This is the very first step – Understanding your Business Processes.
Before we dive into the series, let’s make sure this is right for you.
This series is right for you if:
- You’re responsible for a Salesforce org that continues to surprise you with hidden gems of features and functionality that you haven’t quite seen before.
- Other people have contributed to the Salesforce instance you’re working in today, yet those people are long gone and your Salesforce users are super confused by some of the things that they see and experience in Salesforce, turning to you, asking you to try to help unravel some of these mysteries and help them out.
By the end of this series, you should:
- Be familiar with your internal team dynamics, have a better understanding of what they do, who does what, which data and features of Salesforce are important to them.
- Be more familiar with your Salesforce org’s data architecture, roles, profiles, and sharing roles.
- Gain a solid understanding of the different systems, integrations, web forms that might be feeding mystery data into your Salesforce instance.
- Know the various areas of automation, workflow rules, process builders, and flows existing in your Salesforce instance.
- Understand your record types, page layouts, why they exist, and who needs to see them.
- Be able to identify and remove all of the clutter, the unused, unassigned roles, profiles, page layouts, record types, fields, objects, apps that make the simplest of Salesforce configuration requests overly complicated for you as a Salesforce admin.
This six-part series will walk you through an easy-to-follow step-by-step plan to gain an understanding of the people, the processes, the functionality, and the data that you need to know to work in your Salesforce org with confidence.
This should help you avoid the deer-in-the-headlights look each time you uncover another mystery area in Salesforce that none of your colleagues can help explain or understand.
This should also give you the confidence to speak intelligently about each core aspect of your Salesforce instance, allowing you to help make decisions, give advice, and help your team remove the clutter and focus on what matters.
This series is sponsored by: Panaya ForeSight for Salesforce
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Understanding your Organization’s Business Processes:
We’re talking about understanding each step in each of the processes that are being done by everyone on your team in the organization, understanding what they do, who else does these tasks, why they do it, and how they do it, let alone where they do it, because the answer is not always Salesforce.
You might be wondering: “Why is this important?”
This is of critical importance because understanding this information will provide you with the framework for every question or request that comes your way as the Salesforce Admin. It will help you understand what each person does, which features they need or use in Salesforce, who should see what, and why they need certain data or functionality.
Let’s put it this way: If you don’t understand the core business processes, you’re just an order taker.
Someone will ask you to create a field, and all you could do is create the field that they asked for. You’re not really adding any value if you don’t understand their business processes, if you don’t understand the why, if you don’t understand the process around that field, who else needs it, why they need it, what they’re going to do with it next. In order to understand all of this, you need to understand the business processes.
Now, you might be wondering, “How and where do we even start?”
I actually find myself in this situation all the time.
As a Salesforce Consultant, I’m often working with new clients, new organizations that I have never encountered before. Sometimes, I barely even understand what it is they do as an organization to earn money or how they operate. I certainly have no clue who’s who in the organization and who does what.
As a Salesforce consultant, when they come to me and ask for help of any kind, asking for help on a particular field, or updating a page layout, or helping to understand, or explain, or modify their sharing rules, or implementing some level of automation, I need to go through this entire process each time I work with a client because without this information I am of minimal help to them.
Gathering Details of the Organization’s Business Processes
I often tell clients, “Imagine that I’m a brand-new employee on your team, and let’s start with the first step in the process. So, you need to explain to me as if I’m a brand-new employee, and explain to me from the first step in the process. When someone first encounters your organization, what happens?”
Now, in most organizations, we might refer to this as lead generation, or business development, or prospecting. So, think of it as a very linear process.
The first step would be the first time we interact with someone.
So, I turn to my new clients and I tell them, “Imagine that I’m a brand new employee on your team. And let’s start at the very first step. Someone calls in and says, ‘Hey, I stumbled on your website. I want to learn more. I want to understand the products and services that you’re offering. I’d love to get involved.’”
“So, tell me, since today’s my first (imaginary) day on the job, what is it that I’m supposed to do? What pieces of information am I supposed to ask of them in order to figure out if we can even help them? And once I capture those pieces of information, where am I supposed to put that information?”
Where do I, as an employee, turn to – in order to get access to the information that I might need to reference to answer some of the customer’s questions?
After I’m done with that first interaction, what do I do next?
Imagine that I just finished speaking with a brand new prospect. I asked them all of the questions, I got their name, phone number, email address, etc. I found out which products and services who might be interested in, hung up the call, and now what do I do?
So usually, when I ask these questions, the person who I’m talking to usually turns to me and says, “Follow up.”
I say, “What does that mean? It’s my first day on the job. Follow up with who? About what?”
Also – is that new prospect supposed to get assigned to a particular individual if the prospect is from a specific geographic area?
By asking all of these questions, lots of information will start to be revealed.
Once you’ve uncovered the details needed for the initial steps associated with the first few interactions with a new prospect, converting them into a customer…now make believe you’re part of that next team that works on nurturing that relationship as an ongoing customer.
This means that you need to start asking many additional questions to get an understanding of what the employees do every single day. What are their responsibilities? What tools do they reference? What do they need to access? Where are they storing data? (Don’t be surprised to learn that they aren’t always storing their data in Salesforce).
Leverage Existing Process Maps or Business Process Documentation
You can always turn to the people that you’re working with and ask them if perhaps they have an employee manual or maybe some other type of documentation that can help streamline this fact-finding step. Perhaps the organization already has some type of documentation like a process map that will reflect visually what their business processes are.
I’m also willing to bet that even if you uncover some of this documentation, your discussions with the subject matter experts within the organization are going to reveal that there are many deviations or many anomalies that are not necessarily reflected in the documentation that you’ve been provided.
So, we start by asking around within the different business units that exist within the organization from a business development perspective, sales perspective, fulfillment, marketing, customer service, and more.
Understand Business Process Variations for Specific Scenarios (Team/Product Lines)
We then need to start drilling a little bit deeper. For example, if we start by talking to sales, we need to then start asking, “Well, the process that you just described, is it for all of sales or maybe just for consumer sales versus commercial sales? Is it for all of our product lines or are some of these processes different or different team members get involved for a slightly different product line?”
Understand the Internal Team Structure & The SMEs (Subject Matter Experts)
We now must identify the various groups that exist within the organization, in other words, the people that are within each of these groups.
We need to start listing out the people by name.
And while we’re doing that, we also need to identify who are the subject matter experts, just one or two subject matter experts, within each group that we can then follow up with to get a deeper understanding of the processes of what is it that they do every single day.
What tools do they use every single day?
How to Structure Your Documentation
People often ask me whether or not I have any particular Excel or PowerPoint templates to use to help facilitate these conversations. Personally, I do not. What I do have is a document with just five questions to remind myself to ask each time we’re discussing any type of process. Those five questions are:
- WHO is involved?
- WHAT do they do?
- WHEN do they do it?
- WHERE do they do it? (Using what tools, what systems, what data repositories?)
- WHY do they do it?
By continuously asking those five questions for each critical step in any organizational process, you will uncover a tremendous amount of information, the core information that you need to know in order to fully understand the process that the organization is working with. And please don’t forget, ask if the subject matter experts on the team already have any type of process map.
Draw The Process Map
One of the other things that I have personally found to be incredibly helpful when facilitating these conversations is to start drawing out the process map, even if you’re using pen and paper.
You can use pen and paper when having in-person discussions or maybe getting on a whiteboard and starting to draw it out.
As you’re drawing out squares, circles with arrows…you’re confirming with the Subject Matter Experts: “Okay, so it goes from this step to that step?”
Just by visually representing it that way, visually representing exactly what you’re hearing from the team, very often you will find that they respond by saying, “Oh wait, actually, there are three other steps that we do in between this step and the other step.”
Great. Let’s go ahead and discuss it. Let’s uncover some of those details.
It’s also okay if you do this digitally.
Sometimes, it’s better if you start off with it on paper, let them physically scribble on it and draw whatever arrows they want, and then you convert it into a digital document.
I guarantee that pretty much every time someone looks at it, it’s going to evolve.
Someone’s going to look at it and say, “Oh yeah, there are a couple of other details that we forgot to include on here.”
So, I don’t start off with any hardcore templates of any kind. During the process of asking all of these questions and capturing what I’m hearing, I’m creating a tremendous amount of documentation that represents what processes exist within the organization, and who does what, where they do it, how they do it, and why they do it.
Additional Questions to Ask Your Subject Matter Experts to Uncover Critical Details
- What is this step about?
So, you might be talking about a particular business process where the subject matter expert is sharing with you about a particular process that’s really important to them. They’re sharing with you all of the details about it, but you don’t understand the context in within which this comes up.
How frequently does it come? Why is this important? Sometimes you just need to ask the question of, what is this step really about?
- What details do we need to capture specifically at this particular step?
So, let’s make believe we’re a nonprofit and a donor calls in and wants to give a donation. So, precisely what details do I need to capture during this step in the process if I were the employee who’s picking up that phone call?
- What internal reference materials should I be referencing during this step, if at all?
- Who else is involved?
- Based on what criteria should something perhaps get reassigned to someone else on the team?
- What are we supposed to do next after talking to the customer or prospect, or after sending the proposal, or after taking in there customer support issue, complaint and logging it in the system?
- What are we supposed to do next?
- What type of follow-up cadence is expected?
Let’s say I am in a sales role, and I’m responsible for a bunch of customers, and some of them are broken down by tier one, tier two, and tier three. With what cadence am I expected to be following up with my tier one and tier two customers? Am I supposed to be reaching out to them once a week, once a month, once a quarter? What’s expected of me?
- What types of tasks are expected to happen, and by whom, and when?
- What type of follow-up reminders are needed and for whom?
- What tools are being used today by the people who are currently performing these steps?
- Who else is permitted to have access to this data?
- Should they have read-only access or are they permitted to have edit access?
- Who else on the team does these steps today?
- What does this team’s org structure look like today? Who reports to who?
- And within the team, are they also broken down by sub teams? And who do they report into?
- What are the most painful aspects of this process that the team is struggling with today?
- Which steps in the process are begging to be automated?
- Which steps in this process are already automated today? And is that automation working to introduce efficiencies to the organization or is it perhaps creating a complicated mess?
Now, keep in mind, when talking about automation, a very important aspect that we need to focus on is:
Have we defined every exception that could potentially arise when this automation should not happen?
- What reports, metrics or dashboards are important to measure this team’s success?
- Who needs to see these metrics?
Watch the Process in Action
Once you’ve had all of the exploratory discussions, you understand conceptually what they do, now you’re going to go ahead and take a look, looking over their shoulder, sitting next to the subject matter expert who’s actually doing these steps and watching to see how they do it.
Even though I’m describing it as if you’re doing it in person, I strongly recommend as a Salesforce admin, even if you are physically located next to the person who you’re working with, I strongly suggest that you do this through any type of web-sharing, screen-sharing mechanism that allows you to record the meeting.
So whether you’re using Zoom, or GoToMeeting, or WebEx, or any other type of a web-sharing, screen-sharing mechanism, I strongly encourage you to use that type of tool so that you can record the meeting. You need to record their click click-through stream. Record their screens, because I guarantee it will save you a ton of time by eliminating the need for you to go back to them for another walkthrough.
By recording these screen-sharing walk-throughs you won’t have to go back to them as often to ask, “Can you show me that screen again?” or to identify all of the fields that were on that particular screen, whatever screen they’re going to show you, or, “Where do you click on next? What was the name of that button that you had trouble with?” By recording the screen-share, it will save you a tremendous amount of time and grief.
I guarantee that just by doing this exercise alone, it will be very revealing to you in terms of the types of efficiencies or inefficiencies that they are working with that they perhaps can’t even articulate themselves.
By having performed the prior steps before sitting down for the walk-through, you should already have a solid understanding their business processes. By understanding what they need to do, and why they’re doing it..leaving this step for last makes it far more powerful for you as a Salesforce admin to now put everything together conceptually and translate it to the click-throughs on the screen itself.
After completing all of the steps indicated in this step, you should have successfully become a Subject Matter Expert for your team, as you have now have BOTH an understanding of their processes, as well as how those processes are currently managing in the existing Salesforce configuration for the team.
This brings us to the end of the first step – Understanding Your Business Processes.
I hope you found this information helpful.
If you have any questions, let me know https://twitter.com/davidgiller/
I’m looking forward to seeing you in the next step.