Thu, 28 September 2023
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.
Thu, 21 September 2023
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.
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.
Thanks. I'm happy to be here.
Yeah. Before we get started, just give us a brief history of Sarah's journey to Salesforce.
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.
I tell people I've been with Salesforce exactly as long as ExactTarget has.
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?
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?
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.
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.
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].
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?
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-
Oh, go ahead.
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?
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-
... 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?"
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-
I'm actually not sure.
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?
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.
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?
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?
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.
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?
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?
We're going to help do things more effectively and efficiently. Do you have an example or a few examples you could give us?
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.
Tried to say that with a normal face just to see.
So it just really can amplify what you're able to do.
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.
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.
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.
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-
... and I would have a limited amount of sources.
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-
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.
And there's a lot that goes into all the plants in the background have to be-
Right. Certain kind-
... 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.
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-
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.
That's exactly right. And then, you only get one perspective, whoever wrote that article.
Sure. Hopefully, they liked paleo artists.
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.
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?
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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-
... 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].
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.
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 admin.salesforce.com, 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.
Thu, 14 September 2023
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Anthony Cala: Wow, that's a good one, because as a consultant, we get that a lot actually.
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."
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.
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."
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.
Thu, 7 September 2023
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.
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 force.com, 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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?
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.
Thu, 31 August 2023
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:
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
Thu, 24 August 2023
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.”
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.
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.
Direct download: Pei_Mun_Lim_on_the_Skills_of_a_Business_Analyst.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 12:00am PDT
Thu, 17 August 2023
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.
Thu, 10 August 2023
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.
Thu, 3 August 2023
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:
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.
Thu, 27 July 2023
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.
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:
Thu, 20 July 2023
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.
Thu, 13 July 2023
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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]-
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 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 dashboarddojo.com.
Mike:Perfect. Thanks David.
Thu, 6 July 2023
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.
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.”
Thu, 29 June 2023
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:
Thu, 22 June 2023
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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?"
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 admin.salesforce.com, 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
Thu, 15 June 2023
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.
Thu, 8 June 2023
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.
Thu, 1 June 2023
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.
Direct download: Jenny_McNamara_on_Growing_Your_Career_From_TDX.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 3:00am PDT
Thu, 25 May 2023
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.
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!
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.
Thu, 18 May 2023
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.
Thu, 11 May 2023
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.
Direct download: Elizabeth_Bochanski_on_Starting_Learning_on_Trailhead.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 3:00am PDT
Thu, 4 May 2023
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.
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!
Direct download: Gorav_Seth_and_Eric_Smith_on_Cool_Flow_Solutions.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 3:00am PDT
Thu, 20 April 2023
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.
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.
Direct download: Brandon_Van_Galder_on_Automated_Omni-Channel_Routing.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 3:00am PDT
Thu, 13 April 2023
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.
“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.
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.
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.
Mike: Wow. I think you're the first person I've had on the podcast that has been doing Salesforce since '06, like me.
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.
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.
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.
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 admin.salesforce.com 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
Thu, 6 April 2023
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.
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.
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.
Mike Gerholdt: Then you're not building something on a house of cards?
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?"
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?
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.
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.
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.
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?
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?
Mike Gerholdt: Okay. Very cool.
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."
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.
Thu, 23 March 2023
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.
Direct download: New_Admin_Classes_from_Trailhead_Academy_with_Stuart_and_Feroz.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 3:00am PDT
Thu, 16 March 2023
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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, admin.salesforce.com, 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.
Direct download: Biggest_Mistakes_Admins_Make_with_LeeAnne_Rimel.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 3:00am PDT
Thu, 9 March 2023
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).
Mike: Welcome to the Salesforce Admins Podcast, where we talk about product community and career to help you become an awesome admin.
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 automationchampion.com 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.
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 success.com, success.salesforce.com or developer.salesforce.com 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.
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.
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.
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-
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.
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 admin.salesforce.com 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.
Thu, 2 March 2023
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:
“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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 salesforce.com 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.
Direct download: Data_Cloud_for_Admins_with_Muralidhar_Krishnaprasad.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 3:00am PDT
Thu, 16 February 2023
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.
Direct download: Solve_Problems_by_Experimenting_with_Lynn_Guyer.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 3:00am PDT
Thu, 9 February 2023
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!
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Direct download: 2023_Outlook_for_Salesforce_Admins_with_Erick_Mahle.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 3:00am PDT
Thu, 2 February 2023
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.
Thu, 26 January 2023
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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Thu, 19 January 2023
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.
Thu, 12 January 2023
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:
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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 admin.salesforce.com
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.
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.
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 admin.salesforce.com?
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 admin.salesforce.com, 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.
Direct download: Kick_Off_2023_as_a_Security-Minded_Admin_with_Lynn_Simons_and_Laura_Pelkey.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 3:00am PDT
Thu, 5 January 2023
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
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.
Thanks so much for having me. I'm excited to be here.
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?
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.
Okay, so kind of a big deal.
No pressure or anything.
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?
Yeah, I believe it was '84.
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.
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?
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.
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?
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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?
It has been a little over a year now.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
Does that make sense?
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-
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.
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.
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-
... 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?
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,
... 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.
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.
It was rough, and I think they would agree.
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?
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.
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.
It makes me excited too.
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.
Yeah, of course.
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?
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.
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.
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.
You are building the customer 360 for LA28. Good job, Kat.
It totally is.
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?
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.
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.
Happy to hear, and happy to learn from them as well.
Excellent. Thank you so much.
Thank you so much.
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 admin.salesforce.com, 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