Blog Posts

One "Soft" Skill Every Salesforce Professional Needs

Learning how to identify projects and break down next actions is an indispensable skill for all Salesforce professionals to cultivate, both for career success and personal satisfaction.
One "Soft" Skill Every Salesforce Professional Needs

One "Soft" Skill Every Salesforce Professional Needs

Projects, Projects Everywhere

Are you a project manager? Your job title or description may not say so, but all of us are managing projects all of the time. They may not be big (or small) implementations or even be Salesforce projects at all. Projects are everywhere in our work and our lives, and learning to identify projects and break down next actions is as key to your health and happiness as it is to your career.

So what is a project? Fundamentally, it is anything you want to accomplish that has more than one step. At work, this is pretty much everything except the most rote of tasks. Testing out a new App? That’s a project. Updating some code? That’s a project. Putting together some reporting for stakeholders? Conducting a training session? Doing some data cleanup? These are all projects. Even if you are not “the” project manager for a larger project like a Salesforce implementation, considering the elements within your responsibility as a project or series of related projects will help you organize your own work to be as efficient as possible.

I challenge you to also consider your personal and professional development as projects. With the Salesforce release cycle, certifications to get and maintain, new products to learn and explore, events to attend, and opportunities to volunteer and give back, Salesforce professionals have a lot to keep up with in the professional sphere. Many of us set goals to get a new certification or do some pro bono work, etc., but how are you going to make it all happen? When we identify these as projects, we start to set ourselves up in a framework to actually reach the goal.

Projects aren’t all work either. Taking a vacation, sending holiday cards to your friends and family, buying a gift for that special someone, these are all projects in our personal lives. Treating them as such can help you give them the appropriate amount of your attention and even help you maintain a better work life balance.

Why is this so important?

Personally I like accomplishing things. If you’re reading this, I bet you do, too. It is very hard to accomplish anything, though, unless you define the thing you are going to accomplish and take specific actions to move toward your goal.

Once you identify something as a project, you can start to break it down using what we Getting Things Done (GTD) devotees refer to as the natural planning model. At the core, this is the concept of moving a project along by identifying the next available action. Even if you are not going full-on GTD, you can incorporate this into your everyday approach by simply asking yourself “What is the next thing I need to do for this project?” and writing down that as your task. In this way, you give yourself the opportunity to take meaningful, manageable steps toward your goal and avoid feeling overwhelmed by thinking about everything you have to do to accomplish it at once.

We are all busy. There is a near endless stream of possible tasks. It’s very hard to effectively manage your time, if you’re always having to think about what you need to do. There are a lot of opportunities in the Salesforce ecosystem at a variety of skill types and levels, but every single one of them requires the ability to effectively manage your own work in some way, even if that is simply to ensure you are up to date on your own knowledge of the platform. Breaking down projects and next actions helps you optimize your time and manage how stressful these demands can feel. Being in control of your personal portfolio of projects is peace of mind as much as it is professional prowess.

Also, as you look to move forward in your career, you will want to be able to speak to projects you have completed. It is much easier to articulate what you have accomplished when you have defined it well for yourself, and the confidence you can repeat these successes comes with clarity on the steps you took to get there.

How do I get better at it?

Like all skills, project management is something you improve with practice. Explore the tools and methodologies that resonate with you. Write things down. The first step is to start thinking about the things you do in terms of projects. If you’re already an ace project manager in your work, try applying these skills to other areas of your life. Practice articulating your accomplishments and current undertakings--all projects--to yourself and others. Practice identifying next actions. And most importantly, consider this as a way to be good to yourself, not just better at your work. As the new year comes upon us, think about your projects for next year rather than your resolutions. With this mindset, I hope we can all accomplish our goals, whatever they may be.



How has project management been part of your career and life? What methodologies do you practice? Feel free to comment below, on the Salesforce Success Community, on our Facebook page, or directly at me on Twitter @ifitfloats.

Building Good Health Habits with GTD

Here is a look at how you can use GTD to build good health habits.
Building Good Health Habits with GTD

Building Good Health Habits with GTD

The GTD (Getting Things Done) methodology by David Allen has been critical to how I manage my work and home life responsibilities. After a number of years practicing, I became aware that I wasn't really using GTD for my health and wellness goals. I realized that many of my goals to build good habits never had a real end date. I would just say I was going to do something and then tried to remember to do it.  Sometimes it worked and sometimes it didn't.  So after some thinking I came up with a good process and tried it out.  I have seen some really good results.  Here is an overview of my GTD process for health and wellness.

Awareness

Awareness is the most critical step in changing anything about ourselves. Before we do anything, we have to scan ourselves, both mentally and physically, to find what we would like to change and write them down. This is an exercise I do weekly. Once we understand at a high level what we aren’t happy with, we can come up with ideas on how to change things and prioritize. I am a firm believer in a crawl-walk-run approach to anything in life, so I would pick maybe one thing for mental health and maybe two things for physical health (one for nutrition and one for exercise). Pick ones that just feel right and go. By starting with small changes, we can convince our egos it's not a big deal, and we will be more willing to commit.

Belief and Commitment

What is the point of doing something, if you don't have a reason?  Are we really willing to commit to doing something if we don't have a compelling one? More often than not, we are not. Once we identify what we want to change, we need to evaluate the WHY.  This deeper awareness will help us build a compelling argument to change our behavior.  Many times with our health it takes bad news from a doctor to get us to commit, but if you take the time to be aware of yourself and relate it to why you aren’t as healthy as you want, it will give you a boost of motivation to make a change. Trust me; it works! This exercise got me off anxiety medicine. I did the awareness exercise as described above and realized that I didn't believe the side effects and potential long term risks were worth it anymore. At one point they were but that changed. Once I realized that, I got motivated to change. That boost of motivation made me commit and take action. So if you are ready to go join that gym, stop reading this and join one right now.  Even though this may take more than two minutes do not create a GTD project and set next action to tomorrow. Once we take the first action, now we can use our tools to set next actions and a way to measure our progress.

OmniFocus to Achieve Accountability

Now that we joined the gym, how are we holding ourselves accountable to actually going?  This is where OmniFocus (my GTD tool of choice) comes in. It is the perfect tool to help hold yourself accountable for the habits you want to create. One of my habit goals was to meditate every day for 5 minutes.  I have a daily project that has a list of a few things I do on a daily basis.  I added meditation, and because I will not cross off the action as completed unless I actually did it, I found that extra 5 minutes to get a meditation session in.  After 6 months or so of doing it, meditation is now an unconscious habit in my daily routine and no longer needed in my daily project. The tool brings awareness to what I need to do and can hold you accountable for doing it if you let it.  

Conclusion

So there is a quick look into how to use GTD to build good health habits.  This can be applied to any good habit you want to create.  Try it out and see for yourself.  How you set it up in your tools is up to you, but the key is to maintain the awareness and hold yourself accountable.  If you find yourself deferring a bunch, it might be an indicator you need to evaluate your WHY.  Then you can make educated decisions and achieve the goals you want to achieve.  

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

Better Than You Found It

Getting a new job is exciting, and if you’re a Salesforce Admin, it’s a good time to make sure that you’ve set up your successor to be, well, successful.
Better Than You Found It

Better Than You Found It

Like many in the community, my first Salesforce job was an accidental admin role. What I applied for was a marketing data analysis role, and what I got was my first Salesforce administrator job with a 5-year-old org. I had never heard of Salesforce before the interview for the job. I walked into the middle of a massive data cleanse and org refresh, but there was nothing to help me along - no documentation, no project plan, and no memory on the team of why things had been done the way they had been done. Thus when it was time for me to move on, I wanted to leave behind something a little better.

It’s not news that documenting an org is important. There are multitudes of blog posts, previous Dreamforce sessions, and webinars all about how to document a Salesforce org. There are templates. There are guides. There are apps that do this for you. Essentially there is no excuse for not doing this, but here’s a bit of a breakdown of what you should include.

Descriptions

Use the Description fields generously and for everything - Permission Sets, Custom Fields, Custom Objects, automation, and anything else you create. This isn’t just for those that come after you; 6 months after you create it, you may very well forget why you did.

A good description will list what the configuration does, if it’s used in a larger process, and perhaps why it was added or who requested the new item. For example, if a sales user requested a field to identify the job level of a Contact, I would include a description for the new field along the lines of “Picklist values for identified job levels, as requested by sales to track the individuals that they wish to target. Used in PB flow Assign Job Level based on Title.” If that’s more than you feel comfortable with, remember that something is still better than nothing.

Training Materials

Training users is important for adoption, and if you have training materials, this can also serve as an introduction to an incoming admin of your processes. If the new admin has experience, then they will be able to make some assumptions about automation and configuration based on the information provided in the training documentation.

End user training is a whole other topic, but materials to keep on hand could include a written user manual, a series of videos, or a full formal training program. The depth, breadth, and complexity of your training documentation depends entirely on your organization; if you are large enough to have a training team that can help manage it, go big. If you’re a solo admin, do what you can manage, but at the very least you should have a training manual. Regardless of the medium, it can be a helpful resource for an incoming admin to help answer user questions, understanding why configuration was done, or even just to learn more about your business.

Configuration Workbook

A configuration workbook is a breakdown of your org from a metadata perspective -- custom objects, custom fields, custom automation, etc. This might be in a spreadsheet format or a Word document; regardless of the format, it should be maintained regularly.

The good news is that there are multiple apps that will do this for you automatically.

The first place to start is the new Optimizer from Salesforce, which can be run directly in Setup.

For a very basic list of object and field metadata, you can utilize the Schema Lister from sftoolkit.co.

There are solutions on the AppExchange, such as Octopus, which will generate a PDF or Word file for you directly with the customization that has been done in your org. For a little bit more in-depth review, there is also Config Workbook, which will also show you utilization of those items.


All the Extras

Chances are your org is not just a singular entity; there are installed, managed packages, maybe some integration, or even other systems that the Salesforce Administrator might be expected to learn. Make a list of these things. What integrations are there? What does the app or additional system do? Is the admin expected to maintain it, or is there another team they need to work with?

For each of these things, Salesforce and any additional platforms that work with it, make a list of expiration or contract renewal dates and a list of your contacts at those places. Who is your Salesforce AE? Make sure you share that information. Who do they contact for questions about Conga? Provide names, numbers, and email addresses for all of those people.

Do you have a Center of Excellence or internal User Group? Make sure to include that information, as well. List the members, how frequently they meet, and the communication expectations that they have with you.

Salesforce is a great place to include all of this information, even if it’s just documents added to a Library.

Beyond Documentation

Of course all the documentation in the world can’t fix issues. Consider projects and goals that you had identified for the org before you leave. If you’re able to make the fixes before your last day, you should do your fellow admin a solid and address them. If you have a major project ongoing that you’ll be handing off, try to leave it at a good place for someone to come in and pick it back up.

As you move onto the next step in your career, remember that we are all part of this Salesforce Ohana; we have a whole community of people who want to support your learning, your career. You can pay it forward by leaving behind something you’d be proud to put your name on and that sets up your fellow, future admin for success.


Have you recently left a role and spent time preparing the org for its new caretaker? Have you ever taken on a new role and had a mess to clean up? Share your stories with us on Twitter, on the Salesforce Community, Facebook, or chat with me @thesafinhold .


Dreamforce 17 - Where Words Meet Actions

Dreamforce 2017 has come and gone. How do we meet the challenge and truly become Trailblazers for the next generation as it was expressed throughout the Dreamforce conference?
Dreamforce 17 - Where Words Meet Actions

Dreamforce 17 – Where Words Meet Actions

As I returned home from attending my second Dreamforce, I was left with an overwhelming sense of pride and hope from the conference.  I made it a personal goal of mine to attend more keynote addresses this year as I focused more on sessions last year.  The keynotes I attended really left a lasting impression on me, as I felt the common denominator in the various messages culminated into a very specific challenge to share the knowledge we all possess and help others along the way.

 Be an Example

This year what I was most proud to experience wasn’t something that can be configured, or a new third party enhancement.   It was the all-encompassing message of equality, inclusion and diversity, and seeing it everywhere I went throughout Dreamforce.  The overarching message I gathered from the various keynotes were not only a sense of empowerment, but the responsibility we all face to give back.  As I looked around Michelle Obama’s wonderful keynote, it was awesome to see the diversity and the overwhelming positivity in the room. As a father of two girls myself, her challenge to all of us as adults and parents to be true leaders for our children really resonated with me.  Also having the chance to speak to some members of PepUpTech was really encouraging, and it was uplifting to hear the passion and excitement in how they view Salesforce and the potential it offers for their collective futures.

Find My Voice

In Taraji P. Henson’s keynote, I found it interesting that she called out the need to find your voice.  I started to think about how I specifically could help, possibly through mentoring or volunteering or some similar avenue.  What I took away from her was that your voice has to be authentic to you, and if it connects to something you are passionate about, it will have an authenticity that may just be what inspires someone else.  I have started the process of thinking about where I can make a difference.  

What Now?

 Here at Arkus, we focus on education, empowerment, and what I like to call “Paying it Forward.”  I left Dreamforce inspired to personally involve myself in helping the next generation.  For those interested, there are some great volunteer opportunities at organizations like Pep Up Tech and Stemettes, just to name a few.  Sometimes we don’t realize how much impact that our experiences, both good and bad, can really help someone as they embark along their path of life, especially within the Salesforce community.  Dreamforce reinforced that and has led me to start assessing ways I can help the next generation of Salesforce dreamers, and I encourage you all to do the same.

How did Dreamforce inspire you?  Feel free to comment below, on the Salesforce Success Community on our Facebook page, or directly at me on Twitter @berkeley_t_b


Dreamforce 2017 Recap

Another year, another Dreamforce in the books. Proud to say this was my tenth Dreamforce in a row, and to my surprise, this was one of my favorite conferences. Here’s a few things that caught my eye, as I reflect back on the week that was DF17.
Dreamforce 2017 Recap

Dreamforce 2017 Recap

The People

Dreamforce has become an extremely large family reunion in the best way possible. I see people I only see a few times a year or perhaps even one time per year-- that time being at Dreamforce. I give out so many hugs; it’s not even funny. I’m all hugged out by the end of the show. Whether it be blasts from the past or people I never met in person until Dreamforce, I always end up giving out lots of hugs and feel like I have friends for life. Some highlights with people were the PepUp Tech Fundraiser, The Amplify (formerly Girlforce) breakfast, and of course the Arkus party featuring the Hella Good Band.

The Inspiring Keynote

The most inspiring keynote I’ve been to in a while was the Trailhead keynote. It felt old school in the way that the crowd was really into all of the announcements. The announcements were just that, announcements, not high-end produced videos and demos of very specific use cases. This was real, authentic, and it came from the heart. The audience was also extremely engaged. Trailhead is here, and it’s the real deal. Can’t wait to see more about myTrailhead in the not-too-distant future. As a matter of fact, that was sorta the big announcement - myEverything. myLighting, myIOT, myTrust, myThis, myThat - the world is yours, enjoy it.

Most Surprised By

While the overarching theme of the conference was diversity, equality, and the fourth industrial revolution, it was extremely surprising that the main keynote didn’t have a nonprofit success story as one of the three main stories. Usually there is at least one video about a nonprofit. This was the right year to have two in my opinion, but alas there were none. There were stories before the keynote started and shoutouts abound but no slick story about a nonprofit at all.

Watson & Einstein working together to make life easier wasn’t as much surprising from a technology perspective, it was more surprising that Salesforce would be so upfront about it and give Watson a lot of shout outs during the main keynote. I do not know much about the inner workings of where Watson starts and Einstein picks up for it, but I’d wager that Watson is doing a lot of the heavy lifting here, with Einstein working with CRM data and providing a nice user interface.

The partnership with Google was a bit of a surprise to me. I imagine this has been in the works ever since Amazon Web Services was announced as the host of Salesforce pods in Canada. There wasn’t much around the announcement in terms of apps, but it’s been a long and winding road between the two cloud giants, and I’d like to see them working together in partnership - hopefully this is a huge step towards that. I wonder what does this mean for Quip - do they work together…?

Most Impressed By

Trailhead was by far the most impressive product that I saw at the show. The investment being made into a training platform is unbelievable. Not just because myTrailhead is ready to take off and be the new way that companies onboard and train employees, but also because of the breadth and depth of already existing Salesforce-based training that anyone can start to use for free and become a part of the fourth industrial revolution.

The Best Ever?

Was it the best one ever? Probably not. I’d have to harken back to my first Dreamforce to say that, but I imagine for most their first Dreamforce is their best. I’ll repeat myself though and say this was the best in years. I have so much catching up to do as well. I didn’t even see a lot of the big name speakers, so to Youtube I go, to catch up on all the exciting action I missed.

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