The Problem: It took me a long time to finally start my blog. In early 2013 it was a dream, a “one-day I will be smart enough and have enough experience to actually do it” type of dream! And two years later, it was still just something I allowed myself to daydream about.
The Choice: One day, after listening to a bunch of episodes of The Life Coach School podcast, I decided to start doing something. And I started writing, even-though I didn’t believe I was experienced enough to be a blogger yet.
The Reality: It turns out; I have things to say and a passion to help people. This fact was true when I first had the dream, while I was talking myself out of living the dream, and is still true today as I am living the dream! The best part is, I keep getting better and better at living this dream as I do the things from my dream.
An Example: Maybe you are a salesforce administrator, and you have a dream to be an influential change agent in your organization (more on this later!). And that voice says you can't do that until you get more experience, or more training or some specific achievement. In my experience, that voice is never actually satisfied, no matter what you do. You will get more and more experience, and that voice will still be telling you that you need even more.
My suggestion: Start doing something (anything) that moves you toward your dream, “even-though” you are scared or not sure if you can actually do it. Keep these two tips in mind as you make the shift in your mind:
First: Don’t be afraid to fail; it is like being afraid to learn. Every time I have failed, I have also learned something new that eventually gets me to the next level or to reach an achievement.
Second: Know it only takes one action, and then you find you are not alone. After I intentionally took one step toward my dream even-though I didn’t believe I had what it took yet, it became clear that this is exactly what everyone else is feeling; and I started being able to identify all the other people that were also acting “even-though”. It is a snowball effect, each action gets easier and easier as I realize I am not alone – lots of people are scared AND living their dreams “even-though”!
Your Action Items: Here are ten things that you can start doing tomorrow to be an influential change agent in your organization, “even-though” you might not believe it is possible yet!
1) Acknowledge that it is your primary job, as a salesforce admin, to align business process with technology for your stakeholders, even-though you don’t believe you are “equipped” for this role yet.
Tip: It is when we are too focused on only the technical side of working with salesforce and the power it can do as a product that we have a hard time inspiring real change. Until we recognize that the power is really in the process and the people using it, we will never be able to bring real change!
2) Take every opportunity to talk with people in your organization, get them talking about their pain. You can’t change anything if you don’t know what needs to be changed.
Personal Example: once when I started at a new company as the new salesforce admin, I had no idea what the processes were or the pain in those processes. So, even-though I was terrified of making a fool of myself, I called each and every front-line manager on my team to ask them to walk me through their biggest pain. After 15 phone calls, I had formed a really good picture of one common pain they all shared as a team. I realized if I could solve this one common pain for them quickly, then they would see the power of salesforce and become my ally in pushing change throughout the organization! And it worked ☺
3) Learn what a quick win looks like, this skill is your secret weapon. Here is a chart of common quick win characteristics to get you started:
External Forms: any PDF/ email / Word / Excel or other form being used in your company can be replaced with a custom object and leveraging the force.com platform for automation, tracking and processing, cross-team collaboration and queue management. The sky is the limit here.
Email Churn: there is no structure in a free form email, so when a person needs to take action on an email they generally don’t have what they need the first time around if the process is initiated by an email.
Personal Example: One time in a past job, I realized there was a process that was initiated by the sales team by sending an email to one of four different email address “inboxes” and then they were worked by a different internal team. That internal team had service level agreements to meet because the actions they performed were to ensure existing client technical issues were addressed and managed quickly. SLAs were typically slipping due to the team not having all the information they needed to action it on the first try, there was no structure to the emails. I created a custom object, made a record type for each “inbox” email address and added validation rules and approval processes. It was wildly successful and was the launching pad to taking my career to a new level!
Approvals: when people are required to wait for an approval in order to move a process to the next step, they are generally keeping track of the pending requests manually in some way (email folder or Excel file). If you work with the teams involved in this process, you can figure out how to get the initial request initiated in salesforce and submitted in an approval flow (which lets you leverage automated email notification to distribution lists and queue management, just to name a few!)
Any Excel Tracking: ANY MANUAL EXCEL TRACKING PROCESS CAN BE REPLACED IN SALESFORCE, but some processes will need to be a bigger project than just a quick-win project. If you find one that seems to be handled within one (or two teams) and could be replaced by a custom object and some workflow rules with field update automation, it would be a huge win because you can give them reports and dashboard instead of them spinning their wheels trying to constantly make the Excel file match their reality!
Unique “Flags”: any external database ID or a third party association ID can be uploaded as a new external ID / Unique ID field on your accounts. This ID will be a huge help with integration (allowing you to start doing mass uploads of data from a different system to salesforce) to enhance syncing/reporting. Once you prove how powerful this is when you are doing it manually then you can try to get buy-in from management to get the process automated/integrated!
Personal Example: One time in a past job, I took the unique ID used by a third party association (an industry standard) and it allowed me to easily de-dupe/merge duplicate accounts, as well as boost the morale of the entire business development team as they started to have real confidence in the data! It was a QUICK WIN with a BIG PAYOFF all around!
4) Identify a front line manager (a prospective or current stakeholder) and proactively engage them by asking one question to get them talking: "what is your biggest process pain point, and why". Listen attentively, trying to map their pain to the quick win characteristics.
Front Line Manager: “I can’t keep track of what the team is actually doing because the Excel file we update is always out of sync. I have to hound the team constantly to update it, and I honestly can’t rely on it.”
You: “Tell me more about what you would do if you could see this data and could rely on it.”
Front Line Manager: “Oh! I would be able to know exactly what a realistic service level agreement is for each area of my team; and knowing where people are truly struggling would ensure I could get them the support and training they need. Right now I am unable to know if an employee is struggling with a certain concept/process or if they just have a hard time remembering to update the Excel spreadsheet.”
You: “Great, would you mind if I scheduled a meeting with one of your subject matter experts (SME) so they can show me their current process step-by-step?”
5) Keep your focus on expected outcomes when working to solve their pain. Go right for the jugular. What exactly is the result of solving their pain. Think about what would be needed to solve the real pain:
Problem: This manager needs to know exactly what a realistic service level agreement is for the team
Salesforce Solution: We need to know when the request was submitted and measure the time to action the request systematically by type/team. At the minimum we need the following solution:
-A custom object with multiple record types (one for each type – driven mostly by field requirements and validation rule requirements)
-An approval process that ensure the submission is routed to the right queue/team to work
-Type/Category picklist field (any sub-types that can drive validation rules/other field requirements outside/in-additional to the record type; sometimes you might need a dependency sub-type if necessary)
-Stage picklist field (i.e. New, Submitted, Actioned, Rejected, Recalled)
-Submitted date/time field and Actioned date/time field (auto populated using the “now()” field update action in the actions of the approval process)
-Actioned By text field (auto populated with the name of the current user actioning the final step of the approval process)
-#Days to Action formula number field with 2 decimals: (Actioned - Submitted)
-Dashboard component grouping “Actioned By” showing #Days to Action
-Dashboard component grouping “Type or Record Type” showing #Days to Action
-If necessary add another field: #Hours to Action formula number field with 2 decimals: ((Actioned - Submitted)*24), and add this to the Dashboard as well
6) Build the design in a Sandbox, focus on creating the bare-bones structure and demo it to the team quickly (quickly so that they know you are serious and demonstrating you will not put them on the side burner). Include the manager you interviewed and any SME you talked with to get the current state (and your boss if they would be interested). You don’t have to create all the bells-and-whistles at this point, just so you have what you need to dummy up the data and the dashboards to show what is possible if you spent more time solutioning.
7) In the meantime, continue interviewing more people so everyone knows you are interested in helping find solutions to broken processes. Don’t over commit yourself, pick one quick win at a time to actually implement… but make sure people know what you are doing and keep in contact with them regularly! Start building a list of potential projects.
8) Once you have done a demo and have the buy-in to continue with the project, communicate your implementation plan to everyone. If you think you have over communicated, Communicate More. People like to be in the loop and you need their expertise to make the process the best it can be. Let them be involved! Welcome their feedback and listen to their pain [always with a focus toward expected outcomes].
9) While continuing to build out the design, be sure you are leveraging formulas as the core foundation of your salesforce solution and implement (keep communicating!).
Salesforce formulas fuel your quick win design because they are designed to help produce your expected outcomes! Think of it this way, there are three primary categories of formulas you can use in your design and each of them work to ensure data quality, automate process and/or calculate data points:
- Validation Rules (allows you to ensure data quality and service level agreements/timelines are being met, reducing all the back and forth and getting info needed to take action the first time)
- Workflow Rules and Field Updates (use ISCHANGED to automate process, use the "today()" and "now()" date stamps to capture when criteria is met so you can empower people with reports and dashboard)
- Formula Fields (text, number and checkbox formula fields are highly powerful when you are focused on expected outcomes and helping empower decision makers:
TIP: You can check a box when a record was created outside of business hours using this formula (check out this awesome solution from the community)!
»Validation Rules Example:
Quickly destroy email churn replacing email with a custom object as a form solution. Use validation rules to ensure correct data is entered on each form type so the person actioning the request has everything they need from the start (without any back and forth needed)! Also, use it as an opportunity to train users during the process by giving clear validation rule errors so they understand what the issue is when saving, so they don’t get frustrated by errors. See below as an example:
»Workflow Rule & Field Updates Example:
Remove roadblocks by automating processes! Enhance reporting / SLA tracking by stamping the date when criteria are met (such as submittal date or approved date). See below example:
»Formula Field Example:
Use Text Formula Fields to visualize data from related records (such as the Account lookup field). Or (as shown below) use a Number Formula Field to calculate the number of days between two dates (such as submitted date and actioned date)! Once you make a formula field, the data is back populated automatically across all record, there is no need for a data load of any kind.
10) Make your roadmap! Use all the information you have gathered from the people in your company to create a future state roadmap. If you get some momentum with a successful quick win under your belt, approach your boss to give you more salesforce resources so you can do all the cool stuff on your roadmap. Get them excited and solicit the people that are happy with your work to help you get the resources you need.
The best part about all of this is that being a Change Agent, after all, is just doing activities that a change agent would do instead of only focusing on the technical part of your job as a salesforce administrator! These 10 steps are the same exact things I have done throughout my career. Take one of these actions, even-though you don’t believe you can be a change agent yet, and you (Yes!) will be a change agent ☺.
Melissa VanDyke is passionate about helping ambitious salesforce.com admins further their careers. Her own career path started as an administrative assistant who was passionate about process and project management. After being asked to start administering a new CRM system she started working hard to identify techniques to be successful at her new additional job duties. Knowing what it feels like to transition a career from administrative support to salesforce.com administration, and now into salesforce.com consulting, she brings a unique perspective to her trainings and content. You can find her resources at www.melissavandyke.com and @MVDSFDC on Twitter.
Also, find her on the success community at the Admin to Admin Academy group where she loves to hear from you!