A Declarative-First Approach with Madeleine Coutanceau

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This week on the Salesforce Admins Podcast, we’re talking to Madeleine Coutanceau, Global Head of Systems & Processes and Salesforce Administrator at simPRO Software. We learn how her company has taken a declarative-first approach to implementing Salesforce wall-to-wall.

Join us as we talk about all the different roles admins have in a business, the importance of having key champions in your organization, and why it’s so important to align what you do in Salesforce with your organizational goals.

You should subscribe for the full episode, but here are a few takeaways from our conversation with Madeleine Coutanceau.

Why it’s so important to be fully involved with your implementation

“I’ve always worked with the business on the side of processes and moved through to the systems side,” Madeleine says, “so naturally, I fell into the system administrator role with our implementation.” At simPRO, that means she’s in charge of every piece of software that isn’t the product they develop. That means they’re running systems like CPQ, Chat, Pardot, Engage, Knowledge, Adobe Sign, ZINKT, Xactly, JIRA, and more.

The secret behind managing so many different Salesforce systems is a great implementation. “We were told to drop everything and be part of this implementation, 24/7,” Madeleine says, so they were involved with everything from training to putting together procedure documents. That really gave them the expertise they needed to lead and train teams across the world.

How to automate without a developer

When Madeleine’s company decided to adopt Salesforce, she was told from the start that she wouldn’t have a developer to work with. “We develop systems for our own clients,” they said, “we’re putting you on Salesforce so that we can manage this internally, not have developer resources that take up a lot of time.” That meant they needed to build everything with minimal code so they wouldn’t need extra help, so they leaned on Flows.

“I feel like my life changed at work once my Flows clicked into place for me in Salesforce,” Madeleine says, “suddenly, I realized I had all these processes I could just automate—I got a little bit Flow crazy.” This process didn’t happen overnight, however, as it involved a lot of trial and error and really digging into the nitty-gritty to understand Flows from the ground-up.

The magic of Flows

When you get Flows working for you, it can seem like magic. For Madeleine, a big challenge was removing users from the org for a company with offices not only in Australia, but also in New Zealand, the UK, and the USA. This process used to involve setting alarms for the middle of the night, but she was able to make it happen automatically without writing a single line of code.

Communicating process changes can always be tricky, especially in a large organization with a multinational presence. Madeleine and her team solved this problem by setting up private Chatter groups for each country that are used just for communicating process changes. Whenever they create a new user, they simply log in and subscribe them to the appropriate channels to make sure they get the notifications they need to see.

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Full Show Transcript

Mike: Welcome to the Salesforce Admin’s podcast, where we talk about product, community and career to help you become an awesome admin. This week I am talking with Madeleine Coutanceau, global head of Systems and Processes and Salesforce administrator, about how her company has taken a declared first approach to implementing salesforce wall to wall.
In this episode, you will hear from Madelyn about how she manages so many systems, how she uses flow to make her admin life easier, and lessons that she has learned after being an admin for four years. So let’s get Madelyn on the pod.
So Madelyn, welcome to the podcast.

Madeleine Couta…: Thanks for having me.

Mike: Let’s start off, I love talking about this idea of declared it first, but before we dive all the way deep into that, why don’t we get started with what you do.

Madeleine Couta…: Sure. So I’m the Global Head of Systems and Processes at simPro, and I am one of a team of two of admins for the business. I’ve worked at simPro for about nine years now in a couple of different roles, and this is my most recent role that I’ve been in for probably about five years, six years or so. I’ve always worked with the business on the side of processes and sort of moved in through to the system side, so naturally I sort of fell into that system administrator role with our implementation.

Mike: Wow. So if I’m looking through and I see your title as head of sales, you’re also the salesforce administrator?

Madeleine Couta…: Head of Systems-

Mike: Head of Systems.

Madeleine Couta…: … and Processes, not sales.

Mike: Systems. Sorry, I heard you wrong.

Madeleine Couta…: Yeah.

Mike: That sounds even bigger.

Madeleine Couta…: So Head of Systems and Processes.

Mike: Okay. All right. I’m always interested in what admin titles have, right, so I like that. So you mentioned head of systems, what kind of products and systems do you use?

Madeleine Couta…: So I look after the systems on the side of our internal systems on the operational side. So we are a software company, there is a big side of the business that I don’t really deal with on the systems side, that is of course our developers and product. But when it comes to the operational side of our operational entities in the different countries, I look after those internal systems. So we’re talking about salesforce and its sort of connected ecosystem, so we use a lot of salesforce products, all the way from sales, service, CPQ, Chat, Pot-Ot, Engage, Knowledge. And then we have those installed apps across the host system as well like Adobe Sign, Zincked, Xactly, we connect with Jira, Rollout Palpa, that kind of thing. So it’s quite a big sort of suite of systems that I essentially look after.

Mike: I would say. I feel like when I look at the customer 360 wheel, you’re coloring in all of our products.

Madeleine Couta…: Yeah, yeah.

Mike: You’re getting close to collecting them all, good job.

Madeleine Couta…: Yeah, I feel like I should get a prize at the end, where’ve you got them all.

Mike: Oh you do, you do. So with all of that and all of the users that you have across many continents, how do you build and manage this robust system?

Madeleine Couta…: It’s tricky, but I think we really had a really fantastic implementation. And not only did the team that implemented for us do really well, but I guess we were a part of that journey the whole time. So me and my other admin, we were pretty much told to drop everything and be part of this implementation, and do it 24/7. Every day we were in on the project, making sure that we were learning the whole the system. And then across, we essentially ensured that we did all the training, we put together all the procedure documents, any kind of LMS learning we put together as well, and essentially documented the whole system on a training level and how it was all put together.
And because we have that knowledge, it flows through into that everyday sort of support and being able to manage different teams around the world. We also are part of a software company, so our users are really, really good at embracing change. We preach that to our customers every day, so we’re really good at changing, and improvements, and challenging things, and trying to get that process improvement. So not only do I have great users, but also a great team to sort of manage that process as well.

Mike: Yeah, wow. Wow. Right now admins are all jealous that you’ve got a bunch of users that are embracing change like, “How do we sprinkle them around the world?”

Madeleine Couta…: I think I feel like I’ve been spoiled to be honest.

Mike: Absolutely. So being a software company, I’m guessing you were all about code with salesforce then?

Madeleine Couta…: No, not at all. So I was pretty much given the approach of, “You will not have a developer, we develop systems for our own clients. We’re putting you on salesforce so that we can essentially manage this internally, not have developer resource that takes up a lot of time. You guys are admins.” I don’t know code, my other admin doesn’t know code. “You guys are going to have to ensure that you guys can administrate it without a developer,” and that’s what we’ve pretty much done from the beginning.

Mike: Wow, so wall to wall with all those products, and you haven’t written a line of code.

Madeleine Couta…: Well, we maybe have one little bit of code with our action plans, I think.

Mike: There’s always a little bit.

Madeleine Couta…: It’s a tiny bit.

Mike: [crosstalk] had a little bit, right?

Madeleine Couta…: It’s biting me in the butt thought, it’s causing me problems. Yeah, I don’t have a resource, so I have pretty much tried to go as much no code as possible.

Mike: So then I’m guessing a lot of what you do is through flows?

Madeleine Couta…: Yes. I think my… This sounds a bit silly but, I feel like my life changed at work once my flows clicked into place for me at salesforce. And all those things that I had been wanting to do for the last couple of years, that I was like, “No, I can’t automate, sorry,” saying sorry to users, “I know that’s a lot of clicks, I know that this is a big process.” Suddenly it was like, “Oh my goodness, I have all of these processes that I could just automate with flows,” and it was very exciting. I got a little bit flow crazy, now I’m just trying to tidy them up a little bit.

Mike: Yeah, I believe the official term is flownatic, that’s what I’ve heard.

Madeleine Couta…: Oh, I like it, I like it.

Mike: So I’m sure there’s t-shirts out there to be a flownatic. Brian Kwong can probably… He has a wizard cast, you should be on his wizard cast because he will talk to you about being a flownatic. I’d be curious to know, I want to dive a little bit deeper into that flow, because I would like to know what you mean by, when flows just clicked for you.

Madeleine Couta…: I started learning on flows with the classic version, so before they brought the lightning improvements and changed-

Mike: Oh, the hard version.

Madeleine Couta…: Yeah. So I found it was really difficult to find a lot of documentation on it, to be honest. I had to watch a lot of YouTube videos to sort of understand variables, and the elements, and all that kind of stuff. And it wasn’t laid out very nicely, and a lot of the lightning side of things now, they create all these variables and record variables for you and everything, which is fantastic. All of the things that I was like, “Why doesn’t it do that,” it does it now, which is great. But I think because I’m a logical person, it just took me a lot of goes to really and just try and try and test the process to really finally have all the pieces click together for me.
I really struggle to learn something if I don’t understand it obviously, but I can’t just go and copy something, I have to sort of understand all the little pieces and the why’s. And then once I sort of researched enough into that and did enough simple flows to sort of get it, it all just clicked into place. It literally went, I went, “Ah, I get it now,” and then I was able to just create a whole bunch of flows, which was amazing. So it was mostly through self-learning. Now there’s a lot more resources though, and it’s much easier to learn how to use flows, and I have got my other admin now creating flows which is fantastic.

Mike: Yeah, I feel flow builder is very much a learn by doing.

Madeleine Couta…: Yeah.

Mike: I’ve done a few of the trailhead modules, and I was, “I have no idea what that was. Oh, that’s neat. Oh, that makes sense now.” And it’s one of those where until you do it, do you really understand it, and you almost just have to absent of what the tool can do, just think of, “What is something I’m trying to solve for, and what is something I’ve never been able to do?” I thought it was so fascinating that you could do decisioning, and screen flows, and loops, like you could have a look to see if a record exists. And I was like, “Oh man, that’s all the stuff admins have so wanted at our fingertips,” and looked at all of these 400-line triggers on stack issues, like, “Okay, well I’ve got to figure out a way to put that in my work.”

Madeleine Couta…: Yeah, it really makes you feel like the possibilities are, maybe not endless, but close to when it comes to doing something without code. And just those little things where a user has to click or create these records that look really, really similar every time, and you’ll suddenly be able to create a flow to be able to solve that, which feels really good and the users love you for it too, and you look like a magician.

Mike: I’m telling you. Now, I think a lot of, and true to kind of the admin mantra, you’re always thinking about how you can improve things for the user. I’d love to know, have you used flow to help your daily job be any better?

Madeleine Couta…: Yes. Yeah, so there’s one that didn’t take me long to create, was actually probably one of the quickest flows I’ve created, but it has a really bit impact on me and my admin. So we are located in Australia in Brisbane, and our head office is here and we have one of the businesses here as well, but we’re also located in New Zealand, U.K. and the U.S. and those guys of course are on a completely different time zone, or you guys are on a completely different time zone to us. So we’re dealing with users that are all around the world, and we’re only admins in Australia. So we used to when there was a termination or something like that where we had to freeze a user, or deactivate a user, sometimes it would be a 3:00 AM or a 5:00 AM wake-up call on a Saturday morning to set an alarm-

Mike: Oh no.

Madeleine Couta…: … we’d get a chat, or you’d set an alarm to quickly wake up, bleary-eyed, open up your cellphone admin app and freeze them, then go back to sleep. It’s not fun. So I created a flow, which I push from my salesforce admin cases, that essentially allows me to assign a user to a case, and then uses that user to then book in a time and date to freeze them, and it’s awesome. So I use a pause element, and then essentially I create a screen flow. I’ve got two flows, screen flow that essentially allows me to input the details, the user, the time, the date, I submit that and then it pushes through to a second flow which does a pause and waits until that date, and then freezes them.

Mike: Oh.

Madeleine Couta…: It’s awesome.

Mike: That’s just wonderful anytime. And speaking as somebody who I once had, I think a few weeks of scrum calls, where I had to be on at like 4:00 or 5:00 AM, I actually brought, at the time I was working in office, I actually brought a coffee maker into my office, because I was like, “I don’t want to have to… I want to sleep the maximum amount of time at home, get up come to the office and not have to waste time making coffee at my house. And I can do it during the call.”

Madeleine Couta…: Any way to save time.

Mike: Any way to save time, yeah. And lo and behold, I should’ve had flow. So one of the things that you talked about early on is, rolling things out and being declared of, I’d love to jump into how you tackle documentation-

Madeleine Couta…: Yeah, sure.

Mike: … and how you kind of bring those changes to your ever-happy, always open to change users.

Madeleine Couta…: Okay. Okay, maybe I put them in too much of a good light. No, no, no, they’re great.

Mike: They’re all going to listen to this and be like, “We’re not going to do any of the things she sends from now on.”

Madeleine Couta…: They’re going to be horrible.

Mike: Right.

Madeleine Couta…: Like, “Oh, we’re too easy, let’s challenge them more.”

Mike: Arms folded, “Oh, I need 10 check boxes.”

Madeleine Couta…: No, no more check boxes. Okay, so documentation. We deal with our documentation using Docs, but also then publishing them through salesforce using Files to Library. So we have Library set up for each of the different teams, we have general libraries as well. We share those out with the teams, and then we upload new versions depending on changes. We also manage some of our projects through a little project management tool on the side, outside of salesforce as well, using Asana. I really like Asana. And managing different tags, how different pieces of the system and a bunch of different projects and little changes all happen, and we just make sure that we update all the procedure document that relates. If we’ve got email templates, we realize we need to change all of that as well.
And then what we do is, upload the new versions and we have a chatter group which we then post changes to. So we have a salesforce updates chatter group, which is like a broadcast only, and then we have private chatter groups for all of our teams in each country. So this works really well for us, and I’m glad we worked this out. But essentially, and I definitely recommend it for any admin that wants to use chatter to push out changes, we create a chatter group for every team, so let’s say AU Sales, or U.S. Sales, U.K. Training, and New Zealand Training. We had Cradle these private chatter groups, and then we have all of the users that relate to that group we add them in. And whenever we set up a new user, we actually log in as them and subscribe them to every post.
So that ensures that they receive notifications. And because they’re private, we only use these kind of for broadcasts. They don’t use this for communication within their teams. This is really just for us as admins to go, “Hey, proceed to change, we’ve got new fields, or we’ve got a slightly different process happening here.” We go through all the changes, we link our files document for the new procedure, and then we add-mention the teams that are relevant. And then they all get an email notification, and then they can see that change come through. And that just makes sure that everyone sees it, we don’t miss anybody, and it works really well.

Mike: So how do you find time to create all this documentation, because that’s the question that I think only do Markle have essential habits that we do on Fridays, and you can watch that on Trailhead Live.

Madeleine Couta…: Yeah.

Mike: And we talk about documenting, right? Like, when you make changes to your org, document it so that you know you made the change, and your users have insight to what this field is and what that field does. And inevitably, and I’m the same way, it’s like eating your broccoli.

Madeleine Couta…: Yeah.

Mike: You’re like, you just want to make the change move on, “Oh, now I’ve got to write down how we did it.” How do you quantify that or work that into your day?

Madeleine Couta…: To be honest, I’m probably not so good at that piece. So not every… I mean, when it comes to procedure change and your process change for the users, we’re really great at documenting that, but when it comes to really minor edits or changes in our org for our own salesforce documentation, I have to say that is a grind. That is really hard to get done. I try to put aside time every week to ensure that we get that done, but I know I’m well-behind. So I think I have the same issue as probably every admin, including yourself.

Mike: Yes, absolutely. And I think just because the amount of… Well, for me it was the speed, like the ability to go into a Sandbox, make a change, you’re like, “Oh cool, is that what you want?” “Yes.” Okay, and then push production and everybody’s happy, right?

Madeleine Couta…: Yeah.

Mike: It feels a little bit sometimes like being an admin is like working in an emergency room,-

Madeleine Couta…: Yes. Get it done.

Mike: … like you want to triage everything and fix it and get it done, and it needs to be a little bit more methodical like building a house, you’ve got to have blueprints, and plans, and…

Madeleine Couta…: Yes. And I think because being one of a small team and having that very agile approach, I probably don’t have enough experience in that more methodical way, but I probably just need to actually find out what is the best way to do that and be a bit more… thinking better about what I’m doing in my org to then document that. But I mean, I try to do it as much as possible, but you’re right, “Here’s a problem, oh, I’ve got to solution.” And I love pushing out a fix, because I love solving those problems. But as everything gets bigger, you definitely need to make sure that you are doing the best thing for your org overall.

Mike: Yeah, absolutely. So I would love to kind of wrap on, you’ve been in the salesforce community for a while, you’ve been on a journey, you have an amazing resume. I mean, you manage a lot of systems. It sounds like you have a receptive user base, you’re doing documentation, at least as well as we can, but what advice would you give to admins who are maybe just starting at a new position or coming into an org, based on your experience?

Madeleine Couta…: Well, definitely if you’re being assigned as an admin on an implementation, I would definitely make sure that you are pushing yourself into that implementation as much as possible. I found that knowing exactly how things are set up is really crucial to your full understanding of how the org is created. I mean, I’ve only been in one salesforce implementation, and I’ve only been on salesforce org, so I only know from my experience, right? But if you’re coming into a business that already has salesforce, I mean, you’d hope that that was documented well, but I guess that’s a luxury probably with a lot of implementations. But I just think take stock of what you’ve got, see how the business is running.
I found that through my experience with pushing salesforce into our business, before I did that I was actually… I looked at all of the business processes across the operational side, so I was actually really intimate with how things were running. And I found that really useful to really understand our users, and to understand the process end-to-end. So if you know what the goals are, how to get there, and what you’re trying to achieve, you can really tighten up I think the steps to get there and the way your org is used to get there as well, and just make things a bit more efficient.
So I think before you delve into how is salesforce run, what is the business, what are your goals, what are you trying to achieve, how does each team run, is really important, that side of building base to understand, “Okay, so now how is salesforce going to achieve that, and what is it doing now, and how can I make that better?” Because constantly, day-to-day, my job is not only to implement new processes, new products, new teams, but constantly just looking at, “Hey guys, what are you doing? Are you enjoying what you’re doing?” Users will just continue to do something sometimes without them even complaining about it, or realizing that what they’re doing is actually inefficient. So how is it going, how are you using the software, and then really just understand that to sort of tighten up the process I think is super important, and I do that on a day-to-day basis as well, as well as support and all of that.

Mike: Yeah.

Madeleine Couta…: It’s an ever-changing challenging role, but it’s very, very interesting I have to say. Being a salesforce admin is never boring.

Mike: I would agree, and I also think to me that’s really, I don’t want to say fun, but the part that excites me the most is, it’s a job where you’re not sure what tomorrow looks like, but you’re confident that you have the skills. And if you don’t, it’s a new challenge, right, and it’s something to try and you’re always building on what you’ve done. I feel even when I worked really hard on Sales Cloud roll-outs, “Okay, now we’re doing Service Cloud.” “Oh boy, I don’t know Service Cloud,” “Okay, well, but you know the fundamentals and you’ve done Sales Cloud, right?” And so it’s not like you’re starting from scratch with a new adventure, right? It’s almost like-

Madeleine Couta…: Totally.

Mike: It’s like getting a new modified job every single day. And then the business process changes, and you’re like, “Okay, cool. Well, here’s everything I learned from the last time I built this app, and now I can move those experience and that lesson into the next app that I build, so I’m excited.” That’s what I loved about it.

Madeleine Couta…: Yeah, yeah. And it always presents with new challenges every day, and it’s really good and keeps you on your toes for sure.

Mike: Absolutely. Madeleine, I want to thank you for taking time out to join us, and it sounds for sure like you’re going to be busy today, whatever day it is with all of those users, and especially when the podcast goes live, they’ll find out how incredibly exceptional they are.

Madeleine Couta…: They are, they really are.

Mike: Shop them around, and maybe we’ll have them all get on the podcast and give advice to the other salesforce admin users about their receptivity to change.

Madeleine Couta…: Yeah. And I think having those key sort of salesforce champion people within each team, really, really helps that as well, because without them and without managers flowing all that information up from their users, it would just be chaos I think. So that’s important for us as well, especially since we’re such a small team. So yeah, they are great.

Mike: Yeah, absolutely. Yeah. Having your users voice every day all the way up to the admin, is key, so fabulous. Well, this was super fun chatting with you, I’m so glad we got… And it sounds like probably in a year from now, we’ll have 10 times as much for you to talk about.

Madeleine Couta…: Hopefully.

Mike: And we’ll have you back on the podcast.

Madeleine Couta…: That would be amazing.

Mike: So it was great having Madeleine on the podcast. Three things I learned in our discussion, first, you know what, salesforce admins have different titles. How cool is it that she is the Global Head of Systems and Processes? I love it. Two, she mentioned key champions are super helpful as they roll out different features and functionalities, and I think that’s super important too. In fact, in the show notes I am going to link to a blog post I did about building your internal advocates. And then three, and boy do we bring this home in a lot of our presentations, I love how Madeleine pointed out aligning salesforce goals to the goals of the organization. That was a key driver in all of the successful things that they have rolled out at that organization, and I just think it’s super, super important for every admin to do.
So, if you’d love to learn more about all things salesforce admin, go to admin.salesforce.com to find more resources. You can stay up to date with us on social for all things admins, we are @salesforceadmns, no I, on Twitter. You can find our guest, Madeleine on Twitter @mcoutanceau, I will put a link inside the show notes for you. Of course, I’m on Twitter @mikegerholdt and Gillian who also hosts the podcast is on Twitter as well @gilliankbruce.
So with that, stay safe, stay awesome, and be sure to stay tuned for the next episode of the Salesforce Admins podcast. We’ll see you in the Cloud.

 

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