Can You Automate This? Or, A Salesforce Admin’s Guide to Negotiating Business Process

03/16/2018 by Amy Bucciferro
Automation in Salesforce is great for well-defined processes, but what if you’re asked to automate something and find it to be less than well defined?

Often as a Salesforce Administrator, you will be asked to automate something on the platform for your organization. With tools like Process Builder, there is a lot you can do without even a line of code. Sometimes the request will be clear, and you can get right to work in a Sandbox building out the details. Most of the time, though, you will at least need to ask some follow-up questions, and this may lead to a circumstance where you find that the rules for when and what should happen are unclear even to the people requesting the automation. When this happens, it may be the case that this particular thing cannot be automated, but more likely is the case that the process just needs to be better defined. While it may not be your role, formally, in your organization to define business process, you can support your team in meaningful ways to help them arrive at a conclusion that will allow you to build some super Salesforce stuff.

Collect

The first thing to do is make sure you fully understand the request from the users’ perspective, including why it is needed, where it fits in overall business process, and what its implications are in your Salesforce setup. Don’t be afraid to ask why something is needed and ask for the specific purpose and expected outcome--this information will help you define the solution.

Anytime you are building automation you need to think of exceptions, edge cases, and data scenarios, to ensure that these are handled and there are no unexpected results. Don’t rely on users to think of every parameter that would define whether or not a requested automation should run for a given record. Carefully review the fields and relationships and existing processes that could intersect and follow up with your users with specific questions about what they would want the outcome to be in various specific scenarios. It may help to start drafting things in a sandbox to surface potential issues or unexpected results and help you visualize alternatives.

It is often helpful to ask what the process needs to be agnostic of Salesforce. Sometimes users get very caught up in how things are, and you need to help them think beyond the parameters of what they are accustomed to doing; after all, as an admin you know that the platform is constantly evolving, and there may be different ways to approach something than what’s in place or what was possible when it was originally built. This also might be necessary to define where a request fits in the overall business process and for you to understand what that overall process really needs to be, so you can suggest a solution that supports the real need, not just an ad-hoc request.

Also consider that users may not be aware of how the way they use Salesforce intersects with other parts of your organization. One group may want something to update automatically, while another may need to maintain manual control. Be sure to talk to all affected stakeholders before implementing new automation. When there is a conflict between different users needs, even conflicts between how different users understand the overall process, you can present these finding along with potential solutions back to the organization.

Present

It’s very much possible to surface conflicts of process and needs without creating a conflict in your organization. In fact, what you are doing is helping your organization define its business processes better and thus work more efficiently. Keep that in mind and you set yourself up as a broker of peace and progress. Here are some tips for effectively presenting the problem back to the organization to reach a resolution:

  • Give insight into how you arrived at your conclusions, including information about the original request and what you have found and attempted, as appropriate to the audience.

  • Provide potential solutions and be open to additional suggested solutions from stakeholders. These solutions could present a potential change in overall process, which you can couch in the technical explanation if you are concerned you may be perceived as overstepping your bounds (though I argue that such suggestions should be expected and valued from a good Salesforce admin).

  • Treat everyone’s needs as equally important and valid, even when they are superseded by the negotiated solution. Show that you have considered and measured pros and cons of potential solutions.

  • Have visuals, so you have something to show, not just talk about. This may be a demo of options in a sandbox, an outline of business process in a flow chart or bullet points, or, often, all of the above. You may want something someone can take away from a meeting, such as a chart of pros and cons of different solutions or process maps before and after, so decisions can be made with full information.

Iterate

Don’t expect to be able to resolve all questions or conflicts in the first pass, and don’t get discouraged if your initial suggestions are shot down. It is important to take feedback and incorporate it seriously. If gathering further information continues to point towards your original plan, be prepared to explain why. Iteration is an important part of the design process even before you build anything. It’s ok to go back to users with questions multiple times to get all of the information you need to make the right design choices and get buy-in and decisions from stakeholders.

Elevate

Wherever you sit in your organization, as a Salesforce administrator you provide the best value by incorporating skills that go beyond the technical, like project management and change management. Salesforce administration will often require you to operate like a business analyst, whether formally or not. It may feel scary to be working through solutions and resolving business processes with your organization’s leadership, but if you communicate effectively and take feedback seriously, you will elevate your own value along with facilitating important solutions and decisions for your organization.

Do you have a story of how you’ve helped define business process for your organization as a Salesforce administrator? Feel free to comment below, on the Salesforce Success Community, on our Facebook page, or directly at me on Twitter @ifitfloats.