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.”