Salesforce Admins Podcast (general)

Today on the Salesforce Admins Podcast, we sit down for an Admin Evangelist roundtable discussion with Josh Birk, Jennifer Lee, and yours truly.

Join us as we chat about how AI can help you be a better Salesforce Admin and what you can do to improve your prompts.

You should subscribe for the full episode, but here are a few takeaways from our conversation with Josh Birk and Jen Lee.

Practice your AI prompts

With everything going on with Einstein Copilot and Prompt Builder, I wanted to bring the Admin Evangelists together to find out how they’re thinking about AI and what you should do to get ready.

The number one thing that everyone agreed on is to start practicing your AI prompts. Josh recommends seeing if you can get your LLM of choice to tell you a dad joke. Then try and get it to tell you a better one. Just like how we had to learn how to write a good Google query, you’ll quickly find out that some prompts are more effective than others.

Jennifer shares the story of how her husband used ChatGPT to help with their itinerary on their trip to Italy. They still had to double-check that the restaurants it recommended were still open and that the timing of everything made sense, but it was a great starting point for planning their vacation.

How Salesforce Admins can get help from AI

Both Josh and Jennifer also use AI to help with work. Jennifer’s found ChatGPT to be really helpful for writing formulas. She used to spend hours on Google trying to find an example that matched the exact scenario she needed. These days, she can just write a prompt with her specific parameters and get back something useful in seconds. If Salesforce gives her an error, she can tell ChatGPT about it and it’ll try to fix the code.

Josh, meanwhile, has been using AI to help generate Apex code from scratch when he’s spinning up a demo org. As he’s quick to point out, it’s not necessarily helpful for the maintenance and debugging tasks that most developers do on a daily basis, but it’s perfect for his particular use case.

The human in the loop

One last thing we talked about that I want to highlight is the importance of the human in the loop.

We used the example of someone calling a power company to find out why their electricity bill is higher. If a human has realized that the weather has a major effect on usage rates and created a screen flow to call the right API, then an AI might be able to give the customer the right answer. But you need a human in the loop to do that second-order thinking.

We’ll have even more about how Salesforce Admins can use AI next week in Josh’s deep dive episode, so be sure to subscribe to hear more from the Salesforce Admins Podcast.

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Full show transcript

Mike Gerholdt:
So in the world of AI and GPTs, and I think one's called Hugging Face, maybe it's Hugging Chat, I don't know. There is a lot to learn and people maybe you're afraid of it or you haven't tried something out. I don't know. We've heard a lot as evangelists on the admin relations team. And so this week I wanted to dive in with all of the rockstar evangelists that I have. Josh Birk, our Senior Admin Evangelist, and Jen, our Lead Admin Evangelist. Also, everything flow about let's dive into prompts and let's start learning about prompts and what should we be afraid of or what shouldn't we be afraid of, or what should we start doing? So that was a really long, highly caffeinated intro, but welcome to the show, Jennifer and Josh.

Joshua Birk:
Thanks for having us.

Jennifer:
Hey.

Mike Gerholdt:
So I won't name names, but I have been around in the community, and I have heard people like, "Cool, oh, you've done something with ChatGPT." And to be frank, if you follow me on Instagram, you'll realize that my feed, sometime in March, quickly took over crazy images generated by Dall-E. Because I find it fascinating that I can give it words to a 1970s music classic rock and say, "Make a picture." And it will produce something that would take me years to put together. And sometimes it's crazy, and I have to share that with the world because I think that's just so cool. But I guess I'm not afraid to try things out. So that's where I was with the world of AI. Where do you guys fall?

Joshua Birk:
Well, first of all, I want to go back to something you just said about what's dangerous about talking to something like let's just call it ChatGPT. Just use that as the generic one since it's the most famous and most popular. But I go back to-

Mike Gerholdt:
It's like the Kleenex of AI.

Joshua Birk:
Yeah, exactly.

Mike Gerholdt:
Everybody knows about it.

Joshua Birk:
Exactly. And I'm going to say this and I'm going to add a huge caveat to it. But when it comes to going to especially a free one, and just tinkering around with it, it's the same thing that one of the best pieces of advice I ever got before I started programming on a pretty basic on an Apple II. And my teacher at the time, I don't even remember what the class was called, it wasn't computer science or anything like that. But basically he was like, "Do whatever you want. You're not going to break the computer." There's nothing you're going to do that's going to... Nothing's going to blow up. Nothing's going to go in smoke. 
The dangers of using AI right now is not the conversation you're having with the AI, it's what you do with the result. So Mike, you're posting things to Facebook. What's the nefarious outcome to that? There's not, right? Now, if I use the generation of AI to submit my legal brief without checking it, you might run into some troubles. But what I always tell people is just jump in and just try talking to it, because until you do... I usually start with have it tell you a dad joke, have it tell you five dad jokes. 
My favorite, actually, one of my favorites is go in and play 20 questions with it. Because having an AI guess the object that you're thinking in your brain is actually, it's an interesting way to prove how a conversational model works. But basically to go back to my teacher's advice, don't be scared. Go in an experiment.

Jennifer:
Yeah, I have to say that when it first came out, I wasn't one of the people who went running to play with it. But when we were planning our trip to Italy last year, my now husband went and used it to come up with the itinerary. He said, "Okay, we're going to start here. Here are the sites we're going to, recommend some restaurants for me." So then it came back and it said, "Okay, you should go here and here." He, of course, human in the loop, had to go verify that these restaurants still existed.

Mike Gerholdt:
Yup.

Joshua Birk:
Sure.

Jennifer:
But it helped put together our agenda. And then nowadays I've been using it to help me with formula creation, because I am the worst when it comes to the parens, commas, nested if statements, they drive me nuts. I used to spend hours Googling to find the exact scenario I needed that someone else posted, and then tweaked it. But now I can go and say, "ChatGPT, I need a if statement for three things. Give me the structure," and then I would put it in there. So it's been really helpful to me in that regard.

Joshua Birk:
And not to throw down Jen, but being the worst, I might have to, I'm not sure. I think I might be worse than you are, because I've done the same thing. And the nice thing is, so ChatGPT is what's called a chained conversational AI. Which means when you create that formula, if you get... Like you put it in and you get an error from Salesforce, you can give that error back to ChatGPT and be like, "You got this wrong," and it already has the context of the formula it gave you, and it'd be like, "Oh, you're right. Let me fix that for you."

Jennifer:
Right. 

Mike Gerholdt:
Yeah. And then just to clarify, in the context of what we're talking about, a prompt, because we spelled this out in our workshops, but a prompt is a starting line for an AI conversation or task where you tell the large language model what you're looking for using natural language, right?

Joshua Birk:
Yeah.

Mike Gerholdt:
So tell me this, because sometimes I struggle with this. How do you write your prompts differently, than say, putting in a search for Google?

Joshua Birk:
Yeah. So first of all, I think that's one of the reasons we call it... People are like, why prompt? It's a weird word. And I think the reason why we refer to it as prompt, because it's a more generic thing than saying query or question or request, or anything like that. Because the thing that you need to provide in a prompt... So let's compare those two directly. When you do a search in Google, it's basically going to a database of a whole bunch of really fancy stuff Google's done, and then you're always going to get the same answer. 
If you do the same prompt in ChatGPT you might get slightly different answers because that answer is being generated on the fly. And so in order to be successful with... The nice thing with ChatGPT, once again, because it's a chain conversation AI, so you can start slow and then just keep adding context to it. But in a non-chained one like Prompt Builder, it's adding in all the instruction and the explicit instruction, and the repeated instruction, and the context of, "No, that's sort of the response I wanted, but that's not exactly. Here's how to correct it," kind of thing. 
So to compare it to a Google search, it would kind of be like, no, give me the Google searches that are actually relevant to the problem I have at hand. Which Google can't do because it doesn't understand context.

Mike Gerholdt:
Right. That makes sense. Jen, you said human in the loop, and I feel like we've naturally in just comparing Google searches to prompting a GPT to return a result, naturally put the human in the loop. But what did your husband do in terms of planning to put the human in the loop for other things?

Jennifer:
Yeah, I mean, he had to go, even though it would return an itinerary for us of sites to see in Italy, he still had to go and check and say, "Okay, is this the right path that it should take?" Confirm the hours that... Even though it suggested here's the order, well, is it even open at that time, right? Can you imagine just showing up there and like, oh, nope, it's not open until noon, but you have me going there the first thing in the morning.

Mike Gerholdt:
Yeah. Or it figures your itinerary is you just drive there, spend one second there, back out of the driveway. 

Joshua Birk:
Right.

Mike Gerholdt:
Like, no, I'm going there for a reason.

Joshua Birk:
Yeah, it doesn't always get the context of time correctly the first time. The last time I tried to do an itinerary, it gave me so many things to do in three hours that no human being could possibly do it.

Mike Gerholdt:
Oh my goodness. Yeah. I will say I have tried... So one of the first things I experimented with was, I think it's called Gemini Now, because it was Google and it plugged into their Google Maps. And I think planning road trips and stuff, when you're looking for specific stops, not touristy stops, but okay, a couple hours into the drive, I'm going to want to stop and get some diesel. I want to take a break from driving for 10 or 15 minutes. 
I don't want to just sit there and figure out on the map and scroll mile by mile on the map. Does that look like a gas station? Does that look like a gas station? And have it go through that. But oftentimes I also have to go back through the map and validate like, oh, is that still open?

Joshua Birk:
Right. Yeah. So I think they've gotten better because these large models at one point were impossible to pre-train on small amounts of data. They basically had to re-consume the entire internet over and over again. And that's why when they first became popular, they warned you it doesn't understand anything. Basically pre-pandemic, if I remember right. And that was a problem here in Chicago because a lot of very famous places had shut down. 
So to your point, Jen, about itinerary, making sure they're still there, it would've been spot on recommendations in 2019, but now not so much. And again, I think they've learned how to train them with smaller bits of data. So I think this is better. But yeah, it's whatever moment in time it's looking at when it was grounded in that data.

Jennifer:
Well, when I was looking at free GPT products, I used Perplexity AI, and that was using the internet and not data up until a certain timeframe. 

Joshua Birk:
Nice.

Jennifer:
And it came back and said, here's my answer, but then here's my sources. 

Joshua Birk:
Nice.

Jennifer:
So then if I wanted, I could go click on that to get more information

Mike Gerholdt:
Yeah, as an article from 2007. Like, "Oh, cool, five star Michelin restaurant." What do you feel, in terms of using AI just for your everyday life, is helping you understand AI better as we work to understand the capabilities of prompt builder and copilot?

Joshua Birk:
So for work, I'm going to confess, because I've been using AI to generate a lot of APEX. And it's not that I can't write that APEX. And I'm going to say this because I think this is a very unique situation because I'm writing a lot of APEX that's from scratch. I'm not an enterprise developer who has to go in and maintain large bits of code and large project related code and things like that. And there's this huge question out there for the everyday developer, is AI something that's really useful? Because a lot of everyday development is maintenance and it's bug fixes and it's very detailed work.
And there's probably a role for AI when it comes to code reviews and things like that. But for what I'm using it for, it's like I know how to write this and I know I've written something like this, but AI will do it 90% correctly in about three seconds. I can't type that fast, especially these days. I cannot type that fast. And so if I just kind of go back in and I'll reiterate it and stuff like that, and because of that in very short period of time, for instance, the demo works we're spinning up. I have APEX that can recreate all the data for me in these styles.
And that's, I think, the important thing is it's in the style that I want the data to look like. It's in the level of realism that I want the data to look like. Which actually would've been... That's the part that would've been very difficult me to do because to sit back and be like, I want 30 companies that sound like they would work with Northern Trail Outfitters.

Mike Gerholdt:
Oh yeah.

Joshua Birk:
Right? I'd have to sit back and actually ideate about that and spit out ideas and all of this kind of stuff. And ChatGPT is just like-

Mike Gerholdt:
I'd come up with a whole bunch of Southern Trail Outfitters and Western Trail Outfitters and Eastern Trail Outfitters.

Joshua Birk:
Exactly, exactly. It's not shy. It will just try to give you that kind of slightly creative information shoved inside of an APEX class. And it's definitely, I mean, I can't even calculate how much time it saved me.

Jennifer:
I think for me, outside of the formula piece, which it has definitely helped me build formulas faster, but I use it to shorten things that I've written. Here's this thing, I need to narrow it down into this many characters. So that's been helpful in shortening that up. I have a problem of condensing things.

Mike Gerholdt:
No, I think that's great. I mean, that's actually to look back at admin track at Dreamforce a few years ago, the biggest session that was always attended was documenting your org. And I think it's because you always would have to start from scratch as opposed to, Jen, I use AI for a lot of that as well. I will write a description in X number of characters following this style of writing and then give me three versions of it. Because Josh, to your point, I don't have three versions in my head, or I need a fourth version, but I need you to give me three to kind of push the cart down the hill a little bit.

Joshua Birk:
Yeah. And it's like, why do we keep going back to summarization as such a classic AI use case? Part of it is because it can read it and then write that summarization faster than you could read it by a 100th percent. It can do it. So it's not just the speed of generation, it's the speed of consumption as well.

Mike Gerholdt:
So working with, looking ahead, because Prompt Builders GA, we're doing workshops. What are some of the things that we should think about as admins for what organizations may be looking for in terms of prompts, so that... Because I literally think the amount of creativity that we have in our heads is the limitations we all have for delivering on super useful prompts.

Joshua Birk:
Well, Mike, I don't know if you know this yet, but we have an upcoming episode with my friend Ravish [inaudible 00:14:47], where we talk about this a little-

Mike Gerholdt:
Next week. 

Joshua Birk:
Right. So one of the things I asked him, because Ravish actually is working with customers and working with billing out some of these solutions. And I think the answer to that question is start looking at... Let's focus very specifically on this field generation prompt builder template. Look at your page layout and ask yourself, is there something here, or can I add a field to this that would be useful? Because going back to our friend summarization, that we could summarize not just the object that we're looking at on the record, but summarize it in its related data. And it's a data next to it and data that Flow can find to it and data that's in Data Cloud and all of these points of data.
And what Ravish said, not to spoil my own content, but he's like, "One of the most useful things is either meeting prep or call prep." Like if you have a call with a customer coming up, you want to pull up the account and you want to get a one paragraph overview of all the activity of that account so that you are enlightened almost right away as to what to do with this. So I think it's going to be hard until you see the fields actually being generated, because it's a very different kind of data that we're used to. 
But the question is going to be, I'm trying to think of if, and maybe one of you two have a good example, because Salesforce has evolved so much over the years, right? I always joke with people, you don't know how good you have it because you can do GO selection and SOQL queries. I had to write an entire APEX class in order to make that work, and I couldn't even do it with Radius. I had to select zip codes by a square because we didn't have the capacity to do sign and co-sign back then. The things that we've added that make the platform so much more intelligent, and this is another step in that evolution. And so it's time to start asking yourself, what layer of generative data can I add to my object model that's going to make my users more successful?

Mike Gerholdt:
Yeah, I would agree. I think along those lines, looking at what's available, looking at what GPT, even if you can't get your hands on anything Einstein and all you do is Trailhead modules and you listen to some podcasts like this. I think the one thing, not that worries me, but the one thing that I would have a serious conversation sit down with stakeholders is I would look at what's all the anecdotal data that we store in Salesforce and where is it at? 
And so I bring that up because Josh, your example of zip codes, phone numbers, hard data, super hard data, a zip code, a phone number, even a street address anymore, you can write a call out and verify that. The number of websites I go to now, and I literally type the three numbers of my house in, and it's already narrowed it down to the five possible addresses this could be, I think is amazing, it didn't exist before. But what I think the power of what people are wanting is, so give me a summarization of the last five calls and what their pain points were.
And if you're not running some sort of reports or like Jen, if you don't have, I'm thinking screen flows with really good fields to prompt people on, you need to fill this stuff out and we need to prepare for it. I don't care how good the AI is, it's not going to weed through bad call notes if the salespeople didn't put that stuff in.

Joshua Birk:
Yeah. And I want to call out one of the demos I saw here internally, because I think it touches on that a lot. And the demo was case support, and I think this was Copilot. And the ticket was, "Why is my power bill so high?" And the AI doesn't know how to answer that question properly. And this is like when we keep the human in the loop, the human in the middle, we have to remember that's in the whole... It's from beginning to end, because a human had to realize, oh, we charge people for electricity. 
And what is one of the things that determines how much electricity you use? Oh, it's the weather. So what I'm going to do is I'm going to build a Flow that calls out to the weather API that brings me back the weather for the last whatever period of time this ticket was for. And then the AI is like, oh, well, your power bill was high because it was super cold, or it was super hot, or whatever. But the case support person can basically just ask, analyze the support ticket and with the power of Flow that a human created, then the AI can add into it and be like, oh, this is why we think this is wrong.

Jennifer:
Yeah. I think back to the demo that we created for Dreamforce, for the admin keynote, we were using NTO, right? They did expeditions and we were able to say, okay, take the customer's expeditions that they've already been on and take the customer state, and then now go and based on what they've done in the past, recommend something similar. And looking at all the expeditions that were available. So that would've taken some time for the rep to then go research that and see what expeditions they've been to, what they might like, based on those things, to recommend other things. But with Prompt Builder and field generation, click a button, AI does it all for you.

Mike Gerholdt:
I would agree. Well, thanks for sitting around and jawing about prompts and GPTs, because I feel like it's June, we've been talking about this... Has it been for over a year or has it just been a few months? Or has it just been a year-

Joshua Birk:
It feels like over a year.

Mike Gerholdt:
Right. Right. But it's a little more advanced. It's interesting because I wonder in a year from now if we listen to this episode, if it'll sound super dated or not.

Joshua Birk:
Yeah, I think that's an interesting question. And it's hard to answer because you have OpenAI saying the AI you're talking to right now are, oh gosh, I think I'm trying to remember their exact quote and realizing it might not be something we want to record on a podcast. So let's just say not nearly as evolved as the models that they are trying to bring into the near future. And the near future ones are supposed to be much more intelligent, much more capable of reading your contacts, much more behaving like a human, kind of thing. And so I think that poses the question of when I say how much context and how much repetition you have to put in your prompt to make it do what you want. 
That statement might sound dated in about six months to a year. Because the person listening to it at that time might be like, "What are you talking about? The AI just knows who I am and they just talk to me like a travel agent. It's just normal." But I think in general, what we're going to get is better results, and prompt building in general is going to remain relatively the same. We might get to the end faster. We might get more better concise data. It's going to realize that that great pizza shop is actually closed in Chicago, and it won't recommend it, and things like that. But I think the actual concepts of prompt building, I think they're here to stay for a while.

Mike Gerholdt:
Wow. Well, that's good to know. It doesn't feel like fly-by-night anymore. Well, I'll stick a bow on this episode for now, and thankfully none of our AI's hallucinated.
If you enjoyed this episode, do me a favor and share it with one person, just one. It's not that hard. If you're listening in the Apple Podcast app, you can just tap the three dots up in the right-hand corner, click the share episode, and then you can post it to social. You can text it to a friend and be like, "Let's listen to the prompt building episode together."
If you're looking for more great resources, of course, admin.salesforce.com. The number of people I know that don't know about admin.salesforce.com is hopefully dwindling in the world because I keep bringing it up. But the good news is the reason you can go there, all the resources, if we mentioned any in the show, will be there, a transcript of the show, and links to our Admin Trailblazer group on the Trailblazer Community will be there as well. So with that, until next week when Josh talks to Ravish, and you already had a preview of that episode, we'll see you in the cloud.

 



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

Today on the Salesforce Admins Podcast, we talk to Chris Zullo, Global Practice Director of Customer 360 and Marketing at AllCloud.

Join us as we chat about integrating Marketing Cloud and Data Cloud and how you can do more with your data.

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

Bring all your customer data together in Salesforce

Chris is kind of my go-to Marketing Cloud guy, so I wanted to bring him on the pod to talk through how Data Cloud and Marketing Cloud go hand-in-hand. In his role as Global Practice Director of both Customer 360 and Marketing at AllCloud, he’s seen firsthand just how much of an impact Data Cloud can have by allowing both departments to work in tandem.

There are so many applications businesses use in today’s environment that each store data about your customers. But there’s a problem. As Chris puts it, “The likelihood of all of those systems talking to each other in any cohesive fashion is slim to none.” That’s where Data Cloud comes in. It allows you to bring all of that data into one place in Salesforce, and that’s where the magic happens.

Data Cloud creates a consistent customer experience

When a customer interacts with your business, they don’t care who they’re talking to—they just want to be treated consistently and as if they’re the same person. If they had a conversation with a sales rep about a certain product or feature, they expect the customer service rep they call to know what they’re talking about.

With Data Cloud, your customer service rep can look at all the communications a customer might have had with sales so they’re on the same page. And if they notice that there’s an email sequence scheduled next week to remind them about their warranty, maybe they can cancel it ahead of time and head things off at the pass.

That’s why it’s so important to give everyone a seat at the table when you’re establishing Data Cloud at your organization: marketing, sales, service, eCommerce, IT, and your data team. You want everyone working together to create a unified experience for your customers.

Data Cloud makes your data actionable

Some business units get really attached to their data. Sure, they’ll build you an API to provide a one-way glass view of their data, but why do you need them to integrate it with Data Cloud?

“It’s all about making it actionable,” Chris says, “it’s a verb, it’s an action. Just because I have a view doesn’t mean I can do something with it.” Data Cloud lets you do segmentation and targeting at scale without having to copy-paste into a bunch of pivot tables. And with AI features like lookalike segments, the possibilities are endless.

There’s a lot more great stuff from Chris about how Data Cloud can transform your organization so be sure to listen to the full episode. And don’t forget to subscribe to hear more from the Salesforce Admins Podcast.

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Full show transcript

Mike:
With Data Cloud, you can organize and unify data across Salesforce and other external data sources. After data has been ingested into Data Cloud, it can be used to drive personalization and engagement through the creation of audience segments. So that's what our help documents say. And I wanted to find out from Chris Zullo, who is a business puzzle solver, Salesforce MVP and Global C360 and marketing practice director at AllCloud. What he's seeing when he's helped other admins integrate Marketing Cloud and Data Cloud and all of the benefits across the organization from having visibility into that. Also, what are some of the questions that admins should be asking in order to get that integration going?
Now, before we get into the podcast, I want to be sure you're doing one thing and that's following the Salesforce Admins Podcast. And the reason I ask is if you're doing that on Apple Podcasts or Spotify or iHeartRadio, then the newest episode will automatically be downloaded right to your phone so you can listen to it on your bike ride or your dog walk, or maybe you just walk around the neighborhood to clear your head. But let's talk about integrating data with Chris and get Chris on the podcast. So Chris, welcome back to the podcast.

Chris Zullo:
Thanks for having me.

Mike:
It's probably been a while, but you're my go-to Marketing Cloud guy, and I feel a lot of people have seen you present in the ecosystem and talking Marketing Cloud. But catch us up. What have you been up to? What do you do? What's your exciting passion in the Salesforce ecosystem?

Chris Zullo:
Sure. So I mean, right now, I am doing a lot of things around Marketing Cloud and Data Cloud as a global practice director for Customer 360 and marketing for a company called AllCloud and just really trying to figure out how best to utilize the data that we have.

Mike:
I love it when you get titles based on marketing and you go, "Had that for a while."

Chris Zullo:
It's a long one.

Mike:
I used to be a director of social enterprise. I was like, "Ooh, that sounds neat." And then Salesforce dropped Social enterprise and I was like, "Oh, now I'm stuck with this." So I'm going to play devil's advocate because Marketing Cloud and Salesforce, I've done stuff, isn't campaigns enough? I mean, as an admin, I signed up my marketing people and they can create campaigns and they can put contacts in as campaign members.

Chris Zullo:
I mean unofficially the campaign object is the first part of the Marketing Cloud going back in time. But no, it is not in fact enough by itself as that is merely just a folder, if you will, a job folder that you can manage any engagement and activities that you plan to execute and engage with your customer base. So yeah, you need to do more.

Mike:
So what do we get when we sit down and have the grownup discussion of let's pull in Data Cloud?

Chris Zullo:
So when you think about pulling in Data cloud or why you would need Data Cloud, you got to think about how many systems and applications store customer data and it's never just one. The likelihood of all of those systems talking to each other in any cohesive fashion is slim to none. So with Data Cloud, you have the ability to connect and create a number of bridges, if you will, to allow all of these systems and applications to feed into one centralized location where we can harmonize, centralize, standardize all of that data to create a unified view of any one individual to better engage with them, to better service them, whatever the topic may be, and not have to swivel chair across multiple systems and try and remove a lot of the manual labor that goes into historically accessing customer data in a lot of different locations.

Mike:
So what are some of the things that you are finding when you work with marketers that they're excited to get data on with Data Cloud?

Chris Zullo:
Well, some of the bigger things are some of the more advanced segmentation capabilities that you're able to do. If you think about from retail businesses that are selling goods or products and they're wanting to figure out what's the customer lifetime value of an individual or how much are they spending with us? Recency frequency and monetary models where you can get into these more robust modeling above and beyond your typical segments of, okay, give me all the people who like the color red. You can get more just deeper into the weeds to create these more robust groupings of individuals that you can then break down into smaller parts as you need. And so, that's one of the bigger things is just really being able to look at that and isolate at scale what people are doing, how are they interacting with us and how much do they really like us?

Mike:
Yeah, how much do they really like us? Dear Marketing Cloud, how much do... Please, no, don't do that. So if I'm listening to this and I'm an admin, I'm putting myself back in those days of sitting in the chair and it's usually an executive or a stakeholder sees something at an event is like Data Cloud. We should talk about that. Where are you finding when you're helping admins or doing some of this work yourself? The admin should start this conversation. Does it start with the marketing team because the marketing team needs to pull that in and then they're going to service? Where are some of these conversations originating?

Chris Zullo:
Marketing certainly has a seat at the table since the concept that Data Cloud is built upon originated within the marketing realm over 10 years ago, the concept of a customer data platform, which really was to make their jobs easier. That being said, they're not the only ones that can benefit from data. So I think if you're going to do it right, you have the right heads of each of the major business units or teams or departments, however you organize your company at the discussion around what do we want to do? Who is our customer? Even before you get to the technology, it's really around alignment across sales, marketing, service, e-comm, maybe IT is involved or if you have a dedicated data team, these are some of the main voices that should have input into creating that centralized model because you may have different uses in each of those teams. The customer doesn't changed and they don't care who they're talking to. They expect to be treated consistently as if they're the same person regardless of the context of what their conversation is on.

Mike:
Yeah, sitting back as an admin where the data's at and that your customer doesn't know where their data's at, they don't get, like when you go check into a hotel, why don't you have all my information? I don't know where you keep all my information. I don't know where my name is stored versus my hotel room preferences and I don't care, I shouldn't because I'm talking to the front desk person. They should have all that. That's a thing that I always seem to forget. So what are some of the conversations like because I have to feel like a few of these databases or wherever this information stored have owners and they own the database. I've worked with orgs before where, yeah, well, IT owns the invoice server or whatever. Boy, they don't want to give that data up. What is the benefit in that? Or they'll come back and say, "Well, I can just write you an API that gives you a view into the order table." What is the benefit of going Data cloud versus a one-way, maybe pane of glass view?

Chris Zullo:
It's really making it actionable. I don't recall the specific quote, but you were in the room with me-

Mike:
Oh, boy.

Chris Zullo:
... back in the day. And it was a difference between a noun and a verb. If you recall the particular event we were at, it was it's all about making it actionable. It's a verb, it's an action. And so, just because you have a view doesn't mean I can actually do something with it. I mean, that's still swivel chair because if I've got to copy and paste or manually key something in that's not making it frictionless, and not only is that making my job harder, that is making the customer experience less enjoyable because that prolongs the conversation that slows down the resolution of whatever activity that individual's trying to carry out. And so, Data Cloud makes it actionable so that once we have that data in, and something that I don't think a lot of people realize is Data Cloud is not overriding those source systems.
It's not a survivorship model. So the systems of record are still the systems of record. The system owners are still in charge of what goes on in their domain. Data cloud is just making it so that we can combine the data from these various systems and make it more usable for business users. And if you want, you can activate or push data back to those systems if you see fit. Otherwise, you're going to activate it into the channels where you can do something with it that's going to benefit the customer and hopefully make your day job a little bit easier.

Mike:
So what I'm hearing is, as a marketer because that's where we started, I can query contacts and with Data Cloud also look at maybe contacts with invoices greater than a $1,000 and not have to do a pivot table with contacts I pulled out at Salesforce and then invoices that I got out of this other system because the data is actionable within Salesforce.

Chris Zullo:
That's absolutely correct.

Mike:
Just letting that moment of silence kind of fall upon people as you hear 10,000 pivot tables in the background screaming, because I feel like that. It's a different scenario, but I remember just Salesforce a long time ago used to be able to do web tabs or whatever. And so, I set up a web tab, which was our travel portal, and I remember the salesperson being like, "Oh my god, Mike, this is amazing. So this means that when I booked the travel, it's going to put it on my calendar." And I was like, "No, it's just a pane of glass to our travel portal. It is just that there is no integration."
And too often I think people get caught up in what the visual looks like. You asked for order information, so here it is on another tab when you click this and now you have access to it. Except as a marketer, I still have to go to this other system, to the invoice domain on this other server and pull customer numbers and pull contact records and then pivot table the two as opposed to using a report in Salesforce or something in Tableau to create that campaign.

Chris Zullo:
That can be a brutal way to go about things. And frankly, a lot of us have been used to that for so long because that's just the way it was done. But now there's a better way to utilize that data and like I said, make it more actionable to speed up the process and the time to value both for the business as well as the individual that you're supporting or trying to provide great customer experience to. So another example of that is you mentioned orders, but think about from a case perspective, and this is going to touch across multiple teams. If somebody calls in with an issue or have questions about a product or service that they've bought, so you have the customer service rep on the phone, there was an order placed and fulfilled at some point in the recent memory.
And you may have active marketing communications going out to this individual on a regular basis. And so, that's just three teams that could be involved in that one call. And so, in that moment, does the customer service rep know what you have bought recently without having to ask and make you repeat 15 times after they've done that to validate that you are who you say you are? But then can I see your order history? Can I see that there's some marketing communications scheduled very soon that might be touching upon this very same topic or related topic, which maybe we let go? Maybe we want to hit pause for a second and say maybe we don't want to hit them up with this marketing communication because they've called in, they have a question, we haven't resolved it.
It may or may not be negative, it may just be a neutral situation, but we don't want to potentially turn this into something bigger than it is. And so, you've got those three different teams that can be influenced by that one call, but how many systems does that rep have to go to see what this person has, what they have bought, what email communications are coming up, or SMS if it's a different channel? All of that can be in one view if you are able to unify everything through Data Cloud.

Mike:
Yeah, I always feel like the conversation with marketing is sales oriented, but the real increase in fidelity is when as an admin, marketing and service talk to each other, because that's normally where the joy can be maintained of the sale. After the salesperson not walks away, but closes the deal, to your point, if they have say, a warranty issue, the last thing they want is two days later after a customer service call to get a marketing email reminding them to sign up for a three-year extended warranty. Like, "Hi, welcome to Tone Deaf Marketing." But it happens, right? And I always feel like when you sit down with marketing people, their initial inclination is sales oriented. But I feel like what I'm definitely hearing is a big value comes to the customer service rep who is, "Hey, I hear you. Let's work through this issue. I see you're on a couple of warranty reminder emails. I'm going to go ahead and uncheck you from those." And you can correct me on this, the marketing team, empowering the service team to do something like that, right?

Chris Zullo:
Yes, exactly. Work smarter, not harder.

Mike:
What are other examples that you're finding of, I won't say it's unintended, but unintended collaboration like that unlocked because of Data Cloud?

Chris Zullo:
Sure. So I think other ones is to your point, from a sales perspective, sometimes people lump marketing and sales into the same team oftentimes and stereotypically and very humorously, it's like Westside story and they're on rival factions where we agree on nothing.

Mike:
I would love to think that every sales and marketing meeting begins with teams snapping at each other.

Chris Zullo:
Oh, I feel like there's a nice skit in the future with that one.

Mike:
There is.

Chris Zullo:
But so think about how those two can be working more collaboratively whether they want to or not, they should be. But thinking about you have people selling on an interactive basis, and if you are, say it's multithreaded in its account-based marketing, and you have different sellers talking to different people in the same organization, do they know that?

Mike:
Oh, yeah.

Chris Zullo:
Do we know if the left hand is doing while the right hand's over here shaking a new hand? How are we connecting the dots not only internally, but also looking at the target organization? Who is getting what communications? How are we bombarding them with all these different communications? Or potentially, do we want to empower the sales team to drop somebody into a nurture campaign? It would be a lot more effective if A, we can bubble up the fact that, okay, we have one organization, we have got two sellers talking to five different people and they're on all these different communications. One's not.
And then we can look at a broader picture from an account level at the individual level and internally who's doing what, when, where, and why. All of that rolls into how can we provide a better service from a sales perspective, and how can we empower bidirectionally marketing and sales to help each other to put them into the right communication? Or maybe again, similar to the previous example, maybe dial it back. Maybe we don't want to hit them as much because they're talking to a human being. We don't need to prompt them to schedule their next appointment.

Mike:
Right. Yeah, that's always fun when you're getting the email. So moving ahead, AI is a thing, it's been a thing for a while. We have Prompt Builder, we have Einstein Copilot. What are some of the cool things that you're hearing marketers are really looking forward to with some of the AI stuff that's out there?

Chris Zullo:
I think some of the predictive capabilities, I think really being able to leverage the AI from an ideation perspective, creating content or I don't know about you, but I do enjoy writing, but I don't always hit the ground running and wanting to be able to throw an idea out there, get something back and go, okay, that's not exactly what I wanted, but I can work with this. And so, then I can tweak it. And so, I might have a great idea, but I don't have the words to get it going. And so, that's one example from a marketing perspective. The other is from a data perspective, thinking about, again, the data has a story to tell and the better your data, the better the story can become.
And with AI in particular leveraging good data, we can then identify trends or identify opportunities that maybe we're not looking at as closely as we could or should, but also would take us a lot more time to effectively do if we were doing it manually and allowing that to create a lookalike audience, a lookalike segment to say, "Hey, here's your best audience based on these parameters. You've got this whole group of untapped potential that would potentially be really interested in this same product or this same service, but you've never bothered to ask."

Mike:
Yeah, I mean, you put a lot on the salesperson to make those connections in their head, and sometimes it's just not going to happen depending on the salesperson, right?

Chris Zullo:
Exactly.

Mike:
This is more of a Mike question because Mike's curious. So where are marketers falling with a lot of the advancements in AI writing emails to customers? Because you and I, we're from the days when marketing had to go over every single letter word, consonant vowel period in an email, and we built email templates and we would build workflows with email templates. And somewhere a marketer would lay his head down or her head down at night and be like, "I know exactly word for word what the customer got when we closed the deal." But now with AI we can kind of say, "Hey, tone and voice..." And maybe be softer or maybe be happier or funnier. And I suppose it's no different than just letting people write emails, but I'd be curious kind of what you're hearing because I feel you're a little more plugged into marketers than I'm.

Chris Zullo:
Yeah, I think there's a relative split. I think you've got a number of folks who are embracing it and leveraging it for the benefits that it offers. I do feel that there's still a bit of skepticism and fear. And to be honest, two years ago I was very much skeptical on what AI was going to do for me as a marketer. So I decided to investigate a little bit further and learn more about it and saw that there really is a lot of potential with AI. And I think the way I would explain it is AI is not going to replace you. I think people who understand and learn how to harness the power of AI are going to have an inherent advantage over others because it is a productivity play, in my opinion. And so, the way I have been explaining it to people is it's not so much artificial intelligence, but it's supplemental intelligence. You don't replace the human. The human still needs to be involved. You're still the chaperone. You still going to be a hand on the wheel, but it's almost like having Jarvis from a very popular.

Mike:
[inaudible 00:25:27].

Chris Zullo:
Yes, our boy, he is a helper, but he can't do all the things without your guidance. Jarvis was a product of Tony. And so, the AI that we're using in our organization, it's really going to be a product of how you utilize it to increase your time to [inaudible 00:25:54], your speed to market, or reduce the friction to process data. It's really about taking that and leveraging that in a way to be more efficient with the time that you have and still have the final say. I'm not asking Einstein to create an email and just send it blindly. No, I'm doing it to jumpstart the process and then I can refine it and revise it with a trained human hand that knows, you know what? That might not work the way that the output provided it. And you can either train it to get better, which it can do, but at the end of the day, it still requires you or me to be involved in the process. It doesn't work asynchronously. It just doesn't.

Mike:
Yeah. I was talking with a friend this weekend, and of course, this'll date me in 10 or 15 years, he's a professor at university. He said, "AI's not going to take your job. What's going to take your job is the people that know how to use AI."

Chris Zullo:
Exactly.

Mike:
And I was like, "Oh, you're so spot on." We diverged a little bit. Last question, anyone who's looking to get interested in Data Cloud, what would your suggestion be?

Chris Zullo:
I would jump on Trailhead for one. That is a great place to start because you can get hands-on exposure and experience. And honestly, whether you realize it or not, admins, you have such an important role in your organization and Data Cloud can have such a significant impact on how your data is managed, that it really is in your best interest to understand how it works, how it can impact your environment and how you can influence it. And so, number one, go to Trailhead and get started there. There's a number of resources out there. I'm trying to think of the name. There is a great YouTube series that Danielle Larregui oversees, the specific Data Cloud series and has a number of different guests from Salesforce on there about how Data Cloud works and how to use some of the various features within that, and it's a really good resource.

Mike:
I like it. Thanks for coming on the podcast, Chris. It's always good to hear from you and I'm sure we'll hear some crazy visionary insights from you at Dreamforce this year, right?

Chris Zullo:
I will certainly be there. I've been around for a while, so I don't know if anybody really wants to hear from me anymore, but I'm always happy to share.

Mike:
I don't know, I got to believe so, right.

Chris Zullo:
Hey, I'm willing and ready. If the invite's there, I'll be there.

Mike:
I appreciate it. So it was a great discussion with Chris I, You always think of what's the immediate benefit of doing something with another cloud? So what will Data Cloud get sales? Or immediately, as you heard in the conversation, my head goes right into marketing and sales, but there's also a lot of other benefits that other departments are seeing and we had that discussion about service, how you can actually talk and service your customers better. Having that integration, that information, it just kind of makes sense. So I hope you enjoyed the episode. I thought it was a lot of fun.



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

Today on the Salesforce Admins Podcast, we talk to Joe Sterne, a Solutions Architect and Salesforce contractor.

Join us as we chat about his tips for job interviews, what to look for in a job description, and how you can use AI to help you prep.

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

Contract work in the Salesforce ecosystem

Last month, we talked to Jason Atwood about how to prepare for a Salesforce job interview. That episode was fantastic because Jason interviews job candidates all the time, but I wanted to hear from someone who’s had experience sitting on the other side of the table. That’s why I was so excited to hear from Joe Sterne about his experience as a contractor.

Contracting is becoming more common in the Salesforce ecosystem, and it can be a great way to get experience to land that next-level position. “At the end of the day, certifications are great,” Joe says, “but certifications aren’t the be-all, end-all—it’s also experience.” Of course, being a contractor means that you’re constantly looking for that next gig, so Joe has a lot of great tips to share from going out on so many interviews.

What to look for in a Salesforce job description

Looking for a new position usually starts with reading through a bunch of job descriptions. Joe recommends taking a close look at what responsibilities are actually listed because it doesn’t always match the job title. It can happen for any number of reasons, but it’s important information to know going into the interview process because it can affect the salary band.

Joe also suggests investing the time to make sure you have something to talk about once you land that big interview, especially if you’re bound by an NDA. It could be Superbadges, or work you’ve done for a nonprofit, or, as Joe says, “maybe it’s something you did for fun just so you could talk about it in an interview.” No matter what, you need a way to demonstrate your skills and knowledge and how they’re a fit for your new role.

How to prep for a Salesforce job interview

When you’re prepping for an interview, Joe recommends taking some time to learn about the business and the industry they’re in. Who are their clients? What problems are they trying to solve? And, most importantly, why are you a good candidate for them to help them address those problems? At the end of the day, that’s what you’re selling.

As Joe says, you want to be able to walk into the interview and say, “Here are your problems, I understand them, I’m going to be able to fix them, here are some ways I should be able to fix them, and here are other ideas I have that I could work on with other people as I learn more to evolve those solutions.”

There’s a lot more great stuff from Joe in this episode about how to deal with weird interview questions and how he uses ChatGPT to help him prep, so be sure to listen to the full episode. And don’t forget to subscribe to hear more from the Salesforce Admins Podcast.

 

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Full show transcript

Mike:
So let's say you're out there as a Salesforce admin and you're interviewing and you get a crazy question like, "If you could be any animal, what animal would you be?" Well, I won't tell you the answer that Joe Sterne gave but Joe Sterne is on the podcast today and he's going to help us flip on the other side of the coin. That's right. So it's June. If you remember back in May, I had Jason Atwood on the podcast. He's from Arkus and he was talking about what he does to interview Salesforce admins. My hope was to get you in the mindset of what a hiring manager is looking for.
Today, I got Joe Sterne, who is out there in the job market and he's interviewing as a Salesforce admin, at least he was at the time that we reported this. And gave some tips to help you get ready for your interview, some things that he's doing. Also, you know what? We talk about contract work because I think that's a very viable solution as a new admin. Now, of course, before we get into the episode, I want to make sure you're following the Salesforce Admins Podcast wherever you listen to podcasts, whether it be Apple Podcasts or Spotify or iHeartRadio. Go ahead and click that follow button and the reason is then a new episode will be put on your phone right away when you wake up Thursday morning. So with that, let's get to our conversation with Joe.
So Joe, welcome back to the podcast.

Joe Sterne:
Hello.

Mike:
Good to have you on again. It's been a while. But let's talk about, so back in May for the people that follow along with the podcast, because I know everybody does. I published an episode How to Prepare for a Salesforce Job Interview in 2024 and Jason Atwood was my guest. And I think he did a really good job of prepping us on the employer side. You, I know, are currently now on the admin side. So I wanted to get the... Does it show my age if I say the peanut butter cup scenario, like the chocolate and the peanut butter version?

Joe Sterne:
I mean, I don't think so. I'm still a big fan of Reese's Peanut Butter Cup. Wait. Can I name drop brands on this?

Mike:
Yeah. You can.

Joe Sterne:
So-

Mike:
I mean, if they want to want to send me a care package of peanut butter and chocolate, I'm all for that.

Joe Sterne:
There you go. Yes. I mean, to me, that does not date you. If you were saying something more along the lines of... I'm trying to think of... Not Milk Duds. There's some candy that's coated in chocolate that has powder in the middle of it that's from the 1940s.

Mike:
That's Milk Duds. That's Milk Duds. Every time I've had Milk Duds-

Joe Sterne:
Oh, okay.

Mike:
Oh. No, no. Malto-

Joe Sterne:
Malt... yes. Malted Stuff. Yeah.

Mike:
Malted Dots or something they're called.

Joe Sterne:
Yes. Yeah. Those-

Mike:
Yeah. Those things-

Joe Sterne:
Are old.

Mike:
You bite into it, you're like, "Oh, chocolate," and then it's like a puff of dry dust.

Joe Sterne:
Exactly. Yes. That, I feel like, would date you.

Mike:
Wow. All right. So Joe, since we've last spoke, what have you been up to?

Joe Sterne:
Oh man. So was I still at Salesforce when we last spoke? I think I might have been.

Mike:
You were still?

Joe Sterne:
So yeah, I was wrapped up in part of the layoffs in the beginning of 2023 and landed a couple different solution architecture specific roles at companies over the course of 2023 that also had layoffs sadly. The market has been quite chaotic over the last year and a half in the Salesforce space. I am currently right now doing contract work for another company, still doing solution architecture, but doing it under my own LLC.

Mike:
Ah. So what have you found interviewing... And I guess being an LLC and pitching consulting services, you're interviewing, right?

Joe Sterne:
Right. Oh, yeah. Yeah. You're still interviewing. It's just, to me... Well, I'll take one step back here. I'm still interviewing for full-time or W2 positions as they like to call it when I've been talking about positions but I'm also open to 10-99 or corp to corp. Corp to corp is one of the main reasons that I decided to do an LLC. Besides the tax reasons, it's the ability just for somebody to come back to me and be like, "Hey, we can do contract but it needs to be corp to corp." It's like, "Cool. We can do that. I have one."

Mike:
Gotcha.

Joe Sterne:
And not have that be a limitation where it's like, "Hey, we can't do 10-99 or W2 on this engagement," that knocks you out of the rutting. It's like, "Well, okay, that doesn't really help me and I would love to be able to deduct stuff from a business standpoint. Since I'm going to be using my own hardware in most of these contract situations, I'd rather just wrap that up from a business perspective." So I know that's not necessarily totally viable for a lot of people, especially just starting out in the industry. But I would say, it's something to be aware of because I have seen a pretty big shift within the last 18 months in the industry. Well, big for me. I've been in the industry since 2013 and I fell into it. That there's been a dramatic increase in contract roles of any sort and a pretty pronounced pullback in full-time W2 roles.

Mike:
Okay. But let's tackle that first part. Let's say you are, for your opinion, a newer admin. What is the level of experience you feel people should be at before they would go and do what you did which is start an LLC and do, we'll just call it contract admin work, as opposed to being hired on as a position within the company?

Joe Sterne:
Yeah. I would recommend probably being at some sort of a senior level, so a few years of hands-on experience ideally. That you can then use to translate some of the value of why you would be a good candidate for them from a hiring role in general, whether it's contract or not. But here's some of the stuff that I've done, here's some of the things that I'm a part of, here's some of the knowledge that I have, that I've encountered on the job, some stuff that I may have not necessarily encountered on the job but dabbled in.
Because at the end of the day, certifications are great. I am a certification ambassador for Salesforce so I will not say anything different. But obviously, certifications aren't the be all end all either. It's also experience. Experience both helps you get a certification as well as certifications help you get experience. So it's this chicken and the egg scenario sometimes when you're first starting out where it's like, "How do I get that experience if no one's willing to take a chance on me?"
That is obviously a much larger conversation than what we're having today. But having some of that experience, I think, is helpful if you're trying to go that contract admin route or a fractional admin. Which I feel like as the rise of some of these C-suites, I think that some of that "fractional work" may start coming up where you may be working for two or three companies at once. That you're all doing admin things, but they just don't have the level of requests or tickets or change that would require somebody to be on full-time with benefits but they still need some help.

Mike:
Right. That may be the case, right? In your area or depending on where a person is, maybe they're not hiring for a full-time admin. So you're newer, you need the experience, would you take on a contract role? Let's say a company's like, "Look, we're not going to hire for this position full-time but we will do a 6-month contract with you." As an individual, to me, that sounds like a great way to at least get some experience.

Joe Sterne:
Absolutely.

Mike:
And then you're also working towards, "Well, they could renew the contract. It also gives me a few months to get in with an organization," and maybe you may like it. And then, you could... Well, if you made this full-time, look at all that you would get.

Joe Sterne:
Right. The one thing I've seen over the past few months as I've navigated the new contract world. Because historically, I've only looked for W2, but with this market I've had to open myself up to contract roles, is that there definitely is the concept of contract to hire.
Where essentially instead of testing out an employee for 60 or 90 days, you're essentially testing them out for six months, a year, or so. Some of those offers might just be dangling in front of you to get you to be willing to do a contract. But I feel like others actually do convert and drawing some parallels to outside the Salesforce ecosystem when it comes to community management or marketing, having a bunch of contract roles before you land a full-time one is not unusual.
It used to be unusual in the Salesforce realm and I feel like that is also starting to change just with the way that the current market is and the pullback on head counts. That is forcing companies to arguably prioritize their bottomline over their employees. But again, slightly separate conversation. But making sure that from a cost standpoint, that they're not necessarily wasting money on separate groups that they don't "need" too.
So I think that having the ability to grab a contact role for six months is great. It's just that one of the things that you will need to be aware of is that from a interviewing perspective, you don't... Sometimes when you get a full-time job, especially if it's one that you've been pining for, for a while, you take a step back from the LinkedIn and the job application market for a period of time.
When it comes to contracting like sales, you don't really have that luxury. So yes, I am currently contracting for one company but I've never stopped looking for additional work. Just because I don't necessarily have an exclusivity with my current company and I'm also... I'm trying to get to 40 hours a week billable right now which they can't offer and that's okay. It was only pitched as part-time anyway. But for me, it's always trying to find more work and more potential pipeline.
So it's very similar. It's from a consulting standpoint of trying to build a book of business and trying to build a pipeline and trying to line that up. Because ideally, if I stayed in this world of contracting work and whatnot, I would be trying to make sure that I'm fully booked out for a year or so in advance and turn away work or refer work to other people rather than trying to scramble for it. It's the typical feast or famine concept.

Mike:
What were... I guess I started in the past tense. But what are some of the things that you do when getting ready for a job interview, either as a W2 or a 10-99, that you feel is applicable to a lot of admins?

Joe Sterne:
Oh, man. So I would say, one of the things that I've really started to leverage. And I know that the whole AI, AI, AI thing has been beat over-

Mike:
Really? You don't get that anywhere? I haven't-

Joe Sterne:
Yeah. No, I-

Mike:
I haven't seen AI anywhere. That's the first I've heard of it.

Joe Sterne:
Yeah. Exactly. Over the last year, I've definitely started to leverage at least ChatGDP more and more to a point where I'm actually paying for it. I tried to actually set up my own custom GDP around Salesforce architecture that got kicked off the store because it used the term Salesforce. But that is something that I've found to be helpful when I have been, A, researching the company and the industries that company is in. Because asking questions about that, diving deep, granted for most of the stuff that people think of AI today, arguably it's just spicy autocorrect.
But there are some areas where it can definitely start doing things for you that are either tedious or just time-consuming. So I just saw an article that Shannon Tran posted around a Salesforce Ben posting where they were trying to implement different types of AI in an org and they were just trying to figure out what made sense. It turns out, a lot of it, they had to go off platform for and that brings up a ton of complexity. As an admin, you're not necessarily required to know all of that. But you would want to know at least on the Salesforce side, what they're planning on doing and what tools that they are implementing. And what different areas or different features that may have not been available in the past are now available. Is the company going to be paying for those extra licenses? How are those going to be implemented? Are you implementing them? Is a third party implementing them?
So there's a lot of different questions that would probably come up in an interview if you start diving down into that. I have found that tools like ChatGDP are very helpful to navigate those flows beforehand and potentially, give you a talk track before you actually even talk to them. So I mean, you can use ChatGDP as a pseudo interviewer and have it just drill you for questions. You can use it as a certification prep tool and have it ask you questions.
Now, granted, especially in the latter example, I would want to verify that those answers are correct because they do have the chance to hallucinate every now and then. Obviously, I always joke that because it's on the internet, everything is true. But I do feel that when people see things that are typed out, they usually default to thinking that is true rather than potentially critically thinking that it may not be. So just a word of caution that you may not have 100% accuracy in truthfulness. But, to me, that's been a great way to prep for interviews just because I can almost have a conversation rather than me just doing a few Google searches and having to potentially connect the dots here and there which is also very useful.

Mike:
You said something that... Well, right at the beginning of your answer, it's been just echoing in my head that I want to know in the current landscape... You said, "When I'm looking at a company and how I would work with them..." How much does that come up in the interview? How important is it in the age of the internet that you actually do the prep work on the about page and the history page and the about us page or if they have a corporate values page? How much do you do that when you're prepping as an individual or as a consultant?

Joe Sterne:
So I would say that you don't necessarily need to know their entire executive suite by the back of your hand and be able to recite off what they've done like you're talking about a sports player. Unless you want to, by all means, go for it. I've found that knowing a initial amount about what the industry that they're in, some of the customers that they deal with, whether that's other businesses, whether that's end consumers, whether that's both, it helps you figure out some of the problems that they're searching for.
Because eventually, that's what you're trying to help them solve. That's what you're selling to them as a solution is, "Here. Here are your problems. I understand them. I'm going to be able to fix them. Here are some certain ways that I should be able to fix them. And there are other ideas that I have that I could work with other people as I learn more to evolve those solutions." I mean, that's true if you're a consultant, that's true if you're in-house. You're there to solve problems and make the company money or make the company money by making other people more efficient, stuff like that.
So having a baseline knowledge of what they're doing helps you because from an initial interview standpoint, you may not necessarily have a lot of the... The best way to describe this is like a contact situation where it's, "Hey, given this certain issue that we're having, we're going to give you a quick brief background, tell us how you might approach it or tell us how you might solve it." I see that all the time. Those, if you don't know what the business does, you don't know how they necessarily act with their clients or partners or anything in their ecosystem, it's going to be a struggle for you to answer those. Because you won't know that off the top of your head and then you might have to fumble your way through it.
As opposed to doing a little bit of research, not a ton. Because granted like right now in this market, I've found that there is a lot of quantity that you may have to go after initially before you can start focusing on quality as those amounts of interviews narrow as you go through the process. So it does take a lot of time to fully memorize a company. I'm not recommending that you do that. But not knowing anything about them and going in "cold" is not going to help you either because you won't be able to answer those hypothetical situations.

Mike:
Right. Yeah. It's funny just having been in the world and seeing that change, just the difference that the internet brought interviewing people. God. Before times? So what are things that you... Always, we get asked, and a lot of people get asked like job description. What should I look for in a job description? How do I know if this is... Is this a Salesforce admin job? Some companies call it that. They call a duck a duck, you're a Salesforce admin. Some don't. The business technology specialist or corporations sometimes have different naming conventions. What are things that you look for in job descriptions?

Joe Sterne:
Okay. So-

Mike:
Buckle up. I feel like this is an answer.

Joe Sterne:
Yeah. So it's funny that you bring this up because from the one thing that I have definitely noticed as being a solution architect, for the last half a decade or so, is that a solution architect these days isn't always a solution architect. You have to actually read the job description. Because a lot of times, I've encountered where you have a "solution architect", like that's what they call you. But you're asked to do Apex coding and debugging and all these other things that a technical architect would be responsible for.
I don't know if it's just people don't understand that there is a fairly clear delineation between technical architects and solution architects when it comes to the amount of code that they should be required to do or if they're just trying to get a technical architect for cheap. Because arguably, the pay band for a technical architect, like any other dev, is a little bit higher than a solution architect which is generally not responsible for stuff like that.
So I have seen a lot of that confusion in the marketplace when it comes to the position that I'm currently in. And I think that definitely also cascades down into even the difference between a "junior admin" where they're asking you to do everything an admin would do, but they're only trying to have you at the junior level to save cost or that they may not know better.
It definitely depends on, if you can tease out, how long they've been using Salesforce. Because obviously, the newer they are to Salesforce, I think, the more struggle of understanding titles and how they reference to typical other titles in the ecosystem. It's a little bit more of a struggle if you've just started Salesforce as opposed to, "Hey, we've been on Salesforce for a decade. HR is caught up to this. We're well aware of pay bands. So that's not something that we're going to necessarily be able to," I don't want to say con, but, "argue with the level of talent that we want."
Because that's something where if you're applying for a job that says junior and all of the stuff that they're asking and all the things that you talk about in the interview says, "This is actually a typical admin or a senior admin level," that's something to call out. Because that's probably going to show up, maybe not necessarily on the title side, but it's probably going to show up on the pay band side.
So being aware of what a typical admin is responsible for is generally pretty helpful when you're reading these job descriptions. Because then, you can get a gut check of like, "Hey, are they really asking for an admin or are they asking for a senior admin? They just happen to have it marketed as something different."?

Mike:
Yeah. Well, and a lot of times, a lot of what we find and this is true for a... I don't want to pick on just admins because I know I've talked to the developer relations side. It's that way, too, with a lot of roles that people write. Especially if it's a new role within the organization, they just blanket, "Here's everything you should do," and it's like... I remember reading job descriptions in... Was it 2017? And they said, "You need five years of Lightning experience." It's like, "Well, it's only been out for two." And it's no fault to the company, they just... I don't think they somehow know to categorize stuff like that. So yeah, job descriptions can be all over the place.

Joe Sterne:
But as long as you're comfortable with what they're asking you to do, at least on the ten, that is usually a good start. Because the other thing to note about the job descriptions is it's generally, not always, but it's generally a starting place to some of the questions that you're going to start getting from the interviewers. One of the things that I get all the time when I am pitching companies or just interviewing generally is they're like, "Hey, you gave me an example about X, Y, Z. Can you go into more detail?" It's like, "No, I can't. I'm under NDA, so you can go talk to this company and have them sign a waiver if you want but I can't tell you exactly what I did. I can tell you that I worked on it."
That happens more often than people think because they're trying to not necessarily see what the competition is doing but they're trying to gauge your skills. So being able to have ways that you can talk about your skills that aren't necessarily bound by an NDA can be really helpful. Maybe, that's some stuff that you've done with Superbadges, maybe that's something that you've done with a nonprofit that isn't necessarily bound by NDA, or maybe that's just something that you did for fun, literally, so you could speak about it in an interview. There's nothing wrong with that. But those questions generally do come up. It may not be first round. It might be second or third. And God, hopefully not fourth or fifth. But those-

Mike:
You never know.

Joe Sterne:
Yeah. You never know. Those examples usually directly relate back to that job description. Because there are people that you may be talking to that aren't necessarily very close to Salesforce. But they're brought into the interview process because they are a department that you're working with or a division that you're going to be embedded in. They may not know everything about Salesforce, so they may just go down the job description part and ask you questions.
They may go down your resume and just drill you on, "Hey, why do you have this on here? Can you tell me a little bit more about it?" So being able to say, "Oh, cool. Thanks for asking me about that here. And I'm going to go into a 2-minute monologue of the question that you just asked." That's definitely very helpful because it shows that, A, you understand what they want and you also understand what you've done and you're able to talk about it at arguably a snap of your fingers. And not necessarily have to be like, "Oh, well, hold on a second. Let me look that up," and, "What did I write here?", kind of thing

Mike:
As we wrap things up, I... It sounds like a fun question. Fun is a word that means a lot of things in my head so we won't use-

Joe Sterne:
Are we using air quotes right now?

Mike:
No. I'm trying not to. Nobody can see them. Let's use the word interesting.

Joe Sterne:
Okay.

Mike:
What is the most interesting question you feel comfortable sharing that you got in a job interview?

Joe Sterne:
Oh, man.

Mike:
See how fun could also work?

Joe Sterne:
Yeah. Yeah. Fun could also work. I feel like that is... I've gotten a lot. I've had a... So I would say within the last year and a half across the last few jobs that I've gotten ever since I left Salesforce, I've probably put in well over a thousand applications.

Mike:
Wow.

Joe Sterne:
I've had not a very good conversion rate to interviews but I have had some interviews. I think that the more bizarre questions that I get are usually something that has absolutely nothing to relate to Salesforce. I think it's the ones that they're trying to figure you out from a psychological perspective but they haven't really thought it through. So it's the ones where it's like, "Hey, if you could be any animal, what animal would you be?" "I don't know. An elephant? So I can't forget all this stuff." Like, "How does this relate to what we're doing?" That was-

Mike:
Joe, how are you going to type with elephant feet?

Joe Sterne:
Right. Exactly. I'm like, "I'll have to use-"

Mike:
[inaudible 00:29:30].

Joe Sterne:
Right. I'm like, "Do I need to ask for accommodations here?" So it's questions like that, that I've gotten, where it's just been completely oddball. Like, "This has nothing to do with the job at all. How..." I even struggle to how connect the dot back to the interview process itself where it's like, "Hey, what are you trying to ask me?" Because it's not something simple of like, "Hey, I'm having this issue. How would you tackle it?" It's like, "Well, I'd try to do it in configuration and this is the way that I think I would tackle it based on this information. If that changes, then maybe I'd look at the App Exchange and see if I could find anything there. If that didn't necessarily work, then I'd have to start talking about custom code and understanding..." That's a whole train of thought that you can have with a question that is semi-technical related. But if you have somebody asking, "Hey, what brand of soda would you be and why?" Where do I go with that?

Mike:
Yeah. First of all, you've got the big two. And then, what if you go a regional flavor that nobody understands with limited distribution?

Joe Sterne:
Right. Or what if you go something retro like, "Hey, I'd like to be Tab or Crystal Clear Pepsi," like-

Mike:
I was going to say Crystal Pepsi, yes.

Joe Sterne:
Yeah.

Mike:
That's the second or third time it's come up on this podcast. It's awesome.

Joe Sterne:
Yeah. I mean, bringing it back full circle, talking about something that will date you, Gen Z has no idea what Crystal Clear Pepsi is. But it is definitely one of the, I would say, the rare failures of soda, up there with new Coke which is also-

Mike:
It still doesn't... Coke still doesn't taste right. I remember what Coke tastes like as a kid and the whole new Coke, new Coke tasted like Pepsi.

Joe Sterne:
Yeah. Exactly. They were trying to go after the sweeter market. I only remember this because Stranger Things did a Coke tie-in, I think, for Season 2 or 3 where you could buy redone new Coke in the can. And so, I bought it just to taste it and I remember sipping it and I was like, "This is horrible. This is knockoff Pepsi, store brand Pepsi." And I was like, "Yeah. I can see why this didn't go anywhere."

Mike:
Right.

Joe Sterne:
So yeah, so I would say that I don't know if you could necessarily prepare for those questions of, "If you were a soda, what soda would you be and why?" But those are usually ones that I would found there, it's like, "All right. Maybe I should reconsider wanting to work for this company in general if you're going to be asking me questions like this. Because I don't know if this is going to be a reflection of the type of company that it is too."
Because I mean... I feel like one thing that a lot of people forget, and it's easy to especially when you're desperate for a job, is that you're also interviewing the company. You're trying to figure out if you want to work there too. So there are times where the interviewers are trying to sell you on working there and there are times where they may not be. But that's something that, ideally, is on you to figure out, "Hey, I need to be able to ask questions that would determine if I want to work there," and those can vary from people.
So I can't say there's a list of questions that you should ask every company, period. But a very good one to start teasing out how they were is what is their stance on return to office? Because that's usually a really good indicator of, "Do we listen to our employees actually or do we say we listen to our employees and ignore them?" So it's questions like that... Obviously, if you want to be in the office full-time, you can ask that question. It doesn't necessarily matter what they say. But if you don't want to be in the office full-time or if this was marketed as a remote job and they're actually saying it's hybrid, that's something to think about like, "Hey, if they can't get this right in the job application, what else are they going to potentially be getting wrong or not necessarily telling you the truth when you're working there?"
So make sure that you don't forget that you're also interviewing them to see if they're a place that you want to work for too. Not necessarily just... It's not one-sided. It's always two sides of a conversation. It's a conversation. It's not a monologue. It's something where you need to have back and forth and it's for the... Ideally, it's for both sides to make sure that, "Hey, we're both in agreement of what's expected."

Mike:
Yep. I completely agree. I wasn't trying to teach admins anything out of this other than just sometimes getting funny questions is a fun way to end things. Joe, I want to thank-

Joe Sterne:
Oh, yeah. Yeah. Sorry. I probably went on a serious tangent there.

Mike:
No, you're fine. We know you want to be an elephant.

Joe Sterne:
Yeah. I mean, sometimes that's also to keep with a funny thing like, "Do you have any questions?" That's also something that you can just throw back at them too. "Hey, if you were a soda, what soda would you be and why?" Because I guarantee that 99 point something percent of people aren't expecting that question. So it's a... Depending on the banter that you have with your interviewer, it might be a fun way to end it out.

Mike:
Right. Good. Joe, thanks for stopping by and-

Joe Sterne:
Of course.

Mike:
Keeping us up to date on what's going on out there. If people wanted to follow you on anything social, I'll go ahead and link it down in our show notes.

Joe Sterne:
Yes, that would be great. Yeah. You can find me on Twitter, I refuse to call it X. You can find me on LinkedIn and I mean, heck, you couldn't find me at my new company. You can shoot me an email. Feel free to reach out to me. I still have people reaching out to me from our past conversation I've had on this podcast periodically so I always love to get those notes. Yeah. I love to get those notes because I mean, I'm here to help other people. So if I haven't helped you, I'm sorry. That was definitely my goal of today. And if I have helped you, I'd love to hear that I have because it's always a nice ego boost.

Mike:
Absolutely. Thanks so much, Joe.

Joe Sterne:
Thank you.

Mike:
It was a great discussion with Joe. I'd love to know, so what answer would you be for an animal? The whole time that he was asking that question, for some reason, the tiger came to mind. But I'd be curious, I'd love to know what animal you could be if you were a Salesforce admin at a job interview. But I did think that Joe gave us some really good tips and from an experience standpoint, oftentimes, it's brought up, "Go help a nonprofit." But sometimes looking for a full-time FTE job versus a contract job, a contract job might be a good path for getting some experience. If it's a trend that a lot of organizations are going to, it's a great way to get into the front door of that organization. So thanks, Joe, for being on here and sharing some of those wisdom.
Now, if you're doing one thing and you enjoyed this, I want you to help share and spread the word. So if you're listening on Apple Podcasts, just go ahead and tap the three dots in the upper right and click Share Episode. What you can do there is you can post at social or you can text it to a friend, maybe you have somebody else that's out there looking for a job. Of course, I mentioned resources, links to Joe's social stuff, all of that will be in the show notes for the episode. All of the Salesforce Admin episodes can be found at admin.salesforce.com. That is your one-stop for everything admin, including a transcript of this episode. Be sure to join our conversation in the Admin Trailblazer Group that is in the Trailblazer Community. Again, link is in the show notes. So until next week, we'll see you in the cloud.

 



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

Today on the Salesforce Admins Podcast, we have another deep dive with Josh Birk, who talks to Shoby Abdi, Principle Architecture Evangelist at Salesforce.

Join us as we chat about the Well-Architected framework, why you should start using Data Cloud, and what you need to do to get ready.

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

The Well-Architected framework

Shoby is the Principle Architecture Evangelist at Salesforce, and he’s come on the pod to tell us about the Salesforce Well-Architected framework. And he’s here to tell you that the framework is not just for Salesforce Architects—everyone should take a look at it.

As Shoby puts it, if your customers or users open Salesforce and it scares them, that’s how you know you need to use the framework. It can help you identify anti-patterns in your org and fix them by building solutions that are trusted, easy, and adaptable. Those are the essential ingredients for a healthy org, and that’s what puts you in the best position to take advantage of everything Data Cloud has to offer.

If Data Cloud was a parking lot

We’ve talked a little about Data Cloud on this podcast in the past, and that’s linked below, but Shoby helped explain why it’s such a big deal. The main point he makes is that by bringing all of your data together  in one place, it can start to tell a story. As he puts it, “What is your customer doing? Where are they? And then how do you interact with them next?”

When we talk about Data Cloud, it can often sound like it’s some sort of parking lot for all of the information you have about your customers. But as Shoby points out, it’s so much more than that. It’s more like if your parking lot had a valet that could tell you everything about who’s parked there, what kind of car they drive, how long they’re staying there, and exactly when they plan to leave.

Einstein and Data Cloud

If you’re a Salesforce Admin looking to enable Data Cloud, Shoby recommends working through the Well-Architected framework to make sure that your org is healthy. After all, these tools are only as good as the data you give them.

If you’ve done all that, there’s a lot to get exited about. Data Cloud brings everything into Salesforce as standard objects, which means you can build all sorts of interesting things with flows and everything else you’re already using. And with Einstein Copilot and other AI tools, the possibilities are endless.

There’s a lot more great stuff from Shoby in this episode about how Data Cloud works, so be sure to take a listen. And don’t forget to subscribe to hear more from the Salesforce Admins Podcast.

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Full show transcript

Josh Birk:
Greetings, Salesforce admins. It's Josh Birk here, your guest host for this week. This week on a deep dive, we're going to dig into data cloud and then talk about data cloud. I brought one of my good friends and old colleagues, Shoby Abdi.
All right. Today on the show we're going to welcome back Shoby Abdi to talk about data cloud. Shoby, how you doing?

Shoby Abdi:
Not too bad. Just doing well. Connections is right around the corner. Just to timestamp this for everybody.

Josh Birk:
It's a Connections week. It's a DevOps streaming week. Everybody here is in Chicago and I'm still at home talking to you. So that's my social calendar.

Shoby Abdi:
Exactly. That sounds very similar. I am also in Chicago.

Josh Birk:
Nice. Okay. So introduce yourself a little bit. Tell me a little bit about your current role.

Shoby Abdi:
Sure. So my name is Shoby Abdi. I am a principal architecture evangelist on the Salesforce's Architects and Well-Architected team or the other way around. Essentially, if anybody has ever gone to or if you're a Salesforce architect or if you've ever gone to architect.salesforce.com or if you've ever heard of the Well-Architected framework, my role, along with a few others is that we are evangelists. So it's very similar to the work that Josh does or on the admin side or developer advantage to the developer size, except our audience is firmly architects. Architects of all kinds, whether that be our internal ones, customers, partners, architects all over the place.

Josh Birk:
There's a nice overlap between admins and architects. So actually let's give you that this is the Tonight Show portion where you get to do your own plug. Tell me a little bit about the Well-Architected framework.

Shoby Abdi:
Sure, absolutely. So the Well-Architected framework in a very simple manner is prescriptive guidance for solution health. When we put it that way... Now remember, it's a Well-Architected framework. Now, Well-Architected frameworks exist not just with Salesforce, but Amazon, Microsoft, all kinds of other cloud providers have created their own Well-Architected frameworks. What's really important about the Well-Architected framework is that it's not simply for architects, right? While it's Well-Architected, it's not a well-built framework for architects. It's a Well-Architected framework.
So the idea is that regardless of your role, your function, if you're just a customer, if you're an implementer, everybody should be looking at it. And when we talk about solution health, really what it boils down to is a lot of times when anybody is implementing for the first time, or they're implementing in an existing org, or even at as an administrator, you inherit an org. You start a job and you inherit some eight, nine-year-old org with all kinds of technical debt happening and you're like, "Okay, I don't know what's good and what's bad, what to keep and what to deprecate."
What the Well-Architected framework does, and when you look at it from a baseline perspective, is that it was really developed and designed by architects and other individuals in the ecosystem like yourselves, like the folks listening. It was also firmly designed by our individuals within our product and engineering team. And that's important is that the prescriptive guidance within it is really firmly built on top of not just base level knowledge, but it's firm recommendations, firm practices, and we even take the tack of actually dictating specific patterns and anti-patterns.

Josh Birk:
Got it.

Shoby Abdi:
Related to how it goes. And the way that Well-Architected framework is structured is around solutions should be trusted, easy and adaptable. And we firmly believe they should be in that order. One of the first elements of trusted is secure, but then easy, it's about being intentional and then adaptable. One of my favorite, one of the last ones is composable. And obviously as Salesforce, trust is our number one value. So obviously we're going to feel trust should be the first thing you focus on.
So really the framework itself is really a... The simplest way I can put it is that if you want to build a healthy solution, if you want to maintain a healthy solution, you can utilize a prescriptive guidance within the framework and you can find it at architect.salesforce.com. It's available today. It's not hidden anywhere. You can find it today and utilize it as you need it.

Josh Birk:
Love it. So if you're an admin and you open up your org and it scares you, this is a good trail guide to get out of it.

Shoby Abdi:
It's not even if you're an admin, it often scares you, it's more of like if you're a customer or if a business user open up the org and it scares them.

Josh Birk:
Right.

Shoby Abdi:
It's like, "I'd love to use Salesforce, but I really can't use it because of the following SB issue. My report-"

Josh Birk:
Because of all the anxiety it gives me, whatever.

Shoby Abdi:
"I really want to use this report. I don't know where it is, but I really want to use this report, Meredith, but it takes five minutes to run. I can't use it." Okay, well, it may be full of anti-patterns. So that's where utilizing some of the guidance within our performance, topics, around throughput and latency could come in handy to really understand, are these reports I need to modify? Do I need to do skinny tables? Do I need to optimize any queries if it's custom? That's what that guidance really is.
It's not simply an admin even or an architect or developer or anybody looking at it themselves. It could also be based on actual customer and end user feedback of what they're seeing and what they're telling you that needs to be fixed.

Josh Birk:
Because that's the commonality between these three roles is that the users are always in the middle.

Shoby Abdi:
And Salesforce.

Josh Birk:
And Salesforce, yeah.

Shoby Abdi:
There you go.

Josh Birk:
Okay. So we're talking data cloud today, and let's take the very, very high level. If you have to introduce data cloud as a product to somebody, how do you describe it?

Shoby Abdi:
The way that I describe data cloud is that when it's so much like you hear a lot of different capabilities around it. You'll hear data lake, data warehouse. Really what data cloud is, is it provides the ability for any organization, regardless of the amount of data sources that your organization has to make those data sources and all of that data, that disparate data that can be everywhere doing many things. It makes it useful in the context of your customer.
If you're a B2C organization that has end customers out there in the world buying things, then it could be useful as far as a unified profile for that person goes. As you're a B2B organization where you're more business oriented and account oriented, it could be useful for you as well. I was actually describing this to someone yesterday where when you look at data cloud and its capabilities, and a lot of people will always think of different data sources, data lakes, data warehouses where it's different and important is that data cloud is not simply a place where you park your data, hope it works, and hope you can find it. It's not a parking lot for your data. Right?

Josh Birk:
Right.

Shoby Abdi:
What it is when you bring it into data cloud, you can automate it. You can get a view of your customer. Right?

Josh Birk:
Yeah.

Shoby Abdi:
When we talk about that single view of the customer. And really what drives that view is the customer's interactions and activity. Whether you're a consumer based organization or a business to business based organization, your customer is going to interact with you in some way that involves data. They're going to be creating data, whether they're clicking on websites, they're paying invoices, they're paying credit cards, they're creating cases, they're telling you that they want to buy 500,000 of these and you're closing a deal and they're paying off an invoice and agreeing to an order over email.
All of these actions, all of these functions, all this data as it comes into data cloud starts to tell you what are the behaviors? What is your customer doing? What is your customer doing today? Where is your customer? And then how do you interact with them next? So that's the power of data cloud is, it's not simply a, "Okay, I've got all my data in. That's great." No, that's literally step zero.
That's what we tell everybody. Get your data into data cloud. Just get it in. Because once you get it in, then it's the power of automation, analytics, unification, segmenting, activations. That's where it starts to matter. So that's really when we talk about the data cloud, that's what we look at.

Josh Birk:
Yeah. I love the parking lot analogy because first of all, it's so easy to think of it like that. I've got my data in Salesforce, but then blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. There's something over here. I'll use data cloud to connect it. But to kind of extend that analogy, it's not just a parking lot. It's a parking lot with a valet and a security officer and a scheduling system. It's got all the moving parts you need in order to efficiently move cars in and out of that parking lot.

Shoby Abdi:
Yeah, absolutely. It's not just lot covered. So really what it is, it's similar to everything that Salesforce does. Like I said before, trust is our number one value. Similar to the Well-Architected framework as well, it's built with trust in mind. It's built with security in mind. So because we have that trust first. Now, when it comes to data cloud, you can be secure that when your data comes in, we handle that. We can take care of that part. Then what starts to matter is what you do with it like automation.

Josh Birk:
Yeah. What are some specific use cases that you see? What's an example of somebody who just clicked and they're like, "Oh, this is actually the problem that I need data cloud to be the solution"?

Shoby Abdi:
So a lot of it really comes in terms of, okay, data cloud obviously started from its CDP days and it's evolved significantly. A lot of use cases that we'll see are simply around, "Okay, I need to understand how do I interact with my end customer next?" So principally you'll see some of that around unified profile. If you've ever seen a demo of data cloud, you'll see first use case of, "Okay, who is this human being? What websites are they going to? And then finally, what is it that we need to really work them with?"
And then people often ask like, "Okay, I've got that element of data cloud and I've got all this data in. I see this person, but who's going to help me next?" That's where our friend Einstein comes in handy, right? Because you can create an email within Einstein utilizing different prompts, different capabilities, but once you include data cloud data into that prompt, now all of a sudden you've enriched it significantly. Where now because CRM data, while powerful is often limited.
It's limited based on what your business does and how your business updates still that CRM data, whether it's case data or opportunity data. But data cloud data is your customer's data. Right?

Josh Birk:
Mm-hmm.

Shoby Abdi:
They're the ones who are constantly making it happen. So now all of a sudden if your email or if the campaign is a part of, is a reflection of actual real life activity they're doing and they didn't need to tell you, "Put me here next," that makes a big difference in that process. So that's fundamentally a use case that we see. It's like while it's very general, it could apply to marketing, it could apply to sales, in the end, the reason I articulate this specific use case is that it starts to really combine the power of the data cloud with the power of what you probably already have if you're looking at data cloud, which is your Salesforce CRM.

Josh Birk:
Yeah. Well, and I like... Every now and then in tech, we get the handiness of a phrase that just makes sense. Unified profile, I feel like honestly gives you the solution, but also defines the problem in the first place, right?

Shoby Abdi:
Yeah, absolutely.

Josh Birk:
If I'm trying to communicate with you, Shoby Abdi, but you as a digital identity is actually strewn about 15 different data sources, then when I go to Salesforce, I have to cobble that together before I have an accurate representation of you.

Shoby Abdi:
No, absolutely. A lot of the challenge is, someone even asked me this... Yesterday was apparently a busy day, but someone asked me this yesterday as well, was just around, "Well, can you use data cloud for de-duping?"

Josh Birk:
Right.

Shoby Abdi:
And then I said, "One of the things you have to think about is de-duping is a you problem. It's not a customer problem. The customer's problem is you don't know who they are. So if you've got eight different versions of that human being's name and you don't know which one is the which one that actually has bought anything, or maybe they've changed their name, they've changed their address, they've changed their phone number, but then all of a sudden when you bring in the data cloud, you bring in all those unified data sources and one of those John Smiths is clicking on a lot of your websites, ordering a lot of your product.
And the John Smith you thought that was in your CRM was the one that was actually doing it, is not that one. Then you really don't have to de-dupe anything. Then you know which one is the actual human being, John Smith, like the ones you should actually start having that enriched discussion with, that enriched engagement with, whether it's through sales, service, marketing support, however. That's where you can start.

Josh Birk:
So data cloud's not there to try to fix your bad data management, but it can help focus the lens, so to speak, so that you're looking at the right part of the data.

Shoby Abdi:
No, absolutely. Right? Because by bringing all those data sources in, now all of a sudden your customer is almost in the data driver's seat because as they interact with your online properties, as they interact with your organizational properties and data created, now all of a sudden their activities start to reflect within those profiles and you start to see and understand what it is they do.

Josh Birk:
To extend to that, how would you compare, because you and I are old school technologists and we grew up in the days where what we are talking about now would mostly be in the realm of extract, transform, and load, right? Like an ETL process. How does data cloud compare or how is it similar or different from those old school solutions?

Shoby Abdi:
Yeah. And I think that comes up quite a bit of like, "Well, how do I do ETL with data cloud? Do I go with this ETL tool or do I go with data cloud? Do I do this or do I do that?" And invariably the power... One of the things that often comes up is it becomes a... When you look at what data lakes we're looking to solve and data warehouses were looking to solve was like, "Okay, we've got all of our data all over the place. We need and to be one specific place."
And then it's like, "Okay, we've put it now in one specific place." And it's like, "All right, now what? Now, are we all of a sudden... Once again, it's the parking lot." Are we all of a sudden like, "Okay. Well, this person's claiming they need to leave the building at 9:00 PM. This person is leaving at 10:00. So why don't we park their car up here and then with there and then go over there." Right?

Josh Birk:
Right.

Shoby Abdi:
So now all of a sudden as a customer because of something I really didn't do, I may have gotten there really early. But because I got there early, I'm getting penalized for leaving early because a lot of people came after me. So the way that I compare it with ETL, it goes back to the ability to create that unified profile, activate on that unified profile, create some [inaudible 00:15:45] unified profile, is that you start to worry less about how to get clean amazing data.
I don't even compare it to MDM. I'm sorry ETL, but it's MDM. How do you do data cloud with MDM? And it's like, well, once again, who is it for? Is it for your internal organization to have its perfect golden record situation when in fact the golden record should be the customer? It should be that customer. It should be the individual account record or that individual record inside of Salesforce. And then what's really driving it being meaningful golden are the interactions and activities that are happening.
And that's where that power of data cloud comes in with you bring in from data sources through batch elements or through streaming elements, whether you bring it through our Insights API or any other API or an SDK. As you bring that data in, now all of a sudden you're simply enriching that profile more and more and you're able to automate on that more and more as it goes along.
So that's why it's hard for me to compare it to base level ETL or anything because the power of it is that just bring the data in. Bring the data in. Where with ETL it's all about, "Well, before you bring the data in, let's talk about at least 50 things." Where now it's like, "No, just bring the data in. And then utilizing the power of the data cloud itself, the power of automation built within our platform like Flows, and Apex, and Orchestration, others, you can do a lot more with it. But the first step, I'm going to go back to what the first episode will be on, it's just got to bring it in.

Josh Birk:
You just got to bring it in. Right. Well, and let's use that as a launching point because you just said automation a lot and you said Flow. So an admin who knows Flow, what are some things that they can use Flow to interact with data cloud?

Shoby Abdi:
Yeah, absolutely. And what's interesting is a couple of weeks ago we actually put out a blog. So if anybody's ever read our blog, medium.com/salesforcearchitects actually blog post about this very thing. It's essentially, if you want to look, it's called Making Data Cloud Work With Your Existing Salesforce CRM data. And while I'm not good at titles, the end goal of it was really to talk about when we talk about data cloud and Salesforce and our entire platform, our Einstein 1 platform, it's really all about... One of the things that you'll see is that shared metadata framework.
And that's one thing if anybody takes anything away from whatever it is I'm saying, it's really that all of this is a shared metadata framework. What that shared metadata framework means is that now as we just keep saying, "You bring that data in, bring that data in." It's not simply, "Okay, now that I've brought that data in, I don't know what to do with it. Can I actually access it? Can I use the tools that I have in place in platform to actually do anything with it?"
Or it's like a marketing cloud thing. I need to learn marketing cloud automation. So one of the drivers behind creating that blog post was to say, "No. Data cloud was built with the power of the platform in mind." It's the marrying of data cloud capabilities with Salesforce CRM. So when data cloud comes in, it comes in as different kinds of objects. It's objects. So it starts usually from data streams as DSOs. And DSOs is essentially that data from all these different third-party sources. And this is where data starts to reflect within your data cloud environment, whether it's zero copy or it's registered.
It's essentially there. It's available to you to actually start to proceed with. That's when you start to create essentially data lake objects as well as DLOs. And those DLOs is when you start to look at, "All right, what are those specific data use cases I want?" It could be sales-related, it could be service-related, it could be marketing-related, it could be telemetry-related, it could be anything. But then beyond those DLOs, once again, we're still talking about objects. That's when we're going to create other kinds of objects.
So the first kind of object is usually what's called a DMO. Now, if you're an administrator or developer architect, when you're working with data cloud, you're probably going to be working with DMOs quite a bit because DMOs are more often than not, where a lot of the automation is happening. So a DMO is essentially to harmonized group in those DLO. So you could have those data lake objects. Let's just say, one of the things about I always miss is those fun old school MarTech diagrams where they're like, "Oh, let's show all the hundreds of billions of kinds of applications that exist out there for marketing."

Josh Birk:
Right.

Shoby Abdi:
It's true. Right? You may have 55 Google Sheets and ADRPs and etc, etc. As you start to go down the source object, DSO, data lake object, DLO, DMO object in a DMO process, you start to essentially build out, parse out what the object model needs to look like, what that harmonized elements of data needs to look like for your specific use case. And I'll go over a Sales Cloud, use case that'll be relevant.
So for DMO, and then you'll have another kind of object, which is actually a calculated insight object, calculated insights, which is a CIO, now that you can create basically based on essentially an insight based on a query, based on specific analytics like certain... Old school calculated insight or [inaudible 00:21:33] review. There's a lot of different ways you can call it, but it is essentially based on a calculation that occurs where someone hits this website these many times, or they've made these many orders or that kind of thing.

Josh Birk:
Gotcha.

Shoby Abdi:
But those are the kinds of objects. So now all of a sudden, okay. You've got all these kinds of objects within data cloud, these data cloud objects. What happens then? So that is where the power of our fliend, friend. Not fliend, but friend.

Josh Birk:
Fliend.

Shoby Abdi:
Friend Flow comes in. So when we look at flow, it's really the one thing we need to realize about data cloud is that a data cloud instance can exist in one environment. It could exist as a single data cloud instance across multiple environments.

Josh Birk:
Gotcha.

Shoby Abdi:
So if you're an administrator who's like, "Well, it's not as easy for me Josh, because I've got 55 environments in this one data cloud instance, catering to all of them." You could still use Flow. The way that it changes the way that you design it slightly differs. And this is obviously evolving, but for now, this is the way it is at the time of this recording where if your data cloud and your Salesforce CRM are in a single environment, the same environment, that's where you're going to create a data cloud triggered flow. And the data cloud triggered flow, if anybody has an activated data cloud org, or if you've gotten a data cloud environment from Trailhead, you'll see the ability to create a data cloud triggered flow, and that's launched when a DMO or CIO have a change of data. So now all of a sudden it's like, "Okay. How do I then associate that triggered flow with my Salesforce data?" Well, you do it the way you do it.

Josh Birk:
You would do it normally.

Shoby Abdi:
You create a record or you essentially update a record or you do something, right? Because now all of a sudden that customer activity within that Flow can then drive whatever updates you want within that CRM object.

Josh Birk:
Gotcha.

Shoby Abdi:
So that's one of the first ways you can correlate, or you can actually directly link your data cloud, data model data that's being generated to your Salesforce CRM data model data.

Josh Birk:
Got it.

Shoby Abdi:
The second way to use Flow is that if it's in different environments. Now you may say, "Okay, well it's in different environments. Am I in trouble now? Now the answer is no. Once again, data cloud is designed for this in mind. Now, there are many ways to actually utilize a data action and data cloud, and what a data action does is very similar to the trigger flow. It looks for any data changes in the DMO or CIO, right? One of the specific ones, you could do web hooks and other means that work with all of our clouds, but the one that people probably most know is a platform event, because a platform event is basically another kind of object.
And that now all of a sudden you can create a platform event and then that can hit a flow within another org, a platform event, and then all of a sudden it becomes, "Well, now how do I associate that data cloud platform event, data to my CRM data in my other org?" Well, you do it the way that you would do it today, right?

Josh Birk:
Right.

Shoby Abdi:
You essentially do it the way that it would work with the platform event today if it came from data cloud, if it came from grandma's Microsoft Access table, whichever one. So that's where you can operationally use it, where in those situations, whether it's the same or different environment, how you can use Flow if you want to create read, update or delete any and all Salesforce data.

Josh Birk:
Gotcha.

Shoby Abdi:
The other path that you can do is you can also... You have the ability to actually view some data cloud data associated with CRM data, and that's relatively new, what are called data cloud related lists and data cloud copy fields. A related list is essentially the way it sounds where it's just specific DMO like data model object data associated to a lead contact or person account or a field, or a field data that can be updated from data cloud.
So that once again, the lead contact and person account. The only distinction on that one is that it's view only at the moment, and it's really restricted to lead contact person account at the moment. Whereas through our Flow process, any implementer, administrator, anybody can use the existing skills they have from a clicks or a code perspective to make it work Flow.
I keep using Flow. People are like, "Well, what about Apex?" Same rules. Same principle rules. You can create a trigger on platform events. You can create a trigger off of... And utilize the triggered Flow and data cloud in the same environment to kick off Apex. You have a lot of those options as well. So in the blog, I have an example of like, "All right, I talked about it in very ethereal terms." How do I talk about that in terms of an actual use case, like a useful one?
So the way that it's described is that essentially we have data like a Sales Cloud one because Sales Cloud is our number one biggest cloud, and we have Sales Cloud data coming in from order management systems and ERPs. And it used to be, "Well, if I'm bringing in from order management and ERPs, that's all ETL talk. Do I need to do that?" No, no, no, no. You can absolutely bring that data in into Salesforce using data cloud. And once it's in data cloud, you can create those data lake objects, you can create those DMO objects and even calculated insights.
The example that I gave was if you have all these order management systems and all these ERPs, you can create DMO records that combine all of the order data across all these different sources into a single object model.

Josh Birk:
Gotcha.

Shoby Abdi:
You can combine all of them if they're, let's say, direct. In fact you're selling through like grandmas... I'm really harping on grandma today. Grandma's like a local convenience store. You can get their data as well. And then you could also create this calculated insight record and you could say you want to group all the order data by an individual across all of them, whether they went into grandma store or they went on your online e-commerce website. E-commerce, That's a good way to put it. You're online. E-commerce, I'm going to really age myself.
Then regardless of which direction you go, you can get that data from all those disparate data sources, Salesforce, and that can create an order record and associated to a lead and opportunity or quote that can update data within your CRM. It could do all of those things. You can actually show those copy field data, those related list data associated to that lead contact or person account because it's probably you making that order regardless of where you go.
So now all of a sudden, that order, whether you went to the store, whether you did it online, showing up under you. It's coming in from data cloud. So that's a very base level one example that's described in more visual diagram detail inside of the blog post. But the reason that we went with the route of a Sales Cloud, one, is that right now, obviously data cloud is activated in everybody's environment. You could turn it on today.

Josh Birk:
Gotcha.

Shoby Abdi:
The first thing that people turn on, they've got Sales Cloud. It's like, "Oh, let's see what this looks like with my Sales Cloud. Can I use it with Sales Cloud?" The answer is yes.

Josh Birk:
The answer is yes.

Shoby Abdi:
Absolutely you can and you should. So that's really the goal of that.

Josh Birk:
Nice. Now, if somebody is listening to this and they're like, "Oh, this might be me. I use Sales Cloud. I have other clouds, I have other data sources, et cetera," are there considerations? I mean, other than the obvious stuff, don't go blow up your production just because you listened to Shoby and Josh on a podcast. But are there considerations an admin should take before flipping that switch and turning on data cloud?

Shoby Abdi:
Yeah, absolutely. A lot of those considerations are obviously looking at the state of your existing environment. If all of a sudden you're going to open up all the sources of data, the source of very powerful automation, I think people should absolutely not underestimate how powerful is because in many respects is that it's going to be meaningful. It's going to be meaningful is because when we talk about bringing those data sources in, it's your data. It's your organization's data. But the end, you want to look at your org and essentially understand, okay, is it in the best place it can be to do that? Right?

Josh Birk:
Yeah.

Shoby Abdi:
And bar another word because I'm setting myself here, up here, am I healthy?

Josh Birk:
Exactly.

Shoby Abdi:
Is the organization healthy? So now all of a sudden it's like, "All right, well if I got to get healthy, where do I find that?" You could look at the prescriptive guidance that exists within the well architected framework, because while you'll find a lot of items there that maybe specific data cloud, one of the things over the next few months, our product managers associated with the framework and with data cloud, they're adding more as it goes along.
But one of the things to keep in mind is that if you're going to bring that data into Salesforce, CRM, anyway, the guidance within what Well-Architected framework is all about that.

Josh Birk:
Gotcha.

Shoby Abdi:
So I wouldn't even say it's more of a, well, before you blow up your org... Remember, data clouds are really designed for such a significant amount of data. You may be listening to everything right now, I was like, "Well, Shoby, I got way too much data. I got way too much data." I can't handle this. Once again, that data cloud was designed so that problem doesn't exist. Because you may say, "Well, I've got too much data in Salesforce. How do I solve that?" Well, that's where data cloud has these amazing CRM connectors. Sales and service. And you can actually ingest your own data and utilize the analytics and automation capability at scale to make it work where if all of a sudden an account is 20 years old, you don't want to lose out on all the amazingness of the last 19 and a half years.
Only the last six months matter from an automation perspective. It used to be used be, "Well, you just got to archive that data and then hope for the best." Now, you could still right, but in the end, bring it back in data cloud.

Josh Birk:
Get the insights.

Shoby Abdi:
Get the insights, absolutely. Get that historical insight. All of a sudden you're... And if you start to inject Einstein into this, because it's the Einstein 1 platform, you start to inject Einstein into it. That is where all of a sudden you may be using the latest and greatest in technology, but your customers aren't losing out on the historical context that you are providing them. They will gain. They will absolutely gain from what you're providing.

Josh Birk:
And since we get paid every time, we can say AI on the air, it also completes that picture. When we talk things about like grounding prompts and putting your data into what the model is going to understand, if you haven't fixed that lens problem, if I haven't figured out who Shoby Abdi is or who John Smith is, then AI won't either.

Shoby Abdi:
No, absolutely not.

Josh Birk:
Data collect can help you point in that direction for the AI.

Shoby Abdi:
And really that's where all of a sudden, even when we talk about principally AI, we talk about that human at the helm.

Josh Birk:
Right.

Shoby Abdi:
Right? For a long time we obviously called it human at the loop, but now we're talking human at the helm. And really the whole end goal of the human at the helm is that you in many respects need to co-pilot this. It's almost like we have this product called like Copilot.

Josh Birk:
It's like, "We've thought about that name first."

Shoby Abdi:
It's like, "Oh my God." And really the end goal of being a co-pilot... And the way that I'd like to think about it principally, especially with co-pilot and how it relates to data cloud, is that when you're a co-pilot and you're flying a plane, some large 747, what you're not having to do is go outside on the plane and the flaps, raise them up, go down to the fuselage, put the wheels down, and then when the plane is in the air, "Boy, now I got to get it for cruising. So now you got to go back outside when you're 10,000 feet in the air.

Josh Birk:
In the air, yeah.

Shoby Abdi:
But the flap is back down. Raise the wheels up. Our aviation technology has evolved beyond that. So when you look at the power of Einstein, look at data cloud, really what it is, is that you truly become the co-pilot where all of this automation, everything is there to help you as the human being to just do your job. But what it's not doing right is it's not adding more complexity to it, right? Aviation technology has gotten to that point where it's like... There's been jokes of like, "Well, if I fall asleep, who's going to flip the switch to land? When we have to land." It's like, "Okay." It's almost to that stage.
It's like, once again, but would you ever fly a plane? Would you ever fly in a plane that didn't have a pilot? I don't think anybody is ready for that yet, right? So having a human at the helm providing all of this, so increasing the ability for that just makes things more trustworthy. It makes things a lot safer for you and your customer. So that's why I like to... Once again, I don't think it's an AI, but now I just did. But in the end, when I think about AI in terms of all this, it's really, it relates to me. The data cloud story is a huge part of it, right? The Salesforce CRM story is a huge part of it. You can't talk AI. You can't talk Einstein without data cloud and without CRM.

Josh Birk:
Yep. All righty. Well, thank you very much, sir. We will give references and resources in the show notes, including to the Architect site and Shoby's blog post on this topic. Shoby, thanks for being on the show.

Shoby Abdi:
Thank you.

Josh Birk:
I want to thank Shoby for the great conversation and information. As always, I want to thank you for listening. Now if you want to learn more about this show, head on over to admin.salesforce.com where you can hear old episodes, see the show notes, and also read other resources on the topic. Once again, everybody thank you for listening and I'll talk to you soon.

 



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

Today on the Salesforce Admins Podcast, we talk to Brandon Walton, President, Owner, and Principal Consultant at Cypress Learning Solutions.

Join us as we chat about discovery, building trust, and why building with core Salesforce features is the best option for small organizations.

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

Creating a puppy pipeline in Salesforce

Brandon started his career as a car salesman and support tech in the Redmond, Washington area when a fateful call with a tech executive who liked how he explained things led to a job offer. That company used Pardot and, when it was acquired by Salesforce, he had the opportunity to become the implementation partner. The rest is history.

Today, Brandon’s a Salesforce Consultant for small businesses. One of his clients is Family Bred Puppies, which works to maximize the quality of life for dogs by matching families with small breeders. I wanted to bring him on the pod to share how he created a Salesforce implementation for them that’s scalable and easy to maintain. After all, who doesn’t love talking about puppies?

Creating a low-maintenance, scalable Salesforce implementation

As Brandon explains, when you’re working with a small team they want Salesforce to help them do what they do best. They often don’t have the resources to hire a full-time admin or developer. However, as he was doing discovery, Brandon realized that there was a way to map their already-existing business process onto basic Salesforce architecture.

Family Bred Puppies needs to go through an application and interview process to qualify families looking to adopt, which are handled with the standard Salesforce lead and lead status objects. If they’ve found a suitable candidate, they can upgrade that lead to a contact and use the stages of an opportunity to track the adoption process. There is, however, a custom puppy object for puppy-specific information like vaccinations and genealogy.

Because almost everything is built with standard Salesforce objects, the implementation is extremely low maintenance. It’s also easy to upgrade and expand. In fact, Brandon just came from a meeting to talk about adding case management and Marketing Cloud, and AI features like Einstein Next Best Action just work because it’s all standard.

How to build trust with clients

While all of this is good in theory, I really wanted to know how Brandon was so successful at getting his client to follow his advice. That’s the real challenge, isn’t it? You can explain all day why an opportunity would work better than building a custom adoption object, but how do you get them to believe you?

For Brandon, it comes down to building trust. “When someone believes that you’re listening to them and have their best interests as your top priority, that’s the foundation of trust,” he says. Keep asking questions instead of jumping to a solution right away, and get them involved in the process of creating a Salesforce implementation that works for them.

There’s a lot more great stuff from Brandon in this episode about scalability, user training, and puppies, so be sure to listen to the full episode. And don’t forget to subscribe to hear more from the Salesforce Admins Podcast.

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Full show transcript

Mike Gerholdt:
I got a plan. How about this week on the Salesforce Admins Podcast, we talk about the Puppy 360 instead of the customer 360. That's right. So this week we're doing a follow-up. You might've seen Brandon Walton on How I Solved This with Jennifer Lee. If not, I'll include that link in the show notes. But Brandon helped a small family business that helps place puppies with the right people to use Salesforce. And so I'm having him on the podcast to talk about discovery, and building trust, and really building applications with native Salesforce features that require some, let's call it minimal maintenance, because I think there's parts of organizations that you build high maintenance or applications for because their business is constantly changing and ones that will require minimal maintenance. We also talk about the art of building trust, which is fascinating, but also puppies. So I'll warn you, there's a few puppy talks in there.
But before we get into the episode, I want to be sure that you're following the Salesforce Admins Podcast on iTunes or wherever you get your podcast. It's super easy. Just click on the follow or subscribe button inside the app. And the reason I tell you to do that is then the app will automatically download new episodes. So you can wake up, say it's Thursday morning, because that's when new episodes drop, and you're like, "I'm going to go for a walk this morning. It's a beautiful May day, and I want to immediately listen to this fantastic episode about puppies." The Apple have taken care of it for you while you were sleeping, so all you got to do is subscribe and do that right on your phone. But with that, let's get into the conversation with Brandon.
So Brandon, welcome to the podcast.

Brandon Walton:
Thanks, Mike. Thanks for having me.

Mike Gerholdt:
You bet. Well, I'm excited after watching Jennifer's How I solved It on her YouTube channel, see all the amazing things you do. Plus, when she recorded the episode, there was puppies all over our Slack feed. So I'm a dog lover. Got to have people on the podcast that help people out with dogs.
But let's get started with you Brandon. How did you get started in the Salesforce ecosystem and what do you do?

Brandon Walton:
Yeah, Mike, thanks. And before I get started, love puppies too. I love working with the Family Bred Puppies team. They're just a great group of folks, and puppies barking, yapping. Just add a little of excitement that you don't get to enjoy all the time.
So rewind a long, long time ago, my first jobs out of college were sales jobs. And I was the young just out of college guy who became that impromptu help fix someone's computer here, help fix a printer there. This is back in the mid 2000s when we were still sending faxes back and forth. So I became-

Mike Gerholdt:
VGA ports. Don't forget those. Never forget.

Brandon Walton:
Yes, you get it. You've been there.

Mike Gerholdt:
Oh, yeah.

Brandon Walton:
So I worked at a car dealership actually, I was selling cars in Bellevue, Washington. And a big demographic that we serviced were Microsoft folks. So I was the dealership sales/tech support specialist guy, if you will, just by function, not by job title. And I was working with an executive and he said, "Brandon, I like the way you talk and explain things. [inaudible 00:03:49]. Do you want to sell cars the rest of your life? And do you want to come work for me, work with me?". And I didn't look back.
And so from there I did technical sales, business analysts work, a lot of it related to Microsoft, that being from Bellevue Redmond at the time, that was the big employer there. And the team I was on started using a tool called Pardot for communications, an email automation platform. Pardot eventually became acquired by Salesforce, and there was this opportunity to be an implementation partner. So I jumped at that opportunity, started working in the Salesforce ecosystem, and I've been a consultant in the ecosystem since 2014 now. So gosh, that's 10 years in doing Salesforce work specifically.
2018, started my own Salesforce partner consulting firm, and get to work with small teams like Family Bred Puppies every day. And I love the challenges. I love solving things for different businesses. It's kind of like you get to solve a new puzzle all the time.

Mike Gerholdt:
Yeah. Well, you lasted in consulting 10x more than I did, so congrats. You mentioned Family Bred Puppies quite a bit. Let's talk about them and a little bit of the solution that you built.

Brandon Walton:
Sure. So Family Bred Puppies is a client of mine. They work with small family-owned breeders. So their whole thing is they believe in quality of life for puppies, for dogs, especially the ones that they work with. And also making sure that families are getting a good experience through the adoption process. So when they came to Salesforce, looking at exploring Salesforce to facilitate not only relationships with the different breeders that they work with, but also the families that are adopting these puppies, they were looking for that all-in-one solution of being able to qualify applicants, also work with breeders, but manage the life cycle of a family that's adopting a puppy, and also managing the relationships with the small family breeders that they're working with on a regular basis.
So one of the things that we do as consultants, and where we start out with is, okay, let's understand what this business is looking to do, and let's understand how we can map what the business is looking to do with Salesforce's core platform. Because that's the other thing. Working with small teams like this is, they're not necessarily developers. The Family Bred Puppy team, they love working with dogs. They don't have a computer science background. So what's good about that is they're very open to our suggestions and recommendations. They really needed something that was easy to use, that didn't require a solution that was so advanced that they would need to hire a full-time admin or a full-time developer.
So we start taking a look at all the parts of their business that they need to manage in order for them to deliver on their mission of providing a good adoption experience for families, providing a good relationship with the small family breeders that they're working with, and having something that they can manage very easily. So we started taking a look at just that core Salesforce architecture. You've got your lead, a lead can be converted into an account and a contact, and you're managing opportunities.And then down the road you look at cases and stuff like that.
So they have an application process. You can go to their website, familybredpuppies.com, submit an application. They're asking questions that are important for the application process. So they want to make sure that families that they're working with, they're not looking to start their own puppy mills and things like that. All those things are very important for the team. So we took a look at all of the questions that they needed to have to qualify a family looking to adopt a puppy. We mapped that to a web-to-lead form. Again, keeping it very simple out of the box. We set up that web-to-lead form on their website. And so now when someone goes to Family Bred Puppies and submits an application to adopt, that gets added to their Salesforce account as a lead. And all of those fields are being mapped in so they can see it all inside of Salesforce.
The team uses lead status as they're qualifying the family, so there's an interview process. The first part of that interview, if some of those questions aren't answered correctly, maybe they're looking for a breed of puppy that Family Bred Puppies doesn't have or doesn't work with, or maybe they're looking to adopt a puppy for a reason that the team doesn't want folks adopting puppies for, like they want to be very careful about people wanting to adopt a puppy and then go create a puppy mill from the puppies. They disqualify. So you have this using lead statuses, disqualify, [inaudible 00:09:34], disqualify.
When someone goes through that application process and they are someone that would be a good fit, that's when we convert them from a lead to a contact. A contact gets associated with an account, a household, it's a specific record type that we're using. And then we have the opportunity. And what we did on the opportunity is we mapped the sales stages of the opportunity to the steps of their adoption process. So first step is let's match the family with a puppy. Let's have the family out to meet. Let's make sure that the puppy's gone through all their vaccinations and all these things. And then throughout the process, the final step is the puppy's been taken home.
And so what we did with Family Bred Puppies is let's map your business process as close to the Salesforce process as we possibly can. And what was good about working with the team is sometimes you work with small businesses that say, "ell, this isn't an opportunity. This isn't a product, this is an adoption. So rather than using opportunity, we should create something totally custom and call it adoption." And then you end up recreating a lot of these out of the box features.
And so what was really important for, I think the success of this project was the fact that they were so open to listening to our advice and leveraging that standard Salesforce architecture. So now they have a solution where we were having a discussion earlier today about adding cases so they can actually do case management. And because it's all built off of accounts and contacts in the core architecture, looking to add these things is just easier and easier and easier.
We're early on in the conversations about looking at things like Marketing Cloud so they can send follow-ups a year in, two years in, three years in, when they're working with these families. Or if someone refers a friend, being able to manage all of those kinds of relationships. And because it's built on that core architecture, adding these new features and looking other things that we can do on the platform is just way more attainable because they're designed for scale.

Mike Gerholdt:
Yeah, no, I think you said something key at the beginning there, which is... And I get you're a consultant and people listening to the, oh, why is he talking to a consultant? Well, essentially where admins are consultants are internal, right? We're just paid differently.
But you'll go into an organization, and I've gone into different parts when I've worked in organizations, and this client for you needed an app that didn't need to be highly maintained because it was pretty sturdy. We're not going with a lot of crazy out of the box stuff. And I've had different departments that use Salesforce the same way. And I think it's kind of figuring out what does this department need, and how custom do they want to go, and how much can I support it? Because you were clearly wanting to set them up with something solid that they didn't really need to pay. It is essentially like buying a new car. I just need to be able to put gas in it and manage everything.
You said something at the beginning before we pressed record that I thought was really interesting, because a lot of getting an organization or getting a department to use standard objects, and getting past the, "Well, but we adopt things and we don't sell things," is trust. And I wrote it down, you said, 'There's an art to getting them to trust you," and I think that's for the admin as well. What is that art for you? What does that mean for you?

Brandon Walton:
Yeah, I think trust in my world starts with the client, or the team, or the department, understanding that you're listening and you understand. And I think for so many people, and sometimes by accident, that it's a skill that you learn over time, is to listen and to listen to understand. And I think when someone believes you, that's part of trusting, is believing. When someone believes that you're A, listening to them, and two, have their best interests as your top priority, that's the foundation of trust.
How many times are we in a conversation, a conference maybe where we're meeting someone, or just whatever it is, meeting someone for the first time, and you're talking to them, and you can't get a word in because they're just talking, talking, talking, talking, talking? But when you are engaging with someone who's listening, and listening to understand, and asking questions, like we use the example, "Okay, Mike, you're not really selling, but it's more of this adoption process. But let's talk about this adoption process and what goes into that?". Just by asking questions rather than jumping to what that conclusion might be, it helps, not only it helps me really understand what you're looking to do, but my goal is that you understand that I'm here to try to understand as well.
And then you can dig dig dig dig into a topic, and then at the tail end of that session, it might be a couple of days or a couple of hours depending on the complexity of the project, the goal for trust is to come out with we understand each other. And if we're talking from a place of understanding, then I can make a suggestion to you and you trust that my suggestion comes from a place of, "All right, Brandon understands what I'm looking to do, and now we can have a conversation."
But when you rush that, it's kind of like if we were just going out for dinner, if we were going out on a date for the first time and I asked you to marry me after an hour, "Well, hold on, hold on. I don't know if we're ready for that." So I think trust comes from listening and from a place of mutually understanding each other, and then believing that the person who you're talking to really has your best interest in mind and can get you there because that person understands what you're looking to do.

Mike Gerholdt:
Yeah, I do feel like there's a TV show of One Hour Date And Marriage.
But one thing you mentioned that I think is huge is you started with all of the core functionality web to lead. You mentioned lead object, you mentioned opportunity. And then you also, well, they're looking to expand. It's so easy to sit down and say, "Well, I was just at World Tour," or, "I was just at this fancy user group and I'm all juiced up. I'm going to build a custom object. And I can create an adoption object. And maybe I call it adoption process object."
For you, what was the benefit for them being able to expand, having used that core just opportunity object, just the core lead object?

Brandon Walton:
Well, in my world, I work with a lot of, whether it's an app exchange package that a customer wants to install down the road, or even just expanding with more Salesforce products, I've seen it happen so many times where, "Oh, you know what? We're ready to try CPQ," or, "We're ready to try Account Engagement or a Marketing Cloud."
And you go in there and you realize, "Okay, well you can't use that right now because instead of using a lead or a contact, we've got something totally custom that's been rebuilt." So there's two things that come from that is one, just having gone through the pain of, "Oh yeah, you want to add on this DocuSign thing here," or something like that, and not being able to do it because you have to map all the custom stuff back into standard objects anyways.
But also getting so familiar with all of those pre-built dependencies, and I think that's one of the mistakes that is easy to make early on, whether you are an admin that's just getting started, or a small business that's just purchased Salesforce and you're going to be your own admin, in my shoes, is understanding over time all of the relationships, like with opportunities, you get so much great stuff out of the box. You've got your opportunity line items, products and price books, and quotes, and just knowing all of these things and all of these relationships that exist out of the box without having to reconstruct them is a huge benefit.
And I remember early days of being an admin, you don't necessarily know all of those things, and that's where you make those mistakes. "Oh, we need one other thing, so let's build it all custom." But I think a big part of it for me in my journey is getting to the point where you just understand all of the connections that are made available for you when you use that standard architecture, and you understand how an account relates to an opportunity, and all the great stuff you can do with that, and how a contact and account are related, and how all of the other, there's all this great new AI stuff that's coming out that supports some of the custom stuff that's out there, but when you're using the standard architecture, it understands what you're looking to do already. And that's so important. And sometimes you learn it the hard way, but we do our best to explain those things, and teach others and newer users about the benefit.

Mike Gerholdt:
Yeah, no, absolutely. In fact, well, and so I'll use it as a jumping off point, thanks for setting me up, to teach the other users. Trust is also when you roll it out. I mean the trust factor, they get you in the door and you're listening to them, and I'm going to build a puppy pipeline report, which has to sound fun. The amount of paw prints and puppy knows things that must exist in this app. I can only envision your Google search results right now are up there.
But the second part is also rolling it out. I mean, I've sat in weeks and weeks of discovery, and apps, and building, and then user testing. And then you go to roll it out. And this is a small company that has to sit and say, "Okay, so then how are we going to support this?". How did you build trust when you also rolled it out?

Brandon Walton:
Yeah, so we meet regularly. In fact, we met earlier today and had a working session together. So we do these working sessions where we talk about what the business objectives are, "Okay, what do we need to do? How are we going to make this experience better for," maybe it's a family breeder that they're working with or an applicant that they might be working with, because now we have all this great data in Salesforce, we can take a look at these kinds of things.
And I'll tell you what is the most exciting thing for me, is when we are talking about making an update to part one in the puppy pipeline, which is a puppy application. And Sydney, who started out on this thing, never using Salesforce before is like, "Oh, that sounds like a checkbox. I understand how check boxes work on a lead. And yeah, I can map that over to it." So for me, that's always the yes, the slam dunk home run moment, if you will, when we're talking about these concepts that when we first got started, it was still intimidating for them, but under understanding, "Oh yeah, that's going to be a pick list. And not only that, once we make the pick list here on the lead, let me go and add this to the lead mapping, so it's going to just move over to the contact when I hit that convert button."
And so the first question, how we get there is just regular working sessions. Let's go through, let's talk about the business objectives here. Let's talk about what's been created and how it's all going to work. That's probably the most instrumental piece. So it's not Brandon going and locking myself in a room for three weeks, and now there's all these new fields and buttons, and let's teach you how it's done. It really has been collaborative the whole way through. And the discussion really is led by the business. So it's not necessarily Salesforce feature driven. We don't go in here with an objective of, "Oh, you know what? There's a lot of great new AI stuff, so let's just add all this AI stuff, whether we know what we're going to do with it or not." It has to be driven by the business first. And when the business users are able to say, "Yes, this makes sense, because when I check this box, I understand what that means versus when I'm checking this pick list or this, dare I say it, multi-select pick list, which some"-

Mike Gerholdt:
Oh, I was just going to ask. They clearly aren't to reporting yet, or they'd understand the fallacy of multi-select pick lists.

Brandon Walton:
Well, going back, that's one of the things that I am able to bring to the table, and why they want to avoid it.
But the fun part in it for me is when those users are in the platform and they understand what the platform is doing, so more than just, "Oh, I have to go in and enter my data." I'm here to work with puppies, not enter data. But when Sydney and Peter understand why they're adding that, and it's not a burden for them, but they see the benefit because I think it really starts with them being involved in that process, so they feel like they were heard, they feel like their input was heard.
And with larger organizations that might not be an entire puppy management portal or puppy pipeline, or some of the fun things that we're doing. Some larger organizations, it's a lot more work just to get small changes made. Just like with trust, when people feel heard, and people feel like they're part of something, and part of the creation of something, there's that bit of ownership. I found that those are the folks that are going to adopt it a lot more. "If my say was included when we were coming up with the sales process, because yes, it's important. On this step we need to make sure that we understand how they're going to pick up their puppy. And Brandon knows that I contributed to step five. Well, now Brandon's pumped up and excited because I was part of this thing, and so now I'm more excited to adopt the technology," versus something that was set up and it's a burden. It's maybe an extra step. I think that's a big differentiator I see in working with, especially small teams.

Mike Gerholdt:
Yeah, I've always said when I'm doing training, is this is how you do your job, not another thing to do your job. And it sounds like a small word change, but it's part of the job to get it complete. Ensuring in this case that the puppy has a great home, putting good data in and keeping track of that is part of that journey. It's not another thing to do. And when people look at data input, or data collection, or data reporting as another thing to do, then it feels superfluous to their mission and they get off track. So yeah, I can completely understand that.
You've seen a lot, not only with this company, but in general. You brought up the AI thing, so I'll kind of wrap on that. If you were to start brainstorming, we're obviously not going to ask Einstein to draw us a puppy. I think I spend my countless hours making poor ChatGPT draw different versions of dogs. But how would you see, based on what you've built, that AI layer starting to come into what this organization uses Salesforce for?

Brandon Walton:
Yeah. And we've already started having those conversations as well, starting out with some of those Einstein features that have been around for a while. We're looking at things like Einstein recommended next actions, things like that.
And what's great about those is it's data driven. So going back to users adopting the importance of entering information, understanding how family breeder A, how Mike's pups is working compared to Brandon's pups, and being able to understand, okay, when I am entering the data on vaccines, and health of these puppies, and all of these other details, that's going to allow us to leverage this platform to assist our team in making better decisions, then data entry isn't a burden, it's a necessity. And we're very, very clear on the benefit.
If we know that puppies from this family breeder are getting a certain type of worm, we know that we can work with that breeder. And that's the beauty of what Family Bred Puppies do, because they're working family to family, it's not a situation where their breeders aren't working with them. So they've got these great relationships already. And using the technology to improve the relationships and be better partners to their breeders, match families, whether that's getting through the adoption process quicker, what have you. It's, how can we drive business outcomes through this platform? Not, well, we have to put it in there because my boss says we're using this tool and we have to put it in there.

Mike Gerholdt:
The number of times I've heard that.
I'll end on a fun question. Oftentimes when you sit down, even in organizations that I've worked for, but as a consultant, you get to learn the business and fun facts. Was there something fun or interesting that you learned about puppies during all of this that you didn't know heading in?

Brandon Walton:
Oh, there's so much. What's one thing I can summarize? I think, well, this might tell a little bit more about the kinds of things that I find fun and interesting. But you assume it, or I assume it, you assume that there's a lot of production that goes into raising breeding puppies. But the amount of planning that goes in... So where we did do some custom objects is we have a custom puppies object with litters. And so we are able to track the genealogy of the puppies through some custom objects. It was more than what opportunity products could do. We'll say that. So we started, can we do it from the... But-

Mike Gerholdt:
I don't think opportunity products were ever envisioned to be used that way.

Brandon Walton:
Yeah. So that was one place where we did go a bit custom, but it's just a couple of objects that have relationships to each other.
And again, I didn't come in there as the puppy breeding expert, but being able to understand what those timelines are, what's happening at one week, what's happening at two weeks. And I think all the orchestration that goes into that is what was just really fascinating. And it's more than just shots, but it's, are the puppies, how much time are they spending with their mom? And then when you move them from indoor to outdoor facility, all these details that go in.
And what's been really cool is, of course, we track those details on the platform. And so now it exists as part of the PMP, the Puppy Management Portal. But I think that was one of the takeaways that I thought was really interesting, is just how calculated that process is, just to make sure that, again, the mission is that the puppies are raised in a nurturing environment, that they're healthy when a family receives them. I would say that orchestration and seeing all of that come together was one of the coolest things for me.

Mike Gerholdt:
Wow. Yeah. No, very cool.
Brandon, thanks for coming on the podcast, oh let's talk puppies. This had to have been easily one of the most fun projects to work on.

Brandon Walton:
Oh, for sure.

Mike Gerholdt:
Yeah. Well, thanks for sharing it with us, and keep on keeping on with helping puppies in the world.

Brandon Walton:
Will do, Mike, will do, Mike, I'll keep doing my part.

Mike Gerholdt:
See, again, I told you that was a fun discussion. Also, tell me how quickly you wouldn't sign up to build a puppy pipeline report. If I saw that in my list of requests for things that needed to be built in Salesforce, a puppy pipeline report would definitely top the list. Also, I might take a little bit too long doing that. But I enjoyed that conversation. That was fun talking with Brandon.
Now, if you enjoyed this episode and you're listening on iTunes or another app, go ahead and click the three dots in the upper right-hand corner or see if there's an arrow. You can share the episode, and you can post it on social, you can text it to a friend, you can DM it. And of course, if you're looking for more great resources, the entire transcript, all the links are in the show notes, and everything can be found at admin.salesforce.com. And until next week, we'll see you in the cloud.

 



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

How Can Solving Sudoku and Wordle Enhance Your Critical Thinking Skills? Today on the Salesforce Admins Podcast, we talk to Rangsk, a Wordle and Sudoku YouTuber.

Join us as we chat about critical thinking, problem solving, and why puzzles are a great way to practice and improve your thinking.

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

Who is Rangsk?

I’m a big word puzzle fan. Sudoku, Wordle, Connections, I love ‘em all! I think they’re a great way to warm up your brain and stay sharp. That’s why I was so excited to sit down with this week’s guest, Rangsk. His YouTube and TikTok videos have helped me become a better puzzle solver, and I wanted to bring him on the pod to talk through his unique approach.

Rangsk first got into puzzle solving via a recommended video on YouTube for Cracking the Cryptic. He fell down the rabbit hole and became obsessed with the logic game that happens behind the numbers. He created his own sudokus and started posting walkthrough videos of how he made them and how to solve them.

Rangsk’s channel has grown exponentially since then. The thing that sticks out to me about his content is the tone: he’s positive, gentle, and clear. He really helps you become a better critical thinker, and have some fun along the way.

Word games are logic puzzles

“I approach word games as if they were logic puzzles,” Rangsk says, “you’re given information and you want to come up with the best possible guess to utilize that information and get as much information as you can.”

Some feedback Rangsk often gets about his solves is that he’s “overthinking it.” For him, that misses the point of doing these sorts of puzzles in the first place. Yes, you can brute force a sudoku or get a lucky guess on a Wordle. But what do you learn from that?

As Rangsk puts it, “It’s a single player game, there are no stakes to it. The only person you’re cheating is yourself.”

Practice your critical thinking skills

Instead, Rangsk recommends using puzzles as a low-stakes opportunity to practice thinking through things logically. It’s an opportunity to build up your critical thinking skills for when there’s more on the line than beating your high score.

At the end of the day, it’s all about learning. Whether you solve a puzzle or get stuck halfway through, Rangsk encourages you take a close look at your thought process and learn from it. Why did you solve it? Why did you get stuck? It’s the chance to learn about yourself and how you think through things that makes these puzzles worthwhile.

Listen to the full episode for more from Rangsk on when it’s OK to hit the hint button, and some other word puzzles you might like if you’re already hooked on Wordle. And don’t forget to subscribe to hear more from the Salesforce Admins Podcast.

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Full show transcript

Mike Gerholdt:
Wordle, Strands, Connections, not just random words, but word games. And I am addicted to them. So, this week on the Salesforce Admins Podcast, I had to get arguably the best word and logic solver I can find from TikTok and YouTube on the podcast. He goes by Rangsk on TikTok, and I'll put a link below.
But David and I are talking about critical thinking and problem-solving using word games. Also, just how that applies to life. This is a phenomenal conversation. Don't be scared about the time because this is such a fun discussion. Also, how looking for answers and the journey of problem solving really applies to just everything that we do, not only as Salesforce admins, but in our learning journeys and as we navigate life.
So, this is fun. Let's get David on the podcast. So, David, welcome to the podcast.

Rangsk:
Well, thank you.

Mike Gerholdt:
I'm glad to have you on. I feel this is one of those times where I'm way more the super fanboy because I have seen a ton of your TikTok videos and your New York Times solves. But without tipping too much, how did you get into word gaming and solving word games online?

Rangsk:
Well, it's a long story, but I can give the short version. Basically, YouTube likes to give random recommendations, and one day it recommended me a Sudoku video by Cracking the Cryptic. And I was familiar with Sudoku because it was a huge craze in the early 2000s. Do you remember that?

Mike Gerholdt:
Oh, yeah. Absolutely.

Rangsk:
Everyone was doing Sudoku.

Mike Gerholdt:
On the planes, there were books. Every airport had a Sudoku book.

Rangsk:
Yeah. And so, I got into that craze back then, but then I burned out of it. And now, I realize it's because of the way I was solving it. It's because of the way everyone was solving it, it burned out quickly. But I was like, "You know what? Sudoku, I'm familiar with that." I clicked the video and I just immediately got hooked because this was not the Sudoku that I used to do.
And I just really got hooked on watching Cracking the Cryptic on YouTube and the various different kinds of logic puzzles that they solve. And then, I actually started creating my own Sudoku puzzles. I crafted them myself. And I would do things like... I would submit them to Cracking the Cryptic. They actually have solved a few of my puzzles in the past.

Mike Gerholdt:
Wow.

Rangsk:
Featured in front of tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands of people, which is great. And what I wanted to do is I wanted to document how I intended those puzzles to be solved and walk through the logic of them. Because I've always been... I had sort of an instructor mindset. I've always liked teaching. I've never been a teacher, but I've always liked teaching anyway.
And so, I decided to make my own videos where I walked through how to solve my own puzzles and I just uploaded them to my YouTube channel, which had nothing otherwise. And one day, Cracking the Cryptic featured one of my puzzles, and I commented saying, "Hey, I've got a walkthrough solve of this on my channel if anyone's interested." And I instantly gained 200, 300 subscribers.

Mike Gerholdt:
Oh, wow.

Rangsk:
And at that point, I was like, "Well, I better start making content." So, I decided, "Hey, maybe I'll start solving Sudoku's on there, not just my own, and see if I can grow that audience." And I was really enjoying the feedback I was getting from that. Flash forward to Wordle becoming popular, I was very much entrenched at that point within the logic puzzle community.
And Wordle, of course, really became popular within that community. And so, I decided, "Well, I'm already making Sudoku content. Why don't I make YouTube shorts where I solve Wordle?" And so, that's really where I get started on that. And then, I went from... it had taken me two years to reach a thousand subscribers where I could finally monetize on YouTube. And then, within two months, my Wordle shorts had brought me to 10,000 subscribers.

Mike Gerholdt:
Wow.

Rangsk:
And so, that was like, wow, Wordle's my thing, I guess. And so, I decided just to... in addition to my Sudoku content, I started making word game content as well.

Mike Gerholdt:
Yeah, I definitely was on the sideline for the Wordle wave. I remember it kind of crashing through. And I feel like for me, it was, "Oh, everybody's playing it, so I'm not going to play it." I also was afraid that I would never get a word. "Oh, man." Because my Facebook feed was filled with all of the little Wordle squares that everybody would post. I'm like, "Oh, I know so-and-so."
I know some book editors and I know some people that are in the education space, and they were struggling with Wordle. And I was like, "I have no shot. Maybe I just shouldn't play this." But now that I've played it, I confess, today is my 40th day playing Wordle.

Rangsk:
Okay. I hope you're enjoying it.

Mike Gerholdt:
I am. I also have come now to the realization that I will never get it in one word. So, I have purposely looked ahead to see what words haven't been used as solutions, and then picked my beginning word now pending, the solution hasn't happened. My beginning word now is spoil because it has two vowels in it and it hasn't been used as a solution.

Rangsk:
Got you. Yeah. So, for me, getting word in one, of course, it would be exciting, but I would also feel a bit cheated because I didn't get to play that day.

Mike Gerholdt:
Yes.

Rangsk:
And to me, Wordle... I'm very much a logic puzzle guy. I approach even word games as if they were logic puzzles. And I think that's why I like Wordle so much is because you can treat it like a logic puzzle, where you're given information and then you want to come up with the best possible guess to utilize that information and get as much information as you can more.
And you think about patterns in the words, not just, "Here's all the words I know," but "Okay, E likes to be at the end. R likes to be second. These letters like to be near each other. These letters don't like to be near each other." And so, you can kind of think about the patterns that you notice within words. And of course, every once in a while, you get tripped up by a weird word that comes from French or something and doesn't follow any of the rules.
But even then, you get there by logically eliminating, it's not a regular word. So, I now have to investigate, is it one of those weird esoteric ones that came from French, for example, or came from a different language? So, yeah, I like to approach it as a logic problem, and I think that's why people enjoy watching me solve it. I constantly get feedback, "I'm better at the game after watching you play it."
That warms my heart. That's exactly what I want. I'm not out here trying to impress people. I'm not trying to be a magician. I'm trying to be an instructor, and I'm trying to get people to understand that these games can be approached from a logical perspective. You can learn to get better at it without just going and memorizing a bunch of words.

Mike Gerholdt:
Right. Perfect segue to exactly why I'm having you on the podcast, because I ran across one of your TikTok videos on Connections, and I'd never played Connections. And the tone and the manner, now that you say instructor, I joked with a colleague that I called you the Bob Ross of Connections. But your tone was very calming.
"And let's work through this, and here's all the words. We have to come up with four groups of four. Let me walk you through the way I'm going to think through this," which your logic or your critical thinking. And it wasn't just, "Well, these four have to go together. Why don't those go together?" And it's like, "No, but let's think about every possible meaning of this one word."
Or I love when you, especially on some of the Connections, "What is the, not weirdest, but what is the farthest outlying word? And let's pick that and see how it can connect to other things."

Rangsk:
Yeah, I'm glad you recognized both my logical approach, but also the demeanor that I try to give to my content. I've been called Bob Ross by more than just yourself, also Mr. Rogers. Just having that calming presence is really important to me because people have so much going on in their lives. They have stress coming from everywhere, and then they try to escape that with the free time that they have.
They're scrolling TikTok or they're scrolling YouTube or whatever it is. And when you do that, you're just getting people yelling at you. You're getting people trying to make you afraid, trying to make you angry. And I want to counter that. I want to be a place where I come up on your feed and you feel like, "Okay, this is a setting where I can understand what's going on. I'm not being yelled at."
"Things are calm, things are straightforward and I'm learning, but I don't feel like I'm being talked at." I don't know the best way to put that.

Mike Gerholdt:
Or chastise. I mean really, because I think that's one thing, how this kind of carries over to software is critical thinking, but also when you're building applications or you're building programs, it's change that you're going to introduce to somebody. And I've always told people, when you roll out something, nobody wants to show up to work and feel stupid.
And the easiest way to feel stupid is by showing them something they don't understand. And you can walk into some of these games and be like, "I don't understand. It doesn't make sense." And then, it makes you feel stupid when actually if you just sit and look at it.
To me, I use a few of these games in the morning when I have a cup of coffee to kind of warm my brain up, kind of get me thinking through the day and sitting there thinking, "Okay," so this word for example, and maybe Connections is coat. Okay. So, coat and I started, "Well, how would David describe this?" Well, coat could be a jacket. Coat could be a heavy coat.
Coat could also, you coat something with paint. I try to use some of the stuff that you teach to like, how would I talk through this and not just take it as the first thing that comes to mind?

Rangsk:
Right. And I get a lot of feedback, which I honestly don't appreciate very much because it's counter to what I'm trying to put across, which means I'm not communicating that effectively enough. But a lot of feedback is like "You're overthinking it. If you'd just gone with your instinct, it would've been correct." And they're ignoring all the times, probably the majority of the times, where had I gone with my instinct, it would've been wrong.
Because these puzzles are designed to trick you. They are logic puzzles. And it's not much of a puzzle if it's just find four things that go together and that will be right. And so, the game is all about... I just made a comment today where someone was like, "Overthinking the easy ones is detrimental, but overthinking the hard ones is actually useful."
And my response to that was, "Well, overthinking has a negative connotation to it, by definition. All I'm doing is thinking. And there's nothing wrong with thinking when you're solving a puzzle." So, yeah, the game is trying to get you to think. And you can either let it get you to think and follow along with the human creator of this puzzle and what they were trying to achieve in getting you to think about, or you can bash your head against it and try to get lucky, which to me isn't fun.
And sometimes I have to resort to that and I feel bad about it. But most of the time, I try to logically approach the problem and also try to see what did the creator of this puzzle intend me to think about? And that's going to be fun and that's going to give longevity to the gameplay.

Mike Gerholdt:
Overthinking also comes from a position of I know the answer and you don't. At one point, they didn't know the answer. So, how can I overthink something if I don't know the answer? In hindsight, yes, I can look back at a solution, "Oh, I way overthought that. But I only know that because I went down that path and then I came back."
Much like thinking through different situations or different, we talked about software debugging before I pressed record. Can you overthink software debugging? Well, yeah, I suppose. But you only know that once you go down that entire path and then come back.

Rangsk:
And I will say there's kind of a corollary to that where you said in hindsight, and I think that's another aspect of my content that you don't see a lot, and I think it's a really important aspect, which is after I've solved it, go and do a post-mortem basically, to use the industry term. Go and look back and say, "What is it that I did right? What is it that I did wrong?"
"How could I have thought about this differently to have succeeded when I failed? Or why did I succeed at this? What did I do that I liked that I should try to do more of?" And I think that's a really important aspect of after you've solved a puzzle, or if you're working on debugging software, if you're working on any problem that you're trying to solve, don't just say, "Oh, I solved it. Let me throw that out."
You say, "I solved it. Let me now internalize what worked and didn't work so that when I have a problem again in the future, I can utilize that and gain wisdom and gain experience."

Mike Gerholdt:
I'll be honest, one of the coolest things, I'll get off Connections. One of the coolest things that you added to your Wordle solutions is you go into a website that somebody create a bot and you kind of, "Okay, so here's the word I put in and we got orange, yellow, and green here. What is the bot say is the next one? What did I guess? Here's what I guessed. Here's this, that. Here's what I guessed. Okay."
And oftentimes you're either... it helps you do that post-mortem because with Connections, you have a little bit different, you can see your categories, but with Wordle, you're like, "Was this the next best thing for me to guess to try and get to the solution?" And I love that you kind of walk through that with that bot and the bot's like, "Oh, yeah, so you basically had two choices after this word and you went to this one, which no harm, no foul, it was the other word." I need that bot for everything.

Rangsk:
Yeah. And what's nice about Wordle is a bot like that can exist because it's pretty easy to write a perfect solver. I wouldn't say it's easy, but it's viable to write a perfect solver for Wordle. And there's not a perfect solver for every problem you're going to encounter, but you can at least go back and analyze that.
And I think an aspect that I thought about while you were describing what I do with that Wordle bot that I'd like to touch on is the question is, did I get lucky? Because a lot of times in problem-solving, there is a luck factor. Did I look at the right thing first or did I look at the right thing after struggling for three days on this problem? And the Wordle bot will answer that question for you.
It'll say, "Oh, yeah, you totally got lucky. There were 60 possible words and you picked out the right one." So, what I learned from that is maybe it was a lucky decision, but maybe it wasn't the optimal decision, even though the optimal decision would've had a worse outcome in this situation. And recognize because... I guess to put it this way, if you can't separate what was lucky from what was good, then you're going to depend on getting lucky more and more.
You're going to internalize what you did that made you get lucky rather than internalizing what you did that actually set yourself up for success.

Mike Gerholdt:
Well, I think that's... some of that has to do with why people gamble. They just feel they're lucky as opposed to working through the, I go back to the... I love the movie Apollo 13. Let's work the problem and go through it. Kind of transitioning that because I obviously could talk Wordle. You also do that really good on the mini crossword, where if by chance you happen to get all the downs, all the downs also solve all the acrosses for the most part.
And so, you'll go back through and be like, "Oh, well, let's look and see actually what these questions were that the answer just autofilled back in." I think there has to be something that it does to your brain because it also trains it. You're like, "Oh, now, I'm not just reading this word, I'm also reading the clue that the creator of the puzzle had in addition to what the word is, and it just happened to be filled in for me."

Rangsk:
Yeah. If we want to even just touch back on Connections for a little bit.

Mike Gerholdt:
Yeah, please.

Rangsk:
Every day I get comments from people saying, "Oh, the first thing I do is shuffle because they put in these red herrings and I don't want to be tricked by them." And I feel like this is just intentionally throwing out information about the puzzle because we've been told that they think very, very hard actually. They put a lot of thought into the arrangement of the words that are presented to you, which means they've added information to the system.
And by hitting shuffle immediately, without even attempting to interpret that information, you've thrown out part of the puzzle. And to me, I feel like I can go, "Okay, well, they decided to put these tiles next to each other. What does that mean? Are they trying to trick me? Are they trying to hint me towards the solution? What is the information that they are trying to give me by this placement?"
And I would lose all that if I hit shuffle. And so, I feel like it's kind of a short-sighted strategy because you can't learn to overcome the tricks that they're trying to put into the puzzle if you just wipe them clean first thing without even appreciating them.

Mike Gerholdt:
Right. Absolutely. Actually, you're the one that taught me that. I was partway through at Connections the other day and I think that two words were iron and steel, and I was like, "Those started right next to each other. I bet those don't have anything to do with each other. I'm not going to fall for it."

Rangsk:
Yeah, sure enough, they didn't. Exactly. And had you hit shuffle, you wouldn't have known that.

Mike Gerholdt:
No idea.

Rangsk:
And you might've said, "Well, iron and steel, those are both metals. Maybe that's a thing." I think they're getting wise to me. I think the other day they actually put three of them all on top of each other that were in the same category.

Mike Gerholdt:
Oh, no.

Rangsk:
In general, they are adding information when they, instead of presenting the tiles in a random order, just having a piece of software randomize it and presenting it, they are laying it out and they're discussing how they want to lay it out. And I think that's part of the puzzle. You're removing some of the interest in the puzzle by hitting shuffle. And it's the same with mini crossword.
Yeah, you can solve it with just the acrosses or just the downs, but you're losing something by not at least going back and looking what was the whole puzzle. Because these kinds of clues are going to come up over and over again and this is a perfect opportunity, while it's fresh in your mind and while you're in the context, to use it as a learning experience for future puzzles.

Mike Gerholdt:
I completely agree. So, I think one of the things that fascinates me and I love using, I'll call them word games and maybe they're logic games. You need to tell me the difference. But using these to keep my mind sharp is I feel like it helps me be a better thinker just in general, just at my job, just working through decisions in life. You've been solving games a lot longer than me. How have you seen that kind of help you in your professional career?

Rangsk:
It's really interesting that you asked that because an aspect of my day job is actually studying transference is what the psychology term is, which is if you are to play a game and get good at it or do a logic puzzle and get good at that puzzle, does that have transference? Does that transfer to other aspects of your life? Are you just getting better at that game? Or is there sort of a rippling effect to the rest of your life?
Okay. If I play GeoGuessr where I'm trying to locate where I am in the world, does that make me a better driver on my commute? Or if I am playing logic puzzles a lot, does that make me better at debugging software? Whatever it is that you're trying to actually accomplish in your life, are these things just games and you get good at that one game, or are these things that are going to transfer to other areas of your life?
And that's actually a pretty hot topic of study within psychology, cognitive science, neuroscience. And there's a lot of studies going on right now related to that with mixed results. Some of these things that they claim, "Hey, if you play this game every day, you're going to get smarter. You're going to get better in these other areas of your life." And it may not be true.
For me personally, I find it beneficial to just keep using my brain. Think of the brain as a muscle and just keep using it. Make sure those connections are strong. And by practicing it in low-stakes scenarios, when you get hit with a high-stakes scenario, you have this sort of instinct to fall back on for how you're going to handle that. Yeah. Does that-

Mike Gerholdt:
No, I'm still processing all of that transference information you gave because I was just thinking about how that applies to other things like prepping for tests. Did you just get good at taking the test, or did you genuinely learn the information? We can also talk about tests, but nobody wants to do that anyway.

Rangsk:
I'll talk about it.

Mike Gerholdt:
Are you just good at taking the test too? That's the third thing to bring up.

Rangsk:
Yeah, exactly. And this is a big topic in education, has been for a long time, which is how much do we lean on standardized tests and how much do we teach to the test? And is the standardized test important because we just need metrics on how students are generally doing, or is the standardized test also something that can direct curriculum? That's a question that every teacher has.
And I don't think there's a perfect answer to that, and I'm also not much of an expert on that at all. But in my opinion, I think that anything you learn is good. I've always hated the question, when am I going to use this? The answer is, you use your brain every day. And the more you can teach your brain how to learn and all these cool things, that expands your horizons.
It expands your use of your brain. Yeah, sure, you might not use algebra if you're not an accountant or a scientist or a mathematician. Yeah, you might not use algebra, but one day you're going to have the question and you're going to have the curiosity that's going to relate to math in some way. And you either have the tools to think about it properly or you don't, and that's something that you could have internalized, but you decided you weren't going to use it, and so you didn't.
But there's the expression, when you have a hammer, everything looks like a nail. I have always thought that the more tools you have in your toolbox, the more versatile you can be in problem-solving and just living your life properly. Properly is not the right word. I didn't mean to say it that way, but living your life to its fullest extent, being able to accomplish the goals that you want to accomplish, being successful.
It's all about setting yourself up for success. And you don't know what problems are going to arise. And so, the more tools you give yourself, the less everything starts looking like a nail, and the more you can be exacting and fall back on previous experience.

Mike Gerholdt:
Yeah, I often think of... it's funny you bring up that algebra example. I was also that kid that was really horrible at math, so I never played Sudoku. But the concept sometimes of how you solve the algebra problem, I think to me, was also more important than what the answer was.
And that to me is almost like the first time you pull the cover off a toy and realize there's a whole bunch of gears inside that make the bear move and kind of understanding, "Oh, there's more to this that I need to understand as opposed to just what the outcome is." We had this discussion the other day, outputs versus outcomes.
And if your outputs is solved puzzles, are you smarter than if your outcome is no, but I learned the process and I learned how to work through difficult situations. The outcome is very different than the outputs.

Rangsk:
I love the way you put that and that's something... I solve The New York Times hard Sudoku every day on my YouTube channel. And my goal is not to say, "Look, I solved the puzzle." My goal is to help the viewers be able to solve the puzzle, but not just that. To understand that it's the act of solving it that's the fun part, not having that completed grid with all the correct numbers in it.
And it seems obvious when I say it that way, but I get so many people commenting saying, "Well, if I just go through and fill out all the candidates first, which by the way is super boring, then I can solve it in four minutes, and you took 12 minutes." I feel like I failed that person because now they're going to get bored of Sudoku very quickly.
Because who wants the first thing they do when they first receive that piece of paper or the digitally, the Sudoku puzzle, is go cell by cell and do accounting work? The puzzle can tell you a story if you let it tell you the story. And there are ways that you can approach the problem solving such that you are following along. It's like you're reading a book.
You're following along the story. And in a sense, it's almost like a "choose your own adventure book" where you can choose where you want to go next. What do I want to discover about this puzzle? And just put a smile on your face every day because you found this really cool piece of logic and you go, "Ooh, that's really neat. It just told me about this cool structure."
And people who are like, "Oh, well, I solve it in two minutes and I can just plunk them down, and I don't understand why you're doing all of this." And a year later, they've moved on. They're not doing Sudoku anymore, and they think it's boring. And I'm still doing it and I'm still learning from it every day.

Mike Gerholdt:
Right. Because the outcome for you is a lot different. The euphemism is the journey versus the destination.

Rangsk:
Yes. I'm a big fan of Brandon Sanderson and that's a big thing in Stormlight Archive, which is there's... not to get too spoilery, I won't spoil Stormlight Archive for people. But there is a group of people who basically have a mantra and part of that is journey before destination. We all have the same destination. And when it comes to puzzles, the destination is the solved puzzle, but it's about how you got there.
The journey is the important thing. And you can start talking about things, do the ends justify the means? It's much of a corollary to that when you start talking about how you live your life. And I feel like if you start approaching even a logic puzzle that you're doing for fun, if you approach that in a way where you're trying to take shortcuts, that's training yourself to take shortcuts in all areas of your life.
And I feel like that's... you're cheating yourself. That's another thing. People are like, "Is it cheating if I do this? Is it cheating if I do that?" And it's like, it's a single-player game. There's no stakes to it. The only person you're cheating is yourself. Are you enjoying the way that you're solving this? And that's the important thing. Okay, if I'm doing a crossword or if I'm doing Connections and there's a word I don't know, is it cheating if I look it up?
Well, that's up to you. Do you want this to be a trivia game where you need to be going into the puzzle with a certain set of knowledge, and you want to learn as you go, and you learn from your failures because you didn't know what that word meant? And now you've looked it up and now you're going to remember it? That's one way to approach it.
And a perfectly other valid way to approach it is, "Oh, this puzzle has shown me this word that I don't know. This is a perfect opportunity to look it up and have some success because I looked it up." And I think both approaches are valid.

Mike Gerholdt:
Yeah. There's so much to unpack there, but the first thing I wanted to say was the best and worst times of doing any of the logic puzzles or The New York Times stuff is when it's solved is the best because I was like, "Yes, I did it." And the worst is, "Ugh, it's over." Especially a few times with Wordle or with Connections or even the mini crossword, "Oh, I finally got it."
And to that other point, there have been times when I was like, "Okay, I clearly..." I don't know some... I think one of the questions was something and it was super pop culture. I was like, "I just need to Google this. That's my mulligan. I'm going to take it, I'm going to Google it and that's going to give me the answer." Because I'm past the point of enjoyment for this game and I need a little boost to get me back and going for that, and it's my game, so I can do that.

Rangsk:
Yeah. And it's all about knowing yourself and knowing what you're going to be happy with later and what you might be sad about later. And I think you kind of hit the nail on the head. Are you still enjoying the puzzle? Because that's the important thing. We don't do these because it's our job. We're doing puzzles because it's fun and enriching.
And so, it's all about sustainability. What's going to sustain your interest in this hobby? And are you going to be a flash in the pan where you deep dive into crosswords or Sudoku or whatever word game for a month and then you're done with it and you move on? That's one personality style. Another personality style is crosswords are something that I do every morning for 50 years.
There are people like that too. There are a lot of people like that. And there's a big difference. Someone who's going to do that every morning for 50 years, they're enjoying it every day and they've found ways to sustain that enjoyment. Whereas there-

Mike Gerholdt:
Go ahead.

Rangsk:
Sorry, go ahead.

Mike Gerholdt:
No, I'm 100% with you. I was going to ask because we didn't touch on it and maybe it's for a reason because it's in beta, but Strands. I think you said it in one of your puzzles, I was like, "I just need you. Can you just tell me if any of the four letters I put together are close to one of the words you want as opposed to just nothing?" And I think that for me, we get some of that.
Well, you can tell me more of the game logic. But with Wordle and with Connections, at least with Wordle, I get a yellow. I get a colored square. Regardless of what I put in, I'm getting a color back. And with Connections, oftentimes I'm like, "Please just say one away." But you get kind of that.

Rangsk:
But even if it's not one away, it's still information.

Mike Gerholdt:
It is, yes. Except with Strands.

Rangsk:
Yeah, Strands is missing that. And the reason Strands is missing that is because I really feel like they built the hint system because they knew this was an issue. But the hint system is terrible because people don't want to use it. Some people do use it, but I don't like using it. I think that, first of all, making it a choice. Wordle, you don't have the choice to see whether a tile was yellow or green.
It's just going to tell you. It's part of the game. A hint system feels like it's external to the game as like a, "I'm not good enough, so I'm going to press the hint button." And I don't think that was their intent, but I think that's what's happened because they realized that most of these games have some kind of lockstep functionality where you make as you progress through the puzzle and you gain information as you go.
Whereas with Strands, you can be sitting there for 15 minutes and know as much as you did on minute one, even though you have found 100 words because you didn't find any of the words that they're intending and you're not understanding what the theme is trying to hit you towards. And it's just frustrating. And so, they probably saw that in the playtest and went, "Well, if you get three words, we'll give you a word."
But that doesn't feel good because, first of all, they gave the choice. I kind of wonder what would the game be like? Is it just you get three words and it just reveals one without pressing hint? And it was just part of the game. I feel like more people would accept that rather than opting into admitting that you're not good enough at the game.
But also the hint system is just simultaneously not powerful enough and too powerful. And I could rant about this. I feel like it's a bit off-topic.

Mike Gerholdt:
No, this is 100% on topic.

Rangsk:
All right. Well, I'll rant about it then. Early on, it's too powerful because it gives you... for those not familiar with Strands, it's like a word search game, but they don't tell you what words you're looking for.

Mike Gerholdt:
Nope.

Rangsk:
Instead, they all follow a theme. Maybe the theme is names of football teams or the theme is pieces of time, so seconds, minutes, hours. And some of them are a bit more esoteric. They might be words that are slaying for money, but are also food was one of them. And so, it really varies in difficulty. And they give you a little kind of crossword style clue hint at the start of what the theme might be.
But it's usually not. Usually, it's either, "Oh, I know exactly what the theme is from this clue," or, "I have no idea what the theme is from this clue." There's not much in between. But anyway, what the hint does is if you get three words that they didn't intend, if you find three words, you can press the hint button and it highlights all of the letters involved in one of the words.
And then, it becomes an unscramble basically. And then, you find that word. And I think the ideal situation when using the hint is then, okay, now that I know what one of the words is, I've now gained information about what the theme might be and I can try to think of other words that match. And if that's not enough, I'll find three more and I'll press hint again and I'll get another word.
But it's too powerful because people don't want to just be shown one of the words. That's literally taking away from the enjoyment of the game because the game is only finding the words. And so, you're literally pressing a button saying, "I want one last word to find please." But then, at the end, sometimes you're down to one word left, it tells you how many words you need to find, and you're down to one word left.
And I've literally spent 10, 15 minutes trying to unscramble that word because I can't figure it out. When it was Broadway shows, and I couldn't unscramble Carousel for the life of me because I hadn't heard of that Broadway show, and it's a weird word. Carousel. And so, the hint wouldn't have helped me. If I'd pressed hint, it would've highlighted all the letters.
So, the hint is simultaneously too powerful early on and not powerful enough at the end. And then, also on top of that, isn't giving you what you want from a hint. So, I feel like it's a failure in game design there. And what they should have done is built-in ratcheting game mechanics that aren't opt-in.

Mike Gerholdt:
What are ratcheting game mechanics? Please tell me.

Rangsk:
So, if you think about a ratchet wrench. When you go one way, it doesn't lose progress on tightening, and then you go the other way and it tightens more. That's what a ratchet is. And so, you can make progress without losing progress. So, as you put input into the system and as you find things towards the game mechanics, you have now ratcheted yourself, you've given yourself more information.
It's a ratchet-style gameplay. So, like Wordle, you input a guess and you get those yellows and greens and grays, and now you have more information about what the answer might be. And you never lose that information. That information never becomes obsolete. You can always use it. So, in the same way, that's why some of my suggestions for Strands were, "Hey, you know what?"
"If I get partial word, maybe it should tell me, 'Hey, you got a partial word. You're on the right track.'" It's ratcheted that information into the system. It's like getting a green or a yellow in Wordle. Or if they want to keep the hint system, maybe one option for the hint system would be show me the starting letter of one of the words. Not the whole word, just give me somewhere to start.

Mike Gerholdt:
Where do I start? Yeah.

Rangsk:
Yeah. This letter I know is the start of a word now and I can focus my search on that. And so, I wouldn't feel as bad pressing that. But what if that were just part of the game mechanics? It's like rewarding you for finding words. They aren't the right words, but you're still finding valid words that exist. So, why not have those, just add information to the system as you guess in certain creative ways.
So, it feels like a failure of game design that there isn't that sort of ratchet other than the opt-in very heavy-handed hint system that they have right now.

Mike Gerholdt:
Right. I am so glad you brought up that Broadway Strands because I was about... I'm like, "I think I'm done. I think I'm done with Strands now." It took me so long to get... the first thing I found with Strands is you either get started and it starts to make sense, or you're sitting there and you're looking at these two words and the clue and you're like, "I have no idea what these three things have to do with each other. I don't know what another word to look for."
But that Broadway with Carousel, I was stuck on Carousel. I got everything else. Those are the only letters left. I never hit the hint button. And I thought, "What happens if you hit the hint button when you're done?" Because at that point, I'll be honest, the game Joy, it was no joy in Mudville right now. I just wanted to be done. Just please tell me what the answer is. I think I went through... I watched your TikTok.
I went through all the same words you did. I'm like, "I don't know what word this is. Just tell me." And when I hit hint, it just put the little things around. I was like, "I know it's those letters."

Rangsk:
Yeah, exactly.

Mike Gerholdt:
I know it's those letters. Get me out of here. Where is the escape room button? That's the only time I wanted the hint button to just be like, "Nope, we're just going to solve this because we feel bad for you."

Rangsk:
And people use my videos as hints. They'll be like, "Well, I'm done with this puzzle. I haven't solved it, but I'm not getting joy out of it. Let's see what Rangsk did." Rangsk being my handle. "Let's see what he did and maybe that'll give me a hint." And that's actually the entire premise of me doing The New York Times hard Sudoku every day in that instructive way is I know that there's always going to be someone who's stuck on that specific Sudoku puzzle because it's so widespread.
It's published by The New York Times. They're going to search on YouTube or Google. They're going to search "New York Times Sudoku today walkthrough or hint."

Mike Gerholdt:
Solve or something.

Rangsk:
Yeah, solve. And they're going to find my video and that'll track them to my channel. And not only will they find my video, but this video is going to blow their mind if they don't know modern Sudoku-solving techniques. And they're going to be like, "Wow, I need to watch more of these because this is way more fun than how I've been solving Sudoku, and I don't get stuck as much."
"And if I do get stuck, I watch him until he does something I didn't know, and then I can continue." So, almost using me as a hint button. And I feel like with Strands, there's no strategy. Strands feels like a trivia game to me almost. I've been trying so hard to make it a logic game, which you probably have noticed if you watched my Strand solves, where I'm like, "Okay, corner strategy, edge strategy."
And it kind of works, but it's not perfect and there's not a whole lot of logic involved. I will say there are word search games that do feel a lot more like a logic puzzle. One of them that I play is called Cell Tower. And this is probably the coolest word search game I've played. Normally, I'm not a big fan of word search-style games. I'm not very good at them.
But to briefly explain this game, it's a grid of letters just as you'd expect a word search to be. And the way that these letters form words is a little bit unique, and that's not that important to describe, except basically you're drawing shapes in the grid. So, you're connecting the letters together in kind of a different way that you'd normally expect.
You're not drawing a line through the letters to make words in order. You're just sort of highlighting them, and they have to be connected in some way. And it's red left to right, top to bottom. And so, it's sort of limiting you on... you can't make a word bottom right to top left. You can't just draw a line that way, or you can't zigzag around. Instead, there's a specific logical order to how the letters are going to appear in a word.
In addition to that, every letter is part of a word, similar to Strands in that way. So, every letter will be involved in a word, and there is only one solution. So, you can't just go, "Okay, I found this word. Let's lock that in. Okay, now I found this word." You're going to find a bunch of words, but you need to look at how that affects the rest of the grid around it and make sure you're not preventing the ability for the letters around it to also be part of words.
And that's where the logic comes in, where you go, "Okay, I think this word might be part of it. Can I add an -ed ending, an -ing ending, an S at the end? Is there a prefix I can add to it to expand that word? But also, how does that affect the letters around it? Am I going to be able to make a word out of these other letters if this was one of the words I use?"
And so, you end up with this really logical approach to how you solve it. And you're thinking about how letters go together, how they go next to each other, and how words are formed in general. And you're looking at corners like, "Okay, this letter is going to have to be related to the letters around it in some way because it's in a corner because it's been isolated in some way."
And so, it's not that you're trying to just find words that match a theme and the computer tells you, "Oh, yep, you found one of them," or, "Nope, that wasn't what I was looking for, sorry," with no extra information. Instead, you're trying to solve this logically and the computer is not giving you any help at all there. It's just the grid, the full information of the grid being used.
So, in a way, it's a lot like Sudoku, but also like Connections where you can't just pick any four words that happen to relate because that might disrupt the ability for the other words to relate to each other. So, that's what really makes a logic puzzle a logic puzzle is you have to take the puzzle as a whole and you have to take steps that are logical. It's not just a trivia game.

Mike Gerholdt:
That's so apropos to everything that we talked about. You have to look at the puzzle as a whole. Last question, because I happened to think of this when we were talking about Strands. As somebody that's online solving problems, word games and stuff, how hard, how many times do you just want to hit that hint button? Does that ever come up?
Maybe you have the patience of a saint, but have you ever gotten to that point where I know you're creating this for the good of other people and you have to walk through that, but you're like, "Maybe I just hit the hint button because I'm at 35 minutes on this video?"

Rangsk:
Yeah, for sure. And there's different forms that that takes in my mind. There's the built-in hint buttons to the game, but then there's also like, "Do I just Google this word?" I did do that once. There was a Connections, and I knew I was about to lose. I was like, "Okay, I've got no mistakes left. And there are three words on the board that I have no idea what they mean.
Literally never heard these words in my life. So, how am I supposed to... is it good content for me to just make a guess and lose? Or do I go on Google, look up what the words mean, and continue the puzzle?" And in that case, I decided to do that. And I got mostly feedback saying, "Yeah, I Googled it too. It was fine to Google it, looking it up. What's wrong with that?"
But then, I got a lot of negative feedback too about "How's it feel to cheat? You're such a cheater, blah, blah, blah." Just so much negativity. And so, I have to weigh the decision on how much negativity do I want in my comment section here, because they aren't just insulting me when they're calling me a cheater. They're calling everyone else who Googled a cheater.
So, people are seeing themselves in that comment when they're reading through the comment section. And that's something I need to figure... it's not something I've solved. I don't have an answer. But what I try to do is understand myself and go, "Okay, am I 35 minutes into this puzzle legitimately, or am I just done with it?" There's a game I play called Squaredle. There's actually two games I play.

Mike Gerholdt:
It sounds like all the puzzles put together.

Rangsk:
Yeah. There's two games I play called Squaredle. One of them has an extra E and one doesn't. The one with the extra E... so one of them removes the E in square and one of them keeps the E in square when they add the -dle ending. They're completely different games. One of them that I play with the E, it's another word search game.
It's a grid of four by four or sometimes five by five letters. And you need to find every possible word other than esoteric ones. They have some list of words that... you know how there's words that aren't really words, if you know what I mean? The esoteric ones, the archaic ones, out of use, highly specialized words. You don't have to find those.
They count as bonus words if you do find them. But there's a list of words that it's looking for you to get. And sometimes this list is 60 to 100 words. And this game can take me an hour and a half.

Mike Gerholdt:
Wow.

Rangsk:
I sit there and I record the whole solve. It's a special occasion usually. I'll do it once every week or every two weeks and then put it on my YouTube where I solve the hardest Squaredle of the week. Because just like The New York Times puzzles, it gets harder through the week. And so, I'm like, "I'm going to solve the hardest one today."
And it's a lesson in patience because you have to find every word, and it can take an hour and a half. And that's the kind of game where it's like, "Okay, I'm 30 minutes in, but I'm still solving the puzzle. And that's okay." There's also Sudokus that can take an hour, an hour and a half just because they're that hard. But it feels like you're making progress.
If you feel like you're making progress, that's just you're still in the journey. You're still solving it, and that's fine. It doesn't matter how long it's been, as long as you still feel like you're in the puzzle and you're making progress and you're enjoying it. But then, there's puzzles where... the puzzle usually takes two minutes, and you're 30 minutes into it, and you feel like you haven't made progress in the last 25 minutes or ever.
And you just have to make the decision of like, "Is this worth my time anymore?" And I've definitely had puzzles where I hit the stop button on the recording and I delete the video, and I just go, "I'm not solving that one today." Or ones where I go, "Well, it's time to get a hint." Literally, I just say, "I have failed this puzzle, but I want to see the end of it, so I'm going to look stuff up."
You have to make that decision in your head. And I think you brought up a really important point, which is... I think you brought this point up at least, it became this point in my head, which is you need to decide for yourself when that is and that it's okay. You gave it your best, time to seek help. And I think that's something that's really important in life is that it's okay to seek help when you need it.
I think people appreciate when you've put in some effort yourself first, but at the same time, they don't want... let me put it this way. I've been lead of several different teams as a programmer for my day job. And as a lead programmer, I would rather a junior programmer come to me with a problem that I can solve in a minute than spend six hours banging their head against it.
But at the same time, if it would've only taken them 10 minutes, I'd prefer them to learn that on their own. So, it's important to learn at what point have I stopped being productive? Have I stopped enjoying this? Am I not in the right mindset and I either need to take a break, do something else, or I need to seek help, or both?

Mike Gerholdt:
Yeah. No, I think you're right. The hint button and being called a cheater, you're only cheating yourself. It's what do you need to move on with? And your example is perfect. Is there something that can be gained by that person asking you? But I also think, what level of thinking did they put into solving this before they came to me?
And I always look at it as I'm very appreciative of, they came to me because they hit that wall, but they also realized quickly that they hit that wall.

Rangsk:
Exactly.

Mike Gerholdt:
And now they need to move on so that that learning journey continues as opposed to being frustrated in themselves.

Rangsk:
Yeah. And that's a skill unto itself. And that really separates the people you enjoy working with from the people you don't enjoy working with, people who are team players and people who aren't. That really separates them because it's a matter of, "I don't want to be doing your job for you. I've got my own job to do, but also I don't want you sitting there suffering as if you were alone."
And there's that balance. And recognizing in yourself when you've hit that state is really important. And I think that... going back to the conversation about transference. That's something that can transfer. If you're playing games, and you can learn in a low-stakes scenario, how do I... be in yourself, be in your body, be in your mind, and be like, "I now recognize what I'm like when I'm in this hopeless scenario where I've given up without giving up, where I'm frustrated, where I'm tired, where I'm hungry."
It's something even like children need to learn. Am I sad or am I just hungry? Or do I need to take a nap? That's something children need to learn, but it's not something we stop learning as a child. It's something we need to always know ourselves, know how our mind works, know what our limitations are, and know what our limitations aren't.
Is this something I can just continue on, or is this something that I need to use my coping mechanisms that I've learned throughout my life to deal with this situation? Part of the problem has now become my own mind. And that's something you can learn by putting yourself constantly in these difficult situations, like difficult logic puzzles or trivia puzzles, where you're not very familiar with that trivia or whatever it is for you that puts you out of your comfort zone in a safe, low-stakes environment.
So, you can learn how you yourself react to that and what that's going to take. And part of my job, implementing things, software. I need to recognize... have you ever had that... I'm sure everyone's had that late night where you've been banging your head against this fog or a thing you're trying to implement is just not working. You go home dejected. You get some sleep. You come in in the morning and you fix it in two minutes.
And had you just recognized that you were in that situation where you were not going to be productive anymore, and you'd just gone home and you'd gotten rest and you'd accepted that that's what's happening. And you actually had your relaxing night and you took the time that you needed for yourself, and you got the good amount of sleep, and then you came in the morning ready to go, and you just solved the problem.
Those two scenarios look the same from a work perspective, but look very different from a personal hygiene, mental hygiene perspective.

Mike Gerholdt:
I couldn't agree more. I couldn't agree more. I think it's also a great way to end this discussion, David. Thanks for coming on the podcast. You gave me so much to think about and here I was just excited to talk about word games. But really a lot of it is how you look at everything in life and how you tackle situations.
And really part of, I think, the word game or the game itself is also helping you understand yourself. So, this is a great discussion. I appreciate it. Thanks so much.

Rangsk:
Well, thanks for having me on. And if people want to watch my content, I'm just going to plug my stuff real quick.

Mike Gerholdt:
Absolutely.

Rangsk:
So, I am Rangsk on all platforms. R-A-N-G-S-K. I'm sure there'll be something in the description where you can find that. I'm on YouTube and also on TikTok. And I recently had to split my TikTok into multiple accounts. But if you find that Rangsk_YT account, that's the main one, and you'll be able to find the others through my videos.
And so, if you enjoy Sudoku, logic puzzles, word games, that sort of thing in an instructive calm environment, then my channel is for you.

Mike Gerholdt:
So, as I write, this was a shot in the dark, I'll be honest with you. I reached out to David after being completely addicted to his TikTok videos on Connections and Wordle, and just thought, "This is really what critical thinking looks like to me." And the conversation, I probably could have gone for another hour easily. I had a hundred more questions in my head, but I hope you enjoy it.
I do want you to do one thing. If you enjoyed this episode, go ahead and give David a follow. I promise you it's super rewarding to watch his critical thinking and the way that he solves problems and word problems and word games online. I honestly do think it will make you a better Salesforce admin and a better business analyst in general.
So, go ahead and give a click on the links below. Also, if you're not already following the Salesforce Admins Podcast, please do so. We're available on all the platforms. Click follow. Then new episodes like this one, we'll download automatically every Thursday morning. Thanks for listening and of course, we'll see you in the cloud.

 




Today on the Salesforce Admins Podcast, we talk to Michelle Blair, Community Manager at Salesforce.

Join us as we chat about Salesforce Community Events, her work with local event organizers, and why you should attend one near you.

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

By Trailblazers, for Trailblazers

Michelle is a part of the Trailblazer Community team, which helps millions of Salesforce users around the world come together and learn. I brought her on the pod to tell us about community conferences and how you can find an event near you.

Salesforce community conferences are created by Trailblazers, for Trailblazers. As Michelle shares, over 40 events are happening this year around the world, and they offer a great opportunity to connect with other people in the community and learn more about Salesforce.

Get personal at a Salesforce community event near you

When you think of Salesforce events, you probably think of Dreamforce or TrailheaDX. These events are huge and offer so much. But all of those choices can get a little overwhelming. The cost can also be a challenge. I remember exactly how much budget I had for attending conferences when I was a solo admin—it was $0.

If you’ve ever felt that way, Michelle recommends that you give community events a try. Because they’re volunteer-organized, they have a more intimate, personal, inclusive feel. It’s easier to talk to speakers and make those connections. You can also find one within driving distance so you don’t have to take a flight or book a hotel.

Most importantly, the quality of content and professional networking opportunities at community conferences is top-notch. Michelle and her team have put together a handy-dandy calendar so you can easily find a community event near you.

Get involved in the Salesforce community

Michelle’s team is hard at work making Salesforce community events even better. They offer sponsorships to help with affordability and are connecting organizers with keynote speakers and Salesforce engineers. This year, they’re bringing several hands-on workshops to community events to take your learning to the next level.

Be sure to listen to the full episode for more on the Salesforce community events happening around the world and how you can get involved. And make sure to subscribe so you never miss an episode.

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Full show transcript

Mike:
Salesforce community events are a great way to connect with Salesforce people in your area, consume some amazing content, dare I say Dreamforce level content, and get connected with your local user group. So this week on the Salesforce Admins podcast I'm talking with Michelle Blair, who's the community major at Salesforce. And she helps all of these community event organizers really propel their event into the next level. We talk about what a community event is, how it's different than an actual Salesforce event, some of the stuff that Salesforce is involved and not involved in when it comes to that. And I'll be honest, why you should go. Now, before we get into that episode, just want to make sure that you're following the Salesforce Admins podcast on Apple Podcasts or wherever you get your podcasts. That way when new episodes like this come out every Thursday morning, it's going to be right on your phone. So with that, let's get to our conversation with Michelle. So Michelle, welcome to the podcast.

Michelle:
Well, thank you, Mike. It's great to be here.

Mike:
Yeah. Well, I'm excited to talk about there's a lot of events that Salesforce does, but then the passion that runs through our community also exudes into them running their own events, which we'll talk about. But let's get started with you, how did you get started at Salesforce and what do you do?

Michelle:
Yeah, so it's been about three years that I've been at Salesforce now. And I actually was a customer prior to joining Salesforce and was implementing our marketing cloud and our social, using a lot of the social platform at the customer company. And came to Dreamforce back in 2018 and was able to lead a session at Dreamforce, and talking about our journey and working with a Salesforce expert within the company. And from there I really experienced the Trailblazer community and was so inspired and just like, okay, got to get in here somehow. And I was already working with our community at the customer. So kind of just got in there eventually and made my way in about three years ago now, and it's been quite a ride.

Mike:
And so at Salesforce you manage all kinds of stuff?

Michelle:
Yes, lots of community things.

Mike:
I feel like the over/under at one time I was a customer, it used to be very unique as an answer. Now it's very common. But our community events, so we do TrailblazerDX, and have Dreamforce and we have World Tours which are smattered across the US and EMEA. But we also have events that our Trailblazer community puts on, so tell me about those.

Michelle:
Yeah. So a little overview of the team that I'm on. So the Trailblazer community team we support that global network of millions of Salesforce users across the world now. And we really help them to learn, succeed, and enable them with the tools to be able to put on their own events, their own communities, bringing people together to talk all about Salesforce and share that knowledge. And we manage a number of different programs like the online community, our community groups, as well as our community experts like Salesforce MVPs, and of course these community conferences which I'm so excited to dive into a lot deeper on this podcast.

Mike:
Yeah. No, and I've been to quite a few of them, not all of them because I feel like there's more all the time. So what are we... First of all, they're not put on by Salesforce so you don't have anything in the planning of it, right?

Michelle:
That is correct.

Mike:
Okay.

Michelle:
We do not plan these. So these are a collection of learning conferences and they're created, organized, managed by the community for the community. So they are around Salesforce content, but just not a Salesforce led event. And they really do offer such a unique opportunity to learn network, get inspired and give back to your community. And like you said, they're entirely led by our incredible Trailblazers around the world. And they really just volunteer their time and pour their hearts into these community led events. And there are about 40 plus and counting this year and more to come. So these are just popping up all over, which is really exciting.

Mike:
And various sizes too, right?

Michelle:
Correct.

Mike:
With 40 plus, what are we looking at?

Michelle:
Yeah, so community conferences typically it'll be about 200 minimum and then can go to 1000s now. I think in certain places it goes, we've seen 1000s up to 2000, in the States about a 1000. And so they really are just quite a range of options as well. And each of them are so unique to their local culture, to their city, their region. And some are single day, some are multi-day, but all of them have tons of content and a lot of robust speaker lineups that really include a range of sessions, workshops, demos, and all of that networking that we know our Trailblazers love.

Mike:
Yeah. You were a customer and you said you went to Dreamforce, which that was your first event. That's like, ooh, I'm going to go on vacation for the first time and I'm going to go to Vegas or something. But I feel like when I was a customer I had a budget of zero, which made it very easy for me to know my budget every year. And I found community conferences as a super easy way to get connected with content that was, I would say Dreamforce quality but at a different price. What do you see... And you can see this from both angles, what do you see as the advantages of community conferences and some of our customers going?

Michelle:
Oh, absolutely. And kind of to touch on the Dreamforce part of my experience, it was extremely overwhelming. I remember just walking around and just not really knowing where exactly I should go. There was just so many options and it kind of is easy to feel a bit lost. And I think that is such a benefit of these community conferences. They really do feel like these intimate conferences that if maybe you are newer to the ecosystem, or maybe you're making a career change and you're just breaking in that way, or maybe you're a seasoned Trailblazer and you just enjoy more of these more intimate settings. And I think these community conferences really offer that. They also offer more of affordability in that way too, where they're just more accessible and budget friendly. So I think there's a lot of opportunity to be more inclusive through these than your typical industry event. And make it possible for folks who may not be able to attend those big events like Dreamforce and TDX. So I think that's really important to definitely note.

Mike:
Yeah, I know for a few of them I didn't even have to spend a night in a hotel. It was great because it was one day, but also the drive, the Midwest, everybody, we drive everywhere. We only fly if we have to go to the coasts. But you could drive, attend the event and drive home. And that also was a huge kind of budget saver. Not to focus on that, but money talks a lot.

Michelle:
100%, yes. And I think that is something that we absolutely love about these events, is we have to keep in mind that they're 100% community-led so these are people who are just volunteering to put these events on. So they create these events through sponsors, like ourselves, the Trailblazer community team we do offer a sponsorship. And just to help out with some of those costs, but it really it's a lot of people just have to get creative to put these events on. And I think they do such a wonderful job and really hone in on the community. And that's really the whole point of these is to bring the community together.

Mike:
Yeah, absolutely. And then for some of the events, I guess, what are you seeing as a trend in, you mentioned 2018 and I often think back to even the Dreamforce and some of the events that we've done pre 2020 and post 2020. What are some of the trends that you're seeing in the style of community event or the length of community event now versus say a few years ago?

Michelle:
That's a great question, Mike. And I wish as a customer, I had attended a community conference to be able to share that perspective of like this is as a customer back in 2018 versus now working at Salesforce and actually helping to support these events internally. But I will say, I think with the pandemic we definitely saw that these particular events, there was a pause on a lot of them. Many of them had to skip a year or two years or just coming back maybe this year, which is really exciting. And I will say last year in particular, that's when I really helped to bring our focus back to community conferences and really find ways to support internally through our team and build out this sponsorship. And I think there was so much excitement this past year and that continues on through this year. And I think internally, something we have been really honing in on is that internal awareness and making sure that employees know that these are happening.
We get out account executives, we get out those engineers who can really get this feedback in person. We also are delivering some hands-on workshops that have been really impactful at some of these pilots that we've had this year. And we have a goal of piloting 10 hands-on workshops at community conferences by the end of this year, which is really exciting.

Mike:
Yeah, I think that's always the part for me that felt very, I don't know, lack of a better term, real, was you went to the event and it was very local to you unless you flew across the country or something, or you went outside of the United States. But it felt very local. So there's a lot of people that you would know or you could connect with. If you go to an event in the Midwest, you're going to talk about the weather 100%. And then we're going to avoid bumping into you and say, "Oh, [inaudible 00:12:10]." But I think you get a mix of community members presenting, but then you also have Salesforce shows up. It just shows up in a very different way. It's not a heavy-handed message, but in a supportive manner like you said, where we can do a workshop. And so you still get kind of that local flavor, but also some of the big production of a hands-on workshop that you feel like, oh, well, this poor customer didn't have to spend 10 weeks toiling away to create this workshop.

Michelle:
Right. Yes, I think that is a really important note because we 100% want to respect the community and give them the credit that they all deserve for organizing these events. And one way we can do that is within our sponsorship package, we actually do offer whether it's keynote assistance, where we can make an ask on behalf of the conference organizers if they have a keynote or an internal speaker that they would really like as their keynote speaker or as a session topic. So that is one way we support logistically. And I think it is wherever we can help out, we will try to find a way. And I think it is just that trust piece where the community trusts us to have their back to know that we will support where we can. And then we trust in them to put on these incredible conferences that really just are the heart of this community.

Mike:
Yeah. Speaking of local, are there... And there's so many, are there unique events that some of these community events do outside of the conference?

Michelle:
Yes. So I know that... Well, and to give a little history but just on that local piece, Mike-

Mike:
Oh, please do.

Michelle:
So the history of these events really came from, I think it was back in 2012, and it's a customer who actually wasn't able to attend Dreamforce. They wanted to offer something similar to their local Salesforce network. So they basically decided to bring this mini Dreamforce to their hometown, and that's been duplicated all over the world now. We're seeing all of these pop up globally, but it really is the overall vision. And the goal here really is to connect local Trailblazer community groups. So those are those regional groups that get together, very product and industry specific groups, so architects, admins, developers. And then those local Salesforce customers who just want to get together and get to know each other as well as share that knowledge and then anyone interested in learning.
And that's really the goal here is to spark those connections and ideas for all. And yeah, I think the local piece is just so important because these conferences are a celebration in a sense of that region, that local culture that people really love about their city, about their state. So we do see a lot of very specific, especially in the States, very specific regions that these Dream and events are named after. And then we're seeing a ton come up in EMEA as well as APAC. Yeah, there's so much local flavor that we're seeing and it's amazing.

Mike:
It sounds like... Well, I'll flip to the other side of the coin because I feel like going to these is paramount. We've talked about that a lot. What if you're on the other side of the coin you're thinking, boy, I think I could do something like this in my area. From your perspective, what does it take to put on a community event? How big are some of these teams that plan these? And I think you said the turnout's kind of all over the place, but if somebody wanted to get started what are they looking at?

Michelle:
Great question. So typically with our conference planning teams, we see at least three to four members. I would say that's a minimum because you got to think about all the different components that go into these conferences and up to it could be 10 planning team members. So really is just depending on the scope of your conference and what you're trying to bring together. And we really recommend even forming an additional volunteer team to help handle this day of responsibilities as well. So those are additional folks who can jump in if there's any fires, anything going on that need to be addressed as soon as possible. Something we also do recommend is having at least one community group leader that currently is leading one of those regional community groups, just so that they kind of have that full understanding of the Trailblazer community and the importance of bringing the community together.
And then typically we also recommend that the planning team is individuals not employed but just by one company. It's really spread out through a company and different organizations coming together. And that could include customers, partners, and making sure that they are active members of the Salesforce ecosystem, the Trailblazer community. And that they really create that open and inclusive environment that these community conferences are known for.

Mike:
Yeah. No, sometimes it takes an army or what's it? No, it takes a village.

Michelle:
Takes a village.

Mike:
It takes a village, yes. May feel like an army sometime, but yeah, I've been to quite a few and I think it's always interesting. I also, just to speak to kind of the vibe, I don't know how best to say that but the vibe, the vibes at a community conference are so different. On top of just the speakers being super approachable, they'll get up and literally there'll be times... There was one time I was sitting in a session, he's like, "I wonder who the speaker is." And he just got up because they're not in this bougie suit like you see at Dreamforce. But also when you're there talking with the partners, the SIs and stuff, they're a little more laid back. It's a little more casual. I really enjoy that you can have what I'll call a human conversation, as opposed to at some of these more formal corporate events where the people at the booth or whatever are just trying to hard sell you the whole time.
There you can be like, now, you sit down and it's nothing to walk past a table and see people sketching stuff on a piece of paper. And then really working through the challenge as opposed to like, "Buy my product." I don't know how best to say that.

Michelle:
I totally agree, Mike. I think that is really the magic is that relaxed environment where you can show up authentically. You don't have to play a certain role or act a certain way. You just show up as yourself, whether you've been in the ecosystem for years and years or you're coming in new, I think it's somewhere that is so welcoming and inclusive of all. And that is something I just absolutely love. And you see that across every single community conference. It really is that's just the vibe of our Dream and events. So it really is incredible. And I think touching on the opportunities that when you can show up authentically, it really does offer or allows you to grow personally and professionally on such a different level because you can be yourself and then you make those really special connections that will allow you to become a better admin, become a better community member, become a better community leader. And then that kind of just flows into your personal everything. So I think that's really such a beautiful thing about these conferences.

Mike:
If somebody was listening and we'll put the link in the show notes, and wanted to find, do we list all these or is there a listing somewhere that they could find of these events?

Michelle:
We sure do, yes. Great question. It's exciting because we're actually going to be updating this landing page very soon. So you can find community conferences at Trailblazercommunitygroups.com. And then on that top area you can just click onto community conferences from there. And you will see a calendar of all of the amazing events that are happening throughout this year, and then all of the past events that have happened as well.

Mike:
So you can find out all the stuff you missed out on.

Michelle:
Yes, exactly.

Mike:
I feel like it's that way with me all the time. Like, oh. Every time I hear a band or a comic is going on tour, like, oh. And like, "You didn't know they were going on tour." You're like, "No, I didn't." And then you pull up the event and you're like, "Cool, [inaudible 00:22:19]."

Michelle:
It was last weekend, yeah.

Mike:
So conversely, if somebody's listening to this, what would be the bar? Is there a requirement that they should have stuff together before they contact you if they were looking to get into creating a community event?

Michelle:
Yeah, I think it really is there's quite a range in that too. When a team will come to us and say, "I have interest in this. I really don't know what to do. Can you help guide me?" And then we also see the other side where it's like, we have the date, we have the venue, we have everything already set. All we need from you is really the sponsorship and a point of contact on your team to help support in that planning and execution. So we show up wherever the conference planning team really is. And yeah, once they kind of go through our intake process and we say, "All right, you're approved. Here's the sponsorship, here's your point of contact." We then the point of contact on our team will be able to support them with all the additional items like that internal awareness piece. We do a demo jam trophy, that keynote speaker sourcing, some marketing support as well, as well as some little giveaway items that we provide.
And something new that we're piloting at domestic conferences is an onsite community booth where our team, yes, for those who our team is able to travel to some of these conferences. And when we do we kind of bring this community booth kit where we have pop-up banner, we have all of the things that help to identify the Trailblazer community. And we spread some of that awareness of what makes the Trailblazer community unique, and how we support these conferences as well as our community groups and our community experts. So lots of fun things.

Mike:
I would say, that's quite the welcome wagon. My God.

Michelle:
Yes.

Mike:
Well, Michelle, thanks for coming on the pod and talking about our community events. I know that I've been to quite a few and I've got quite a few listeners that go to them and plan them and talk about them. And it's just kind of a neat extra layer of participation that we have as part of this ecosystem.

Michelle:
Yes, I couldn't agree more, Mike. And thank you so much for supporting these incredible community led events. They really are just exactly what the community is all about. And we couldn't do any of this without the people who are organizing these events, so big shout out to them.

Mike:
Yeah, absolutely.

Michelle:
They're the real heroes here.

Mike:
Yep, absolutely. Well, it was great to have Michelle on the podcast. I'm glad she could join us. I really love going to community events. I think they're a lot of fun, and I wasn't kidding about the vibe. I think it's so much more enjoyable when you can sit down with a lot of the vendors. And also to be honest with you, a lot of the speakers are also a little less rushed too. So if you're working on a budget like I am all the time, community events are a great way to get connected with some great content. Also, a great way for you as a Salesforce admin to try out your presentation skills. If you've been presenting at a local user group and kind of want to go that next level, community event is a great way to get in front of a larger group of people and really try out your speaking abilities.
So if you enjoyed this episode, can you do me a favor and just tap on the three dots in Apple Podcasts and click the share episode. That way you can text it to a friend or you can most importantly share it on social. And of course, we mentioned resources, Michelle had a couple of URLs. I want to make sure you know how to get to those. All those resources are in the show notes, and those show notes and along with everything else is at Admin.salesforce.com, including a transcript of the show. Now, be sure to join us in the Admin Trailblazer group in the Trailblazer community if you're not there already. And of course, until next week, we'll see you in the cloud.

 




Today on the Salesforce Admins Podcast, we talk to Jason Atwood, CEO and Co-Founder of Arkus.

Join us as we chat about landing your first Salesforce Admin role, from finding good opportunities to nailing the interview and more.

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

The 20/30/50 rule

Jason has interviewed a lot of people for Salesforce roles in his 15 years in the ecosystem. His biggest piece of advice when looking for your first role is pretty simple: “Relax. It’s going to be OK.”

But you still need to acquire skills and there’s a lot to do, so Jason recommends following his 20/30/50 rule. Spend 20% of your time on Trailhead, 30% on certifications, and 50% finding some way to gain experience. This split loosely follows what he looks for on a resume when he’s making a new hire. He also shared some advice about each step of your journey.

Trailhead: Becoming a Ranger is your number one priority, followed by Superbadges. He also recommends taking the time to set up your profile with a photo, description of yourself, and custom URL.

Certifications: Don’t put off taking your certifications. Give it a go as soon as you’re ready. If you don’t get it this time, you can use your results to help you prep better the next time. And if you do pass, you can move on to the next one sooner.

Gaining Experience: Volunteering isn’t the only way to do this. You can enroll in a program where you build mock projects, or simply build something on your own that you’re willing to demo in an interview.

Preparing for a Salesforce Admin interview

Jason interviews a lot of people so I asked him, how should you prepare for your first interview for a Salesforce role? The first thing is to be ready for some sort of assessment. Since there’s often time pressure, Jason recommends doing a practice run. Talk to a friend, find out what kind of data they collect, and build them an app to track the books they’ve read or the distance they’ve run, anything will do.

When you sit down in the room, Jason emphasizes the importance of listening and showing empathy. One way to do that is to ask good questions. What’s their Salesforce roadmap and what can you build for them? What’s their organization’s approach to culture? You can also do your homework and bring up a blog post they wrote, or something specific their company has done.

Admins are consultants

Listening and empathy are so important to Jason because he sees that as the biggest part of the job.

“Being an admin is being a consultant for one organization. What are you doing? You’re talking to people, they're coming to you with their problems, you’re getting their requirements, you’re satisfying their needs, you’re working with them, you’re iterating, you’re updating things, and then you’re presenting it back to them.”

We touch on a lot more in this conversation about looking for Salesforce jobs, listening, and what it’s like to be a Salesforce consultant, so be sure to listen to the full episode and subscribe so you don’t miss out.

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Full show transcript

Mike:
I got an idea. How about we tackle the hardest question on the Salesforce Trailblazer community? That's right. This week on the Salesforce Admins Podcast, we're going to look for advice on finding your first admin job and doing the interview, getting experience, and more. And we're going to do all that with CEO and co-founder of Arkus, Jason Atwood. Jason and I chatted at TrailblazerDX and really wanted to dive into this topic. Now, before we bring Jason on, I just want to make sure that you're following the Salesforce Admins Podcast on iTunes or Spotify. That way, when new episodes like this one come out, they're automatically downloaded to your phone. But enough about that. Let's talk about finding that first job or even finding your next job as a Salesforce administrator. Oh, I almost forgot to mention we tackle the myth of "but it's just an admin job." So with that, let's get Jason on the podcast. So, Jason, welcome to the podcast.

Jason Atwood:
Thank you for having me. It's been a long time since we've podcast together.

Mike:
I know. I was thinking back; well, we were just reminiscing of the days at the Marriott Marquis and the Arkus podcast.

Jason Atwood:
Yep. You were on an episode of CloudFocus Weekly. We had it as part of our trivia once there was only four or five guests ever on the podcast, and you were one of them.

Mike:
Snuck in, only proximity. I'm going to say. So catch people up. What have you been up to?

Jason Atwood:
Well, since then, whatever that was, 10 years ago. Yeah. So I am now the current CEO and co-founder of Arkus. We're a Salesforce consulting firm. We deal mostly in the nonprofit space, and we've grown from that little company back then. We're almost up to 75 people. And now I run around between putting out fires, talking on podcasts, and trying to educate myself on the whole changing landscape of technology.

Mike:
Yeah, it does feel like in the last decade, it's gone from everything we know to a brand new world.

Jason Atwood:
It certainly is. And I just spent three hours at a Heroku dev meetup and could hang there mentally for a bit, but they lost me at a little point. So it's both fun, interesting, and challenging to stay up with all this stuff.

Mike:
So one of the things that everyone's trying to stay up with is the ever-changing job market and hiring. We see a lot of the questions in the Trailblazer community from new admins, people getting into the ecosystem that want to become Salesforce admins, people in the ecosystem that are looking for jobs, or maybe have kind of hit a career plateau. And you and I were chatting, and boy, I think it'd be fun to kind of delve into that topic with you.

Jason Atwood:
Let's do it. I have some experience in hiring people over the last 15 years, so I can certainly talk about it.

Mike:
A little bit more than me. More than me.
Well, let's get started. So let's start fresh. There's a lot of new people. As we were talking about in the intro, there's a lot of new people coming into the ecosystem that maybe don't have tech advice. They are doing Trailhead modules, completing challenges, getting a lot of badges, trying to round out their resumes, and they don't know A, what to look for, or B, what to put on their resumes. So somebody that's hired a bunch of people and been around for a long time, let's start there with some of your advice and where they should go.

Jason Atwood:
Sure. This is a very common thing, and the first thing I would tell everybody is relax. It's going to be okay. I know it feels daunting, and you see these triple all-star rangers and you see all these, the hoodies, and you see the people with the 15 certifications and 10 years of experience, and you feel like, "How am I ever going to get there?" You will; you'll get there. So the first thing is just to take it easy and not to get too worked up on it. It does feel like a lot. It's a very big community and filled with lots of hungry people for jobs, a lot of recruiters, a lot of activity. When I talk to people about getting started in the ecosystem, and certainly on the admin track, and we can talk about other tracks if you want, but on the admin track, I kind of say all those things matter.
So when it comes to certifications, when it comes to Trailhead, when it comes to experience, they all matter. And usually the question I get is, "But what should I focus on?" And so I came up with something, I maybe made it up years and years ago. I call it the 30, 20, 50 rule, or 20, 30, 50. It doesn't matter; you can break it up anyway. And if you're going to take your time, right, you're in the hunt for a job, and you need to do the education, you need to get enabled, you need to build your experience level. I break it down into those percentages. So 20% of the time, I'd focus on Trailhead. And the trick for Trailhead is A, you just have to be a ranger. We don't even look at people who aren't rangers. I had an intern apply the other day, and I said, "No, you're not even on Trailhead. Go get a ranger before I even talk to you."
So that, to me, is just a minimum bar. Just go be a ranger, and then if you can go up from there, that's great. And then, if you're still in your Trailhead worlds, the thing that we then look for besides looking at their profile, is it filled out? Have they thought about it? Have they created it like LinkedIn? So second advice on the Trailhead side is treat your profile like LinkedIn: fill it out, put your picture, put your description, do all the things. It'll probably take you no more than a half an hour. Make your URL; you can make your customized URL so people can find you; do all the things so it looks like you're part of the community, right? Make sure that your profile is rich and full. And then the third thing on the Trailhead side of things is to go for super badges.
So I can look at double ranger, triple ranger all day long, but if I don't see some super badges and I speak from someone who doesn't have any super badges.

Mike:
Oh, no.

Jason Atwood:
I know, I know, it's on my hit list for this year. I know, I know, I mean, I have 15 certs, and so I have some experience, but I'd say, get some super badges. We see that when we look at that as a higher level of dedication and of expertise, because, as you know and as I've been doing them, they're difficult. They show that you have really dug in, and they're more than just answering some questions or watching videos, or getting fun ones. I love badges, but the super badges really show that kind of a deeper level of education and sort of just being in the Trailhead world. So that's the 20%. Then the 30% is certifications.
You need to have both. You can't have one without the other. I don't know what that commercial was, peanut butter and chocolate or something, but-

Mike:
Yeah, I think so, yeah.

Jason Atwood:
-You might be [inaudible 00:07:08]. Certifications are important; you should focus on them. What I tell people is you need to get them, but you can't stall. Most people, I think, when we talk to them and we'll find in the ecosystem, say, "Oh, I'm thinking about getting that, or I'm planning to get that one next year." And our advice is, "Nope, go get it. Go get it now. Go take it. Go take the test a couple of times." Do whatever it is you can do to start your certification journey; don't put it off; don't procrastinate on it. You don't have to be perfect; just go get some. And obviously there's a path of which ones you should get, blah, blah, blah.
It depends on where you're going in your world, but having at least one or two certs is kind of a bare minimum. So if you're starting off and you're trying to get into the ecosystem, that's your 20 and your 30, and then the 50 is the hardest part. And it's just hard to tell people because it's the experience. The third thing we look for is experience. I want to see that you've done something obviously new to the ecosystem, harder to have the experience, but that's where I say spend 50% of your time trying to gain that experience. There's the old adage: try to go work with a non-profit. Although there's some pushback on that nowadays because of the complexity of the platform, you don't want to hurt a non-profit.
There's definitely... Get in in a way, there's programs, there's tons of programs out there that will help you do mock projects and things where you can just get your hands dirty. And even if you have to build your own thing that you're going to demo, you got to get experience because I've not hired people with 22 certifications, and because it didn't add up to any experience, and I've seen people with tons and tons of experience with zero certs, and I would hire anyway, just from the experience. But for me, that's how I tell spend your time: 20% trailhead, 30% certifications, and 50% getting that experience.

Mike:
I think that 50%, that part that you're talking about is always the part that feels like the hardest to get into. Because if you're not in tech and you don't have any experience and you're trying to land that first job, that can feel like, "If I could get this job, then I could get the experience." And so, part of that lends to my next question is, so you're new, we've checked all the boxes on filling out our profiles and done that part. What should I get ready for when I interview?

Jason Atwood:
So every interview's going to be different, obviously, but a lot of places are using assessments now. So I would say be prepared for an assessment. That means functionally, they're going to ask you to do something; they're going to ask you to build something or take something they've done and turn it into something on the platform, using Salesforce as the platform. So I would just be ready for that, be prepared, be okay with it. Even do mock versions of it, go have a friend, and I have to given this advice to some people, but go have a friend, sit down with them, talk to them about what they do, and you'll uncover something that they're collecting data.
And as soon as you can figure out what the data they're collecting, whether it's books or they collect comic books, or they're a skier or they're a runner, anything you do, you can just come up with, "Ooh, what if I built you an app to track that?" So be prepared to have an assessment of your skills and be able to show that in a short period of time. Meaning it might be a take-home. Sometimes it's a take-home. Like, "Hey, go do this over the weekend." Other times it's, "You have an hour; come back and show us what you did."

Mike:
Ooh!

Jason Atwood:
So I'd say... Ooh! Yeah, I know. I've been doing that for 15 years to people. Trust me. I've seen a lot of, oohs.

Mike:
I would imagine.

Jason Atwood:
Even had one person pass out in the...

Mike:
Oh, my. Oh, goodness.

Jason Atwood:
It happens.

Mike:
You get an extra hour now.

Jason Atwood:
Yeah. So I think that it's coming more and more in the ecosystem, because again, when you look at a resume, when you look at LinkedIn, a lot of it's just you can't tell whether they know what they're doing. If you actually do an assessment, you can then assess, "Okay, you know, you functionally know how to do things." So I'd be prepared for that. The other thing is, I think when you're really, especially in the new, just be honest about what you do and do not know. That's really, really key. Don't fluff up your resume; don't put things that you don't know; don't put clouds, don't throw in data cloud if you don't know what data cloud is and haven't used it or can't really explain it. Just because you took a Trailhead on something doesn't mean that platform or know that cloud. So I'd really say be honest with what you know and the clouds, and the products, because that's going to be super important in the interview process.

Mike:
Wow. How much... In prep work for resumes, there's a lot of AI tools out there, so I'd love to know your perspective on both sides of this one: how much do you, as somebody hiring, kind of look for, "Oh, they used AI to generate most of this resume?" And on the flip side, how much should somebody building their resume that could really benefit from an AI tool? How much should they lean into it?

Jason Atwood:
So I'm going to be the strange answer on this one, or...

Mike:
Oh, good.

Jason Atwood:
Yeah, because I'm going to say, resumes don't matter.

Mike:
Okay.

Jason Atwood:
They're just checking a box. When people get to me in the interview process, they're beyond the resume. So yes, you need to have a resume; you need it because that's the part. It's like you have to have the internet; you have to have a way to fill out the form. So you need to have a resume, and it should have your accomplishments and stuff on it. But I don't look at resumes because they're just lies. They're just you telling me all these things, and sometimes I don't know if any of that's really true or not true. So to me, it's like it's just a checking the box. "Yes, you have to have a resume. Yes, it should be okay." Honestly, your LinkedIn profile should be your resume, right? Because that's real; it's on the web. And if you're lying, someone might actually call you out for it.
"Hey, you didn't work at that company for 10 years." So I would say focus more on the LinkedIn. Because I'll look at that. If you gave me 10 minutes, I'd look at your LinkedIn first. I would not look at your resume, what you've put on, rather than what your actual history has been. That being said, you want to throw all this stuff on there for this ecosystem. So I do think showing work that you've done and really pointing to problems you've solved, if you really think about any job, especially as an administrator, you're a Salesforce admin, you're basically solving problems all day all.
And you're communicating. So two things that I tell people about the resume and the process is how do you show that you've solved problems in the past in your resume, and then how do you show that you are a great communicator? Because great communication, it doesn't matter what, I mean, well, not what job, but certainly in this world, you are basically talking to people, helping them out, doing stuff, re-communicating with them, getting what they need to do, building it, whatever. You might work with different groups or whatever. But that communication skill is something we deeply look at. So again, if you're going to focus on stuff, don't so much focus on your resume as focus on how to be a great communicator.

Mike:
That's really good advice because I have been at that level where people show up and the resume looked good, but they couldn't facilitate the conversation or articulate any kind of answer in the interview.

Jason Atwood:
It is a skill that not a lot of people have, but it's a skill, you can learn it. So a couple of things to put into that communication bucket. We'll go down a little rathole here.

Mike:
Yeah, let's do.

Jason Atwood:
One is empathy.

Mike:
Okay.

Jason Atwood:
Have the ability to show empathy, and that means sort of having a conversation with somebody and throwing in stuff that's like listening to them, talking to them, obviously pulling out information about them, but having the empathy when they say something's not going to happen or whatever, they could say, "It's a rainy day." I look for it in every interview that I do. Now this is going to be on the podcast; everybody's going to know this, but I will actually throw things into my talk track or as just the warm-up when you're sort of, "How are you and what's going on?" I will always throw in something to test empathy.
I'll say, "Oh, I'm okay, but I didn't sleep well last night. Or I had a bad egg sandwich this morning, or I've tripped over the dog when I came into the room." And I just listened to hear what they react. If they go, "Oh, that's terrible. Oh, yeah, I know dogs can be really difficult. Or you know what? I get my egg sandwiches from downstairs, whatever." But hearing that back of that empathy, super important. Second is actually listening, so I will listen to people, how they listen to me. Are they interrupting me? Are they talking over me? Are they going? Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, as I speak, I listen for their real intent and true conversational skills. And so the ability to actually listen, pause, and then answer is a really big; it's a great skill to have. And so the people who can do that, I know that they can do almost any job better because they've intently done that listening skill and they've got it working. So those are two that I throw out to most people when they're trying to build their conversational habits.

Mike:
Yeah, I'm listening to you answer that, and I'm playing devil's advocate in my head and saying, "Maybe people are hearing Jason say this because he's hiring consultants." So why do you think this also translates over to people that are embedded in different work groups, or teams, or have stakeholders within an organization and aren't consultants, like for your organization?

Jason Atwood:
Because basically, being an admin is being a consultant in one organization. You are a consultant. What are you doing? You're talking to people; they're coming to you with their problems; you are getting their requirements; you're satisfying their needs; you're working with them; you're iterating; you're changing it; you're updating things, and then you're presenting it back to them. The thing that changes when you become a consultant is you're paying for someone's time, which then becomes a whole other thing. But also, you might be working with other organizations, and the level of expectation of how you do that and your expertise goes way up. And this is something I tell, I warn people about moving into consulting is that when you're an admin, you have the ability to take some time. Someone says, "Hey, can you build me these three dashboards that I want to track my sales forecasting?"
You go, "Sure," and you can go Google it, and you spend a week, and you come back, and you're like, "Here's your three dashboards." They're ecstatic; they're like, "Great, thank you." They don't care that it took you three weeks or whatever, and then you had to ask your friend and Google it or ask ChatGPT to do it for you. In the consulting space, it's different. They don't ask, "Could you build this for me?" They say, A, "What are the options to build it? How long is it going to take you, and can you get it to me by next Tuesday?" So the expectation level of what you're doing goes way up, and they expect you to be expert. They don't expect you to ever say, "I don't know, but I'll figure it out." As an admin, I said, "I don't know. I'll figure it out."
"Oh, you want to build some tracker for your feedback form? Sure, let go figure it out." Go away for a week, and I'll come back and show you something. So I think that's part of it, but as an admin, you're still doing all this stuff. It's the same stuff inside the organization. You're just not working with external companies or people; you work with internal people. So you still have Mary from accounting coming over and wants to synchronize with the QuickBooks, and you still have the CEO come over and they want an update to some dashboard because they can't figure it out, and you're doing the same stuff; it's more internal, more ad hoc, generally.

Mike:
I mean, I couldn't agree more. Also, Mary from accounting, they always want to, for some reason, can't seem to get opportunities flowing through your sales org, but let's integrate finance.

Jason Atwood:
So true, so true.

Mike:
But you kind of led into that. So what are the different jobs, or different tasks, types of jobs that admins would tackle within an organization?

Jason Atwood:
Yeah, I mean, we kind of started in there. You do become an internal consultant, but I think you first off just think of what, especially when you're applying for it, and this goes back to sort of the applying and getting the jobs' thing. When you're looking at the organization, you obviously want to know what their Salesforce landscape is. So if I were in the interview process, what I would do is come loaded with a bunch of really good questions, and I would pepper that person with tons of questions about their Salesforce instance, or, as we call it in the biz, we call it their org.
But I would come in with, "What kind of licenses? How old is it? What kind of integrations? What kind of applications do you have? When's the last time you did a health tech? Do you use permission sets or permission set groups? Or did you flip the lightning yet?" I mean, I would be peppering them showing my expertise to get that admin job. So that's just on the interview side; I just want to throw that in. But coming back to what you do, again, it really depends on the organization, and this is actually a myth that is out there in the ecosystem, is that admins get bored and admins don't get to play with lots of different clouds, and admins don't do a lot of diverse things. That's completely not true because it depends on what organization you're with. I was with a company who had 375,000 people.
I had a team; I had five people, or five, including me; we were all admins; that's what we did. And we had 12 different production orgs, 12 orgs with production, and I think nine different applications running in them with thousands and thousands and thousands of users. We were not bored; we had plenty to do; we were playing with great, big, unlimited licensing and integrations and projects, but we were admins. At the end of the day, we were admins. Same thing: you go work for a small company that's four... I don't think anyone would hire a full-time admin with four people. But the smaller the organization who's just using Salesforce for one thing and has no chance of expanding it or doing it, or going anywhere.
Yeah. You're going to get bored, right? You come in, you're going to help out Mary in accounting, you get that one project done, and then they're going to be like, "Can you reset passwords all day?" So I think as part of the interview process to pulling it back in to that, and when your job seeking, you should be really interested in what their, especially if you want to be a Salesforce admin and you really want to do it full time, what's their Salesforce roadmap? Are they just solid? They have it, and they have had it up and running for five years, and that's it? Or do they have things that they want to do? New stuff you can build? Do you want to do the integration with that? We want to bring in marketing cloud next year. We're looking at how to do predictive AI, whatever.
So if I were bringing more questions as the trying to get the job, I would bring in that to the organization. I'd say, "What do you guys, where's your roadmap? Or do you not have one?" And I think that would show as a hiring person; I'd be like, "Oh, they're forward-looking." And it'll also give you the idea of: "Are you going to get bored in six months?" Because you don't want to get bored in six months.

Mike:
Right. Although maybe a smaller footprint would be really good if you're looking to get that first admin job.

Jason Atwood:
Exactly. Exactly right. But then you have the counter, right? You have a smaller footprint, but they have 40 users, and they only use it for service. So you get in, you do some work, you do all the stuff, and then you're like, "Now what?"

Mike:
Right. So you brought up myths of admins, and one is, well, "I don't get exposed to enough clouds," and I've heard that at various events. "Well, we only use data cloud, or I just don't get to see it." And I feel like, and this still exists, all of these articles on admin to something else, as though admin is just the front door; all you got to do is get in and do that for a few months. But the real money and the real challenge is elsewhere. What would you say to that myth of just an admin?

Jason Atwood:
I think it is a bit of a myth, and it makes admins and being an administrator, Salesforce administrators feel like this... It's like you're the fry person in the back at McDonald's. It's like, "Well, I don't ever go back and cook the hamburgers." I don't know. And it's not true.

Mike:
Although the fries are kind of the best part.

Jason Atwood:
That's true. I actually worked at McDonald's, and I was the fry person, so that's why I brought it up.

Mike:
Yeah.

Jason Atwood:
But yes, at some organizations, you could be the one admin, and that could be your role for a long period of time. And you could get bored, and it could just be a starter. At other organizations, you could run an entire group of admins. You could have six or seven admins, you could be part of a team of people supporting a lot of different Salesforce instances, and it could go anywhere from just administrative down to sort of more the solution architect type of stuff, or more towards the BA towards so stuff or more towards the development.
One of the things you and I have been in this ecosystem for a long time, what we were able to do 10 years ago on the platform with our clicks and what we're able to do with clicks now, we're programming. Let's be clear: when we're building flows, we're programming; we're just programming with a user interface. But that's programming, and the stuff you can do is stunning, that you just couldn't do with any of the tools unless you're writing Apex. So I think even the idea that admins who are getting that technical acumen and are going into the more programmatic type of world of admin that could go long, there's lots of paths you can go down for that. So that's where I think some of the myths should go away because you're not just the admin who's building a report, adding a field to a page way out, and assigning a permission set. There's many, many different pieces of that platform. And that's before you even talk about the clouds; before you'd say there's now, I don't know how many clouds. There's a lot of clouds.

Mike:
There is a lot.

Jason Atwood:
Yeah.

Mike:
Yeah. I mean, you brought up flow. I think back to the days of, "Boy, if I could just stand up like a window pane that a screen that people could input the data into as opposed to just editing raw right on the record." And now we can do that, and you can do that just using the interface. You don't have to try a single line of code, which is...

Jason Atwood:
It is stunning what you can do with that tool. And it's one of the things that has left me a little bit behind because I'm old school admin. I'm a work-for-rule person. And for that, I would've gone wrote in a user story and had someone written up a Visualforce, and with Apex in the background, and now it's... The stuff that we can produce with flows, screen flows, and even the call-outs. I was watching the call-out today, a flow that made a call-out to a Heroku Dyno that did a hookup to a Postgres database that pulled in AI predictions. I was like, "What?" So yeah, the world of an admin is becoming very, very broad in some ways.

Mike:
Yeah, no, I agree. And you can also now trigger flows through prompts and have it call AI. And I mean, in a year from now, this is all going to sound like super, "Wow, they were impressed they could do that. Now look at where we are." kind of stuff. One thing we didn't touch on is there's a lot of job places to look at and career stuff. Often, when looking for a developer architect, I think those are a little more defined also, especially with developer, they've got experience in writing developer job titles for other platforms. So it's very easy to translate that over to Salesforce. What are things that an admin should look for in job descriptions? That maybe if the title or description doesn't say Salesforce admin, that will be the role?

Jason Atwood:
Yeah, it's a tough one because, I mean, the easiest thing to say is look for the keyword Salesforce. Obviously, there's going to be some sort of piece of that. I think you'd have to go a little old-school and think of the platform and what it's doing. So I would start to look for things that were based on what Salesforce, the platform's doing? Is it sales, right? Is it marketing? Is it service? Is it nonprofit? Especially in the nonprofit space, which is for me. So we would look at grant writing, fundraising, and all that stuff, which could be keywords for, we're using Salesforce in the background, but we're using it to do all these things. So I guess the meta hint without giving you the keywords is: What is this organization doing? What is the output of their world? And then looking at what the tool set they're using.
They might not be Salesforce, right? There are other ways of saying the word. They might say something like health cloud and a health cloud administrator, and you're like, "Well, that's Salesforce." Or they might say, "net-zero cloud." Or they might say, "nonprofit cloud." Again, not saying Salesforce, but that's what it's based on. So sometimes, as an administrator and as part of this ecosystem, you have to know that there are products that are sitting on top of the platform that don't necessarily say the word in it. Remember when they named everything Force? Everything was Force something Force, this Force, that Force.

Mike:
We had everything named Lightning for a while, too.

Jason Atwood:
That too. That was fun.

Mike:
We like to do that a lot. I think everything's named Einstein now.

Jason Atwood:
Pretty much.

Mike:
I'll probably get in trouble for saying that.

Jason Atwood:
Yes, you will.

Mike:
But you could do the bingo card of name everything, Einstein, Lightning, Force, and then you're covered.

Jason Atwood:
I'm going to win that Bingo.

Mike:
Einstein, Lightning, Force, and then the actual product. Then you're covered.

Jason Atwood:
Totally.

Mike:
I was looking through all my notes, roles and descriptions and interviewing and challenges, and certifications, and I feel we touched on a lot. What is something that you feel we missed, that you talk about, that you bring up that maybe people aren't thinking about when they're looking to interview or get an admin position?

Jason Atwood:
Sure. I think there's a couple of things. A couple more things I would, if I were giving advice, which I happen to do all the time.

Mike:
You're full of advice.

Jason Atwood:
I'm full of advice, maybe too much. So one thing, and this is just generic to not Salesforce, but as anybody looking for a job, cultural fit, I think, is becoming more and more of a need. And I think, as people applying for jobs, you should be looking at it both ways. Do I fit that culture, and does that culture fit me? And that's do my values and the company's values or the organization's values align together. And asking a lot of questions around culture is going to become more and more important, especially because we go do remote work and all that. So I think what we used to think of, like, "Oh, we had coffee breaks and pizza parties for every quarter," is now a much bigger discussion. So I would say bring culture into the conversation. Another tip that I hadn't given yet is just preparedness.
It seems silly to say you have to be prepared for an interview, but I can tell you the amount of people who show up who are not prepared, they're just not prepared; they don't know their resume; they don't have good questions; they don't know how to talk to their experiences. And I'm stunned when it happens, but it happens a lot. And one of my little pet peeves, I'm giving away all my hints, boy, anybody interviewing is going to be able to nail the interview the next time they get to me.

Mike:
Yeah, you say that, but I bet not.

Jason Atwood:
Probably not, right? No one's even going to pay attention. But having really good questions is something that I look for. Again, we work in an industry where being able to ask your users what they want and question them, and being insightful is a great skill. So if I get to the end of one of my diatribe speeches and I say, "Do you have any questions?" And they're like, "No, I'm good." I immediately go, "Okay." And then I'm not good because I... So have questions ready at the go; have them sitting in front of you on a piece of paper, on a sticky note in a NeverNote, wherever. It's super important, and don't be generic. Don't say, "Where do you see yourself?" Don't interview the interviewee.
Ask really stuff that's based on homework you did. And that's sort of the prepared thing too. When people come in and they say, "Oh, I read your blog post last week about blah, blah, blah. I was really interested about this key point." Immediately, I'm like, "They did their homework; they know what they're talking about, and they're asking me something interesting." Don't say, "How do you guys do raises?" That's not going to be; you need to have the questions about the culture or the stuff. I mean, I've had some really good in the past, but I've had some really terrible questions. And then two more, I'll give you two more tips. This is like the hundred tips for interviewing the Salesforce Ecosystem Podcast.

Mike:
We'll call it 98.

Jason Atwood:
There you go.

Mike:
So there's two.

Jason Atwood:
Two more is you can never, if you want to get two skills. If I told someone to go get two skills before they get any job to be super useful on day one, two things they should be focusing on: data and documentation. Your ability to understand data is like you need to have it, you have to have it as a skill; you need to know data; you need to know how data interconnects with other data, you need to know how to report on it. It's getting more and more and more important. So I look for data skills, even data nerds, people who say, "I love data." So if you're not that type of person, I would say these jobs are going to be tough. Because I don't know anywhere in the ecosystem that we are not just really crazed about and or dealing with lots of data.
It is sort of what Salesforce is, in the back of all of it. So understanding data, taking courses on it, go learn SQL, go learn regular databases, go learn third normal form, learn it, and understand it because any of your skill sets that you have that are based in data will make you better at any job in this ecosystem. So data. Second is documentation, because one of the things you can do very quickly in any role is document things. You need to be able to document; you need to be able to take what people say, summarize it, put it into something, and spit it back out for people to take in. If you're an admin, you've got to come up with a training plan or a training agenda. You are an admin; you have to come up with a user story; you hand it off to a developer or someone to build something.
Documenting is, and it's, I know there's Trailheads on it, and you can go to those, but really learning how to document even so much prove that skill when you talk to somebody and you follow up with an email. Follow up with an email that proved that you listened and that you're following up with documentation skills, coming back with key points or things that you wanted or questions, all great ways to show. But I would say two things you could just learn to show up on day one to start working and doing things is know data very well and know how to document things.

Mike:
Well, that was a really good point. I would hammer on that cultural fit and question part a lot because I always feel like you and I are of a certain generation that we kind of almost interviewed in the hopes that they chose us, right? The best of the survivor, we get picked. But the part that really dawned on me as I moved through my career was I also need to interview that person to see, is this the type of person that I'm comfortable... Would I be excited to get on a call with them every day? Does this feel like the type of company that I'm going to be excited to go to work at? Or do I just want to get in to get in? And I've made the mistakes of going to work for companies and then realizing I didn't ask enough cultural questions. The way things operate here and my expectations for this job are very different than what I had in my head, and it's my fault because I didn't talk about it.

Jason Atwood:
Yeah. And again, I think it's different. Even again, culture was, I hate to say it, but it wasn't really that much. It wasn't that important. 20 years ago, I wasn't worried about culture; now I think it's above compensation.

Mike:
Yeah.

Jason Atwood:
I think it really is. And I've seen people go to places for less compensation because of a better culture. I've seen people leave terrible cultures that were highly paid. So really bringing that in, and that means how do they work? How do people collaborate? And you can ask these questions in the interview. You can say, "What are the three things you're doing this year to help your culture be better or to improve your culture at your company?" If someone asked me that, I'd be like, "Ooh, wow. Okay."

Mike:
That's a good question.

Jason Atwood:
That's a great question, right? You're then learning A; are they doing anything to make it better.

Mike:
Right.

Jason Atwood:
Or ask about... One of the things that we take at Arkus as very important is when I was doing my key goals for the next five years, and I was doing some presentations and talking to the staff about it. I had culture as a fifth thing, and then after doing it, I thought, "Wait, no, that's wrong. It's got to be number one." So for me, you ask a company, you say, "What are the main things you're thinking about doing for the next five years? What are the five key things that you're doing? What are your pillars?" Or whatever. And if they don't say culture, then you'd be like, "Oh, why isn't culture there?" And then you'll probably catch someone off guard; maybe they won't hire you there, but they should be thinking that keeping the company culture and embracing it, and making sure that it is... Culture isn't something that you set up and then walk away from.
It's not a database system. You don't just go, "Oh, it's set up, and it's running in the corner." It's something that needs to be cultivated; it's something that needs to be put into; it's something that needs to be fed and loved, and thought of, and changed as the ecosystem and the world changes. Our culture changed when COVID happened, right? We had to adapt; we adapted to that; it wasn't the same culture as before. When we were three people, now 75, but the culture's different, but we're adapting to that. So again, it is a really, really big point. It is something you can catch people on, you can ask, and everybody likes to talk about their culture. Everybody will tell you that they have a great culture, but that's how, as an interviewer or interviewee, you should be questioning it and really ask the deep questions. So when they say they have a great culture, "Say, can you give me three examples from last week where you prove that or that you know that it is a great culture?"

Mike:
That's a good question. Thanks for coming by, Jason, and sharing your wisdom with us. You said you present some of this. Are you going to be presenting any of this at upcoming Dreamin' events after?

Jason Atwood:
I am. Well, you're catching me on my road tour. I don't know if this podcast...

Mike:
Oh, there's a road tour.

Jason Atwood:
There's a road tour.

Mike:
Are you going to have shirts made up?

Jason Atwood:
I might. So yeah, I actually-

Mike:
Have dates on the back.

Jason Atwood:
-I go to a lot... A lot of things, I will be at World Tour this year. World Tour New York in two days, but I don't think this podcast will be out by then. But you can catch me at Texas Dreamin', I'm doing this year. You can catch me at WITness Success, you can catch me at Mile High Dreamin', you can catch me at Dreamforce, you can catch me at Northeast Dreamin'. And is that it? I think that's it.

Mike:
I mean, Northeast Dreamin' is kind of the tail end of the year for us.

Jason Atwood:
Yeah, it is. It's the last one. So I'll be at all those. I don't know if I'll always be presenting this, but you can at least find me if you wanted to.

Mike:
Right. I appreciate you coming by.

Jason Atwood:
Thank you. It's been great talking to you. Let's do it in another 10 years.

Mike:
Or sooner.

Jason Atwood:
Or a little sooner.

Mike:
Well, I thought that episode turned out phenomenal. I'm so glad I got to have Jason back, and he is going to be on a road tour presenting and helping admins at different Dreamin' events. So hopefully, you can get to some of those that he mentioned. I think that'd be really neat, and some really solid tips on interviewing, and even I couldn't agree more on building experience when you've never had a job in the tech industry. So thanks, Jason, for coming on and sharing everything. And speaking of sharing, if you love this episode and you've got friends, or maybe you're going to a user group and you'd love to say, "Hey, I've got a podcast for you to listen to on finding that first job or getting your next Salesforce admin's job," here's how you do it. You click the three dots in the corner; most of these apps, podcast apps, have this now.
And you can click share episode and you can post it to social; you could send it as an email to somebody, and then they get a link and they can listen to the podcast right on their phone, maybe as they're walking their dog, and even more. Now, if you wanted to look for any links or any resources, everything, everything I'm telling you, start your day admin.salesforce.com; everything is there for you. And of course, we also include a link to the Admin Trailblazer community, which is the admin group in the Trailblazer community, which is a great place and also the place I went to get all of these questions. Now, we'll also include a transcript if there's something you need to go back and read through; that is all going to be in the show notes. So, of course, until next week, we'll see you in the cloud.

 



Direct download: How_to_Prepare_for_a_Salesforce_Job_Interview_in_2024.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 11:00pm PDT

Today on the Salesforce Admins Podcast, Admin Evangelist Josh Birk sits down with Kat Holmes, Chief Design Officer and EVP at Salesforce.

Join us as we chat about diversity, accessibility, and her book, Mismatch: How Inclusion Shapes Design.

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

What is a mismatch?

I brought Josh on the podcast to host this special deep dive episode of the Salesforce Admins Podcast, and we couldn’t think of a better guest than Kat Holmes. At Salesforce, she’s in charge of User Experience. But she’s also the author of the amazing book, Mismatch: How Inclusion Shapes Design.

The title of the book comes from the World Health Organization. In 2011, they redefined disability as “a mismatched interaction between the features of a person’s body and the features of the environment in which they live.” As Kat explains, thinking of design as a way to solve mismatches leads to innovative solutions you wouldn’t otherwise find.

The problem with designing for the “average user”

For decades, designers have tried to make things for the “average user.” Kat takes us through the fascinating history of the bell curve, which goes back to a 19th-century Belgian astronomer who set out to apply the principles of statistics and probability to sociology. The problem, as she points out, is all of the different types of users that this approach leaves out.

Kat’s favorite example is the keyboard. It’s an interface that’s incredibly efficient and enables pretty much everything we do with computers. But it was actually invented to help a blind Italian countess write letters without the need to dictate everything. And there are tons of other examples, like bendy straws and curb cuts. These designs solved one person’s specific mismatch problem but ended up benefiting all sorts of other people, too.

Designing with inclusion and the potential of AI

When you’re building something, Kat recommends recognizing the abilities on your team and thinking about who might be excluded. As she puts it, “What abilities are missing that are important to the design we’re making?” Then, find a way to include someone with those different abilities in your process.

We also get into AI and what the future holds. As it becomes easier and easier for admins to build things, it’s more important than ever to factor in things like accessibility and inclusion into the equation. And there’s a lot of potential to adapt to the interface to the user to give each person a different experience.

There’s so much more in this deep dive episode, so be sure to take a listen for . Be sure to subscribe so you don’t miss out.

 

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Full Transcript

Mike Gerholdt:
This week on the Salesforce Admins podcast, well, it's our Deep Dive episode. I said we're launching something new for April, and with a deep dive comes a guest host. Hey Josh, how are you?

Josh:
Hi, Mike. I'm doing pretty good. How are you?

Mike Gerholdt:
I'm excited because I listened in on this episode and I can't wait to see if this is the pilot episode of where the Deep Dive series is going. Buckle up, folks because it's going to be awesome.

Josh:
Right? I honestly think maybe we should just, I don't know if we're going to do better than this. This was a... And I hate saying things like when people are like, "Oh, who was your favorite guest?" I'm like, "I don't like picking the favorite of my children." Kat's going to get into the top five right away. I never thought I would talk about diversity when it comes to everything from the iPhone to bendy straws. Just almost [inaudible 00:00:58].

Mike Gerholdt:
Yeah, it's fascinating. Let's get into the episode with Kat.

Josh:
Today on the Salesforce Admin podcast, we are going to talk to Kat Holmes about things, diversity, inclusivity, and AI. Kat, welcome to the show.

Kat Holmes:
Thanks for having me.

Josh:
So let's talk about your early years. In one of your talks, you speak about growing up in Oakland, and that led you thinking and eventually promoting inclusion. Can you expand on that a little bit? What about Oakland fermented this for you?

Kat Holmes:
Yeah, in the way back machine. So growing up in a city that os incredibly diverse, all the way through my schooling, all of my community engagements, we really learned a lot about many different ways that people live. But the thing that was really interesting for me, all the way through college, so I went to college in the Bay Area as well. I never learned about the fundamentals of accessibility as part of my training as an engineer. I also studied pre-med. We just didn't learn about ways that people experience disability in the world. So it's kind of ironic, you'd come up in this environment where you have all these kind of movements that had happened, right? Free Speech Movement, there was the Black Panthers, and at the same time, we never learned about the Disability Rights Movement, which also started in Berkeley in the 19... I'm going to say '50s and '60s by students, Ed Roberts, students that really, they created some of the first accessible sidewalks in the United States-

Josh:
Oh, wow.

Kat Holmes:
... right here in Berkeley. And I just never knew it even though I was going to school right there on campus.

Josh:
Gotcha. Now, you've talked about how when you were 16 you encountered racism, and I believe even neo-Nazism for the first time. And that left you, and I believe I'm quoting you here, "Activated and angry." And I have to say, as somebody who has used the written word to try to exact revenge on his enemies, I can appreciate it. But when you say active and angry, what actions were you taking? What led you closer to activism?

Kat Holmes:
The encounter I had, this was when I was a junior in high school. It was right off of the school campus, and I was physically and verbally assaulted by a group of neo-Nazis. I'm going for lunch. And it was a pretty shocking... I had also just moved from Oakland to a suburb, and this is where this encounter happened. So it was really shocking to my system. But the thing that really got to me is, that I told the administrators of the school, the principal, and their response was that there was nothing they could do about it because it was off of school grounds, so therefore it was perfectly legal, and that's the part that angered me the most.
Because that sense of responsibility, here's the adults in the environment that are, I thought, there to provide my safety. And what I was really hearing is I only do that within a certain boundary. And the way I got activated was writing. New student in the school, and took the time to write a intense feeling-filled, sixteen-year-old article that was published in the newspaper about my experience. And so when I think about, for me, and it means many different things for different folks, but for me it was about saying what was true and saying what my experience was and what was true about that. And so finding ways to activate people through our experiences, really, to share those experiences. And that's what I really have taken through my entire life.

Josh:
Did it feel like you were taking the power back?

Kat Holmes:
I felt like I could make myself visible is the way to say it.

Josh:
Got it.

Kat Holmes:
In the moment where I felt very much like people were trying to keep me invisible.

Josh:
Got it. Moving on a few years, what exactly did you study at UC Berkeley?

Kat Holmes:
I studied orthopedic biomechanics and material science engineering. So my goal was to design prosthetic limbs for people and tried to find a way to eke that out of a combination of majors.

Josh:
I got to ask, and I am going to throw in an anecdote here, because my father-in-law actually is blind and has no hands. So prosthetic limbs is something we... I think we have a few in the house here, actually. Why prosthetic limbs? Where were you going with that?

Kat Holmes:
I had been really interested in materials and mechanics for a lot of my young adult life. One of the things that struck me was prosthetics. We often try to replicate a human [inaudible 00:06:13] to try to make some material look like skin or some material shaped like bone or nail. And I thought there were so many other kinds of materials that were more expressive or unique that actually when you pair them up with somebody, you ask them what their preference is, they may choose a really amazing leather over a polymer. So quite honestly, it was just curiosity, following curiosity, connecting with people that I knew in my life who used prosthetics, but also just there had to be a better way to do this.

Josh:
Gotcha. Gotcha. Now at Microsoft, you were, I believe, if I'm correct, you were involved in designing their first-ever smartphone. Which I have to say, I think might've been my first-ever smartphone, might've been exactly that smartphone, and I remember it pretty clearly because it had this wonderful keyboard that was this very nice, tactile keyboard. And I know that a lot of people out there probably think this sounds weird because we live in... This is before the age of the iPhone where touch screen basically started ruling the world. What was that like at that time? Because smartphones were really just basically being invented. And so what kind of challenges were you facing when it came to designing a product for something that didn't exist before?

Kat Holmes:
Just to clarify, I did not work on Windows Mobile, and Windows Mobile was a really relatively successful platform for Microsoft. I came in right about the time that the iPhone came out, so 2007. And it was this existential moment for Microsoft because like you said, there's this physical world, BlackBerrys, and Nokia phones, and some of those great tactile keyboards that you're talking about. And then the emergence of the iPhone was the pinch and zoom on a map.
Being able to still take a phone call, even though you're taking photos, amazing. And the first phone that I worked on for Microsoft actually ended up being a spectacular failure, it was called Kin. I don't know if anybody knows it, but we had a blast building this phone, and it was about tactility. It was really a phone for teenagers, and it's because Facebook was one of the first apps on the iPhone. It was just emerging as well. And so we thought, wouldn't it be cool if you could create a full on social media app just for teenagers all built into the phone?
So learning a lot about that time, what I'll say is the top lesson for me is we poured money, our hearts and souls. We developed beautiful hardware with a company [inaudible 00:08:57] Sharp. But we missed what the success of the iPhone was going to be. And that was the developer ecosystem, the App Store. So you can build the best phone in the world, but the game had changed and we hadn't realized it. The game was all about activating a tremendous ecosystem of applications and developers that could build on this platform. And so we were still thinking of it as a device-centered world when really it was a platform game.

Josh:
Yeah. Well, and to your credit, I think Apple itself, because for the first year, I want to say of the iPhone, they're just like, "Oh, no, if you want to do anything custom to this, you have to do it through a website. We're not going to let you past our Ivory Palace into the App Store." And then somebody course corrected and here we are now in the middle of history.

Kat Holmes:
Well, that's where I did then transition into Windows Phone. And so I did help build that product and that platform. And that was a really fun experience, a really interesting experience. I think we pushed the boundaries and the design of user interfaces for mobile, and that did change the game for a lot of companies and how they thought about mobile design.

Josh:
Nice. Can you give me a couple of specifics there? What were some corners that you turned that you feel we might be still seeing today?

Kat Holmes:
If you remember the iPhone in 2007 when it came out, I think we used the term lickable for the advertisements, it looked like pieces of candy. They were shiny, they looked like they had [inaudible 00:10:36] in the phone. And it's those kind of, we use the term in design of affordances. The shape of the button says, "Push here," because it's so clearly indicating that it wants to be touched.
One of the first things that we did with Windows Phone was flat UI is what we called it. And we took all of those affordances out, but it's because we wanted the content itself to come through, people's photos. An application's top metrics, maybe it's biometrics from your health app. We want that content to come through on the icon or, we now think of them as widgets, but at the time it was very revolutionary to say, "What if the icon was the photo? What if the icon was the biometric data?" And so on a home screen for a user, they'd look at this unique, only looks like their phone, doesn't look like anybody else's, flat window into all of their content. And that was pretty revolutionary at the time.

Josh:
To actually surface that detail right up to the phone so that you can just glance at it and be like, "Oh, it's Tuesday."

Kat Holmes:
It's right there. And we still see that. I think the iPhone and its widgets in particular, but many developers have tried to bring, what's the most important thing a user wants to know both so they can glance and go, but also to maybe entice them to come into the app.

Josh:
Right. One of my favorite T-shirts is from Apple's WWDC where they announced the App Store, and they must have still, the icons are literally the location and date and time of the WWDC announcement.

Kat Holmes:
Oh, that's cool.

Josh:
Yeah, they lifted that for sure.

Kat Holmes:
I want a cool T-shirt like that. I have so many cool T-shirts from my 25, 30 years in tech. That's maybe the best part of working in tech is you get cool T-shirts.

Josh:
You get cool T-shirts. I have found that every now and then I have to double check myself and make sure I don't have more than three Salesforce logos at a time. And then I just feel like that guy at that concert. So, yeah. Speaking of Salesforce, how would you describe your current job?

Kat Holmes:
I am the Chief Design Officer and Executive VP for our user experience team. So I lead product experience, which means anything that at the end of the day ends up in front of an end user, whether it's through our amazing admin community, architects, developers, we're thinking about the platform that you use to build that, but also the end experience that people are going to interact with.

Josh:
Got it. Now in your book Mismatch: How Inclusion Shapes Design, you talk about design leaning to the average person. How are you defining a mismatch here, and what are some examples of design that intentionally are not being inclusive because they're designing for the average person?

Kat Holmes:
Yeah, the first thing I'll say is that in all my training as an engineer, in addition to not learning about accessibility, I also was taught the myth of there being an average person. So I'll get to that in a moment. When I think of... So the term mismatch, I borrowed from the World Health Organization's definition of disability, and they dramatically redefined it in 2010, they defined it as a mismatched interaction between the features of a person's body and the features of the environment in which they live. And I loved that as an engineer, as a designer, because it meant that it was my responsibility, in the choices that I make for the product, to make sure that I was considering different types of abilities that somebody might have when they come to use that product. The responsibility sits with me, as a product maker.

Josh:
Got it.

Kat Holmes:
And so some examples of mismatches might be stairs at the front of a library. It's a public library, but somebody who uses a wheelchair, who has limited mobility, would not be able to access that front entry. So another great example is the keyboard. This is a mismatch for anybody who has limited use of their hands, or doesn't have hands, completely unworkable for interacting with a computer. And what I love about these examples of mismatches, it means that we can identify who might be experiencing the greatest mismatch when they come to interact with our program or application. We need to make sure that it works for voice as well as keyboards, or it needs to be for different types of audio in addition to tactility. But, what I love about this also is that it's not about trying to create one solution for all people. You often hear the term universal design. That really means creating one environment that works for everybody. What I love about the keyboard is it was actually invented by a blind countess from Italy, and an inventor named Pellegrino Turri. And the two of them worked together to create a device that she could use to type letters on her own, rather than dictating to somebody else who'd write it for her. So they invented this device originally for someone who is blind, but it went on to benefit so many more people. We've used this device multiple times today, all of us. And in that, they've created an inclusive design. It started first with somebody who's highly excluded from some sort of activity. And that solution that they created benefited many more people. And so when I think about coming back to your point on the average person the misinformation that I was certainly taught in engineering is that there's a bell curve of human abilities, or any kind of human dimension.
And if you think about that bell curve, that the middle of that bell curve is the average human. This is a concept that was created by Adolphe Quetelet, he was a Belgian astronomer in the mid-1800s. And he was actually super jealous, is the way I read it. Super jealous of Isaac Newton, right? Isaac Newton had created these laws governing, deciphering what was happening in the heavens like why does the moon move this way? And Quetelet, who was also an astronomer, he had a pretty curious bombing of his observatory and could not practice astronomy during the Belgian Revolution.

Josh:
Oh my gosh.

Kat Holmes:
So he turned all of his ambitions to be as famous as Newton towards human society, and he started measuring human bodily dimensions. He created the body mass index that we still use today. It actually used to be called the Quetelet Index, to determine is a person healthy based on weight and height, which is a pretty crude measurement. He also developed the foundation of IQ tests, and he also developed really dangerous frameworks that underlie eugenics.
And the challenge with what Quetelet did is he gathered data for as many people as he could, but in the mid-1800s, really hard to believe that he had a true global sample of human [inaudible 00:18:36]. He had a nice Belgian, maybe a couple of countries over sample. So he took all of his data and he was astonished to find his data fit to a curve, a normal curve, which is in mathematics we know of normal curve is there's a point where the tangent reaches a perpendicular. So he was astonished that it fit this normal curve. And he took the middle of that line and he said, "Well, that curve right in the middle must be the perfect person." [inaudible 00:19:07] perfect person.

Josh:
Oh, God.

Kat Holmes:
And that became the foundation for saying any deviation from the center of that curve was some kind of abnormality or error. So taking mathematics and applying it to humans can be very powerful in some ways and can be very dangerous in others. But it's why we refer to people as normal, is actually from a mathematical background. And what I was taught as an engineer is if you design something for the average, you're going to hit 80% of the population. And then there's edge cases. I like to talk about edge cases.
There's 20%. That's an edge case. All you have to do is really look around at humanity, or do some research of your own, to know that that is just not true. That's not actually how the world is. But it's so deeply entrenched. It happens maybe at large sets of data, like large public health issues, and you find anomalies, and that's good indicators. But when it comes down to one person's experience sitting in front of whatever technology you're configuring or building or designing, it actually just isn't true. So that's where inclusive design becomes a much more interesting paradigm.

Josh:
It's fascinating to me that when we say the word average, and we apply that to a person, that we are probably describing a 20- to 30-something-year-old white male in Belgium.

Kat Holmes:
Yes.

Josh:
It's slightly terrifying, too to be kind of honest. And speaking this. And I honestly, I just want to bring this up because when I was reading about it, it shocked me that this even exists. You talk about Robert Moses, who apparently had, I'm actually struggling to say this to be honest, that he utilized a racist lens in some of his urban planning, which, I'm like, that's supervillain-level stuff right there. What's an example of this? I think a lot of what we're talking about is sort of designed through intention and it's good intention. We don't think about the average person being a 30-year-old white male in Belgium, so people don't intend to exclude people. But here we have an example of somebody who did. What's the story there?

Kat Holmes:
It's a really fascinating study, and you always have to remember the context of the time and place. But Robert Moses was the... the term they gave him was the master builder of New York City. He was a city planner, but he had wide-ranging control and power over the design of New York City. And the practices that he employed, and some of these are documented in a book called The Power Broker, is thinking about the types of transit that people had access to or didn't have access to. And so he'd say, "Hey, the tunnels leading out of Manhattan, heading out to the beaches," Long Beach, let's say. So the height of an average public bus, let's say is X, and the height of an average car is Y. So he would design the tunnels coming out of the city to be low enough that a public bus couldn't pass underneath it.
In effect, it created limited access to those public spaces outside of the city. But the inherent, nefarious part is, people who predominantly relied on public transportation, or exclusively relied on public transportation, tended to be Black or African-American families or families of low income. And so it's that it can happen intentionally, and it can happen unintentionally when you think about, oh, I have a car, so I'm going to just make this tunnel to fit my car. And not really think about somebody who maybe doesn't and somebody who maybe uses other modes of transportation that you're in fact creating this physical barrier in participating in public spaces outside of the city.
So that's a great example of sometimes it is nefarious, and sometimes it is accidental or unintentional. I think as people who are problem solvers, we come to this discipline or our jobs because we like solving interesting problems, or we think about how we can solve these and make the world a better place. And it's that kind of intentionality that fascinates me because when we bring attention to it, you can't unlearn it. [inaudible 00:23:48] oh, I didn't realize I created something that made it uncomfortable for somebody else. Just [inaudible 00:23:53]. How can I be a better problem solver?

Josh:
And to flip that script completely to the other end, give me a little bit of backstory. Once again, it was fascinating to learn, why do we have bendy straws?

Kat Holmes:
The story behind the bendy straw is super fascinating. The first design actually came from a man who was watching his four-year-old niece try to drink a milkshake at a counter. And this is the old soda fountain days, and they had straight paper straws in those days, and she kept tipping the glass and spilling the milkshake while she was trying to drink out of this straight straw. So he went home and he put a nail inside of one of these paper straws and he wrapped a wire around the outside and created a flexible joint in the straw and then ended up patenting it. And that's how we have bendy straws.

Josh:
That's awesome. That is awesome. Okay, so let's talk specifics about if I am a designer, how can I identify and address these kind of potential exclusions while I'm working?

Kat Holmes:
The best way to identify this is really first looking at our own abilities, like what abilities... Often the products that we make, there's teams that are working together. So looking across that group and saying what abilities are represented? And it might be, oh, okay, we all have 20/20 vision, we all are right-handed. We all speak a particular language. These are the abilities that we represent. Now, what abilities are missing that would be really important to the design that we're creating?
And that might be, okay, somebody who has low vision, or somebody who speaks a different language. And it doesn't mean you have to solve every scenario, every potential language, every potential ability. But what are you making? And who's going to need to use it? Are you designing something that's going to be in healthcare? Do you potentially need to think about somebody who is not well? Somebody who maybe has a different cognitive state, maybe they're in an emergency situation? If that's the case, then how can we think about including people in your team who have either experienced that or are experiencing that difference in ability and bring them in as experts to advise and learn from, or even co-design that product with you. So that's really the starting point is recognizing exclusion and then asking yourself who's missing? Really seeking out their expertise.

Josh:
And what's the importance in collaborating directly with people who either have experience or are possibly experts in different forms of disabilities?

Kat Holmes:
There's a couple of lenses I think are really important. One is, we often do research in design and we think of it more as user or usability research, or we're putting something in front of a person and asking, how do you think this works? Or does this work for you? We're treating people a little bit more like a subject, a research subject, which is different than starting before we've designed anything, and going to someone who has a different set of abilities than we do, and asking them, how would you solve this problem? Or have you already solved this problem in some way, in your home or in your work? And learning from the workarounds that people already have, or the considerations before you even create any solution is incredibly insightful to the process. And so it gives us a way of A, thinking differently about expertise. I'm not the expert as the designer. The expert is the person who's experienced exclusion, but still somehow is making a living using the product that I created.

Josh:
Got it.

Kat Holmes:
And then I think the other part's just, quite candidly ego, just to check my ego as a designer, that there's collaboration has a way of opening up the creative process. And I think that keeping our egos in check is a really important factor, and bringing other people to the process and letting them be the experts to lead the way is a really great way to do that.

Josh:
So to paraphrase, don't design a solution and then take it to somebody and be like, "How bad is this for you?" But bring them into the process so that by the time you get to the point where we're trying the solution, you've already brought their feedback in.

Kat Holmes:
Well said. Yeah.

Josh:
Thanks. Now let's move that kind of conversation to AI because that's how the world's revolving these days. So when we talk about AI in collaboration, how do you think people should think about AI itself?

Kat Holmes:
That's a ginormous question. There's two lenses I'll put on for this conversation. I think AI as a tool that can help us think about and the things that we're not recognizing ourselves. What are other considerations I'm not considering? How do I think more broadly than my own experience? I think AI is a great tool to help us expand the starting points. I do this often just with our own tools, with Einstein or some of the other tools in the world that are AI-related. But it's just, "Hey, I'm thinking about getting started on this. Where are different considerations that I might have?" So it could be a way of expanding beyond our own biases.
I think the other lens is thinking of AI as a user of what we're designing. So there's a whole bunch of behaviors, AI or different types of machine learning, different types of generative and predictive, even machine learning, are going to bring to our applications or businesses that we're building. So if we think of AI as a user that itself is trying to solve some set of problems. It's going to encounter certain kinds of errors, it's going to need to make certain kind of adjustments on the fly. The more we can understand what kind of goals and what kind of barriers AI is going to encounter when they work with the data that we are providing, or working with the applications we're providing, the more we're going to be able to design this positive cycle of access and also safe parameters around what AI can access, what it can and can't do. And so it might be a nuance, but thinking about AI as a tool, versus thinking about AI as a user, I think gives us really two interesting places to design from.

Josh:
Gotcha. Because I think one of the things, it's very hard, and this is one of the reasons in my own AI talks, I always tell people, just go try it because it's really hard to describe why it's a new style of interface, simply because it's conversational and it's interactive. What sort of design challenges come up with something that's having more of a conversation with you than just pressing a submit button?

Kat Holmes:
The interesting thing about AI is that we're kind of in love with this conversational moment of AI, ChatGPT welcomed us to a really broad and accessible kind of AI through conversation. But most of machine learning and AI applications that I've worked with, and I've worked with different types of interactions since about 2010, a lot of them aren't conversational.

Josh:
Got it.

Kat Holmes:
And even in our devices, our smartphones, we may have different types of machine learning or AI that is vision-based, object recognition, or audio-based or tactile. So there's many different kinds of interaction models that come along with processing information through AI. And the unique design challenges, I think one of the biggest ones comes back to the mismatches we were talking about earlier.
AI could give us a tool to be much more adaptive, to meet people where they are, whether that is, we were talking a lot about physical abilities earlier, whether the person can see or hear, but what about cognitive differences? And that's a whole frontier that I think is fascinating. There's so many different ways that people learn or process information or want information presented to them. Can AI help us adapt a design or an interface or an application to meet people where they are? If they're a novice versus an expert, wouldn't it be interesting to think about the differences in experience that AI could create to meet people where they are? So that's one design challenge.
And then another prominent one that there's many leaders in this field is thinking about the biases in AI itself. And there's a lot more, I think, visibility and awareness of this now than there was, say, five years ago, certainly 10 years ago. But the training sets of data, or when I go into Midjourney and I say, "Create an image of a doctor treating patients." [inaudible 00:33:58]. What's the doctor look like and what does the patient look like? And has this algorithm been trained predominantly on sets of data that favor certain races or for certain experiences, genders. So that kind of bias is a very small example, but a lot of companies have learned early lessons in this. I think Tay at Microsoft being trained overnight, within hours by the Twitter community, formerly known as the Twitter community. And it just went sideways within hours. And so that risk of what we're teaching and how that shapes the design at the end of the day is a huge challenge as well.

Josh:
I kind of feel like the world should actually kind of thank Tay for being such a horrible, awful example of how things can go wrong.

Kat Holmes:
That's true. It happened in a relatively safe sandbox.

Josh:
Right. No doubt here, it's basically speaking Hitler. We all can agree, let's not do that.

Kat Holmes:
[inaudible 00:35:11]. Thank you, Tay.

Josh:
Thank you, Tay. And I really appreciate it because I've talked to women of color who they're kind of in a generation where they grew up with the concept of what an engineer looks like, and it's that crew cut guy with glasses and a shirt and a pocket protector in an IBM [inaudible 00:35:31]. And they didn't think they would be an engineer because they never saw anybody who looked like them be an engineer. And I feel like we just have that history that AI has. I don't know how AI is even going to try to catch up to it.

Kat Holmes:
The opportunity is there. The opportunity to create a different reflection of reality is there. And it really comes down to the choices that we make in the design of our AI. And who is designing that AI at the end of the day. Can we really broaden... One of the things I love is I think the skillset to become an AI designer will dramatically change because the things that I learned in engineering school, I learned FORTRAN, so that's not super helpful anymore. But if we don't need to learn some of these technologies that are going to turn over anyways, what is the important thing to learn about the design of AI and then what skills are needed? And that could open up the field dramatically to a wider range of people.

Josh:
Yeah. And it's one of the things I'm really excited about with Salesforce because the idea that an admin could use their preexisting skills as a flow builder to then also be an AI builder is very exciting to me. Do you have any tips for some... I think our community's really in the shallow end of this. They're slowly getting into the waters of it. When it comes to thinking of solutions for their users, do you have any suggestions or tips for lining up what we can do with AI with a user's skills or job or role?

Kat Holmes:
Being in the shallow end is I think where everybody is. There's maybe a very small population that really, really is deep in these waters. Most of the population hasn't even put their toe in yet. So if you're in the shallow end, welcome.

Josh:
You're in good company.

Kat Holmes:
... [inaudible 00:37:29]. And please keep learning and keep walking a little bit further in because this is the first wave of us who, coming into those shallow waters, are going to say, "This is how we apply it to life." This is where it makes a difference. And I think our admin community understands the work that people are trying to get done on a daily basis. They understand the challenges people encounter. And when we designed Prompt Builder, for example, we were really thinking about the community that understands what an end user is trying to do. We're thinking about the admin community who can say, "These are the most important mundane tasks that need to be repeated and automated or supported by AI."
And so I think the most important advice is lean into that understanding who's using your products or who's using Salesforce at the end of the day. And help us understand what more will serve the people, and the use cases that they have, in better ways. And going back to inclusive design, think about folks beyond, think about the edge cases or think about the folks who maybe are experiencing challenges without using Salesforce today, and how can we really make this a turning point using AI tools to make sure that we're doing a better job going forward.

Josh:
Yeah. Okay. I'm going to throw a hypothetical to you and we're going to pretend you have infinite time and money. Where do you think... One of the things I think is very interesting is that the hardware curve, I feel is still advancing. We're just now getting things like AR goggles that are associated with AI. Where are some edge cases that you think could AI really help with inclusivity? For instance, I was having a conversation with a friend and I was like, "Well, I have a nephew who is autistic, and he might benefit from glasses that could actually identify social cues that maybe his brain isn't wired for." Where do you think we might be going with this?

Kat Holmes:
There's this interesting debate, I think, between computing power, infinite times and resources to make trillions on infinite computing power. Versus reaching as many people as possible with something that's beneficial.

Josh:
Got it.

Kat Holmes:
I would lean towards reaching as many people as possible with something beneficial. We may be in a place with what we have today to transform a lot of lives if we can really connect the potential of the technology to what people are trying to achieve. So with infinite time and money, I think there's tremendous diversity in human... This is such an obvious statement, but it's one that we haven't really taken to heart as technologists. There's infinite diversity in human lives. And understanding unique medical needs, diagnosing those, giving people the power to diagnose them for themselves, or to at least understand some of what's happening in their lives.
I think about medical, I think about cognitive learning styles, education around the world, just thinking about how I learned versus I have an 11-year-old, it's my youngest kid who's learning on YouTube, so fast, guitar virtuoso overnight. And I'm like, "Oh, how'd you do that?" Well, they've been watching YouTube videos and [inaudible 00:41:26]. So the learning, the medical applications, and then I think, one of the things I'm really interested in is how language models are going to become local to devices. How are we going to get really personal, device-driven AI that can be a close companion, or just the applications of being able to embed that in different environments? And that's where I think about climate science. And could we combine sensor technology with local AI device technology and think about climate science differently on a global pattern.
And so we put all our money into computing power for one great AI. Or do we think about the diversification of many different kinds? And I'd say the past 20 years has taught us that this tremendous power in diversification of applications, like we said in the beginning through the iPhone, that whole ecosystem, many, many small things can sometimes solve a problem equally or better than one ginormous thing. And that's how, I'd apply my money towards the small and the mighty.

Josh:
I love it. Kat, thank you so much for the great time and conversation. This was a lot of fun.

Kat Holmes:
Thank you. It was really good to dive into these topics. I appreciate it.

Josh:
Thank you very much.
I want to thank Kat for the great conversation and information. And as always. Thank you all for listening. Mike, how you think we did?

Mike Gerholdt:
I think it was amazing. I also got into some of the discussions that you were talking about, especially around architecture. I think a lot of times we, as admins, think of, "Oh, well, how does this apply to tech?" Well, how does it apply everywhere? We're design thinkers everywhere. And some of this is really opening up. I mean, you've exposed to me the whole making ChatGPT do illustrations, and now I'm asking it stuff. Like, that's fascinating. That's not what I was thinking in my head, but that's clearly what other people, or a machine, was thinking.

Josh:
Yeah. And I'm really glad that we got Kat to really describe how admins are going to really be in a driver's seat. They have a really important role based on what they're already doing. Based on the solutions that they're already building and their relationship with current users.

Mike Gerholdt:
Yep, absolutely. And of course, any of the resources that Kat or Josh mentioned we'll include in the show notes, which can be found on admin.salesforce.com, including a transcript of the entire show. And be sure to join our Trailblazer community because we'll post there to discuss about it.
So with that, we'll see you in the cloud.

 

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

Today on the Salesforce Admins Podcast, we talk to Skip Sauls, Senior Director of Product Management at Salesforce.

Join us as we chat about how Data Cloud can make it easier than ever to roll out enhancements to your org.

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

The challenges of working with external data sources

Pulling data from external sources is always a challenge. For one thing, it usually requires a bunch of work on the backend to get things looking the way you want them to. What’s more, it opens the door to all sorts of potential problems when things don’t match up, not to mention the extra security challenges.

That’s why I was excited to sit down with Skip Sauls. He’s the PM for Data Cloud, and he’s here to tell us how his team has made working with external data sources easier than ever before.

How Data Cloud simplifies data management

Data Cloud allows you to combine your external data sources with what’s in Salesforce without hacking together a series of customizations. Connectors allow you to import data from external sources as direct objects, or transform it into something more useful. You can run reports with it, use it in flows, embed it in Lightning pages, and much more, without needing to write specialized code.

Skip’s goal is to minimize the customizations you need to make and seamlessly combine your external data with what’s in Salesforce. Using Data Cloud means that you’ll be able to deploy enhancements to your org without worrying that everything’s going to break, or rebuilding it from the ground up. As Skip says, “we don’t want people to feel like they have to radically change everything in their day-to-day lives just to access something new.”

Get hands-on experience with Data Cloud

Looking forward, Skip and his team are trying to further simplify how Salesforce works with external data sources. They’re rolling out tools to minimize imports, so your data lives in one place but works the same as what you have in Salesforce. They’re also working on Remote Data Cloud, which will help you consolidate data that’s spread out across multiple orgs.

If you want to learn more about Data Cloud, I have good news for you. Skip and his team are releasing dozens of new hands-on challenges to Trailhead over the next few months. There’s never been a better time to get up to speed with everything that’s possible with Data Cloud.

 

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Full show transcript

 

Mike Gerholdt:
This week on the Admins Podcast, we're talking lakes, well, not lake lakes, but I mean we do talk about lake-making kits, and I do think that would be a hilarious swag at Dreamforce. But Skip Sauls is back because data lakes and Data Cloud are on our mind, and he's got a bunch of new features that he's talking about. Not to mention, he also tells us how we can get hands-on with Data Cloud, which I'm a fan of getting hands-on anything because that really helps me understand it. That's what we're going to talk about.
Before we get to the episode, just want to make sure you're following the podcast on iTunes, Stitcher, Spotify, iHeartRadio. We're on all the podcast platforms. You don't have to follow them everywhere. Just one, your favorite one, and then the new episodes download automatically right to your phone. Every Thursday morning, you can get up head to work or walk the dog or go for a run and get your new episode just by pressing play. With that, let's get to our conversation with Skip.
Skip, welcome back to the podcast.

Skip Sauls:
Thanks, Mike. I'm glad to be back, and as always, glad to talk to you and to the admin community.

Mike Gerholdt:
I was looking at my notes from the last time we talked, and the last real podcast that we did was about a year ago. To me, a lot of Data Cloud stuff was brand new, and also a lot of the concepts around data lakes and data silos was a new thing. It still may be new to many people in the audience, but I think we're starting to become even more exposed to it by just the sheer volume of amount of Data Cloud information that's coming out, and also the number of features that now Salesforce can support. Let's start with, what's some of the new stuff that you've been rolling out in Data Cloud since we last talked?

Skip Sauls:
One of the most exciting things for the admin community is how you can now leverage data from Data Cloud in your standard Salesforce org, in your lightning pages, in your reports, in your flows. That's been a big theme for the past year, which is, we've got this great technology for unifying the data, manipulating it, doing all kinds of great stuff to the data, but we now need to make it available to our customers, to our respective users. A lot of that focus is what I think is very exciting because now you can actually make use of it, and you're not trying to write specialized code or you're not trying to export things somewhere else. You can use it in the standard Salesforce fashions. It's inside of fields on a form, it's in inside of a record with related lists, it's in a report, so it's in all the places you would expect it to be.

Mike Gerholdt:
That's good. A lot of the times when we hear stuff like that, when we're not bringing the in, but we're surfacing it, I've heard the term like a pane of glass?

Skip Sauls:
Mm-hmm.

Mike Gerholdt:
Okay. Just want to make sure that-

Skip Sauls:
That's a great way to visualize it. The trick for a lot of our customers, as you know, is that you bring things in and enhance their working environments. You make them more productive, giving them better results, better KPIs, whatever that might be. We don't want people to feel like they have to radically change everything in their day-to-day lives just to access something new. Salesforce has done a pretty good job of that over the years, of bringing things in to lighten the experience, into mobile, making things that are in a low-code, no-code fashion, and really listening to what our customers want, which is, "Make my users more productive. Give them something useful here." They're always interested in technology, but really, the reason people want Salesforce is because it makes them more productive. It's a useful application architecture. That's what, to me, is very exciting. I look forward to Data Cloud just being assumed as being part of all Salesforce, not as being an add-on or something that's on the side, so to speak, that it's actually just it is Salesforce, for that matter.

Mike Gerholdt:
Yeah, well, it is.

Skip Sauls:
Exactly.

Mike Gerholdt:
One of the things that's interesting is I learned more about Data Cloud, I go back to... This was a requirement that I got way, way back when I was an admin, 2008. I remember an executive saying, "Well, this is nice and all, Mike, but how come I can't see X?" And I remember having to explain to them, "X data is on a different server that we have on location that Salesforce doesn't have access to." The fear, for me, was them wanting to integrate, essentially, a data silo into Salesforce. Because back then, data integrations were just crazy. But I think there's often, this is how I look at Data Cloud is, but how hard is it to really set up?

Skip Sauls:
That's one thing we've focused on is making it so that you can bring data from pretty much any source into Data Cloud. I'll tell you more about something else that's even more exciting down the road, but first off, talk about the notions of connectors. You have them in various flavors where you can connect to an external source and you can pull the data in. You can do it in batch, you can do it in streaming, it can be fully scheduled, and you bring that data in either as the direct objects from the remote source or you can transform them into something more useful. You may say, "I need to do something to IT to get it in the standardized formats." Things like dates and times, all sorts of things that you may want to... Salesforce admins are familiar with this. How do you make the data get into the shape you want?
Data Cloud has a lot of really great functionality for that. We've leveraged tooling from the likes of MuleSoft, Tableau, CRMA, plus the traditional Salesforce loaders and that sort of thing, and unified that in Data Cloud. We made that part of it as simple as possible, and we're adding more and more connectors to external sites. We'll have a very rich array. In theory, an admin can say, "I need to pull data in from..." Even something relatively obscure. There'll be a way to do that, and in the future, even custom connectors will be possible. You'll be able to do one that isn't sold by Salesforce or by a partner. That all is very exciting, and that fits into the traditional model where you're importing things in, but you're now doing it into one place i.e. in the data cloud, as opposed into multiple places, or directly into Salesforce itself, which is the part that's nerve wracking, as I think you were saying.
You don't want to necessarily modify all of your existing records, so with Data Cloud, you'd bring those external sources in. You can have as many as you want to. It's highly scalable to work with almost anything. Then you'll bring in your data from Salesforce, you'll have that mapped in effectively, and then you can have that unified into a single object. You look at it as being the same person, account, contact, et cetera, across all the different data sources. And you're not having to go and manually map everything in and do all sorts of things with unique IDs and keys and that sort of thing. It's doing a lot of the heavy lifting, and it fits very much into the standard Salesforce model of making those things easy. You're now dealing with it at an app level, not at a lower level, in most cases. You're not having to do that every day, trying to figure out how to get the data in.

Mike Gerholdt:
One of the things that came up in the discussion that we had of getting the data out of the silo... To be clear, it's not that we wanted it out, it was more of we just need to reference it. I think one thing you mentioned to me that was very intriguing is because back, this is '07, we were going to copy the data and then Salesforce could see it. But with Data Cloud, we actually don't need to worry necessarily about that, right? It's a feature we can set up where, if we want to keep that single source of truth and reference that glass pane, we can do that. Right?

Skip Sauls:
Exactly. The terminology you might hear is bring your own lake, bring your own code, and that sort of thing. There's a whole class of things there. I don't know how much I can say, because there's some pretty cool announcements coming around this, but there's a lot of work on making it so that you can leave the data in the external store. It could be a lake, lake house, data warehouse, traditional database, S3 buckets, wherever. You can leave a lot of those things in place, and you reference them from Data Cloud as opposed to importing them. This gets into the zero copy, no ELT mantra that you'll hear. The basic idea is that you're not having to actually make those copies, like you were saying. You're not going to move it back into it. It stays in place. It stays resident in the external system. But to your apps and to your users, it looks like it's natively in Data Cloud, and therefore natively in Salesforce.
That's pretty exciting. There's still the case where you might want to transform something to make it fit into the shape you want, but importantly, you don't have to do that to this data. You don't have to do it every time you want to try to use it. That's what we've seen traditionally with Salesforce is we were always importing, whether it was into Core or into Tableau or CRMA, etc. You are always importing the data, doing stuff to it, making copies of it, and that sort of thing. As powerful as those tools were, they still required that copy, which is the part you were saying we're trying to get away from.

Mike Gerholdt:
Yeah, copy, sync, then you had to figure out last modified, who wins, conflict resolution... That was a whole day of meetings for me.

Skip Sauls:
Exactly.

Mike Gerholdt:
It was not good. As you mentioned all this, I'm thinking just offhand, because this is how my brain works. A really fun swag item for Dreamforce would be a lake-making kit, like from the Progressive commercials. That would be hilarious.

Skip Sauls:
Yeah.

Mike Gerholdt:
I'm the only one that thinks that's funny, I think.

Skip Sauls:
Maybe you can do that for a Dreamforce or TDX next year.

Mike Gerholdt:
Yep. "Here you go, sign up to win a lake-making kit." One of the important things I think about not having to sync data and worry about that as a potential is also, depending on the organization and how they use the data, if they're in a contract and there's PII involved, then they can confidently say, "This is only stored here." As opposed to... I remember we had to go through that with a government contract and outline all of the places that this data could appear. When we were syncing data, then it became another page and a half of documentation of how people had access to Salesforce. I think that's really cool. You mentioned ease of use, and with ease of use, to me, that is also just how do we get the word out? How do we get people hands-on with that? What are some of the things that your team's working on around that?

Skip Sauls:
One of the things we're really excited about is providing hands-on challenges where you get to actually use Data Cloud directly. There's some technology behind it, but in effect, you're getting an org that is Data Cloud-ready, and then you can go do a trail, do a hands-on challenge at TDX or Dreamforce, maybe you're in a course somewhere. Using that org, and in the Trailhead model, you're running a check, have you done the work and that kind of thing. That all works perfectly. Now we've got that working very well. You can use this in the same way you would your standard Salesforce org. You get a DE org or something, and you start working against that. That's very exciting. And the cool part about that is that also will power all of these modules that come from Einstein, things like Prompt Builder and so forth.
Almost everything that you'll see for these new technologies is actually powered by Data Cloud. Even though you're not maybe explicitly using Data Cloud for the trail or the hands-on challenge, it's under the covers, Data Cloud being used for all the data, objects, services, and so forth. The reason that's exciting is it's harder than it may sound, because Data Cloud instances are not as lightweight and inexpensive as say, a Salesforce DE org. There's a cost associated to it. They're consumption-based. So we had to do a lot of work to figure out how to get that into a manageable state so we can offer that experience to our users and not be too much of a cost burden for us. There's still a cost there, but it's worth it for us to invest in our users, our customers, so they can get up to speed on Data Cloud, they're enabled on it, and they're also enabled on, again, I mentioned Einstein and that sort of thing. That's very exciting.
We were hearing from people, "I like Data Cloud, I want to learn more about it, but these trails don't let me use it." "I don't have Data Cloud. How can I learn more directly?" As I've heard you and others say, a lot of people can learn the theory from a standard trail or from docs and that kind of thing. Maybe they can pass a test, but in practice, it's that hands-on experience that really resonates. It's like, "I actually know what I'm doing here. I know how this behaves when I click on it. I know where to go." And that sort of thing. That's a really cool thing, which you're going to see a lot of.
Our plans are to have dozens of these out over the next few months, and we have a goal of getting tens of thousands of users enabled with these hands-on challenges. That tells you the scale we're talking about. I would encourage everybody who's listening, go try out the hands-on challenges that are on Trailhead right now. There's at least a few of them there for Data Cloud, some for Einstein, etc. You can get nice, shiny new badges and get your real world hands-on experience, and you'll see more and more of these in the coming months.

Mike Gerholdt:
It's one thing to do a module where it ends in quiz questions and then you read some stuff, and then it's another to do one and then get the error message be like, "Oh, really? I got to go back and read some of this. I really thought I knew what I was doing here."

Skip Sauls:
Exactly, exactly.

Mike Gerholdt:
One thing we didn't touch on, and this is maybe blinders that I have, but what about people with multiple orgs?

Skip Sauls:
A really cool feature, which is... I have to go look at my schedule and see when it's going to be out, but it's soon. Is the notion of a remote Data Cloud. I'm waving my hands here as I'm talking to you, but I'll try to describe it for the listeners. What you'll do in the future is when you have multiple orgs that you're managing, for example. A lot of people will have more than one. You'll designate one to be the home org. I don't know if that's the official terminology, but that's what we're calling it right now. That is where the Data Cloud instance will live. It'll be tied to that org. You won't have multiple Data Clouds, you'll have one, in most cases. Then the other orgs you have will be remote orgs that are leveraging that org.
There's some technology there. You can look up something called data spaces. You'll be able to say this part of this data in this data space can be mapped to these remote orgs, and in your remote org, you'll be able to access that as if it's natively inside of your org. In all cases, Data Cloud doesn't live inside of Salesforce Core, it's actually running externally. It's not as big of a hop, if you will, to have these remote orgs. It's not like they're really going around the globe trying to connect to each other. The home org is just where you're going to manage the core data, the way to do everything. But you could then have orgs that are primarily for sales or for service, or maybe you've got some that are by industry or by region. However you decide to organize yourself, no pun intended, you can still use the same Data Cloud instance.
The cool part there is because we're unifying all this data, you could have the same customer represented in multiple places across all these orgs, but they look like the same customer inside of Data Cloud. You can use this for how do you rationalize the data instead of trying to do it manually with all sorts of mappings and code and that sort of thing. You can say, "This is going to be Mike on all these different orgs." And also, importantly, it's Mike coming in from external data sources. It could be IoT, it could be social media, pretty much wherever you'd like to. But you can know this is Mike across all those, and it's a lot more straightforward than in the past, where we had to manually do a lot of work to say, "This is actually the same user across all these things."

Mike Gerholdt:
I like that. Yeah. Boy, 2007 Mike really needed Data Cloud, let me tell you. One of the things I was thinking about as you were talking through all this and unifying the data is really looking at Einstein and some of the stuff that's coming down now, and admins are seeing that. We saw it at TDX with Prompt Builder and Copilot. If you're a Salesforce admin and you're sitting there and you listen to this Data Cloud, what are some of the questions that we're hearing from customers that are really good questions to ask on what should I be looking for in an organization that should prompt me to start having these conversations about getting Data Cloud?

Skip Sauls:
There's a really good blog, and I'm going to try to find this for you. I'm going to tell you there's some great quotes in here if you're not familiar with SalesforceBlogger.com, that's actually run by some Salesforce employees. It's mostly employees posting it, but it's not our official blog. It's like some of the other semi-official blogs that has some really great content. In there, there's a whole section of what people will ask for. The reason I bring this up is a lot of times, you won't hear people saying, "We need Data Cloud." They're going to actually say, "We need to make better sense of our sales data." "My sales guy needs to be able to know which customers to target." In that example, you might have your current notion of your accounts and contacts and leads and that sort of thing. Then you've got some external data which talks about very similar things, but it's from a public source. It's not Salesforce data.
But it's information about accounts and it could be customer data, it could be company data and that kind of thing. But it tells you something interesting about them and what they're interested in, and you can actually import that data and unify it and then run some calculated insights and other about it. You might find out you're not really targeting the right people. You might say, "We actually need to branch out and target other customers." Or you're enriching the same data for your current customers, it's just data you didn't have before. It's like, "We didn't know this. We didn't know they were interested in these things, and we can have other selling opportunities." It's that kind of thing that I think is very important is that you're using it as a tool to make better sense of your data, make better sense of your respective target objects, whether they be customers or things, than you could before. You can do so in a way that doesn't require that you're manually trying to build all this inside of Salesforce Core.

Mike Gerholdt:
For the longest time, the joke was how long is your account page or your contact page, because you are having to reduplicate all these fields just to accommodate all of this extra data.

Skip Sauls:
Exactly. We see lots of interesting naming conventions for that kind of thing

Mike Gerholdt:
Probably horrible ones, too.

Skip Sauls:
Yeah, exactly.

Mike Gerholdt:
I'm guilty of that, too. Contact, last name, four, because that's how it's going to work.

Skip Sauls:
If you inherit orgs from others, sometimes that's multi-generational. You can certainly see that with like, "There's three or four different naming conventions and duplicates of objects." Because they oftentimes came in and said, "We can't really change this. We can't really make sense of it. We almost have to start over again in order to enhance something." The idea with Data Cloud is don't do that. Keep your existing data, move the source of truth into Data Cloud and operate it on it there, and you don't have to go back and rewrite everything in Core or importantly, everything off Core, every single time.

Mike Gerholdt:
You bring up a point, so let me... Silly question, because I'm still learning this too, but with Data Cloud... This is going to sound weird, correct me if I'm wrong, but you can have multiple sources of truths. We would have a finance system that was a source of truth for address, but we had a certification system that was a source of truth for what certifications that organization held. We didn't want them all in Salesforce. We wanted each... It's a data silo, but that's its job, and it's secure that way. With Data Cloud, we can connect them, we can get that view in Salesforce, but we also don't have to pull all that data in. Am I right in saying that?

Skip Sauls:
Exactly. You're mapping the data from Salesforce into Data Cloud, and if you have the same names and same values across different objects in different fields and external sources, you can resolve those inside of Data Cloud and say which one is the one you want to use, which one is that source of truth. You can create your ideal, I think people call it the golden record, is one notion I've heard of. This is the agreed upon... I heard it called the single version of the truth, which sounds political, but it's basically you as an organization say, "This is what we all agree is the correct source of truth for these things." Instead of it being in multiple orgs or across multiple objects, you now have the single unified object and you agree that this is the address, this is the account value, this is whatever the dates might be.
That's the beauty of it is it gives you one place to do that work, instead of trying to do it across things. It's always been possible to do this kind of thing. You didn't need Data Cloud to do that kind of thing, it's just harder to do those things. People found it frustrating, and the thing we didn't want to hear, what we heard people say, "I had to pretty much export everything outside of Salesforce and do work on it in some other cloud to get the results that I wanted." So we're saying, "Let's not let require people to do that. We don't want them to leave Salesforce. We want this inner gravity to still be on Salesforce. Let's give them the tools they need to be inside of our platform instead of externally."

Mike Gerholdt:
I remember having real conversations about how this X server could do a CSV and put it on... I think it was an Outlook or SharePoint, and then how do I set up, at the time, Data Loader via the CLI to do batch imports? That was a conversation that now feels so dated. Feels like watching a early '90s sitcom where they have a bag phone in a car.

Skip Sauls:
But people still do that today. We saw that with analytics. We still see it with people exporting, and they go into Excel, and they do their work there. We have had lots of great tools for this, and Data Cloud has the best suite of these things now, and you can actually do it really well in place. There's no reason for you to export anything, unless you want to make it available to somebody to play with in Excel, but there's no reason you should be doing your work there. Importantly, you've got tools like Tableau, which are really good at this, much better than Excel would ever be. Do your work in Data Cloud, use some of these great tools we have, and not do this external manual copying, uploading type of thing. That stuff works fine in the small, but it's terrible when you have large numbers of people working on it, and really bad when you have different people coming in at different times that may not realize what was happening.

Mike Gerholdt:
Yeah, let alone the second you pull something out of a system, now you've lost all control over that data.

Skip Sauls:
Exactly.

Mike Gerholdt:
In terms of security, confidentiality, especially if it's a spreadsheet, could be emailed to somebody. That's the part that always worried me. I always had the sales manager whose second question was, "Who can export this data?" Nobody, thankfully. That's a checkbox I never check. Skip, thanks for coming on. I know last time, we talked about the Evel Knievel motorcycle, but that was just because I was fresh off of going through a world tour DC and some museums out there.

Skip Sauls:
Oh, yeah. I'm a big motor sports fan, just like you. A gear head, whatever you want to call it. If it has a motor, I'm interested in it. Getting a little too old for some of it, but I still enjoy it.

Mike Gerholdt:
Well, that's the beauty is you can always watch it. There's always somebody younger than us that'll want to do something fun.

Skip Sauls:
Exactly.

Mike Gerholdt:
Thanks for catching us up as the new Trailhead... I'll link to the Trailhead modules that we've got available on that. Then of course, knowing that there's more coming out. To me, the most exciting part with everything is the second I can get my hands on a DE org or something, that's when I can actually start to understand it. I remember that was so fundamental when I first started as an admin, the ability to get my hands on a DE org and try stuff out that wasn't a production org. The same holds true for all of our products, so I'm glad that we've overcome that barrier.

Skip Sauls:
I encourage everybody to try that out and give us your feedback. What else do you want to know? What doesn't work well? What did you enjoy? Reach out to us. You guys will see me, the community, on Twitter, LinkedIn, etc. I'm always looking for more feedback, and ping me if you need anything. Let me know how we can help.

Mike Gerholdt:
Yeah. I appreciate it, Skip. Thanks for coming back.

Skip Sauls:
Yep, thanks a lot.

Mike Gerholdt:
I'm glad we could have Skip back. Always appreciate him coming back and helping admins understand how we can break down all of the data silos that we have within an organization and make our lives easier. I wasn't kidding when I asked a few of the questions about syncing data and back and forth. I've got to believe that's some of your life, too, because I feel like everybody just one view of the customer. But everybody's got to own different parts of data, and that's fine. This really helps knock things out. I think it really makes things interesting and accessible for Salesforce admins.
Now, if you're listening, I want you to do me a favor. Click on the Share Episode button, and you can post it to any of your social media. You can text it to a friend, maybe there's a friend. You guys can both do a Data Cloud Trailhead module together, and let him know that you got hands-on with Data Cloud, which was something that the last time we were on the Salesforce podcast that Skip was on, he couldn't tell us to do.
Thanks for listening, and until next week, we'll see you in the cloud.



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

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

Join us as we chat about why product management principles Salesforce are crucial if you want to take advantage of new AI tools.

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

AI enhancements and what they mean for admins

The last time I had Lizz on the pod, we talked about why clean data is crucial for AI tools. But with everything that Einstein Copilot and Prompt Builder make possible, I wanted to bring her back to help us understand how to approach AI enhancements.

The big thing to get your head around is that these tools make it easier than ever to implement changes to your org. However, as Lizz points out, that means it’s even more important to think through how Salesforce fits with your business processes. How you gather requirements and communicate with your stakeholders is more important than ever before.

Apply project management principles to your Salesforce org

To get the most out of everything that’s possible with AI enhancements, Salesforce Admins need to brush up on product management. “It’s kind of like the operations around your operations of Salesforce,” Lizz says. She wants everyone to think through three questions:

  1. How are you taking in change requests?

  2. How are you working with your stakeholders to determine if those requests are aligned?

  3. And, finally, how do you go through the process of enabling that change and then extending it for adoption?

As Lizz points out, what you need to do hasn’t changed. You might be able to do things faster with AI tools, but big-picture thinking is even more essential so you can deliver the right solutions at the right time.

Communication with stakeholders is a two-way street

So how do you get started? For one thing, you need to figure who you’re trying to talk to. As Lizz puts it, “it’s never too late to run a report and do a stakeholder analysis.” You can look at profiles or roles to determine who the main people are in your organization and what they need from Salesforce.

You need to build trust with your stakeholders, and that means establishing two-way communication about requests and what you’re working on. Lizz recommends creating a transparent system for tracking requests, whether that’s using case objects or custom objects in Salesforce, or even (gasp!) creating a shared spreadsheet.

It can often feel like there’s a lot of heat on you to get everything done as quickly as possible, but that’s why bringing stakeholders into the conversation around enhancements is so important. If people understand why bumping something up on the roadmap will push other changes back, it can really turn the temperature down. It’s all about creating a feedback loop that turns stakeholders into collaborators.

Be sure to listen to the full episode for more from Lizz, and don’t forget to subscribe for more from the Salesforce Admins Podcast.

 

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Full show transcript

Mike:
So we're talking about product management this week on the Salesforce Admins Podcast with returning guest Liz Hellinga. You may remember she was on in December and really focused us on getting data cleaned up to get ready for AI. Well, now it's, how do we manage Salesforce as a product manager and also take into consideration all of the things that we've got going on with AI? And really all of the tools that AI can provide us, like Einstein Copilot, Prompt Builder. What can we do?
Before we get into that episode, I just want to point out if you're getting ready for all of the content that we've got lined up this month... So last week we had Tom Leddy on the podcast, check out that episode. Next week is Skip Solves. We're going to talk about Data Cloud updates. Skip was on last year. And then at the end of the month on the 25th, we're launching a new style of episode. It's going to happen at the end of every month, and it's... We called it Deep Dive and it's with a fellow evangelist, Josh Burke. He's going to deep dive into a topic a little bit more than I do. We're going to kick it off with our Katie Holmes, who is on our design team and talk about design and AI. It's going to be a really cool conversation.
But for now, let's talk about product management and AI and helping Salesforce admins be good stewards of the platform. So let's get Liz on the podcast.
So Liz, welcome back to the podcast.

Liz:
Thank you, Mike. I'm happy to be here.

Mike:
Last time you were here, we talked about how clean data is non-negotiable in the era of AI, and I still think it is. So let's pick up our discussion from there. What have you learned about cleaning data in the last four months?

Liz:
That it's still essential and it's ongoing. And that I really do love a good data dictionary that helps you define data and make sure that you're using it correctly aligned to your processes. But in this age of AI, it's even more crucial as we talked about before, because people are going to be making decisions on that. And we're all able to make more decisions based on AI, whether it's around our data or whether it's around how we build in our Salesforce org.

Mike:
Yeah, I think that's the thing that's changed since I started doing podcasts around AI last year is, last year we really focused a lot of the episodes on, well, how does this affect data? What can it do? Now... And I ran into you at Trailblazer DX. Now we've seen things around Einstein Copilot, Einstein Prompt Builder, which yes can do things around the data. But also a lot of the promise that we're seeing with Copilot is this will be a tool to help admins not only generate information or help users generate information, but also potentially configure organizations as well.

Liz:
Yes. And it increases the rate that we're able to make change because-

Mike:
Very true.

Liz:
... you're shortening some of that cycle to produce for those outputs. You still... Just like data, you still need to have some of these core foundations in place to make sure that you're making the best decisions for your Salesforce instance based on the output. But the scale of change is going to continue to increase, and it's going to be back to the basics for some of those things like around product management, the Salesforce, product management.

Mike:
Yeah. Well, and that's really one of the key things that admins work on because I remember way back in the days... I want to just outdate myself. I believe it was Shell Black, for those of you that are as old as me. Remember, he coined a phrase, "Order taker admin." And I think that's kind of relevant to what we're talking about because we've always talked about, "Wow, with every new innovation that Salesforce comes out with, it's easier and easier to make change."
Now, we're also have the ability to ask AI to start making change for us or to show us various flows, right?

Liz:
Right.

Mike:
And that affects our ability to manage the product because essentially the way that we're perceived potentially from our users is, "Well, it's just a field. Why can't you add it?" Or, "It's just a flow, why can't you add it?"

Liz:
Yes. And they're not always familiar with all the behind the scenes stuff that it takes. But ultimately, with your Salesforce instance, you always need to be enabling change based on what you're gathering from your end users and your stakeholders and aligning it to business objectives. And so that still hasn't changed. You may be able to do it a little bit faster with the help of some of these things like Copilot. But you still need to understand and have a lens for that decision making. Because just because you can add a flow or just because you can do something, doesn't mean that you always should. You still need to think through it from a process lens, from a stakeholder lens.

Mike:
So maybe we jumped in too quick, but to level set, I'd love to hear from you. What is your definition of product management that a Salesforce admin would do for the platform?

Liz:
Yes. Gosh, I have such a strong opinion on this, Mike.

Mike:
I know that's why I'm having to move on.

Liz:
Well, with... Product management is really sort of like the operations that you wrap around your Salesforce instance. How are you taking in change requests? How are you working with your stakeholders to determine if those requests are aligned? And then how do you go through that process of enabling that change and then extending it for adoption? So it's kind of like the operations around your operations of Salesforce a little bit. But it's just a way to bring structure and I would say consistency and continuity around how you iterate on your Salesforce org.

Mike:
So product management is not just a ticketing system and doing what the users ask.

Liz:
Correct. There needs to be thought around it. And I've been in orgs, right, where... We've been in those shoes where there's pressure to do something and you do it because you're just like, "Well, I don't know. I don't have enough to stop this." Or, "We're under a time crunch. We've got to get it done." But that's why it's not easy. But admins have to spend time building relationships with their stakeholders and being thoughtful about how they take in change requests.
And it could be something as simple as even just... Not that I want people to use spreadsheets and things like that, but sometimes just at least capturing that information even in a typical requirements document or building that out within Salesforce. I've seen a lot of people, and I've done this myself too, use the case object to help manage that and then review it with key stakeholders, determine what changes do we need to implement and how? What is the best method for it? 'Cause that's the beauty of Salesforce, there is usually more than one way to do something.

Mike:
Yeah, no and beauty and part where you have to really contemplate. What I'm hearing, and I'd love to know your thought on this 'cause this is something that even I struggled with as an admin. I think everybody does. The short-term change versus the long-term. And I mean that in respect of... I almost think of you know when you get a scratch on your car? Well, the long-term change is, I'm going to get it in the body shop. But the short-term is I'm just going to shoot it with a can of spray paint really quick to prevent it from rusting out. How do you balance that?
I mean, what can we do to think through product management to say like, "Okay, cool. I totally hear you need this and it's on my six month roadmap." As opposed to maybe I just invest time now and build a little bit of it to turn the heat down knowing we're going to invest in it later. What's the balance there?

Liz:
Yeah, the balance comes from understanding your stakeholders and the processes that you're using, that you're building out in your Salesforce system. So for example, if you know on the roadmap that something's coming in six months, but there's heat to get that taken care of sooner. I mean, being able to have conversations around, "Well, this is what's on the roadmap. If we pull this forward, something else is going to have to be pushed. How might we make that decision so that we can meet this business need sooner rather than later?" And it's not always an easy conversation for admins to have because it takes relationship building initially and trust building.

Mike:
What are some of the most important things that you feel should be communicated to stakeholders in order to keep that constant level of trust high?

Liz:
Yep. Great question. So there's a couple things that you can do. So initially... And it's never too late to do this, so you could be in an org for three days, or you could be in an org for three years. It's never too late to just start to do a stakeholder analysis. You can just run a report, group people by either their profile, their roles and determine who are the main people. You may be in an org where you can't talk to all 1000 users, but you may be able to get to a subset for relationship building.
And that is crucial, especially with the pace of change that we're encountering now because of generative AI. And then I tried to get a system down for gathering enhancements. Some of those enhancements may honestly never get built, but at least you're documenting them and those as request and keeping a... Excuse me, keeping a log or a history of that. Sometimes you just build it in the case object. Some people do custom objects. You can do integrations for those or a spreadsheet depending on how big your org is. Just giving a place for that and then creating some transparency around that list is helpful.
And then including those stakeholders in discussions around how do you prioritize those things? And I would start small, especially if your org is larger. If you're dealing with a lot of stakeholders, you want to start small maybe with one group. But as you can expand that, then I would probably start to do... And this is what I do in one of my orgs currently is, I do a bi-weekly update. And we don't work on a regular sprint cycle per se. We're not as hardcore with the Agile methodology, but we share every two weeks what we've accomplished, if it has a significant impact on the end users.
And then we also share in that notification projects that are in flight and their status. So if we're working on maybe implementing something from the app exchange that maybe take us a month or two to implement, we include that and we provide status. So it's creating that visibility because sometimes people... You'll be surprised that people will respond and say, "Hey, I'm interested in this," or "I have an idea, or I have a thought on this." It creates that two-way communication that is required for admins and their end users.

Mike:
Yeah, I think a lot of... And I experienced this too. A lot of the requests, I was able to dial the heat down and dial the request down when I started sharing very transparently the roadmap on what was coming and features that were coming. Because, to be frank, a ton of users, over 500, and they don't know. And when an absence of knowledge happens, they feel, well, maybe nobody's thinking of this, so I better raise my hand and put in a request when in fact it is on the roadmap.

Liz:
And then sometimes too, just getting that visibility into the roadmap, end users will kind of do a groundswell like, "Hey, we actually need this sooner." And it helps when you've got a list of 10 people, individuals, that are asking for something and you're like, you can then go to leadership and say, "Hey, this is becoming a real need. How can we prioritize this? What can we put further down the backlog so that we can push this forward and get this really great feature out that could help make the team more productive?"
So creating that path for feedback is essential. And I know sometimes there's this... People think, "Oh, we're going to just get inundated with complaints or things like that." But I'm like, "Bring it," 'cause I want to know. I'd rather have people log a case with me around something that they is annoying them so that I can analyze it and determine, can I fix this? Is this a part of something else that we're working on so that we can keep iterating?

Mike:
Yeah, I agree. I would rather them be publicly vocal than privately angry.

Liz:
Yes. Plus, when things come in the written format, it allows me to use the written format back to them versus sometimes when you're maybe on a group call, a meeting and it's hard to be eloquent. So I will say one other area that the LLMs have helped me significantly is crafting more clear and concise messages back to my end users and stakeholders.

Mike:
Yeah, I was just going to ask you about that. Because I think that's one of the things where for a long time, creating training and stuff, people can look at, "Well, I'm just not a good writer," or "I'm just not a good communicator." And I was going to ask you what specifically maybe some of the tips that you have for admins to get out there and experiment with AI and absent of some of the products that Salesforce has, because AI seems to be everywhere now. I feel like pretty soon my toothbrush is going to have AI, it's going to start talking to me while I'm brushing my teeth.

Liz:
Well, hopefully it'll tell you if it has a cavity.

Mike:
Yeah, I don't... But do you want to know that? You got a cavity here. I just might throw you away now.

Liz:
I know, right?

Mike:
No, you're lying at me. But I feel like that could be one avenue that could help admins both understand how to write good prompts and understand AI while benefiting us back.

Liz:
So for example, I can be quite verbose and long-winded, and so I will sometimes ask something like ChatGPT or Gemini to make... I'll just draft something. This is the one thing. It's like you can draft something and your tone could be maybe terse or it could just be long-winded or filled with jargon. And I can pop it into ChatGPT and sometimes I'll use it like explain this like you're explaining it to an eighteen-year-old. Oddly, the eighteen-year-old or sixteen-year-old sort of prompt kind of helps me because it takes out some of that technical jargon, but also softens the tone a little bit for me. That's been quite helpful. I have ideas in how I want to communicate. ChatGPT helps me kind of put a little bit of structure around it so that it's not so all over the place.

Mike:
Yeah. I also really like it. I'll ask it for different tones.

Liz:
Yes.

Mike:
That was always a... A friend of mine told me this trick, which now it feels like trying to teach somebody how to use a rotary phone. But if you need to write a difficult email, pay attention to your tongue because you're probably nervous and your tongue's on the roof of your mouth, so you need to lower that. That'll also help lower your stress, but also pay attention to your eyebrows. And it was always referred to me as eyebrows up, because it's really hard to write something angry if you have your eyebrows up.

Liz:
Oh, I never knew that.

Mike:
Yeah, I mean, you can of course, but if you're trying to not write something terse per se, eyebrows up because it kind of pulls your whole face into that happy smiley. And it's very non-verbal and it's telling your brain, "No, we're happy. Let's write this in a non-confrontational way." But the AI can do that.

Liz:
Where was that advice pre-ChatGPT, Mike-

Mike:
Sorry.

Liz:
... when my brow is furrowed and I'm thinking I've reset your password 10 times in the last week.

Mike:
Yeah. Well, there are some things you can write with your eyebrows up that still come off terse, but that was always the trick that I was told.

Liz:
Well, it helps too, 'cause sometimes you can play around with formatting using ChatGPT. It's like how would you format this for a Slack message versus an email? And it is helpful. It even adds an emoji sometimes, which to me, it could be a little bit of overkill. And sometimes when I ask it to write in a friendly tone, it's a little too much. So I like balance between professional and friendly.
And then obviously, I'm going to still make changes to it, but it just gets me closer to... It saves me a significant amount of time. It gets me closer to communicating effectively, and it allows me to continue the positive relationships that I do care about and that I want with my stakeholders. But sometimes in the moment, emotions can get the best of you.

Mike:
Well, and you bring up a good point, and I can always edit it. And I think that's very relevant to a discussion we had last week with Tom Leddy on decision-making and throwing things at Copilot and Prompt Builder and then just taking what it gives you. One of the ways you can always think about that as a product manager is, "Okay, so is this thinking of ideas that maybe I didn't come up with?" And I think for me, a lot of times Copilot if it can build me a flow that I didn't think about or in a way I didn't think about, that gives me another option as a product manager for how best to manage all of the platform.

Liz:
Yes. Well, and if it's giving you an option that you didn't think about, you still need to spend time thinking about it before you select that as your option, right, to solve that problem or to solve that request. What's nice about is it shortens your learning time. You're not having to build and fail, build and fail as much, but you can't take the human assessment out of it.

Mike:
Right, right. There's no one right way to product manage. And I say that and then oof, somebody's going to be like, "No, there is," because the internet. But I think from your perspective, having worked with a lot of admins and seen orgs and seeing various different ways of product managing, rather than asking you, "What's your preface for product management?" What are attributes that admins should think about when creating a system like a ticketing system, regardless of what it looks like, that would be a good attribute to help them manage Salesforce as a product in their organization?

Liz:
Yeah. So I mean, you think fields that you would ask?

Mike:
Happy with fields or outcomes or... I've definitely... We've discussed using, you said, service cloud and cases. That's one way.

Liz:
I mean, I love a good Kanban view, right?

Mike:
Sure. I mean, we can have that.

Liz:
That is one of my favorites, and it's a great screenshot for a slide if you have to.

Mike:
Not that you've done that before.

Liz:
But for me, it's the level of detail that you're willing to ask your end users to put in. I mean, I would say for about every couple of tickets, most of the time I still need to have an additional conversation to understand. And this is purely around enhancements. I mean, definitely if there's fixes that need to happen, there's conversations automatically. But I love that it creates this opportunity for me to reach out to people and continue to build that rapport. So it's never just like, "Oh, I get this request in from a case for an enhancement." And, "Okay, I am just going to do this." It's never that. I always want to understand a little bit more context.
So I try not to create too many field requests on that enhancement request, but I do want to understand what process is this supporting? What is this hindering you from doing? How will this help you? Things like that. I try to get a little bit of what I would say, just contextual information if I can. But sometimes people just put stuff in. It's like, "I want this field so that I can do this reporting." And that's their enhancement request.

Mike:
Yes. I need six check boxes, one for every color of the product that we sell.

Liz:
Yes. Or they want five multi-selects.

Mike:
Oh.

Liz:
But it's also too... The one other thing that I like about creating the space for people to submit enhancements, it allows me to create groupings. And that's one of the key things that I look for when I'm building the system is, can I group... Well, for lack of a better term, tickets or requests together to form a mini project? Because then you're really thinking through the process and how it relates to Salesforce beyond just a field.
And so typically when things are going on at the company and people are all of a sudden you're getting all these kind of related asks, that means there's like, is there an initiative that I haven't been informed upon? Do I need to know more than I know? Because maybe I can build a better solution if I get more looped into these internal initiatives or objectives.

Mike:
Yeah, I really like that idea. I mean, I think that's something that I would love to see in a future roadmap for some of the Einstein products is helping if you set up a ticketing system, using cases, helping you kind of clump, for lack of a better term, those cases together into these kind of... It's almost like, do you play connections in the New York Times?

Liz:
I do.

Mike:
Okay. So don't get started on that. But it would be like, what are these all have to do together with each other kind of a thing?

Liz:
Oh, that would be awesome.

Mike:
I know, right?

Liz:
It'll be here before-

Mike:
And then purple would be like-

Liz:
...we know it.

Mike:
... here's the craziest cases that we've found a through thread. I can't figure out what the through thread is.

Liz:
That would be incredible. I'm sure that will be here before we know it. I

Mike:
I mean, next year maybe we'll be on the podcast together. I'll be like, "Liz, hey, remember we had that podcast we talked about? Now it works."

Liz:
Yes, that would be a dream because I think I do spend a bit of time grouping things together and trying to figure out like, "Okay, is this related to something? And maybe I need to look more." But that's the beauty of it 'cause sometimes you get the cases in and then you're like, "Oh my gosh, we may have something that we may need to fix or we may need to re-engineer," and that's okay. You want that. And again, the more you can get that and iterate on it, the more your stakeholders and your end users are going to trust what you're building and doing in the system.

Mike:
So one thing I want to touch on, and unfortunately we're doing it at the end, but a lot of this we talked about product management in terms of what users want and what's being requested of you, absent of the release schedule that Salesforce has. What is your philosophy or how do you think about adding that as... Because that's an additional layer that we have to consider, right? Three times a year there's a brand new release, there's new features, and they may or may not be on any roadmap.

Liz:
Well, if you're in your org and you know what's going on with it, you're usually waiting for those features. I usually get pretty excited about some of the things that come out. So usually I feel that I'm always eager. And I love all the stuff that the, admins blog and the Salesforce plus sessions that you all do for release readiness. That's so incredibly helpful because I sometimes listen to and have an 'aha' moment like, "Oh wait, we were just talking about this and this could help me solve it."
And it's just being aware. I think having that rigor around your enhancement list and then reviewing it on a regular basis helps you when you're starting to review the release notes or attend release readiness live, you'll get those light bulb moments. And you'll just be like, "Okay, well this is coming, but it's going to have to now wait until the summer release." Or should I say fall? Just joking.

Mike:
Yeah, right. That's always a quiz question to get wrong is what's the season that's not a release?

Liz:
Right.

Mike:
Or I guess I always think of it, here's a feature that's coming that I don't have to build.

Liz:
Yes, yes. It saves time.

Mike:
Which used to be the case a lot. So thanks for coming on and refreshing us on product management because I feel this is a core responsibility that admins focus on, and especially given the speed of innovation now that we're thrust into with AI.

Liz:
Yes. And it's even more important for them to flex these types of skills around product management.

Mike:
Oh, absolutely. I mean, product management skills as an admin will translate to other skills across the organization and within technology.

Liz:
Yes, exactly. And it's a great way for them to build their career and trust.

Mike:
Absolutely. Thanks for being on.

Liz:
Thanks so much. It's always a pleasure to be here.

Mike:
Of course, that was a great discussion with Liz. I love having her back. I'll also link to that previous episode down in the show notes so you can check it out because clean data with AI is super important. But love some of the points that she had to bring up, especially around thinking through different features and really managing all of the requests and roadmap. I hope that's something that you're thinking about, too.
Now, if you enjoyed this episode... I hope you did. I had a lot of fun recording it. I would love for you to share the episode. And if you're listening on iTunes or really any platform, it's usually super easy. You hit like an up arrow or in iTunes, you hit three dots and you can click share episode, and that'll allow you to post it to social or text to a friend. Maybe you got a friend that's getting started as a Salesforce admin and they want to learn how to manage the product.

And of course, as always, I appreciate you listening. So until next week, we'll see you in the cloud.

 




Today on the Salesforce Admins Podcast, we talk to Tom Leddy, the Product Director of Well-Architected and Decision Guides at Salesforce.

Join us as we chat about decision-making in the age of AI and why cleaning up your data is more important than ever.

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

Decision Guides and the Well-Architected Framework

Almost exactly a year ago, we had Tom on the pod to talk about the Well-Architected Framework. I’ll link the episode below but Tom gives us a quick summary: “It tells you how to build healthy solutions with Salesforce and what a healthy solution should look like,” he says.

Making your org healthy comes down to looking for patterns and anti-patterns. Essentially, you want to do things in a way that sets you up for long-term success.

Tom and his team are hard at work rolling Decision Guides into the Well-Architected Framework. These walkthroughs are designed to help you decide which Salesforce tool is right for you when they have overlapping functionality. The answer is going to depend on your specific use case, so looking at a Decision Guide can help you understand the full picture and make the best choice for your business.

Understanding AI as a tool

Looking forward, Tom sees a lot of potential in combining AI tools like Einstein Copilot with the information in Well-Architected and Decision Guides. There’s a lot of potential to make things more interactive or quicker to digest, but you’ll still need to do some critical thinking and make your own decisions. 

In terms of incorporating AI tools into your org, Tom is working on decision guides for that, too. “A lot of the cool AI features are not going to work very well unless you have a good underlying data strategy,” he says. Working through the Well-Architected Framework will help you create a solid foundation to get the most out of these new tools now and in the future. 

Why AI needs clean data

If you’re a frequent listener, you’ll know that we can’t have an episode about AI without mentioning just how important it is to have clean data. As Tom points out, this extends to patterns and anti-patterns as well. It’ll be easier than ever to roll out code to your org and create new customizations, but you need to be sure you’re doing it the right way and not crippling yourself with technical debt.

Luckily, Tom and his team are working on tools to help you make sure your org is, well, Well-Architected. Stay on the lookout for a Data Strategy Decision Guide, coming soon™, and new ways to assess the health of your org with Einstein Copilot. The future is bright, and hopefully a little more organized.

Be sure to listen to the full episode for more tips from Tom, and don’t forget to subscribe for more from the Salesforce Admins Podcast.

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

Today on the Salesforce Admins Podcast, we talk to Jim Ray, Director of Developer Relations and Advocacy at Slack. Join us as we chat about automating in Slack and what’s coming with Slack AI.

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

Slack is more than just a chat tool

Jim gave a great breakout session at TDX on automating in Slack, so I wanted to bring him on the pod to tell us all about it. “If you’re just using Slack for communication, you’re overpaying for a chat tool,” he says, “there’s a lot more you can do to broaden your usage of Slack.”

Slack integrations have been around for forever, but it used to be that you needed a fair bit of technical knowledge in order to make your own customizations. With the launch of Workflow Builder, however, you can build automations in Slack without having to code or host an app yourself. This unlocks a whole new level for how Slack can improve your business processes and make everything easier.

Build custom automations with Slack Workflow Builder

If you’ve played around with Workflow Builder in the past, you may be familiar with how you can use it to create a new channel or automatically post a formatted message at a certain time each week. But recently, they’ve added the ability to use custom steps from apps and 3rd-party tools, like Salesforce, and now the possibilities are endless.

Jim gives a few examples that help spell out how big this actually is. For example, imagine you have a weekly status report meeting. You can create a scheduled Slack workflow that automatically drops the relevant Salesforce info into a Slack channel so everyone can refer to it. That can save you a bunch of time you’d spend bringing the room up to speed, or even eliminate the meeting entirely.

We get into a ton of other examples, including adding info to the channel’s Canvas document and even using a Slack automation to execute a flow in Salesforce. There’s just a ton of great use cases here when you’re able to bring your Salesforce data directly into Slack and vice versa.

Summarize and search with Slack AI

Lastly, we talked about Slack AI and that’s where things get really interesting. It gives you the ability to search Slack with natural language queries, and summarize or format the results.

Jim gives the example of when he returned to work after some time off for paternity leave. He had a first meeting with a new skip-level manager and needed to do some prep. So he asked Slack AI, “what does this person think about the Slack platform?” It not only found everything they ever posted on the subject and summarized the results, but it also gave him footnotes with links to the actual comments so he could do more digging.

AI does even better with structured data, and that’s where Workflow Builder comes back into the picture. The automations you build create exactly the kind of data that Slack AI loves. It opens up a whole new world of possibilities for how you can share information across your organization without the need to put everyone on Salesforce.

Jim shares a bunch more use cases and tips for how to get started building automations in Slack, so be sure to take a listen. And don’t forget to subscribe for more from the Salesforce Admins Podcast.

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Full Transcript

Mike:
Okay, this week on the Salesforce Admins Podcast, we are going to have a lot of fun because we are talking about Slack automations with the director of developer relations and advocacy, Jim Ray of Slack. Now, you're probably a Salesforce Admin, you're like, "Oh, but we don't use Slack. I'm not going to listen to this." No! This is a fun episode and it's going to give you a ton of ideas for, hey, maybe we should think about using Slack. I'm not here to sell you anything. I don't get any commissions.
I just love when I can give you ideas and creative answers to challenges that you're facing. And Jim talks us through a whole bunch of fun stuff that you can do in Slack and gave me a ton of ideas. We talked about canvases. I don't know if you use canvases, but it's a ton of fun. Now, before we get into that, I want to tell you about, hey, what we got coming up in April, because this is last episode of March. I have architect evangelist Tom Leddy coming on to talk about decisioning. I reconnected with Lizz Hellinga at TrailblazerDX.
Remember, she was on a previous episode talking about the importance of clean data and why that's important for AI. She's coming back. I'm working on getting Skip Sauls with the Data Cloud update, so Data Cloud. And then I'm going to introduce a new episode at the end of April where I'm bringing my co-worker, Josh Burke, on, and he's going to do a deep dive episode with a product manager. We're working on getting somebody really cool to help you change the way you do some of your thinking.
That's all I'm going to tease out for right now. But of course, if you're not already subscribed to the podcast, make sure you're doing that, make sure you're following it. It's a different word on every podcast platform. But if you do that, new episodes automatically get downloaded to your phone. That way when you wake up in the morning, you put the leash on the dog, you go out, boom! You press play, podcast is going, and you can get some great information. You don't have to think about it, or maybe you're riding the bus to work or bicycling.
It's starting to become summer now. So anyway, that's a whole long way. This is fun. You're going to enjoy this podcast. Let's get Jim on the pod. So Jim, welcome to the podcast.

  •  

Jim Ray:
Thanks so much. It's great to be here, Mike.

Mike:
I always have fun talking Slack. I feel like the last time we talked Slack was with Amber Boaz and she was telling us how to replace meetings with Slack. And then you did a presentation in the admin track at TDX about automating in Slack, and I just feel like that's the next level for people that use Slack is getting it to do stuff automagically. So that's what I'd love to talk about, but let's start with how did Jim get all the way to Slack?

Jim Ray:
That's a great question. I'm also glad you mentioned Amber Boaz. I had the opportunity to meet her at TDX.

Mike:
Oh, she's wonderful.

Jim Ray:
She's from my neck of the woods, so I'm going to try to drive down to Durham in a month or so and hang out with the user group that she's got.

Mike:
That's pretty country down there too.

Jim Ray:
It is. It's nice. I went to school down there too, so it's pretty great. So if we're talking background here, my background is actually in journalism. I have a journalism degree from the University of North Carolina. That's what I did.

Mike:
So it's obvious that you would work in tech.

Jim Ray:
Obvious that I would be working in developer relations at Slack. It's maybe not as much of a leap as people might think. I was always kind of the techie guy that was looking for... My degree is in this multimedia storytelling. This was the late '90s. We were trying to figure out how to do interesting new ways of telling stories on the web, and that's what I was into. So I always had a tech mindset inside of the newsrooms that I worked in. And then when I switched over to tech, I still brought that media background with me.
And interestingly enough, DevRel has merged those two things. It wasn't something that I'd set out to do, but I was really interested in what was going on at Slack. I started working at Slack in the middle of 2016, so just as the company was really rocketing off. It was a really incredible first year. The user growth was happening a lot. The company itself was growing tremendously. It was a different place every year for the first couple of years that I was there. And so I've been working on the DevRel side for most of that time.
And then recently, about a year and a half ago, I took over our developer advocacy team. And so on developer advocacy in Slack, what we do is we work primarily with our customers who are building on the Slack platform. The platform is multifaceted in some ways. We have our Slack App Directory where you go and you install apps that are built by our partners, or they're built by companies that are building their business on top of Slack.
But the bulk of the work that happens on the platform is custom apps and integrations that are built by our customers to solve their own needs. We're always looking for ways to engage with that audience and help them understand how to do automation in Slack.

Mike:
I mean, I think too often people just look at Slack as like, oh, it's just another communication tool. But just as we were chatting before we even got started, the number of features that it has and the way you can configure things to, lack of a better term, almost communicate back with you and make life easier, which is what the point of automation.
I remember the first time I built an automation, which I believe was just for a simple Slack group where it was like, I really want questions in the Slack group formatted in a certain way, and so I just stuck up that form and they just auto created that post. But the cool thing was somebody on my team pointed out, you know it could also put all of that text into a Google Doc so that you have this running FAQ?
I was done at that point. I was like, oh God, no idea, right? Because for so long, you mentioned you started in 2016, but you got a degree in multimedia storytelling, who would've thought like, VHS, what are we going to do? DVD now for a certain period. Now, so many of these communication apps are not just like remember the days of MSN Messenger. It's not just text back and forth. It's actually managing of information and context.

Jim Ray:
I think that's such a good point, and I really love your example of formatting your questions. I think one of the things, and this is something that I learned from working more closely with my friends on the sales side of the house, is that if you're just using Slack for communication, you're overpaying for a chat tool, as they like to say. And there's a lot more that you can do to broaden your usage of Slack, and we're increasingly trying to be a surface area for getting work done. Obviously, Slack doesn't have any desire to be the only place where you come and do your work.
It would pretty well constrain the work that I think people could do. But it's definitely a place, particularly those quick interactions, and that's where some of the automation comes in. But things like approvals, things like questions, even quick bug reports where you're already interacting with your colleagues, automation allows you to bring in your other tools, and that's where the power of that lies. And the platform has really expanded a lot in the early days. Slack came with some built-in integration.
So if you wanted to do things like get an alert whenever somebody uploaded a file to Dropbox, then we had that automatically configured. But if you wanted to do something outside of the bounds of that automatic configuration, then that wasn't really possible. Then we launched the API and along with that we launched the app directory. And so we were approaching it from a couple of different ways. You could build custom integrations, or you could install apps and integrations that other people had built from the directory.
And then that's where we saw that usage explode, where people were really building custom use cases. The problem was for those early days of the API was that it really did require a fair bit of technical knowledge. You had to know how to program against our APIs, which means you had to know how APIs work. You also had to host the app yourself. And so in those early days of the APIs, you had to build out an application. And it worked very similarly to how you might build a Twitter app or something like that, but you were responsible for hosting that.
And then we built a lot of tooling around that to help improve that. We built some frameworks to make it easier to build with some of our most popular programming languages. And then we acquired a company called Missions, and this is where Workflow Builder really... Where its origins lie. We acquired this company called Missions, and the team that built Missions, they were a team that was actually inside of a consulting company called Robots & Pencils, and they were like, "We've got this idea for our product that can interact with Slack."

Mike:
That's a great name.

Jim Ray:
It's a cool name, right? And so the Missions app was all about making it easier to build automations without having to write any code. So we acquired that team, fantastic team, really love working with them. A number of them are still at Slack, thankfully, and they're doing fantastic work. And that became the first version of Workflow Builder, and Workflow Builder was our no code automation product. And that was a way to use the platform without having to know how to program, without having to host an app. And so that was the first big expansion beyond just writing applications.

Mike:
Jumping ahead to your TDX presentation, because we talked about automation, because the example I gave was just literally Slack just automating within itself, what were some of the examples you gave in that breakout presentation?

Jim Ray:
The evolution of Workflow Builder also mirrors the increased complexity of things that you can build. The initial version of Workflow Builder allows you to do exactly what you were just talking about, allows you to automate work within Slack. So if you wanted to do something like create a new channel or post a message that was formatted in a certain way, then you could do that with Workflow Builder.
The second version of Workflow Builder that we released, and this is the current contemporary version, allowed hooks into other applications. And so apps could build custom steps that could then be inserted into workflows. And so you could install an app, and then that app would bring custom steps along with it. And what we've done now is continue to expand on that surface area.
So now anyone can write a custom step and you can actually deploy that up to Slack and we'll run that custom step inside of Workflow Builder. We've also built out a number of what we call connectors. These are connections to other third-party tools. So Salesforce is a great example. So if you want to create a new record in Salesforce, then we have that connector built in.
And what's nice about the way that we've built it is we handle things like authentication. We handle all of the API communications so that you don't have to worry about that, and then all you have to do is off with your credentials. And then when you run the workflow, then it will just essentially act on your behalf. And so we've got about 70 of these connectors into a whole bunch of apps.
So Salesforce is obviously one. The Google suite, so if you need to create a new Google Doc or if you need to insert a row into a spreadsheet, if you want to upload files into various file providers. So we've got a number of steps that do things like that. And then one of the Salesforce steps that we've also got is to kick off a flow.
So if your organization is dependent or you've built out a lot of custom flows or things like that, then you can insert a step into Workflow Builder and then we'll kick off that flow. So it'll actually execute a more complex workflow instead of just creating a new record or updating a record or something like that.

Mike:
I think the really cool automation stuff, at least cool to me, was giving Salesforce admins the ability to, lack of a better term, expand the footprint of Salesforce within an organization, but without having to add per se more platform licenses. And we did an example where like a warehouse manager really deals with the data, but a lot of people also needed to just know about things. And with automation, they could follow records and channels and get updates, but they never needed to update any of the physical data on the Salesforce record.

Jim Ray:
That's such a good example, and it's something that we see from our sales and customer success friends all the time as well is... So at Slack, the way that our channels are organized is that every account that we're attached to gets its own channel. They all have their own prefix and stuff like that. So it might be Account-Salesforce and Account-Acme. And then you can actually build automations that will do things like one of the ways that you can trigger your automation is you can have your automation set to go at a certain time once a week.
So maybe you've got a Monday morning meeting and you want to get the entire sales team around that, but you want to pull some data from Salesforce. So you can go grab some information from Salesforce. You want to get the latest updated figures that have come in over the past week, and then you can just drop that information into channel, and then now everybody's got the context. And so you're not just blindly talking about, "Hey, what's going on with the customer this week," you actually have some information, and then you can start a conversation around that.
It's actually a great way that teams have eliminated those regular meetings that we have so that everybody stays in sync. There's often good reasons why we have them, but maybe not good reasons why we keep them, especially now that everybody's working in a more distributed way these days. This works across all kinds of teams, not just sales team, but you might have a marketing team and maybe you want to pull some data from Google Analytics or any of your social analytics platforms or anything like that.
You can drop that information in there and then the team can have a conversation around that. Maybe you notice something's right, or maybe everything's great and then you just don't need to have a meeting. It's just like, "Looking good and all systems go," and then you've just saved your entire team half an hour. Translate that over a quarter or a year, and that's some actual real-time savings.

Mike:
Am I understanding you right by also saying it could pull from reports or dashboards in Salesforce?

Jim Ray:
Absolutely. Because everyone's Salesforce instance is special, we operate on the record level, and so we'd be able to look at how those records are set up. And one thing that we're interested in getting a little bit closer to is things like Tableau and MuleSoft where there might be some complex records that run in the background, and then how do we pull that information into Slack? So we haven't quite fully figured out that level of automation yet, but it's absolutely something that folks on both sides are working on.

Mike:
On top of it just being cool, the part that really appeals to me is the lack of having the context switch. So this concept came to me, oh, I want to say four or five years ago when we were trying to work through a ticketing system for what my team does. We really tried to narrow down, what is the hardest part of your job? Well, the hardest part of your job is regardless of where your mind is at at say 12:30, you have to join this meeting. And for me, oftentimes I'll sit down at my desk, I don't know what the priority is that morning.
I could get working on something. And then to your point, oh, it's 10:00. I got to join this team meeting. Boy, if I didn't have to and I could just stay in my mindset and do another 45 minutes, I could finish this project. But now I have to context switch. Join this meeting, look at 20 people on a call, waste an hour, and then spend another 20 minutes getting my brain back to where it was. I could have been done with this project and maybe my update was five minutes.
And I bring that up because I think like, wow, just the ability to, hey, we're still going to have that Monday team call at 10 AM, except it's going to be a scheduled Slack post. And then I just expect you, the directs, to respond to as needed throughout the day. Because if you're a sales guy, you probably have a 10 AM with a customer, and that's bringing money in as opposed to, well, my update was only five minutes anyway, I'm going to add this update at 11:05 after I'm done with my customer call.
I'm not going to prevent anybody. I bring that up because I think the value of not having to context switch by just putting in simple automation is so important when you think of it's not just automating and putting a dashboard in a Slack channel.

Jim Ray:
I think it's a hugely important point, and I think it really emphasizes how we work today. So the instance that you were just talking about about the meeting interrupting your day, so if you can eliminate that standing meeting, obviously we're not going to eliminate all of our meetings, I still have one-on-ones with all my reports and all that, but eliminate those kinds of meetings where the sharing of information is important, but having to sit together in a room is less important. So that's one great way that we can eliminate context switching.
I think it's really important. One another way is to eliminate what I think of as alt tabbing. So every time you alt tab between applications, that actually... Even if you are actually working on the same project, we know, and I've studied this a little bit because it has to do with the customers that I work with and the kinds of applications that they're interested in building, but every time you alt tab between apps, it actually does a little mini version of that context switch.
It's almost like going into a new meeting, especially if you haven't offed in, or you can't remember where you're supposed to go, or you have to pull some information from one system of record and put it into another. So those are the kinds of things that we know are real drains on people's productivity and actually their ability to get into that meaningful deep work state, that flow state that we know is really important for knowledge work. I mean, we're all really lucky we get to sit in front of computers all day for the most part.
I'm not worried about getting black lung or anything like that, but the work actually does have a drain on our brains, the thing that we're using to do the work. And we know that by eliminating some of that context switching, we can actually help people get back and do some important work. There's some really great examples about how bringing some of that automation, and again, not bringing all of your work, but bringing some of that automation into Slack can be really helpful.
So a couple of ways that we've been using it for a long time is, again, at Slack, we will set up channels for specific projects or features that we're working on. So we're working on a new feature, and that feature gets its own channel. And the team that's working on that feature will start working on it. And then when we release it internally, we create a feedback channel. And the feedback channel is where everybody who is starting to use that new feature, they'll come and they'll offer up obviously their feedback or give bug reports or maybe just things that they think could be tweaked.
And so oftentimes we'll set up a workflow, and we've got some examples of it that teams across the organization can use, we'll set that workflow up in that channel. And then what it'll do is it'll post a message in the channel and we can have some conversation about that feedback. And then you can take that conversation and you can submit a bug report. So if somebody says, "Hey, this doesn't look right," then it doesn't automatically submit the bug report, but then the PM or the engineer or the designer can come in and say, "Oh, you know what? I can reproduce that. Let me file a bug."
And then what they can do is they can kick off another workflow that will log that entire conversation in JIRA and create the new bug. And then once the bug has been created in JIRA, attach the URL for the bug into the thread. So then you've got the context in both directions. So the person who submitted the bug, they don't have to go through and figure out how JIRA works or whatever. The PM or the engineer, they don't have to context switch out to another application.
And then if you want to come back and get some context about it, maybe I reported this a week ago and I want to see what the update is, I can go back to that original conversation. I can search for my name or whatever, and then I can click on the link and go in JIRA. And then JIRA remains the system of record. We're not trying to replicate all of JIRA. I wouldn't wish that on anyone, but JIRA remains the system of record, but the actual filing of that bug report didn't require switching between lots of different systems.

Mike:
That's along the lines with the automation that I saw where Salesforce remains a system of record. Slack just hosts the conversation, right?

Jim Ray:
Yeah, exactly.

Mike:
Back and forth and keeping people up to date. And also it reduces training, right? If I've got somebody like I think the example we used was a retail manager, if all the retail manager knows Slack, they don't need to know the back ends of everything. That's the best part about the apps and stuff.
I was singing the praises of canvases before we started this call because I've started to use canvases a little bit more. I'd love for you to help me understand what are some examples that admins could use of automating with canvases or creating canvases as a result of automation? Is that even possible?

Jim Ray:
Totally, and it's a great question. So if listeners aren't familiar, canvases are kind of our document project or product inside of Slack. It's built into every Slack. You can create as many canvases as you want to. And think of a canvas just as kind of a lightweight doc. If you remember Dropbox Paper from back in the day, it works very similarly. It's not all the formatting that you get from something like Microsoft Word or Google Doc or something like that, but it's just enough formatting so that you can lay things out in a pretty consistent way.
And the nice thing about canvases is they can exist anywhere inside of Slack and you can attach them in different places. So you can create a canvas that is attached permanently to a channel. If you want to provide some context, maybe again, it's one of those feedback channels, so you want to provide some information about how a person gives feedback, what to expect, is there an SLA, things like that, you can write all of that up inside of a canvas. And the cool thing is canvases can be automated.
They can be automated with workflows. So one of the options for steps that you have inside of Workflow Builder is to create a new canvas. But the other thing that you can do is you can insert variables inside of canvases, and then the information that you collect from a previous step in a workflow can be inserted into that canvas where those variables are. We nerds, we call that variable interpolation. So basically you create a canvas that acts as a template.
So maybe you want to create across your organization, you want to say, every time we spin up a new feature, we're also going to spin up a corresponding feedback channel. And every one of those feedback channels should have a canvas attached to it that provides some information about the channel. Maybe it's going to be who is the DRI for this feature? Maybe it's a PM or maybe it's an engineering lead and that person is the DRI for this. And so you should expect to hear feedback from them.
And then maybe we also want to point you to a workflow that says, hey, this is the workflow to use if you want to give us information or if you want to give us feedback about this. And so you can create that workflow and then you can attach the workflow into canvas and we'll create a nice little widget for you. And then we'll put all of the information about the person, about the people who are responsible for that feedback channel into the canvas as well.
And so you can create a setup feedback channel workflow, and maybe you gather some information, maybe you say, "Who's the DRI for this? Point me to the tech spec," and then any further information. Well, you can fill all that in in your workflow and then we'll automatically create a new canvas from that template, fill that information in, and attach it directly to the channel that gets created. And the workflow can also create the channel too.

Mike:
I don't want to get into different channels because right now I feel I need a workflow to manage my channels, but that's probably... I mean, well, let me ask about that. That's probably where the AI is going to go, right? So I see AI now in Slack in the search, but I got to envision that it's going to start heading into channels and other things, right?

Jim Ray:
Absolutely. And that's kind of where we're starting to think about some of this. And so back in February, I think it was actually Valentine's Day, we dropped a little Valentine's Day gift for everybody, which was Slack AI. The initial version of Slack AI was really all about improving your ability to search and find and summarize. And so now if you have the Slack AI, and it is an additional product because it's pretty expensive computationally and just in terms of resources to run.
So if you have Slack AI enabled on your workspace, then search will be able to do things like take natural language queries. I was on paternity leave for about half of last year, and I came back and we still had a pre-release version of Slack AI running on our instance. And it was really great for me because I could do things like... I had a new skip level manager. And so I was like, what does this person think about the Slack platform? And it was just a very open-ended query.
I was testing to see how the system worked, but it was also some information that I really needed to do my job. And it came back, and not only did it come back with a standard search result that we give you now with just here are some bits, but it uses the generative AI piece to say it actually found all of the relevant posts, composed a response for me as if a human had written it, but then it also has footnotes to the relevant posts. And so I was just like, oh, what is this person? That's fantastic.
So I was ready for my one-on-one with them coming up. And then you can also do things like summarize. So if I wanted to be able to summarize a channel, again, that was super helpful for me coming back from a pretty extended leave, I was able to summarize some of the channels that maybe they were new or maybe it was the kinds of things that I keep an eye on, but I hadn't been there in a few months. So I was able to get those summaries. And so right now, Slack AI works on all of the data that gets put into your Slack instance.
Most of that data is unstructured data, and so it's conversations that you're having. We know that generative AI, large language models are really good with that kind of unstructured data. But we also know that search and AI and just computers in general do really, really well when we give them a little bit of structured data. And that's where automations in the platform come back in. And that's where we're really going to be able to enhance some of these AI capabilities.
So if you are adding context to all of these unstructured conversations with information back to your systems of record, that's the kind of thing that the AI is going to be able to ingest and get more information about. So if you need to know, hey, what's the latest with this customer, then we'll be able to grab that information. It will be inside of Slack. And then you can imagine, we're working on some ideas about this, we don't have any products or anything like that, but a whole bunch of...
Even our customers are building custom versions of this where they're using these large language models, they're accessing their various systems of record, and then they're pushing it all into Slack. So you might ask a custom AI bot that you build or someone else builds for you some information and then it goes out and spiders the various systems of record and then brings back a comprehensive result.

Mike:
I will tell you that we use the summarize this. I tried it on a few Slack channels, and then I put the summaries into a canvas as a way to summarize a big channel internally for my team. It was interesting to see how it came back. It's also fun because it talked about me in the third person, and I just let it continue doing that because it's an ongoing Seinfeld joke.
But last question for you. I mean, I got a million. We could go for hours, I think. If a Salesforce admin has... Obviously they've got Salesforce. They probably have Slack, that's why they're still listening. What is some automation that they should think about to get started with?

Jim Ray:
I think the easiest thing would probably be the ability to create or update a record. And this is for the low friction entry points. So obviously we're not trying to be the only interface to Salesforce, but Slack has a great mobile client. I know Salesforce does as well. But maybe you're out on the field and you just want to make it easy for folks that are out in the field to quickly update or create a new record and have that send the information. And you still want Salesforce to continue to be the system of record.
So an example, and this is an example that I showed during one of my demonstrations, I'd built out a Salesforce instance and I'd put a bunch of data in from a real estate management company. It's just one of the data back-ends that we have with a lot of sample data in it. And the idea was that you might be out on the road and you might want to quickly add a new property that you had gone to see or inspect or something like that. And so you could pull that up in Slack. You could pull that up.
The form is automatically formatted using our what we call Block Kit, which is really just our UI Kit, and you can create all of the fields that you need. So maybe there's half a dozen fields that you need just to get started on a new property. And then maybe when you get back to the office, you're going to fill it in. But maybe you're out there, you snap a quick pic and you want to add the address and a couple of quick information about it. That's something that you can do very quickly inside of Slack, quickly generate that, throw it in there, but then also have it update the rest of your team.
So it's not just storing the information in your system of record, but you're also posting that inside of a channel. So now your team knows like, "Oh, okay, Jim was out in the field. He added this quick record in here." And then maybe somebody else who's already in the office, they can add some more contextual information about it, or it can kick off a chat and people can start conversing about what we want to do with that and where to go from there.
So anytime that you have an instance where you want to keep the system of record, Salesforce in this case, you want to keep that updated, up to date, add new information, but then you also want to have a place where people are discussing that, and that could be a Slack channel, those two things are happening simultaneously, well, that's a great use case for a workflow.

Mike:
I would agree. You mentioned my favorite thing, which is Block Kit Builder. So I'm going to put you on the spot. Promise me you'll come back on and we'll do an episode on Block Kit Builder.

Jim Ray:
I would love to. Block Kit Builder is fantastic.

Mike:
Oh my God, I have so much fun with Block Kit Builder. You have no idea.

Jim Ray:
Fantastic.

Mike:
I have a million questions too.

Jim Ray:
Excellent.

Mike:
When you said that, I lit up and thought, oh, I have to do a whole episode on Block Kit Builder.

Jim Ray:
Well, schedule me up. I'd love to talk about it.

Mike:
l will. Thanks so much for coming on the pod, Jim. This was great. I've always been excited for Slack and just the cool stuff we can do, especially when it doesn't require code. The Block Kit Builder episode is going to be fun because it's both code and not code.

Jim Ray:
Absolutely.

Mike:
So we'll tease that out.

Jim Ray:
Thanks so much, Mike. I really appreciate it. It was great getting to talk to the audience.

Mike:
Am I right? How much fun is automations with Slack? Also, I might've gotten a little too giddy about Block Kit Builder, and I promise you that I'm already working on my schedule to get Jim back to talk about Block Kit Builder for Slack. But he gave me a ton of ideas for automations, including creating canvases and just the management of information. This was such a fun episode. I hope you enjoyed listening to it. And if you did, can you do me a favor?
Maybe you're heading to a community user group with other Salesforce admins, or you're going to dinner, or you've got a large social following, just click the dots there in the podcast app and choose share episode. And when you do, you can text it to a friend or you can post the social. And then that way you help spread the word and spread all this really cool stuff that we're learning how to do without code.
Now, if you're looking for more great resources, of course, everything that you need is at admin.salesforce.com, including the transcript of the show. And of course, you can join the conversation in the Trailblazer Community. There's a lot of great questions being asked there. A lot of admins helping other admins with stuff. And that's in the Trailblazer Community, in the Admin Trailblazer Group.
So I'll include all the links to those in the show notes, which is on admin.salesforce.com. And until then, I'll see you in the cloud.

 

 

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

Today on the Salesforce Admins Podcast, we talk to Lisa Tulchin, Senior Curriculum Developer at Salesforce.

Join us as we chat about choosing the learning path that fits your learning style and strategies from training your users.

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

Choose a learning path that matches your learning style

Lisa works on the Trailhead Academy Team, and I wanted to hear her take on a common question I get asked: “Should I work through Trailhead on my own or do I need to sign up for a class with Trailhead Academy?”

For Lisa, deciding between self-paced or instructor-led learning is going to depend on knowing yourself and what you need. What’s worked for you in the past? And when have you struggled to learn something? “You have to stop and have an honest talk with yourself,” she says. Some people like to work through a checklist of goals, and other folks need a bit more guidance.

It’s important to remember that it doesn’t have to be a binary choice. You can go for credentials, but you can also look at the recommended badges and trails for them to give yourself some guidance. And Trailhead Academy is always an option for when you get stuck. Learning is a process, and most people are going to succeed by trying different approaches and seeing what works.

Facing fear and finding community makes learning easier

When you’re struggling to learn something new, you should be aware that fear might be holding you back. “Kids are a lot more comfortable making mistakes than we are as adults,” Lisa says, “saying, ‘I don’t know,’ is one of the scariest things for adults to admit.”

That’s why she encourages tapping into the Salesforce community, whether that’s online or through your local user group. You might hear someone else ask the same questions that are on your mind and, suddenly, you’re not alone. Or you might even find yourself able to answer someone else’s question. Finding peers makes the whole learning process easier.

Best practices for training your users

As an experienced instructor, Lisa has some great tips for how to overcome resistance and train your users. Change is hard and, again, fear might be a factor. She recommends starting off by “hugging the elephant” and explaining that, yes, this new process is tricky but it will make your life easier.

Lisa also shares some best practices for how to write an effective training. For starters, there’s the 80/20 Rule. In other words, your training should focus on the 80% of knowledge they need to do their job, not the 20% that would be nice for them to know.

Additionally, you can make something easier to learn by breaking it down into manageable tasks. Our brains remember things in 5-7 chunks at a time (for example, phone numbers or ZIP codes). If you’re writing out a task and the individual steps are getting into the double digits, you might want to break it down differently to make it easier to remember.

This episode has a bunch more great tips for how to keep up with your own learning and take advantage of the resources out there from Salesforce, so be sure to take a listen. And don’t forget to subscribe for more from the Salesforce Admins Podcast.

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Full show transcript

Mike Gerholdt:
This week on the Salesforce Admins Podcast, we were talking to Lisa Tulchin about learning and how you can be a better learner, and also, as a Salesforce admin, how you can help teach and educate and drive user adoption with your user. I've known Lisa for over a decade now. She's a senior curriculum developer at Trailhead. She's done both in-person and self-paced learning. She's created both.
So I feel like she's a real expert on this, and we cover a lot because I had a lot of great conversations at TrailblazerDX about learning, and I know admins are always learning, so that's why I wanted to cover that. Now, before we get into the episode, I want to be sure that you're following the Salesforce Admins Podcast on iTunes or Spotify, wherever you get your podcasts. That way, when a new episode drops like this one, and it's amazing on learning on Thursday mornings, it's immediately on your phone. So be sure you're following that, and then a new episode will drop. So with that, let's get to, this is such a fun episode, let's get to Lisa Tulchin. So, Lisa, welcome to the podcast.

Lisa Tulchin:
Thanks. It's such a privilege to be here.

Mike Gerholdt:
Well, we've known each other for a while, but I am unleashing you to the Salesforce ecosystem because I feel like I've secretly held this decade of awesomeness of knowing you and talking about learning. That's what we're going to talk about today, in case you didn't listen in the intro. But Lisa, let's level set because I've had the privilege of working with you and seeing you teach, and create, and do, and that's why I wanted to have you on the podcast. But let's start with what you do at Salesforce and how you got here.

Lisa Tulchin:
I am a senior curriculum developer, which means I help write content for the product education team. I have been focusing almost exclusively on instructor-led training. So when you sign up through Trailhead Academy or one of the bootcamps before an event to be in a live or virtual classroom with the person. So that's what I have been focusing on, but the group has expanded over the past year, and I will no longer be focusing just on that type of content.

Mike Gerholdt:
Yeah. And so if you think about it, what's great about Salesforce is we have lots of different methods of learning.

Lisa Tulchin:
Indeed.

Mike Gerholdt:
And to hover around, I've seen you do instructor-led training and we have that. We also have Trailhead, or what'd you call it? Self-paced learning.

Lisa Tulchin:
Yeah, so Trailhead is one example of self-paced, and I have in my past at Salesforce as a full-time employee, because I've been here three years, I have actually written a few trails. I may start writing them again. We are still figuring out exactly the roles, but that's just one example of what we'd like to say self-paced. And self-paced really means that you, as an individual, go to the resource and, I guess, take it in, read it, test it on your own timing. The difference with if you're in a classroom, you're following the agenda with the instructor, and you have to do things in a certain order, in a certain pace. But self-paced, and Trailhead is one example. Slack, and Tableau, or other resources that have their own training repositories that you can also take in at your own timing. So that's why we use the term self-paced.

Mike Gerholdt:
Yeah, no, it makes sense. Otherwise, I was just going to call it instructor-led and not instructor-led.

Lisa Tulchin:
Exactly.

Mike Gerholdt:
Like hot dog, not hot dog, right?

Lisa Tulchin:
Exactly.

Mike Gerholdt:
Okay, so I feel like here is the question everybody thinks I'm going to ask, and I'm not because everybody would ask, Okay, Lisa, well, then which is better, instructor-led or self-paced? And I'm not going to ask you that question because I think it's the wrong question to ask. I think what the right question to ask is how, as a Salesforce administrator getting into the ecosystem, do I figure out if in-person or self-paced learning is best for me?

Lisa Tulchin:
I like that question a lot.

Mike Gerholdt:
Yeah, that's why I'm asking it.

Lisa Tulchin:
Yeah, no, I really like that question a lot. The hardest thing with radio, of course, is that people can't see me thinking literally when I think, I always think my face shows the wheels turning, but I have to remind myself that you all can't see that. So I'm thinking through-

Mike Gerholdt:
You're envisioning.

Lisa Tulchin:
Visualize Lisa looking away, and the [inaudible 00:05:01] the hamster in her brain is running on that wheel.

Mike Gerholdt:
It's smoking.

Lisa Tulchin:
Yeah, exactly. I think you have to stop and have an honest talk with yourself. What have you found for yourself in the past? We're all adults going into this scenario for the most part, and I'd like to think that by the time we get to that stage, we understand a little bit about ourselves and how we take information in. So for example, if you're just starting out in the ecosystem, not even for example, I'd say the first thing you should do if you haven't already is actually go to trailhead.com and sign up for an account.
It's free to do that, and you automatically then have an enormous number of resources at your fingertip just through that site. There is Trailhead, the slightly gamified, self-paced learning that's available to you for Trailhead resources. There's also Trailhead Academy, which are the classes. But there also is the community, and so your peers. So I think that's one way that you can explore and test out waters. If you're thinking to yourself, I think I could do this on my own. Well, if you log in and you see how you feel after taking a couple of what they call modules, or trails, or badges, then that may be a sign that you're good to go. But if you're doing this and you're thinking I need a little structure, then you immediately do have resources because you can sign up for ILT, but you also have the community.
So you can go there, maybe find a local user group through that site, and ask questions of other people there. So I think that's the first thing is have an honest talk with yourself. See if you can figure out for yourself what your learning style is. I personally often need that instructor. I need that person in the room either live or virtually helping talk me through things, honestly, helping me keep focused on what I'm actually doing. There are other resources there. I sometimes need a map.
I like to have a map and being able to think. I also need to be goal-oriented. So for me, credentials were a natural way to think about things. And even if you're not going to study and earn a credential, there is a section on the site for credentials, and they have, for example, if you were just starting out in the ecosystem, the Salesforce Associate Certification might be a really good starting point, and they have recommended badges and trails to take. So that's what I mean there's some guidance, even if you don't think that cert is for you, you could look at the map to get that cert and follow that along, and take information in.

Mike Gerholdt:
No, I think, I mean, you're so spot on. I often see a lot of people in the community ask a question assuming someone else has the answer, and I really think a lot of people forget they have the answer inside them. They know what way they learn best. They just sometimes are looking for validation in that. Listening to your answer, I was thinking back to when I had to tackle something big, I really needed that in class sitting next to somebody with an instructor so that I was focused. And it's not that I can't focus at home or at work, it's that I think you probably know this, people sometimes try to do a trailhead module and answer email and maybe watch a webinar, and it's like, stop. You can't get away with that in class.

Lisa Tulchin:
You can't.

Mike Gerholdt:
So that's what I find. That's what I find.

Lisa Tulchin:
Yeah, and I mean, the other benefit is finding a local Salesforce user group can also be super helpful because I think typically they have regular meetings at a certain date and time, and so I find there's a lot of talk about what they call the beginner's mindset and how we all have to have the beginner's mindset, and I think it's really hard and it's easy for us to talk about, but truly being beginners, it's scary. You don't know something, you don't know what you don't know. For me, there's that fear of messing up, and that's definitely something I've learned like teaching adults, and I have also taught kids or, yeah, kids, they were actually kids, and kids are a lot more comfortable making mistakes than we are as adults.

Mike Gerholdt:
Why do you think that is?

Lisa Tulchin:
I think part of that is that feeling of, as adults, we're supposed to know everything. If we followed a traditional path, we've gone to college, we've maybe gone on to graduate school, and we're just supposed to know. You're supposed to be able to move and function in an environment. And saying I don't know, is one of the scariest things I think for adults to admit.
And that's one reason why I just encourage a community and peers because there typically are themes for meetings where people go and either someone's presenting or sharing what they know or everyone's there asking questions, and sometimes it's just being in a room and having somebody else ask a question that you've been worrying about. It almost makes you relax a little, feel somewhat more secure. And that's one reason why I would recommend that. Now, I say that as an ambivert, as someone who is very uncomfortable in situations where I don't know people. So it's actually quite challenging for me. It's easy for me to say, go join the local user group. Actually, showing up to that first meeting of a user group is really hard for me.
But once I settle in an environment and I can feel more comfortable, I am very outgoing, but that's what that ambivert talks to, but that first getting me out the door. So if you're sitting here and you're listening to me talk and saying, Lisa, you are crazy. There's no way I'm ever going to join a user group, that's talking to people I don't know. I get it. And that's why, in a way, there's a virtual user group, people can chat. I think every cloud, for the most part, has its own section of the community where people can ask questions and help each other. And as I said, we have all these self-paced environments where you can little by little take on information and take it in without having, if you're truly introverted, you don't need to interact with anybody else.

Mike Gerholdt:
So flip the coin a little bit from us learning to admins teaching and maybe even user group leaders doing some of this birds of a feather or instructor walking people through stuff. What in your experience in both you've said you've taught children, you've taught adults, what in your experience really resonates when you're trying to walk some adults through new technology or new functionality and have them learn?

Lisa Tulchin:
There are a lot of different words for this, but yeah, I was thinking about how I was going to answer you while you were asking the question. I came up with three or four different ways of saying the same thing. When we first worked together, it was WIIFM, what's in it for me? I think now they talk a lot about personas or jobs to be done, so I'm throwing these out there in case folks listening have heard any of these. The really important thing for adults is that when they go into training, or if you're trying to think of developing training for them, the training speaks very specifically to what they need to know to get the job done.
When you're teaching kids, you can teach them almost any topic, and they'll be much more trusting about, I don't see the why, but I understand you're telling me, and therefore I need to know. But with adults, it is so critical that they understand the why am I sitting here or why am I watching this video? Or why am I reading this Java? I think figure out the why, and everything should hopefully flow a lot easier from that why. For one thing, you'll have immediate buy-in from the people that you're working with, because if they don't understand the why, they tune you out.
If you have that why you have their attention. I'm not saying they're going to be eager, willing, and able when they're sitting in the room, but they're going to be more likely to be behind you or stay with you as you go through it. And it also will help them remember what you're training them. It can be overwhelming to sit down and learn a new technology. Now, Salesforce, as we both know, has evolved and is constantly, I think, improving what they call the user experience, the way that you as an end user take in the system, but it's still scary, and new, and challenging. So the more that you get what you need to know in the moment that you're needing to know it and not getting a lot of extra stuff, that's another thing that's really important in designing training. Another thing people may have heard or some folks throw around is the 80/20 approach, which is that training should focus on the 80% of what people need to know.
So dividing the focus of the training to be almost exclusively on what they need to know 80% of the time, and maybe if you have time, have an extra session or just provide an additional resource for what they need to know 20% of the time. Part of that is I've learned a lot about the science behind the way we take information in, the way we remember things, and that's another reason to emphasize what they need to know now as opposed to the nice to have for that couple times a year. I mean, think about it, right? If you're a salesperson and you're learning how to use Salesforce, what do you need to know? You need to know how to enter leads.
If you're doing sales cloud, you need to probably know how to do leads so that you can track potential sales. And then you need to know how to create probably an opportunity so you can track an actual sale and maybe how to add products to that opportunity, but that's the bulk of your time, right? Creating leads, creating opportunities, tracking activity around those two records. But you may not close, depending on the type of business you do, you may not close that many opportunities in a year. It may be a lot of nurturing. So focusing training on closing opportunities may not be as important. That's just one example.

Mike Gerholdt:
No, that's a really good example. So here's why I was looking forward to this podcast. So can I take those two principles and turn them on their head and ask you, do those two apply, and I'll regurgitate those, when admins are trying to learn Salesforce through Trailhead? And those two principles I'm pointing at are they may or may not understand why, and they're trying to focus on the 20% versus the 80%.

Lisa Tulchin:
So that's a really good question because having from the admin perspective, there's just so much to learn, and it can be overwhelming. I think, honestly, what I had to do, and I'm trying to remember when I was first starting it out, I broke things down. Instead of looking at the whole 100%. What I did was I looked at, now I admit, because I've never sat in the job, I've never sat in the chair as an admin. I was looking at the admin certification, and I was looking at the breakdown of the exam and looking at what the breakdown of the exam was and what had the most emphasis in the exam. And then I was thinking, well, that's probably either what's the hardest or, I mean, I probably was going about it the wrong way from that point of ignorance, but I felt like that's most of what admins have to do. And so for me, I would probably break it down and focus section by section of that.

Mike Gerholdt:
I think that's good philosophy. I mean, I was kind of sneaking that question at you because I feel like it's one thing to give people advice on how to instruct, but then it's also on, does that also apply to us learning as well? So you tackled it well. How does some of this work? As we both, I mean, we focus on learning and being new, and that applies throughout the years, but is there anything you think of if you are going into perhaps training an older set of users, and so there's median age, obviously companies try to hire for diversity, but some companies have older users, and should you think about how to frame things differently or if you are in that set, is there a way to think through maybe because you teased, and I'd love to know more about the science of what you read on learning?

Lisa Tulchin:
Oh, yeah. So there are a couple of things popping into my mind with that. One is that there has been a lot written, and I've only read a little bit about generationally differences in learning. So that Gen X, Y, and Z, millennials, I'm not sure exactly the lineup, they learn differently, and the younger employees are having grown up in a much more digital first age, take information in differently. So if you're training older employees, there are a couple of things that come to mind. One is my feeling, oh my goodness, I may be approaching older employee "as a group." But the other thing is that try to be sensitive to what you may encounter as resistance may actually be fear.
There can be a sense with new, technology in particular, a fear of I know how to do things really, really well in the previous system, method, whatever you want to call it. This is something new, and I don't know how to do my job well. And the reality is there is age discrimination and so you could be starting to spiral into a fear cycle. What if I can't catch on? What if I can't do my job? What if I can't "wrap my hands" around this new technology? Am I going to lose my job? So I think there's a level of that that could be behind what you might be perceiving as resistance with older employees that you wouldn't necessarily be receiving from younger employees. For one thing, they're closer to being in that true beginner's mindset where they don't know things and are taking things in all the time. They're less likely to be as insecure about their job and potentially a little more open to systems changing.
So that's one thing that pops into my head. And I have gone and I've trained people on how to use a CRM system when the previous one was paper, and there was a range of employees in the room; they did tend to be older, and there was a lot of resistance to that. So it could also depend on the shift that you're making. If you're going from one online system to another online system, it likely would have less resistance. I kept emphasizing, you're just carrying around an iPad, you're not carrying around stacks and stacks and files and files. Look how much easier this is. And a lot of them though still were like, but everything's in my head. Now you're making me write it down. So I think the reality is change is hard, no matter what. I think it's just as someone who might be in charge of training others, being open to the fact that what you may be seeing as intractable resistance could actually be a fear-based response. Yeah.

Mike Gerholdt:
One thing you said, which is the biggest thing in all of learning, which is change is hard, right? Anytime you're learning something, you're learning something because something is changing. One, and I believe you were part of this project with me, I've always tried to really make it resonate with admins. Hey, when you're rolling out a new app, make sure you're paying attention to all the other changes that are going on in the organization. Because I know the project that we worked on together, we had a big change in the organization on top of a technical change. And you can be focused on, well, we're just rolling out Salesforce, right? Oh, but there's organizational structure, and there's a whole bunch of other changes going on. I think it's one thing, it can be a little hard maybe for an admin to wrap their head around organizational change, although they should. But looking at yourself individually. Is there something to be said for taking an inventory in the amount of change that's going on in your life while you're trying to learn something? Does that affect how you gain your knowledge?

Lisa Tulchin:
Oh, absolutely. Absolutely. And that's a really good point, which is that, and actually something popped into my head, sorry, when you were talking about how when we worked together, there was a big change, not just a technology, is that you may encounter resistance to training people on a new technology because the new technology could be the convenient scapegoat for a lot of the anxiety and fear around change that is happening. So sometimes it's good to just open things up or just acknowledge and be open to the fact. I was in a meeting with someone recently, who I loved the way they opened it. They just opened it with a phrase that they said they'd been taught, which is, "Let's start off by hugging the elephant," was what they said.

Mike Gerholdt:
Oh, I've never heard that.

Lisa Tulchin:
Isn't it wonderful? I loved that, and a picture of a baby elephant and people hugging it. But it was really, let's start out by hugging the elephant, which is to just acknowledge upfront that that elephant in the room. We're not going to tiptoe around a topic. So it could be as simple as opening up a training with, Hey, I know there's a lot going on, let's just acknowledge that right out and maybe give five minutes for people to just talk about it and get it off their chest. And then they'll feel better. They'll have cleansed the air a little bit, and you can move into, okay, let's focus on how the system works. But I've noticed myself personally, yeah, if a lot of things are happening and I'm under stress, I could have more trouble focusing, which means that as a learner being in a classroom, it's harder for me to take things in if things aren't paced appropriately, which is a great way for me to seg into the science of learning.

Mike Gerholdt:
Nice segue.

Lisa Tulchin:
I took that, and I brought it back where I wanted to go five minutes ago, whatever it was, that was so subtle. So from a science perspective, there's this feeling of, and as a curriculum developer, we talk about the need to what we call chunk things out. So it's break things down. And now, admittedly, my research is a little outdated on this, but when I was first learning it, they talked about no more than five or seven things in any given segment. And I know sometimes, especially with software training, it's really hard because, in order to do a task, you may actually have to do a certain number of steps maybe. But I really try to break training down by tasks. So if I have an exercise, I'll have broken the exercise down into tasks, and if I've written a task out and it's more than a certain number of steps within that task, that's usually assigned to me that this might be too big a chunk. And I go back, and I see, do I have to break this down further?
And every exercise, I should say, is pinned to a scenario. And so it all goes back to the scenario. Okay, in this exercise, it's usually a scenario. Either you are an admin or you're observing an admin who has something to do and they're trying to do A, B, C, and I'm like, oh, well, maybe A, B, and C is too much, too big a chunk right now, and it has to really be A, B, or maybe even just A, and that's the way I approach it because you need to only give so much information to a person, and then you need to shift gears and maybe you need to talk about something else for a while, let them process. It's another reason why a lot of training with systems is around watch me do it. Now you do it. We don't always have the time. I always wish we were given more time for training, but you may not always have the time. So it may be introduce a concept and then have people walk through, but just make sure you're not having them walk through too much at one given time.

Mike Gerholdt:
Yeah, training, unfortunately, is always like the landscaping when you're building a new house. It's the last thing and you have no money left, and it just ends up being here's a flower from the hardware store.

Lisa Tulchin:
I know, I really wish-

Mike Gerholdt:
Congratulations.

Lisa Tulchin:
I really wish we'd be able to have the full landscape architect at all times.

Mike Gerholdt:
The whole thing. The whole thing, the drawing. Everything.

Lisa Tulchin:
Tear the yard out, rebuild it entirely. That's what I feel. I mean, that's one reason why it's nice that there is a resource such as Trailhead, and I haven't even talked about it, but when you onboard as a Salesforce customer, there are other resources that are available to you or to companies and to customers, especially if they're on a success plan. There are whole libraries and resources available to them. So I would say, as an admin, find out is your company, do they have a success plan? And if so, which plan and what resources are available to you? And if you have them, take advantage of them. Some of them are one-on-one coaching, I think for Premier. So you have all these resources, and I would say take advantage of all of the resources that are available to you to help you learn and then help you get everyone else working towards using the system effectively.

Mike Gerholdt:
One thing I thought of as we bring this around to a close. One thing you do that is exactly what admins do, I mean, you do a lot, is approach a brand new feature and have to learn it because you have to write training for it. I mean, you have to write Trailhead modules and all kinds of stuff, and admins maybe don't necessarily have to train somebody else on that, but they have to learn it themselves. I would love to know, based on your experience, when a new feature comes down into your queue and you're like, I got to write a module on this and I got to learn this feature, what's your approach?

Lisa Tulchin:
I personally might be more of a maximalist than a minimalist.

Mike Gerholdt:
Please explain.

Lisa Tulchin:
I want to get my hands on all the things and digest them to try to figure out what is the essence there. Now I admit, Mike, I am learning this not because I'm going to have to use it every day in my job. I'm learning this because I want to understand the full picture in order to be able to distill it down to its basic essence. And so my objective might be a little bit different. I would say that the task is easier if it's something that is new to me because there will be resources that are out there for me to take in. When it's net new, the challenge really can be trying to figure out how something works when there aren't as many resources, but I would definitely say being part of the ecosystem, stay plugged in, keep an ear out for the announcements that happen at the regular events such as the TDX, the conference that just happened.
Big announcements will be made at Dreamforce and at TDX. There are also what we call world tours, which are events that take place in different cities around the world. I know that it's not possible for everyone to attend these, but there is the Salesforce Plus website, and a lot of the keynotes and major presentations from all of these events are available for free streaming. And actually, I think Salesforce Plus has other admin-focused resources that could be amazing right there. And especially if you're a visual or an auditory learner, and by that I mean watching something or hearing something that could be a really good resource because you can listen to the announcements and then they have sessions that focus on different aspects of different clouds, and so you can listen in and hear announcements and sharing about resources.
The Salesforce blog is another good site because there'll be articles published there talking about new resources, and that's kind of how I get my information for net new content. And then they release webinars, and I know as an employee, I have access to all of them, but keep an ear out for resources such like that because they'll share all the changes that are coming and there'll be demos of how it works.

Mike Gerholdt:
Yeah, no, there's a ton out there. You very much are a maximalist.

Lisa Tulchin:
I know, man. I know. I'm not saying do it all, I'm saying pick and choose, right?

Mike Gerholdt:
Thank you, Lisa, for being on the podcast. I appreciate you coming by and sharing resources, and helping us understand the world of learning. Again, you know what's funny? Is if you've listened to this podcast for a while, you know how many times we keep mentioning know the why. And I've done podcasts with Kevin Richardson on the five whys. I've worked with the Trailhead team on understanding the why. It really always keeps coming back to the why. But I will tell you this, listening to this episode, I learned something, which was the whole point, but it really sunk into me. The fear could equal resistance when you're doing training. I run into that where people are super resistant, and it was out of fear, not out of the willingness to learn. So I think that's interesting. I really hope you got something out of this. I loved the way Lisa approached training and talking about five to seven steps.
I feel like that was super important. So I hope you enjoyed this episode, and if you did, can you do me a favor? Share it on social. Share it to one person, maybe send it to a friend that could be doing training. I promise you, you have to know somebody that's doing training. That, or at a user group, you could share it and be like, Hey, listen to this great podcast about training. And I learned about five to seven steps and the 80/20 rule, but you got to listen for the 80/20 rule. And of course, if you're looking for more great resources, just check out the show notes. Also, everything is at admin.salesforce.com, including in the show notes a transcript of this episode. And of course, we will post this to the Admin Trailblazer community, which is one of the plethora of places that you can go and ask questions and help other Salesforce admins learn. So, of course, until next time, I'll see you in the cloud.

 



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

Today on the Salesforce Admins Podcast, we talk to Evan Ponter, Salesforce Consultant and Certified Application Architect.

Join us as we chat about all things reporting from his breakout session at TDX.

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

A deep dive into Salesforce reporting

We last spoke to Evan back in 2019. Since then, he’s struck out on his own as a Salesforce Consultant, where he helps businesses get everything they need out of Salesforce and their reporting. He recently did a 75-minute breakout session at TDX about everything reporting, so I wanted to bring him on the pod to tell us all about it.

The 75-minute deep dive breakout session is a new thing we tried this year at TDX, and it was everything we hoped for and more. Evan was able to not only cover the basic concepts around reporting but also get into some very advanced concepts. Or, as he puts it, how to crawl, walk, run, and fly with Salesforce reporting.

Crawling, walking, and running with Salesforce reporting

When he talks about learning to crawl, Evan means that you need to understand that every report you build is meant to answer a question. As he puts it, “Start with the end in mind.” If you know what question you’re trying to answer, you can make decisions about what information you need to see and how you might want to display it.

Next, Evan gets into how to walk and run with reports. To do that, you need to understand what’s happening in a custom report type as far as which records are being visualized and what other opportunities that opens up for you. Several out-of-the-box Salesforce features can help here, like cross filters, with or without filtering, and pulling in fields from other objects. 

Flying towards the future of Salesforce reporting

You probably have the same question I did for Evan: if that’s walking and running with reports, then what does it mean to fly? The answer is Cartesian product data sets, which let you bring together sibling records from two different objects that are both related to a common parent without changing your org’s architecture.

Finally, we get into what the future looks like for reporting. AI is only getting smarter but, as Evan points out, while we might be able to automate some aspects of reporting we’ll still need to understand how everything works if we want to get the results we’re after.

As you can probably tell, this is a very in-depth episode, so be sure to take a listen (or check the transcript) for more on cross filters, with or without filters, Cartesian data sets, and everything about reporting. 

 

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Full show transcript

Mike:
So it's all things reporting this week on the Salesforce Admins podcast. That's right, we're fresh off of TrailblazerDX. I think I've got through my jet lag and the time change, and I'm ready to start reporting. Evan Ponter last week, gave an amazing breakout session at TrailblazerDX, and I had to have him on the pod to talk about what he was talking to all of our wonderful trailblazers about, crawl, walk, run, fly, with reporting. That's right.
And speaking of TDX, I want to give a shout-out to Scott, Katie, and Bill, you three are amazing. Thank you for coming up saying hello, sharing your stories with me. You're an inspiration to me, you're why I do the podcast, and thank you to all the listeners that listen in. I got to meet with many of you last week at TrailblazerDX, it's why I love coming to events. And thank you for sharing your stories, I hope to continue inspire you, I hope to continue to make a podcast that is exactly the length of your dog walks and your commutes, because those are what I listen to podcasts for. Of course, we're getting into summer, so I got to start mowing the yard, but let's not talk about grass, this is a Salesforce podcast, and we're going to talk about reporting with Evan Ponter.
But of course, before we get into that, just a quick reminder, it is super easy to follow the Salesforce Admins podcast on whatever platform you're listening to me on. So on iTunes, all you got to do is click follow, and then, iTunes takes care of all the hard work for you. Downloads the newest episode, then Thursday morning, you wake up, you're ready to go. Hey, let's knock an episode out on our drive to work, or maybe we're walking the dog that morning, and iTunes will have already downloaded it for you. It's just that easy. Almost all of the podcast apps will do that. So just a reminder, makes it easy, makes it one less thing to worry about. So wanted to get that out of the way, but let's get to our amazing conversation with Evan Ponter. Welcome back to the podcast.

Evan:
Thanks for having me.

Mike:
I happened to look, it was 2019, which feels like a decade ago.

Evan:
Yeah, absolutely.

Mike:
I'll definitely link to that episode, because we talked about the ultimate guide to report types, but you're still on the reporting train ...

Evan:
I am.

Mike:
... and you gave an amazing session at TDX, and since a lot of people probably weren't there, let's talk about that. But what have you been up to since 2019?

Evan:
Oh, well, in the midst of the pandemic, I decided it would be a great time to go out on my own and become an independent Salesforce consultant, through a lot of turmoil, but it ended up being a really incredible journey for me, and the next step in my career, to start to facilitate working for a handful of clients, supporting them as an external Salesforce consultant, being the expert they can lean on. And I've been able to take a lot of this reporting content and apply it to any project that I'm working on.

Mike:
Yeah. To be honest with you, it's actually kind of brilliant, if you think about it, with all of the shifts in employment and labor that are going on post-pandemic, being an outsourced admin, developer, architect, however you view yourself, would benefit the company and you.

Evan:
Yeah, no, it's been great.

Mike:
But you still report, you still literally are my one of two go-to sources for reporting. I go to Jennifer for flows, I go to Evan for reporting. Yes, I go to Trailhead, but I feel like the way you teach me is so much better. So let's talk a little bit about ... Because you gave, at least in admin [inaudible 00:03:57], one of two 75-minute deep dive sessions, which was a little bit of an experiment for us. I think it went well, there's probably some stuff we could do better. But 75-minute session, because we heard from a lot of the feedback, like, 40 minutes is great, but I've sat through a ton of dry runs, and it feels like the start of a really good book, when they're getting to something, and they're like, oh, and if you have any questions, you're like, no, I want another 30 minutes. [inaudible 00:04:31] we did, so you did one on reporting, and I'll let you explain kind of the theory from there.

Evan:
Sure, yeah, so over the years, I've given some variation of a report session, and I've had, actually, a couple of different topics. So I can do a 40-minute session, I've done a 20-minute session, and then, I've done a couple more advanced topics as separate sessions. But getting the chance to do a 75-minute hands-on deep dive allowed me to pull a majority from a few of the main topics, but really kind of package it all up together as a full hour of everything you would ever need to know about reporting if you only had an hour to learn it. So it was really cool to tackle some of those basic concepts, but also, get into some of the more advanced stuff. And to have everybody following along and doing the hands-on exercises, you really get to see, feel, and live that experience in the hour of time that we have together.

Mike:
Yeah, and I think what was nice ... I mean, it can be intimidating, because a little bit of what we did with this is, it's not really a hands-on workshop, there's not really tables and that traditional learning experience, but people had the option to be what I call, fingers on keyboards, and doing something, or just following along, and I think that's a fun balance. But what I loved about how you walked into it is, there was no real worry about, oh, I better know all of my stuff or I'm going to not know where things are at, because your concept of, was it crawl, walk, run, fly?

Evan:
Yeah.

Mike:
Really helped walk people through the complexities of understanding reporting.

Evan:
Absolutely, yeah. We start with some basic crawl concepts that you can apply to anything. So we built a deluxe report type together, and we learned how using customer report types really opens up a ton of flexibility. But then, as we get into the walking and running portions, we start to look at some more advanced stuff, so really taking that base concept and expanding it so you can tackle different requirements and get a little more complex. And then, the fly piece was really just truly on the frontier of what you can do in a customer port type, so it was really cool to share that with everybody.

Mike:
Now, what part of ... So let's go back to crawling. Crawling, to me, feels like, okay, we're just going to use maybe some standard objects stuff that's there, existing architecture. What part of moving from crawling to walking is really ... How much do I need to consider when I'm building an application about the reports? Because I feel like, too often, we build tons of these cool applications, and we forget about what the report is going to look like.

Evan:
Yeah, so in any project I've been on, you kind of have to start with the end in mind, and really think about what questions are you going to need to answer with this data, this process, this automation, whatever it is you're doing, so that, you at least have a concept of what a report might look like, so that you can help answer that question. And a lot of what I talk about in the crawl portion is just being able to really make it concrete, what data you're visualizing in a report.
And as we build our one deluxe custom report type for that object, you are tying together records from an object to results that you see in a report. And once that concept is tangible, and you can feel that and understand how that's working, then we can look at the walking and running concepts that really build on what's happening in a customer port type, as far as which records are being visualized, and what other opportunities that opens to use some of the other out-of-the-box features, like cross filters, and doing some more advanced filtering capabilities, and pulling in other fields from other objects.

Mike:
So you mentioned exactly the thing I was going to talk to you about, which is cross filters, because when I start building reports, or even when I get back into reports, if I haven't done it for a while, it's like riding a bicycle. I feel like I start off and I need training wheels, and then it takes me two, three weeks to get to Tour de France-style bike skill. You just get on a bike, and you're down the road. Cross filters to me always trip me up. What is the most common thing you see when you talk to people, or when you work with companies, that trip people up with cross filters?

Evan:
Yeah, so I mean, first of all, I do a whole 20-minute session on cross filters, so being able to incorporate that into this deep dive was really cool. It's one of those topics that I'm super passionate about because there are so many problems that can be solved with a cross filter, people just aren't quite aware of it, or exactly how to set them up. So the basic thing that it solves for is, you want a list of records, but you want to filter them based on the presence or absence of some child records. And what it allows you to do is, anytime you've had a situation where you're like, I have this report results, but I need to get rid of all the duplicates. I really just want to see a clean list of accounts that had opportunities closed last year. And you started with an accounts and opportunities report type, and you have all this opportunity data, but you really just care about seeing the account records.
What a cross filter allows you to do is run a report based on your report type that will show you account records, and then filter them based on those opportunities. So you get to filter based on objects and fields from that object that do not appear in your report results as columns. And it opens up a lot of possibilities, so for that example, you would say, show me all the accounts that have opportunities where the close date equals last year, and the stage is closed one, and you get a nice, clean, de-duplicated list of account records that meet that filter criteria.
Then, as far as what trips ... A lot of people can get that down once you sort of explain what's happening, what trips people up is when you start using the cross filter using the without operator. So it works 100% opposite of using the with operator. So when we said, show me accounts with opportunities that have a close date in the last year, that means each one of those account records in your results has at least one opportunity that meets that filter criteria. But when we switch that operator to without, it means every one of those accounts does not have any opportunities that meet that filter criteria. And that's where things get super interesting, as you add cross filter criteria that has the without operator, you're actually opening up your results. So you could say something along the lines of, show me accounts that don't have any open opportunities, and what you'll end up seeing is, there are accounts that have opportunities, but none of them are open, they're all closed one or closed loss status.

Mike:
And that exactly is where it usually happens that I get tripped up, because ... Well, and I bet it's other admins, too. I think the frustration, you probably dealt with this, too, is, especially when you're helping build a report for somebody, there's an expectation in their head. They know there's usually one or two data points they're looking for that are kind of like a check. Like, is that report really working? And if they don't show up, then they question, well, what's wrong with Salesforce?
And well, it's not wrong, it's just, I think to your point, as you add without filter criteria, you're opening more things up. And the thing that always bugged me was, somebody would always pull up on the screen, well, I'm on this opportunity here, and it's got an opportunity, or I'm on this account here, and it's got this opportunity, and it fits all the criteria. And you're like, right, except you don't own that account, and we were doing my account. And you don't say that to be the IT guy, like, move, you say that to be like, no, we have to evaluate all of the criteria and figure out why something is or is not being omitted.

Evan:
Exactly, and I think that's a key thing that I show in the presentation, is, if you are on the filters tab of a report, and you understand what the report type results are going to show you, you can read from top to bottom and understand exactly, every filter being applied to your data, which helps immensely when you're doing that troubleshooting of, oh, it doesn't show up because I have a my accounts filter right here. It's going to show you that. So I kind of walk people through that troubleshooting to make sure ... You have to be critical of every filter being applied to your data.

Mike:
And not to mention permissions, whether or not they also have view permissions, because they could be looking at someone else's account, or ... Who knows, right?

Evan:
Yeah. Yeah, security model definitely comes into play.

Mike:
I feel like those are all the diagrams you kind of need to have handy when you're thinking about like, okay, I need to build this report. First, what's the architecture of my organization? Not necessarily the whole org, but pertaining to what I'm creating a report for. And then, two, what security is in place for the individual or individuals that I'm running this report for? Because I don't want to always be the run report as person.

Evan:
Right, yeah, that would always show organization-wide data. So yeah, if you have a private model, thinking about that as you're building reports is really going to help you build one report that can support multiple people across different teams, and allow them to only see their own data, but it's also going to help to have an understanding of that as you're troubleshooting things. Because it's going to drive yourself crazy if you're helping two people that are on two different role hierarchy points, and they're running the same report, but they get different results, well, you must have some kind of private model in place, or some kind of my ownership filter on the records in that report.

Mike:
Right. So I feel like that's walk, what are some of the things you cover in run?

Evan:
Yeah, in the run portion, we're really looking at ... We do a little bit with cross filters, but we also take a look at those with or without style report types, and those can be tricky, as well. I kind of walked through, when you have the normal kind of [inaudible 00:16:13] report type words, every A record must have related B records. You're getting that inner join of the diagram that shows you all the child records that specified parents.
And that is still true for that with or without style report type, where it's, each A record may or may not have related B records. It's really two different data sets that get put together and dumped onto your screen. And they can be really useful for solving certain types of problems, but the key thing to think about with those is, those two data sets that are being put together for you, can be filtered independently, so it allows you to do things like, I want to summarize the total amount of opportunities for all the accounts that I own, and I want to just get a summary of the close dates in the last year.
So you'll have your opportunity records, and you'll have your account records, and because you can filter them independently, you could say, all right, show me all of my accounts, and then, only show me the opportunities that had a close date in the last year, and I want to summarize the amount from those records. What you'll end up getting is, all of your accounts are going to show up, and if they don't have opportunities that meet that criteria, the account still displays as a row, it just has a zero for that amount summary. And it really helps people keep tabs on things, like, they care about seeing all 50 their accounts, or whatever it is, but they just want a summary from a specific timeframe. And those with or without style custom report types are really the only reporting tool that allow to do something like that.

Mike:
Those always trip me up, because it would or would not exclude the entire object.

Evan:
Yeah, right, so if you filter an account out of your data, it's also going to take out all of its related records, so all of its related opportunities would also be excluded. But if you just filter based on an opportunity field, it doesn't exclude the account from showing up.

Mike:
So the other thing that I've really wanted to always get into, I've never had the use case for, is report formulas, where you're building the formula to also be inside the report. Do you include that in your crawl, walk, run, fly? And if so, where do you stick that?

Evan:
No, I mean, we don't get into that. I mean, there's so many different possibilities with setting up row level formulas-

Mike:
Yeah, like, it's not going to the same with formulas for just everything, right?

Evan:
... Yeah, right. But yeah, I mean, there's a whole bunch of interesting things you can do. One place where I really like using the row level formulas is when I'm reporting on objects that I cannot customize. So you weren't able to put a formula field on the object, but now that you can do a row level formula in a report, you kind of can at this point. So that's helpful for ... I mean, there's a ton of standard objects where you can't set up a formula field, so having that ability really opens up some possibilities for data points that were never possible before.

Mike:
Yeah. [inaudible 00:19:42], let's tackle a little bit ... I know everybody's [inaudible 00:19:45], what is fly? What's fly?

Evan:
Fly? Yes.

Mike:
So the fun backstory behind this, when I saw your submission, I read it, I was like, okay, cool, Evan's man with the report stuff. Got it, he's going to be great. And then, you showed up to the dry run, and you're like, hey, I kind of added a whole other section, and I'm calling it fly. And I was like, oh, well, tell me more.

Evan:
So for as long as I've been reporting in Salesforce, somebody always comes up and asks me a question. I have records in two sibling objects, can I bring them together in a single report without using a joint report? And I've always had to tell them, no, you can't do that. There's no way for me to relate these sibling records together because there's no direct relationship. They have a common parent, but there's no way to say that record one from this object matches up with record two from this other object.
So this fly portion of the presentation is what I call Cartesian product data sets. It's on the bleeding edge of what's possible in a custom report type. I've done some experiments, and I think people have been using this style of custom report type and not even realizing what's happening, but there's a handful of scenarios involving Salesforce standard objects that allow you to essentially cross multiply records from one object against records from another object. And it allows you to bring together those sibling records from two different objects that are both related to a common parent.
And it's really cool to create one of those data sets. So the example I always give is, if you have three records in one object, and three records in another object, your report results, without any other filters supplied, are going to show you nine results. It would be like, record 1A, record 1B, record 1C, record 2A, 2B, 2C, 3A, 3B, 3C. And it just puts together every possible combination of matching up those records from those two different objects. And if you take that, and then filter it for your needs, you can do things like, the example I give is, you have a bunch of customers, and they have contact roles on opportunities, and you're selling them a bunch of products, and you want to answer the question, which products are associated with which contacts?
Those are sibling records, they're both related to a single opportunity, but there's no direct relationship. And I walked through how you can build one of these Cartesian product data sets to cross multiply those records, then, you can put a visualization on a contact record page that shows you the products and the quantities that are associated with that contact, without having to change your architecture, without having to do any custom automation. You can just take advantage of this Cartesian product data set.

Mike:
I think the key thing I heard there is, without changing your architecture. We're not building anything new that has to be constantly dealt with forever in time, because it's part of the report. So I didn't prompt you for this question, but I'm going to look ahead, because there's a lot of AI stuff out there, and I'm sure you hear about it, you see it. There's all kinds of plugins and stuff where you can throw spreadsheets at AI, and it'll analyze things, and it'll create pretty charts that, to be honest with you, aren't that hard in Google Docs or whatever, Microsoft, or whatever tool you use. Devil's advocate, five years from now, I don't know, 10 years from now, maybe, at some point, you're just going to be able to say, hey, Salesforce, run this report and make this output. How important is it now to learn this stuff, knowing that AI is going to take care of it?

Evan:
I still think people are going to be troubleshooting their reports and their report results, the same, if not more than they do now, once AI is generating this stuff. Because especially at first, we're going to want to verify that we're getting the results we think we're getting, so that we don't cause ourselves to go into hallucinations with [inaudible 00:24:24] business. If the AI is not-

Mike:
That's a good point.

Evan:
... Yeah, if the AI is not giving us what we need, then we're not able to make a good business decision. So a lot of the skills I'm teaching are about troubleshooting, and they're about taking the actual root question that needs to be answered, and making sure we're answering that question. And it's less about order taking and just throwing together a bunch of columns on a report and creating a chart out of it. Sure, it might look nice, but what is it we're trying to get at there? And I think that level of scrutiny, if you can start to have those skills now, while you're building the reports manually, those will carry over into the AI world, but we'll be able to scrutinize and make sure that those AI-generated results are giving us the answers that we truly need.

Mike:
Yeah. I think about it sometimes, when I have it do whatever kind of calculations, I'll double check it on a different spreadsheet. I always think back to, was it like, fourth or fifth grade, I think, we finally got to use calculators in math class. I am of that age that they used to make you suffer in math and write everything out. And the teacher's saying, well, yeah, but you can't just plug it in, you have to know what to expect the output to be, because the calculator will only do what you tell it to do. It doesn't know what the intent of the answer should be.
And I come back to that, I never thought I'd think about that again, and then, here, 100 years later, I'm out of school, and it's kind of like it's coming full circle of, yeah, you can ask this thing to do whatever, but if you don't know how to double check it, or you don't know what the expected answer should be, even for, I'm thinking through a lot of your examples, just running a report that returns a handful of rows, just so that you can check all of your filters, as opposed to creating a report that returns tens of thousands or whatever records, and you're like, oh, it's too much to check, is knowing what you're going to double check for.

Evan:
Yeah. Yeah, having that sanity check, I mean, that's crucial, just to make sure that we're getting something valid. And I think trying to do that at the reporting stage is tough if that's the only place where you're doing the sanity check. And I think it's part of the process all the way through, you have to be making sure that your data architecture lines up with what you're trying to capture in the real world, and that the data you're putting into that structure actually aligns and is kept up to date, and has all the right validation rules in place, you're using automation to fill in the gaps, and auto calculate anything that you can.
And I think it's important to take advantage of what computers are good at, putting in sound calculations that you can guarantee the arithmetic is going to be correct. But then, we still need to rely on humans to be sanity checking all of this stuff, making sure that we're asking the right questions, and that the answers that we're trying to get out of the system are actually addressing that question.

Mike:
Yep, I couldn't have said it any better. Evan, I appreciate you coming back on the podcast and towing the straight and narrow line for us on reporting, and helping us get all of the good data out that we hope our users are putting in.

Evan:
Yeah, thanks so much for having me. This is always a blast, I'll come back anytime.

Mike:
You bet. Thanks, sir. I bet you never thought you'd hear Cartesian report types on this podcast. I know I didn't. If I had to go back 10 years ago and say words that are going to be said on this podcast, Cartesian report types probably wouldn't be on my list of things. But that's the beauty of the incredible intelligence that everybody has in the community, and some of the really fun stuff that you're doing, like Evan, on report types, and just tapping into all of the features and functionality. I hope you can get a chance to dive into some of the stuff that he's doing, I think it's really cool.
Now, if you're doing something like listening to this on iTunes, do me a favor. Click the three dots in the upper right-hand corner. Okay, see, it says share episode? You can now text or post social, like, hey, I just listened to this episode with Evan about reporting, I think it's really cool. And you can share it with your community, share it with your friends, share it with fellow Salesforce admins. Maybe you have some people in your organization that are looking to up their reporting skills. Great idea to share the podcast with them.
And of course, if you're looking for more great resources, you can always find everything admin at admin.salesforce.com, including a transcript of the show, so that you can read through, follow along. Of course, be sure to join the conversation, the Admin Trailblazer group, that is in the Trailblazer community. Of course, the link for that, where is it? Show notes, absolutely, you know where it's at. All right, so until next week, I'll see you in the cloud.

 



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

Today on the Salesforce Admins Podcast, we talk to Gary Brandeleer, Senior Director of Product Management, Emerging Tech and Products at Salesforce.

Join us for a roundtable discussion of everything Copilot: what it can do, how you can customize it, and what you need to do to get your org ready to get the most out of it.

You should subscribe for the full episode, but here are a few takeaways from our conversation with Gary Brandeleer and Josh Birk.

What is Einstein Copilot?

So there’s a big announcement at TDX today about a cool new AI tool for Salesforce called Copliot. We thought it might be nice to hear all about it from the PM in charge, so we brought Gary Brandeleer on the pod to find out all about it. We’re also joined by Josh Birk, who has spent a lot of working with Copilot.

Simply put, Copilot is an AI assistant that will help you get things done in Salesforce with natural language prompts. So you might ask it to give you a list of all your opportunities in the last month, or to summarize your most recent opportunity, and it will give you an answer in natural language. But we’re only scratching the surface of what it can do, and Gary was excited to tell us more about it.

Customizing Copilot to get more done

Salesforce has been working with AI for a long time, and you’ve probably seen it integrated into things like lead scoring and analytics. So what’s so special about Copilot?

For one thing, natural language processing makes everything much more user-friendly. You can chain multiple actions into one request. For example, “summarize the most recent case and write an email about it.” If you think about how many clicks that would take to do on your own, it’s easy to see the potential of Copilot for your users.

As for what you sort of actions you can request Copilot to do, there will be several options available out of the box. But because Gary knows how important Flows, Apex, and other customizations are to admins everywhere, you’ll be able leverage those skills to create your own custom actions, too. The possibilities are truly limitless.

How to get your org ready for Copilot

We’ve talked a fair amount on the pod about what you need to do to get ready for the AI tools coming to Salesforce. Data cleanup is more important than ever before.

For custom actions to work well, you need to make sure that you’ve updated the descriptions on all of your flows so that Copilot knows what it’s looking at. In general, you need to take a look at your labeling and organization practices for all of your data.

Finally, it’s important to remember that prompting AI is a skill that you need to practice. Both Josh and Gary recommend spending some time with a tool like ChatGPT seeing what kind of prompts work best. Try to get it to give you a recipe, or tell you a dad joke, and then see what kinds of questions get the results you’re looking for.

There’s a lot more in this episode about how Copilot works, so be sure to take a listen and subscribe so you’ll never miss out.

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Full Transcript

Mike Gerholdt:
This week on the Salesforce Admins Podcast, we are talking with Gary Brandeleer about Einstein Copilot. Now, it's March 7th if you're listening to this, the day this podcast drops, which I'm sure you are, you could be at TDX. Or not. So this is why I'm bringing this to you because we're talking about Copilot at Trailblazer DX and wanted to bring you a little bit of a conversation that myself and my fellow evangelist, Josh Birk had with Gary Brandeleer on some of the challenges and features of Copilot, the direction that they're going to go in terms of building it, some of the really cool capabilities of it. It's just a really fun discussion. I appreciate Josh jumping in, helping me out with this podcast. He really had an opportunity to get hands-on with Copilot at this point, so he really helped steer the conversation. I hope you find it intriguing. I did.
Now, of course, if you love what you are listening to, can you do me a favor and just make sure you're following the Salesforce Admins Podcast? So if you're listening to this episode and you like what you hear, listen to a couple more. Hit that follow button on iTunes or in Spotify or iHeartRadio. Because then every time a new episode comes out, it will drop right on your phone. But enough of me, let's get to the conversation we had with Gary and Josh about Copilot.
So Josh and Gary, welcome to the podcast.

Gary Brandeleer:
Thank you.

Josh Birk:
Thanks for having us, man.

Mike Gerholdt:
Good. Well, wanted to have a little bit of a round table discussion because Copilot is such a very cool product that we're launching actually today because today is the first day of TDX if you're listening to this when the podcast comes out. And I know you are because you downloaded it on your phone right away, just like I said in the intro to do. But we've got Gary on, and I brought Josh on, a familiar voice from those that listen to the Admin Podcast because Josh has actually been a little bit more hands on with Copilot than I have. So Gary, let's kick off with you. How did you get started at Salesforce and what do you do?

Gary Brandeleer:
So amazingly enough, I started on the Salesforce field service product as a solution engineer, and then I moved to the US. So obviously I'm from Belgium. I cannot get rid of this accent.

Mike Gerholdt:
I thought it was a southern accent. It sounds like Tennessee to me.

Gary Brandeleer:
Exactly. It's directly from there.

Mike Gerholdt:
Is it? Okay, the mountains.

Gary Brandeleer:
And so yeah, in San Francisco now it's been six years or a bit more. And so I worked as a product manager on Salesforce Field Service. Then I moved to the emerging tech team where we worked on blockchain and Web3 related aspects. And then of course when GPT happened, we got asked to work very fast on that technology. And so that's what I've been doing now for a couple of months, if not already a year.

Mike Gerholdt:
Great. And Josh, we know your history. You created Trailhead, you've done a lot of stuff. You've been hands-on with Copilot. So I'll let you kick off the discussion with Gary.

Josh Birk:
Yeah. Now, first of all, I'm shy about the whole created Trailhead thing.

Mike Gerholdt:
I'm not.

Josh Birk:
I know. A lot of people aren't. I had a lot to do with the prototype and getting involved in the first year. But Trailhead took a village for sure. But anyway, moving on from that. Gary, it's good to talk to you again.

Gary Brandeleer:
Good to talk to you.

Josh Birk:
Well, let's start at the very basics, and I'm going to ask you a very basic question, but I want to get an answer that's pointed to those nouns you just used like blockchain. Pretend I don't know anything about that. So slow walk me through what exactly is Copilot?

Gary Brandeleer:
So Copilot is really an AI assistant that's going to help you to do your tasks inside Salesforce. And I think that the easiest way to understand this is simply to tell you what you can ask it essentially. And so something you could ask to your Copilot is, "Can you give me list of the opportunities I have and what's the total amount?" And you use natural language and suddenly you have a Copilot AI assistant that is helping you at getting the answer. It's giving you the answer in the form of text or other forms. And that's pretty much it. It's really helping you to be more proactive using Salesforce data. And of course it can use also external data through data cloud and so on.

Josh Birk:
Right. I want to follow up a little bit on that conversational model, but kind of a historical question because as you mentioned, GPT happened, when did Salesforce first started working with technologies like this? And then what has the last six to eight months been like for you?

Gary Brandeleer:
I think it's a little bit tricky to answer because we started to work on AI very long ago. So GPT are just one of the many, many technologies out there that we can use under the banner of artificial intelligence. So I would say Salesforce started long ago on artificial intelligence in general. And you can see that, for example, from in Sales Cloud, you have lead scoring, we have also analytics that can use different algorithm and so on. So we had a lot of already of AI intelligence, I would say, in our product.
But then what happened really is that when we saw the power of what LLM could do, especially around analyzing texts, giving you answers in the natural language or using natural language, we were thinking of, okay, now how can we use that on Salesforce? And I think really we started a bit earlier than when it became very public that LLM we are going to change everything. If you look at our Salesforce AI research team, they have been working on LLMs for quite a while and they had already a lot of patents and white paper about it.
But I think it's accelerated once the public have seen how much value could LLM provide. And so that accelerated, I would say, starting January of last year. And since then it's been very intense, I would say. And the reason why is first of all, shipping a product very fast is not easy. Shipping an AI product very fast is even harder. And the story is even getting harder, as you look at the AI space right now, it's evolving like crazy. Every week I have something that is blowing my mind. I'm reading an article and I'm like, "Wow. That is feasible now? That's mind blowing." So keeping the rhythm, keeping yourself informed about what's feasible and then making sure that we can deliver as much value as possible to our customers using the latest and greatest is really, really a big challenge. But it has been super fun so far.

Josh Birk:
Yeah, it is. And I can sympathize with you because I have made statements to the public about AI, which were then disproven about three weeks later. It can be so hard to say, "This is exactly what the feature set it's going to be like." It has been a fascinating journey kind of interacting with them. Pretend I'm somebody who has heard about ChatGPT, is kind of familiar with the idea of a bot, but probably kind of in a more traditional sense of a bot. And when I hear we can do things like ask Copilot for the last three leads that I worked on or something like that, I might also think, well, that sounds like a dashboard or a report or a list view or aspects of the UI we're already familiar with. What novelty, what innovation is Copilot bringing to the user interface that's giving this power? What is the LLM and IN adding to it?

Gary Brandeleer:
I think there is two answers to that topic. One is if you look at LLMs, generally speaking, they're very good at managing text, summarizing, generating content, and so on. The second part, and that's more Copilot related, is that Copilot is able to chain what we call Copilot actions, which is really basically stuff it can do. I would say another way to position this is to say that Copilot will have a brain, and we call that the planner. That's the technical term so far.
But basically that brain will select different actions based on what you are asking the Copilot. And so what would happen is that you could say, yeah, if I want to find the latest scales, I can do that by going on a list view, for example, so on and indeed you could ask Copilot, "Hey, find the latest case," it will find it for you. And then you could ask this follow-up question of, "Hey, summarize it." And so it's going to summarize it for you.
What's much better is to say, "Hey, summarize the latest case." And in that scenario, the Copilot will combine different actions. It'll find dynamically which actions it need to combine to answer the requests. And so then you unlock a lot of value and a lot of different use cases simply because now the Copilot is able to chain the different actions together and give you an output that will be relevant for your request. And so I think more and more as it evolved and as we get user feedback, you will see that people will say, "Oh, wait a minute, I can do that with clicks, but now I could have done this with 10 clicks or I can just ask one single sentence to Copilot and the 10 clicks [inaudible 00:09:52] for me."

Josh Birk:
Right. Yeah. And I want to dig into actions a little bit more, but let me give you a theoretical based on what you just said. With Copilot, I could ask one question, which is, "Provide the three most recent open case leads I have." And then I could say, "Summarize those based on the amount of active cases that they have." And then I could say, "Okay. For that lead that has the most active cases, could you give me an email version of the summary that I could send to my manager?" And that's three prompts and I would get that actionable piece of content, right?

Gary Brandeleer:
That's exactly correct. And so you could even go as far as, I would simplify a little bit, but I would say you could go as far as saying, "Hey, summarize this lead or summarize this case and write an email about it." And at that stage you will not see the summary first. You'll basically get as an output directly the email, even though the Copilot has executed two or three actions to get to that output.

Josh Birk:
Got it. Now, first of all, I absolutely love the definition of an action as stuff that it can do because I feel like that boils it down so wonderfully. But let's bring that up another level. What is powering an action? What's the technology behind it and what is Salesforce providing out of the box with that?

Gary Brandeleer:
That's extremely important to flag it. And there is differences of course between what we ship. So as Salesforce, we will ship standard Copilot action or Copilot standard actions. And an example of that would be query CRM, draft and revise emails, summarize records. And these are really standard actions that are coming with Copilot. But then what we know is that many, many of our customers still love to configure, customize Salesforce. We also know that a lot of Salesforce admin tailor flows, apex and so on. So we are like, "Okay, wait a minute, because we need to be sure that the Copilot can be configurable, so how can we do that?"
And so we introduced the concept of Copilot custom action, and you can then create these custom actions and select either invocable actions, either auto launch through so far, either prompt template. And that's unlocking a lot of value because you can then cover a lot of use cases. On top of this, I would say, it's introducing one aspect that people will have to learn, which is you might already have an auto launch tool, or you might have already an invocable action that you are thinking of, "Hey, wait a minute, if I set up that in Copilot, this is going to be a super cool use case that Copilot will be able to do for my user."
But what is very important is to describe very well what the action is doing. And that's, I think, a new pattern that is popping up is that we are not very good at describing. Every time I'm creating a flow, I'm like, "Hey, I'm creating the flow. I'm naming it." And then the description, I'm just skipping it because I was like, "Nobody's going to read the description of the flow anyway." And that's just the way I'm doing it. Maybe some people out there are more disciplined than me.
But now it's extremely important because there is actually something that's going to read that description and it's going to be the LLM. So the LLM will only know if it needs to pick up this action or not based on the description you have for that custom action. And so to put that a bit more in context, it would be, I have a flow that is allowing me to, let's say, create a case. Then I would've to create the custom action, select that flow, and then I would've to describe, okay, this action is allowing you to create a case which is a Salesforce object used in the context of call center. And now the LLM will be, "Okay, if there is a call center agent asking me about creating a case, I will use this action. That's something I can do that has been well described to me."

Josh Birk:
Yeah. First of all, I love that acknowledgement of human behavior. My father is a surgeon and he got flagged by an administrator because none of his notes had his signature on it. And his response was, "They're my notes. They're for me." I know I wrote them, they're my notes. Why are you bugging me about my signature? And I think a lot of people think, well, if I put the label in and it's human friendly enough and most of the people are going to be seeing it are the people who are using it, the description is just sort of an add-on. But first of all, I want to hang a lantern on something. We've said LLM as an abbreviation a few times. It's large language model.

Gary Brandeleer:
That's correct.

Josh Birk:
Which is basically... I've heard it described, I mean, I kind of have it in my head as it's the very specific kind of data that the AI is looking at, right?

Gary Brandeleer:
I would put it another way, I like to simplify stuff a lot. And this is an oversimplification.

Josh Birk:
Okay.

Gary Brandeleer:
And it's probably a very, very, very simplified version. But for me it's more like what the LLM can do, at least in our context right now. And for math, I was going to use a calculator and I'm going to do one plus one equals two, which I can prove now that I'm very good at math. But the second thing here was for text, I could not really use anything. And now I have these LLMs that are able to ingest a lot of texts, generate a lot of content and so on. And that's what I think is important. How it's built, we can go very technical. But basically neural network and so on and so on. So I mean, we could create a full podcast just on that if you want, but it's more important to know what the use of it and the use of it is. Now everything you are doing with text can be much more automated or I would say much more augmented in some ways.

Josh Birk:
It's very good that this is a podcast format because it means we don't even have the idea of adding in the formulas that make this thing work that made my eyes bleed the first time I saw them. So I think that's an excellent description. And I think it also, thinking as terms of a calculator of AI and hallucination, some of the ways we phrase these things kind of makes it sound like they're almost a thinking sort of thing, but they're really more of a calculating kind of thing. And I wanted to say that to kind of emphasize your importance on, well, why do you need a really well fleshed out description? Because you're talking to a calculator that needs as much, it needs all of the numbers you would put into the calculator in the first place.

Gary Brandeleer:
That's correct. And on top of that, I would say the basics behind is that basically when you ask a request to a large language model or LLM, each word is basically a statistic. Meaning it's going to think of, "Hey, I'm going to speak about the cat, and the two words are going to come based on statistics." So it looks to us like it's complete magic and you have nearly someone speaking to you. At the end of the day, it's just statistic behind the scene that are popping up the right word and that's important to keep in mind, essentially.

Josh Birk:
Got it. So I can leverage my existing flow skills. I can even, to a certain extent... When we talk about invocable flows and headless flows, are you seeing flows that are kind of like, if I make my descriptions really good, they can pretty much serve as actions or what's your recommendation there that I kind of take an existing flow tailored for Copilot and then make sure the descriptions are a nice hefty paragraph?

Gary Brandeleer:
My recommendation there would be think really about the different strengths of Copilot and of LLMs in general. So if you have an existing flow that is already working and you would think of this would be worked for the Copilot to be able to call it whenever a user is requesting. Then, indeed, the only thing you need to do really is to create your custom action, describe it very well, describe the input, describe the output, and that's pretty much it.
Now that I think is a little bit too much of a dream, it'll not work as easy as that. What I mean by this is that now you might have, let's say 10, 15 actions that you have assigned to your Copilot. It might be that you add one more action and now your description was pretty bad. So this time for some reason, it was late on a Friday, you wanted to close your computer fast and you created very bad description.
If your description is very bad, it might be that suddenly, even though your first actions were all working fine, that now when you ask some requests to the Copilot, the Copilot will always select that action with the bad description simply because it's a description that is so bad that it's kind of overrule all the others. So I think what's important really is that testing of utterances, which is another word for simply a request from users. And so every time you create a new action is think about the value. Is there a real value to add that in a Copilot, yes or no? Is that using the power of LLMs? So content generation, summarization. In some ways text analysis or I would go for data analysis even though it's not exactly right. But think about that, the strength of the LLMs themselves, and then think about, wait, is that going to be overlapping with other actions I have already?
And the last piece is that going to be used and chained with other actions? And that I think is a very important point is back to that question of, if you ask it to summarize the data scales, will it use different actions, chain them? And the answer is yes. If you create a new custom action, is there something super cool you could do by thinking of, hey, wait a minute now I could create this flow. It's going to retrieve some data, for example, and then it's going to use the existing summarize action to summarize something, a customer record or something like this. So really that chaining of action can be also a good reason for why or why not taking an existing flow and creating that as a custom action or using that as a custom action.

Josh Birk:
Got it. Now Copilot's going to arrive out of the box. It's going to have some standard actions. We've talked about actions. What else does an admin need to know day one if Copilot's enabled? What other kind of setup tips and steps should they know they should be working towards to get it up and running in an org?

Gary Brandeleer:
A couple of things. One, there is one Copilot for your employee in that Salesforce org. So generally speaking, you will have one single Copilot so far for all your employees in your Salesforce org. Second, you can, of course, control the access and the access to the Copilot is done via permission sets. The data access, you don't have to change much. It will respect, of course, the system we have for years now. Which basically if you have a profile and you don't have CRED access on some objects or whatever else, we will not of course certainly overrule that because you are asking to Copilot to update an opportunity where you don't have access, for example.

Josh Birk:
Gotcha.

Gary Brandeleer:
So the beauty there is really activate the Copilot, give the perm sets to the right users so that they can use Copilot. And that's pretty much it. And that's using the out of the box standard actions. After that, once you see and get feedback from your users, I think then think about what kind of custom actions you could add, what other use case you could cover, but don't go too fast. Like, little by little. New technology, people need to get used to it. I think there is a big, big part of expectation as well. People expect a lot from AI. The reality is that at first it'll do a few things pretty good for you and your users will tell you, "Well, I keep asking to the Copilot, 'What is the weather in San Francisco?' And it doesn't reply." And I'm like, "Okay, that might be a custom action. I'm not sure you should really do that in Salesforce." But that, I think, is important is look at what kind of requests your users are requesting, and from there you will find cool use case that you can customize and configure.

Josh Birk:
Now-

Mike Gerholdt:
Josh, I have a little bit of a specific follow-up question before you go.

Josh Birk:
Oh, go go. Yeah.

Mike Gerholdt:
Because Gary, a lot of the podcasts that we've been doing and a lot of articles around getting ready for AI have really focused on data cleanup, and we actually had quite a few customers at Dreamforce talk about data cleanup in terms of prepping for AI, which is a best practice for a Salesforce admin anyway. It should be in their essential habits. What I'm also hearing, and this makes my heart sing, is that you now have a reason to have a systematic plan to go through and either describe or clean up your descriptions on key things like flows, custom objects. I'm hearing this is a priority, right?

Gary Brandeleer:
I think it is, at least for the flows you want the Copilot to use once you set up your custom action. But yeah, it's becoming much more important. And data quality has always been super important. I think what's new is, I would nearly say metadata quality is also super important now. So not only if you look at an opportunity is the opportunity description well described is the amount at the right level and things like this. So the data quality itself, but then did you describe really well what that flow on the opportunity object was doing? Keeping in mind that if you, for example, go in one of your existing flow and you add descriptions there or edit the descriptions there, once you will select that flow as a Copilot custom action, we will of course copy over all the description from your flow. So I would say best practices would be, hey, get the source cleaned up so that whenever you are using it in Copilot, you don't even have to change the description. You just take the one that were set in your flow essentially.

Mike Gerholdt:
Gotcha.

Josh Birk:
How does things like duplicate fields and records and other aspects of unclean data, can that impact how well... Is it on the same level as what we usually see with that kind of turn? Or can Copilot be even more affected by that kind of thing?

Gary Brandeleer:
I would take the example of summarization. If you try to summarize an opportunity where many of the fields are completely blank, nothing has been really changed and there is not even a good naming convention of your opportunity or whatever else. You can do whatever you want, but there will be no magic. The summary will be looking pretty bad simply because it's trying to summarize data that is pretty bad. So that's one. When it comes to identifying records, I would think more about it as a search mechanism where, generally speaking, if you have opportunity names that are a bit weird, as long as you search for the right name, the Copilot will be able to find them the same way you would be able to search them.
But of course, if you have, for example, let's go a bit more to a practical example. If you say, okay, I have a deal called Acme, but now you have three deals actually called Acme. If you search for it, you'll find three records. If you ask a Copilot to update Acme and you have three opportunities named exactly the same way, then at that stage, Copilot will try to ask you more information to find the right record. So it'll probably ask you, "Which record are you talking about? Because now there is three of them that have exactly the same name, so which one do you really want me to update?" So that's what you can expect. So I think a search mechanism would be more like we show you the result and then you figure it out. With the Copilot, it's more like, hey, we get some results, and then we ask you more questions to know that we are acting on the right record.

Josh Birk:
Which speaks right back to the power of that conversational model. Which is really hard, I feel, to know until you experience it. One final question for me, where can people learn more both at TDX since the magic of time travel we'll be talking to people sharing TDX when this launches. But also beyond TDX, what are some of the best resources?

Gary Brandeleer:
So we are working on a couple of trails that will be published by TDX. We are also, of course, updating our websites with a lot of data there. And then I would say release notes are still your best friends. We will make sure that they're as clear as possible. But I think these are a couple of places where to find this. And then we have, I think, multiple communities as well that are set up for AI and we should reuse just these to have our discussions about Copilot. So that's what we'll have by that time.

Josh Birk:
Nice.

Mike Gerholdt:
I have a feeling this is going to be on everybody's lips when they're at TDX and all of these groups thereafter.

Gary Brandeleer:
I have a feeling as well that this will be very much discussed.

Josh Birk:
Yeah. And the hand things right back off to you, Mike, I have a feelings will probably not be your last AI centric episode.

Mike Gerholdt:
No, there is no such thing. We're just getting started. I am excited to do an entire presentation on best practices for updating your description fields, though.

Gary Brandeleer:
Yep.

Mike Gerholdt:
I know it sounds insanely boring talking about how white rice is, but man, let me tell you, it sounds like that is going to be key.

Gary Brandeleer:
It's going to be key. I can tell you [inaudible 00:29:20].

Mike Gerholdt:
It's all the little thousand paper cuts.

Gary Brandeleer:
Yes, yes. And we even ourself, we struggle with it honestly by building this product. We are like, every time we build a standard action, we also need to describe it correctly. And there was a lot of back and forth on how to name it, how to describe it, and so on. So that has been quite a challenge, I would say.

Mike Gerholdt:
Well, to echo back to an episode that I published in February with Marissa Scalercio, who is a customer that was on the podcast talking about her pilot use of Prompt Builder. One thing I asked her, and I think it reigns true for this episode, regardless of what we're talking about in terms of AI for Salesforce, her advice was, "I can't tell you how much I wish my past self would tell my future self to start using AI now. Just any AI. Because asking it questions, doing things."
Josh, you probably follow me on Instagram. I'm spitting out a whole bunch of AI generated images just because I find it's interesting what you ask AI and what it comes back and then getting better at learning how to ask questions and learning how to, not train the model, but think through, oh, this is literally what I asked for, but in my head it was something different. And I will echo back to her advice because I think it reigns true. Even getting ready for Copilot, you're going to have to get better at asking questions and get better at cleaning your data up.

Gary Brandeleer:
That's correct.

Josh Birk:
And there's no reason this magic of a conversational UI, which is so hard to describe in any way other than just saying, "Do it." There's no reason to wait. You don't have to wait for Copilot access or anything like that. Go to Bard and ask it to give you dad jokes. Jump in and just get that conversation flowing just to feel the fact that, oh, like Gary was saying, I thought it'd be three prompts. It actually could be two if you know how to ask the right questions.

Gary Brandeleer:
That's very involved, I would say-

Mike Gerholdt:
Gary, thanks so much for coming on the podcast, and I'm sure people... I have a feeling you're going to be a little bit popular at Trailblazer DX.

Gary Brandeleer:
It might be. I will be there hopefully being able to answer as many questions as possible from the customers. And if not, we'll try to find a way to get maybe a Copilot answering the questions. So we'll see.

Mike Gerholdt:
There you go. Oh, look at that.

Gary Brandeleer:
We will see.

Mike Gerholdt:
Very meta answer of you.

Josh Birk:
One final question, Gary. Are you a coffee person?

Gary Brandeleer:
Actually, so amazingly enough, yes, but I stopped because I was not sleeping well because I was drinking too much coffee. So now I'm a tea person, which is much more boring.

Mike Gerholdt:
That's the best part of coffee.

Gary Brandeleer:
Yeah, kind of.

Mike Gerholdt:
You quit because of the best part.

Gary Brandeleer:
Kind of in the morning, yes. But in the evening when you're in your bed and trying to get asleep and you're still thinking about all the stuff you could do and so on, and you can't just go to sleep, it's just a little annoying. So after a while I was like, "Okay, let's switch to tea." But I must say I'm really missing a good coffee cup, especially a bold espresso. That would be the best. But for now, this month is coffee free for me.

Mike Gerholdt:
So it was a fun conversation. Boy, there's a lot to pick up. A lot of really cool features coming, I feel, in the next few years with all of the AI possibilities and some of the stuff that's going on with the ability to automate things and ask conversations, and talk with our data. Isn't that something we've been talking about for a while?
So if you enjoyed this episode at the beginning, I asked you to hit follow. Hey, maybe share it with somebody. You got a fellow person on your team that's looking to expand their admin skills or learn more about Einstein Copilot or the plethora of information that we cover on this podcast. All you got to do is just really tap the three dots and click share episode. You can post it social, you can text it to a friend. I appreciate you doing that. And of course, if you've got more great resources, your one stop for everything is admin.salesforce.com, including a transcript of the show. So that way, if there's a part of it that doesn't make sense, you can go through, read the transcript and get some information that way.
But be sure to join in the Trailblazer Group community discussion. A lot of great questions there and people sharing the podcast, which I appreciate. Also, if you have feedback, hey, I'm on Twitter and Threads and TikTok, and I think I'm on everything at this point. But send me your feedback. I'd love to hear it. I'd love to know what you think. I do enjoy reading all of the comments and hearing about the podcast because it's something I enjoy creating for you. So until next week, we'll see you in the cloud.

 

Direct download: Introduction_to_Copilot_with_Gary_Brandeleer.mp3
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Today on the Salesforce Admins Podcast, we talk to Ketan Karkhanis, EVP and GM of Sales Cloud at Salesforce. 

Join us for a replay of this episode about all of the new Sales Cloud features that have gone live recently and how you can use them to transform your organization.

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

New features in Sales Cloud

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

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

Drive adoption with Sales Cloud Everywhere

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

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

We need your help

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

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

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

Podcast swag

Resources

Social

Full show transcript

Gillian Bruce: Welcome to the Salesforce Admins Podcast, where we talk about product, community, and careers to help you be successful. I’m your host today, Gillian Bruce. Missed you. Nice to be back. I’m here with a very special interview that I wanted to be able to share with you from Ketan Karkhanis, who is our EVP and GM of Sales Cloud at Salesforce. Now, he is a senior executive in charge of all things Sales Cloud. And we had a chat, just running into each other at London World Tour of all places. And it really sparked my idea to have him join us on the podcast, because Sales Cloud has gone under a huge reboot over the last year. There’s a ton of new features that I don’t think many people are aware of. So, we wanted to dig into that a little bit. And then also, talk about why Sales Cloud and core are developing the things they are, prioritization, especially in the context of AI and GPT these days.

And I promise you, Ketan is going to show you that, hey, core is getting a lot of love despite all of the hype around GPT, which is also very exciting. But we really focus more on that conversation around core development. And he gets into the importance and the role of Salesforce admins. One quick note before we get into Ketan’s interview. At the time we were interviewing, the product we were developing was called SalesGPT. That has since changed. And now our AI products for sales is Einstein for Sales. And so, anytime you hear GPT, just think Einstein. So, without further ado, please welcome Ketan to the podcast. Ketan, welcome to the podcast.

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

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

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

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

Ketan Karkhanis: Yeah, great to be here.

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

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

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

Ketan Karkhanis: But we really doubled down on it. And if you now go look at forecasting, you will see that there’s still a long journey. I invite you to join me at Dreamforce. But things like customizability, things like bring your own columns, things like adding manager judgment, things like coverage ratio, things like a better user experience, which does not require a help dock. Things like pipe inspection. I don’t know how many of you have turned on pipe inspection. Maybe it may not have one or two things you don’t need, but it’s the new list view for opportunities. Why would you look at opportunities in a list view? Why wouldn’t you look at pipe inspection? And everything I said, it’s part of core. It’s not something new you need to buy. I have a lot of new things I can sell you to. You know me, I’ll keep building new things.

But the idea is, how do we get more intrinsic value out? So, you asked the question, so I’ll say, I invite you all to check out pipe inspection. I invite you all to check out forecasting. I invite all of you to check out… And I’m listing, Gillian, things which are not like, hey, you need to call an AE right now. These are things which are probably already there, you just need to go turn it on or something like that. The next thing I’ll tell you is, look, one of the largest problems I’ve seen a lot of customers espouse is adoption. Gillian, you hear that from admins, and I hear that. How do I drive adoption? What do I do, right?

Gillian Bruce: 100%.

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

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

Ketan Karkhanis: Now, these were just examples, but you can make a long list of this theme. Now, if you’re on unlimited edition. So, some of you might be on UE, you have a special bonanza for you now, because everything I said before is available everywhere. Now I’m focusing only on unlimited edition. We added a ton of capability to unlimited edition, which was previously add-ons kind of stuff. So, for example, conversational AI. How many of you have heard of conversational AI? It’s a standard capability. ECI, Einstein Conversational Insights. Go turn it on, try it in UE. I’ll tell you, sales engagement, some of you probably remember HVS. And again, transparency, there was some work to be done on that, which we have gotten done last year.

I know there was a little bit of a pause on that, but we have rebooted everything in the past 12 months. It’s included in powerful cadence automation. Every inside sales teams needs it. It’s out of the box in Sales Cloud UE. Automated capture, Einstein Automated Capture. Do you know more than 20,000 customers have already used Einstein Automated Capture? Are you one of those 20,000? If you are, thank you very much. If you aren’t, why aren’t you on that list? Because why do you want sales reps to enter data manually? It should be automatically synced. But anyways, I can keep going on, Gillian. There’s just a lot. There’s just a lot.

Gillian Bruce: That is a lot. And you know what I really like is all of these features that you’re talking about are, like you said, your team’s been working on this in the last 12 months. But I mean really these are things that are going to help admins make their users happier. And so, especially when you were talking about basically the pipe inspection is a better list view that’s going to give you so much more information. So, why train your users on how to use a list view when you’ve got this? And they can get the insights just from looking at the list of their opportunities. And then in context, I mean when you’re talking about the extension, where you can bring Salesforce and your CRM in the context of which you’re already working. Because the last thing a sales rep wants to do is switch windows or have multiple tabs open, as all of us are guilty of having too many tabs open as it is.

But the idea of having that contextual as you’re looking at a LinkedIn, as you’re looking at your email, that’s fantastic. I mean, those are amazing features. And like you said, they’re already part of your core experience. So, I’m going to use a Mike Gerholdt analogy here. “If you paid for the Ferrari, don’t just use it to drive to the grocery store.” You’ve got all these bells and whistles, you should use them. And I think another thing that I hear often when I’m at community events or at user groups, is you hear people that are paying for all of these third party solutions that do a lot of the stuff they don’t realize core already does.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ketan Karkhanis: Incredible commitment, incredible partnership. And then as I look at their journey and we talk to them, they’re like, okay, here’s where we need help, here’s where we need help, here’s where we need help. And how do you build that bridge for them to create a modern selling environment, to create a data-driven selling environment, to create a selling environment where reps are spending less time doing entry, but more time driving deals. And to do all of this, it’s not just new capabilities or new products like Planning, like GPT, all those things I talked about, but it’s also the foundation capabilities of, okay, let’s ensure forecasting is amazing out of the box. Let’s ensure a lot of our features are turned on out of the box. Let’s ensure we are really funneling our energies into bringing more, I keep saying out of the box, out of the box, out of the box.

That’s my way of saying core, core, core, core. But it also implies I want to simplify setup and onboarding. We have some more work to do there. It’s not done. And I will be the first person to say, hey, need your help, but trust me, we are committed to doing it. I’m committed to doing it. So, there’s countless examples I can give you around all these things we are trying to do. But the strategy is adoption driven growth. Element of the strategy is I really don’t want our customers to use seven or 10 different products, because I think…

So, our customers are giving me feedback. They’re like, “Ketan, and this is becoming a bit…” I have seven to 10 different tools I have to use, and this happens in the industry, it’s cyclical. There’s a hyper proliferation of point solutions, and then we go into a tech consolidation phase. So, that is a very key part. That’s what we did with Sales Cloud Unlimited. We took all this. We are like, these are not add-on, we just get them. It’s like, okay, Gillian, when you buy a smartphone or you just buy… Nowadays, nobody calls it a smartphone.

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

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

Gillian Bruce: No.

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

Gillian Bruce: I love that.

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

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

Ketan Karkhanis: You’re the quarterback. You’re the quarterback. Or if the people from other regions, I can use a cricket analogy, I can use a soccer analogy, I can use any analogy you want me to use, but you get the spirit of what I’m trying to say is yes, it’s a critical role, it’s a pivotal role, it’s an important role. Because it’s also the role that drives, not just governance and compliance, which is one way to think about it, but also what I call agile innovation. You can show the organization a way to move fast. The person who understands the power of clicks, not core, is connected to the community to bring those best practices from the community into your organization, is connected to product at Salesforce to bring that feedback back to product. You are also now the face of Salesforce in front of your organization, and that’s why we love you so much.

It’s a tough job. Look, it can be stressful, because you’re juggling many balls. There’s like every day you’ve got 10 things you’re juggling. You are like, oh, I’ve got these five requests from this business unit, but I need to do this project, which is long-term. And I’ve still not gotten done with my data governance priorities, which I had. But it’s a critical role, and that’s why it’s my commitment to you that I want to be held accountable by you. And I would aspire to be more connected to you. So, I don’t know how we do-

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

Ketan Karkhanis: I had to open my mouth.

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

Ketan Karkhanis:
Thank you so much.

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

Ketan Karkhanis: Yeah, yeah, 100%.

Gillian Bruce: Thanks, Ketan. One quick note and reminder, SalesGPT has changed to Einstein for Sales. So, we’re Salesforce, product names change, especially as we come into Dreamforce. So, just wanted to remind you of that. Anytime you hear SalesGPT think of Einstein. Well, that was amazing to have Ketan on the podcast. Appreciate his time. And yes, we are going to do more with him. So, I am looking forward to getting him back on to talk a little bit more about SalesGPT, which I know everyone is clamoring to learn more about. But I did appreciate his honesty and transparency about how Sales Cloud needed a reboot, how they’re prioritizing reducing all of the different points of use of other products and other solutions, and trying to consolidate everything into one seamless Sales Cloud solution that helps you with adoption as you’re trying to get your users on board.

I love the couple of features he mentioned that I didn’t even really know about, was the extensions to bring CRM into your email or into LinkedIn, wherever you’re working. And then, I mean, gosh, who doesn’t love an improved list view, right? So, go ahead and check out the pipeline inspection list view. I mean, I guess it’s technically not called a list view, but what a better way to look at your opportunities. So, we’re going to do more with Ketan. I also thought it was great how critical he thought the admin role is, as we all know it is. But I hope that gave you a little insight into how our executive leadership views the role of Salesforce admin and how we are really prioritizing making the admin job easier and helping you make your users more successful. Enough from me. Thank you so much for joining us on the podcast today.

As always, if you like what you hear, please leave us a review. You can also get more information on my favorite website, admin.salesforce.com, for more great content of all kinds. And if you’d like to follow us at all, we are on all the social medias. You can find us on LinkedIn, or Twitter, or X or whatever it’s being called these days, at Salesforce Admns, no I, and all over LinkedIn as well. Thanks to the main host of this podcast, Mike Gerholdt, for giving me the chance to bring this interview to you. And I hope you have a wonderful rest of your day. I’ll catch you next time in the cloud.

 

 

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

Today on the Salesforce Admins Podcast, we talk to Ella Marks, Senior Marketing Manager at Salesforce.

Join us as we chat about the keys to creating a great presentation, how to prep, and how to always nail your ending.

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

Presenting is a core skill for admins

Presentations are an important part of every admin’s life. And I’m not just talking about speaking in front of your local user group. Admins present every time they go in for a budgeting conversation, or demo a new process for their users.

That’s why I’m so excited to bring Ella Marks on the pod. She’s presented on some of Salesforce’s biggest stages, like Dreamforce and several World Tours. So I wanted to hear her tips for how to put together and prep for a great presentation.

The cool thing is that no matter the format or venue, Ella uses the same core principles to prep for every presentation.

Know your audience

Ella’s first step is to identify the audience that you’re presenting for. Who’s in the room? What do they already know, and what are you going to teach them? Your content is going to be very different if you’re presenting to a room full of admins versus a room full of new users.

There are several situations where you might not know exactly who’s going to be in the audience or what their level of expertise is. Ella’s trick for this is to just ask them, for example, “Raise your hand if this topic is new to you.”

Experienced presenters will be able to use the information they get about their audience to change things on the fly. If this sounds daunting to you, Ella recommends that you start small. Pick one slide or part of your presentation that you’ll adjust based on the answer to your question. That gives you a manageable way to practice thinking on your feet, and you’ll soon find yourself getting more comfortable with improvising.

Make an effective outline

The next step is to make an outline. For Ella, that’s listing out everything she could say about the presentation topic in a big list. This gives her the chance to move things around, pick out some themes, decide on a call to action, and then start editing it down.

When she’s ready to start creating her slide deck, Ella uses a technique called “blue boxing” to make a rough draft. Essentially, you use blue boxes to map out what you’re going to put on each slide. So a slide might have three blue boxes that say:

  • Title about why this is important right now

  • Text of the most important point I’m going to say

  • Image to illustrate the point

This allows you to visually sketch out what each slide looks like and how the presentation flows as a whole. Variation is what keeps your audience engaged, so we want to make sure that we have a balance of slides with more text and slides with more visuals. Blue boxing lets you make these decisions before you spend time hammering out the specifics of which image or which bullet point you’re going to use.

The trick to nailing your ending

Conclusions are always tricky. Ella recommends asking yourself three questions:

  • After my presentation, how do you want them to feel?

  • After my presentation, what do you want them to think?

  • After my presentation, what do you want them to do?

These are your three goals, and the secret to nailing your ending is to work toward them throughout the presentation. Every slide should be aimed at answering one of these questions so that, by the end, you’ve brought the audience with you and it feels inevitable.

This episode is chock-full of great tips for creating presentations, including how to prep with a group and the importance of a good pump-up song, so be sure to take a listen and subscribe so you’ll never miss out.

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Full show transcript

Mike Gerholdt:
This week on the Salesforce Admins Podcast, we are talking with Ella Marks about building phenomenal presentations and the art of presenting how she gets ready. Now, if you don't know who Ella is, Ella's on our admin relations team and she's done Dreamforce keynotes. Maybe you've seen her in the Release Readiness Live and at Dreamforce, also on stage at Release Readiness Live. So she's presented to a few thousand people at a time and knows quite a thing or two about getting ready. Now, how is this relevant to you, admins? Well, you are going to be presenting at some point, either maybe to a board of directors or peers, or hopefully you're at a user group and you're getting ready to present a really cool idea.
But presentation is really part of what we do a lot because we're showing all kinds of stuff and always presenting new ideas. Now, before I get into this episode, I want to make sure you're following the Admins Podcast on iTunes or Spotify. That way whenever a new podcast drops, which is Thursday morning, it shows up right on your phone and you don't have to do anything. You can just press play and get on the bus and go to work or take your dog for a walk. So with that, let's get Ella on the podcast.
So Ella, welcome to the podcast.

Ella Marks:
Thanks so much, Mike. Thanks for having me.

Mike Gerholdt:
Well, it's been a while, but I think people have seen you elsewhere in the ecosystem. I mean, we're on the same team together, but for community members that haven't run into you or seen the plethora of work that you've put out, what are some of the things you do at Salesforce?

Ella Marks:
I've been at Salesforce for almost seven years now and I've done a lot of different things and I'm so grateful. A lot of the time that I've spent here has been working with the admin community. You may have seen my face before on Release Readiness Live or on the keynote stage at Dreamforce, but I have the privilege of focusing on creating and distributing content for admins like you on some of our new release features and really exciting new innovations like AI. It's really fun. I get to learn a lot about the platform and I'm always really excited to hear from admins and speak to admins and create presentations for admins. So really excited to be here today and talk to you a little bit more about that.

Mike Gerholdt:
Cool. I'm thinking ahead and for some of the admins we're getting ready. There's TDX coming up, but also user groups for those of us in the Midwest that aren't snowed in anymore, we can get to user groups and presentations are important there and there's all kinds of stuff that we present. Not to mention that it's probably almost budget season. I got to do some presentations for budget. I got to do a whole bunch of presentations if I'm an admin.

Ella Marks:
There's no limit I think to the type of presentations and the amount of presentations that you can do as an admin. Like you mentioned, there's events where you're speaking to your fellow admins and developers, there's internal presentations. And I think the most exciting thing or interesting thing to me about presentations is no matter what presentation you're giving or who you're giving it to, you can go about planning for it and preparing that presentation in kind of the same way. There's some fundamentals that go across every type of presentation that you may have or create in your role as an admin.

Mike Gerholdt:
And you've done quite a few because I remember seeing you on the Dreamforce keynote stage and Release Readiness. I feel like you've done a lot of different style presentations too.

Ella Marks:
I've honestly had the privilege to be on a bunch of different stages at Salesforce, whether it's a virtual presentation or a webinar on the Dreamforce stage or even at an event. This year, I got to present and connect with a lot of people at world tour events, and like I said, they're all very different. The people in the audience are very different, and so the way that I create content for them, while I might be covering the same things is always going to have a different output because I am trying to tailor it to the audience that I have, but I kind of use the same fundamental principles when approaching any presentation I give, whether it's online, in person, a hybrid. There's a few key things that I really go back to.

Mike Gerholdt:
Well, let's dive into those principles. Where do you start?

Ella Marks:
The first thing that I do when I'm putting together any presentation is identify the audience that I'm presenting for. Now, this can be super straightforward. Sometimes you're going to know exactly who's going to be in the room. You might be doing an internal presentation at work, the stakeholders, the names on a meeting invite, and you can take the guidance from there. In other times, you may not have the list of everybody exactly who's going to be in the room, but you have a sense of who they are. So a user group presentation, for example, you may know there's a mix of admins and developers and maybe architects in that room.
And you need to know who those people are in order to build a presentation that is really going to engage them and teach them or persuade them or whatever your goal is. You need to start with knowing who that audience is to understand where that goal fits in and how can I communicate this information best to them.

Mike Gerholdt:
But I'm going to play devil's advocate and say, so what if I'm presenting to a user group and maybe I've only been there once and I don't know all the people that are going to see my presentation. What do you do then?

Ella Marks:
One of my favorite things that presenters do, and I use this trick sometimes. And Mike, I've seen presentations where I know you've done this too, is you can ask the room. I think it's important for us to not make any assumptions about the audiences that we're speaking to. I think that can lead sometimes to a lack of clarity and confusion. And so if you're presenting to a user group about a topic that you know a lot about, I think it's a great tool. Sometimes even just engage the audience and bring them with you to say, "Before I get started, raise your hand if you're an admin or raise your hand if you have familiarity with the topic that I'm going to cover."
And that does two things. One, it tells you how you can tailor the rest of your content or your presentation to the people in the room, but it also kind of opens up almost a dialogue between you and the audience. So even if they don't speak for the rest of your presentation, you've created a real human moment of engagement with them that is going to be super important and key to holding their attention for the entire time that you're presenting.

Mike Gerholdt:
And much like that, and Ella, I've seen you do this, is if you're going to ask the question, make sure it's data that you're going to actually act upon. Because I feel if you're going to somehow tailor your presentation and make a couple versions, which I've done for user groups because I wasn't sure what the level of interest or the level of knowledge of the topic that I was talking about was, then you can kind of immediately pivot based on that. And I think everybody appreciates when they took the time to raise their hand that you're actually curating the content for that.

Ella Marks:
There absolutely needs to be a payoff. If you're someone that's not as comfortable giving presentations, starting with the question at the very beginning and trying to weave that throughout can feel intimidating. And what I would recommend instead is to pick a moment within your content where you can do exactly Mike, what you just said. Which is, you have a slide that hits on, maybe it's a new feature or a different topic. Instead of asking a super broad question that you then need to weave into your story for the rest of your presentation. You can tailor your question to exactly what you're talking about on the slide.
And that can help you build that muscle to incorporate who's in the room and that audience into your talk track without having to start with that big broad question at the beginning. We have to start somewhere. And I think a great place to learn that skill is really starting with something small, a specific slide or a specific product, and learning from there how to incorporate the questions that you're asking to a more broader scale to cover a whole presentation.

Mike Gerholdt:
So sticking on the theme of building content, there's a lot of mechanics to a presentation, but building the content. Depending on the topic you're choosing, it can feel like you're boiling the ocean. "I have all this to show, and I'm on slide 68 already. I can't possibly show "What are some of the techniques that you use to really boil down what you're presenting given sometimes the restricted timeline that you have?

Ella Marks:
First, before I go into tips, I just want to reiterate that phrase, don't boil the ocean. That is the number one thing that literally...

Mike Gerholdt:
Literally don't. If you have a big death ray, please don't boil the ocean.

Ella Marks:
Please don't boil the ocean. Global warming, we don't need that. But I think with presentations, it's super important because you usually have limited time to communicate whatever it is in your presentation you're going to communicate. That's not even considering the fact that people's attention spans are short. So you need to do that work to figure out what are your key points. And one of the things that I really like to do is I create a document and I will just start an outline. I'll start typing out what I think the points are in the story that I need to cover.
I'll include any important examples, include a CTA, kind of those key pieces of a presentation, but I'm not actually putting it together yet. I'm just making a huge list of everything I think might be included. And then from there, I go in and I kind of prioritize. So that list is usually way longer than what the presentation ends up being or has way more information, but it is a starting point. And that's the starting point that I kind of use to say, "Okay, I'm identifying that I'm seeing a couple common themes in what I've written out here. How can I communicate those most effectively?"
And what I like about the list is that if you're doing it... Whatever platform that you're using, a Google Doc, a Quip Doc, whatever, it's really easy to copy and paste and move around the order as well to think about not just, "What am I including, but how am I going to start creating this story?" And that gives you kind of a framework to use moving forward.

Mike Gerholdt:
I would agree. So you mentioned story, and I think a big part of storytelling is the visual element. How do you balance just not putting paragraphs of text up on the slides and that imagery?

Ella Marks:
It's a really good question, and it's something that I ask myself all the time. Because I'm not a designer, I do not consider myself to be good at graphic design. And so when I build a presentation, it can feel really intimidating to think about what are the visuals that I need to create? And there's a technique that I learned at Salesforce that I was taught called blue boxing, and that's really what I use. And the way that it works is once I've gotten to that state, I have my outline, I kind of know what I'm going to put on slides. Instead of jumping right to what is my final slide going to look like, here is the exact paragraphs, here's the exact talk track, here's the exact visual.
I kind of take a step back from that and use blue boxes, literal blue boxes on a slide to map out what I think it could look like and how I think the content on the slide can reinforce what it is that I'm going to say. So if I know that I'm going to put together a slide that has some tips, for example. I might put together a placement of where those tips might go and think, "Oh, there could be a supporting image for this." What I don't do is I don't dive in and find that image right away. I really take that step of thinking through, "Okay, what is a visual that can support what I'm saying?" And I go through the whole deck like that first and then come back to really hone in on what the message is on that particular slide and pull in those core visuals.
But taking that step to do that kind of blue boxing framework really helps you identify how the story is going to flow and how those visuals are going to support you. Because I will say there are times when you're going to want more text on a slide than others, and so you want to have a good balance of that. You don't want folks to also just only be reading the content on your slides while you're speaking to them. And so if you take that kind of step to build it out first, you'll have a better idea of what the mix of your presentation is going to look like, how you might use different slide formats to engage people, because we know people have short attention spans, so you want to make sure that we're kind of switching things up.
We're providing different visuals every few minutes, and I think using design is a very powerful tool to help you do that.

Mike Gerholdt:
I would agree. I would agree. Plus pacing, when you're thinking that through, you mentioned people have short attention spans, so keeping the slides moving also helps keep people's attention as well. I think often when I'm reviewing decks or I'm watching presentations at events, and these are outside of Salesforce too, sometimes people have a hard time closing their presentation. I feel like it's either one, they kind of fade off into the distance. It's like an eighties' movie where they just walk off into the beach into the sunset and we never hear from them again. Or it's like a steel door slamming shut where it's like, "Okay, so that's this. And if you have any questions, thanks." Bam.
And the presentation's done. What's your approach for the closure because I feel like the closure is the most important part?

Ella Marks:
I'd agree that if you don't have people with you at the end, I think you've really missed a big opportunity when it comes to creating presentations. The way that I would think about it is throughout your entire presentation, as you're putting together that outline. There are three things that you can think about that you want people to take away, how you want them to feel, what you want them to think and how you want them to act. And I would say that's not just your final slide or the thing that you leave the audience with. That should be at the core of why you're putting that presentation together.
I think the final slide in that CTA is incredibly important, but I also think that as someone in the audience who doesn't know anything about your presentation going into it, I think that they should know where you're going throughout the presentation. And that's really how you make whatever it is you share, whatever your CTA is super impactful. So I'll give you an example of that. If you're going to do an amazing presentation, let's say it's on new release features and you're going into great depth about... We have the spring 24 release right now, I know that's top of mind for a lot of admins.
If you go through great content throughout, at the end, to your point, if you don't leave folks with something to do next, they start to question what the purpose was of you sharing all that information. And as a speaker, that is the opposite of what you want. You want to be able to say, "I'm doing this presentation to help you prepare for the release, and I'm going to do that by showing you features and leaving you with either a resource or an approach or tips for you to take and go do this at your own companies or deliver your own presentation."
And I think where sometimes people fall flat is they think, "Great, I'll throw a CTA in my presentation at the end, and then everybody will go read my blog post or they'll all go follow me on various social media networks." And unfortunately, if you're not working in the purpose of what that CTA is throughout, it's not going to have that same impact. So you need it to close strong, but it shouldn't be an afterthought. Everything in your presentation should in essence be pointing towards your end goal, whatever you want to leave the audience with.

Mike Gerholdt:
I've many a times seen an entire slide devoted to resources and thought to myself, "I don't know where to start." There's a lot of resources, but a library is a resource too, and it's full of books, but I don't know where to start. [inaudible 00:16:32]

Ella Marks:
It's so common. Well, and that's the thing, it's kind of a double-edged sword, right? Because a lot of times there's so many resources because there are so many good resources out there, and that's awesome. But one thing to keep in mind when you're putting together a presentation is you're presenting because you have expertise or you have a message to share. And so really rely on that. Use that to say, "Okay, great. I know there are tons of resources." But actually share your recommendation. What is the number one thing that you would do. That's something that you as a presenter bring that no one else can that's unique to you, what that next step is.
We know that where most presentations, if you put 10 resources, people usually don't look at all 10. I hate to say it, but they probably won't look at more than one anyway, so focus on that one thing. And you really use your credibility that you've built with your audience to drive towards something more specific than a laundry list of things that people can do or read or engage with.

Mike Gerholdt:
A lot of this content creation focused around a solo presenter, but I think it carries over if you're presenting with someone else. And I see this a lot at our events, even user groups. It's a lot easier. And myself included, the first time I presented at Dreamforce, I had a co-presenter. It's a lot easier to feel like more people carrying the weight of a presentation. What advice or what best practices do you have when you're pairing up with somebody to present on how you divide up content and how the two of you interact during the presentation?

Ella Marks:
The first thing that I would do if I was presenting with someone else is have a meeting, get together with them, chat with them. I'm someone that prefers a meeting. I know some folks like to communicate on Slack or other formats, but I just love to chat with someone about this because you are going to be presenting and speaking. And to me, that's the best way to get a sense of that person's presentation style. And in that conversation, we might divide, if we're building content together, we might talk about our own expertise and where we feel like we can add the most value to the story and divide up the content that we work on and the slides and who's speaking based on what we think our strengths are.
And then making sure that we're having a really open conversation about that. And I think one thing that you can do that when you divide a presentation, a lot of times what you see is, "Okay, Mike and I are presenting together. I'll take one slide, Mike, you take the next one, then we'll go back and forth." And sometimes that doesn't feel super. It feels a little disjointed when you haven't had the chance to actually talk through your content and rehearse. Rehearsing is so important for any presentation, but if you have more than one person, it is absolutely critical because that's how you're going to feel out how that story is going to come together.
And what you may find is, "Yeah, I'm presenting with Mike, and Mike has a ton of expertise in this one area, but I have something to add there too." And actually switching up who's speaking on a particular slide that can reengage the audience. That's another tool that we have in our toolkits to make sure that people are staying with us throughout our presentation. And all that's going to come down to whether or not you've communicated all of these things with your co-presenter. Making sure that you guys are connected every step of the way is I think the best way to make a successful presentation with a partner or with the group, whoever it is.

Mike Gerholdt:
I would agree. And I feel to that point of, I've seen decks and presentations where it's every other slide. Change it up where it makes it most relevant because there is a little bit with the audience of context switching going on where they're trying to understand who's speaking and it should be relevant if the person's speaking and not just, "Oh, well, that means if we go every other one, I'm on this slide and I don't know anything about this." It can also help you regroup content that you're putting together.

Ella Marks:
Absolutely. And there's a lot of different ways that you can do this, but I really think that having that conversation with your co-presenter or co-presenters is going to be the best way to highlight how can you use your collective energy to get your message across in the best way possible?

Mike Gerholdt:
Right. Stage presence or stagecraft, even in small presentations where boardrooms I think are super important. How do you prepare for that? What are some of the things that you've gone through as you've kind of honed your ability as you were getting ready for a Dreamforce keynote to kind of make sure that your presence was there and it was adding to what the content you were presenting?

Ella Marks:
There are definitely a few things I do before every presentation, but I think a lot of it for me personally comes down to some important self-talk and pump up for a presentation. When you're chosen to present at an event or you've submitted something to a community conference, sometimes you need to remind yourself the day of, you get a little bit nervous, you might be scared to present. You were chosen for this, and you have knowledge and expertise to share. And going back for me and giving myself that confidence is probably the most important step that I take before I present anything. I always have to remind myself there's a reason I'm here.
I have valuable knowledge to share. I'll reset on whatever the topic or the goal is of the presentation. And then my hidden trick, I would say. I was like, "I don't know where I was going with that sneaky trick." I guess. Sneaky trick, my trick or treat tip, which is not uncommon at all, is I love a pump up song. I just love something to help, I don't know, make me feel energized and excited because I know that if I go into a presentation not pumped up, it's going to be really hard for people to listen. A lot of times we present... Internally, we present in a meeting and there's a lot of other people presenting or we're in a lot of meetings that day, or at Dreamforce, people attend a lot of sessions.
That's a lot of listening. And if you come out there with flat energy and aren't excited to be there and excited to get going, it shows and it makes it a lot harder for people to actually listen and absorb the content. And so going in pumping myself up is actually something that when I don't do it, I feel like I can tell in the presentation that my energy is not there, that I'm not communicating what I could in the best way possible.

Mike Gerholdt:
You know I have to ask what your pump up song is, right?

Ella Marks:
I know. It changes. A lot of my pump up songs are Lizzo though. I have to say Lizzo. I do love Taylor Swift as well, but I just... Lizzo, the number one song for me last year was Truth Hurts. There's some lyrics in there that I can't repeat on the podcast, but if you listen to the song, I think...

Mike Gerholdt:
My pump up song...

Ella Marks:
I think you'll know.

Mike Gerholdt:
A lot of lyrics I can't repeat on the podcast.

Ella Marks:
If you do listen, I think you'll know exactly what part of the song I'm referring to where I walk out and I'm like, "Aha, let's go. Let's get into it."

Mike Gerholdt:
So if you see people at community events or at Salesforce events, walk up to the stage with their AirPods in, it's probably a pump up song that they're listening to. I can't blame them. If you were to boil down and think of maybe, I don't know... Let's choose five because five's a good number to remember. What are five things that you always try to include that you really look for in like, "Wow, that presentation knocked it out of the park?"

Ella Marks:
That's a good question. As a reviewer of a lot of content, I'm just trying to think the things that have absolutely wowed me. Well definitely first, when it comes to presenting a good title to me, I'm immediately locked in. If there's a description associated with it like it would be for an event or maybe even a calendar invite. That to me is a sign of a good presentation. I know what I'm going to see. I'm excited for that content and I'm kind of hopeful to dive in. The second is probably... This is tough. There's just so many different ways to present, but I think looking for people that engage with the audience.
So either doing what we talked about before, getting that post-check of who's in the room or have some sort of engaging component to their presentation. That for me, because my attention span is very short, tends to be a very effective way to get my attention. And I enjoy presentations that have that. I think when people also set context by sharing their own expertise, we didn't talk about it in this conversation, but I think one important thing that you really need to do when you present is make sure that you highlight who you are. You need to have an introduction that is, "Here's who I am, here's why I'm here." And that builds credibility.
So when I hear something or see a presentation that I know the person is credible, that usually also is an indicator to me that it's a great presentation. Mike, I feel like you wanted five quick tips, and I'm giving you a lot longer than that.

Mike Gerholdt:
I don't know. I just picked five out of the air because it sounds good. It doesn't have to be five.

Ella Marks:
I also can't count, so I don't know what I'm on, but I'll say...

Mike Gerholdt:
Well, as a good host, you'd think I was paying attention and counting.

Ella Marks:
This is where I would use a visual to reinforce what I'm saying and remind me. If I was presenting this, I would put together a slide and I would have probably five horizontal bubbles on the slide and a few words about each, and that would help me stay on track. And at the end, I would have a super effective CTA, which I think would be one of the things that I look out for. If I know what... If I'm feeling inspired or motivated, or even just know the next steps I have to take after a presentation. That's how I know that it was good and it was effective.
And then I think my final thing would be, and this may seem counterintuitive, but if I have questions, a lot of times that's a sign to me that the content was really interesting. I think if I want to approach a speaker after their presentation and want to learn more and want to continue the conversation. I have follow-ups or things like that, that's a sign that they did a really good job in engaging me. It could sometimes be a sign that they didn't share the right information. So I think you have to be careful there, but wanting to connect with the presenter, wanting to learn a little bit more and asking a question, I think is engaging in itself. So that to me is a good sign that it was a good presentation as well.

Mike Gerholdt:
I go back and forth with questions, but I see your point. I think for me, I mean if I was to boil it to one thing. I don't have a word, but the comfort ability that the presenter has with the content. I really love it when somebody, it doesn't feel like their first time going through the content. And it so bugs me when I see somebody walk through and they click and goes to the slide and it surprises them. You're like, "Really? Okay." I really like it when somebody knows something and the slides are almost happening in the background and they're really paying attention to the audience. That to me, really gets me. And that comes with rehearsals, it comes with knowing the content, everything that you said previously.

Ella Marks:
Absolutely. I think a lot of us think, especially people who give presentations all the time, we're like, "Oh, we can win this. It'll be fine. I know the content." But the reality is people can tell when you have not done the preparation necessary for a particular presentation. And so I think it is a great sign of a good presentation and good content when someone isn't overly relying on their visuals or words on the slide to tell the story.
It's actually a story that they're telling where the visuals are supporting. It's not at the center of everything that they're doing. It's really more of a show that you're watching.

Mike Gerholdt:
I often compare presenting to athletes. Some of the greatest athletes that we've had in baseball or basketball or whatever sport you watch, they practice and there's a reason for that. They don't just show up and naturally wing it. Derek Jeter didn't naturally winged being good. It's repetition and it's doing and becoming comfortable with the moment. So it's great stuff. Thank you, Ella for coming on the pod and sharing. This is very relevant for where we are right now. Not only heading into TDX, but heading into world tour. And I feel like community group season, not to mention just budget presenting. I want more things in Salesforce season to my executives and all kinds of presentation times.

Ella Marks:
This is definitely super timely. So thanks so much, Mike, for having me.

Mike Gerholdt:
So it was a great discussion with Ella. I feel like we only scratched the surface. We talked about content creation and also stagecraft. I know there's so much more. I could probably do two or three more episodes with Ella. So if you enjoyed this episode and you've got some content ideas that you'd like to have her speak on, ping us, let us know. I'd love to have her back on to talk more about content and the art of presenting. Now, I need you to do one thing, the art of presenting, which is press share on this episode. So if you're listening to it on iTunes, it's super easy. You just tap the dots and click share episode and you can post it to social.
Maybe you got a friend that's getting ready for a big user group presentation or they're going to do a presentation to their company. This would help them 20, 30 minutes, they'd go out, walk the dog, "Hey, come back. I got a whole bunch of knowledge about how I'm going to get my presentation together." And of course, we have way more resources for admins at admin.salesforce.com, including a transcript of the show. Now, if you got more interesting things, questions, comments, concerns, you can go to the Admin Trailblazer group in the Trailblazer community. Of course, the link is in the show notes. And with that, until next week, I'll see you in the cloud.

 



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

Today on the Salesforce Admins Podcast, we talk to Christina Nava, Director of Salesforce Strategy at Gaggle.

Join us as we chat about making flows more manageable with subflows.

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

Creating flows to save time on business processes

In the biz, Christina is what we call a long-time listener, first-time caller. She’s been listening to the podcast since 2014, back when I was known as the ButtonClick Admin. And while I’d love to toot my own horn, Christina has come a long way since learning Salesforce from a podcast. She’s an 8x Salesforce Certified Professional, an experienced software consultant, and she recently appeared on Automate This! to talk about how she uses subflows.

At Gaggle, Christina uses Salesforce to help her users match patients with mental healthcare providers. It’s a tricky process because both groups have different characteristics, like gender, specialty, and availability, that need to match up. She uses screen flows to make this process much quicker, but it’s her subflows that make all of this possible.

How to simplify flows with subflows

When she’s building a flow, Christina is always on the hunt for how she can simplify things for herself with subflows. One major tell is if she finds herself rebuilding a process she’s already written. That’s when she knows she might need to write a subflow. That gives her to option to call it in multiple flows, and simplifies things if she needs to make changes.

Christina gives the example of how she needs to update the same records in three different scenarios: if they get new information, at certain regular intervals, and if some other piece of information changes. To do this, she calls one subflow in three different ways. If it needs to happen immediately, there’s a screen flow. But there’s also a record trigger flow and a scheduled trigger flow to handle the other scenarios. All three are super simple, they just each call the same subflow a different way.

Using more subflows doesn’t make a difference to your users in terms of what they see, but it’s cleaner and easier for you. Think of it as a gift to yourself.

Christina’s process for gathering requirements

The key to structuring flows and subflows well is to be thorough when you’re gathering requirements. Christina’s process begins by sitting down with a user and asking them to show her what they do. Any time they do something, she asks them why they did it. Why did they set that filter? Why did that provider not work? Why did they pull up that provider instead?

The next step is to see if she can do the process herself. If she can’t do what they did, she wants to figure out why that is. The goal is to be able to write instructions for how to do the process as if they’re for someone who has never worked at her company before. That’s when you know you’ll be able to write a good flow.

There’s a bunch more that Christina shares in this episode about why she uses one master flow per object, how she debugs, and her tips for naming conventions, so be sure to take a listen. And if you haven’t caught up yet, check out her episode with Jennifer Lee on Automate This!

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Full show transcript

Mike Gerholdt:
This week on the Salesforce Admins podcast, we are talking with Christina Nava, who is an 8 time Salesforce certified professional, a ton of experience in software consulting, and hey, she started listening to the podcast back when I began the podcast in 2014. So talk about full circle from learning Salesforce by listening to the podcast to being on the podcast to teach us more about flows and sub flows. She was recently on an Automate This live with Jennifer Lee.
So if you're listening to this, be sure to check out the call notes and notice below the link to watch that on YouTube because that's super cool. Now, before we get into the episode, I just want you to do one thing and that's make sure you're following the Salesforce Admins Podcast wherever you get your podcasts, whether it's Spotify or iTunes or iHeartRadio. That way when a new episode drops like this one, which is amazing, it's downloaded right to your phone. So when you hop in your car or you jump in the transportation to get to work or you walk your dog, all you got to do is press play. So really cool there, but let's talk about flows and sub flows with Christina on the podcast.
So Christina, welcome to the podcast.

Christina Nava:
Thank you. I'm really happy to be on here.

Mike Gerholdt:
Yeah, well, if everybody is diligently following all of the awesome admin stuff that we're putting out, they would've watched Automate This yesterday and saw some of the amazing flow stuff that you were doing there. But before we get into that, let's learn a little bit about you. So how did you get started with Salesforce?

Christina Nava:
So I'll say that I'm probably within the vast majority of people and I got started because I was an also admin or an accidental admin. Back in 2014, I became the director of tech support for a SaaS company and it's like, "Hey, what's this thing called Salesforce that we've been using for our support team?" And so I started looking into it and I'm like, "This is great." Of course, this was before Trailhead, so trying to learn was fun. And fun little tidbit is one way I started learning is I listened to all the different podcasts I could and one of them was the ButtonClick Admin. And so thank you for helping me learn Salesforce in the beginning. So I started listening and started learning the terminology, Googling and just playing. And so that's how I got into it. Then I did that on and off for about five years, and then in 2019 I made the leap and I made Salesforce my full-time career. And so I've been doing it full-time since then.

Mike Gerholdt:
Wow. Well you're more than welcome and I'm glad to have somebody full circle come on the podcast from listening all the way to now you're teaching.

Christina Nava:
It's exciting.

Mike Gerholdt:
Eventually in the next 20 minutes or so, no pressure.

Christina Nava:
No pressure.

Mike Gerholdt:
So I teased out with Automate This, which is really cool YouTube series that Jennifer Lee does and she live-streamed it yesterday. You can probably watch it on our YouTube channel. And you were on there and you were talking about flows and specifically the thing that I kind of want to dive into a little bit of sub flows. But if people haven't watched it, I don't want them to feel left out about what we're going to talk about. Can you summarize a little bit of what you talked about on Automate This yesterday?

Christina Nava:
Yeah, of course. So I built this flow for Gaggle. Here at Gaggle, one of the things we do is we help provide therapy and coaching for students. So the way we do that is when a student comes to us needing services, we match them with a provider. Well, the client has a lot of requirements including why they're being referred, what times of day they can meet, if they want to, male or female providers, lots of different criteria. And then on the other side of it, we have providers who have their own criteria. When they can provide services, their areas of specialty, obviously if they're male or female, what languages they speak, all of it.
So when we first started and we had a client come in, a student come in, we needed to match them. It could take five to 10 minutes to find the best match for them. And you can imagine we're getting 5, 10, 15 students a day. That was taking a lot of time. So I decided to create a screen flow that we can run from the student record that would give our internal team a list of providers that were the best match and then they can just click on the button, automatically assigns them, good to go. Ended up saving our internal team 5 to 10 hours a week.

Mike Gerholdt:
Wow. And the match was done based on criteria that you put in, right?

Christina Nava:
Yes, exactly.

Mike Gerholdt:
Okay. I mean, I asked because everything's AI now.

Christina Nava:
That's actually funny you asked because I was on Automate This previously and the flow I did for that one was how their providers actually add their criteria in.

Mike Gerholdt:
Oh, okay.

Christina Nava:
So had a flow for that as well.

Mike Gerholdt:
This flow is rockstar flow. But God, man, I'm thinking back to the days I was on the platform and I wish I so could have used this for about a million other things. One part that you talked about is creating a sub flow, and I'm not good at creating flows like Jennifer Lee is, which is hard to be on team with her because it's like being on, I don't know, the Olympic team and you're like, "Oh, well I just have to go against this gold world-class Olympian every time I build a flow."
But one thing that I am really trying to wrap my head around more is I don't have to create the entire flow every single time. I can reuse components of that and that being sub flows, and then when I do so then it's one place to update things as opposed to, "Oh, we changed this email template, now I got to go into these 20 different flows and update it with this new email template."

Christina Nava:
Exactly.

Mike Gerholdt:
Help me understand how you come about creating some of your sub flows.

Christina Nava:
So I would like to say that I'm the kind of person who listens to my users, sits down, draws it all out and knows exactly what they're going to build when they sit down a flow builder.

Mike Gerholdt:
You're not perfect? Come on.

Christina Nava:
I'm not, don't tell the people I work with.

Mike Gerholdt:
Don't listen. We'll cut that part out.

Christina Nava:
Exactly. So a lot of times I'm getting in and I'm building a flow and I'll find myself building the exact same loop and I'm like, "Wait, wait, wait. Why am I duplicating my effort here?" So for me, I build a sub flow in a couple of different instances. One is when again, as I just said, I'm in the same flow and I just rebuilt the same code. That's a waste. Let's take that out and make it a sub flow.
There are other times when I do sit down and I'm doing my design, I'm thinking in my head and I'm realizing, "I need to actually call this multiple ways." And so as you all know, we have screen flows, we have record triggered flows, we have scheduled triggered flows. I actually have one sub flow that I call three different ways. So for this one, what I'm doing is I'm populating the opportunity team members and I need to do it at specific times.
So I will have, well, if I need to do it immediately on the fly, obviously I have a screen flow, we click a button, good to go. There are other times when I need to do it on a record triggered flow when certain criteria happens. So because I don't want to have to reduplicate my effort, what I'm doing for both of those is with my record trigger flow, my entry criteria, I just start it, I immediately call a sub flow. That is all I'm doing in this flow is I'm calling a sub flow. With screen flow, exact same thing. I am, just click a button, call my sub flow. And then I'm doing the same thing with my scheduled triggered flow as well. So I have three different flows that all they do is call one sub flow and I loved that.

Mike Gerholdt:
So how much of that sub flow, I guess are you setting criteria way before that so that sub flow kind of knows what it's adding those team members to? How complex is that sub flow? Is it very simple, I'm guessing?

Christina Nava:
So on a scale of say one to five, it's probably at a one, maybe 1.5. It's a fairly simple flow. All I'm doing is I'm sending it the record ID of the opportunity and then it's doing all of the different decisions inside of it.

Mike Gerholdt:
No, I like that. I always feel like use cases that are easy to identify looking back. You probably were on what your third or fourth flow and you're like, "I need to rebuild this." Right?

Christina Nava:
About that. I think I was in probably my third or fourth iteration of the first one. And realized, "Wait, wait a minute. I need to give them the ability to actually do this manually as well. Hold on. I don't want to recreate this whole thing. I'll do it in the sub flow." It's kind of had that light bulb moment popped up.

Mike Gerholdt:
So then kind of walking people through this, I'm assuming at this point I would be thinking, "Oh, I could really go through and kind of do a flow audit and look at some of the stuff that I've built and see if there aren't parts that are replaceable." Have you done something like that? And what would be your process for looking at all of your flows and then finding sub flows that you could build?

Christina Nava:
Honestly, that's on my to-do list.

Mike Gerholdt:
Oh, is it? 2024, here we come.

Christina Nava:
With the new flow stuff that's come out, a couple of things with the whole new validation that's coming out, well tonight for me and some stuff that came out last year, which was when you send an email actually being able to attach it to a record. That's on my list of going through and updating all my flows, just haven't gotten down to it. So as of right now, the way I handle it is if I'm going into a flow and modifying it anyway, I'm making those updates at the same time.

Mike Gerholdt:
So it's kind of an as needed, but not house cleaning, shut everything down and redo all our flows kind of thing.

Christina Nava:
Exactly. Because your end users don't see these changes for the most part, especially with the sub flows. What you're doing is you're making things a little bit faster, but you're mainly making things cleaner and easier for you. So because we all live in the admin world and our users come first, what's easier for us gets pushed down on the bottom of the list.

Mike Gerholdt:
Get cobbler's shoes. Right.

Christina Nava:
Exactly.

Mike Gerholdt:
I hear you. Okay, so this was a thing that Jennifer has taught me, and I'm horrible at this, but do you have a naming convention or do you have a way that you always name your sub flows?

Christina Nava:
I do have a naming convention.

Mike Gerholdt:
Please share. Please share.

Christina Nava:
So it goes with the object name first. And by the way, I stole this from... See if I knew you were going to ask this question, I would have the name.

Mike Gerholdt:
I mean everybody steals stuff. So you copied it.

Christina Nava:
I'm sorry, I copied this because it was amazing. So the first word is the object name. Then it's dash and then either SF for screen flow, RTF for record trigger flow or STF for schedule triggered flow. Then dash. And then if it's for a record triggered flow, you'll have new or new and update and then after or before. And then if it is a master flow, because I am a big believer in having one flow for one object, if you can, I'll have the word master. If not, it'll be dash what it's for, for example, account RTF new and update after master. I can immediately look and know just from the name what this is going to be for and how it's called.

Mike Gerholdt:
I love all of that. That needs to be on T-shirt.

Christina Nava:
So when I have someone new I'm training, I'm like, "Can you rename your flow for me?"

Mike Gerholdt:
Yeah, because it doesn't work.

Christina Nava:
Exactly.

Mike Gerholdt:
I'm going to only slightly deviate. We're going to take a quick exit off the highway. Because you brought up a subject that I have been asked a lot and you said, "I like to have one master flow per object." Can you explain that? Because I've been asked many times, "Should I have one that does everything? Should I have 20, should I have five, should I have three?" And I say yes to all of those answers because yes is correct, but I would love for you to take me into your world of how you manage that one master flow and if there's times that you've ever had to deviate from it.

Christina Nava:
Okay, so that is a really good question. I still personally Google that about once every two to three months. "Am I doing this the right way?" Because everybody does have their own opinion. So for me personally, I have a lot of flows. I'm a flow addict. I love flows. If I could sit and do flows eight hours a day, I think I'd be the happiest camper imaginable.
So that being said, I have a lot of flows in my orgs. And once you get up to 50, 100, 150 flows, it's hard to find what you're looking for. So that almost is, I don't know, maybe a third of the reason why I have one flow where I can just because one place to go to. And of course the old way when I started with process builder and people are thinking, "The old way? I did workflows."

Mike Gerholdt:
I know.

Christina Nava:
I can hear that.

Mike Gerholdt:
I did workflows.

Christina Nava:
I know. But with process builder, it was definitely one per object because that was the only way you could control the order of things. Well with flows, now you can actually control the order and how they're called, but I got in the habit of that one master, but it's so much easier for me to pull up this one flow and even if it's fairly large, which by the way another reason to use sub flows is to actually pull code out and make your master flow cleaner. So you're looking at less. So side note there, we took a deviation to the deviation.

Mike Gerholdt:
It's okay.

Christina Nava:
Thank you.

Mike Gerholdt:
Sometimes you have to pull around back of the truck stop.

Christina Nava:
Exactly. So I like being able to pull up this master flow and it's like reminding me, "Oh yeah, this is everything that happens when an account is updated." So that's another reason I like to use one master flow, but there are plenty of times when I have more than one flow, even more than one record trigger flow. So for example, for my cases, I have one that has to do with sending pending emails. So when a case is put in pending, I send an email after one day, three days, seven days and fourteen days. Well I'm obviously not going to have that in my master flow. So I have one flow that just handles kind of those scheduled things after a while just to kind of keep my flows cleaner and it's easier to look at and I have to change that flow a little more often than I have to change others. That was a long answer.

Mike Gerholdt:
No, it's okay. I was listening and digesting. I'm still just feeling the like here we go, one master flow per object situation. So I'm not saying it's wrong, because you can totally do it and you do. It's just a lot of testing, I feel.

Christina Nava:
It is. It's a lot of testing.

Mike Gerholdt:
One thing to get us back on the highway.

Christina Nava:
Darn it.

Mike Gerholdt:
Well, we stopped, we had some beef jerky, we looked at the map, we know where we're at and you're like, "Oh look, there's a campground off to the side."

Christina Nava:
I got some Doritos, I needed my Doritos.

Mike Gerholdt:
There's always a campground by rest stops. And you're like, "Whoever camps there, why would you want to?" I don't know. I would love to know. So taking requirements for screen flows and sitting and walking through and I'm looking at yours, which was the decision loop of helping pair those students up faster, right? That's the goal, right? Because 15 minutes to pair somebody up, you can obviously do the math and like, "Well here's how many people we need staffed 24 hours a day in order to handle this, right?"
What was the level of requirements gathering and how detailed did you have to be when you were building that flow? Because I've worked through decisioning elements before with people and there's in their head they expect how it should work and then there's actually how it works and actually what they told you. I'm curious, what was your requirements gathering like?

Christina Nava:
I do want to say another really quick side note on this flow. What I showed in the demo and what you see in the blog post is maybe about a quarter of the size of my real flow. If I had the whole thing, it would've been way too big. And so just keeping that in mind, there were a lot of, not necessarily requirements I needed to get for my end user, but a lot of fields that we needed to match up. So going back to the requirements gathering, obviously you have this business process review, you sit down with your end users and you're like, "First thing is show me what you do." And so you watch them pull up this student and pull up all their providers and you start watching them match.
And that's when it's like, "Okay, why did you set that filter? Why did you set that filter? Why did that provider not work? Why did you pull this one in?" It's a whole lot of why questions. And so once you get to that, what I kind of like to do afterwards, it's like, "All right, let me reproduce what you did." And so I am now pulling up the student and using what they showed me trying to find a matching provider and I can't find one. Well, how come I couldn't find one? "Oh, we forgot to tell you this." Or I pulled up five instead of, and these four wouldn't match. Well, how come they wouldn't work? "Oh, we forgot."
So one of the things I love to tell people is if you can write instructions for someone who has never worked at your company before and it is step one, go here and pull up this record. Step two, click this, and if you can literally give me step-by-step instructions, and if step five is not use your gut, then I can create a flow for you. But you have to be able to give me those steps. Either you give them to me or I develop them working with you, but we have to be able to know exactly what to do at every step in the flow.

Mike Gerholdt:
That makes sense. I also think it's funny just, "I just go with my gut."

Christina Nava:
You'd be surprised at how many times I hear that from people.

Mike Gerholdt:
No, I know. I had a contract routing process that I had to do once that was just kind of like, and then I get it down to four or five and I go with this one and why? Well, it was Wednesday? And that one looked good. Awesome. Let me work that into criteria.
So I guess thinking through this with screen flows and with this kind of decisioning element, did you ever create, for lack of a better term, like a backdoor of a, "I can't find anything" and run so that if somebody, because I mean you deployed this to, I don't know how many users and if they run into an issue, they can't just raise their hand and you come running and then that way it would also give you a chance to look at the decisioning criteria that led there to be, "Oh, well it looks like we need to append this flow." Do you have something like that?

Christina Nava:
No, actually I don't. That'd be a good idea. I'm going to steal that. What it is just if it finds no matches, it pops up a screen saying we couldn't find any. And it's usually because they're just truly isn't a provider that matches those exact requirements and that is when they go use their gut. But what do you mean I can't just come running when they snap their fingers? Is that actually something I cannot do?

Mike Gerholdt:
Well, just saying there's probably an occasion where maybe you're sitting recording a podcast and then a user can't-

Christina Nava:
Good point.

Mike Gerholdt:
Get your attention right away. No, I just happened to think through it as I was looking at what you were building and also thinking through some of the processes I had built where it's, "No, we actually, it's not that I didn't gather all of the requirements, it's that we actually just found a new outlier to a process." And you try to hit the 98 percentile of stuff. But I happen to think because then you'd want to capture stuff like that, especially in a screen flow.

Christina Nava:
Yeah, that's a good point. I probably do need to make more of a process as to why could we not find a match with this? Maybe these providers got to 98%, but there was that one that we couldn't find a match on.

Mike Gerholdt:
You mentioned emails in a few of the flows that you've created, and I'm sure there's quite a few emails your flows send out. How do you manage that? I bring this up because I feel like it's always a requirement that admins take and then the four days after you deploy something, you immediately get, ironically an email or a knock at your door and be like, "My inbox is full." Well, criteria that you said for emailing you. Are there red flags or questions you bring up or alternatives to email that you offer?

Christina Nava:
Absolutely. So we use four different kinds of notifications here. Obviously email is one of them. Another one is the bell notification, just popping that up. The third one would be Chatter, do a Chatter post, which also kind of does the bell notification and email at the same time, but that gives us a record on the record. You know what I'm trying to say.

Mike Gerholdt:
Yeah, a receipt.

Christina Nava:
Yeah, there we go. We can actually say that, "Hey, we did notify you." We can look back a year later and actually see all of that happening. So that's one I use quite a bit. And then the fourth one that we don't use a lot of, but we do somewhat is Slack notifications because we are a Slack shop as well.

Mike Gerholdt:
Oh. How do you decide between those?

Christina Nava:
I let the user decide. I basically say, "Hey, here are the fourth things we can do." There have been times I've pushed back on, "You're getting a lot of emails, are you sure this is what you want?" And I get told, "Yep, absolutely." Like, okay.

Mike Gerholdt:
Me too. And I've been told that before. I just like, sometimes you sit down and you do that worst case scenario with people and you're like, "You know, there's 50 contracts that could come through and times two steps. That's a hundred emails I might send you in a day."

Christina Nava:
And half the time I'll get, "Yep, because my inbox is my to-do list." I'm like, "Really"?

Mike Gerholdt:
I know. Yeah. But to your point, when you or they get promoted, then that inbox now becomes a grave because now there's no to-do list and we got to pull that from somewhere. So I like the posting to Chatter or something as kind of a receipt for what needs to get done. I'll end on this one question, which is fairly simple. If a user is feeling intimidated with flow, where would you suggest they get started?

Christina Nava:
So if they've never ever seen flows before, first place is obviously going to be Trailhead. Go through the trails, build your own. But if you have a little bit of experience, you've done that and you're in your own org and you need to build something, the first thing I'm going to say is write out the steps I talked about. Actually write down, "Go to the account record, then click on this field, edit" step by step exactly what you need to do and then go to flow and try to build it that way, and then build the bare minimum first. Pull up, do your GI account, do your debug, did it work? Then do your next step. Update your account. Do your debug, did it work?
Do step-by-step, debug it because if you try to build out 20 steps and then you debug it and then it fails, you're going to get very confused and you're going to get very frustrated and you might want to quit. If you do it piece by piece, not only can you debug smaller bits, but you're going to feel the satisfaction of the win each time it works and it's going to build your confidence.

Mike Gerholdt:
No, I like that. That completely makes sense. I've certainly gotten not too deep into flows, but far enough that I wish I would've done the little bites at a time kind of situation and just testing to make sure it works. It also feels good. I mean, you don't have to sit for weeks building a flow and then pressing the button and being like, "huh." It feels good if you spend 10, 15 minutes and then you click something, it populates the field. You're like, "Yes."

Christina Nava:
Exactly. Never forget the power of debugging. If this is a record triggered flow and you can't figure out what's going on because you can't put up a debug screen, write a debug to your description field. Create a temporary text field that you can write information to. Don't forget those little tricks when you're debugging.

Mike Gerholdt:
Right? Oh, there's always a ton. Christina, thanks for coming by the podcast to help me understand sub flows and flows and decisioning.

Christina Nava:
Absolutely. Very happy to be here.

Mike Gerholdt:
I appreciate that. And we will link to the Automate This in the blog post below.

Christina Nava:
Sounds great.

Mike Gerholdt:
It was a great conversation with Christina. I had a lot of questions because I've been building some flows like you and I've been wanting to reuse things, and I really just need to know how people's heads work sometime, and she's really dialed in with some of the stuff that she's doing with flows and decisioning stuff. I think it's really cool.
So I hope you enjoyed this episode, and if you did, could you do me a favor? Real simple, could you share it with somebody? Now, if you're listening on iTunes, all you have to do is click on the three dots and click share episode. Then you can post it social, or you can text it to a friend. Maybe you've got a friend that's building a flow and you'd be like, "Hey, listen to Christina. She's got it going on. She can help you build things."
And of course, 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 the Conversation Admin Trailblazer Group that is in the Trailblazer community. Link is over in the show notes. I know there's some flow questions in there. So until next week, we'll see you in the cloud.

 



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

Today on the Salesforce Admins Podcast, we talk to Marissa Scalercio, VP of Sales Operations at Carnegie Learning.

Join us as we chat about Prompt Builder, why it will be a game changer, and how her Salesforce Admin skills help her be a better sales leader.

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

A Sales VP and a Salesforce Admin

Marissa is the VP of Sales Operations at Carnegie Learning, an ed-tech company that was founded 26 years ago with a product created on AI. “That’s why I’m really excited to start including AI in our sales processes,” she says.

Marissa is also a Salesforce Admin, which is why I was so excited to bring her on the pod. She’s not afraid to crack open her org and help build things for her team so she knows how it will actually work. She’s also involved in a pilot program for the new Prompt Builder feature and, of course, I wanted to hear all about it.

What’s coming with Prompt Builder

The pilot only gave access to a couple of features, but they demonstrated the power and potential of Prompt Builder in a big way. The first was the ability to create sales emails. It can instantly generate a sales email to your specifications, incorporating web pages for products and events, and personalizing it with CRM information. Even better, anyone else on your team can use that prompt to scale your work and generate as many emails as needed.

The other thing Marissa and her team got to play with were field summaries. This feature can take all of the information on an object and summarize it. This is great for getting a new hire up to speed with their accounts, or to prep before a meeting with a client and check up on past action items or key bullet points.

“Once I really got to learn and understand how to create a prompt, I just started thinking about how I’m going to implement this everywhere,” Marissa says. Prompting AI is a skill that everyone needs to practice, so take advantage of the free tools out there to learn the ins and outs. Prompt Builder is coming soon™, but you want to be ready to hit the ground running.

How to talk to executives about new tools

As a VP herself, Marissa has some practical advice for any admin who needs to persuade executives to add new tools. She urges you to make your case in terms of ROI. Have numbers ready for how much time you’ll save, for how many people, and how that translates into total dollars saved.

There’s so much more in this episode about Marissa’s career path, what the future holds for AI in Salesforce, and what you can do to get ready, so be sure to take a listen.

 

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Mike:
Prompt Builder is the first low-code, prompt management tool that allows you, Salesforce admins, to build, test, and fine tune trusted AI prompts within the Einstein Trust Layer, ground AI prompts with dynamic CRM data via merge fields and flow, and enable prompted actions across the Salesforce customer 360.
And today on The Salesforce Admins Podcast, we are talking with Marissa Scalercio, VP Sales Operations at Carnegie Learning, and she was part of the Prompt Builder pilot for customers, and she's a VP admin. She was in configuring prompts, testing out the pilot in her sandbox, doing all kinds of stuff that us Salesforce admins can't wait to get our hands on.
So we're going to talk to her about her experience in the Prompt Builder pilot, some of the stuff that she worked on. And I'm also going to dig into how she went from being in sales, sales operations, to VP to having an admin license like the admins at Carnegie Learning let her in, set up menu. She's configuring shoulder to shoulder with them, which I think is awesome.
Now before we get into that episode, I want to make sure you're following The Salesforce Admins Podcast on iTunes, Spotify, wherever you get your podcast. That way when an awesome new episode like this one drops on a Thursday, it's immediately on your phone. So all you got to do is press play when you wake up to go walk the dog or hit the gym or get on the bus to go to work. So with that, let's get to our fun conversation with Marissa. So Marissa, welcome to the podcast.

Marissa Scalercio:
Thank you so much for having me. I'm really excited to be here.

Mike:
Well, I'm excited to talk about our newest Coming Soon product that you've actually got your hands on, which is Prompt Builder. So before we get into that, because the tease to get everybody to listen, tell me a little bit about what you do and where you're at.

Marissa Scalercio:
Of course. So I am the Vice President of Sales Operations at Carnegie Learning, and we are an EdTech company that actually was founded about 26 years ago with a product created on AI. So I'm really excited to be including AI in our sales processes and was really excited to be able to pilot Prompt Builder.

Mike:
Yeah, and you are a VP that does admin work.

Marissa Scalercio:
I am an accidental admin. As my colleagues will call me. I am very involved in how the sales team specifically, but really how everybody in our company works, how we can make things more efficient, and I really like to test things out and build them so I can see how it's actually going to work. So yeah, I'm an accidental admin.

Mike:
Yeah, we need more of you, but we'll get into that in the second part because Prompt Builder... So Carnegie Learning built on AI, now you're excited to use some AI. What was some of the things that you were trying out with Prompt Builder? What were you doing?

Marissa Scalercio:
Yeah, so the best part of Prompt Builder was that once I really got to learn and understand how to create a prompt, I just started thinking about how I'm going to implement this everywhere. But the two pieces of Prompt Builder that you could do in the pilot, the first one was create emails, sales emails specifically. You could tell it to include a webpage or include an event page, and it would include an email that is specific and grabs CRM information along with whatever information you provide it and builds this great email that would take me 10, 15 minutes at least to create and it probably wouldn't be as good. And it is that easy just to create that, have it ready to go, and it already takes in the information about the account and the person that you're delivering it to.

Mike:
Now you created that prompt and then anybody could use it. So it was 10 or 15 minutes for you to write it.

Marissa Scalercio:
Yes.

Mike:
But if you have a hundred salespeople, that's 1,500 minutes of email writing time.

Marissa Scalercio:
It's lot of time savings. Yes.

Mike:
And that's if you're good at writing emails, which I'm not.

Marissa Scalercio:
Exactly, and I mean these emails that came out were better than I can write them. Absolutely. And I started as a salesperson and just being able to click a button and it create an email that was better than I used to create was amazing. It is so exciting to actually come out... what comes out next month or a couple days.

Mike:
A while. A forward-looking statement. Soon-ish or now. Maybe. That's what I always say. But so help me walk through this because what level of approval and kind of demos did you do? Because as an admin, I love to sit down, I configure stuff all day long and then I'm like boom, click, boom, it works, and then I run the flow twice. But then you unleash it on the users and they find, how did you make it do that? How would you turn your screen pink? I've had users do all kinds of stuff. What kind of process did you go through when you were starting to create some of these to be like, "No, no, no, people, this will generate stuff consistently and it's something we need to use." What was that rollout like?

Marissa Scalercio:
So we haven't rolled it out to the teams yet. We had Prompt Builder in our sandbox, but I did experiment with several of our account executives where I would ask them for emails that they're typically writing. I would create a prompt for it and send them back what came out and they were thrilled. So they are really excited to implement this.

Mike:
Okay. How do you feel... So I think prompt building, you go back five years ago for the rest of us, maybe not you guys. Prompt building's a new word, right?

Marissa Scalercio:
Yeah.

Mike:
Something we're just getting. I remember, this is a funny story. When we rolled out Chatter, I rolled it out internally at an organization and I had to explain hashtags as like it's the pound sign and my user base was super... It was up there in years and they go, "Well, it's the pound sign from the phone." And I was like, "Right." So if you were selling something to a sand and gravel company, you could put hashtag sand, which is like pound sand, and I thought it was really funny.

Marissa Scalercio:
I remember having to use that.

Mike:
Yeah. But Prompt Builder, this is a new term for us, too. How do you feel configuring working in Prompt Builder has made you a better prompt builder? Do you feel you use AI better now?

Marissa Scalercio:
Yes. I think it made me a prompt builder. I did not know what I was doing prior to this pilot. I kind of just played around with several of the ChatGPT, but I really feel like you can add tone and you can kind of ask it to change the email. So if it's too long, it's too short. If you want to add something specific, I mean, it really helped me understand what... Well, start to understand what all it can do and the power behind it, which is just phenomenal. I mean, everything around being able to edit and change on the fly, it did take me a while to create my first prompt to get it right because I was testing all of those things. But then once you have it, you really can build the prompts themselves fast.

Mike:
So knowing what you know now, when Prompt Builder rolls out for other admins, if you were to have a time machine, which I'm sure is just in the near future to be created at this point and go back and tell yourself, what would be some things that you're like, "Oh, I wish I'd gone back and done these three things first."

Marissa Scalercio:
So how far are we going back? Are we going back to just the sandbox?

Mike:
Yeah. I mean pre Prompt Builder days. Like, "I wish I would've got ready for Prompt Builder by..."

Marissa Scalercio:
Yeah, honestly, I wish in general, I had used AI more to feel more comfortable with using it in a daily basis. I started using it last year, which already was behind the bandwagon, and I am already behind, and I can see how other people, even in my organization and other people outside of the organization are using it on a daily basis. I would tell myself to start learning and using AI every single day years ago. It is just so much of an efficiency boosting tool that is going to change the way we all work.

Mike:
Yeah, I mean, there are times when I watch a TikTok from somebody and it's like, wow, they have three paragraphs of a prompt that they're putting in the ChatGPT, and I'm like, "Draw an apple with a kitten next to it."

Marissa Scalercio:
Exactly. So building the prompting out was hard.

Mike:
I feel like I'm in kindergarten sometimes. Yeah. How did that... So in your pilot, I think it was pilot, right, of Prompt Builder, how much did you experiment with different templates or different prompts? You said you used it for sales emails, right?

Marissa Scalercio:
Yep. So we did sales emails and we also did field summaries, which also was really exciting.

Mike:
Oh, tell me about those.

Marissa Scalercio:
The field summaries allow you to take all of the information on an object, an account, a case, a opportunity, and summarize it, which I'm just seeing a world of possibilities with that as an efficiency piece to our new hires, especially, whenever they come on and have to inherit territory and understand accounts. Whenever you're going into a meeting and understanding meeting notes that have taken place, any action items that were supposed to be accomplished, and even after a meeting or a phone call, understanding what can be grabbed out of there. So those field summaries are really going to be important along with all of the other AI tools that are coming out from Salesforce to really help with every salesperson and it's really going to be a true assistant to them.

Mike:
Yeah. You think about it, how many times, I don't know if you reassigned territories, but that seemed to be like a quarterly thing for me. As an admin I get new sales territories that I got to put into Salesforce, and how much do you have to spend for those salespeople getting those different accounts up to speed?

Marissa Scalercio:
Exactly. I mean, it is really hard to take over a territory or even just one customer and understand what has happened prior to you coming on board.

Mike:
Yeah, a hundred percent. When you were building the prompts, you said you were pulling in data, which I think is what we expect from when we look at other AIs, but Prompt Builder in specific, when you're building those sales templates where actually you tell it what data to look for, is that correct? Or help give a sneak peek to some admins?

Marissa Scalercio:
Yeah, you can add some grounding data into all of your prompts, which really I was experimenting with of course names, accounts, titles, states, and then adding in, of course outside information into that as well. But I imagine whenever it comes out, and I wasn't able to pilot this part of it, but I imagine that you can grab pretty much anything in Salesforce. You can throw it into a flow, so it can actually ask different questions based on what type of customer it is, and you really can get down to a specific email based on everything that's in your CRM plus any outside information you push into it. So is the world of possibilities are endless with it.

Mike:
Yeah, no, that's good. That also speaks to data cleanliness because-

Marissa Scalercio:
It does.

Mike:
If the contact's first name spelled wrong and it's grabbing that field, it probably spelled it wrong because doing what it's told.

Marissa Scalercio:
Exactly. So definitely data cleanliness is going to be a big issue. If it isn't clean, but hopefully we will figure it out as we go and hopefully our data's clean enough that it'll work.

Mike:
Right. Well, if not, it will be. You start off by saying VP of sales operations. You're also an admin and you called yourself an accidental admin. So I would love, first of all, to have more VP admins on, but how did you kind of get into that role, but yet still stay so connected with the setup menu?

Marissa Scalercio:
Oh, that's a good question. So we started with Salesforce, I want to say 2016 I believe. And honestly, I really like to learn new things and build new things. So I was asked... actually, I might have volunteered myself to be part of the sales side of implementing Salesforce. So for two years I just kind of embedded myself into those meetings and made sure that I was part of the conversation, part of the implementation. We then rolled out CPQ was the next one, and I was really part of that piece, but at the same time, I was still a salesperson actually at Carnegie Learning. So really trying to do my full-time job, which was a salesperson and this side job, which was really helping with the flow of how sales was going to be more efficient. So I started doing it kind of half-and-half until I really had to make the decision in 2018 and no questions asked. I was all on board with sales operations. So you can kind of say that Salesforce has kind of crafted where my career path went.

Mike:
It's done that for a lot of people.

Marissa Scalercio:
Mm-hmm. And since then, I mean, it's just been so exciting to learn, and I wasn't an admin at that point, but as I kept trying to learn new pieces of Salesforce and how it could be more efficient, they gave me an admin sandbox license so that I was able to really start building and using Trailhead to learn everything I could learn, and now they gave me a production license so I can now build within our production instance. So accidental admin.

Mike:
Yeah, but also good because I mean, to be honest with you, I was an admin for eight years. I've been at Salesforce for a long time. There seems to be a point at which a lot of executives, rightfully so, there's just so much on their plate that they can't get into that backend part of it, and sometimes adoption and usage really hurts because of it, because they're connected to the process, but they're not connected to the technology or vice versa. When it's both.

Marissa Scalercio:
Yes, it can absolutely be a struggle when I want to build something, but I also have those responsibilities of strategy or just sales operations as a whole. So I do still struggle with that, but building in Salesforce and understanding what it can do helps me be a VP of sales operations. So it really does impact everything that we are doing as a sales team, and my entire goal in sales operations is to improve the efficiency and productivity of them. How can you do that if you don't know the tool that they're using 80% of the time?

Mike:
Couldn't agree more. I couldn't agree more. If you don't know how to run the report on the tool that you're holding people accountable for, then that's kind of also on you.
So being in both roles, as advice for other admins maybe looking to grow their career and get more into a C-suite role like that, but also as somebody that's pitching ideas, like admins are going to have to go out and talk about Prompt Builder and they're going to have to do it to other VPs or probably Ps or maybe a whole board. There was a time when I had a governance board. What would your advice be? Because I feel like you're in such a unique position to help admins both craft that executive message, but also understand the backend part. As Prompt Builder goes GA, and as some of these AI tools go GA, how are you pushing that messaging through that isn't overwhelming to other executives?

Marissa Scalercio:
I think the first thing to understand about a new tool is how will this help the business? What are the use cases? What is the ROI? What's the business value? If you can start answering those questions as you are an admin or as you are a builder, those are the questions that you're going to be asked by the board, the CEO. They're going to want to know why and what impact this is going to have. So really being able to understand the product, really understanding what values it brings and what... Especially ROI, and being able to show and prove that, that is the number one way to talk to an executive board. I mean, bringing them where they can save money is what they're looking for. Either save money or really innovate and improve the lives of their employees.

Mike:
Yeah, no, I couldn't agree. Was there anything, and this is kind of specific to Prompt Builder, in your case with emails, how did you get some of that data on? Was it just like a simple poll of your salespeople like, "Hey, how long do you on average spend writing emails?" And did you collect a handful of emails to get a before and after example? Because I guess in my head, what I'm trying to do is I'm trying to gather that case for the ROI specific around your Prompt Builder.

Marissa Scalercio:
So we didn't grab that information then. But being a salesperson and knowing this has been kind of our job since 2018, our team's job, is knowing how long things take to do in the sales department. Writing an email, scouring the account to understand what's going on with the account. So we already kind of had a baseline of how long that takes. And then being able to write that prompt and have it come out with a similar or better outcome in seconds is really a huge value add. Being able to increase the amount of time that a salesperson actually is selling and decrease that administrative burden, that's where I am seeing the best ROI. If I can prove that I can give time back to the sales team because of these processes, you can then extrapolate that into what their salaries are and add in all of the costs that you have for that sales team into, well, 10% more selling time would equal X amount.

Mike:
Right. Yeah, no, I mean it's always how much time can you save a salesperson so they can sell more?

Marissa Scalercio:
Exactly.

Mike:
I used to sell things and I used to be like, "Great, Matt, thank you for the 10% more quota. I appreciate that."

Marissa Scalercio:
Also that.

Mike:
Because you also modulate your time as a salesperson, too. None of us do that. None of them. They all, foot on the gas all the time, I promise you. So as you look forward to this year, I also think rate of change. There are... and I went through this where I had to merge a couple orgs together and bring two companies together, and there was also a lot of organizational change going on. We're at the beginning of the year. I know you've got your plans. There's new products and features and services from Salesforce coming. As a VP, as an admin, how do you think through the amount of change that you push on your users throughout the year? What does your planning cycle feel like?

Marissa Scalercio:
We are usually very thoughtful about large changes within the organization and making sure we're rolling them out slowly where we get some of our best or worst people to really get on board with what we're doing first and then roll it out in that process where we have a smaller group rollout and then a larger group.
So we really are thoughtful about having those people that have already tested and like the tools that we're rolling out. This year is going to be a lot of change, though. I am really excited by it, but the tools that are coming out are game changers for our organization. I'm really lucky that we are embracing change and the AI era. We even have a department that is called CL Next that their sole mission is innovation, and they have developed a project drive where they are asking every single department to bring artificial intelligence into their area and show that it can be used on a daily basis.
So I'm very lucky that I am in an organization that really is embracing it, so it is easier for me to implement these AI products and tools, but rolling them out, the best thing you can do is get people on board with it that will talk to their peers about how useful it's been or how useful it's going to be.

Mike:
Yeah. That made me think of something. I don't know if you did this, and maybe you can answer, but when you were piloting this, did you set up a Chatter group or anything to kind of gather that information? Or when it goes GA, do you plan to do something like that or do you do that for other features?

Marissa Scalercio:
I plan to do it for pretty much any feature that we roll out. We always bring in somebody. It is so much easier to have a better adoption if you have people, their peers that they look up to, on board with it. So I always try to roll it out or at least show what's coming, have them test it, really play around with new tools, because that is the best way to get adoption throughout the entire sales org.

Mike:
Yeah, nothing like a group of people asking questions to see what everyone else is asking. I'm telling you.

Marissa Scalercio:
Exactly.

Mike:
It sounds scary, but that's the best part of rolling out a new feature because to some degree kind of helps everybody feel like, "Oh, I had that question too. I'm not alone." And like, yep, we're all in this together kind of situation.
As you're using AI and different tools for admins, you mentioned you wish you would've gotten up to speed. Are there things that you are doing or trying, trying to incorporate more? For instance, I am trying to use different AI tools and just write different prompts to try to almost... We did this in third grade. It was really weird. My teacher who apparently was kind of ahead of the game, she's like, "I need you to pretend that you're an alien and you have to tell another human how to pick up the phone." And we played this game called telephone. And it sounds crazy because you're like in third grade, you're like, "Well, I know how to pick up the phone." And you pick up the phone. She goes, "No, that's wrong because you're picking up the receiver." And she's like, "Pick up the phone."
And I find there's a huge correlation between that and what you tell AI because when you tell AI, "Pick up the phone," it doesn't understand a receiver or just the headset part of a phone. It would pick up the entire phone. That's just a funny story, only to make this question longer, but are there things that you are doing personally in using AI that you feel are making you understand it or build better prompts?

Marissa Scalercio:
Yeah. I mean, I'm using it in my personal life. I'm using it with my personal email. I'm trying my best to use it every single day, whether that is new products that I'm seeing that are coming out, the new tools that Salesforce is rolling out, the new tools that... Outlook's rolling out some stuff. Google's rolling out a lot of different AI tools. So really being able to test those throughout your personal and professional life. That's really what I've been trying to do. I also am asking a lot of questions of my peers as to how they're using it, and even my friends, just to make sure that if they have something really cool that they are using on a daily basis and it's making them more efficient, I want it. So I want to make sure that I am trying to find what is going to help me personally be more efficient and then help what is going to help our entire organization or sales organization.

Mike:
That's smart. I mean, much like the last few podcasts that I've done, it's practice, practice, practice and use, use, use. Right?

Marissa Scalercio:
Yes.

Mike:
I have a friend that told me, he's like, "Writer's write." Yep. They sure do. That's how you get better at it. So we'll end on a fun note. Is there anything funny you could share that you've asked AI to do that you just kind of thought was an interesting response?

Marissa Scalercio:
I mean, funny pictures. Putting me in some interesting pictures, like basketball photos, which I don't play basketball. I'm very short. So I mean, there are some really fun things that you can do with AI as well. So those are some of the fun things I've been doing.

Mike:
Yeah. I asked AI to make a Pixar version of myself, and that was a hilarious outcome.

Marissa Scalercio:
Yeah, exactly. It's just fun to play around with it.

Mike:
Yeah. Well, and it's fun for me, I think, to try and repeat different things and see what the different, especially with images, response was. I did have a coworker. I thought this was really interesting. She's like, "I didn't know what to make for dinner. So I plugged some of the stuff that I had in the fridge, in the cupboard, into AI and asked it for a recipe." I was like, oh, it's like Iron Chef Kitchen AI.

Marissa Scalercio:
How smart.

Mike:
I know, right?

Marissa Scalercio:
I love that. Oh, I'm absolutely going to use that.

Mike:
Yeah, you're going to end up with a tuna noodle, taco shell, Dorito, rice and beans. I don't know. Kind of...

Marissa Scalercio:
Sounds delicious.

Mike:
Yeah, well, AI said it was good. Yeah, well, AI is not eating it.
Marissa, thanks so much for being on the podcast. I can't wait to see everything else that you guys are working on. I'm sure we'll see you elsewhere. You're going to be at TrailblazerDx and Dreamforce and all those fun events.

Marissa Scalercio:
Absolutely.

Mike:
Yeah.

Marissa Scalercio:
Thank you so much for having me. It was so nice to meet you and I'm honored to be here.

Mike:
So it was a great conversation with Marissa. I learned a lot. I feel like I can't wait to see all of the stuff that we can configure with Prompt Builder. I know she was very specific in emails, but it's one thing that we're improving constantly over user's time and building better emails for salespeople. They always need a better email. And I also loved her insight into being a Salesforce admin as a VP, helping us understand going across to other VPs, communication and also up and down within organizations. It's very important that we pay attention to that, especially as some of these new features come out and we plan our roadmaps for this year.
Now, if you enjoyed this episode, which I bet you did because I did, and you're listening on iTunes, I want you to share it. All you got to do is tap the three dots and click Share Episode. Then you can post it socially, you can text it to a friend. And of course, if you're looking for more great resources, Everything Admin is at admin.salesforce.com, including links to learn about AI and Trailhead and a full transcript of the show.
And of course, you can join our conversation, The Admin Trailblazer Group in the Trailblazer community. The link is also in the show notes. So with that, until next week, I'll see you in the cloud.

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

Today on the Salesforce Admins Podcast, we talk to Jennifer Lee, Lead Admin Evangelist at Salesforce.

Join us as we chat about what you need to do to be ready for the upcoming Spring ‘24 Release.

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

Video Content for the Spring ‘24 Release

If you’ve come across any admin Release Readiness content, then you’re probably familiar with Jennifer Lee and her army of GIFs. That’s why I was excited to sit down with her and talk about what’s coming in the Spring ‘24 Release and what content is coming out to help you get ready.

Jennifer’s comprehensive blog post about her top Spring ‘24 Release features is a good place to start, but she’s also putting together a truckload of video content that is not to be missed. There will be new episodes of “Automate This!” and “How I Solved It” on YouTube.

Meanwhile, on Salesforce+, mark your calendar for a special Admin Preview Live on Thursday, February 8th at 9 a.m. (PST). Join Jennifer and all the PMs for presentations, demos, and everything admins need to know for the Spring ‘24 Release. It’s all a part of Release Readiness Live, which will be on Salesforce+ next week on February 6th, 7th, and 8th.

Spring ‘24 Release highlights

For Jennifer, the release notes are like an onion—you always seem to find something new each time you go through them. Some features she’s particularly excited about include:

  • Enhanced security management, like error messages that appear if you try to delete a permission set that is still assigned to users or permission set groups.

  • Flow enhancements like text templates, repeaters (no more placeholders!), and debugging data cloud-triggered flows.

  • An email alert page in setup to see which flows are sending things to your users.

  • Better report ownership management.

Sandbox best practices for release management

Jennifer also fills us in on some best practices for sandboxes to get your production org ready for a new release. You want to have two sandboxes: one that matches your production release that you use for deployment, and one that’s on the upcoming release to try out new features. That way you have somewhere to prep for the future without accidentally breaking your current deployment.

Finally, Jennifer recommends that every admin should pull up “release updates” in the quickfind. That’s the easiest way to see what changes coming up and how long you have to get ready. Armed with your pre-release sandbox, you’ll be ready for all the new features before they’re auto-enabled.

This episode was a great supplement to all the other Spring ‘24 Release content we’re putting out there, so be sure to take a listen. And don’t miss Admin Preview Live next Thursday, February 8th at 9 a.m. (PST).

 

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Full show transcript

Mike:
Salesforce does three releases a year, and I don't know about you, but I could use some warm weather thinking. So this week on the Salesforce Admins podcast, we are going to get release ready with Jennifer Lee, who is lead admin evangelist here at Salesforce, she was an MVP. You know her for all of the flow stuff that she does. By the way, she's got a really cool thing she's going to talk about on this podcast that's not release ready, but I bet you're going to want to hear that. Then of course, we talk about some of the release features that she's not going to feature on Release Readiness Live, which is next week if you're listening to this. So this is a fun episode. We're going to help you get release ready. Let's get Jennifer on the podcast.
So, Jennifer, welcome to the podcast.

Jennifer Lee:
Hey, Mike, thanks for having me.

Mike:
Yeah, well, it is springtime, despite the fact that I think you and I have been indoors for the last, I don't know how many days, and it's freezing cold, but spring '24 release features are right around the corner. You had an awesome blog post about it and we were looking through the release notes and heck, it's about to drop for everybody, so why not do a podcast to talk about it, right?

Jennifer Lee:
Super excited.

Mike:
Before we get into that, what else you got going on? You've got some video series and stuff coming out this year. I want to make sure that people up front know about that before we start talking about all the fun release stuff.

Jennifer Lee:
All right, so if you haven't heard about Automate This, it's a livestream series that I do monthly on the Salesforce Admins YouTube channel, so check that out. We also do deep dive blogs on it as well from our trailblazers. We're going to be bringing back How I Solved It back to the YouTube channel, so very excited to continue to feature awesome admins doing amazing things on the Salesforce platform. So, that will start next, actually this month.

Mike:
This month, yeah. It's February already.

Jennifer Lee:
This month on the 21st.

Mike:
Clock's ticking down. Here we go. Yeah, I mean to sit and watch Jen Lee build flows live, we should charge tickets for that, but you can just watch it for free on YouTube.
Okay, so we've got some pilot, some beta, some GA features coming in the spring release. What are you excited for?

Jennifer Lee:
A few things. So when we're talking about security management, I'm going to geek out on security, of all things.

Mike:
Hey, it's the security stuff's cool. It keeps us doing our jobs. People overlook that.

Jennifer Lee:
Yeah, so when you go and try and delete a permission set, previously if it had people assigned to it or it's assigned to a permission set group, it allowed you to delete it, it didn't even tell you. Now we're going to throw up an error and let you know someone's assigned to it, so get rid of them first before you go ahead and delete it or just check first that you really want to delete that permission set. So thanks to Cheryl and team for putting that in. But a lot of the things that are going into this release, surprise surprise, are flow enhancements, being the Flownatic that I love, so.

Mike:
I'm just shocked you didn't start there. I'm going to throw a curve and talk about one security thing, talk about fly. That's like being a hamburger reviewer and being like, so they have chocolate shakes at this burger restaurant, but let's talk about burgers.

Jennifer Lee:
So threw you guys for a loop, huh?

Mike:
A little bit, yep.

Jennifer Lee:
So I love the reactivity that's been going on in screen flows and Adam White and team, Sam Raynard, have been doing amazing things. So continuing on with reactivity, being able to have one component behave a certain way and then another component react to that. So, they're adding text templates, display texts going GA. They're also adding as a beta feature, repeaters. Now when you think of a repeater component, think of like you're filling out an application and let's say you're adding beneficiaries. Instead of thinking ahead and thinking like, oh, this person's going to add five and I'm going to put five placeholders, what about just adding the one? Then you let the user decide, hey, I want to add another and add another. So you don't have to build out this UI that has 10 placeholders or something. It's letting the user take charge and they're adding and removing accordingly. So I think that's got to be super cool for screen flows as well.

Mike:
I'm watching your GIF on that right now on this blog. I'm thinking, how many times haven't we built flow, really cool flow components on a page? Then they had to go through it and like, okay, now I've got to do this again, because you've got to add somebody else. Now they can just bang, bang, bang, bang, add them all.

Jennifer Lee:
Or you thought they're going to add five and they needed 10.

Mike:
[inaudible 00:05:29].

Jennifer Lee:
Then they complain about your form.

Mike:
Well, I mean, this is always the question I would ask in doing requirements gathering. So what's the maximum insane crazy number you would think we could add? They'd be like, oh four, I don't ever see us adding more than four. You're like, the third use case they give you is like seven. You're like, awesome. We're just going to add 10.

Jennifer Lee:
Then a couple of other enhancements. So that data table component. So now when you search for other records, it doesn't clear out your previously selected records, which is good. Then when you have flows that use email alerts, you can go to the email alert page and setup and see what flows are using it.

Mike:
Oh, that's so cool.

Jennifer Lee:
No more guessing where it is.

Mike:
Or no more just guessing how many emails I'm sending with all of my flows.

Jennifer Lee:
Then the last piece on the data cloud front is now you could debug your data cloud triggered flows, rather than build them and fingers crossed, hope they work.

Mike:
Right? Oh wow, yeah. You start off with, I'm going to geek out on security stuff. I think it's the debug stuff that we need to see more of. Everybody always talks about all the building of flows and stuff, but nobody ever gets into the debug and everything that you read or you go to events is always how you troubleshoot stuff. I feel like it's not that people just don't love the debug, it's that people just don't spend time in the debug. That'd also be a really cool place. Just call your, have a tech bar that serves coffee and scones and has free internet, and you call it the debug. Nope, not with me? All right, let's talk about more release features because Mike's not got a good coffee shop name yet.

Jennifer Lee:
Don't make me laugh because I might go into a coffee thing.

Mike:
Yeah, the winter has been hard on us East Midwesterners, I got the Barry White going, so.

Jennifer Lee:
Jen Lee has a bronchitis going, so that's great. We don't talk for a living.

Mike:
No, no. I have a friend of mine that has a podcast and he texted me a couple days after Christmas, he's like, dude, I broke my ankle, I got to go into surgery. And I said, good thing you talk for a living. He didn't find that funny. I did, because I said, you could be a marathoner. Nope, all right, zero for two. What else you got, Jen? There's some cool stuff in here. I mean, I'm busy watching all the GIFs in your posts.

Jennifer Lee:
I love creating those GIFs because it brings the feature to life. It's not just a description of what the thing is, but you actually get to see it.

Mike:
Yep, and it also doesn't feel like a commitment like watching a video, like click here to watch this video. It's like, no, it just plays. But yeah, I mean the release notes should have more GIFs in it, add that to the idea exchange. I can feel somebody crying already over that.

Jennifer Lee:
So some of the other changes on the analytics side, the reports and dashboard side. Now when you have changes in report ownership, I guess before you needed to do a clone of it and start from the beginning, now you could just change owners, so that's big. Then they had widgets that were only available to, I think it was enterprise and unlimited. So now it's available across the board for all editions, which is like, you have a widget and you have a widget, doing the Oprah thing.

Mike:
Wow. No, that's good. I just saw your GIF on the email thing. I'm still stuck on that.

Jennifer Lee:
You're just distracted by my GIFs.

Mike:
No, just the fact, I mean, I think I remember still old school, building a workflow and thinking, how cool is this? But you never had the ability, you always had email templates and you're like, I have no idea how many workflows are using this, but to see this as a related list, like, oh, okay, so these two flows are using this workflow or using this email. I love it. It's the simple things sometimes. There's the data table one.

Jennifer Lee:
Yeah, or if you needed to make a change to it, now you know which things are impacted by that change that you're making.

Mike:
Yeah, yeah, because the number of times I've messed up emails before, that's always a constant. I think we're a little late in this coming out because by now a lot of admins have read the release notes. They probably have their idea, but thinking ahead for the summer release, because I'll be honest with you. The summer release was always super hard for me because vacation and I wanted to be on vacation and then there was stuff coming out and then you had users on vacation. But thinking ahead to the summer release, what are some sandbox strategies that Evan should think about?

Jennifer Lee:
So when we're in this pre-release cycle, that's when some of the sandboxes are in pre-lease, some aren't. So if you haven't heard the term pre-release, that means you get to have your sandbox be in the upcoming release as opposed to your current release, which is what your production org is in. So the strategy that I've used when I was an admin is, when you're in the cycle and you have a path to production. Let's say you have multiple sandboxes that you build in, and then you push it from a dev sandbox to a UAT sandbox to some other sandbox to production, that's your deployment path. You want to make sure that it's on the current release.
So sometimes your sandbox, we're going to say, CS15, let's say that that was slated for preview and that's a sandbox that you use in your production deployment. Well, you don't want it to be in preview, you actually want it to be in the current release because your production is in the current release. What you want to do is build things and test things before it goes into production, as in being in that same release. You don't want to deploy something going from a higher API version because the newer release goes up an API version. You want to deploy like to like, not from higher to lower. The reason is because that new release might have enhancements to the thing that you're building, and now you're building on this newer thing, production doesn't even know about it. You try to deploy it, chances are you're going to run into a deployment error and you can't contact Salesforce support to help you because you went from preview to a non-preview. So definitely keep that in mind.
There is a timeframe, a window, and I believe, well, we provide resources that tell you if you want to stay on that current release or you want to move off of preview and go back to your current release, here are the actions you need to take, and that requires a sandbox refresh, for example. But we have blog articles that talk about that, so go to our release ready page and you'll find blog posts on that, but make sure that your deployment path is on the current release.
But at the same time, you also want a sandbox that's on preview because you want to test your current features and things like that, the things that you've currently built, and make sure they continue to work as expected and that you don't get some weird behavior as a result of something new that's coming out. So you definitely want to refresh and test the things that you have.

Mike:
Yeah, and I mean, even for example, we were in something like this, this time last year when reactive components came out. I was working with you to build the demo for our world tour. I couldn't figure out why in one of my environments I couldn't make the reactive component work, and here we need to check a box and go to a different API version. Similar, but yes, I mean you just want, yeah, pressure test against everything. Make sure it works current, make sure it's going to work when the upgrade happens because you'll nine times out of 10 be asleep, not sitting around pining for new-

Jennifer Lee:
Yeah, you don't want to get that call.

Mike:
Right? Hey, I don't know why this component doesn't work, because it's always a component. It's never anything in the background. It's always like an email didn't fire or a component is just saying insufficient privileges. Well, did you unplug Salesforce and plug it back in?

Jennifer Lee:
Reboot.

Mike:
Reboot.

Jennifer Lee:
Control, alt, delete.

Mike:
Control, alt, delete, yeah. Is there anything else that we should think about during release time, either before or after?

Jennifer Lee:
Oh, yes. So release updates. So you can get to release updates in setup, just go into the quick find, go to release updates, and then you'll see a list of upcoming release updates or you see things that you're behind on. Hopefully you don't, but Salesforce gives you ample time and they announce, okay, we're going to put this release update out there. You have until X date before Salesforce enforces it, and they auto enable it. So when you go into release updates, it tells you all the information you need to know about whatever that update is, how to go about testing it. So definitely go in a sandbox, test it out. Sometimes there are things that might require you to make changes to something that you have in your org so that it doesn't break when we auto enable it in a future release. So definitely go through it periodically to see if there's anything upcoming, and then spend a time to allocate to actually testing it, making sure it doesn't break anything there. In some cases, you can enable it in your after you've tested it so everything's cool, but you definitely don't want to miss the deadline, we auto enable it and then it breaks something in your production org.

Mike:
Breaking things is bad. You didn't mention this, but I was scrolling along. Access fields from related objects on dynamic forums, forums enabled record pages. This feels like, oh wow, air. I bring this up because there's literally a question in the Trailblazer community, and I'm going to respond to her after we get done with this podcast, where she was trying to pull in, she's trying to write just a simple formula field to return a phone number. This would totally solve it, because why not just pull the field in? You can do that. Just wait for the release.

Jennifer Lee:
I just realized I forgot to mention all the features that I'm going to highlight on Admin Preview Live.

Mike:
Well, but that's why you do the podcast because see, now they got to listen to all the features that didn't make it on Admin Preview Live, but when is Admin Preview Live?

Jennifer Lee:
So you're going to go on Salesforce Plus on Thursday, February 8th at 9:00 A.M. Pacific Time. We're going to live stream the broadcast. So we're going to go in the studio, all of the PMs, I'm going to be there as well. We're going to be in-studio doing live presentations and live demos. So I'm going to be covering admin highlights. I'm going to cover four things, and cross object fields is one of the things that I will be covering.

Mike:
Oh, darn. Yay, teaser.

Jennifer Lee:
Then other things. The other things that you'll just have to wait to find out.

Mike:
No, but look at all you get to find out on listening to podcasts ahead of time. Are you doing anything special for release live? Like we do shoes, I guess there's no really footwear attire for release live-

Jennifer Lee:
No.

Mike:
... anymore. We used to do shirts for a while.

Jennifer Lee:
I'll have to figure out what my outfit is.

Mike:
Yeah, maybe sparkly. Sparkly seems to be a thing. Maybe that's out in 2024. Maybe it's got to be something else, I don't know. Cross out [inaudible 00:19:04].

Jennifer Lee:
Well, we'll have to figure it out.

Mike:
I'm excited for this, little stuff. Jen, thanks so much for coming on the podcast and giving us all the cool stuff that you also included in your blog. But I feel like with the releases, you got to hear this stuff two, three times. It's like peeling back an onion. Every time you look at the release notes, you find something else that you didn't see before.

Jennifer Lee:
Oh, when I was a customer, I would love... So I would read through the release notes. Plus, I would always watch Release Readiness Live because I always find things that I didn't catch while I was reading through the release notes. The release notes are pretty dry, so.

Mike:
I mean, they're not a novel. But also, I felt like sometimes even reading your blog posts and seeing the GIFs, like the GIFs and that stuff, you read the feature and you're like, meh, okay, but then you see a GIF or then you watch the Release Readiness Live of it and you're like, oh, that's so much cooler than it read in the release note. Well, I will be sure to include the links to all of these. As always, if you've got this far in the podcast and you have a suggestion for themed wear that Jennifer should bring to release. You should have an Easter egg, that something only somebody on the podcast would know about. Then we'll put that on the thing and then see if anybody comments on it. Probably not, but it's fun to think about.

Jennifer Lee:
Well, Diana Jaffe brought her lamp.

Mike:
I know, right? Who would've thought that a lamp would-

Jennifer Lee:
That was on the craze on X or Twitter or whatever.

Mike:
I know. Yeah, well, that's okay. We have a goat as a mascot, so I'll par for it. I'll put the link in the show notes and then we will, we've got a week to prepare to watch you live on Release Readiness, so thanks for coming by and sharing some of that.

Jennifer Lee:
Thanks for having me.

Mike:
You bet.
Of course, that was another great discussion with Jennifer. Hey, How I solved It's coming back, which is amazing. I love watching that video series. I also just, the fact that we can watch Jennifer do live flow solutions on YouTube is just the funnest part because that's what I enjoy doing. Also, learning about flow because there's still so much that I need to learn about flow, but there's some pretty cool stuff in the release. I would love to know what is one of your favorite features. Go ahead and shout out on Twitter or any of the social platforms. Let us know.
Now, of course, if you enjoyed this episode, I need you to do me a favor. Can you share it with somebody? I mean, you've probably got friends that are getting release ready, right? Do they know about this episode? Do they know about some of the cool features like the reporting and the email stuff that Jen was talking about? If they don't, all you got to do is tap the three dots, choose share episode, and then you can post it on social, you can text it to a friend. You take them to a coffee shop and say, let's listen to the podcast together. I don't know, throwing out ideas there.
Full of resources if you're looking for them, admin.salesforce.com. That is where you're going to find transcript of the show, the link to watch Jennifer do Release Readiness Live, which I'll be tuning in for, and a link to the blog post where she has all those fun GIFs. Of course, don't miss out on the conversation we have going on in the admin Trailblazer group that is in the Trailblazer community. The link is in the show notes. Hey, until next week, I'll see you in the cloud.

 



Direct download: Explore_Spring_24_Release_Updates_with_Jennifer_Lee.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 1:00am PDT

Today on the Salesforce Admins Podcast, we talk to Anna Szabo, ISV Platform Expert at Salesforce.

Join us as we chat about getting started with Trailhead, how to decide which certifications to go for, and why we all need to embrace failure.

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

Give yourself a chance

Anna wanted to be Salesforce certified for a long time before she actually jumped into Trailhead and got started. “To be honest with you, I didn’t believe I could,” she says. But in 2022, she decided: she’d get her certification by the end of the year.

She left notes for herself everywhere that she’d be a certified Salesforce Administrator, but still couldn’t seem to get started. On May 23, 2022, she wrote herself a poem:

 

"Give Yourself a Chance" by Anna Szabo

When feeling scared, just give yourself a chance!

By analyzing paralyzed, you can’t advance.

To make some progress, starting is a must!

While outcomes pursuing, please the process trust!

 

Just give yourself a chance so you can soar!

View learning as a blessing, not a chore!

For outcomes to happen, you must start the process! 

Engage in learning to ensure your progress! 

 

Yes, you can do it; give yourself a chance!

At future, not the past I recommend you glance.

A vision helps you through the journey to advance!

Get started please! Just give yourself a chance!

 

Within 30 days, Anna earned her Admin certification. She became 19x Salesforce certified in 1 year, and earned the All Star Ranger rank in only 477 days. Today, she works for Salesforce as an ISV Platform Expert and has helped over a thousand Trailblazers get their certifications, too.

Be the CEO of your career

One of the most common questions I get asked at events is some version of, “How do I decide which certifications to pursue on Trailhead?” Anna’s advice is to be the CEO of your career and, as CEO, you need to look at which certifications are demanded in the marketplace. What shows up on job listings? What about for your dream job?

When you’re going for these certifications, Anna encourages you to embrace failure. “Studying for these exams only exposes how much you don’t know,” she says. Even with all of her accomplishments, Anna had to retake several certification exams. Keep on giving yourself a chance and you’re bound to succeed.

More content from Anna to help with your certifications

In addition to her role at Salesforce, Anna creates a ton of content to help other Trailblazers follow their dreams. If you’re thinking about getting more certifications or going for your first, make sure to check out her YouTube channel or find her on LinkedIn.

This episode is jam-packed with inspiring words and motivation, so be sure to take a listen if you haven’t already. See you next week!

 

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

Today on the Salesforce Admins Podcast, we’re revisiting our episode with 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.

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

Today on the Salesforce Admins Podcast, we talk to Dorian Earl, Founder & CEO of Development Consulting Partners.

Join us as we chat about how to integrate Salesforce with your business processes by working backwards.

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

A lost rolodex and a new career in Salesforce

Dorian and I have been running into each other at event after event, and I finally got him to come on the pod. He does a lot of work with different companies on refreshing their Salesforce org to match their business processes, so I’m excited to share his insights with you.

20 years ago, Dorian was selling medical supplies and using an old-school planner to keep track of everything. One day, he was driving home from some client visits when he had the funny feeling he had forgotten something. “I saw about $80,000 in pipeline go flying on the interstate,” he says, and that’s when he knew he needed a better way.

Dorian started using Salesforce, initially as an org of one, keeping track of his own pipeline. He got hooked and ended up founding a string of businesses based around the platform. These days, he uses his experience in sales and his knowledge of the Salesforce platform to help companies map their business processes over their tech stack to get the most out of both.

Defining business processes for Salesforce

Time again, the biggest issue that Dorian sees is that his clients haven’t defined their processes in terms of Salesforce. “Every company defines an account a little differently,” he says, “so I push my clients to say what an account means to them, and what it means to them when somebody creates an account, or when we convert a lead into an account.”

No matter what internal terms you use, it’s important to be clear about how Salesforce is built to work. For example, you should only create an opportunity for a qualified lead. It means something specific on the platform, but you might need to do some work to help your users understand that. Otherwise, you end up with a request for a field to track whether or not a prospect is interested.

How to start a business process backwards

The most helpful thing you can do is start with the end goal in mind and work backward from there. What does the business want to look at to measure success? What report is that in Salesforce? From there, you can figure out what steps need to happen on the platform to run that report, and how those correlate to the business processes already in place.

Businesses that have had Salesforce for a while sometimes start to wonder if it’s still working for them. Usually, it’s a question of refreshing the business processes and bringing them into alignment with what needs to happen in the org. Dorian compares it to owning a home: if you want to have a workout space, you don’t go around looking for a new house, you make space in your garage.

Dorian has tons of experience helping all sorts of businesses helping them to get the most out of Salesforce, so be sure to listen to the full episode for more tips and insights, including why exception reports are the best place to start when you’re refreshing an org.

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

Today on the Salesforce Admins Podcast, we talk to Joy Shutters-Helbing, Salesforce MVP, Chicago Admin Co-Leader, and Golden Hoodie recipient.

Join us as we chat about why frontline experience is so important to your Salesforce career and the importance of networking.

You should subscribe for the full episode, but here are a few takeaways from our conversation with Joy Shutters-Helbing.

Getting experience as a Salesforce user

I recently ran into Joy at World Tour Chicago, where I was shocked to discover that we’ve never had her on the pod. One of the most common questions I get asked is how to get started in a Salesforce career, and I think she has some great advice on the subject.

Joy and I both got involved with Salesforce as users, first, before transitioning into an admin career. That meant we already understood how business processes were supposed to work and how Salesforce could help. And that’s what can be the missing step for someone armed with Salesforce credentials but not a lot of real-world experience.

Get frontline experience while you learn Salesforce

Joy’s biggest piece of advice for someone looking to get started in Salesforce is to get experience in an industry you’re passionate about. “Go and answer those phones as a call center rep,” she says, “be that first line of employees that are working with customers that are going to be using Salesforce with a high frequency.”

In the meantime, you should be working through Trailhead and enhancing your skills on the platform. In short, you’ll be able to learn the ins and outs of business processes while you’re building up your Salesforce knowledge. And be on the lookout for opportunities to make suggestions and get involved in how the platform is used in your organization.

Why networking is misunderstood

Joy also has a great perspective on networking and how it’s misunderstood. When she’s looking for a new role, she updates her resume and makes cold applications like everyone else. But she also isn’t afraid to let people know that she’s looking, which creates an invitation for people to send things her way.

The difference here is between asking someone for a favor and allowing them to help you. And people will want to help you if you’re active in the community and have helped them in the past. It’s all about looking for ways to get involved in your local user group and pay it forward.

Be sure to listen to the full episode for more insights from Joy, and more about what it’s like to don the coveted Golden Hoodie.

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

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

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

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

August was Business Analyst Month

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

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

The Business Analyst mindset

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

  • Who is this company?

  • How are they positioned in the industry?

  • Who are their customers?

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

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

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

Transitioning your career

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

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

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

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Full Transcript

Mike Gerholdt:

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

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

So, Ko, Welcome to the Salesforce Admins Podcast.

Ko Forte:

Thanks, Mike. Great to be here.

Mike Gerholdt:

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

Ko Forte:

Agreed.

Mike Gerholdt:

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

Ko Forte:

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

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

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

Mike Gerholdt:

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

Ko Forte:

Right.

Mike Gerholdt:

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

Ko Forte:

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

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

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

Mike Gerholdt:

What do you do now then?

Ko Forte:

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

Mike Gerholdt:

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

Ko Forte:

Yes.

Mike Gerholdt:

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

Ko Forte:

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

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

Mike Gerholdt:

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

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

Ko Forte:

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

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

Mike Gerholdt:

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

Ko Forte:

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

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

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

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

Mike Gerholdt:

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

Ko Forte:

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

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

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

Mike Gerholdt:

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

Ko Forte:

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

Mike Gerholdt:

Really? For a theater major?

Ko Forte:

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

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

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

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

Mike Gerholdt:

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

Ko Forte:

Right.

Mike Gerholdt:

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

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

Ko Forte:

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

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

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

Mike Gerholdt:

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

Ko Forte:

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

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

Mike Gerholdt:

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

Ko Forte:

Absolutely.

Mike Gerholdt:

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

Ko Forte:

Right.

Mike Gerholdt:

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

Ko Forte:

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

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

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

Mike Gerholdt:

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

Ko Forte:

Right. Right.

Mike Gerholdt:

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

Ko Forte:

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

Mike Gerholdt:

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

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

Ko Forte:

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

Mike Gerholdt:

Good.

Ko Forte:

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

Mike Gerholdt:

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

Ko Forte:

Correct. Correct.

Mike Gerholdt:

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

Ko Forte:

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

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

Mike Gerholdt:

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

Ko Forte:

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

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

Mike Gerholdt:

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

Ko Forte:

Exactly.

Mike Gerholdt:

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

Ko Forte:

Right.

Mike Gerholdt:

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

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

Ko Forte:

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

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

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

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

Mike Gerholdt:

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

Ko Forte:

Right.

Mike Gerholdt:

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

Ko Forte:

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

Mike Gerholdt:

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

Ko Forte:

Thanks, Mike.

Mike Gerholdt:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lessons from a clinical social worker

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

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

Finding congruence

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

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

Navigating Diverse Audience Priorities

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

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

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

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

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

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

Why admins need project management skills

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

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

Project management is problem-solving

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

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

The power of pushback

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Generative AI needs clean data

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

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

What is bad data?

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

  • Duplicate data

  • Inaccurate data

  • Incomplete data

  • Stale data

  • Hoarded data

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

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

How to get started cleaning your data for generative AI

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The admin skill set is broad

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

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

Get a swim buddy

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

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

Fake it till you make it

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

A focus on community at TDX

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

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

TDX is not just for devs

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

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

Different sessions in the CFP

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

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

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

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Full Transcript

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

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

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

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

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

LeeAnne Rimel:
Nonstop. I love it.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

LeeAnne Rimel:
I do not know the band. 

Mike:
That's okay. It's fine.

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

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

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

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

LeeAnne Rimel:
Thanks for having me, Mike.

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

Everything user access

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

 

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

The right amount of access

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

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

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

What’s next for user access in Salesforce

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

Do Androids Dream of Bohemian Furniture?

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

 

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

Einstein for Flow

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

 

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

Learning to crawl

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

 

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

 

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Full Transcript

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

Working his way up

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

 

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

Getting started on Trailhead

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

 

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

What to do when Trailhead feels overwhelming

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Johnjoe Mena:
Thank you.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Johnjoe Mena:
Thank you.

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

Johnjoe Mena:
Thank you for having me.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Join us as we discuss:

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • How to find your local Trailblazer community group.

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

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

 

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Full Transcript

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

Josh Birk:
Hello Mike.

Jennifer Lee:
Hello.

Gillian Bruce:
Hello. Hello.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Gillian Bruce:
I disagree.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Gillian Bruce:
That's next level.

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

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

Gillian Bruce:
Pumpkin chuckin'?

Mike Gerholdt:
Yes. Pumpkin chucking.

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

Mike Gerholdt:
Those things are Legit.

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

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

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

Gillian Bruce:
Yeah, yeah.

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

Gillian Bruce:
Wow. So fun. So fun.

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

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

Josh Birk:
Take a pumpkin.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Josh Birk:
You probably could get a PhD.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mike Gerholdt:
Well, object permanency sometimes.

Josh Birk:
Right.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jennifer Lee:
Sorry. Go ahead, Mike.

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

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

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

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

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

Gillian Bruce:
It sounds like it would suck.

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

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

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

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

Mike Gerholdt:
Jen, Gillian, final thoughts?

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

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

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

Gillian Bruce:
Thank you, Mike.

Mike Gerholdt:
Thank you.

Jennifer Lee:
Thanks for having me.

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

 

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

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

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

From math teacher to Salesforce Admin

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

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

Scoring leads with Einstein

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

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

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

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

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

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

Getting started with Einstein

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

New features in Sales Cloud

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

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

Drive adoption with Sales Cloud Everywhere

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

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

We need your help

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

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

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

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Full Transcript

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

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

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

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

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

Ketan Karkhanis:
Yeah, great to be here.

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

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

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

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

Gillian Bruce:
100%.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Gillian Bruce:
No.

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

Gillian Bruce:
I love that.

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

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

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

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

Ketan Karkhanis:
I had to open my mouth.

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

Ketan Karkhanis:
Thank you so much.

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

Ketan Karkhanis:
Yeah, yeah, 100%.

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

 

 

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

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

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

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

Admins and cybersecurity

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

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

Running away from a bear

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

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

A framework for security

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

  1. Understand your risks

  2. Respond

  3. Recover

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

Start with documentation

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

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

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

Good documentation tells a story

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

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

Empathy and patience

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

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

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

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Full Transcript

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Christine Stevens:
Yes.

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

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

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

Christine Stevens:
Oh, wow.

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

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

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

Christine Stevens:
Yes.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mike:
So that was a great discussion with Christine. I really enjoy the tip that she had about look for existing technical documentation within your organization and then copy off of that. I think sometimes when we're thinking we've got to write user manuals or we've got to write process documentation, we're starting from scratch and we don't know what's out there. Hey, I bet your organization has something out there. This is also a good opportunity for you to make friends over in your IT org, maybe they can help you with that documentation as well.
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Direct download: Christine_Stevens_on_User_Management.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 1:00am PDT