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In March, we sat down with Amanda Beard-Neilson, Salesforce MVP and co-organizer of London’s Calling, Europe's largest community-led event for Salesforce professionals.
Amanda has been working in the Salesforce ecosystem since 2007 after her director told her they needed a CRM. Once she discovered Salesforce, it changed her life. Since then Amanda has delivered Salesforce implementations, directed IT programs, and now consults on large-scale client digital transformation projects.
Here are just three of the questions we asked Amanda during our discussion.
Start with a change management mindset.
Skuid: Do you think that the idea of change management drives you in the app design process? Or do you consider that at the end of the day after everything is out the door?
ABN: It's from the beginning. Absolutely from the beginning of engagements and really, the concept of why you're doing this in the first place. And that little word “why” is super, super important.
When you’re engaging with a client or with internal users, thinking, “Why are we doing this? What's initiated this change?” Then, find out the real reason and dig deeper. There's this concept of the five whys where you keep asking why, and why, and why, etc.
If you find that “why” can be a little bit whiny (because it can), then you can use other words like “Tell me more,” which can also help to elicit conversation. So, you can use this concept to really drill down and find out what the whole purpose is.
When you have the opportunity to shake things out and to design from scratch again, this is the time to start thinking, “You do process from A to B to C. Well, in the new world, is that B necessary anymore or can you go straight to C? Can things be done much more efficiently?” And then, of course, when you’re designing, are you just thinking about lifting and shifting from the old world into the new world?
Well, I hope not. And there are customers out there who still think like that. When you move house, the idea is that you get rid of the old clutter that you don't need, and you don't take that clutter with you to the new house. It's the same with system and solution design as well. You look carefully at what you're doing and you think, "Well, is this what I want to move forward with?" And maybe the new system has features that can allow you to do things differently. And these are things to explore, I think.
Get the right people in the room.
Skuid: Do you have any tips or techniques on how to start talking to the business about doing things differently or how to think more about the users?
ABN: I think it's about listening to them, first of all, getting a top level idea of the process at first and then breaking down that process. And it can take time. You can use workshops and they can still be done online and you can have those one-to-one conversations as well. But first of all, get the right people in the room.
Oh, my word, the amount of times I’ve had where management made a decision and said, "Look, people are busy and they've got to keep going with the job." And they’d say, "We know everything that's going on. So, we can tell you the process and we can make those decisions."
And then you take those requirements, get the idea of the process, write that down, and play that back to some end users who say, "No, our jobs aren't like that. That used to be the case, but we don't do that now. We do this process, which is quicker." So, make sure the right people are in the room first of all, then really drill down to each of those processes.
You've got to explore the fact that some people just don't like change. We are super comfortable in the things that we know. We like that little “no change blanket” that we wrap around us. So, there's an element where people have to get used to the fact that change is happening all the time. And in fact, your comfort blanket is, effectively, constant change. If you can accept that, then you're open to the idea of new things. And that's a good thing.
When building custom Salesforce apps, “vanilla” is good.
Skuid: Can you explain the concept of “vanilla?”
ABN: I used to be known within one particular business about this whole concept of vanilla, which is, "Okay, since you're brand new to Salesforce, I want to stick as much as possible to how much out-of-the-box box functionality we can use with just a dribble of raspberry sauce on top.” It’s the idea that there’s some configuration and some tweaking, but let's stick as close as we can to vanilla.
People didn't get it until they started seeing some other functions come out and I’d say, "Look, see—this is how quickly we can deliver this if you stick to the stuff that's vanilla." And then we add the raspberry sauce for little tweaks so that you get it how you need it, but it isn't absolutely bespoke or built from scratch. And actually, what was lovely—they started to use that term “vanilla” in other things they were working with too. It's an absolute win.
I think it's so important and Salesforce can allow that option as well, because it means that anything you're building, especially if you keep it reasonably vanilla with a little bit of raspberry sauce, it becomes a future-proof and scalable product that you can keep adding to as you iterate with your needs. So, yeah—vanilla is good.
Want to hear more from Amanda on app building foundations? Watch the rest of our discussion here, plus see what’s on tap for our next AppHacks session.