Inspirational Sausage – Looking Back on 2012

chattysaasyYear end is naturally a time to reflect on our accomplishments, challenges, trials, and failures and hopefully attempt to place all of these moments in time, throw them into a meat grinder, and come up with some sort of inspirational sausage to be served at the hors d’oeuvres table next to the brie wheel.

I look upon my career’s 2012 sausage as a rather fine specimen, as some of my key ingredients are of the truffle and high caliber meat level including bringing my total salesforce.com certifications to 4 (Admin, Advanced Admin, Sales Cloud Consultant, and Developer) as well as the title of salesforce.com MVP which puts me in a list of the best of the best from the entire salesforce.com worldwide community. MVP_r3_NODESCRPT

While I’m still riding on a cloud high as a result of obtaining this awesome title (bucket list, check!) and from the continued love and support that I’ve experienced from the salesforce.com community as a whole, I’d like to share some valuable lessons learned that all salesforce.com admins can keep in mind as they build out their resolution list for 2013. Here’s to churning out the same level of product for next year!

  1. Keep Those Synapses Firing! We need to constantly be challenged and complete meaningful tasks or we become….mushy. I have to admit, several times throughout my career, I became complacent, and happy with giving the minimum needed to continue rolling along. This year I made a career change (See #5) and I tapped into my naturally competitive nature and obtained 3 additional salesforce.com certifications, with one more on the way in Q1 2013. There should be no end to your thirst for knowledge, and if you find yourself reach an end of the ravenous craving for more information about your particular topic of expertise, it may be time for  refocus and reflection.
  2. Network, Network, Network – And I don’t only mean on LinkedIn (although this is a great location to find others in your space, just don’t only use it when you want to clear your inbox your emails from recruiters) –
    1. Offline: Make the effort to get out from behind your desk occasionally and meet people face to face. Attend your local user group meeting, attend Salesforce.com meetups, and attend CloudForce in your area if possible. Attend Dreamforce 2013! I can’t stress this enough – there is no alternative to the doors that you will open by attending this event.
    2. Online: Find your niche market/community for your online work and stick to the more common venues. Do you like rolling conversations about topics and notifications on upcoming events? LinkedIn. Do you enjoy helping others answer their pressing salesforce.com questions? Salesforce.com Answers. Do you prefer talking to various members of the community with almost instantaneous feedback? Twitter, with some of the more common hashtags used by the community, i.e. #AskForce. There are many other areas to find expert advice or just someone to bounce ideas off of, including Facebook pages, blogs, YouTube channels, and salesforce.com pages. You’d be amazed at who you can find online that is willing to connect with you over social media channels!
  3. Obtain Feedback – Ask for feedback on a regular basis. Not everyone is going to be confident or focused enough to give you regular feedback in any manner, but you need to know if the removal of that field, or the addition of that validation rule is helping or hindering your clients at every level. If you must, have a formalized process along the lines of a steering committee to obtain feedback, but with the myriad of tools at our fingertips in salesforce.com, I’d suggest posting Chatter Polls or just an initial conversation starter post with the all-inclusive hashtag #feedback. This also allows you to use the same hashtag when communicating the changes you’ve made to the system based on the requests from your end users.
  4. Tools Exist for (Most) Large Scale Issues – Use the AppExchange to find the right tools, partners, or developers that can help solve your issues. Use this your first stop before tearing your hair out in frustration – if it’s happening to you, it’s a good bet that someone else has had the same issue, from resolving the need to mass update records in a list view to a large-scale de-duping and data cleansing tool. Don’t ever assume that the tool you need will be paid, either!  The AppExchange has numerous free apps where all it takes is your time and effort to customize them (and don’t hesitate to reach out to the App Developer, either! Most of them will get back to you very quickly, and are always looking for feedback on their apps).
  5. Surround Yourself With the Right People – This year I moved to a new opportunity at a salesforce.com Platinum Partner and I am now not only working with extremely intelligent people overall, but also colleagues with brains full of facts and recommendations, so I have the ability to regularly “geek out” with them. This company’s passion for the product resulted in one of the first ever Partner Innovation Awards announced at Dreamforce 2012. I also would not be where I was today without the shared enthusiasm and expertise over the past 5+ years from all of the other awesome MVPs, including Matt Brown, Mike Gerholdt, Jeff Grosse, Garry Polmateer,  Brandy Colmer, Geraldine Gray, and of course the newly inducted MVPs (I just met for the first time this year including Becky Webster, Brian Kwong, and Matt Lacey)! Some of the most valuable interactions I’ve had come from subject matter experts in areas of salesforce.com that I have little to no experience with implementation or customization so don’t hesitate to branch out of your comfort zone and ask questions. The entire salesforce.com community is incredibly amazing, and can’t wait to see what this collective group can accomplish in the new year.

Enjoy the end result of your combined 2012 efforts, and cheers to a fruitful and productive 2013!

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Meme-ventures Comes to Salesforce.com World

…it was only a matter of time before there was one for salesforce.com administrators, right? I think the most amazing graph on memes I’ve ever seen is all the way at the bottom of this article showing the popularity of this particular meme from knowyourmeme.com: http://knowyourmeme.com/memes/what-people-think-i-do-what-i-really-do

So here’s my latest contribution after a few inspiring versions I’ve seen floating around recently:

What I Do Meme – salesforce.com administrator

memewhatIdofixed

Explorations into Validation Rule Limits Per Object

alternate title:

How To Toe The Line Between
Obtaining the Cleanest Data Possible
and
Driving Your End Users Insane

Ahhhh, validation rules.

They bring out the best intentions in every salesforce.com admin upon discovery, after all, who doesn’t love clean data? These powerful tools are available on most out of the box objects* and all custom objects and can give an administrator the keys to the kingdom of clean, precise, calculated data for pristine reports and dashboards. Validation rules are beautiful in their simplicity, offering up a true or false result based on a formula or expression that will give your end user a green light or a  polite stop sign with a nicely worded error message, hopefully in a location that will offer up some reasonable error message that will aid said user to see the light shed upon the correct phrase based on their text field entry, a targeted percentage field value based on a pick list value, or perhaps something as simple as a required field based on the case when another field has a value.

The land of giddy, rule enforcing admins

However, once this Pandora’s Box of RULES is opened, administrators (and their corporate/executive sponsors) have a tendency to become giddy about the idea of validation rules, and want to enforce as much as they can on their objects at the record level to ensure that the *exact data* that they need is obtained through any means necessary. Two examples I’ve come across lately are  (and no offense to the posters, of course): Limits on Validation Rules and this question on the Developer Boards. Sometimes it’s a power trip, sometimes it’s a true need for clean data without having to fix any of it on the admin side, sometimes it’s pressure from executives to guide the end users as much as possible, but overall the creation and activation of validation rules on one object can sometimes go overboard.

And back to world of the end user trying to create an Opportunity record…

Where would the endless parade of validation rules leave end users, assuming that they were hit with 100 (plus?) validation rules when attempting to save one…lowly…record? Frustrated, overwhelmed, and possibly to the point where the user would throw up his/her hands and go back to entering the data in their trusty Google spreadsheet, because hey, no one will stop them from entering whatever they want to there (and other people can even add data to the sheet while I’m typing! – NIFTY!). Even if we consider the best case scenario where the validation rules have easy to follow instructions to populate the data in a record and they are displayed in the location that makes sense, once you get above 100 rules, the question is – is this rule 100% necessary to enforce in order to have this record saved?

So, without further ado, my tips to ensure that as an admin you get the data that you need without driving your end users insane:

  1. Use workflows if possible as an alternative to a validation rule – anything you don’t need to rely on the end user for entering manually and can instead automate through salesforce.com workflow rules? #Booyah!
  2. Communicate early (and often) with your end users and executive sponsor of the rule on the continued need for the validation rule. For this one, I’ll always suggest Chatter! You should have one method to communicate with your end users, and it’s extremely helpful if you can include a screenshot at a minimum or a process video to show what will cause the error message to display and how to fix the data in a record to ensure you do not receive the error. If it’s a conversation that you would rather keep private between the administrator and the executives asking for the rules, set up a Sales Operations private Chatter group and discuss away, just be sure to communicate any confirmed changes to the public Chatter group!
  3. Combine similar requirements into one validation rule if possible – self explanatory, and will hopefully help you out as an admin, just be sure to detail what you are looking for in the error message. This will also help you out when you are running into issues with active validation rules when testing or attempting to deploy Change Sets from a sandbox.
  4. Be extremely careful when setting up Cross-Object Validation Rules – this one drives end users particularly bonkers if they do not have a very precise error message referencing the object that is causing the validation rule error. If you want to enforce that Bob saves a Case record only when a Contact is not marked as Inactive, spell out that exact issue *in detail* in your error message. This validation rule type I try to restrict to no more than 2-3 per object to ensure that the  back and forth between related records is not too tedious, and does not cause an end user to just select any (most likely incorrect) value in order to save the object.
  5. Last but certainly not least – Display the error message on top of the field in question – I have seen too many error messages pop up at the top of the screen in row upon row of error messages, only to have the end users play the game of “find the correct section and specific field’ in order to update the data, if they even do it at all.

Just by following these simple rules, your end users will be happy (as you/your execs won’t be hounding them constantly to update their records with correct data) and everyone will have the clean, concise data they are looking to report on.

* We won’t go into the slightly heated topic of validation rules on Chatter objects…

Welcome to the World of SalesforceQueen

Welcome to the World of SalesforceQueen

Welcome to my world, fellow salesforce.com admins. This blog is my attempt to corral all of my “a-ha!” moments while I sift through the world of salesforce.com administration and share with fellow admins those shining moments in, (let’s face it) sometimes an environment that reminds me more of a less glamorous version of storming the beaches at Normandy.

For those that would love to know my credentials, my background is in IT/computer science and I have worked at several companies as their lead salesforce.com administrator since 2005. I’ve recently gone on a certifications quest after having only my Admin cert since 2009 and now I’m also a Certified Developer, Advanced Administrator, and Sales Cloud Consultant. I’m extremely proud of these certs, as my Facebook Timeline will show you! I also presented at one session during Dreamforce 2006 as well as several customer webinars over my years as an admin and and look forward to presenting at future salesforce.com events.

I’m a firm believer in the salesforce.com community and attempt to interact with other admins such as myself as much as I can, even if it’s not online! We have so much to share with each other, and my goal with this blog is to spread the word and teach others my triumphs and also failures so others can succeed!

For more info, check out my About.Me page.