Thu, 6 April 2023
Today on the Salesforce Admins Podcast, we talk to Tom Leddy, Principal Evangelist, Architect Relations at Salesforce.
Join us as we talk about how admins can build well-architected automation solutions.
You should subscribe for the full episode, but here are a few takeaways from our conversation with Tom Leddy.
Tom is here to tell us about a new program the Architect team created, Salesforce Well-Architected. It’s a framework organized around the principles you need to understand what healthy solutions look like in Salesforce. “There’s a lot of great information there regardless of what your role is,” Tom says, “I think the lines between what admins do and what architects do are blurred these days.”
The Well-Architected Framework will help you get a handle on how to think about the big picture when it comes to making decisions in your Salesforce org. For example, how to put together a security model that is strong, scalable, and meets everyone’s needs over the long haul.
What makes something well-architected?
One of the things they cover in-depth is how to create well-architected automations. How do you make something that will scale and will actually add value to your business? Because, as powerful as automations are, if you’re automating a process that doesn’t make sense in the first place then you might be hurting your business more than you realize.
What needs to happen first is business process optimization, asking questions like: Why do we need to do things this way? What other business processes does this affect? Is this process repeated elsewhere in your org? Only when you’ve gotten all that straightened out do you start to build.
Why you need to remediate technical debt
This is especially important as everything is moving over to flows. We have the opportunity to look at things that might’ve been over-built in Process Builder and rethink them moving forward. There’s an architecting term for that: technical debt.
Every org will accrue technical debt over time. Maybe you’ve acquired new skills and that you didn’t have 6 months ago. Maybe Salesforce has added a new feature that makes everything easier. Whatever the reason, you need to make business stakeholders aware of the long-term benefits of remediating technical debt—building a foundation for better solutions in the future. And, like any debt, you need to pay it off little by little or it’ll just grow even bigger in the future.
Tom will be appearing on Automate This with Jennifer Lee later in April, so be sure to tune in for more how your automations can be well-architected.
Mike Gerholdt: Welcome to the Salesforce Admins Podcast where we talk about product, community, and career to help you become an awesome admin. And this week we're talking with Tom Leddy, principal evangelist, architect relations at Salesforce about how admins can build well architected automation solutions. And we did get into a few other things like documentation best practices, and really some tips that architects can give admins. It's a super fun conversation. Tom and I had a chance to catch up after TrailblazerDX, and of course Tom will also be on the Automate this series with Jennifer Lee later in April. So if you're listening to this early in April, hang on for later in April because he's also going to be on Automate this. And if you're listening later, obviously go check our YouTube page. But fun conversation. There is a question I asked Tom at the end about some fun stuff that he does, and I promise you you don't know the answer. So with that, let's get Tom on the podcast. So Tom, welcome to the podcast.
Tom Leddy:Thank you. It's great to be here.
Mike Gerholdt: Yeah. Well, we had a chance to catch up at TrailblazerDX, which feels like not that long ago, but for anybody listening that doesn't know you or ran into at a big event, tell me what you do at Salesforce and how you came here.
Tom Leddy:Sure. So I am an architect evangelist. I'm part of the architect relations team. And what I do at Salesforce is my team is responsible for creating tools and resources to help architects be successful at their jobs. And I help to make sure that our ecosystem is aware of those tools and knows how to use them and where to find them.
Mike Gerholdt: Very succinct. So what'd you do before Salesforce?
Tom Leddy:Before Salesforce, I worked at a variety of different customers and partners and I've been working in the ecosystem for a little over 10 years and used to lead digital transformations. I had big Fortune 500 companies and worked for a partner for a little while and then got the call from Salesforce.
Mike Gerholdt: Yeah. That's how it works. Boy, I think back to the last, I don't know, 10 years. You said 10 years. And digital transformations to me feel like we were going from steam powered engines to electric cars overnight to some degree.
Tom Leddy:When I think about tech as a whole, but specifically the Salesforce platform and what it looks like now compared to what it looked like when I first started working with it, it's night and day for sure.
Mike Gerholdt: Yeah. I remember page builder having to double click because it wasn't even wizzywig. You just double clicked and move stuff. Yeah. Anyway. So we chatted at TrailblazerDX and stuff. I saw a lot of people at TrailblazerDX and probably in the community have heard about this, but I want to get up to speed. Tell me about what well architected is.
Tom Leddy:Sure. So Salesforce, well architected is a framework that we created. Then it's available on the Salesforce architect's website, which we can share the link in the show notes. And it is a framework that is organized around the principles that you need to see what healthy solutions look like in Salesforce and where to spend your time and what to focus on as an architect.
Mike Gerholdt: What if I'm an admin?
Tom Leddy:You know what? Actually, there's a lot of great information there, regardless of what your role is. And I think there's honestly the lines between what admins do and what architects do are blurred a lot really now compared to, again, when we go back to what it was like to work on the platform 10 years ago compared to today. It's hard to put people into specific roles I think now compared to maybe early on. So there's a lot of great information for everybody on the site.
Mike Gerholdt: So help me understand that because I feel like I can't speak for everybody, but I've lived in the admin world my whole life and I've always seen what architect's done, and I feel like, wow, that's super way more detailed than where my brain is at. But you said there's a blur there. What do you see in that blur?
Tom Leddy:Well, I'll take security for an example. So that's one of the topics we cover in, well architected, how do I physically configure a sharing rule, which is obviously good to know, but then how should I even be thinking about putting together a security model so that it's going to be stronger long term for my organization? It's going to scale, it's going to meet everybody's needs. And that's the guidance that we really put in well architected, which is how should I even be approaching this and what should I look for to know if something is set up the right way or if it's bad and there's something maybe I need to refactor. We have some of that prescriptive guidance and then some tables that have what we call patterns and anti-patterns where a pattern is something you can physically see in an org of if you see your security model set up like this and it has these characteristics, good job, keep going, you're doing great.
Mike Gerholdt: Then you're not building something on a house of cards?
Mike Gerholdt: So let's take that one step further because I know later in April you are going to be on Jennifer's Automate this YouTube series. So plug there.
Tom Leddy:Looking forward to it.
Mike Gerholdt: Which would be fun. But let's talk about what is well architected automation.
Tom Leddy:Sure. So automation, that's one of the other topics we cover and we talk about how to design good automations that, number one, will scale and we'll also, we'll actually create value for a business because I'm sure everybody has seen this at one time or another where somebody will come and maybe they'll ask you to build a flow or whatever it is. And they'll describe a process and you'll be thinking in your head, "Okay. Why are you even doing this way in the first place?" And then you push back and maybe ask a few questions, and really it comes out, well, nobody really knows why we're doing it this way, but we always have and now we want to build it in Salesforce. And then you want to be thinking, "Well, do you really want to automate something that you're not even really clear on why you're doing it in the first place?"
Mike Gerholdt: I hear you, because the crazy thing is, I'm thinking about some of the conversations I had at TrailblazerDX with customers that are looking at their automations, and of course, we're moving everything to flow now, which right fits really well with this well architected thing because I feel like we're architecting things even better now. We being the royal we of admins. But in terms of this is a good opportunity for us to look at, hey, what is some of the stuff that we might have overbuilt and process builder and move it over into flow?
Tom Leddy:Yeah. All the time. And I can say I work people with people that would say something like that, but I would also say something like that myself. Because if I think about some of the automations I built maybe early on in my career, I'm even looking at myself going, "Did I really build that? What was I thinking?" And you're right. And we call that, we have a term for that actually. We call it technical debt, which is something that could be created for a variety of different reasons. One is I built something that now that I know a little bit more, I maybe I could have done it better and there was a more efficient way to do this. Another reason it can be created is because Salesforce comes out with a feature that maybe you don't need that automation anymore because it's available in as the standard part of the platform now.
Mike Gerholdt: Yeah. I feel like that's the hard conversation to have is why aren't you building new as opposed to how come all you're doing is maintenance stuff? That was always a discussion that I had to have with my stakeholders was, here's the three features I can deliver because I also need to maintain the other stuff. What is your advice on conversations like that? How from an architect standpoint would you advise an admin to balance that?
Tom Leddy:Would be working to make sure that you've got a governance structure or is use the term COE, that includes both business and IT stakeholders. And when anybody is estimating how much is a project going to cost, how much is this implementation going to cost? Like you said, everybody wants to build new, but if you factor in the, okay, we're going to build this and here's how much it's going to cost to build it. Also, we're going to be maintaining it for the next X number of years realistically, how much is it going to cost per year to maintain and how much time are we going to need? And making sure that, that information is gathered and communicated upfront so that it's not a surprise down the road is probably the best way to handle that.
Mike Gerholdt: Yeah. No, that makes sense. I feel like the best intentions, whatever that saying is slips my mind, but I feel like when you sit down, one thing that I've always admired about architects is I feel like they have this very holistic view. And sometimes as we operate in a world that doesn't give us everything, I sat down with a couple admins at TrailblazerDX, and they didn't have the full business view yet, but they wanted to build for that scale. How do you work through that? What is an architect's mindset knowing... I always envision a house... knowing I have to build a house, but possibly five more additions to it.
Tom Leddy:That involves a lot of communications. Usually at the executive level too. And I think one of the unfortunate things that happens a lot to admins is you get put into a position where people expect to just give you a set of specs and say, "Okay. Go ahead and build this." And by the time that gets to you, the discussions about what are we going to be building in the future have maybe already been had. And then you don't have the opportunity to come back in and say, "Okay. This looks like it's going to meet maybe a short term need, but are you sure this is really what you want to do?" And I think the biggest thing to do there is don't be afraid to push back when you see scenarios like that where you're curious about it.
Mike Gerholdt: Yeah. And unfortunately, that can be the hard part to do. What can happen often is admins come into a role and previous admins vacated it. And I want to talk a little bit about documentation here because as an architect, I always feel like you're in this room of blueprints and every wire and diagram and everything's methodically planned out and the admin's in a little bit of a messy cave, but maybe that's just the world I live in. What are some of the things that you would advise, especially around automation? And I bring this up because not too long ago it was process builder, all the things. Now it's flow, and we have Orchestrator. Plus we also have MuleSoft. We have a lot of other ways to integrate. What are some of the best practices that you feel architects could give to admins around documentation, especially around automation?
Tom Leddy:Actually, I'm glad you asked. So we have in our various well architected chapters, there are some links at the bottom to additional resources. And one of the chapters is called Simple and Simple, the way that we tell it, the overarching pillar is easy. And then Simple, talks about not over-engineering, and I like to tell people, easy doesn't mean that it's easy for you as an architect. It means that as an architect, you've made all of the hard decisions to make it easy for your business to get value out of your solutions. But underneath the easy/simple chapter, we've got a list of tools and resources, and there are some templates for documentation.
Mike Gerholdt: Yeah. Wow. Yeah. Or you're somewhere else.
Tom Leddy:Yeah. Or you've physically gone to a different company and they can't call you.
Mike Gerholdt: I've seen that actually a few times at user groups where they'll walk up and, "Hey, used to work at... Can you tell me what this thing meant?" I didn't explicitly write that down enough. Sorry about that. Tom, outside of drawing diagrams and writing incredible documentation and building templates for admins, what are some of the things that you enjoy maybe outside of Salesforce, hobbies, VTO, stuff like that?
Tom Leddy:So let's see. So I have run at least a half-marathon in all 50 US states and on all seven continents.
Mike Gerholdt: What?
Mike Gerholdt: First of all, I didn't even know that all 50 states had a half-marathon. I feel like first the Rhode Island ones basically just run across the state.
Tom Leddy:Yeah, it's pretty close. Yeah.
Mike Gerholdt: Wow. Okay. All 50. I haven't even been to all 50 states.
Tom Leddy:Actually worked out nicely. It was a good way to see the country and then the rest of the world as well.
Mike Gerholdt: Okay. That's really cool. And is those number things that come from it, or, I'm sure you have pictures too?
Tom Leddy:Yeah. I've got a bunch of pictures and yeah, I've saved my race numbers and medals and everything that I've gotten over the years.
Mike Gerholdt: Wow, okay. That's a trivia question answer, I would've got wrong. For sure. And all seven continents too.
Tom Leddy:Yeah. Actually, it was about a year ago now, but went to Antarctica and did continent number seven.
Mike Gerholdt: What?
Mike Gerholdt: Okay. Very cool.
Mike Gerholdt: Wow. You might win of all the answers for the rest of the year now.
Tom Leddy:Thank you.
Mike Gerholdt: I don't know how to top that. Yeah, okay.
Tom Leddy:It was a really cool experience too. And Antarctica in particular was number one because it's Antarctica, but number two, because I was actually supposed to go back in 2020 and the trip got delayed and then delayed again and delayed multiple times because of COVID. It ended up, when I finally got to go, it was the grand finale for this big long-running journey that I had started. It took me about 15 years total to do.
Mike Gerholdt: I mean, maybe there was nothing but it was there something that kicked off this like, "Hey, I'm going to do this in all 50 states and all seven continents?"
Tom Leddy:It was funny. So I had done some local races and then I had some friends that lived in other states, and I would go to visit them and just look to see if there was an interesting race to do during the weekend that I was going to be there. And after a while I got to a point where I realized, "Wow. I've run in 10 different states. That would be cool to do all 50." And then from there, I started actually making plans specifically to go to states around the races that I wanted to do in those states.
Mike Gerholdt: Okay. So do you have a favorite that stood out?
Tom Leddy:In the States, it would be Alaska, I think.
Mike Gerholdt: And why is that?
Tom Leddy:So it's during summer solstice.
Mike Gerholdt: Okay. So the sun never sets.
Tom Leddy:Exactly. And the way that it works is you do the race at around 8:00 AM, which is around the same time most races are, and the race is awesome too because it goes through downtown Anchorage and then out into the wilderness for the second half. So I got to see a moose standing alongside the course and it was pretty cool. But then when you come back, the idea is because it's light out all night, you go back to your hotel, take a shower, get something to eat, sleep for a few hours, and then starting in the evening, there is an all night festival in downtown Anchorage where they close off pretty much all of the streets in the city, and there's dancing and food and everything. And it's summer solstice fest that goes all night. And you don't even realize it's like two o'clock in the morning because the sun is still out. And it was a fun weekend.
Mike Gerholdt: Wow. I was going to ask, I mean, I wonder if you're sleep equilibrium or whatever they call that, it was way wacky?
Tom Leddy:It when I got home. I definitely noticed it because then I had to go back to my normal schedule of sleeping in the evenings. But when you're there, surprisingly, I don't know what the specific word is for the effect that it has on your brain, but because it's sunny out and it looks like it's two o'clock in the afternoon when it's really two o'clock in the morning, for some reason, your brain doesn't think that you're supposed to be tired right now.
Mike Gerholdt: Yeah. It's I think back to some of the shows when they're in space for so long. Can I just see gravity? Yeah. You get back home, you're like, "Darkness."
Mike Gerholdt: Wow. That's really cool. Well, Tom, thanks for being on the pod and enlightening us on being well architected. I think some of this is so cool. I can't wait to see what you're going to talk to Jennifer about.
Tom Leddy:Thanks. Yeah. I'm looking forward to that for sure. And we'll actually some of the topics we talked about earlier with automated, and then we'll do a little bit of a deeper dive into actually building some automations too, so it's-
Mike Gerholdt: Because, I mean visual.
Tom Leddy:Yeah, exactly.
Mike Gerholdt: Great. Well, thanks so much, Tom. This is fun.
Tom Leddy:Thank you. This has been great.
Mike Gerholdt: So Tom wins half-marathon in all 50 states and seven continents. That's pretty cool. I mean, that's one of the fun takeaways I had from our conversation. There was so much in there, and it was really interesting to get that architect's perspective around thinking through business process and how we automate solutions and how we architect solutions and really that planning process. Some of that can be super exciting to get into. At least I find it exciting.