Friday, August 5, 2016

Journey To The Center of A Salesforce Career

This post is not like the others.

I started this blog with a very specific goal in mind: provide value-added knowledge to the community; things I've learned, discovered, or came up with over the past few years. I didn't want to bog down this blog with abstract stories or repeat what is already plentiful on the interwebs.

With that said, I was recently encouraged by Cheryl Feldman  - a dear friend, a leader in NYC community, and a Salesforce MVP to share a little about myself, and tell a small part of my story.

This post is about my journey.
If you are just getting into the Salesforce world, I'd like to share with you how I got into Salesforce. How it boosted my career and gave me a sense of satisfaction that is still strong years later.

When I was first hired at the company I work at - my job had nothing to do with IT.
I was hired to set up a warehouse, distribution and order-fulfillment center. I was always a computer guy, so over the two years performing this job I was able to get involved in- and improve how we use- our ERP system.
After two years I was promoted to a Process Improvement Manager position.
I worked with the different departments to identify inefficient processes and find ways to improve them - both by tweaking the processes themselves, and by finding electronic tools to automate and simplify them.
This was before Salesforce.

One day I received a call from my boss:
Boss: Have you heard of a program called Salesforce?
Me: No, what is it?
Boss: I have no clue, but it now belongs to you. 
Today - after years of involvement in the community, I know this is a typical conversation held in many organizations after they pick up Salesforce. People are selected and assigned the Admin responsibility as a part-time activity in addition to their already existing full-time job responsibilities.

For us, we already had Salesforce for a couple of years but it was barely used, if at all.
We just acquired a new company who were using Salesforce extensively for their Sales Pipeline and Customer Service, and the existing administrator, scared of potential merger-driven layoffs, resigned.

So.... I am now the Salesforce System Administrator...
During the first few months after that call, I didn't do much with Salesforce.
I created new users, de-activated users, added pick-list values, even a few fields every now and then.
I was completely oblivious to everything that this platform (platform??? isn't this a program) can do.
But it was already clear to me that Salesforce was so much easier to use for the acquired company's customer service group than the tool we were using at ours - Microsoft CRM.

As we started to integrate the two organizations we concluded that it would make more sense to move our organization into Salesforce for CRM than to move the new company into Microsoft CRM.
We contracted a consultant that assisted us with the task of setting up all the processes.
I took it upon myself to perform the data migration from Microsoft CRM to Salesforce.

Getting Jiggy With It
This was the moment I can say that I started to really get what Salesforce is about.
I learned a lot about the platform just during this stage of working with the consultant and migrating the data.
When this project ended I was hooked.
I saw how easy it was to create new objects, automation, and functionality and it fit right into what I was already doing with the rest of my time! How lucky was I to be handed a tool like this?

When the project ended we had about 30 user licenses on Salesforce out of about 110 employees.
I decided that I would start leveraging this amazing new tool, and started by picking up the departments and processes that I knew would be easy to implement and would have a large impact on those participating in the process.
I chose processes for our operations team, finance team, and order processing team.
Because I was already so involved with each of them, I knew their processes inside and out and knew exactly what to do.

This was a typical story:
  • I picked some annoying, super manual process. One that involves multiple steps, participants, e-mails, and paper trail.
  • I set up a meeting with the members of the team, normally about a week away.
  • I started by mapping the process - creating objects, approvals, workflows with e-mail notifications or field updates (there was no process builder back then).
  • On the day of the meeting:

    •  I would start by reviewing the process map I documented with the team to make sure that I didn't miss anything. One of the things I loved about starting with this step is that I set the expectation that the purpose of this meeting is just to kick-off some long-term development project.
    • I would then log into Salesforce and show the users the pages and functionality I created, explaining step-by-step how it fits with the process we just discussed, and making note how I would have it changed based on any comments from the process review step.
    • Users were always impressed by what I presented - the elimination of e-mails and stacks of papers, inclusion of audit history, and auto reminders were always a sure bet.
    • As the meeting drew to an end, I would usually be presented with the following question

      How long would it take you to create this?
    • Answering this question was always my favorite part of the meeting:

      What I just showed you was it. Development is already done. All that is left to do are the small tweaks based on your feedback.

  • I would then let the department manager know that in order to start using the tool, all they needed to do is submit a requisition for Salesforce licenses for the users.
This story repeated probably about 15 times in the next year and a half, and through it all we always kept tweaking existing processes, adding new functionality, new automation, reports, and dashboards.
We created visibility to areas of the business that were always a dark, dense cloud into which no one could see.

At the end of these 18 months, my license count grew from about 30 users to around 95 out of the 110 employees. Adoption was also great. On average 90% of my users logged in at least once a week, with about 65% logging in almost every day - Not because anyone was sitting behind them and checking their logins, but because they got real value from it. In fact, I never really needed to continuously share adoption rates with managers because I saw their departments were just using the system.

Salesforce was no longer an afterthought. Some tool that only Sales and Customer Service uses. There was no department in the company that wasn't using it to at least some extent.
And through this entire time, the Salesforce team consisted of exactly ONE member: me.

I am not saying this to pat myself on the back or try to show you how great I am. The reason this was possible for just one person to achieve was, in my view due to:
  1. The power and capabilities of the Salesforce platform
  2. One driven person who wanted to make things better.

When things started picking up speed, my CFO called me and asked
Why are we buying so many Salesforce licenses?
It wasn't very difficult to start showing him metrics of usage, and get department heads to vouch for how useful the system has been for them.

The story doesn't end there, but I can tell you that once everybody was 'hooked' on the system, the discussion became a very different one.
One of the reasons I wanted to post this part of the story is to show you how, at least in my case, it was possible for just one person to make an organizational shift in technology which resulted in increased efficiency and productivity.

I used to go to Salesforce events, see the different companies presenting their accomplishments, and think to myself: 'Wow this is so cool, but I would never get the opportunity to do such cool things at my company.'
Once I proved what could be accomplished with little investment, it was much easier to get buy-in for actual investment in the platform. I was given budget to hire an additional admin, and later a developer. Here is a list of just some of the projects we completed on the platform since that day:

  • Created a partner community with a quoting system, integrated with partners' systems
  • Created a customer community providing customers access to knowledge, ideas, cases, and more.
  • Created a native mobile app for customer installation, data collection, knowledge sharing for Android and iOS.
  • Upgraded from Salesforce Enterprise Edition to PXE Edition (no longer available, but a tier above Unlimited).
  • Implemented a Salesforce Native ERP application which replaced an on-premise application. This was a tremendous project which essentially moved almost 100% of our back-office operations onto the platform.
  • Integrated Salesforce with internal proprietary systems, as well as with vendors and suppliers.

This may seem a lot to you if you are just starting on the platform, or a little if you have been working on Salesforce for a while, but keep in mind that whichever outlook you have on the above list, it was accomplished with a very small number of resources. I am stating that again just to reiterate how much can be done on this platform with little time, resource, and/or financial investment - at least comparing with other applications.

Salesforce provided an amazing opportunity for me to make an impact in my company, and through this advance my own career. Most importantly, I've been extremely proud of my work and have been lucky enough to feel extremely fulfilled doing all of this.

If you find the story above compelling, share a similar experience, are currently somewhere along the same path, or have a different story to share - I would love to hear all about it in the comments!

Happy Salesforcing!

1 comment :

  1. Ohad, amazing write up. I can relate! Exact same thing happened to me regarding "Have you heard of Salesforce?" which I had not. 7 years later, we have everything (including of course Rootstock ERP) natively on Salesforce or integrated nicely. Good seeing you at the networking event at Dreamforce. I'll follow up with you soon.

    -Jeremy Bardet
    Pioneer Motor Bearing