Archive for March, 2011

March 25, 2011

Go ahead & use me

One of the first things I did after becoming a Salesforce Admin was to start attending User Group meetings. I was lucky enough that my boss was already tied into the community (soon after I started work for her, she became the leader of our User Group), and understood the value of these meetings.

It would be hard pressed to say that these groups are a hidden gem. However, I still believe that users & companies that are new to Salesforce.com may not completely understand the value that these meetings have. Especially for smaller companies who may not be able to afford a trip to Dreamforce, this is the best way to network with the people you need to know. Just last week at our meeting, I was able to help two admins find button-click solutions to their problems & also got a suggestion on how to resolve an issue that I had been having.

These groups are still rapidly expanding in both size & number, which speaks volumes on how they are helping to transform this community.¬† Some of the groups are even doing all day events like “Dreamforce 2 You” down in Florida. If you aren’t already an active member in your local user group, go sign up (lower left side)! And if you are already attending, what is the value for you or your organization? Is there anything that these meetings don’t provide that you wish they did?

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March 18, 2011

Let’s make some magic…

Throughout my time using¬†Salesforce.com, I’ve been lucky enough to have tons of¬†opportunities¬†to network with other customers. One of the many patterns that starts to emerge is from new customers who are¬†struggling¬†to find a starting point. They hear others talking about all the cool & fun stuff they are doing, but have no idea how to have that ‘magic’ in their org.

Now, there are a lot of places to start, but one in particular has a “oooooo” factor in my opinion that gives it a real ‘magic’ feel – validation rules! These nifty little things hold a special place in my heart because they were the subject of the presentation I did the first time I was asked to speak at Dreamforce. (If you want to see that, it’s here – and I sound so totally terrified. How embarrassing!)¬†The great thing about validation rules is that they are fairly simple to set up, have that wow-factor & most importantly, it touches on one of the biggest problems that all databases experience – data quality!

One of my most¬†dreaded¬†projects was when we did territory alignment, but our address data was so messy. My first venture into validation rules took a stab at cleaning that up. Here are some of the first¬†validation¬†rules that I created way back when…

Short & sweet, but it prevents people from marking deals as won with a closed date in the future. (Conversely, if you wanted to prevent people from marking closed won deals in the past, all you need to do is flip the > sign.):

AND((ISPICKVAL(StageName, "Closed Won") ),(CloseDate > TODAY() ))

Another simple one that was a huge win for us was the first step in rolling out approval processes. We had a roll-up summary field that calculated the maximum product discount. If that was over the allowable amount for our sales reps (10%), a checkbox that was only editable by managers must be checked. It was a very simple solution to a complex problem, but it was our first step in the right direction.

AND(Discount_Max__c > .1),(Approved__c = False))

One word of caution – validation rules make data loads & fast testing a pain in the butt. I found this out as we started heavily using them, and I asked Salesforce for a bit of assistance fixing this issue. I understand why my idea is problematic, so I came up with a solution on my own. SAFE HARBOR – use this at your own risk!

I added a field to the User record that is only editable by Sys Admins, called Exempt from V Rules. Then I appended all of my validation rules with the following:

$User.Exempt_from_V_Rules__c = False

Obviously these are a very small sampling of validation rules. A majority of the time, these are something really simple that have big wins. Since these first initial rules, the validation rules I’ve written have gotten more complex, and I always have to be aware that end users will search for ways to game the system, but they are a really great tool in the fight against bad data.

Special thanks to Michael for help with the formatting of this post!

March 15, 2011

Too important to wait

The Salesforce.com Foundation is matching donations for the relief effort in Japan. Click here to help.

March 11, 2011

So much love

I was struggling to finish any of the several blog posts that I had queued up, none of which I loved, which left me with nothing to post this week. Such a letdown from last week (which has been my most popular post so far, yay!). I definitely feel the struggle to come up with good content, while at the same time posting regularly. Part of that struggle is I want this blog to be a place for answers, and not just a place where I reiterate opinions held by a lot of us force-natics.

So for the second time in three weeks, I’m slightly dodging the posting bullet. I want to focus on quality & not quantity, useful post rather than restating opinions over and over again.

I’m hoping to really get back into my groove next week. In the meantime, I’ll give a huge congrats to the newest class of Salesforce.com MVPs! You all earned it. Welcome to the club!

March 4, 2011

Stop acting Professional!

My local Salesforce User Group leader always starts our meetings with the Benioff-flavored “Raise your hand if…” questions, and inevitably, there is always a round of “What edition are you using?” To this day, it still shocks me that there are people still on Professional Edition.

So what is a company truly missing if they are only on Professional Edition? In my mind, they are missing all the really powerful things about the platform, but let’s dig in & spell out what each of those things are.

  • Customization limitations – This is huge & probably the most significant (to me at least). Yes, you can still make custom fields & objects, but you have a much smaller pool that you are dealing with. While the numbers on the PE side may sound like a lot, speaking from experience, you will burn through these fast. Here’s a quick snapshot of the most¬†significant¬†of these limitations:
    • Custom Fields: 100/object in PE vs 500/object in EE
    • Custom Objects: 50 in PE vs 200 in EE
    • Custom Tabs: 10 in PE vs 25 in EE
    • Custom Report Types: 50 in PE vs 200 in EE
  • Report¬†Filter¬†Limitations – OK, this one I didn’t even know until I started digging in to this, and WHOA! In PE, you can only have 5 field filters on a report. I still struggle with the 10 filter limit in EE, I can’t even imagine having only 5!
  • Validation Rules – Ever since the existance of validation rules, I’ve been a heavy user of them. They are a great way for us Button-Click Admins to prevent poor data entry & keep our databases clean. While PE does have the ability to do them, there is a limit of 20 per object (vs 100 per object in EE and above).

You may be thinking, “Well, all of that kind of stinks, but I can make it work. I’ll just scale back.” Sure maybe, but now let’s look at what PE doesn’t have at all:

  • Workflow – to me, this is the bread-and-butter of making Salesforce do things “auto-magically.” Firing field updates, emails and task creation with ZERO coding ability is one of my favorite things to do in Salesforce & this is not available in PE.
  • Approval automation – Do you want your sales reps to get approval from a manager before giving an 80% discount? Probably, but you won’t be able to automate that process in a PE edition of Salesforce. This functionality even generates a visio of your approval process.
  • A sandbox – To me, this is another no-brainer. Enterprise & above editions come with at least one sandbox environment to test changes before putting them into production.
  • Profiles & Page layouts – Do your customer service reps need to see data points that your sales reps don’t? Should a customer record look different & contain different information than a prospect record? Without profiles and page layouts, these things aren’t possible. Only one view of the world exists in a PE org. (These are available for an additional fee in PE however.)
  • Access to some partner products – Very often, products on the AppExchange just don’t work with Professional Edition, plain & simple.
  • Scheduled dashboard refreshes – Again, this goes back to automation. My sales managers think that it great that every Monday morning, they get an up-to-date dashboard emailed to them of our numbers. It makes me look on top of my game, but this is a set-it-and-forget-it project that runs itself, and you can’t do it in PE.
  • API access – If you need Salesforce to integrate with any other program, then PE just isn’t going to cut it for you because it doesn’t have API access. That right there is probably a key factor for a lot of companies.
  • Entitlements & milestones – A new feature in the platform, but it’s not available in PE or lower editions.
  • Exportable backup data –¬†Any EE or UE customer can sign up to receive backup files of their data as CSV files. Again, while this isn’t standard PE¬†functionality, it can be added on with an additional cost.
  • Dynamic dashboards – To be fair, these only recently became available in EE, so we did without for awhile too. But imagine this – a world where you don’t have to clone & rebuild a dashboard for every sales rep. Ahhh…bliss!

I didn’t touch on sales teams, territories or the offline access that you also miss out on if you are using PE, mostly because I don’t have a ton of experience with any of them. If any of my readers want to provide some useful comments there, it’d be much¬†appreciated.

You can see Salesforce.com’s PDF comparing the 5 editions here to get some more information. And a huge thanks to Matt(@midlakewinter) for inspiring this post.

Potential topic for next week – how a button-clicker wrote her first trigger. Stay tuned!

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