data scale. And so what Data Cloud is really trying to do is to bring the world of big data, big processing to the Salesforce platform. So that is really that foundational shift it's actually doing. So that means you can now bring in all your data from your web, your mobile. For example, recently one of our big automotive partners went live where they're now trying to feed us all the IoT signals from all their cars, all the EV cars is now sending signals to our data cloud, and we are able to process that signal, filtered the right signal, and then either create an email to be able to send saying, oh, congrats crossed 10,000 miles on your new EV car, or if that signal had any defects in the car, we are able to go create a service case on. These kind of scenarios are net new.
 And similarly, we have a gaming company in Japan, which we all know allow, where they're bringing over trillions of rows of data into the system because this is all their player stats. This is everything that the players have done with their commerce system and so on. And now they want to generate new insights so they can drive better sales, better commerce. And so those are kind of new scenarios, net new scenarios that Data Cloud is going to go enable. It's going to make your marketing better, it's going to make your service so much better because you know more about the person, what they have done. It's going to open up new avenues in your sales process because you can get their web clicks or other kind of information into the sales cloud. And certainly you can personalize your commerce experience.

Mike:  I was kind of excited when you said that because one of my vehicles, I get a monthly email on it's health, it's not electric, but I think it's from Salesforce. So I'm going to go with that because that would be really cool. So it sounds like, it's not like lightning flip a switch and here we are, but I think there's some stuff that admins need to do to help their organizations and just organizations in general, prepare. Could you MK could kind of touch on some of that?

MK: Yeah, I think it's a great point. I think what as an admin you need to do first, like I said, understand what Data Cloud is, but second is really understand what sources you want to bring data from into this data cloud, which org you want to obviously install the data cloud in first and then you may have business unit considerations, geo considerations and so on. And so we are introducing new concepts that you should be aware of. There's a new concept called Data Space, which allows you to have a data cloud and then still split the data within that via business units. It's a security concept and also you need to understand what are the layers that Data Cloud needs to go interface with. For example, it could be I have a marketing cloud here, I have a commerce here, I have these two sales cloud or two service Cloud.
 So which data to bring in and how do you want the insights to go? And there is a whole setup that you need to do around that. And same with Tableau, but more important than that too is in most enterprises, we don't live in our own world. People end up having their own warehouses or their own ML systems as an example. And so knowing those connections also would be helpful as well. And Data Cloud makes it easy for you to connect to all these systems and yet as an admin, you retain all the control and capability on which data should be exposed, who should have access to that. So that's kind of like the big one I would say. So to prepare, know the systems you want to integrate with both for ingest as well as going outbound, know the kinds of data and the security that you want to add on top of it and make sure which users are going to access more.

Gillian Bruce:  So I mean what I'm hearing here in terms of preparing is thinking about the flows of data, which data, I mean, would you go into setting up Data Cloud already with knowing the questions you want to answer, like say, Hey, I want to be able to get more people to buy this product by implementing Data Cloud, I'm going to be able to know when to target them. Or I mean, can you give us a little bit more of an example of what use cases might spur someone to want to implement and set up data

MK: Cloud? Yeah, great question. I think what we have seen success come is what you mentioned, Gillian, which is steel threads. If you have a clear steel thread the business wants to make happen and starting there, starting small and then building on it is better than a gigantic project where I'm going to bring in 50 different sources and not know how to use them. So I think what we have seen, great success. Obviously last year, data Cloud started off building our sort of go to business market in the marketing area, and now we are expanding beyond marketing. And so a lot of success we have seen is threads where people say, I have all this data. I want to bring in my marketing data, my sales service or external data. By the way, data Cloud today we have hundreds and hundreds of customers live on it.
 We are already seeing over 60% to 70% of the data is non Salesforce data coming into Data Cloud. So which is interesting should be exciting for your admins because now you have more data under management that you now can control. So the steel thread coming back, the steel thread to have to be able to take this data, create an insight, and then activate through a marketing channel, it's straightforward and it's very powerful too because your scenarios can be very powerful.
 I'll give a very simple example. This is an open thing that InterBanco, this is a digital banking customer in lata. What they did with Data Cloud was to just instrument all their mobile apps. So they had 60 different applications in their banking sector and before Data Cloud they would create all these new campaigns, just bombard the people, and the rate of click was very low because imagine you get keep getting spam all the time, you're just going to start ignoring emails from these businesses.
 Instead, what they did was a simple thing. They said, okay, I can use Data Cloud, put the SDK in my mobile and web app. Let me just start collecting people's click trends, which is like, okay, which pages are they clicking for how long? And then they created this very simple insight in Data Cloud that said, okay, if they clicked a lot on let's say insurance pages or mortgage pages or whatever other things, and they were able to quickly categorize them because what they found was they had a hypothesis that if people buy a new vehicle or planning to buy a new vehicle, chances are you're going to be roaming around more in the insurance pages. Or if you are interested in new home, you might be looking at the mortgage page, right? Very simple logic. And so they created a simple insight that just, think of it like a group by, to say, if I clicked on insurance, you're an insurance lover.
 So every day then they took that information, just hooked it up to our marketing cloud journeys. They would do a campaign specific to each of those areas. They saw you would not believe it, 35X ROI just doing that.

Gillian Bruce:  Wow.

MK: Instead of their scattershot, like send email to everybody thing, they sent much less emails to targeted people, and they saw huge returns on investment. And so they allow this now. And so that's a great example of one steel thread end-to-end that people have done. And we have seen similar things in various other customers as well.
  For example, there's a small pizza chain in Midwest, US, Casey's who just took people's buying habits on a daily basis and they were able to then create these personalized discounts. They found out that people drink Coke tend to buy this pizza and all sorts of interesting correlations from that data. And then they were able to then target them with the right offers and they saw, again, huge sort of increase in their engagement from their customers. So these, I would say start off with a steel thread, one or two steel threads, which are very clear on what data sources you need, what kind of outputs you need to do, and then go implement it and then build on it. I think that's the best way I would advise.

Mike:  I just have to pause for a second because everybody probably knows I live in the Midwest and the fact that Casey's uses this is now just above and beyond for me. Also, Casey's pizza is phenomenal. So MK, I don't know where you're based, but you need to come visit me in Iowa and we need to have some Casey's pizza because it's probably the best pizza you're ever going to have, and it's from a gas station. And it's a topic of conversation in the Midwest when people pass through. But yeah, I've also used the Casey's app and gotten very specific coupon things that I was like interesting. I have no idea how they would guess this, but if they're looking at my purchase history and every time I buy their breakfast pizza or so, holy cow, you just changed my life knowing that Casey's uses this.

MK: Yeah, and that's coming from Data Cloud, all the processing, all the things you buy, everything is going through Data Cloud.

Mike:  That's so cool. That's so cool. I mean, I'm a huge Casey's fan anyway.

MK: That's awesome. Yes. See if I'm coming to the Midwest-

Mike:  Gillian also knows that just about every podcast food gets mentioned on it. I wasn't even the first one to mention it, Gillian.

Gillian Bruce:  I know. Well, I could hear your wheels turning as soon as MK talked about Casey's Pizza. I feel like you've even talked about it on the podcast before.

Mike:  You have no idea how good their pizza is.

MK: And there is a press release also that we did late last year that you can reference to your customers to go look at it.

Gillian Bruce:  We'll put it in the show notes.

Mike:  Speaking of things to put in the show notes, MK, could you provide some admins with tips or resources on where they can get started learning about Data Cloud perhaps maybe while they eat Casey's Pizza?

MK: Yes. I think if you go to data cloud, we have a lot of materials there. We are also preparing New Trailheads as well. There's already a Trailhead that you can take and there are more coming along the way. And of course we have the standard documentation that can help them as well for them to use Data Cloud. The main thing to realize in Data Cloud is it is a Salesforce cloud that can really change your business. And so learn how to bring data, how to harmonize, and then how to create the insights of it and then push it back into all your systems.

Gillian Bruce:  Oh, that's great. MK, I so appreciate you taking the time to chat with us today and demystify Data Cloud for admins, and I have a feeling there's going to be a lot more in this space.

Mike:  Seriously, and I'm going to use Data Cloud today when I order pizza or maybe tomorrow.

MK: Right. Whenever you eat Casey's Pizza, think of-

Mike:  Oh my God, I am going to start racking up some data in Data Cloud for guys.

Gillian Bruce:  You got to show us what insights you're getting or is that like too going to expose your habits too much? I don't know.

Mike:  I will willingly give anybody that wants to visit me a demo of the Casey's app in my backyard if we can order pizza.

Gillian Bruce:  I love it. MK, thank you so much for joining us and I really appreciate all the work that you're doing in this really important space. And we didn't even talk about anything AI or Einstein related, so we'll have to do that on another podcast. But thank you to you and your team for all the great work that you do, and we look forward to hearing from you again very soon.

MK: Sounds great. Thank you both. This was a great conversation. Again, we you'll see more of Data Cloud and more of Einstein Automation, Tableau and all of that coming through the next few months and years.

Gillian Bruce:  Huge thanks to MK for taking time out of his very, very busy schedule to chat with Mike and I. It was also fun to do a podcast with Mike. It's been a while since we've done one of those. I hope that you got some good ideas and thoughts and questions from some of the things that MK shared with us about Data Cloud. I mean, it is one of the most exciting areas right now in Salesforce ecosystem of innovation, and it really opens up some exciting possibilities of what we can do as admins with our declarative capabilities to really bring in the power of data and have those truly connected customer experiences.
 So I hope that your wheels are turning and I look forward to hearing your questions or your feedback, and I bet later this year we'll get MK back on the podcast to talk a little bit more about how Data Cloud has continued to innovate and then maybe get him back on to talk a little about some of the AI stuff that he and his team are working on. Because you know everyone's talking about AI these days.
 Well, if you want to learn more, I highly encourage you to tune in or visit in person, TrailblazerDX, which is happening next week, March 7th and 8th in San Francisco. You can absolutely still register. There are spots available. If you can't join us in person, not to worry, you should definitely tune in on Salesforce plus. We'll have a live broadcast both days. You may see me on the broadcast a few times. We're going to have some really exciting interviews with people who are there on site, and we're also going to have some really in depth fantastic product coverage. So we're going to have a whole keynote dedicated to Data Cloud. We're going to have some really special announcements in our product space, so I definitely recommend that you tune in. A lot of that content will also be available on demand post to the event.
 And as always, if you want to learn more about how you can be an awesome admin, make sure you check out my favorite website, There you can find great content in all forms from blogs, podcasts and videos, all the things that you could want, including career resources, product pages, check it out. We put a lot of thought and effort into that, and it's all for you to help enable you be an awesome admin.
 Thank you so much for listening to us today. If you're on Twitter, you can follow #awesomeadmin or you can find us @SalesforceAdmns. You can find myself @gilliankbruce, my co-host Mike @MikeGerholdt. And if you want to connect with our guest today, MK, you can find him on the Trailblazer community or on LinkedIn. We'll have those links right there in the show notes. Thank you so much for listening, and we'll catch you next time in the cloud.


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

Today on the Salesforce Admins Podcast, we talk to Lynn Guyer, Manager, Salesforce Practice at Forefront Telecare.

Join us as we talk about how she was able to build a no code, out-of-the-box solution for one of her organization’s biggest operational challenges.

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

Scheduling on-call hours for a telehealth organization

Lynn started out as a Salesforce user before she ever found herself sitting in the admin’s chair. That gives her a lot of insight into what things are like on the other side of the screen. So whenever she’s building a solution, she’s really concerned with how it’ll impact other users and what the experience is like for everyone involved in a business process.

As a telehealth organization, they have staff across many different time zones who have to be on-call at certain times. They needed to know who was covering which shift, that those people knew their schedule, and that every shift was covered. She tried a couple of the industry standard solutions to see what they were like, but they each had some significant shortcomings. Ultimately, Lynn decided the best course of action was to build something of her own in Salesforce.

Why research should always be the first step

While Lynn was in her research phase, she looked at each of the existing on-call management solutions to understand their workflows. How many clicks it takes to do certain tasks, whether you can reuse different elements of the schedule week-to-week, and what it looks like from different users’ perspectives. This research really helped her to spec out exactly what she needed and how it should work.

Lynn and her team took their requirements to their Salesforce Account Executive and Solutions Engineer, who suggested they look at Scheduler. It seemed like a perfect fit—it could store and manage all the data they needed but, in order to implement it, Lynn needed to learn Flows. 

How Lynn skilled up quickly in Flow

There are a lot of great self-guided resources out there for learning new skills in Salesforce, but Lynn’s a working mom so she wanted something with a lot of focus tailored to her specific needs. A small group live class proved to be the perfect solution, allowing her to pick up the skills she needed in just a few weeks.

In the full Flow, the request comes into Salesforce from Experience Cloud as a record, which kicks off a series of Flows that check who’s on call, text the people who need to know, assigns the correct user to be the owner, and puts the information correctly into a schedule that everyone can see. In the end, Lynn was able to build a solution to her organization’s problem entirely in Salesforce, without code, made entirely with out-of-the-box features and add-ons.

Lynn is a big fan of keeping things out of the box.“Salesforce does all of the testing for you—that’s what you’re paying them for,” she says, “you’re paying them to test their code for you to use so you don’t have to test your code every release.” Building solutions like this makes them much more reliable, easier to maintain, and you get to benefit from the improvements Salesforce makes with each new release.

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

Today on the Salesforce Admins Podcast, we talk to Erick Mahle, Senior Director of CRM at First Advantage.

Join us as we talk about what 2023 looks like for admins and why we have an opportunity to stand out as efficiency experts.

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

Doing more with less

Erick has seen the ecosystem from a number of roles over the years, starting out as an admin, later working as a consultant, and now on the client side of things as Senior Director of CRM at First Advantage. His wife just landed a role as a junior admin, so he even has the perspective of someone breaking into Salesforce for the first time and starting their career.

It’s a challenging time for a lot of folks, with layoffs and more pressure on everyone in the tech space to do more with less. And we brought Erick on the pod because he recently wrote an insightful article about just that and we wanted to get his thoughts on why admins are optimizers.

The formula Erick uses to measure efficiency

Erick and his team recently implemented Einstein bots in an unusual way. While they were looking into using this technology for customer service, they realized that they could also use it for their sales department, too, to help qualify and assign leads. They also created a screen flow that shows key things in the opportunity that are missing, which helps with the data cleanup needed to do predictive analytics in the future.

The tricky thing about improving efficiency is that there’s not necessarily a clear moment where everyone realizes how much work you’ve done. Erick and his team came up with a formula to track how much efficiency is gained from their projects: they count the number of full-time employees involved in the task they’re improving, the number of times per week that it occurs, and the number of minutes it takes to perform it. This gives them a quick way to evaluate the efficiency gains they could make with automation, which helps them prioritize projects and demonstrate their value to leadership.

How to build trust

To get the ball rolling, Erick recommends the group exercise “Start, Stop, Continue.” You give everyone three colors of Post-it Notes and ask them to write on one color what we should start doing, on another what we should stop doing, and on the third what we should continue doing. You put them up on the wall and talk about them as a group, which opens the door to specific, actionable projects where Salesforce can make a difference.

The most important thing, Erick recommends, is to identify the low-hanging fruit from these suggestions and deliver on them quickly. Once you’ve built that trust, you’ve opened the doors to more feedback, more suggestions, and more wins for Salesforce at your organization.

And if you want to show off your Flow skills, Erick invites you to FlowFest on February 22nd. It’s a 50-minute, hack-a-thon style competition to find the “One Flow to Rule Them All.” It’s free to compete and free to spectate, so join in the fun!

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Full Transcript

Gillian Bruce: Welcome to the Salesforce Admins Podcast, where we talk about product, community, and careers to help you be an awesome admin. I'm your host today, Gillian Bruce, and we are talking about 2023 today. It's been an interesting time, challenges, opportunities, all kinds of wildness happening within the tech space.
Some of us maybe feeling a little weird about the year ahead, but I wanted to get Erick Mahle on the podcast because he shared something on LinkedIn a few weeks ago that really kind of challenged me and had some new ideas I thought that were really interesting to bring two Salesforce admins specifically about what's possible this year and how you should view yourself in this time of change in terms of what you can do and the value you can bring an organization, and really finding ways to demonstrate that. In fact, there are some amazing opportunities for us as Salesforce admins in this space, in this time. Without further ado, let's get Erick on the pod. Welcome, Erick, to the podcast.

Erick Mahle: Thank you for having me. It's a pleasure to be here.

Gillian Bruce: Erick, I want to introduce you to our listeners a little bit to give some context to the conversation we're going to have today. Can you share a little bit about your Salesforce ecosystem journey and where you're at today?

Erick Mahle: Yeah, of course. Back in 2010-2011, I was the accidental admin. My background was actually in marketing and sales. Working for small software companies, you naturally get the hat of becoming the Salesforce admin. Always liked it. Equated it to the grownup version of Legos and building things and putting things together. After a couple of years, an opportunity presented itself for me to become an independent consultant in 2013. I pursued the consulting side for several years. I've ran a consulting firm for several years. I've done independent consulting for a couple of years, up until last year, where another interesting sequence of events outside of my professional life kind of lined themselves up.
I took a full-time position as a senior director of CRM at First Advantage where I am today. I've gotten a chance to see the world from the consulting side. I'm getting a great opportunity to see it from the client side, and even the wife that recently got picked up as a junior admin. I got to see even someone trying to get started in the ecosystem recently. It's been an interesting year, especially the last one, to be in this ecosystem and see and the perspective that I had to gain from it.

Gillian Bruce: Thank you for sharing that. You've got such different perspectives from each chapter of your career so far. Congratulations to getting your wife in the ecosystem. I know that's what we do as Salesforce professionals, right? We just want to get everybody in there with us.

Erick Mahle:Exactly right.

Gillian Bruce: I wanted to talk to you today because you posted something really interesting on LinkedIn, and I wanted to get you on the podcast because I think especially as we kick off this year, it's a challenging time for a lot of folks. We've all seen the headlines. We've all heard about layoffs. We've maybe felt the strings getting tightened a little bit in the tech space, maybe put on some pressure from our leadership about trying to do more with less. Really I wanted to talk to you about this idea of really delivering success now in this environment.
Tapping into some of the things that you shared on LinkedIn, I wanted to start with what's your overall outlook for 2023 for Salesforce professionals? You're on the client side now. You're actually in a position where you're hiring folks. Can you talk to us a little bit about how you see the outlook for the year as a Salesforce professional given everything that's going on?

Erick Mahle:I think there are the positive marks in it. There's a lot to look forward to, especially as a Salesforce professional. Because in this environment, in this economy that we're currently in, we hear a lot about companies tightening their spend. Unfortunately, a lot of the big companies are doing layoffs, all of them within their own reason. But where our rise to glory as a Salesforce professional comes in optimizations and being able to use the systems that we have today better. It's certainly something that I can talk about from my experience at First Advantage. Over the last six months or so, the overarching theme is how do we get more of what we currently have?
We've been able to drive tremendous efficiencies and simplifying processes, consolidating applications where we can and functionality where we can. I think in many ways at First Advantage, we even saw a positive in terms of end user experience. And to be quite honest, my direct report, senior VP, he said it and he's like, "Look, the stuff that we're doing is helping save jobs too, because the savings that we're getting from this and everything is helping make the business case for everyone, not only to help people become more productive, be able to do more with less, but also financially."

Gillian Bruce: I think you hit on a lot of really interesting things there, I mean, especially when you think of the role of being a Salesforce admin, right? I mean, the idea is to help the business become more efficient by using Salesforce solutions and getting creative in terms of how to figure out how to streamline certain processes, how to deliver data better so that people can work more efficiently and get more deals done faster or help serve more customers quicker. Can you expound upon a little bit some of the things that you've seen specifically Salesforce admins or any Salesforce professional do tactically that have really, really helped deliver that efficiency, deliver that success?

Erick Mahle:Automation is one of the biggest things. For us, one of the key things that we've done that made a significant impact was a pretty significant undertaking for our company in the short timeframe was to implement Einstein Bots. We use Einstein Bots. We're going to start using it for customer service, but we actually initially started using it for sales to filter out leads and qualified leads accordingly and using that to be able to assign to folks. That level of deflection helped save a lot of times. It saved a lot of meetings that our BDR team had to go and qualify them and see if they were a real lead, if it was a genuine prospect, and who it needs to be assigned to.
Just the number of meetings that we're saving on that because the bot is able to take that on. That's a fantastic thing that we can do there. We've also done a couple of really interesting projects. We did one called Opportunity Insights, which was really exciting. We basically did a ScreenFlow that shows key things in the Opportunity that are missing. We really want to focus on data cleanup and helping them. We want to get into predictive analytics in the future and all these things, and it starts with a good foundation. We created this little widget that tells them, hey, you're at this stage. Here are the things that we see that you still don't have.
We even do things like, "You marked your competitor as other. Are you sure other? Have you found out anything since you've marked this?" There's a lot of things that we're doing that I think are really helpful in driving more visibility and helping people be more tactical into where they need to put their focus on in Salesforce.

Gillian Bruce: I love that. I mean, those two things you described, personally I love that because those are things that admins can do and deliver completely by digging into the technology and being able to build that out. Einstein Bots have been around for... I remember, I think we did podcasts about it when they first came out. It was three years ago, four years ago maybe. Such a great way to provide a very simple solution that just takes a little bit of thought and build out from an admin. I think the other thing too that you talked about, about basically delivering data and getting those insights that are surfaced.
Again, these are things that Salesforce admins, this is in our wheelhouse. This is what we do. Can you talk a little bit about how you view especially the power of a Salesforce admin within any organization? How do you demonstrate this value to your leadership? Or in order to get more resources or to really make the case for investing more maybe with expanding the use of Salesforce within other parts of the organization, what are some things that you've seen work?

Erick Mahle:One of the interesting things that we started doing internally is that we came up with a basic formula to track how much efficiency we'll gain out of different projects. We actually put that on the other departments when they're asking us for efficiencies in Salesforce and to calculate that for us or put a rough guess. It's three components to the formula. It's the number of full-time employees involved on whatever task we're doing, the number of times per week that this task in particular occurs, and how much time per task per each individual task. We multiply that out and we calculate how much time we could technically save if we were to automate.
An easy case here, sales reps have to put their activities on a spreadsheet and send it to their sales managers or have a half an hour meeting every week with their sales managers. Let's just say it's a small organization, 10 FTEs. Each one of them has to do a 30-minute report. Once a week, you're at 300 minutes right there, if my math serves me. If you put a dashboard together that tracks all of their tasks and activities, you immediately save 300 minutes right there. As the company starts getting more on board with what we're doing and how we're prioritizing, they start actively. It's almost like a game.
On our dashboard, we have who's made the most recommendations and that we've been able to put in there. We highlight it. It's become a little bit of a game. People are like, "Oh yeah, I want to be able to save my time." I tell them, "You know I'm not going to be able to prioritize this until I can put some efficiency to this," and really helping to shape that. It's been an interesting initiative that's catching a lot of traction internally. It's exciting. That's a big one that's making a difference for us.

Gillian Bruce: I love how it's gamified almost. It's like a competition like, "Oh, you want me to work on your idea? Well, then you need to help me fill out the rest of this formula so that I can prove that this is going to deliver real value." I mean, gosh, it's such a clear combination of factors that then... I mean, it doesn't take a lot of explanation to really understand how that works, right? Pretty clear. I'm just imagining happy leaders who are like, "Oh, you saved us 300 minutes a week. Oh, you saved us multiple hours every week." You guys give internal awards of like, yes, I delivered the most impactful solution this week.

Erick Mahle:We haven't gotten to the point of handing out awards yet, but certainly it's useful in our company. Because while I'm not going to say it's rare, but I would say it's uncommon, our Salesforce team actually reports under sales operations where I think the majority, not a vast majority, but the majority would be under IT. Sales operations is actually measured under efficiencies. Our KPIs are to drive X number, X percentage of efficiency across the board, across the different teams. It was a perfect fit in terms of how we wanted to track this, because it immediately just helps put on the dashboard, hey, here's how we're doing as a department on one of our main KPIs. It was a big game changer for us, to be honest.

Gillian Bruce: Well, I think that's interesting you talking about the org structure a little bit and having the Salesforce admins and the Salesforce team sit within sales operations or revenue operations versus just a traditional IT. I actually don't know. I've talked to many admins who actually sit more in the sales or RevOps land versus IT, and I think to your point and the way you just described it, I think there's a lot that if you're sitting in a traditional IT space, learning a little bit from that sales culture, from that competitive culture, from that very drive efficiencies, KPIs, I think that might be a really good methodology to think about, especially if you're not currently in that space.
Because again, it's the idea of proving efficiencies and really demonstrating the value there. I think that's a really great point. Listener, if you are living more in an IT world, take some tips here from Erick. Think about that sales perspective.

Erick Mahle:I'll add one thing, because I've seen in my consulting days companies that they want to get ambitious and do things with Salesforce, but there's just not enough buy-in. If everything that we talked about right now seems like far-fetched like, our sales team or is not going to get behind this or whatever, one thing that usually gets the ball rolling, it's an exercise, I can't take credit for it, but it's called Start, Stop, Continue. It's out there. It is a super simple exercise that will get people talking. You get everyone in the room. Everyone writes their own things they need to start doing, need to stop doing, and things that we're doing today that we want to make sure we don't lose.
And then usually we do them on Post-it notes, and then usually we'll collect all the Post-it notes and line everyone up. And as soon as you start seeing common threads, people start opening up, "Oh, I'm not on the only one that thinks about this. Oh yeah, no, no, no." Suddenly everyone becomes a talker and starts sharing things. And just like that, you get a list of priorities of what's bugging them the most about the CRM. You didn't have to push people to come and give you information. You just naturally draw it out of them. The key piece effort is that you have to execute, right? They've trusted in you that they could share all of these things.
Whatever it is, find the easy pickings and deliver, execute, and that will start the snowball effect of, "Oh, you delivered on this. Oh, I wonder what else? Oh yeah, by the way, this was never working very well before. Can we redo this, or can we figure out a way? Because I have to click here and then go there to click this and say this and say that, can we streamline all of that?" Suddenly now the dialogue starts and you start to change the culture of how sales folks look at Salesforce. I just wanted to add that in, because a lot of times I know companies have a struggle to get people on board culturally. From my experience, it's a great way to make this accessible for everyone.

Gillian Bruce: I love that. It's a great tip. I have been through many a Post-it note feedback sessions in my time. And it is. It's an amazing way to just get the brains working and get the wheels turning about, oh, what's possible? Again, like you said, I'm not the only one who feels this way. Oh, there's some themes here. I think especially given the environment that we're all in, asking to do more with less, it's such a great way to really enable that prioritization that's so important when we're trying to really focus, be efficient, and really find ways to deliver those impactful results very quickly.
Great tip. Erick, you talked a lot about automation, and I know you're working on a really fun community event focused on automation. Can you share what you're working on with us?

Erick Mahle:Of course. This will be our fourth time doing this. It started as a bit of a wonder if it was going to catch on. But at the end of February now, we'll be hosting our fourth FlowFest. This is a global live competition hackathon style where we're going to put I think over 200 competitors from across the world for a chance to be the FlowFest champion. We're going to put them through a series of challenges, and we'll get to do a final head-to-head battle, which is going to be new for this FlowFest. Typically, we get over 2,000 people that have signed up. It's really exciting. For us, we treat it as an educational event.
All of the exercises, we provide a breakdown of all the challenges afterwards. If you want to try to put yourself in the shoes of the competitors, competitors when they register, they get to select the country that they're representing, the companies that they're supporting. If you want to come support your company, support your country, there's space for everyone. We'll be more than happy to have you if you're interested. It's, F-A-N-S, or just look up FlowFest hashtag on LinkedIn. It's trending pretty well. Come join us on February 22nd and maybe you'll pick up a couple of things, or maybe you'll teach us a couple of things too. We'll see.

Gillian Bruce: Oh, that sounds like so much fun. I cannot wait to join. I will for sure be there. Thank you so much for sharing that with us, and thank you for organizing such a fun event.

Erick Mahle:Yeah, yeah. It's funny, because the person who I've started with, the founder of Salesforce, Ben, Ben came to me, I remember, and he sends me the screenshot of the text message. Every now and then he's like... He asked me, he's like, "How many people do you think will show up on the first one?" I said, I don't know, maybe 10, maybe 100 people. I think we had something like 1,600 people register on the first one alone. It kind of was a little bit of an overnight sensation. We had to re-engineer that competition.
We're like, we're not just inviting 10 people on a Zoom and sharing a PDF. We actually built a managed package and an unmanaged package to support the competition. Everyone that competes submits their flows to our main organization, so we get to do the flow review right on the spot and be able to assess if they got everything right or not. It's been one of the most fascinating things that I got a chance to get involved with during my time in this ecosystem.

Gillian Bruce: Oh, that's so cool. I love that you're running it on Salesforce. That's even better. That's the best.

Erick Mahle:That's how you got to do it. It's got to all be powered by Salesforce.

Gillian Bruce: I love it. I love it. Well, FlowFest coming up, what'd you say, February 22nd?

Erick Mahle:February 22nd is the next one.

Gillian Bruce: Another thing I know in your role, Erick, you have helped build Salesforce teams. You have a Salesforce team. For folks out there who maybe are transitioning, maybe they are looking for a new job, or they are thinking about it in this space, what tips do you have for them as they're moving to their next Salesforce role?

Erick Mahle:For me, one of the big things that I'd recommend is that as you're going through the interview process, make sure you understand the team that you're working with. Make sure that you're taking on a challenge that unless you have double digits years worth of experience and you're going into a leadership position, make sure that there's someone more senior than you in that organization, because you really want to make sure that you're continuing to learn. That's on the client side, in particular. If you're on the consulting side, you're going to have tons of peers that you're going to be able to learn from.
Anyone that's been on the consulting side knows that you're learning from a fire hose there. Drink from a fire hose every single day. But on the client side, make sure that there's a structured team. If you're talking to the HR person and you're the most qualified person when it comes to Salesforce there, that could be a bit of a red flag, especially if there's no one else on the Salesforce team. There's a lot of companies there. Tips for employers here as well, Salesforce salaries is a tricky subject. We can make a whole podcast on this, but don't try to spend less and get someone junior because you really want someone that has experience to be able to help you out.
Especially anything that you want to solve in Salesforce, there might be four or five different ways of delivering it. You really want someone that has been there, has that experience, and can also say, "You know what? Here are the four different alternatives. This is the one that I recommend because this is what's going to be scalable. We won't run the risk of having to undo six months worth of work six months later when you want the next step to revisit this." Look out for your own career interests. Make sure that you're going into a place where you can continue to grow. Equally for employers, make sure that you're starting a team with the right person.
I think actually the Salesforce numbers are one Salesforce FTE for every 50 users. I think those are the recommended numbers. Realistically, if you're joining in as a junior admin or what have you, you want to make sure that there's another admin. If you're the second FTE, you really shouldn't be looking at a customer that has less than 100 users or you run the risk of getting into a place that you may not be able to learn from too much. Some of those interesting things that you want to consider when you're looking for opportunities.

Gillian Bruce: I think those are some really interesting tips, being able to demonstrate selecting from a few different options and why you would select that option as a solution. And then I love the tip from the employer too. I think we do often have questions of especially people who are new to the ecosystem or trying to get their first role, we know it's challenging because you don't have the experience and everybody wants the experience. On the flip side, especially if you're trying to get your first role, you don't want to be the only Salesforce person at that organization. Because if that's your first role, you're going to be overwhelmed and you're not going to have anybody to learn from.
I think that's a really interesting perspective. Look for the team that you want to be working with and who you want to be learning from. And then for the more seasoned folks, really being able to understand how to translate your experience and your expertise in those interviews, in that process, in terms of evaluating solutions and explaining the why and all of that. I think those are some really great tips.

Erick Mahle:Equally, just another way to phrase it as well, is that you were mentioning, just like it may be your first job or your first venture in the Salesforce ecosystem, you have to imagine this could also be the company's first venture into hiring a Salesforce expert. They might not necessarily know what to expect, and they might be trying to figure out as they go. That is something that you also got to keep into consideration. Maybe cut them some slack, but also be aware of the position that they're in to see if that fits into what you're looking for.
Just because this is a first entry level job and they also are looking for their first hire and they don't know what they're looking for, this might not necessarily mean it's a win-win for you guys. It might mean that not a lot of people will know who they're looking for and maybe an employment opportunity will come up, but that may not necessarily mean that in the long run this will work well because you're going to be effectively take the weight of the entire CRM on your shoulders without someone to validate ideas with, or sometimes you can't share company internal information.
Even though you can try to go to Salesforce community groups and all of these things, there are certain things with your use cases that you might not be privy to share. If you don't have someone internally that you can count on, that may put you and ultimately the organization in a tricky situation in months to come.

Gillian Bruce: Well, and then you're also charged with explaining and consistently advocating for Salesforce, right? Because oftentimes if it is the case that the company is brand new about Salesforce and you are a brand new admin and this is your first job, you have a lot on your plate because you also have to explain consistently the value of Salesforce and why they should continue to invest in it, which is a lot to do. I think that's some of the themes that we've been talking about right now, Erick, is talking about how you deliver those efficiencies and prove those efficiencies and what you've been able to deliver value-wise.
It takes some experience to do that, and it's not an immediate thing. I think especially the current environment that we're in, figuring out how you can deliver that success now to your organization, it's knowing the tactics and the technology and how to do it. It's also knowing how to explain it and how to demonstrate the value up the leadership chain and make that argument for more investment and more resources. I think those two things are really important, and you've talked about both of those.

Erick Mahle:I've been in this ecosystem for 13 years, and I've used the same quote across all 13. The best way to summarize this is Uncle Ben's old quote from Spider-Man, with great power comes great responsibility. It rings true every single time. With a tool as flexible and as powerful as Salesforce, again, as you're coming up, you do want to make sure that you're working in an environment where you can assess everything that the tool can deliver and be able to identify which is the best path forward. Yeah, totally.

Gillian Bruce: I love it. It's great when we can have a quote from Marvel. Is it Marvel or DC? It's DC, right?

Erick Mahle:I think it's Marvel, but someone might correct me terribly fast once they get to hear this.

Gillian Bruce: My husband will be very angry at me if I got that wrong, which I probably did anyway. I mean, it's a great quote. It is. It's true. The power of the platform is immense, and it's more than just the platform, right? It's the power of the role, and then the role that you have within your organization to help your users and to help the organization as a whole. Erick, before I wrap, if you were to have one message to share with any Salesforce professional, Salesforce admins, Salesforce developers, anybody working in the Salesforce ecosystem for 2023, what is the one message that you want to deliver to them?

Erick Mahle:This is the year of optimization. This is the year of learning tools that will help you optimize, help companies consolidate. We're talking about automation like Flow. Flow Is just blowing up right now. You have integrations with systems. If you want to get a connector, there's a lot of great no-code connectors out there that allow you to start connecting your database with others. We talked about the example that we use at First Advantage of using Einstein Bots to be able to deflect and spare employees from having meetings and save that by running qualification process ahead of time. This is the time to increase your skillset and things that can help optimize an organization.
It doesn't necessarily have to be technical, because it could be your BA skills. Improve your skills. Put your skills to the test of documenting processes, find gaps that are there that people are having to do things, duplicate data entry in one system here and then go into other system there, and try to make the case to help bring those efficiencies to light, not only to make your business case, but to help the company do more with less. I think that's the theme of this year. It's do more with less. That would be my big feedback to anyone that's listening.

Gillian Bruce: I think that's great. I think it's actually a pretty empowering message to share with anybody working in the Salesforce ecosystem, especially Salesforce admins, because we can do this. We got the tools. We got the skills to do it. I really appreciate you, Erick, you coming on the podcast and sharing your outlook, sharing your expertise with us today. Hey, let's look forward to a really strong 2023 for the Salesforce ecosystem.

Erick Mahle:Yeah, it's a pleasure being here. We can talk Salesforce all day. Big pleasure. I'm happy to help share my message and hopefully this gets to help a couple of folks. If one person gets something out of this, I'm more than happy already.

Gillian Bruce: Excellent. Well, thank you so much, Erick. Appreciate it.

Erick Mahle:Likewise.

Gillian Bruce: Huge thanks to Erick for taking the time to chat. I loved some of his ideas about what the outlook for 2023 is for Salesforce administrators I thought were pretty inspiring, pretty optimistic, gave me some interesting ideas about how to think about the role of a Salesforce admin in this current climate of everyone trying to do more with less and trying to really drive efficiency and deliver success, prove the value that you're bringing to the organization. The formula he shared about how he calculates the efficiencies delivered by what he and his team have built I thought were really interesting, focusing on prioritization.
Doing that sticky note exercise, I haven't done that in years, but I think it's a wonderful idea, and I want to bring it back to our team here at Salesforce to help us because we're all under this exercise right now of really trying to streamline and really, really focus on being efficient. Hope you had some interesting ideas that came from what you just heard with Erick. If you have some comments or some questions, I very much invite those. Please, please share those with us. You can share them with us on Twitter. We're @SalesforceAdmns, no I, or you can share them with us on LinkedIn, the Trailblazer Success Community.
You can find us everywhere. We'd love to know your feedback, get that conversation and keep that conversation going. And as always, if you want to learn anything else about how you can continue to be an awesome admin, check out my favorite website, You'll even find the Salesforce Admin Skills Kit there, which touches on some of the things Erick mentioned earlier about it's more than just your technical abilities, it's also the skills like business analysis and data analysis. Those are things that are going to be really important as we focus on really delivering impact and efficiency this year.
And as always, you can find myself on Twitter. I'm @GillianKBruce. You can find Mike on Twitter. He's @Mike Gerholdt. You can find Erick on LinkedIn. He is very easy to find. He's got some great content that he's sharing on there, including information about FlowFest, which is happening very soon. Definitely make sure you put that on your calendar and check it out. I can't wait to check it out myself. It sounds really, really fun. I hope you have a wonderful rest of your evening, rest of your afternoon, rest of your morning. Thank you so much for listening, and I'll catch you next time in the cloud.

Direct download: 2023_Outlook_for_Salesforce_Admins_with_Erick_Mahle.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 3:00am PDT

Today on the Salesforce Admins Podcast, we talk to Shirlene Chow, Senior Director of Workforce Development Programs at Salesforce.

Join us as we talk about the programs she and her team offer to help people get started in the Salesforce ecosystem, connect with mentors, and develop their careers.

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

Turn new knowledge into a new job

A common piece of feedback we hear is that while Trailhead is great at helping people skill up in the Salesforce ecosystem, it’s hard to figure out the next steps. How do you turn your new knowledge into a job opportunity?

That’s why we wanted to hear from Shirlene Chow. Her Workforce Development team is all about helping people with those next steps, connecting them with mentorship, interviews, free vouchers for certification tests, and more. The jobs market has been a little tough recently but that makes it a perfect time to skill up into something new.

Why mentorship is so important

Shirlene’s team offers a Salesforce Fundamentals program with classes happening all over the world and, while most admins don’t need to brush up on the basics, maybe you know someone who’d like to learn.

For those more experienced in the ecosystem, the Trailblazer Mentorship program matches you with a Salesforce veteran who can help you 1-on-1 with your job search strategy, your resume, your interview skills, and more. There’s also a new program called Mentor Circles program that puts you in a group setting with several peers and mentors for a longer period of time. Think of it as group coaching.

In almost every #AwesomeAdmin story we hear, Mentorship is one of the key ingredients for success, so we really want to put the word out there so you can take your career in a new direction.

Other programs to help you grow your career

Shirlene and her team also run the Trailblazer Career Fairs, which are now virtual events happening on a global scale. We put you together with engaged recruiters from some our closest strategic partners so you can learn about their organizations and what they’re looking for in a candidate. From there, there are group networking and one-on-one breakouts with individual recruiters. New Career Fairs are happening all the time, so check the Trailblazer Connect Hub for details.

Finally, we wanted to highlight the Salesforce Pathfinder program. It’s a 4-month intensive program to give you the practical skills you need to launch your career. “The goal is to help you be well-rounded,” Shirlene says, “not just with Salesforce technical skills but also business skills, how to work in a team, how to do things in an Agile format, and how to practice your active listening and speaking and presentation skills.”

If all this sounds good to you, take a look at the resources we’re linking to below. And if you want to get involved, you can get listed in the directory and start mentoring other Trailblazers.


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

Today on the Salesforce Admins Podcast, we’ve got the Monthly Retro for January.

Join us as we review the top product, community, and careers content for January, and talk about New Year’s resolutions.

You should subscribe for the full episode, but here are a few takeaways from our conversation from our Monthly Retro.

Blog highlights from January

The march toward Spring ‘23 continues, and we’ve got your back with content covering everything in the GA, Beta, and Pilot. Mike wants you to pay close attention, especially, to some enhancements for reports and dashboards. And a reminder that MFA auto-enablement is coming with this release!

Video highlights from January

Staying on the theme of Spring ‘23, we wanted to point you toward Release Readiness Live. There are so many notes with any new release, but we highlight the important information that admins need to know, all in one place.

Podcast highlights from January

Check out Mike’s episode with Janet Elliott from this month. We talked about her first public speaking gig, which happened at a little event you might have heard of called Dreamforce. Since then, she’s given many talks at many events, so we brought her on to find out how you too can get started as a Salesforce speaker. Gillian interviewed Kat Aquino, who gave us a fascinating look into what it’s like building a Salesforce org from the ground up to support a multinational event—the 2028 Olympic and Paralympic Games in LA.

Just for fun

Mike and Gillian reflect on their less-than-successful past New Year’s Resolutions.


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

Today on the Salesforce Admins Podcast, we talk to Janet Elliott, Manager of Solution Architecture at Kicksaw and 2022 Salesforce MVP.

Join us as we talk about finding your voice and why you should become a Salesforce speaker.

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

Why you should speak at a Salesforce event

Janet got started in the ecosystem as a project manager and admin for Salesforce in 3 BT (Before Trailhead) a.k.a. 2011. Eventually, she moved into becoming a Solution Architect. Along the way, she’s been a speaker at multiple TrailblazerDX conferences, Dreamforce, and more, which is why we wanted to bring her on the pod. “Speaking about Salesforce is something I’ve really found a passion for,” Janet says.

You might wondering, with so many great speakers at Salesforce events, why anyone would want to hear from you. The truth is that there are relatively few people compared to the number of slots at all the different Salesforce events. We’re looking for new voices, and Janet has a lot to say about how you can get started as a new speaker.

Overcoming imposter syndrome

“I got a huge confidence boost from the first time I spoke,” Janet says, “because I realized that people were interested in what I had to say and I didn’t need to be an absolute expert on the topic beforehand.” It just so happens that her first time was at Salesforce, in front of hundreds of people—quite the way to rip off the band-aid.

One big piece of advice Janet has is to attend as many events as you can, something that’s a lot easier to do with more events offering virtual options. As you’re sitting in the audience, think about how you’re listening to the speakers. Do you want them to succeed or fail? Are you judging them harshly or are you rooting for them? That’s how you manage imposter syndrome (which is totally normal!): realize that the audience wants you to succeed.

Tips for talks

You don’t need to be an expert to speak about a topic. Give yourself permission to say “I don’t know the answer to that but here’s where I would start looking.” People don’t want to hear from you because they don’t know how to use Google—they’re there to hear your story and learn from your experiences.

Finally, as Shakespeare said, “the readiness is all.” You need to put time and thought into how you prepare for your talk. Janet recommends rehearsing a few times and recording yourself, so you can sit in the audience’s chair and see how you’re coming across.

Janet has a lot more great tips about picking topics, finding your story, and where to get started so be sure to listen to the full episode.


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Today on the Salesforce Admins Podcast, we talk to Lynn Simons, Senior Director of Security Awareness and Engagement, and Laura Pelkey, Senior Manager of Security Customer Engagement, both at Salesforce. 


Join us as we talk about security and security awareness for admins.


You should subscribe for the full episode, but here are a few takeaways from our conversation with Lynn Simons and Laura Pelkey.

Build good security habits

We wanted to start 2023 off right with a focus on security. Because there’s always a new threat on the horizon, Lynn reminds us that good security is really about understanding the broader concepts and building good habits. That means having a handle on ideas like the Principle of Least Privilege, and then putting them into practice as you set permissions and access in your org.


When it comes to getting started with security, Lynn has three main tips:


  1. Lean on resources already out there to help you, like the Salesforce Admins blog you’re reading right now.
  2. Think about the security impact of each new Release.
  3. Be an advocate for security in your organization.


Lynn and Laura have some specific tips for each of these, but the big idea is that security is really a state of mind. Understanding the broader concept of limiting access will help with the little things, like defaulting to the most restrictive data access when you’re building permissions, or making sure you periodically deactivate unused accounts.

Engage with other teams in your organization

Laura recommends that you look for ways to actively engage with security and IT beyond the Salesforce platform. Not only will it make it easier to get help when you need it down the road, but it also helps you understand how the pieces of the security puzzle fit together in your organization.

“Salesforce user credentials are probably one of the more targeted things that attackers might be after,” Laura says, so looking at threats outside of Salesforce, like phishing, is crucial to the security of your org. Educate your users and help them understand these threats and why they’re so important. Interface with other departments to get the information you need—for example, so you know someone’s leaving your organization and you need to remove their Salesforce access.

Planning for the worst-case scenario

Despite all your planning, things can go wrong and you need to decide ahead of time what you’ll do in the event of a breach. “Every company that has a good security posture has instant response plans already in place, and remediation plans already in place for many different scenarios,” Laura says.

Talk through what you should do in any likely scenario with stakeholders and your IT team. For example, if one of your user’s credentials get stolen, who should you tell first? Being proactive about security will only reflect well on you—don’t worry about coming across as a Chicken Little. “If one of our Salesforce Admins came to us with a breach remediation plan,” Laura says, “I would be so excited.” 

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Full Transcript

Mike :                                                 Welcome to Salesforce Admins podcast where we talk about product, community, and career to help you become an awesome admin. And hey, we're kicking off 2023 by talking about security and security awareness for admins. We want you to be security minded this year as you always are. And to do this, we're bringing back a couple of my favorite guests. Everybody's my favorite guest, but Lynn Simons, who is Senior Director of Security Awareness and Engagement at Salesforce. And Laura Pelkey, I bet you have ran into Laura and Lynn, Laura Pelkey, who is Senior Manager, Security Customer Engagement.
                                                       Both of them are very active in the Salesforce community. They're very active at Salesforce events. You've probably seen them around security awareness booths. I know Laura was working in the admin zone at Dreamforce this year. They have so much wealth and experience to share with us as admins. It's a fun discussion. Don't turn it off. Listen to it all the way through, because I promise you, they're going to give you an article that you need to read. I'll call it homework. How's that sound? So with that, let's get Lynn and Laura on the podcast.
                                                       So Lynn and Laura, welcome back to the podcast.

Laura Pelkey:                                          Hey Mike.

Lynn Simons:                                           Hi Mike. So good to be on the podcast again.

Mike :                                                 It's been a while. We've had each of you on individually because we know that security is top of mind for admins, which is why we're starting off 2023 with a security minded episode. So Lynn, I'm going to start with you. What's it mean as an admin to be security minded?

Lynn Simons:                                           Love that question. It's really about how you are thinking over time as you're doing your other work as an administrator. And I think it's really smart to think about the broader principles because the thing is with security, it's always changing and the risks are always new. So really understanding key security principles like least privilege and using that as your guide, as you set permissions and access is really going to be a great start to being security minded. Also knowing what resources are out there for you as a Salesforce admin on the admin's website through other Salesforce resources that then by talking to fellow admins, that's another great way to find resources.
                                                       I think the job of security's never done, so just remembering that periodically. I always give the clue of, with each new release, think about what security impacts are in that release. And thinking about your job is never done with security, meaning it's not a one and done settings situation. This is something we have to look at all the time. And then last, also thinking of yourself as an advocate. You as a Salesforce admin have the ability to influence your IT department, your security team by bringing up what the security concerns are with Salesforce.

Mike :                                                 Laura, it's been a while and a few people have been out a couple days ago celebrating the new year, had too much bubbly and forgot what the principle of least privilege is. Can you help me understand that?

Laura Pelkey:                                          Well, I don't know how anyone could forget about the principle of least privilege-

Mike :                                                 You don't know how strong the champagne was on New Year's Eve.

Laura Pelkey:                                          ... I certainly think about it all the time. That's a good point. Yes. So the principle of least privilege, that is one of the fundamental tenants of cybersecurity. And really what it is making sure that your users don't have access to anything that they don't absolutely need access to. So it's really about restricting permissions and ability to act within your Salesforce org in your implementation to just what's absolutely necessary. And that helps to reduce risk across the organization.

Mike :                                                 I think of Dwight in the office letting me know that I'm security level three, but that's out of 300.

Laura Pelkey:                                          Yeah, exactly.

Mike :                                                 Got you.

Laura Pelkey:                                          And Beets Battlestar Galactica and Bears.

Mike :                                                 Beets. Beets Battlestar Galactica. Lynn, you mentioned reviewing security related changes with every release. What are some of the things that admins should look for in terms of changes in a release?

Lynn Simons:                                           That's a super important thing to do. I would really look for things that have to do with permissions and access first. Looking for words that have to do with how profiles are set around allow lists and block lists. Jump in Laura if you can think of anything. But really those profile and permission related things are the lowest hanging fruit, I think in releases.

Laura Pelkey:                                          And I know there've been some updates around guest user access and configuring that. And it's also something that is important for admins to pay attention to, that particular release update.

Mike :                                                 So we can obviously spend a whole lot of time talking about things they should be doing in the app, but we're thinking ahead, we're out there, we're maybe back in the office walking around seeing our users. What are some of the things that admins can pay attention to in terms of security habits outside of Salesforce that they could help bring a best practice for their users? And Laura, if you want to kick us off, you're usually out talking at user groups.

Laura Pelkey:                                          I love this question. So this is something, actually, Lynn and I talk about this a lot. Lynn actually runs our Security Awareness Program at Salesforce, and her and our team have to partner really closely with our IT team on something called phishing tests. And Lynn, obviously you can talk about this in more detail, but that's actually something that's really an interesting way for admins to create inroads with their IT teams or their IT leadership and partner outside of the whole world of Salesforce, but really in a way that uplifts the security of their company or their organization as a whole. Lynn, I don't know if you have any thoughts on how an admin might go about partnering with an IT director or someone on the IT team to do phishing tests.

Lynn Simons:                                           Sure. One of the things that security teams are always thinking about is what is the threat landscape look like? And they'll even do things called threat models to design how particular systems can be infiltrated by an actor. And it's really welcomed by a security team to be finding out from people in the company what kind of risks they're seeing. So as a person who runs a security awareness team, if I heard from our Salesforce administrator, of course we use Salesforce too, and I heard that they were thinking of some behaviors or risks that could be creating some type of potential attack, then I would really want to keep, I'd be all ears. So reaching out to that team and I think you can reach out to a security awareness professional or somebody who does user management and say, hey, the people I'm working with as a Salesforce administrator are using Salesforce.
                                                       I understand that Salesforce is a really big brand now, and is there potential that if an attack renew that we had a lot of Salesforce use it here, what might they be interested in? Maybe we can partner on a phishing test together. Because the most effective phishing tests that we do are ones that are really germane to the users in our environment. So for example, we might use a logo that looks familiar or we might use something that looks similar to a Salesforce related URL or email address in a phishing test. And I think kind of that partnership with the security team would be really, really appreciated. But what it would also do is provide that security team with some data that they can use to understand their user community. And I think that that would be an incredible basis of building a relationship with the security team.

Laura Pelkey:                                          And if you think about it, Salesforce user credentials are probably one of the more often targeted things that attackers might be after. And so you're not only helping to bolster the security of all of the employees at your company by educating around this passively, using phishing tests, but you're also bolstering the security of your Salesforce implementation by educating your user base on this. So it's a win-win really for everyone.

Mike :                                                 Yeah, I could see that. And I think I've seen a few come through that, I don't know Lynn, if you've been the mastermind behind, but they've been awfully legit. They look really good.

Lynn Simons:                                           Definitely my wonderful team is doing that. And we really work with the various departments in the company to identify what's going to be germane to our audiences so that we can understand the difficulty level that they're able to respond to. And also part of that is that reporting behavior. As a security awareness person on a podcast, I have to say that it's really not just all about clicking on these emails, it's really about what happens after that when people like Laura said, might enter their credentials. And then also that activity of seeing something weird, seeing something suspicious and reporting it to your security team. And you can be a great friend of the security team by helping your user population understand that there's a way to report suspicious activity, not just ignore it, not sweep it under the rug, but let the security team know as soon as possible.

Mike :                                                 I'd love to know when you sit down with new clients or even existing customers, what are some of the questions that I think genuinely they ask? Not knowing it could be a security risk. I think of, we all know the sharing credentials stuff is not something that people should do, but are there questions out there that people perceive as well, this isn't creating a security risk, but it actually is?

Laura Pelkey:                                          I'll jump in if you don't mind to answer this. So just when I'm on the floor at Dreamforce or on the floor at a world tour or TDX, actually one of the most common topics that come up that people don't naturally associate with security is actually how permissions are configured. How user permissions are configured. So the whole concept of access within a Salesforce org is often not thought of as security, but really this all ties in back to that principle of least privilege that you asked about earlier, Mike. And just because someone is a registered user or is in your org is supposed to be in your org, that doesn't mean that there's no risk associated with them having access to certain objects or fields that they shouldn't have access to.
                                                       That's called an insider threat, is a term that sometimes can be used if somebody does something, a user does something that they're not actually supposed to do. And so really reviewing permission sets, we actually now are guiding people and advising people to use minimum access profiles and then layer permissions on top of that if they can. I know that's a shift from how people are typically used to setting up profiles and permissions, but really that's the best way to ensure that you are following the principle of least privilege when you're managing access within your Salesforce org.

Lynn Simons:                                           That's really interesting Laura, because it's related to the example I was going to give with customers I've talked to at Dreamforce. In particular with non-profit customers where they have a volunteer base that might have access to Salesforce, that can be a very transient group of people. And there's also this feeling of goodwill in that industry that assumes the best intent. Of course, we want to assume best intent of people in general, but in terms of protecting data, we generally think more in terms of, okay, let's start with no access and then let's build on that. And particularly with nonprofits, there's this risk because of the donor data and credit card data that's really at the heart of how nonprofits are operating.
                                                       That's one example. Another one I think is that clean up around releases that I was mentioning and the reality that we have to deactivate accounts. That if the accounts do not need to be active that are not used. So it's certainly advisable to be thinking about if a user account hasn't been used in X number of months, then perhaps that's access that's not needed. Are you hearing a theme? The theme is access.

Mike :                                                 Yeah. Removing unused, especially when an employee leaves. I think that's always something that I know as an admin I had to work diligently with my HR team to try and get on lists. And it's not me being nosy, I don't need to know who's leaving the company. I need to know so that I can ensure the day after they leave, can't still log into Salesforce.

Lynn Simons:                                           Exactly.

Mike :                                                 So let me tangent off that. What are some departments that you commonly tell admins to go reach out and have best practice discussions with or build relationships with? I know you mentioned IT, I'm guessing HR is another one.

Lynn Simons:                                           Absolutely. And I think it's important to understand who is the business owner and purchaser of Salesforce at your company, because there can be a scenario where IT isn't deeply involved and there are business people who own the implementation. And particularly in that case, you're going to want to know who those individuals are because the buyer may have received information that's valuable to you. So let's say it's the head of sales, they might be getting emails from Salesforce that are really, really valuable to you as administrator around changes that are upcoming around big announcements and that kind of thing. So I think being in lockstep with that team would be really critical.

Laura Pelkey:                                          And it actually all really goes back to thinking like a security advocate. And so when you have that mindset of, okay, my priority is to really advocate for cybersecurity, not just in terms of to my user base, but to the company and to the leaders in my company, that's a great mindset to have. And the first thing you want to do when you're doing that kind of work is identifying who the stakeholders are, who cares about security. And so that can be IT. If you have a cybersecurity team that's often larger companies may have a cybersecurity team and smaller companies may not, but that's not always a given.
                                                       HR, like Lynn was saying, your sales leadership is probably very invested in the security of Salesforce and of the company and also actually who is in charge of assigning budgets to Salesforce to people who are the decision makers for these kinds of things. So even if it's not a purely technical role or a purely people oversight role, there are a lot of different roles within your company or your organization that can touch on security. And so it's really helpful to do an analysis of your individual company and find out who those folks are and who those teams are.

Lynn Simons:                                           And just one other one that can actually be part of HR depending on the company, is your employee communications team. Because those are the individuals who you could influence in terms of company newsletters or other types of all hands where reminders around security best practices in Salesforce if you have a really broad audience of employees using the tool, I think knowing those comms people is going to give you a voice that's perhaps a more powerful and louder voice than your own at a large company.

Mike :                                                 Yeah, that makes sense. One thing I thought of, and it's because I watched way too much Weather Channel, which I forgot to get a tour of their offices when I was down in Atlanta, but it's all my to-do list. So anybody that works at the Weather Channel listens to this podcast, because I'm sure there's all of you, I want a tour. One thing they talk about, because it's storm season, we're in the Midwest, you guys are out West, you don't get anything. But in the Midwest and especially the East Coast, it's like prepare for snow and bad weather. And even in the South they're starting to get some tornadoes. One thing I think we often talk about a lot in security is how do we keep the doors locked?
                                                       How do we make sure everything's safe? And what we fail to do? And what they pointed out is, so let's just assume the tornado's going to go through what is your next steps? What is your plan for when the smoke detector goes off, when the tornado sirens go off? And I think I would love to know as you think through, what could you tell an admin for, let's plan for, I run a report and I suddenly see that I've got a user that looks like they logged in from three different locations within a minute of themselves? What's that plan look like? Or how does an admin put together a plan for stuff like that?

Laura Pelkey:                                          That's such a good question.

Lynn Simons:                                           It's such a great question. And I always go back to the first step to that and actually learned it from an MVP, which is cool, which is that documentation is incredibly important when it comes to dealing with security issues. So if you have a documented plan for how to deal with those things, you're going to be setting yourself up to not panic and be able to have some of your own guide for what to do. And secondly, those relationships that we just talked about really come to the forefront. Because investing in those relationships, you can make the plans that you need. Number one, reporting. Number two, being able to communicate as we were talking about. And then Laura, if you want to take over from the orgs themselves what to do there, I'd love for your take on that.

Laura Pelkey:                                          Well I think so, not to use the B word, but what we're really talking about is a breach remediation plan.

Mike :                                                 Thank you for telling me what the B word was.

Laura Pelkey:                                          [inaudible].

Mike :                                                 I had no idea.

Lynn Simons:                                           I don't even say the word.

Laura Pelkey:                                          But it's okay. We should be prepared as admins. I say I was an admin a long time ago, but-

Mike :                                                 You're still an admin.

Laura Pelkey:                                          Think once an admin, always an admin. We do need to be prepared in the event of a breach. And every company that has a good security posture has instant response plans already in place and remediation plans already in place for many different scenarios. And so it really depends on your implementation and your company and the resources you have at your disposal. So I don't want to give one blanket answer because it just depends on a lot of different factors. But proactively sitting down with those security stakeholders like we were talking about, this would actually be an amazing first step at connecting with these people once you've identified the stakeholders and saying, hey, I would like to create some breach remediation plans for the following scenarios.
                                                       And maybe one of them is the scenario, Mike that you gave. Maybe another one is, you can just talk to people on your IT team or your security team and maybe get their thoughts on what some common scenarios are. Maybe one of them is one of my users' credentials got hacked. That's probably something that everybody should have as a scenario. And then you outline in very specific steps what the next steps are and who owns those steps. And you make sure that all of those people are aware and are bought into that plan. And that plan is circulated very broadly. So everybody's on the same page.

Lynn Simons:                                           Those incident response teams really live and die by their operating procedures. So I think by working together to create that documentation, they can actually integrate that plan into their own plan. So they know, okay, they hear from Jane admin that that means that this particular procedure kicks into play in that moment.

Mike :                                                 I think one of the key things I thought you said there, Laura was and who owns the step. I think a lot of documents are always drawn up with here's the steps and then everybody looks at themselves as to okay, who does number one?

Laura Pelkey:                                          Yeah, that's super important. And I think Lynn can probably feel the same way, if one of our Salesforce admins came to us and said, hi, I'm proposing this breach remediation plan, here are the scenarios. I'd love for you to be an owner of this, will you agree to do this? I would be like, oh my gosh, this person is so amazingly security conscious. I would be so excited.

Lynn Simons:                                           We'd be thrilled.

Laura Pelkey:                                          But we're just security dorks. But still it would be really great. And if you want to just purely from a career perspective as an admin, if you want to make a name for yourself and you start doing things like that at your company or organization, people are going to start knowing who you are and thinking, wow, this person is bringing a lot to the table.

Mike :                                                 I think for our next event that you are both at, you should have fancy buttons made or stickers, people like stickers, maybe put a Twitter pull out, see what people like more because I don't know, Mike doesn't always know and have them bring you their security plan for some sort of fancy hot rod sticker or plushy that's like, I've got a security plan.

Lynn Simons:                                           Ooh, I love that.

Mike :                                                 You could rock that badge. Because that's a badge you want people to have.

Lynn Simons:                                           And I also-

Laura Pelkey:                                          I know I'm getting ideas for content that while we're talking about this.

Mike :                                                 Yes, and you can write that content on

Lynn Simons:                                           I just also want to just mention one thing, I'm sorry Mike, is that you also, in these kind of big B scenarios, you want to avoid communication paralysis, which is what happens. So keeping your list of users really clean is important, and knowing what your primary mechanism is for reaching them during these situations is really critical. So if you're using Slack, that's can be really easy to reach people on a special channel dedicated to, I don't know what you call the channel, but emergency Salesforce things or something like that. But-

Mike :                                                 The channel you don't want to get a notification from.

Lynn Simons:                                           I think that having a mechanism planned in advance for reaching people, because really in these kind of scenarios people just want updates. And even if the update is there is no update, I think that that can be enough.

Mike :                                                 So as we wrap a bow on our first episode of 2023, I'd love to know if you have one best practice or something you do that you think is unique to you that is a security thing that admin should be doing. And I ask that because I continue to go back to the example of how Lynn at a Salesforce office when I very, very, I was just a wee little Salesforce employee, I was only a few months old, showed me how to use Last Pass and it has forever changed my life. And I feel like I have been a Last Pass advocate to all of my friends ever since then. But it's kind of peering over the shoulder of a mechanic. You're like, oh wow, that's how you do that. Or watching a chef cut something, you're like, that's so much cooler than the way that I would love to do. Is there something from your security minds that you do that you feel could be passed on to other admins?

Laura Pelkey:                                          Oh, I love the Last Pass example.

Lynn Simons:                                           Yeah, that was-

Laura Pelkey:                                          I love Last Pass also.

Lynn Simons:                                           I was just going to say eight years later. It was the one I was going to say. So that tells you how powerful of a security tool it is. It's just incredibly critical.

Laura Pelkey:                                          For me, just my friends, my family, I get made fun of constantly for how security minded I am. And I don't feel bad about it. I think it's great to be security minded, just the amount of information that I will share on social media, on the internet in any way. I'm very restrictive of the information that I'll put out there. Even my phone number, when you're online shopping and you have to enter your phone number. I really don't even like to do that. I like to do the 555-555-555, million fives, if I can. But just being really, really, really conscious when somebody's asking you for information. So if you get a call from your bank or if you get an email from your bank or someone pretending to be your bank asking you for any personal information or data, I'm the first person that will be like, no, I'm not going to give you that.
                                                       What's another way for you to either verify my identity or can I reach you if I call this main number on your website, if I call you back? So just being really aware that you don't have to give out any information about yourself 99.9% of the time, that is your social security number, your address, your credit card numbers, things like that. No one's ever going to approach you or call you, email you and ask you for things like that. And then even when you're interacting with people, be really restrictive with the information that you share. It sounds paranoid, but I get way less spam calls than all of my friends. So I will say there is that upside and just overall it's a good security mindset to have.

Mike :                                                 I like that. That's one thing that I think I've definitely picked up from you and the security team and a lot of the stuff that I've read too is if somebody calls you and how come you don't know this? You should know this, so let me just call you back because then I'm not giving that information out. But that's good to know. Because especially the phone number thing, I think we're so innocuous and Lynn, you can probably tell me what that is, but it's like when somebody tries to win over your confidence, because I feel like what Laura described was at our heart in nature, we want to be helpful, we want to help this person on the other line and just get back to our work. But that's actually a certain type of attack and I forget what it's called.

Lynn Simons:                                           Social engineering.

Mike :                                                 Social engineering. Darn it. I'll get that question wrong on our quiz.

Lynn Simons:                                           And I'll tell you one of the more recent ones that I think is particularly interesting and something that parents or just friends of friends or people who have parents, something to be thinking about is how much we use video and photos now in our online personas. And we even work with our own marketing and social teams at Salesforce as they use photography and videos, that whatever is in the background of your photo are all clues for some nefarious personal organization to learn more about you. I always try to remind our employees that attackers have all the time in the world and they will be very patient until they get all of the information they need in order to do that attack.
                                                       So by having your college diploma right behind you and the name of the local sports team near your house or pictures of your kids or your parents, there are a lot of things you can pick up off of that background. So I really try to be very conscious, particularly when I'm speaking on a webinar, to blur that out. Use a different background if you're going to post things online to really look at the contextual clues you're giving about yourself. It could have your address in the background or if you're leaving town on vacation, these are all clues around the, not only your online security, but your physical security of your home as you post that information online.

Mike :                                                 Both good tips. Leave on a positive note as a to-do item for our listeners, what would be an article or a piece of content you would suggest they read on

Laura Pelkey:                                          Well, we have one of our amazing colleagues, Tammy Ron has written a blog series covering MFA and really how to prepare your end users. Lots of amazing tips. I think it's a three-part series and I know they're all up on, so I would definitely urge people to check those out.

Mike :                                                 Cool. And of course, Trailblazer DX is just around the corner, so.

Laura Pelkey:                                          Yes.

Mike :                                                 I'm sure we can see both of you there.

Laura Pelkey:                                          [inaudible].

Mike :                                                 And they can show up with your security plans and get a fancy security shield.

Laura Pelkey:                                          Where Lynn and I are hesitant to agree because we're like, are we going to get in trouble for advising our customers on cybersecurity?

Mike :                                                 I know we could just wear a button.

Laura Pelkey:                                          No, I love that idea though.

Lynn Simons:                                           Yeah. And I'll admit it, I still love the stickers. Still love the stickers.

Mike :                                                 People like stickers.

Laura Pelkey:                                          Yeah.

Mike :                                                 They're good. They're always good. And plushies, we learned that on a previous podcast. People-

Lynn Simons:                                           I like stickers more than Plushies, but that's me.

Mike :                                                 Stickers have mobility. It's hard to-

Laura Pelkey:                                          And variety.

Mike :                                                 ... A few hundred plushies with you and not look creepy.

Lynn Simons:                                           It's been done, I'm sure.

Mike :                                                 Sure it has.

Laura Pelkey:                                          The day after Dreamforce, all the people on all the airplanes.

Mike :                                                 Planes.

Laura Pelkey:                                          And with all their plushies.

Mike :                                                 [inaudible] Luggage just...

Laura Pelkey:                                          Must be a site.

Mike :                                                 Well, it was great having both of you on and I'll be sure to include the link to the piece of content that you mentioned. So thank you both for hopping on the podcast and kicking off this year, keeping us safe and secure.

Laura Pelkey:                                          Thank you, Mike.

Lynn Simons:                                           Thanks so much, Mike.

Mike :                                                 So it was fun to have Lynn and Laura back on the podcast. What a great way to kick off 2023. Let's be security minded. I go back to all of the tips that they've shared with me and a lot of stuff that we've thought about too. The one takeaway that I really happen to think of as we were recording this podcast was I never really sat down and thought about what I would do if a user showed as logging in two different locations. What are the steps and how do I follow that? And who are the people I need to reach out to in my security? But that's why we do the podcast because then we're thinking about this stuff in advance, right? It's like the weather channel. We're making a plan before the storm comes so that if the storm comes, we're already set and we're prepared and we know who needs to do what.
                                                       So fun discussion. I love having them on the pod. If you have security tips or things that you do best practices, you should share them on Twitter. And of course, if you want to learn more about all the things Salesforce admin, go to to find more resources, including that article that we mentioned in the episode as well as a full transcript. You can stay up to date with us on social. We are at Salesforce Admins, no, I, on Twitter. Jillian is @Jillian K Bruce. And of course I am @Mike Geralt. So with that, stay safe, stay awesome. Happy 2023 and stay tuned for a ton of really great episodes. We'll see you in the cloud.

Today on the Salesforce Admins Podcast, we talk to Kat Aquino, the Salesforce Admin for LA28, otherwise known as the organizing committee for the Los Angeles 2028 Olympic & Paralympic Games.


Join us as we talk about how she’s setting up LA28’s Salesforce infrastructure to power a massive, international event and what she’s learned so far.


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

Work together better.

The Olympic (and Paralympic) Games are coming to LA in 2028, and Kat is the Salesforce Admin for the organizing committee, LA28. Obviously, they’re in the planning stages right now, but that’s the perfect time to build a foundation in Salesforce.


Kat spends a lot of time talking with users to figure out what tools to build, but she’s also keeping an eye on the bigger picture. “As we onboard all of these different departments which all have different processes,” she says, “we need to think about how we can work together better.” That means a thorough understanding of how things are done and, more importantly, how they could fit together.

Prioritization when you’re starting from the ground up

So Kat has this massive list of things that need to be built in Salesforce, but how does she make decisions about what to prioritize? There’s a triage element of who needs what and when, but she also factors in how much time a task will take to accomplish. If she has the chance to score a quick win she’ll take it in a heartbeat.


Rolling out new tools lets Kat show the organization how Salesforce can enable them to collaborate like never before. Dashboards have been a game-changer for Sales, for example, because everyone can see what’s going on and collaborate on new approaches. Automations are mind-blowing if you’ve been stuck with the same repetitive process for years. This helps with adoption and generates momentum for the future.

Athlete Data: custom objects or contact records?

One thing Kat has to solve for that might not be a problem in your Salesforce org is how to deal with data for athletes—it is, after all, the Olympics and Paralympics. “Athletes are quite different from the regular business contacts you’d normally associate with an account,” she says. They need more specific fields (like sport, discipline, or what year they participated), but it’s really important to control who has access to that information with tight security and access.


Kat initially built a custom object and related lists solution, which worked great for reports but not for users. She went back to the drawing board and created a new record type for the contact of an athlete. They can still use the related lists and custom objects they previously created and the user experience is much improved. It requires a lot more management of page layouts and deciding who can see what, but it’s well worth it.


There’s so much more about how Kat is weening a department off of spreadsheets and what she’s looking forward to in the future, so be sure to listen to the full episode for more. We’ll be sure to check back in with Kat as we get closer to LA28.


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Full show transcript

Gillian Bruce:

Welcome to the Salesforce Admins podcast, where we talk about product, community, and careers to help you be an awesome admin. I am your host today, Gillian Bruce, and we got a fun one for you. We are going to be talking with Kat Aquino, who is working as a Salesforce administrator for the LA28 Olympic and Paralympic Games. She is actually building Salesforce to help support this huge event that's happening in just a few short years, and they're starting at ground zero, so I wanted to get Kat on to talk about some of the amazing processes, unique processes, that are special to running an Olympic and Paralympic games using Salesforce, which kind of processes she's bringing in, how she's thinking about the strategy. She's going to be growing the use of Salesforce massively over the next few years, leading right up to the LA28 games, and so I think it's really fascinating to hear from her.

And we are going to check back in with her in a few years to follow along her story, but I wanted to get her on to talk about some of these unique use cases and really explore some of the ways that maybe will help you expand your ideas of how you can use Salesforce to help support your business, as well.

All right, without further ado, let's please welcome Kat to the podcast.

Kat, welcome to the podcast.


Kat Aquino:

Thanks so much for having me. I'm excited to be here.


Gillian Bruce:

Oh, well, I am very happy to have you here. It's so fun. Now, I have had the opportunity to chat with you a little bit, but we got to share all of your goodness with everybody else who's out there listening, because Kat, you are doing something pretty special. Can you just give us a little overview of what your role is at the organization that you're at?


Kat Aquino:

Yeah, so I work at LA28, and we are the organizing committee for the Olympic and Paralympic Games, which are coming to Los Angeles in 2028. And my role is the Salesforce admin, essentially, of our organization.


Gillian Bruce:

Okay, so kind of a big deal.


Kat Aquino:

No pressure or anything.


Gillian Bruce:

I know. The Olympics are kind of a big deal, and they're coming back to LA. I think they've got, they haven't been in LA since forever, I feel like, maybe even in my lifetime. Maybe they're in LA in the eighties or something. Do you know when the last time they were there?


Kat Aquino:

Yeah, I believe it was '84.


Gillian Bruce:

  1. There you go. I was two years old. So yeah, pretty much the first time in my lifetime, the Olympics are coming to my home state, not my home city, but very exciting. And I mean, it's a very unique way that the LA '28 is kind of set up. I mean, as a Salesforce admin, you've got a lot going on in the next few years. Can you tell me a little bit of the overview of how the organization is growing or plans to grow to prepare for this huge undertaking?


Kat Aquino:

Oh, yeah. So at our organization right now, we are kind of just setting up foundations for how we can plan the games. And we are currently planning the games. We have multiple departments that support that mission. And with being in the technology department, we're tied in with working with other departments to help them succeed and give them the tools that they need to be able to do their jobs. And so right now, as the admin, I've been going through talking with different departments and understanding what their needs are and how we can better collaborate with each other. And I think I'm in a really unique position to be able to help do that through the use of Salesforce. And the different departments, they really do need to work together. Right now, there's a lot of silos. And when they collaborate, they're not really leveraging technology in the best way that they can to be able to do that.


Gillian Bruce:

I mean, you're at the center of a really, really big effort. So, I mean, you talked about different departments and different silos and talking to all of your stakeholders. What are some of the questions that you go in with? Because a lot of admins, maybe they're not working to support the Olympic games, but they might be coming into an organization where, again, there's a lot of different stakeholders, a lot of different departments. How do you go about engaging with them and understanding their needs and identifying how Salesforce might be able to play a role in their business processes?


Kat Aquino:

Yeah, that's a really good question. I would say that one of the most important questions to ask is processes. What are they currently doing? And really understanding, not just from a broad perspective of how that ties in with the organization as a whole, but really getting down into the nitty gritty details of understanding what exactly it is that they are doing on a day to day basis, because that's where we can really take a look and examine that process and understand how we can take it apart and tinker it together and put that process into Salesforce.


Gillian Bruce:

Okay. So, let's talk about that, because, I mean, the LA28 organization does a lot of different things. What are some of the first things that you've been able to set up in Salesforce to help manage their processes a little bit better?


Kat Aquino:

Yeah, so earlier I mentioned that I had interviewed a number of departments to really understand what they needed and what they were trying to do. I came up with a huge list. And in order to understand and prioritize what needed to be done, put together the urgency, a list of departments requests that needed a solution quicker. And then I also divided that up into figuring out which of those solutions don't require that big of a lift, so which of those solutions could be set up a little bit more easily than others. So, after doing that, the first department that we set up was our commercial sales department. And that was of simple solutions, seeing that the bread and butter of Salesforce was to help the sales teams do their jobs. And so we set up opportunities, we set up accounts, we set up contacts and allowed them to be able to track their conversations using the activity timeline. And we added the Outlook integration so that they can add their emails into the opportunities. And being able to see all of that in one space for them has really changed the game.


Gillian Bruce:

Yeah, I would love to hear... What was the reaction once you were able to set that up? Were the sales people happy with you and super excited to now have this all into one place, or how did that go?


Kat Aquino:

I would say, yeah, there was excitement, absolutely. And they loved seeing it because I would show examples of how they can do the work that they've previously done in this new platform. And I would say that there were some challenges that came along with it as well. It was adoption, just making sure that some of the users knew how to use the system, because a lot of them never used Salesforce before. So, that was a challenge that we took on and helped them to increase their confidence and knowledge about how they can leverage this platform to sell, essentially. And I would say the other side of that is... Their leadership was super excited about the dashboard that we were able to set up for them and the reports that were available on that dashboard. It really gave them that one stop shop to be able to see what the progress was looking like on a daily basis, weekly, monthly, how are we tracking towards our goals, things like that. It helps them to just really level set with each other because they were all looking at the same data.


Gillian Bruce:

Well, yeah. And then it's automated. Once you put it in Salesforce, right? It just pops up right there, and nobody has to compile different spreadsheets and talk to different sales groups and understand who's done what.


Kat Aquino:

Exactly. And it allowed them to work together better. Previously, their leadership and the people who were actually having the conversations and keeping tabs on what was going on, they were very much separate. But now that they have them all available on these dashboards, they're working together much more closely.


Gillian Bruce:

Well, that's good. Congratulations. Okay, so you set up sales and Salesforce, but I know you had a few other things on your list. So, what other things have you been able to set up in? And let's also be clear, how long have you been in this role?


Kat Aquino:

It has been a little over a year now.


Gillian Bruce:

So, forever, such a long time. So in just a little over a year, so you set up a sales process. What other things have you been able to build out in Salesforce?


Kat Aquino:

Yeah. Well, specific to the Olympics, we, of course, have to work with athletes. And one of the other projects we are working on was how do we actually set up athletes in our system, because athletes are quite different from the regular business contacts that you'd normally associate with an account. And so thinking about that was a little bit challenging. We initially landed on looking at creating a custom object to hold athlete information. And the reason for that is so that we could create as many fields as we needed to that were really specific to athletes and attributes about an athlete. And being able to control the security and access to that information was also important.


Gillian Bruce:

Oh, no, I bet. I mean, it's such a unique set of data to track because you've got all these different things that the athletes do with you and the community and whatnot. So, I could imagine that that took quite a high level of customization.


Kat Aquino:

Yeah, there was a lot of customization. And we thought about, okay, we needed to create additional related lists/custom objects to be able to associate them with games that they had participated in and the sport that they participate in, and the discipline that they participate in. So, a lot of that was designed so that we could be able to easily report off of that information to be able to create reports and search for athletes in a more aggregated way. But we realized that the setup of that athlete record, separate from a contact and separate from an account, was not providing the greatest user experience for our athlete department. And so we've had to come back to the drawing board and kind of rework what that should look like and how we should store athlete information in the system.


Gillian Bruce:

Interesting. I love that you rolled out something, and then we're like, "Hmm, it's not quite right. We need to come back to the drawing board." Can you talk a little bit more about that process? Because I know, even the limited admin work that I have done, it's not always great the first time around, and so sometimes you have to come back and revisit it.


Kat Aquino:



Gillian Bruce:

Tell me a little bit about that process and how you approach it, because it can be a little humbling, it can be a little difficult. What have you learned that might be able to help some other admins in the similar position?


Kat Aquino:

Yeah, totally. I would say that this process was... It was tough. We're early in our stage of using Salesforce. So in that sense, I'm kind of lucky that we're going to establish a better foundation, but it was difficult to look at it and say, "Oh, we didn't do that the best way that we could have." And having to go back to the drawing board and re-architecting the data that currently existed was important to determine what connections can we make that don't disrupt the requirements that we initially had heard of from that department. So, pulled up a lucid chart, looked at how everything was connected there, and decided, okay, maybe we could keep all of these requirements just by using a new record type on contact records. So, we decided to try that out and create a different kind of record type for the contact of an athlete to be able to hold all of their athletes specific details and still be able to use the previous related lists, custom objects that we had created that were initially tied to the athlete and tie them into the contact object.

So, that serves the purpose of eliminating the matrioshka and clicks that the athlete department would have to go through to get to the athlete's information. It was really just opening up their account, and then opening up that contact record, rather than going to account, contact, then athlete.


Gillian Bruce:



Kat Aquino:

Does that make sense?


Gillian Bruce:

Totally. Yeah. Well, and I think it kind of goes to this classic debate of custom object versus using a record type, right? I know that's something that-


Kat Aquino:



Gillian Bruce:

It's kind of hard to figure out sometimes what the right answer is there, so I really appreciate you breaking down kind of decision points that you used to evaluate, okay, we went in with the custom object, but we learned that there were some things that weren't ideal for the end user. So, then you use the record type. I think that's always a good thing for our admins especially to remember, because record types could be really, really useful, especially if there's enough similarities there to where you can add some more customizations and plug into the existing relationships and schema that are already built in Salesforce.


Kat Aquino:

Yeah, exactly. And I think early on, I was scared of record types just due to some stories that I had heard, and also the amount of care that it required, considering you're having to adjust page layouts now and making certain things visible depending on a profile, things like that. It was just a lot more management. But with the user experience, that greatly improves. And I think that in itself makes it worth it.


Gillian Bruce:

I love that. That's great. Okay, so you built a sales process, you built a process to manage athlete, athlete data. What else are you working on? I mean, I know you've been busy so far, so I would imagine-


Kat Aquino:



Gillian Bruce:

... there's not that much time for you to do a whole bunch else, but what else are you working on in terms of bringing different processes into Salesforce for LA28?


Kat Aquino:

Yeah, so we are also bringing on more and more departments. Right now, we have about four departments that are presently using the platform, and we're coming up on bringing on two more. And one of these new departments, this is our communications department, it is probably our biggest build yet. We've had to create a number of new custom objects to be able to support the processes and workflows that they have. And it's been really interesting to see how we can take their work and translate it into Salesforce processes. So, example is that the communications team handles all of the internal requests to participate in certain events within the local organization. Maybe there's an award ceremony or maybe there's an interview that a media outlet would like to have. All of that is managed through our communications department. And they do have a lot of spreadsheets, presently,


Gillian Bruce:



Kat Aquino:

... how they have run their systems. And all of these spreadsheets are kind of... They have multiple tabs within them. And so it's been very interesting to see how they've worked through switching through different spreadsheets, different tabs within a spreadsheet to be able to do their work. We had to take a lot of time understanding what they were doing so that we could translate it into Salesforce. And at the end of the day, what we've been able to do is organize their sheets, so that in Salesforce, you're looking at one object. And that one object, we've created additional record types so they can adjust the kind of media engagement, per se, that they are looking at. So, different fields might show up, different values might show up, depending on a status or a stage for that particular engagement. And that is a much more organized way of viewing things than their three different Excel sheets where only a couple of tabs really related to that whole piece.

So, having that tied back to accounts, so accounts being their media outlets, and then the contacts in which there are journalists and reporters, having all of that tie back together and being able to see that bigger picture of, okay, these are the engagements that we've got going on under this particular category, these are the people that are involved in it, this is the reporter, this is our LA28 representative that's going to be in it, this is the comms team person who's going to be staffing this and supporting this project. These are the topics that are involved, we've been able to create a number of custom objects to be able to support all of their needs.


Gillian Bruce:

That's awesome. I mean, I can very easily envision that nasty spreadsheet with all the tabs, because I feel like we've all encountered those.


Kat Aquino:

It was rough, and I think they would agree.


Gillian Bruce:

Well, that's awesome. I mean, that's a very complex and unique process to bring into Salesforce, so I think that's really interesting that you were able to do that. I mean, I would imagine there's probably some other processes that you may be working on in the future. What else are you working on? What is in the vision for the next steps of Salesforce with LA28?


Kat Aquino:

Yeah. And right now, I think we're heavily focused on foundations and making sure that we are doing what we need to do without too much fuss and too much frill. But as we onboard all of these different departments, which all have different processes, and some processes really overlap with other departments, we start to think about how we can work together better. Maybe, is there a way that we could optimize certain processes? Can we use flows to automate certain things? And can we adjust a field so that it serves a greater purpose? Can we serve a greater purpose by adjusting a custom object? And all of that, I think, is something that has been coming out of what I'm calling as... We have a steering committee and the steering committee that we have meets on a monthly basis, and it has representatives from each department so that it provides a space for our users to have a voice and really be involved in the planning and what features that we're going to be prioritizing, what features are needed, and really help shape what our Salesforce instance is going to look like.

So, I'm really excited to continue meeting with our steering committee to be able to shape how we can create a better collaborative environment.


Gillian Bruce:

What I love about that, Kat, is that, I mean, knowing that basically you've got a very collaborative building environment kind of across the whole organization, because I think, I mean, you're all gearing up for this huge event in a few years, and it's a massive undertaking, and it's really unique to hear your perspective as the admin who's building all of the Salesforce infrastructure to help run this whole organization. I mean, it's really, really fascinating, and especially at this stage where everything is kind of... You are, you're laying the groundwork, you're setting up the infrastructure that is going to run this massive, massive event. It's really fascinating to hear how you think about what to set up and the steerco with all of the different departments, making sure stakeholders are involved from the get-go. This makes me really excited.


Kat Aquino:

It makes me excited too.


Gillian Bruce:

Yeah. And I think it's a really great example too, for maybe even admins who are maybe at some more established Salesforce instances and companies and organizations. But the idea of having that fresh look and really looking at how people are getting their work done and doing those evaluations that you've done, and not being afraid to come back to the drawing table and reevaluate stuff, I think those are some really, really great learnings that you've been able to share with us, and I so appreciate that.


Kat Aquino:

Yeah, of course.


Gillian Bruce:

I mean, what has it been... I mean, I can imagine being an admin for the LA28 games is probably... It might seem a little daunting at times, but where do you see a couple years from now, or even maybe as you head into the last year or two before the games, what's your vision for maybe what you have built out by then or what it's going to be like to be the Salesforce admin or running the Salesforce instance for such a huge undertaking?


Kat Aquino:

Yeah, that's such an interesting point that you brought up about what the vision should look like, because I think earlier when I was interviewing all these different departments and understanding their functions and what they do, that started to help formulate the vision of what Salesforce could be for our organization. And I think what it really could be is this glue that brings together these different departments to be able to provide transparency across all of the different work streams that we have. Because as an organization that's developing and planning the Olympics, there's a lot of entities and organizations that we need to communicate with, and ensuring that everyone uses the platform so that they can understand, this is what I talked about with this department in this company. Another department at LA28 might see that and say, "Okay, I know that that happened. Let me readjust the way that I'm going to speak to that company about this topic." And I think the real vision for Salesforce is just being able to bring all of those departments together to better collaborate with each other.


Gillian Bruce:

I love that. That makes me... I'm really looking forward to, hopefully, Kat, if you'll let me, continue to talk to you over the next few years because I'm so fascinated to hear what else you build and all your different learnings and experiences. This is kind of like a startup in some senses, right? You're starting from ground zero.


Kat Aquino:

Absolutely. We absolutely are. And I think one of the key that we're excited about is Salesforce is going to help us create a more holistic understanding of the different stakeholders and accounts and companies and organizations that we work with. We'll be able to open up an account and see all the different facets that involve that account, like whether or not that account has a stake in venues. Are they a manager of a venue? Do they operate a venue? Are they a concession provider for that venue? Have they been engaged with our communications team before? What have they been involved in? What are they involved in as far as our sales department? Have they been in touch with them at all in any capacity? So, it's really going to allow all of us to be able to look at what we're working with and share that information across our organization.


Gillian Bruce:

You are building the customer 360 for LA28. Good job, Kat.


Kat Aquino:

It totally is.


Gillian Bruce:

Well, Kat, I really appreciate you taking the time to chat with me and share some of the things that you've already built and what you're going to look at building next. And I do also really appreciate that grander vision. because I think every Salesforce admin, no matter what organization you're in, you should have a vision of what you want Salesforce to do in the long run. And I think your very clear vision about it being the glue. I literally just wrote that down because I'm like, that is great. It's very clear and concise, and so it's helpful to have that as a direction that you're going, that vision. So, any little tips or advice do you want to leave the listeners before we wrap up today?


Kat Aquino:

I would say keep things open-minded. Stay open-minded about what is possible and what's available. I know that at a certain point, when you've encountered numerous problems and understand, "Oh, I've encountered that before, this is how we do it," there might be alternative solutions that maybe work better nowadays relative to the previous ways that you've been implementing a solution. So, staying open-minded.


Gillian Bruce:

That's a great note to end on. Thank you so much, Kat, for spending time with us today. I look forward to seeing what else you're going to build. And get ready. Now, all Salesforce admins are going to hit you up for advice and interesting stories about working for LA28.


Kat Aquino:

Happy to hear, and happy to learn from them as well.


Gillian Bruce:

Excellent. Thank you so much.


Kat Aquino:

Thank you so much.


Gillian Bruce:

Well, thank you. Thank you, Kat, so much for taking the time to join us on the podcast. I hope that all of you listeners got some great insight from Kat about how you can build the infrastructure and the foundation for a very successful Salesforce implementation to run a huge, huge amounts of project or program. And hey, especially if you're an admin at a small business or a startup, there are some great learnings here and here from Kat to help you set up for success. I love how Kat said she's got a vision for Salesforce. It is clear. It is going to be the glue that brings all of these very separate departments all together. And having that vision for what you want Salesforce to be in the overall, it's just so important. At Salesforce, we talk about our V2mom all the time, which is how we set our vision and values and metrics and methods for the year.

Kat does the same thing. So, really having a clear vision for how you want Salesforce to function within your organization is so, so helpful. If you want to learn more about being an awesome admin, you can find all kinds of great content on, blogs, videos, podcasts, all kinds of great things, even the Salesforce admin skill kit. Check it out if you haven't already. You can follow all of the awesome admin fun on Twitter using hashtag #AwesomeAdmin or @SalesforceAdmns, no I. You can find our guest today, Kat Aquino on LinkedIn. I'll put her LinkedIn link in the show notes. Please give her some love. Follow her. She's going to be building some very cool things in the next few years. And you can find my co-host, Mike Gerholdt, @mikegerholdt on Twitter, and you can find myself @gilliankbruce on Twitter. You can also find us on LinkedIn. We exist there too. We're on all the platforms. With that, I hope you had a great day or having a great day, will have a great day, and I'll catch you next time in the cloud.

Direct download: Supporting_the_LA28_Games_with_Salesforce_with_Kat_Aquino.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 3:00am PDT