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The official Arkus blog provides your weekly dose for all thing Salesforce. Stay on top of the latest, most relevant Salesforce features, applications, and best practices.

Getting Started with GTD

So how do you really get started doing GTD after you’ve seen the videos, read the book, and heard the many tips and best practices? This blog will take you through my journey as a very new GTD up and comer.
Getting Started with GTD

Getting Started with GTD

 

Getting Things Done (GTD) long-time-practitioner, Jason Atwood, recently did a blog on tips after having done and perfected GTD for 10 years. GTD is about increasing productivity and organizing everything in your world so that even your personal and work life is synchronous, which in theory sounds wonderful but in practice feels impossible to do at times. So I will walk you through the challenges I experienced and continue to experience in getting started, what has worked, what has not worked when trying to implement this new way of thinking and functioning.


Challenges Getting Started

I hit three major roadblocks in those first few weeks of trying to start GTD:

  • Finding those trusted places where I could capture information so that I could get everything out of my head

  • Finding time to step back and review everything as David Allen suggests in his book (full review and purge)

  • Not being able to follow the David Allen’s 2 minute rule consistently, resulting in being easily side-tracked in doing work rather than organizing and prioritizing

I would choose 3 or 4 locations to capture information but they were kind of artificial, not part of my routine. Given this, I didn’t regularly check them and so all that information stayed in my head anyway. I hit a perpetual cycle of not being organized enough to properly implement this and then life got super busy and I went back to my old habits and ways of doing things. Starting over felt so overwhelming and I felt a bit defeated by the process that I procrastinated trying again right away. When I first read David Allen’s 2 minute rule I thought it was genius and yet in reviewing work I kept saying I could quickly just finish this item, 5 minutes become 15 minutes and then 30 minutes and now I was officially doing the opposite of what was intended.


What Has Worked

Although I have faced and am still facing many challenges, there are some things that are working with shifting to GTD in thought and practice. I have implemented great tools to help support, like Omnifocus. I no longer have 100s of post its everywhere, which is how I used to manage capturing random information prior to GTD (I can literally feel Jason Atwood somewhere smiling as I say this). Through this process, I now have an awareness of what needs to happen and find that I push myself to make efforts to change and really maximize the tools that I have. I have taken time to do inventory of major areas of my life that needs re-organizing and am starting to tackle them. I’m also learning to think about productivity in a general sense, not based on work vs. personal. That shift alone has reduced quite a bit of stress, not having to manage separate systems for my personal life and my work life.


What Still Feels Like s Struggle 

After 6 months of using GTD principles, I still find that I struggle to maintain what I have implemented (systems, routines) when something new, major, and urgent gets thrown my way. If they don’t fit into my current system, I start to track them on the side. I like to compare it to juggling (although I can’t juggle at all, not even 2 balls, but think it’s still a great analogy). Imagine you’ve finally and successfully started juggling 3 balls after months of practice and all the balls are consistently and smoothly moving in the air.  Then someone throws in an unexpected 4th ball rather than let the ball drop, you try to catch it in the moment and all your balls drop and you have to start over. Even worse, now you’re nervous about this 4th ball coming, even though you clearly haven’t practiced yet, and it’s now affected how you were juggling the 3 you had just been juggling perfectly. I find that I’m still letting new items that don’t have a clear home in my new world throw me off and rather than taking time to fit them it, I default to old habits to accomplish them. This begins to affect the effectiveness of the foundation I built.


So Now What?

I think perseverance and consistency is key. This process was not meant to be mastered in a few days or even months. I have to keep reminding myself of this and to be more patient with where I am in the process and not judging it. The moment I do, I notice that I take 3 steps back. As Jason highlighted in his 5th and 6th tips, it’s better to tackle smaller areas, build a foundation and then expand into other areas of your life rather than trying to do it all at once. That’s how I’ve been thinking about this and it’s coming along, slower than I was hoping but definitely moving in an upward direction and getting stronger every day. GTD has been such a great addition to my life and has really changed the way I’m approaching everything in my world. I truly believe that the time and effort that it takes to make this really work is absolutely worth it.


If you can relate to these challenges as you try GTD and want to share your story, please feel free to comment below, on our facebook page, or directly at me on Twitter @sylviacabral44.

 

Heartbleeding Wedding - Episode #173 of CloudFocus Weekly Podcast

Getting started with Salesforce, WeddingForce, Salesforce1 Boston Tour, Heartbleed, Dreamforce App moving to Success and our continued struggles with Spring 14.
Heartbleeding Wedding - Episode #173 of CloudFocus Weekly Podcast

Heartbleeding Wedding - Episode #173

Best Practices for Getting Started with Salesforce.com

Best practices for a successful Salesforce.com implementation.
Best Practices for Getting Started with Salesforce.com

Best Practices for Getting Started with Salesforce.com

Over the last 4 years we have had the opportunity to work on over 300 Salesforce projects and that number is growing by the week.  With this experience comes a large knowledge base of best practices. These common themes were very consistent across our most successful projects. Before you take the plunge into the Salesforce world, consider these best practices for your implementation.

Top Down Approach

Having an executive sponsor who provides full support and participation for the length of the  implementation and beyond is the most critical piece to a successful implementation.  Most do not like change and executives and senior leaders provide the authority and credibility needed for a change to be successful.  Having the mantra of “If it’s not in Salesforce it doesn’t exist” is a sure fire way to make sure your users are using the system.  Once they are over the hump of change, if implemented correctly they will start to see Salesforce for the efficiency building tool it is.

Expertise

If someone at your organization doesn’t have the expertise to implement Salesforce then you should find someone to do it.  Whether you spend the money to get someone trained or hire an implementation partner, it is critical to get started with your Salesforce instance using someone who knows how to implement the requirements.  Equally important is having someone who can be the project manager to ensure timelines and communication requirements are being met.  Implementation partners should be providing both the project management and the implementation and you should make sure their project management style meets the needs and culture of your organization.

Crawl, Walk, Run

In addition to being adverse to change, too much functionality can overwhelm your users and hurt adoption.  It is critical to find the right amount of functionality that can be delivered quickly and provide enough ROI.  Decisions to do things like custom development or integration should be brought to the table only if the users absolutely require it to do their jobs.  These components both increase initial and ongoing cost as well as add time for deployment.   If it fits in the category of “nice to have”, it might we worth tabling it for a later phase. 

Get Organized

Once you have sponsorship and an implementation team in place, the last piece is getting organized.  No goal is worth setting if you don’t have an end date or you cannot measure it.  Having the right people who understand Salesforce and how to manage the project will be critical to this exercise. Once you have set the level of functionality, come up a with realistic timeline and stick to it.  Keeping momentum is key to success and moving dates without legitimate reasons can poke a hole in the project sails.

Making the decision to move to Salesforce is very exciting.  It can streamline your business processes and provide you with insight into your customers that you never have before.  To help ensure success of any implementation, it is critical to follow the best practices listed above. 

If you would like to discuss further tweet at me at www.twitter.com/Salvatoriello or comment below.

Managing My Wedding on Force.com

For those that don’t listen to the CloudFocus Weekly podcast where I’ve been talking about this for months, I am getting married. Like any other Salesforce geek I decided to manage my wedding inside of Salesforce.
Managing My Wedding on Force.com

Managing My Wedding on Force.com

Introducing WeddingForce

How else would a five times certified, three time MVP, and all around Salesforce geek spend his Labor Day? Obviously he would spend it building out an application to manage his wedding. Last summer I got engaged and all of a sudden after the jubilation of the engagement day settled down a bit, it hit me, we need to plan this wedding, "we" being the operative word. I started to think about all the things that we as a couple needed to do and collaborate around to plan the wedding and it reminded me of all the types of business processes that I help clients with all the time. I came to only one conclusion; I needed Salesforce to help get us through this planning and data tracking event (I realize this is a very odd way of looking at planning a wedding, almost robotic). Over the course of three hours on a summer afternoon I built out what is known to us as WeddingForce. It’s the end all be all for all data related to our wedding.

Key Features

WeddingForce boasts some great features for collaborating around wedding planning. We do all of the following using Salesforce and some other 3rd party tools all built with clicks and no code:

  • Track families / households invited to the wedding and whether or not they’ve RSVP’d
  • Track individuals who are invited to the wedding
  • Plan campaigns for save the date mailings, bachelor party, shower, and our rehearsal dinner
  • Capture all possible wedding venues that we took a look at with key fields such as price, location, and comments around what we did and didn’t like with fun statuses like “hated it, loved it, and finally, this is the one”
  • Vendors ranging from hotels where we’ve blocked off rooms to photographers to bakeries 
  • Gifts that people get for us and for what reason (engagement, shower, wedding) 
  • We did our mailing labels for our save the date envelopes using Conga Composer

WeddingForce Tabs

WeddingForce Dashboard Snapshot

Adoption

Thanks to Salesforce’s easy to use interface the fiance needed about 10 minutes of training in order to get on board and using WeddingForce. She’s a real pro at entering data, especially gifts… The Chatter feed was a major driving factor in adoption as well - it was very familiar to her and a great way for us to communicate about certain vendors, upload price sheets and images, as well as an easy and effective way for her to make feature requests. Nothing like getting a Chatter post from your soon to be wife asking you to add a checkbox to an object.

After all was said and done we have a centralized location with our budget, all of our invitees, their RSVPs, Gifts, Vendors, and all the reporting that you could possibly ask for. Not to mention tickler lists for Gifts without Thank You notes or People who haven’t yet RSVP’d. All the goodness that a user of Salesforce who is selling multi-million dollar deals would expect, except this is to manage the wedding of the century...mine.

Please feel free to comment below, on the Salesforce Success Community, on our Facebook page, or directly at me on Twitter @JustEdelstein.

Tips from 10 Years on GTD

My journey starting, using, and trying to master the Getting Things Done (GTD) principles over the last 10 years.
Tips from 10 Years on GTD

Tips from 10 Years on GTD

Last year when Justin and I did the episode of CloudFocus Weekly about GTD we got a lot of response about the stories behind the productivity principals. In doing my research I looked back to the beginning of my journey and realized that in 2014 I would have been practicing GTD for an entire decade. This is my origin story and some advice for those just starting out.

Procrastination Panic

My journey with GTD started after months of paralyzing procrastination that was starting to deeply affect my work and home life. I was putting off everything, knowingly dropping balls but couldn't seem to break the cycle. Each and every thing that I had to do kept building in my head as the days and months went on. It ruined my sleep and kept me at a level of semi-panic. At some point, after months of inaction, I searched for books on procrastination on the internet seeking self help. It wasn't a long search until I found Getting Things Done by David Allen with the hundreds of reviews and accolades. Amazon to the rescue.

The Book

While reading the book I was both intrigued, excited and daunted by the sheer amount of work ahead. David Allen talks of taking an entire weekend to get started and that seemed like a huge investment of time. Slowly but surely after finishing the book, I starting purchasing the tools (label makers, file folders, etc) and evaluating places to start my lists. I had always been a Palm user and was currently using the Treo which had an excellent task application. I decided it was good enough to get started so I divided in creating @Email and @Computer lists on my Treo and trying to capture everything that came into my head. It took over six months, but my procrastination was slowly replaced with a sense of control and calm.

The First Few Years

I like to talk about GTD as a journey because while the first read had some impact and helped with immediate things like email and task management, it took a few years of going in and out of GTD for bigger things to really take hold. I re-read the book a few years later and found a whole new set of principals to put into action such as areas of focus and life altitudes. I backed up the book by reading blogs and watching videos by productivity gurus such as Merlin Mann. I upped my task management to OmniOutliner with Kinkless GTD which eventually led me to OmniFocus where I have been ever since.

Ten Years of Tips

After ten years of practicing GTD it has become so much a part of what I do, who I am and the way I approach anything that removing it would be impossible. Concepts like ubiquitous capture, commitments, next actions, and weekly review are now just a part of my DNA. It has led me to read another twenty or so books as well as incorporate other life measurements that now are the foundation of how I approach life. As a manager I have helped coach others in the principals and made it a foundation of our work at Arkus.

It is hard to sum up ten years of anything but here are ten tips on getting started and getting great at getting things done.

1. Don't start with the book. Instead start with David Allen's Ted Talk (LINK) which is a 20 minute video that if inspires you, go onto the book.

2. Read the book slowly. Take a chapter at a time, taking in some of the things and start practicing them. Write things down.

3. Ask for help. Talk to someone you know to help you go through it. Ask about some of the principals or find an internet community. It is much easier to put things in context with real life examples.

4. Don't overdue contexts. It is my experience that while they are still useful as a planning tool for tasks, they are less useful in terms of lists and views. Technology has made @Email basically anywhere.

5. Try one thing a month. Take one concept like capturing and just work on that one skill for a month, moving on when you feel like you got it.

6. Don't get caught up in the tool. There are a lot of tools out there so find one and stick to it. A lot of people get caught up trying to find the "perfect" one which in itself is a waste of time.

7. Reward yourself with stuff to help motivate like folders and label makers, maybe a paid Dropbox account or Evernote Premium. Calculate the return on investment in terms of your time.

8. Double down on the two minute rule. It is so critical, so easy to remember and to practice there is no reason not to make it the first hill to climb.

9. Don't stop at the book. There are great blogs, podcasts, books, videos and audio series out there that are in some ways better than the book. The Weekly Review series by David Allen (LINK) finally hit that home for me and has helped others that I have coached.

10. Share the love. Nothing solidifies a concept or principle better than sharing it with someone else. Explain it to a spouse or friend, put it out in your social network and see the reaction.

At this point GTD has just become like eating, sleeping or exercising. Something that keeps my mentally healthy and ready to take on all aspects of life.

If you have a GTD origin story, feel free to share it with me in the comments below, on our Facebook page, Salesforce Community or directly @JasonMAtwood.

Syncing Prices - Episode #172 of CloudFocus Weekly

Some experience with tools to sync Salesforce with Outlook and Gmail, Google cuts cloud storage prices in a war of the clouds and Salesforce1 heads to bean town.
Syncing Prices - Episode #172 of CloudFocus Weekly

Syncing Prices - Episode #172

Outlook & Google Sync Off with Salesforce.com

A look at Gmail and Outlook syncing alternatives for Salesforce.com.
Outlook & Google Sync Off with Salesforce.com

Outlook & Google Sync Off with Salesforce.com

With people these days on the go and multi-tasking using many tools during the course of a day, it’s extremely beneficial to be able to pull up calendars, contacts, email references quickly and in whatever tool you’re currently using.  That’s why syncing tools between platforms have become so popular.  Salesforce has an out of the box solution but it’s only for Outlook and only available to PC users. So here’s a few alternative applications for both Outlook and Google that may do the trick for you...

iHance - Absolute Automation

What it syncs with: Outlook and Gmail Email
Reviews: 4.9 stars with 253 reviews
Cost: $10/user/month (discount for nonprofits)

This product is both Mac and PC compatible with Outlook which is nice. If there are people on the ‘to’ and ‘cc’ lines of an email, this stores only one record in Salesforce.com and links it to all the other contact records.  In contrast the Salesforce feature creates a separate record for each contact, that’s a potentially big data storing difference if there’s attachments. If a person on the email doesn’t have a record, it stores it in an ‘email’ object so you can easily go back and either create a new Salesforce record or add to an existing contact. This product also supports email to case. Reviews give general kudos to their support team as well as how easy it is to setup and use.

CureCRM Email Sync

What it syncs with: Outlook and Gmail Email
Reviews: 4.3 stars with 70 reviews
Cost: Limited Free package for sending email but price for full app isn’t readily available

This product has an email sync object which stores all incoming and outgoing emails. When you select one, you go to a reference record and from there click the name to a record with a widget that includes a history of all email correspondence for that reference. This is where you can create a new contact, account or lead. From both Gmail and Outlook there are side panels that display the full conversation history and you can create new records from this panel as well. There’s also a ‘Follow-up Robot’ that auto sends and syncs follow up emails. This is great if you have a lot of back and forth in one email conversation. Reviews of this product seem to really like this feature.

Appirio Cloud Sync for Google Apps

What it syncs with: Google Apps calendar, contacts list, and tasks
Reviews: 4.3 stars with 65 reviews
Cost: Free 30 day trial then $4/user/month (discount for non-profits)

We use this application here at Arkus and it was a simple setup with flagging a few fields and letting it run behind the scenes. I personally haven’t had a problem with the Google calendar and Salesforce calendar sync being off. Much like the Salesforce for Outlook solution, you can determine what direction you want to sync; one way or two ways. You can even create filters to define what should be copied.  Great thing is that it only pulls from your work calendar and leaves all your other Google calendars (personal) out of the syncing process.

Cirrus Insight

What it syncs with: Google Apps - Gmail, Calendar, Contacts
Reviews: 4.8 stars with 347 reviews
Cost: $15/user/month (discount for non-profits)

This product really brings Salesforce to your Gmail account.  There’s a side panel where you can add new contacts, leads, accounts, and opportunities.  You can sync emails to Salesforce as you’re writing them in Gmail. The user interface is also pretty intuitive and simple. The reviews are pretty impressive and (no wonder at 4.8 stars) but it’s a bit pricy compared with the Appirio solution.

There are a lot of syncing options out there, it really boils down to what platforms you’re working with, what type of syncing you need, and your company's budget. I recommend before jumping into one completely go through the AppExchange evaluate and maybe try out a few if there’s the option for a free trial period.

Have other syncing tools you think are awesome? Please feel free to comment below, on our Facebook page, or directly at me on Twitter @LeiferAshley.

 

Salesforce 15 Origin Story - Episode #171 of CloudFocus Weekly

The blog is full of Dataloader.io and Conga Composer 8 with some sneak peaks at the next few weeks, we tell our Salesforce 15 origin stories and question why Spring 14 has been so delayed.
Salesforce 15 Origin Story - Episode #171 of CloudFocus Weekly

Salesforce 15 Origin Story - Episode #171

Conga Composer 8 Features Coming Soon

A look at some of the new features that Conga is bringing in their Composer 8 release this Spring.
Conga Composer 8 Features Coming Soon

Conga Composer 8 Features Coming Soon

There are so many great features coming out this spring and we wanted to highlight a few that are already standing out. So for you administrators out there who are familiar with Conga Composer, you will definitely get a sense of how these changes will be a huge time saver when building and merging templates using Composer 8. 

Google Drive Integration

Yes, it’s as exciting as it sounds! With this release, you will now be able to use Conga Composer completely in the cloud using this new Google Drive integration. Composer 8 provides a series of easy parameters to enable you to create Google Docs, Sheets, or Slides as well as store output files within Google Drive. So you will no longer have to work or save from your local computer and will have the option to work on Conga solutions from almost anywhere.

User Interface

Conga Composer 8 brings a new user interface and once you become familiar with it, you will see just how much easier it is to use. This has all of the functionality that you are used to and more.

You will notice the addition of a Preview button to the interface that is a great feature to highlight. Conga Composer now allows you to preview the merged template before doing an official merge. So you will no longer have to choose between adding the auto-attach parameter and previewing the template with the merged fields.   

Enhanced Template Builder

The Template Builder is really key for accessing the appropriate fields that are needed for the templates. This new release is introducing features for the builder that will really change the landscape on how this is currently done.

  • Fields are Grouped by Dataset and are Sortable

  • Ability to Copy Groups of Merge Fields to Clipboard and Paste

  • Entire Detail Regions Can Now be Created in a New Template Canvas Feature

The Template Builder is a great feature in itself but has really only allowed you to access and merge fields one at a time, which could be very time consuming if you plan to merge several fields in your template. In Conga Composer 8, the fields are grouped by dataset and sortable so they will be much easier to find and you can grab groups of merge fields at a time to paste to your template. The most exciting feature is having a new Template Canvas where you can now create an entire detail region with the TableStart and TableEnd tags using drag and drop. It just doesn’t get any easier than this.

 

Word Template Enhancements

For you avid Conga Word template users, you will be excited to hear the following changes that are being made to Word templates.

  • Can Use Text-based Merge Fields

  • Fully Supports Text boxes and Tables with Text-wrapping (set to “around”)

  • Nested Detail Regions are now supported (using SOQL queries) 

You can now bypass the clipboard and use text based merge fields with double curly brackets. This will cut down on time when adding merge fields. You can use text boxes and tables with text-wrapping, which will allow so much more flexibility in how you design and layout your templates. Now you can use nested detail regions (via SOQL queries), which is ever so exciting. So you can begin to merge tables within tables, which up until now has not been possible.

 

In addition to the features discussed above, there will also be great enhancements to the HTML Email Editor and additional parameters. Click on Composer 8 Release Notes if you are interested in seeing more details on these features. If you would like to test-drive any of these features, here’s the link to Conga Composer Beta 8 to get access. So definitely look out for this release coming this spring and hope you are as excited and ready for these new features as I am.

 

Please feel free to comment below, on our Facebook page, or directly at me on Twitter @sylviacabral44.

 

Review: Dataloader.io

Here is a review of Dataloader.io by MuleSoft, a Salesforce.com data loading tool.
Review: Dataloader.io

Review: Dataloader.io

In the last few weeks Arkus was challenged with setting up a recurring data loading process requiring exports, imports and updates in Professional Edition without access to the Salesforce API.  The Salesforce wizard was limited in what we needed to do (no error log files or ability to export) so we needed another solution that would work and be easy for the client to do on their own.  Until finding Dataloader.io we didn’t think we would be able to do it.  The experience was seamless and so much so that we might replace the use of the Salesforce Dataloader with it.  Here is a quick review of some of the key features that make it worthwhile.

Price

The first benefit worth mentioning is the cost.  If you are doing one-off data loading which is the basis of this review, the Free version gives you all you need.  If you need more robust features like scheduling jobs, connection to more than one environment or FTP support then for a few hundred dollars a month, you can get their Professional Edition.  The Professional Edition comes with dedicated support but both come with Community Support which us Salesforce Admins know that route can be faster than dedicated support.

Didn’t Know You Could Do That

The reason we investigated this tool in the first place was the need to find something that could work with the Salesforce Professional Edition. Salesforce gives you limited access to the API with Professional Edition but unfortunately the combination of reports and the Salesforce wizard was not meeting the requirement.  To make this a seamless process that our client could repeat, we needed something better.  Though there are limitations, Datatloader.io did the job.  As per their message inside the tool, Salesforce Professional Edition supports Batch API which allows for the first 10,000 rows of an object.  Our client’s data was nowhere near that limit so for now, it works.

Ease of Use

As mentioned above, the reason we used the tool was to get around the API limitation but as we used the tool we found it very efficient and seamless.  For starters, it is web-based.  You do not have to download anything or install an app to use.  (Go to their website and click the “login to Salesforce” button in the upper left.)  It also doesn’t require the need for a security token to login.  I was able to use the standard Salesforce login credentials to get in without the need of a security token.  The user interface was very self explanatory but for those who needed a little guidance they offered  easy to read “How-To” pages.  The process to do any task is driven by a wizard where you select the object, fields and then execute.  The wizard offers easy searchability throughout the steps, the ability to filter, sort and write SOQL queries and as you are just about to execute the task, you have nice summary of the job with the ability to schedule the task and select a specific destination folder for where you can send a copy of the results.  Once the task is run, you see the results in a history page.  What was really nice about this is you can edit, rerun and clone the task right from the history page without having to go through the wizard again.

Summary

What started out as a mission to find a tool to solve a problem turned into a possible replacement for an existing one.  In addition to working with the Salesforce Professional Edition that suited our needs, Dataloader.io offers some really nice time saving features that can support your data loading efforts in the future.

 

If you would like to discuss further tweet at me at www.twitter.com/Salvatoriello or comment below.


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