Episode 19 - How Salesforce is Transforming Healthcare at Adventist Health System


I recently sat down for a chat with Jeff Satterwhite. Jeff is a Certified Senior Product Owner for Salesforce at Adventist Health System in Florida.

During our chat, Jeff explains which Salesforce products and third party apps are being used at Adventist Health System, and how Salesforce has helped transform internal operations to provide best-in-class experience for patients and their family members at Adventist.

About Adventist Health System: Adventist Health System is a faith-based health care organization headquartered in Altamonte Springs, Florida. A national leader in quality, safety and patient satisfaction, Adventist Health System's more than 80,000 employees maintain a tradition of whole-person health by caring for the physical, emotional and spiritual needs of every patient.

Sponsor:

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Listen to the Podcast:



Links to Resources Mentioned:
Transcript:

David:           Jeff Satterwhite, welcome to the program. How are you today?

Jeff:               I'm very good, sir. How about yourself?

David:              I can't complain. I am really excited to have you on the program, because you and I were chatting about some of the different ways that you guys are using Salesforce at Adventist Health System. I think that my audience would love to hear some of the breadth of which you guys are leveraging the Salesforce platform, the types of products you're using, the types of use cases that you're dealing with, and even the number of instances that, the Salesforce instances, that you have. Thank you for joining us and taking some time today to share some of your knowledge, your wisdom, your best practices, with the audience.

Jeff:               Yeah, no problem. I'm looking forward to it.

David:              Tell us a little bit about the organization. Tell us about Adventist Health System, where you work. What do you guys do, and how are you using Salesforce, how does Salesforce even apply? A lot of people believe that Salesforce only applies to only people who are in a sales role, who are selling widgets. Tell us a little bit about the organization and how you're using it.

Jeff:               Yeah. Adventist Health System is the largest, or one of the largest, not-for-profit healthcare systems in the country. We have I think roughly 45 hospitals in our system with 80,000 employees. Really, that thought behind Salesforce is only for sales is something that we're trying to change in the healthcare space. We saw a need to really connect with our patients and our communities in a much more organic and more of a person-to-person way. 

                    As I'm sure you know, healthcare is not very personal. It can feel very transactional. We saw the opportunity with Salesforce to really start to change how we're viewed but also meet our populations really where they are and understanding them holistically rather than just as someone coming in with a problem, trying to change the worst day of their lives into an experience that goes above and beyond that. It's an interesting deployment. There's a handful of hospital systems out there currently Salesforce, so we're really in uncharted territory with it. 

                    Salesforce, being the Lego set that it is, has presented its own level of ... I'm losing the word ... its own level of uniqueness. Healthcare is very much used to being handed a box and saying, the companies say, "This is your box, and this is how you operate." With Salesforce we're able to say, "We're going to redefine our box, and we're going to make this box fit our business," and find those opportunities to not only change our box but also change how we operate and drive towards something that the people that come to AHS for help, changing that mindset that all we do is fix broken bones and heal cancer, to we want you to know how to prevent some of those things with classes and things like that.

David:              That makes complete sense. Without revealing any trade secrets, I would never ask you to reveal any trade secrets, but to the extent that you can share, what type of information would AHS be tracking in Salesforce with regard to the patients, the type of care that they're getting, maybe their healthcare provider, the insurance plans that they're with, can you tell us a little bit about that?

Jeff:               Yeah. Really, what we're tracking right now is very focused on call center as well as some high-level interaction data. Really, where are points of interest for our community. A good example would be diabetes, right? Where are those people coming from? How are they engaging with us, and are we actually executing on our promise to help heal them? That's really what we're tracking.

                    For our call centers, we're helping drive scheduling and referrals and also doing a lot of followup with our populations. I might use the term "member" occasionally. We have a group called Population Health Services Organization, which really manages care for certain employers. We have a Member Experience Center, which is our call center, that handles those populations on a concierge level basis. We know those people and that population, and we drive them or help drive them to using the facilities and the physicians and services that are going to save them the most money based on their insurance plan. Trying to really drive down into what does this member need in order to stay healthy and stay out of the ER, for example.

                    As I'm sure you've heard, ER visits are really expensive, both for insurers but also for the people that are going to the ER, so how do we keep them out. That's really what we're looking to in the future is how do we keep them out. Does that mean that maybe we do triage over the phone, or is there a level of self-service that we can give our populations, where they can go to a portal or call us on the phone or use Live Agent, to really help them navigate their own care while also giving them that information as real time as we can. That's really what we're aiming for.

                    The long-term goal is, the catch phrase is, "The 360-degree view," with the physicians and with the patients that we service. Knowing that patient Jeffrey really prefers to go by the name Jeff, again, trying to really drive that "We know you" feeling and that "We care" feeling. Does that make sense?

David:              It makes complete sense. Can you share with us a little it about which Salesforce products you guys are leveraging today?

Jeff:               Yeah. We're using Sales Cloud, Service Cloud with the Lightning Console in our call centers. We're using Marketing Cloud, and we're also heavily using our open ATIs to back into some of our ancillary systems so that anybody that's on Salesforce really has a one-screen experience. We have a ton of data floating around all over the place. That's one thing that our system has struggled with in the past is we have this data, but how do we actually use it. We have Wave, where we're using Salesforce Shield, as well as a myriad of other small apps. 

                    We're deploying TaskRay here in a couple days for our more business-to-business side of the company. To do project management we're using Conga. For document management we're about to spin up Knowledge on the Service Console and Service Cloud for our agents to have a more unified knowledge base. That's some of the products that we're using. I'm sure I'm forgetting some. It's a massive ecosystem that we're working with. We also have a fair number of managed packages that are running off site right now.

                    We're in the process of really evaluating what Salesforce at AHS looks like. Going to that architecting and discovery mode is really where we're at right now. Even though we are building, we're still evaluating what does Salesforce at AHS really look like. I think we're going to start consolidating down some of our ... I think we have 13 or 14 independent orgs, but trying to consolidate those down, again, in that effort to get to the golden record for our populations, both physicians and members.

David:              By the way, if it makes you feel better, as it relates to the organization trying to still define what it is that Salesforce does for us, you don't have to feel bad about that from my perspective. Not only is that a very common perspective, but personally I think that is the healthiest perspective, because every organization evolves. Whatever it is that we're doing today, we learn from the mistakes of what we did yesterday, last week, last month, last year, and we try to evolve. We evolve the business processes. We evolve in terms of how we service our customers, how we follow up with prospects. Every organization should be evolving, even if it's in small, little, incremental baby steps.

                    Along with that, to the extent that Salesforce is being used as a tool to support the organization's core business processes and the data that we're capturing about prospects, clients, members, patients, physicians, facilities, services that are being provided, et cetera, it is imperative, I think, to constantly reevaluate to determine, "Wait a minute. Why are we capturing these other pieces of information outside of Salesforce?" It's because we never thought about also managing it in Salesforce. I think it's totally appropriate to constantly reevaluate how are we leveraging Salesforce.

                    It's a tool that, it's not necessarily cheap. It is incredibly powerful, and it is highly customizable, so why not leverage Salesforce to the extent that it makes sense, to support the ever-changing needs of the organization? I think it's a good thing.

Jeff:               Yeah, I do too. Having a goal in mind, like a vision, is really important, but really being able to take that next step and say ... I'm known for this statement around here, is, "Just because we can doesn't mean we should."

David:              For sure.

Jeff:               Really, looking at it in those incremental steps and really leveraging the Agile, Scrum methods and making sure that we don't get too far into the future before we take that step back and say, "Where are we at right now, and what do we need to do to get to that goal?" That's probably the coolest part about my job, is that I can say, "Okay, this is a great vision. I understand that, but we need to do X, Y and Z before we go and do this massive build just to integrate one of our EMRs or something along that line."

David:              Right.

Jeff:               That evolution, and it does make it difficult to build a strategy occasionally when we don't really fully understand the power of Salesforce in healthcare, and we're actually the people that are trying to define that for the ecosystem as a whole. It's very exciting and, again, one of my favorite things to do at this job. It's really cool.

David:              That is one of the things that I love about the Salesforce platform as well. I constantly say, "In the end it really has nothing to do with the technology. It has everything to do with the impact that it has on the organization."

Jeff:               Right. It's disruptive. We're feeling the full force of that disruption here. Salesforce makes you take a step back and look at those statements like, "We've always done it this way," or, "It's always been there." Salesforce is coming in and saying, "Yeah, but it could be done better over here." Helping navigate that has been an interesting learning curve for me. It's very disruptive.

David:              Yep, I get it. It is. It's good and bad. Change is constant. It keeps you on your toes, that's for sure. 

Jeff:               Exactly.

David:              Let me ask you, looking a little bit backwards in terms of, to the extent that in those areas where the organization is already utilizing Salesforce, how has Salesforce helped to transform internal operations and business processes, think of it as the before and after picture. Again, without revealing any trade secrets. Speak in general terms. It's totally cool. How has Salesforce transformed internal operations?

Jeff:               I think the biggest transformation is making us feel more connected to each other. Something as simple, seemingly simple to an admin or a developer or someone that's been in the Salesforce ecosystem for as long as we have, we tend to forget how much better something as simple as Chatter or Knowledge, how much of an impact that makes to our end users. 

                    A good example, some of our teams were utilizing Excel. You can only imagine, you have agents trying to make outbound phone calls using an Excel spreadsheet. Just the ability to get them to a place where they know their cue and they can burn down through that at their own rate and know that if they have a bad day or something comes up and takes a little bit longer, that other people can come in and help them with their work, is massive. 

                    Everybody being able to use the same information set, rather than having to go to a shared document on one drive, and trying to search down through that while you're on the phone trying to get this person information they really need in a timely manner, now it's a lot faster and it's uniform. It's not hard to get to that information anymore. 

                    Again, it comes back to just making it easy to do your job. Salesforce is really starting to do that for us, even from being able to find the right physician for the right population. We used to have to do all sorts of magic in the background to get that done, and now we're doing it on Salesforce. Again, it's just making our agents' lives easier.

David:              Yeah. It's funny, because the scenarios, the use cases that you're describing, are in fact universal across all industries, all verticals, sizes of all companies.

                    Just to give you an example of that, just yesterday I was on the phone with a client of mine who's in the financial services industry, and I was in a meeting with the COO. He was explaining to me how today he is providing for the CEO, he's providing a report, a pipeline report, on a weekly basis, by exporting, pulling his Salesforce report, and exporting it to Excel and then adjusting the columns, et cetera, and color-coding things and giving the CEO this Excel spreadsheet. 

                    The CEO has not logged into Salesforce, even though we've given him the login credentials, which I understand the various reasons, the pros and cons. I totally get it, but at the same time he was asking me about the fact that by the time he gives it to the CEO at the end of the week and the CEO reviews it and maybe shares it with the board, the pipeline could have changed. It could be outdated, or the CEO looks at one of the deals and say, "How come Joe hasn't moved on this particular ... this deal has stayed in that stage for the last couple weeks. I don't understand."

                    We were doing the screen share, and I showed him exactly what you talked about a moment ago with regard to Chatter. Chatter is something that, as Salesforce admins, we completely take it for granted, often don't even think when training end users, don't even think of focusing on Chatter, because we feel that it's so intuitive, it's natural, it's out of the box, it's there everywhere. 

                    Then I pointed out to him, I said, "Well, if you have your CEO log in and he's 
looking at the exact same report but it's in Salesforce, not only will he get a dynamic, it will appear instantly with the appropriate, up-to-date data, but when he drills into the opportunity to look into it and when was the last date it was modified, using Chatter, he could simply tag the rep and say, 'What the heck's going on? How come this hasn't moved?' He can get a response, and it could be right there on the record."

                    Again, the example that you brought up, even though it's a totally different, unrelated industry, it's essentially the same use case. That level of collaboration really transforms the way everyone can truly work together as one team using Salesforce.

Jeff:               Right. Yeah. It's amazing. It can do cross teams. We are eventually going to be bringing up other business lines, and being able to have the potential for a nurse to ask a question to the Call Center about a case they opened that she was given and being able to see all that contextual information, that's going to really help everybody. It's awesome. I love Chatter.

David:              It's funny, because even the example that you just brought up as far as cross-team collaboration, I often give people the example, "Imagine you're the sales rep. You're out in the field. You're sitting in the parking lot. You're about to walk into a major client, and you're simply reviewing, using your phone, you're simply reviewing the details that you have, the relationship that you have with the client, tracking whether it's opportunities, tracking from the marketing perspective, what campaigns have we invited them to, what trade shows or webinars or conferences have we included them in on? What kind of newsletters are they getting? Are they opening them? Also, the customer support tickets, the cases that have been logged." 

                    For a rep to have that 360-degree view that we talked about earlier, to see that directly on their phone in the car, in the parking lot, before walking in ... First of all, for the rep selfishly, it helps them get themselves up to speed so they're not blind-sided by walking into the customer who says, "I don't want to talk about a new deal, because I still have this open case that's going on for the longest time, and nobody's following up on it." 

                    That rep, again, using Chatter, first of all, they can drill into the case to see what's going on. They can see who's working on the case. They can either pick up the phone and simply call that person and say, "I'm about to meet with this customer. What's going on," or they can, again, Chatter with that person in customer service, to say, "Hey, what's going on? I need to know now what's going on here," so that cross-collaboration is great.

Jeff:               Yeah. Also, just being able to give your client or your patient, in our scenario, that extra feeling of, "We got this." Sometimes it's uncomfortable to bring up, "Hey, we missed the ball here," but it means so much more when you say, "I know we missed the ball, but we're doing everything that we can to resolve it, and the last time we touched this case was 32 seconds ago, by Suzie Q in support. We'll have an answer soon." Again, it gives you those warm and fuzzies that really everybody's looking for in this day and age.

David:              Yep. I think that this ties directly to what you hinted at earlier with regard to transforming the patient experience. You talked about how Salesforce is helping to transform the patient experience. I'm guessing that this is one component of what you mean by that.

Jeff:               Exactly, yeah. Again, we're so disconnected, our different systems, your PCP, or personal care physician, is using one system of record. The emergency room and inpatient hospital system is using a different system of record. Then your outpatient is using a third completely disconnected system. How do we bridge that gap between your PCP, the emergency room and followup care? It's a hard problem to solve. I'm confident that Salesforce is going to be able to bridge that gap. 

                    When it's done, imagine when you get something as terrible as cancer, having a seamless transition during the holidays between outpatient and inpatient for chemo treatments, where the nurses really do know you and you don't have to go through all of the rigmarole of filling out all the forms that you just filled out two weeks ago and having to reintroduce yourself and all of that kind of stuff. It's a really, really cool concept when you start to dig into the nuts and bolts of how we can do it and in the scenarios that we should be doing it.

                    I'm hoping that Salesforce is going to help kill off the day where your PCP doesn't know that you were in the emergency room two weeks ago. We're hoping to drive that so that it's almost instantaneous that your physician, that you see hopefully more than once a year but that you see occasionally, knows you and where you're at in your life and what's going on with you from a medical perspective.

David:              Yep. It's pretty remarkable how these, what I'll refer to as bread crumbs of data, small, little bits of data, can really help to paint a, not only a robust picture, but, again, to give that 360-degree view when speaking with any patient or their family member, about a particular incident, illness, service, visit, whatever it might be. That by itself can transform the entire relationship and the patient experience.

Jeff:               Exactly. We really do have our eyes on the physician relationship as well. I would say that's probably 50 percent of our project. As you can imagine, our organization is fairly large, and we have a lot of people out selling services and programs and things like that. 

                    I thought it was really funny. I brought it up just as an example, and it took off, but just the concept of knowing when a physician is on vacation so that you don't go in and thug the front desk 50 times in a week. We're deploying Sales Cloud for our B2B side, and that was their number one thing, "You're telling me that I can know whether the person I'm going to go see is in the office or not," and I'm like, "Yeah. We can do that." 

                    They are so excited just for that little bit of functionality, so they're able to re-prioritize their day and be more efficient and also reduce how annoying it is to have 50 people from AHS come to the physician office. Just because we can go out there 50 times in one week doesn't mean that it necessarily is going to hold the impact that we think it's going to, so really bringing a level of strategy to how we engage our physicians is something that I know our B2B group is really excited about.

David:              Yep. Makes a lot of sense. Tell me a little bit about how, shifting gears a little bit, from managing the patient experience, managing the physicians, focusing a little bit internally in terms of the management of Salesforce internally within the organization, how do you manage the users [crosstalk 00:28:35]? Yeah?

Jeff:               Sometimes it's overwhelming. Our team is small but growing, and we're all certified. That's a huge thing for me. We're all relatively experienced. To be honest, we've been so focused on the actual deployment and what the next project is, we haven't really been able to focus on our internal processes. We use ServiceNow for tickets, incidents and new requests and things like that. 

                    Honestly, I'm a people person, so I reach out directly. We have monthly meetings to talk with our chief stakeholders that are currently on Salesforce. We discuss anything from training issues to what the next round of enhancements look like. We're an Agile Scrum shop, so making sure that we're planning, but it's a lot more organic than prescribed right now. 

                    My eventual goal is to manage all of our projects on Salesforce and really trying to build a center of excellence, where we're looked at as a partner, more as an install partner, than we are as just an IT team. Right now it's really emails, people calling my cell phone at all the hours of the night that you can imagine. Again, we're trying to build something that, internally for AIT, information technologies, that's different. Take that old Apple logo, "Think differently." 

                    I've been able to, in my career, I've worked with several install partners in the ecosystem as well as owned my own company for a while. I'm trying to take some of those processes and some of those good experiences and bad experiences and really build something that will fit AHS.

David:              That makes sense.

Jeff:               Yeah.

David:              It's okay to mature over time and have that, that internal process, evolve, because Salesforce is relatively new for the team, and it can ... Having the platform itself can introduce lots of benefits internally for the IT team, just like it does for the other teams that are considered the true Salesforce users versus the Salesforce admins.

                    It's also, I think, very common in many organizations, both large and small, where the managing of the ticket fee, enhancements fee, requests, the features, evolves from a very rudimentary, just emails coming in or text messages or phone calls, as you described, to sometimes it's a tool like ServiceNow or an Excel spreadsheet, and eventually, very often, it does evolve into something far more robust and elegant and seamless and typically, natively, directly in Salesforce, because, "Hey, we have the users. We know who they are. We know exactly what profile they have, what roles they have, what permission sets they have," and just have that natively captured and managed in Salesforce, but it's okay. Where you are is fine. This is good.

Jeff:               Crawl, walk, run. Crawl, walk, run.

David:              Yeah. Let me ask you, where do you turn to for help? As a Salesforce admin, as a leader, where people are looking to you within the organization for the best practices, for help on supporting the Salesforce instance, everyone gets stumped. I often get stumped. I have no hesitation in saying I often turn to Google or YouTube. 

Jeff:               Yep.

David:              Aside from the Salesforce community, meaning the trailblazer community, aside from reaching out to specific individuals, each of us has our own preferences. Where do you turn to for help for best practices when you're stumped on a Salesforce related issue?

Jeff:               Sometimes I turn directly to Salesforce. With our organization, we're really leveraging that partnership. My Salesforce rep is absolutely amazing. A lot of it for us is more of that organic reaching out to our contacts and reaching out to that Salesforce community as a whole.

                    The one thing that we do do is document what we find out so that later on when we have that same question pop up in two years, I can say, "I remember having to deal with that in the past, and we have a knowledge bank where we can go as admins and developers to really look at what we suggested last time and validate that it's the right approach."

                    We're also, to help mitigate how much we don't know, I find it very important to do a full documentation of our org, so when we do onboard new admins or developers or technical architects, that they have a document that they can go and reference so they know that alternate phone number, number 22, on the case object is designed ... or was built for marketing back in 2018 to drive a web form.

                    We're really trying to build that piece of it. It's a piece that I've seen missed a lot in different deployments that we've done, but really helping support ourselves internally. It's a lot of work, and it's a lot of having to go back and ask the question to get the answer, "Why do we have and we don't [inaudible 00:35:26]." Why would we have 14 email address fields? 

                    What really helps is when we go to a different business use case to say, "We've already got these fields. Would these work?" Trying to help walk those users through that disruption factor of, "I know you're really used to seeing it as email address number two, but using email address number one saves us a field, and it's already there. Just try to imagine a two there rather than a one," so doing that kind of thing.

                    Honestly, I'm fairly proactive, so Trailhead is really big for me, even to our users. Again, Salesforce is new here, so how do we educate our key stakeholders, and Trailhead is a really good way to educate them and get them up to that level where they're not having to ask, "What does CTI mean?" It's really helping develop that lingo, and that piece have helped us a lot as well as just as an object. "What's the difference between an object and a table" and all of those random questions that you're totally not prepared for them to ask. "I've been doing this for ten years. How do I not know this?"

                    It's a fun game, and I really rely on Google too. There's no shame in that. We openly admit that while we have a lot of experience, the ecosystem is always evolving, so it's really difficult to become that, quote, unquote, "expert." We're going to be as knowledgeable as we can. When we don't know the answer, we're going to be honest and open, and we're going to go find the answer.

David:              Love it. Love it. Great stuff. By the way, what I often do is, in full transparency, when someone asks me a question of, "Hey, is it possible to do X with Y on this page or this object or this type of Salesforce product," and I do find that result from Google or YouTube, I have no hesitation in also sharing that original source of, "Okay, here's what I found, because if you're going to find something that contradicts ... I'm just telling you what I know, and this is where I know it's from. I'm not telling you anything else."

Jeff:               Yes. I'm constantly on calls where somebody asks a question, and I'm like, "I'm just going to confirm this, confirm my theory before I open my mouth, because that commits me."

David:              Especially, the Salesforce ecosystem, the tool is constantly changing with all of the releases that happen and the new products that are released, so asking a particular question two years ago could result in a dramatically different response today.

Jeff:               Right. Keeping up with those Salesforce releases, I think we have one coming out on, what, the 12th or something like that. Reading through those notes is a kind of a mind-numbing experience, but it's important to read through them.

                    One thing that we used to do at a different partner that I was employed at, we would split those notes up and bullet point out the cool things that we found and then maybe a couple red flags, like, "This might impact us," like, the PLS update. That was a big one that came from a little bullet point. We were able to save ourselves a lot of headaches by heading that one off early. It shows a little bit of proactiveness. 

                    It also just educates us. You never know enough. One of my mantras is, "Learn something new every day." We do that by sharing the load. I think a lot of us in the Salesforce world tend to feel alone, especially when we're that one admin at the little firm that's nobody ... you don't really have anybody to talk to. For me, when I was running my own company, I found some friends, and we would do that split on the release notes. It became fun.
                    That's really what it's all about in the end, is having fun and understanding what you're doing but also remembering you're not alone out there. There are other people that are looking for friends in the ecosystem, that you all have great ideas. Even in something as simple as, "How do we convert this lead over to an account? Should we pull this into an opportunity?" Being able to bounce those ideas off of each other is not only fun, but you learn something new and a different way of approaching it, sometimes for better, sometimes for worse.

David:              Right.

Jeff:               Really, talking with each other is the whole point for me. It's really driving, I have this idea in my head, and I call them hack-a-thons, but I sit down with my friends once a month. We talk through at a high level issues that we're having or ideas that we're trying to solidify. Every conversation has some version of, "You can do it that way, but I've seen it done this other way." We usually toggle those two ideas together and then go and build it in our sandbox and, lo and behold, it works. It's a lot of fun.

David:              Even on the flip side, even when it doesn't work, from my perspective, that's a very positive experience, because you just saved yourself a lot of embarrassment by at least trying it out as a proof of concept.

Jeff:               Yeah. Fail fast and don't fail in front of the client. That's why I never build reports and place it on a web share. Every single time, it's like, that never works.

David:              Right. Right. What I've found is that the person requesting the report midstream will suddenly throw in some data points that are for a completely different object that will never...

Jeff:               Yeah, and now you're lost in report world.

David:              ... a different report type. Oh, wait, we only have to redo everything.

Jeff:               Yeah. We've experienced that one a couple times so far. Being honest with your client, "Yes, we can build that report. It's going to take me some time. We think we want to do this in the background before we show it to you." 

                    Again, it comes back to that honesty thing. For me, it's a show of strength that you would rather go and make sure you're doing it right rather than feeling the pressure on the phone to, if it's for C-suite or for a key stakeholder you're really trying to impress, it's better to admit, "Hey, I'd really like to spend a little bit more time with this to make sure I am doing it right," rather than that ultimate goof and it fails. That really takes away from the product occasionally. They see this in their mind, a seemingly easy report, and it's giving you a lot of hard time, that's where that seed of, "Is Salesforce really right for us" starts to grow.

                    We always do dry runs, and we always make sure that we're committing to something obtainable and communicating it out, like, "Hey, we are struggling with this. We're going to figure it out, but it's going to take a little bit more time." It's not a sign of weakness or that you don't know what you're doing. It's a sign of quality and honesty. I'm hoping that that really translates into a good product at the end of the day. I don't see how it couldn't.

David:              Right. Absolutely. Let me ask you, what advice do you have for listeners who are working in organizations where they might be feeling a little bit overwhelmed by some of the native features, and the native features keep growing, or data quality issues and user requests, what advice would you have for them on how to manage all of it, take control of all of it, and not feel overwhelmed?

Jeff:               I struggle with that myself. This job is very, very big. Sometimes it can feel like it's an island, especially when you don't have a lot of business users who know Salesforce as well as you do. The first thing I do is I take a breath, and I say, "This is a job, and this isn't a lion getting ready to eat my arm off." It can feel that way, right?

David:              Right. Absolutely.

Jeff:               Then the next thing I do is say, "Okay, Google, what do I do here?" I really do reach out to my friends and to people I've worked with in the past and say, "I've got this problem."

                    A perfect example, we were doing our physician directory build, and we had this massive report, and it was joining on multiple objects. I was thinking originally, "We can do this on the Salesforce native report functionality," and it was just failing. It was extremely frustrating for me. I went and sat down with someone who has more experience than I do and has been not only in the Salesforce environment but also Oracle and Sugar and Zoho. We worked through it and talked about what the end goal was, and we decided, "Okay, this is better. This is just hard code. It's not nearly as flexible, but it gets us what we need," and we developed a plan. 

                    I think that's the good thing, is, develop your plan, and develop a Plan B and a Plan C, because ultimately you're going to run out of plans. As long as you have, "This is my end point. This is what I define done." As long as you can get there, it doesn't really matter how many things go wrong in the process. 

                    Always learn from it. Fail fast and pick yourself up and admit when you don't know something. That's the biggest thing. That Salesforce community and our MVPs, they're there for a reason, and there's no reason we shouldn't reach out. I think it's fun to try and stump some of our MVPs occasionally. I've not done it yet, but ...

David:              Oh, it's not that hard. Ask me any question about CPQ, I have no hesitation. It's like, "I don't know."

Jeff:               Yeah. The cool thing is, I've met a lot of people that I normally wouldn't have met, some that I got the opportunity to actually meet in person at Dreamforce, because somebody was like, "I don't know that answer, but this guy over here probably does." It's like, 14 people later, and I get the information that I need.

                    Again, it's really about breaking down that feeling of you're alone, even if you're in a small firm that has ten sales guys and you report directly to the owner, break down that wall and go to a user group. Build your own user group, like we did here. Every Friday we have a Salesforce, a AHS test user group, and all of our admins hop on the phone or come over to my floor and ... or not my floor, AHS's floor. They come over and we sit down and we talk. We talk about our successes for the week. We talk about our failures for the week. We talk about strategy and what's the next big thing coming.

                    That's really important, is to remember that this is, what, a 360-billion-dollar ecosystem. There's somebody out there that can answer your question. It might seem really stupid to you, but it's not. That's something I've struggled with, is, "Man, this is a really dumb question," but you put it out there, and it's amazing, the support that you can get, because there is no dumb question, especially at Salesforce, because it is always changing and constantly evolving.

David:              Yeah. I myself, when I get stumped, I will jump in a heartbeat to LinkedIn or Twitter or the Trailblazer community and post the same question in all those different platforms, because, frankly, I don't care where I'm getting the answer so long as I get an answer. Typically, I get an answer way faster than I had ever anticipated.

Jeff:               Yeah. I posted something on LinkedIn the other day about having to mock up Salesforce. Never have I been asked to mock up Service Cloud Console, but I reached out and just said, "Hey, where's a good place to go do this?" Within an hour I had 14 suggestions and some questions like, "Why are you mocking up Salesforce? This is pretty standard stuff here." Being able to commiserate with people, you know?

David:              Right.

Jeff:               Sometimes it's cathartic to complain, and we do need to let off some steam. It's validating, but, yeah, we do have a hard job. It's difficult. Again, it's not the end of the world. If you don't know something, you just don't know it. In about an hour you will know it, and you'll be smarter for it.

David:              It's all good. We get through it together.

Jeff:               Exactly.

David:              Let me ask you real quick, my last question. We talked earlier about a couple off different apps that you guys are currently using at AHS. If you had to select, let's say, your one or two favorite apps that you just really can't live without ... I'm not trying to be super competitive here among the apps, just what comes to mind and why?

Jeff:               There's probably three. The first one is Field Trip. I think it's Qandor or something like that, the company that makes it.

David:              Yeah. Mike Farrington's baby, yep.

Jeff:               Yeah, but I love that app. Just from an audit perspective, being able to go in and see the fields that your business users just insisted on and the justification of, "Ha-ha, I knew you weren't going to use that," to being able to maintain a semblance of organization and utilization. 

                    With Enterprise, we're restricted to 500 fields per object, so we have to be really cognizant of the fields we're putting there. Going and saying to your business user, "Hey, you requested this field, but you're not using this one, so can we get rid of this other one so it's like a net loss or a zero sum configuration, or can we get rid of all of these fields and really free ourselves up a bit?" It helps with page layouts and things like that. Field Trip is my number one. 

                    The second one is TaskRay. I absolutely love TaskRay. The UI is there. It's strong. It's native. I'm huge on native apps. Just from a project management, even if it's a small project, being able to break those tasks out and watch them move through the process, I like the kanban view. Watching those move across the process, you reduce how much you lose, and you reduce confusion for your stakeholders, because they can also launch the same process still across the board, and it's not terribly expensive for what you're getting. It think $12 or something like that per user. It hits all those checks.

                    Then I think from a business perspective, a business user's perspective, Conga is the single best, the epitome of document management and generation. It's amazing how much time just in the short time we've had Conga, it has saved our business users, because, as you can imagine, our contracts are massive, and you have to put first name and last name in 20,000 different places. Click one thing and say, "Okay, I know my contact record is up to date. Generate contract." Ten seconds later, boom, it's there, and it's in a PDF or a Word document. It's also really great for those high-level reports. Being able to do a one-click report for your C-suite is awesome. It saves so much time. 

                    Those three apps I would say are tops here for me I'm sure there's others out there that I've used. There's a lot of really cool and free dashboards. I know that Clean My Room is really good for sales, making sure that those opportunities and tasks are being closed. I've never installed it and configured it. I've never personally used it, but, yeah.

                    I have my own little Salesforce environment, so if I see something cool and I can get a free trial or something, I just drop it in my org and play with it. Those are some of the really cool apps that I like to use.

David:              Love it. I have to tell you that all of the apps that you mentioned I happen to be very familiar with, and I can honestly say, those are all at the top of my list as well. I have a couple of other favorites, depending on different use cases. 

                    The truth is, it's hard. It's hard to select. Of all of the different apps out there, it's hard to select which really rise to the top, because it depends on the use case. It depends on the pain that you're experiencing or the business process that you're trying to get through at a given moment, whether it's in the role of the Salesforce admin, of trying to administer Salesforce, so something like Field Trip would come top of mind, versus the Salesforce Admin trying to service your users, your client, your customer base, of the users of Salesforce, where TaskRay and Conga would come to the very top, to help them with their own internal operations.

Jeff:               Exactly. Always being on the lookout for new stuff, because, again, that use case is always changing. It's amazing how many dashboards people can come up with in their mind. Then they're like, "Can you do this," and it's like, "Um ... Yeah." That's the first place I go when I get requests like that, because surely there's something on the app exchange that I can at least tweak to get maybe to where I need to be.

David:              For sure, and no need to reinvent the wheel.

Jeff:               Yeah. Yeah. With the GSP dashboard, that's a really strong starting place. That's 20 reports I don't have to build.

David:              Absolutely. Good stuff. 

Jeff:               Yeah.

David:              All right, Jeff, thank you so much for joining me today on the program, and thank you for sharing your knowledge, your wisdom, the best practices of the kind of magic that you are doing every day at AHS. Keep being awesome, and thank you for everything that you do on the Salesforce platform. Great stuff.

Jeff:               Yeah. Thank you so much for having me. Any time.


David:              Yep, my pleasure.




David Giller a Salesforce MVP, User Group Leader, Trainer, Consultant, Blogger & Author.

Although he started his career as an attorney, David entered the world of enterprise-scale IT management at NBCUniversal, & continued at GE Capital, where he was first introduced to Salesforce & became known as "The Salesforce Guru."

David is now CEO of Brainiate, helping companies unleash the power of Salesforce.

You can read more about David's bizarre career path here.


Don't miss a post! Subscribe to this blog via email, or add this blog to your Feedly. 

Episode 18 - How Do I Become A Salesforce MVP?


In this episode I discuss the various elements around becoming a Salesforce MVP.

You love Salesforce. You post things online, retweet others, and attend Salesforce User Group events. 

But you want to become a Salesforce MVP and you’re not sure what do to first, to earn that credential.

As a Salesforce MVP, people ask me this quite frequently. I’ve dedicated this episode of the Brainiate Show to dispel some myths and share with you my perspective and experiences on becoming a Salesforce MVP.

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Listen to the Podcast:


Transcript:

I get this question very often. Most MVP's that I know also get this question quite often. Question is, how do I become an MVP? I'd like to address this question. Kind of a loaded question. We're going to unravel a couple of layers of it.

First, for those of you, who are not familiar with the Salesforce MVP Program, let me describe it to you. What is the MVP program then? Salesforce MVP Program is a way to recognize individuals within the Salesforce Ohana, the Salesforce community, that have demonstrated certain characteristics, expertise, and that's expertise on the Salesforce products as well as the Salesforce Ohana itself, generosity, contributing openly to others in the Salesforce community. Leadership, demonstrating a path for others to follow. Advocacy. Advocating on behalf of Salesforce's core values, of the trust, growth, innovation and equality.

The process of becoming an MVP basically happens through nominations. Anyone can nominate one or multiple people to become a Salesforce MVP. Honestly, I've never bothered to truly learn exactly what happens after the nomination process. Frankly, I couldn't care less. It makes absolutely no difference in my life. I am a Salesforce MVP.

First, let me continue describing the rest of the Salesforce MVP program, before I describe a little bit more about becoming a Salesforce MVP. When someone becomes a Salesforce MVP, there are certain MVP rewards, or I like to think of them as perks. By the way, these are very nice, very generous perks. They will not change your life, by any means. I appreciate them. I appreciate them wholeheartedly. None of them are going to rock your world. What are they?

First of all, access to premiere support at Salesforce. You'll have access to Salesforce MVP trainings and certifications. Special briefings regarding Salesforce products with their product and marketing teams. Access to Salesforce executives at exclusive MVP networking events. Frequent opportunities to contribute at Salesforce events and on Salesforce social content. Those are some of the rewards of being a Salesforce MVP.

When people ask me, "How do I become a Salesforce MVP? What did you do to become a Salesforce MVP?" My first question to them is, "Why? Why do you want to become a Salesforce MVP?" Honestly at no point in my life, was it ever even a thought, that my goal was to become a Salesforce MVP ever. I never thought about it. I knew that the Salesforce MVP program existed for quite a few years. It never dawned upon me that, that's something that I should want to get, that, that would be an accomplishment, that my life would be better. I would reach a new level in my career, or advancement to become a Salesforce MVP? A lot of times, I don't really get a clear answer from them.

I start making it clear, a little bit of a reality check, by explaining, "Well, once you become a Salesforce MVP, you're not necessarily going to have better job security." Most employers probably couldn't care less. Most employers probably don't even know what the Salesforce MVP program is. If you try explaining to them, they're going to roll their eyes, because they just don't care. It doesn't mean anything to them, most of the time. You're not going to get more friends out of it either.

Your family members will just roll their eyes. They couldn't care less. I can honestly tell you that my family members, my friends, couldn't care less. They don't care, so I don't talk about it. They're the ones who often ask me, because they think that there's something mysterious when they see somewhere online, my name mentioned as far an MVP or something. I do include it on my social media profiles, the fact that I happen to be a Salesforce MVP. Other people have far larger assumptions about what the MVP label even entails, or how it impacts someone's life. For me it's like, "Okay. Yeah. So I happen to be a Salesforce MVP. Okay."

Lastly, once you become a Salesforce MVP, you're not going to suddenly get wealthy. No one is going to be throwing money at you. I honestly don't know what the big mystery is about, or this fantasy level of what's going to happen? What's going to change in your life, if you were to become a Salesforce MVP. Now that we have that out of the way, let's address the question, the ... Let's go down one layer of, how do I become an MVP? How did most people become MVP's? As I mentioned earlier ... By the way, you can look it up. You can just Google Salesforce MVP's. You'll see what the MVP program is about. There is no real secret magic recipe.

The individuals who have become Salesforce MVP's, we all have, in many ways, very different personalities. There are some common attributes for sure, because the attributes that I mentioned earlier, definitely apply to most people who are MVP's. At the same time, we've all done it in slightly different ways. Some of us are bloggers, and some are podcasters. Some don't do any. Some just share on social media. The lights keep going on me every time I record a video. Some of us have blogs. Some of us do not. Some of us get involved, many ... I would say probably most Salesforce MVP get very involved in the local user groups. Many are leaders in user groups, but not all are user group leaders.

There is no secret magic recipe. We are not ... The Salesforce MVP's are not cookie cutter clones of each other. We all look and act and talk differently and interact with the world differently and interact with the community around us in different ways, although there is a common thread. All of us have demonstrated these core values, that's just part of our DNA, and how we express it, is all based on individuality.

In the end, my recommendation is, simply do what you think is best, to share your own knowledge, your own expertise, your own wisdom, your own leadership with others in the Salesforce community. Don't chase labels. Your goal in life should not be to earn that MVP label. Most MVP's that I know did not do anything to proactively earn that label. Most MVP's that I know, did not set out as a goal for themselves, that they want to become an MVP. They're going to do X,Y, and Z, to become an MVP. No. They simply did X,Y, and Z, because they wanted to. They share their expertise. They started blogging. They started getting involved in the Salesforce user group. They started getting involved in Salesforce events, because they wanted to, not because they wanted to become a Salesforce MVP.

Now, let's look at that element of it. If, you are looking for way to help others in the Salesforce community and the Salesforce Ohana, how can you do it? What can you do? There are tons of opportunities for you. You can share your knowledge, your Salesforce knowledge with others at work, in your own company, where you're employed. Share your knowledge with others. Start there. Start with the people that you interact with most at your place of employment. Share your Salesforce expertise, your ideas, your experiences on social media.

By the way, you could also become an MVP without even having any social media account. You don't have to have a social media account. You don't have to be active on social media. Many people are. That's one incredibly easy way of sharing whatever's in your head, whatever your experiences, the best practice is, the knowledge, the ideas. Go ahead and share it with others. Share it with other verbally. Share it with others in person, when you meet them at Salesforce user groups, at other Salesforce events, speaking opportunities at Salesforce events right? Your local user group. Share it on social media too. It's incredibly easy.

You can get involved in your local Salesforce user group. Getting involved might mean helping with the logistics, might mean offering to be a speaker on a particular topic that you'll expertise in. It might mean, helping to find a sponsor for an upcoming user group. It might mean starting your own user group. You could also start a Salesforce certification study group. There are many people, who are studying to take an upcoming Salesforce certification exam and they would love the opportunity to collaborate with others, who are focusing on trying to pass the same exact exam. Start a study group. It could be in person in your local area, and your local town, your local city. It could be virtual. Get together once a week, twice a week, whatever it is. It's up to you.

You could volunteer your time, helping a nonprofit that's using Salesforce. If you've gained Salesforce expertise at work, if you've studied and passed various Salesforce certification exams, go ahead and reach out to other nonprofits in your local area, nonprofits that you are passionate about. Find out whether or not they're using Salesforce. Believe it or not, many, more and more nonprofits are using Salesforce, to track their donors and donations, to track their volunteers, to track different initiatives that they're doing.

Go ahead and get involved with them. Help them out. For all you know, they have no idea how to build reports and dashboards. That's something that you happen to know. You'd be like a magician to them. Go ahead and do it. Go ahead and log onto the Salesforce Trailblazer Community, where people are posting questions, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Start answering some of those questions. Solve people's problems from the comfort of your home. It's easy. Now by the way, you don't have to do all of these things. Do what whichever resonate with you. Do whatever is comfortable with you.

In the end, do yourself a favor. Don't chase labels. For all we know, the Salesforce MVP program will just disappear, for whatever reason. Again, most of the people, as I mentioned earlier, myself certainly, but most of the people that I know, who are Salesforce MVP's, even if the MVP program disappeared, we would all do the exact same things that we're doing anyway, the things that got us to earn that Salesforce MVP label, we would still be doing it, even if the MVP program disappeared. Just try to do good and share your knowledge with others. That would be the most impactful thing.

By the way, forget about the Salesforce MVP program. It will be incredibly fulfilling and rewarding for you to help others from the knowledge and expertise and the wisdom that you've attained. Anyway, go for it. Tell me what you're doing. Leave me a note, if you have any thoughts on this particular topic, leave me a note. If you have a question that you want me to help answer, related to Salesforce, go ahead and drop me a line. I'll see you in the next episode.



David Giller a Salesforce MVP, User Group Leader, Trainer, Consultant, Blogger & Author.

Although he started his career as an attorney, David entered the world of enterprise-scale IT management at NBCUniversal, & continued at GE Capital, where he was first introduced to Salesforce & became known as "The Salesforce Guru."

David is now CEO of Brainiate, helping companies unleash the power of Salesforce.

You can read more about David's bizarre career path here.


Don't miss a post! Subscribe to this blog via email, or add this blog to your Feedly.