Blog Posts

Cloud Consultant Toolbox - Timesavers

Timesaving tools for today’s Salesforce Admins and Consultants.
Cloud Consultant Toolbox - Timesavers

Cloud Consultant Toolbox - Timesavers

Here are some tools I find to be real time savers that can easily be adopted into your toolset.  This is by no means a comprehensive list. I won’t be including tools that most are likely fairly familiar with, like Google Drive or Gotomeeting.  Here we go.


Toggl - Time tracking


I’ve been through a few time trackers now.  Some are too basic, and others are trying too hard.  None that I know of have the flexibility and functionality of Toggl.  Yes, in essence, it's just a timer, but what makes it a timesaver (pun intended) is the ability to start or stop a timer conveniently and easily without having to dig around and remind yourself to do it.  Some of my favorite features include:



  • Embedded timers  - When you install the Toggl Chrome extension, the tool places timers next to items on your favorite websites, including Salesforce and Google Drive.  Just click the timer next to the opportunity name and off you go.    

  • Pomodoro timer -  Pomodoro is a technique to help break your work sessions into chunks in order to maximize productivity.  Toggl can be set to remind you to take a couple minute break every 25 minutes, or you can adjust the interval to whatever you like. 


  • Keyboard shortcuts - easily continue or stop a timer via custom keyboard shortcuts


  • Idle time tracking - Ever stepped away for while and forgot to turn off your timer.  Toggl tracks idle time and asks if you would like to discard or keep the time once you return to your computer.


  • Bonus - It’s possible to automatically have your tracked time from Toggl flow right into Salesforce via  Zapier, CloudPipes, or Cloud Work.




Sftoolkit.co - Cloud Tools for Salesforce

SFtoolkit

@benedwards44 deserves some major props here.  Sftoolkit is made up of 7 extremely handy tools:  Org Doctor, Org Compare, Data Compare, Switch, Schema Lister, Field Creator and Package Builder. This cloud-based set of tools has a little something for everyone. As a consultant, I find ‘Schema Lister’ to be one of my favorite ways to extract an org’s metadata, prior to a migration. It makes data mapping a breeze. If seeing your org’s metadata, as a well organized spreadsheet, produced in a matter of minutes doesn’t sound like a minor miracle right now, someday soon it will. So, keep this one in your back pocket.  


Another favorite here is Switch. Switch centralizes access to activating and deactivating workflow and validation rules, flows, and, last but not least, triggers in your org.  It’s not worth going to sftoolkit, selecting the Switch tool and logging into your org just to deactivate a single workflow rule. If, on the other hand, you’re deactivating many rules or flows of different kinds or for different objects, in preparation for a data migration or mass update, this could be a huge time saver.  Triggers get a special mention, due to the fact that one does not simply deactivate a trigger in Salesforce.  Code must be updated and redeployed.  This is where Switch makes an otherwise lengthy task a push button operation.  Impressive stuff.  It should be mentioned from a development perspective, that custom settings can be added to a trigger’s code to essentially create an on/off switch that can be easily updated in production and sandbox orgs alike. Here’s an example.  Listen to Cloud Focus Weekly episode 204 for more info about Sftoolkit and switch.



Jitterbit Cloud DataLoader - Data Loading

For many, this is probably pretty old news, but I think it’s worth mentioning again.  If you work in a lot of orgs, the ability to save multiple Salesforce org credentials directly in the application makes creating queries or updates simple and fast, with no need to enter credentials every time. I find this particularly handy with having to retry an insert or update that fails.  The data transformation or mapping screen in the Jitterbit Loader is a great bit of user interface that’s very intuitive.  For small scale migrations or regular data loading tasks, Jitterbit has the feel of a stripped down ETL tool, with the simplicity of a basic data loader.  A great tool for any admin or consultant.



Honorable Mentions


OmniFocus + GTD - Explaining the importance of OmniFocus and the rabbit hole that is Getting Things Done in the honorable mention section of this list would be laughable.  If this is the first time you’re stumbling across it, this blog post could change your life. Kickoff with one of @JasonMAtwood’s many blogs on the subject.  You’re welcome.;)


Sublime Text + MavinsMate - This one’s for the dev oriented. MavinsMate turns your favorite text editor, as long as it’s Sublime Text, into your new development console for Salesforce.  For a more thorough review check out @RogerMitchell’s blog post comparing IDEs for Salesforce.


Text Expander -  This is a remarkably simple yet incredibly powerful tool,  probably also considered a bit of an oldy but also an essential. TextExpander creates an endless list of ‘snippets’  that, when their corresponding abbreviation is typed, expand out to the full text of the snippet. I.e. when I type “,hlw”  it expands out to “Have a lovely weekend”. Things get even more awesome when you discover the full capability of TextExpander. An article here just scratches the surface.


MyNoise -  This can only be considered a time saver if awesome background noise helps you focus.  The amazing list of noise generators assembled on MyNoise will drown out the distractions and give you super-powered focus.  I recommend starting with a basic thunder storm and exploring from there.  


There are an endless array of tools to select from and pair with, in the world of cloud computing today. These are some of my favorites at the moment, and I hope you get some use out of them as well.


Discovered any other awesome tools worth sharing? Share them with me on the Arkus Facebook page, in the comments below, in the Success Community, or to me directly via Twitter at @jpbujold

Spring 17 for Lightning

Winter 17 has come and gone in a flash, and Spring 17 is upon us. Let’s talk about some of the newest features added to the Salesforce Lightning Experience.
Spring 17 for Lightning

Spring 17 for Lightning

If you haven’t noticed by some of the recent posts on the Arkus Blog, Lightning is here to stay. And that is reinforced with every release by the massive amounts of additions and tweaks to the platform. Some big, and some small, let’s talk about some of the new features being brought to us by the ever-evolving Salesforce Lightning Experience in the Spring 17 release.

Search for Contacts Using the Account Name

Ever find yourself in a position trying to remember John what's-his-name from the company you spoke to last month? Yeah, me too… but breathe a sigh of relief, there is a new feature to help people like us. Now you can easily search for a specific Contact within your org by using the Account Name as help. For example, typing in ‘Ryan Arkus’ in your search bar would bring back yours truly. I think this is a great new feature.

Subscribe to Reports in Lightning Experience

Sometimes you read the release notes and you come across something that makes you think, “Wait… how was that not already a feature?” This is one of those situations. You can now stop having to remember to log into Salesforce and check those reports every Monday morning. Subscribe to up to five reports and have the report emailed to you on a set schedule: daily, weekly, or monthly. In the email you’ll receive a link, click on it and be directed right to the report. This is a nice little jump in convenience for LEX.

Embed Your Flows in Lightning Pages (Beta)

Customization is king, am I right? Flow has yielded a sometimes frustrating, but ultimately rewarding experience every time, and I have learned to really like it. For those who are unfamiliar with Flow, it’s an application that can execute logic, interact with the Salesforce database, call Apex classes, and collect data from users. You can now build and add a Flow component to your Lightning Pages just like you would any other component. Imagine the possibilities! This new feature provides a new level of customization and flexibility to Lightning Pages.

Add the Related Record Component to Your Lightning Pages

One of my favorite things about working with Salesforce is that creating efficiency is at the core of everything I do. With this update, you can quickly show details associated to the record that you are viewing. This means that you could show details of a Contact associated to a Case or show information about a Parent Account right from the Account record. If by chance, there is nothing to show here because there is no record to show, you can create a new record or choose to link one yourself right from the page. This Lightning enhancement only serves to increase efficiency and you have to love that.

Follow Dashboards in Lightning Experience

If you are an LEX user and are tired of having to regularly check in on dashboards for updates, this enhancement should excite you. You’ll now have the ability to go to a dashboard, click ‘Follow’, and receive updates via Chatter. It’s little things like these that Lightning is missing and I am glad to know that they are taking another step in this release.

Spring 17 continues to improve upon Lightning functionality. Future releases promise more and more added functionality and I, for one, cannot wait! If you have any ideas on potential additions or tweaks that you think should be made to Salesforce Lightning, please post them on the IdeaExchange and don’t forget to go vote on already existing ideas.

How do you feel about the new Spring 17 LEX additions? Want to share your experiences or thoughts? Share them with me on the Arkus Facebook page, in the comments below, in the Success Community, or to me directly via Twitter at @RyanOwensRPO.

Trailhead Superbadges are Really Super

Just before Dreamforce 16 I discovered Trailhead Superbadges and realized that these are the future of learning more complex functionality in Salesforce.
Trailhead Superbadges are Really Super

Trailhead Superbadges are Really Super

New Learning Paths

Up until last year, Trailhead was geared towards what I’ll now call “regular ole’ badges.” As a user you would go down a trail, completing modules, until you earned a badge for completing the entirety of the trail. This was a really cool start and an excellent way of learning the basics, while keeping things fresh and fun with badging. There was something missing though. The trails didn’t go deep enough into real world scenarios or dive far enough into technical details to really learn at a deep level. Enter the Superbadge.

Lightning Experience Specialist

As of writing this post, there are five available Superbadges. I currently have only one and am working my way through another. The reason why I only have one and am working on the other is that these Superbadges take time, serious time. They are real projects and help to learn complex functionality at a very practical and applicable level. The one that I have completed is the Lightning Experience Specialist Superbadge.

The trail states that it will take approximately 4-6 hours to complete, and they were not kidding. This did take a legitimate full six hours to go from start to finish, and that does not even include the fact that there are a number of pre-requisite modules and trails that are necessary to complete before you can start on the Superbadge.

When Lightning Experience rolled out, it was a bevy of marketing and pitches about how it was going to change everything for the better. It was hard for me to see early on because to me, having used Classic for about ten years, it was just “different Salesforce”. I didn’t even know where to start. I really applaud Salesforce for putting in the effort to create a learning path in the form of this Superbadge. Without it, I would still be poking around release notes and Googling everything I need to change things in Lightning Experience. The Superbadge explores Lightning in detail, from custom pages to process builder and even flow. What surprised me in a very delightful way was how much, as an administrator, you can do within Lightning Experience. By going through this trail I gained a whole new perspective and appreciation for Lightning Experience that I otherwise would not have had.

Partners Beware

Salesforce is starting to accredit partners and recognize people with these Superbadges. It is right there on your Partner Community profile, as well as your Success Community profile and will start to show up on your AppExchange listings. I can imagine a world where these Superbadges become the technical enablement of the future. It is pretty close already, as you’ll know if you’ve completed any of these Superbadges. They really are in-depth,challenging, and are exactly what the community needs to learn new technologies, as Salesforce continues to innovate and morph in different ways.

I mentioned above that I am making my way through another Superbadge. I’m working on the Security Specialist Superbadge, which is estimated at another 4-6 hours. This one would be more of a reinforcement of existing knowledge, but you never know what might be thrown at you, and you can never stop learning and having fun if you go down the trail with Superbadges.

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

Tips for Selecting the Right Marketing Automation

Marketing automation is a powerful tool in your company’s CRM strategy, but it can be daunting to select the best option for your needs.
Tips for Selecting the Right Marketing Automation

Tips for selecting the right marketing automation

Marketing automation platforms allow companies to create one-to-one communication with all of their prospects, leads, customers, or clients. It expands on the power of a CRM, works with it, and can help connect marketing and sales. It’s also a complex and potentially expensive platform that your team will need to learn, so it’s important to take the time, learn about your options, and ask the right questions before signing on the line.

 

Know your database

Most marketing automation platforms are priced based on your database size. How many contact, lead, or client records do you have? This is a good time to start a data review – how many duplicates are in your database today? How clean is your data? Going through a data cleanse before adopting a marketing automation tool will help save you time and money and get you up and running faster. 

Know your strategies

What channels are you using today or want to use in the future? What are your goals? How will you measure success?

These seem like obvious questions, but they are fundamental to ensuring that you make the right choice in any technology. Understanding what channels you use can help prioritize functionality. Knowing your goals and how you intend to measure them help know what sort of reporting you need.

Even things like B2B vs. B2C marketing are things to consider. There are some solutions out there built for account-based marketing (ABM), and there are others that are focused on reaching out to individuals. 

Your database type and size, and your primary strategies are your keys to prioritizing functionality. What do you have to have? What would you like to have? What is something that you’d like to have but are not willing to pay extra for? Take those priorities to heart – color code them, create a matrix, whatever will help you to stick to the list.

Start with a wide net 

If your company is brand new to marketing automation, don’t limit yourself. Based on your database and goals, there are - guaranteed - more than two options. Be open-minded, review anything you find or hear about. Sometimes there’s a single platform that will work for you, and sometimes you can find á la carte options for a suite of solutions.

The wide net will not last long; some options will be clearly too expensive, incomplete, or simply not a good fit. Narrowing it down to five or fewer options will be easier than it may seem.

Dig deep with your top choices

Don’t let your potential partners off easy. By the time you start seeing demos, you might be tempted by the shiny features that they highlight. They are designed to be selling points; they are designed to show the coolest, newest features. But unless those coolest, newest features are on your list of priorities, they are not enough to make a decision.

There is a long list of questions you should think about asking, and they will vary depending on your needs, but here’s a starting point:

 

1.     What kind of integration do they have with your CRM? (Expect a delayed integration – anything from 3 to 10 minutes between syncs is normal.)

  • What information is shared and what is not?

  • Does the information sync both ways?

  • What kind of control do you have on the sync - winning values, what fields sync, etc.?

2.     What kind of reports do they provide out-of-the-box? Can you create custom reports?

3.     What other integrations do they offer? (Think webinar platforms, website metrics, blogs, etc.)

4.     How does the platform handle your top channels? (Emails, content, social media, etc.)

  • Are all channels included in a basic license, or are they separate?

  • Does the platform provide an avenue into a new channel?

5.     How does the platform help manage things like email deliverability and SEO (Search Engine Optimization)?

6.     Do they have a customer community?

7.     How do they provide support? Are there SLAs (Service Level Agreements)?

8.     Do they provide training for administrators and/or users? Is it free or paid?

9.     Can you customize the platform?

  • Can you create new fields or objects?

  • Can you control user profiles?

10.  How often do they update their platform?


If you have many priorities, a complex matrix, or a strict budget, consider running a full RFP (Request for Proposal). Having all your top choices answer the same questions, based on your priorities, makes it far easier to have an apples-to-apples comparison and select the best option.

Beyond functionality

Finally, consider the business itself. Transitioning from one platform to another can be time consuming and difficult, so if possible, pick a partner that you want for the long haul.

You can learn a lot about a company when you negotiate with them. If you have a hard time negotiating price, don’t expect that to change when you’re a customer. If you go through the sales cycle with only one or two people, you are likely to have a single point of contact as a customer, rather than a tree of options.

Ask for references. Many companies are happy to connect you with a current customer with a similar business model to answer your questions.

Look at their blog – is their content in-line with current marketing trends? If they understand marketing and are providing great content, they understand what marketing automation needs to do.

 

Selecting any new business technology requires forethought, planning, and time. Marketing automation is no exception to that. The good news is that there are a lot of great options out there. If you take the time to understand and prep your database, list and prioritize your goals and needs, explore options, and then dig into your finalists, you won’t go wrong. And then the real work can begin.

 

Have you recently adopted marketing automation? How did you make your decision? Share your stories and questions in the comments below, on our Facebook page, or directly with me on Twitter @thesafinhold or on the Success Community.


GTD Yearly Review

A look at a not so traditional GTD practice called the Yearly Review.
GTD Yearly Review

GTD Yearly Review

The productivity philosophy of David Allen has changed my life. His Getting Things Done (GTD) book and the supporting technology of Omnifocus and Evernote have given me the mental freedom to focus on the more important things in life, in addition to a tremendous decrease in anxiety. (For more insight into my GTD practice, feel free to read my previous blog, A Life Well Balanced.) This post is to give you some insight into another part of my process, which serves my intent to unfold the fruits of the GTD labors : the yearly review. I would expect most hardcore followers to believe this isn’t necessary, but my intentions go beyond the tactical. In addition to validating that my system works, it gives me the oh-so-often-forgotten opportunity to reflect on what I did accomplish and feel any kind of grateful emotions about them I see fit. This exercise becomes a springboard into how I see my new year shaping up and what new and exciting challenges I wish to face.

Quick Tactical Note: It is my practice to use Evernote to compile lists of potential actions (not committed to) for every aspect of my life that I would like to take in a given year, which I proceed to cross off and mark with dates as they happen during my weekly review ritual. These lists range from how many movie nights we had with the kids to how many times I went paddleboarding in the year.

The Doing

The first step is to go through the technology that supports my practice. I start with going through OmniFocus and Evernote, to make sure nothing slipped (validate and polish my process), drop projects that I don’t want to do anymore, and set placeholders for new projects and lists. This lets my ego know I can trust these tools and gives me the mental stamp of approval to keep going.  Once I know I have that in order, I move to physical and electronic paperwork, to shred the unneeded and clean up areas of my office that might have lost the attention they deserved.  This is where I will organize tech cords and maybe even some tools. This process takes some time, but the feeling I get after is well worth the labor.  Once I have organized and shredded, I move my attention to the reflection and planning.

The Reflecting

The most important part of this process is the reflection of what I accomplished the previous year and letting myself sit in a moment of gratitude. I find it is human nature to focus our attention on what went wrong, in order to allow our wondrous ego to come up with new ways to protect us from future failures. I say ask the ego to take time off from survival planning. You would be surprised how much you did accomplish if you took the time to reflect. My year consisted of one big construction project completed and another started, dozens of date nights, movie and game nights, and some amazing trips with family where we explored new states, countries, and museums.

The Planning

After I have a moment to celebrate my accomplishments for the previous year, I turn my attention to setting my goals for the year. I like to set three for each area of my life, and I list them in Evernote, so I can look at them during my weekly review. One I am very determined to achieve is taking on surfing as a summer activity. In addition to the goals I set, I like to create weekly incantations I read aloud that embody the emotional development I look to achieve in the coming year.  This kicks my year off, and then of course I review it often and sometimes change it if I feel the intuitive urge to do so.

So there it is.  A yearly review after a full year of weekly reviews.  The big thing for me this year was how little time it took me to accomplish this.  It basically took a day, when it took almost three about three years ago.  It is a testament to the GTD mastery I have been working towards over the years.  Please feel free to comment below, on the Salesforce Success Community, on our Facebook page, or directly at me on Twitter @Salvatoriello.