From Idea to App in 5 Hours with Jeff Berger


This week on the Salesforce Admins Podcast, we’ve got Jeff Berger, Salesforce Admin at Academy Bank and co-leader of the Kansas City Salesforce User Group. We learn how he built a Salesforce app in just five hours.

Join us as we talk about how he works to create transparency between his customers and his organization, how he got executive buy-in so quickly, and the importance of communication.

In 24 hours I’d gone from getting the request to do something to demoing the app and then in another eight hours it was live and ready to go, and by the time everybody walked in Monday, they had been trained and we’re using it.
– Jeff Berger

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

Building an application in 5 hours.

So without burying the lede, we felt like we needed to bring Jeff on the podcast after he built an app from start to finish in five hours. “Like many banks over the past couple of weeks, we were scrambling to get something done for the Paycheck Protections Programs that was part of the CARES Act,” Jeff says, which meant he got a call from his boss asking for help on reporting. He needed to turn that process into a new app as quickly as possible to help them figure out how to allocate their resources in an all-hands-on-deck situation.

“The number one thing you can do, when you’re demoing a new process, is don’t focus so much on the process,” Jeff says, “an executive wants to see the output, they want to see the data right away.” Seeing a live readout of the information they cared about the most really sold the value of the app to the stakeholders involved. “Amazing things happen when you have executive buy-in,” he says, and with the support of leadership and the organizational focus that comes with it, he was able to turn the app around incredibly quickly.

A big need for Jeff’s organization was a way for the tellers who speak to customers every day to be able to tell what the status of someone’s application is. The initial ask was for Jeff to periodically publish a spreadsheet on a web portal for people to check, “but I like to replace spreadsheets with Salesforce,” Jeff says. He figured he could create a list view in Salesforce, drop that onto a community page, and share it publicly with the guest user functionality to give people up-to-to-the-minute information about their application.

The power of communication.

“If I have a favorite Salesforce features, it’s reports and dashboards,” Jeff says, “the value in Salesforce is the ability to immediately, as soon as you stand up a new object, start reporting on it.” Getting everyone trained on an app in such a short amount of time wouldn’t be possible without Chatter. Jeff could respond immediately to any tech support needs right on the platform.

“There’s no secret sauce,” Jeff says, “when I get questions in Salesforce, only 25-30% are Salesforce technical questions, the rest of them are really business process questions.” Jeff also emphasized the importance of getting on the same page with other departments about how things work and what the message is. Staying aligned and communicating was critical to turning around an app so quickly. Be sure to listen to the full episode for more, as there are tons of great tips about rapid development and deployment.


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Full Show Transcript

Mike Gerholdt: Welcome to the Salesforce Admins Podcast, where we talk about product, community, and career to help you become an awesome admin. I’m Mike Gerholdt and joining me today is Jeff Berger, co-leader of the Kansas City Salesforce user group, to talk about how he as the Salesforce admin at Academy Bank in Kansas City, used the platform to build an app in just five hours so that they could manage all of the paycheck protection program applications. Wow. I’m literally just blown away. So let’s get Jeff on the podcast. So Jeff, welcome to the podcast.

Jeff Berger: Thanks Mike. It’s great to be here.

Mike Gerholdt: Well, I’m so glad you’re here. I was on an amazing Kansas City user group call just last week, and shout out to the Kansas City user group, and I think Dale Ziegler, who I haven’t had barbecue with in very long for coordinating that. You were on the call and he asks you to give a demo of an amazing app that you built in five hours. I will tell you that my face melted. Those words I used when I talked to the admin relations team, I said, “I got to get this guy on the podcast,” because, as I said in the introduction, your the Salesforce admin at Academy bank in Kansas city and you built an app in five hours. So I want you to, to kick off and tell us what app you built in five hours and what it’s related to.

Jeff Berger: Sure thing Mike. I do work at a bank and like many banks over the past couple of weeks we were scrambling to try to get something done for the paycheck protection program that was part of the CARES Act. So we had to very quickly get approval from the SBA to be able to offer these funds to our clients and prospective clients. And then we had to get a process put in place for these new loans very, very quickly. So I got a call on Saturday from my boss who said, “Hey, we’ve got this process going on, and currently it is moving documents from folder to folder and we’ve got underwriters using a shared drive, all that stuff. Can you help us with some reporting on this? We know Salesforce has great reporting and we need to understand what’s going on with these applications.”

Jeff Berger: And I said, “Well, I’d love to help and I love that you’re thinking about Salesforce for reporting, but I don’t know how much Salesforce is going to be able to report on all of this unstructured data that’s in folders on the P drive.” So I said, “Why don’t I take a crack at building something on the platform and we’ll set up a demo tomorrow morning and I can show it off to everybody and you can see if you like this new approach.” So the application went live on Friday. I got that call on Saturday. Spent the rest of Saturday trying to knock something out. shout out to the amazing business analysts who had been working on the project the past week because they had done an amazing job of documenting the process so that I could actually jump in and not have to start from square one with all of the visits requirement gathering.

Jeff Berger: So I grabbed a process document, I jumped into my sandbox, I grabbed a spreadsheet of the application data that had been collected so far, used the very cool custom object from spreadsheet functionality that I had not yet had a chance to use before, and stood up a custom object to track these paycheck protection program applications in Salesforce. So that was Saturday.

Mike Gerholdt: Just said very casually. What I love is that Academy Bank was already moving forward with a lot of Salesforce in different ways, but your boss had the forethought of, “I need data reportability. I need the ability to track…” I think what you said that really struck me was it wasn’t about the volume, but it was measurement. What was… I can’t remember that

Jeff Berger: Yeah. Yeah. So we knew that when we open the application up to our clients and really to the public VR website, that we were going to get slammed with applications. Everybody’s struggling right now. I know our commercial clients are struggling. A lot of folks in Kansas City are struggling, or Arizona or Colorado where we have some other offices, and we knew that we were going to need to understand everything about those applications coming in and know how we needed to staff up in order to support this pipeline of applications rolling in. So yeah, you’re totally right. It wasn’t about how many can you get done? Although that was important because, as we know, the money ran out, so we had to get as many done as we could to support our clients, but it was about understanding where we needed to put all of our resources.

Jeff Berger: Obviously this was a hands on project, all hands on deck, but do we need more underwriters today? Do we need more processors today? Where do we need to put these people so that we can get this high volume of applications through the pipelines quickly as possible? So building something out, I knew right away from the beginning it was going to be important to be able to show the executives, “Okay, here’s how many apps we moved through the underwriting group today. Here’s how many apps we moved through the processing group today. Here’s how many apps got SBA approval today.” Little pro tip, if you’re ever building a new object with a stage or a status field, just go right ahead and create those timestamps for the stage changes alongside of each of those stages, because inevitably some executive at some point is going to ask you to report on how long it took to move through the stage or how many have moved through a particular stage in a particular day, and you’ve got to be ready to give them that data from the beginning of the process.

Mike Gerholdt: That’s wise. I will say as somebody who’s built a contract management app before, that was one of the very first requirements I had. But I think what I hear is how important it is not only to measure the volume, which is what everybody thinks about, but also how do you allocate and manage the resources. I love that you were thinking of, “How do we move more underwriters? How do we manage not just the volume but also manage our human resources? How do we move the people into the right positions to manage all that?”

Jeff Berger: That was so critical. Yeah, absolutely, Mike. Especially because we added, I think over the past two weeks we’ve added like 20 people to Salesforce, 20 folks that have not previously had licenses have jumped on board. We have a whole group of folks that… Just a perfect example of all hands. We have a group of internal auditors that pivoted to assisting with the processing of these applications and generating loan documents and things like that. It was people who had never engaged in Salesforce before or maybe one or two of the members had, but we’re adding a 10 person team basically, and maybe two of them have a little Salesforce experience. So it was really critical to be able to onboard those folks really quickly and get them to the right seats in the right part of the process so that we can get these applications through.

Mike Gerholdt: I want to touch on that a little bit because I don’t want to oversimplify your Saturday [crosstalk] application is… I’m not a Jeff Berger. I don’t know the entire platform, and I would run into so many barriers and hurdles as I come through and try to build this application. I remember seeing in your presentation to the Kansas City user group, the first thing you said you ran into was you didn’t know anything about community licenses.

Jeff Berger: Yeah, that’s right. As you can imagine, communication is really critical with these loans. Communication out to the clients. I’m a commercial customer. I submit my application on Friday night. I’m basically hitting the refresh button on my inbox every day because I need this money so I can pay my employees and I have to let people go or furlough people. So I’m desperate for feedback and I’m even walking into branches and asking questions of the front line folks, the tellers, “Hey, what’s the status of my loan?” I’ll be honest, we’re not that far along in our Salesforce journey yet and we definitely don’t have Salesforce licenses out for every single teller. But we needed to figure out a way that we could get the tellers and the other front line folks who were fielding these inbound inquiries about the loans, how can we assure our customer that your loan is being worked, here’s where it is in the pipeline, here’s the last time it was touched, here’s when you might expect the next communication without going out and investing a ton of resources in licensing in what really is going to be a temporary project.

Jeff Berger: So what I did is I knew, I think maybe at a previous KC user group community, shout out to Phil Weinmeister, who has done our user group a couple of times on communities. And I remember him talking about guest licenses and the power of guest licenses. So I said, “Okay, well what if rather than the original ask, which was, ‘Hey Jeff, can you run a report and generate a spreadsheet every 30 minutes and put it on the internet so that the retail people can see what’s going on with these loans?'” I’m not a spreadsheet fan as a Salesforce fan. I like to replace spreadsheets with Salesforce.

Jeff Berger: So I thought, what if instead of having to generate a spreadsheet every day, I can create a list view in Salesforce, drop that list view onto a community page, expose that list view publicly, via the guest user, lock it down with some IP address limitations so that the whole world doesn’t see it. But get it out there and then link to that list view. And instead of now a 30 minute delay and me having to manually manage that export and upload process, the retail folks or really anybody in the bank who doesn’t have a Salesforce license, who’s getting questions from a client and just jump out of the internet, click the PPP link and see the list of applications that are being worked and be able give an answer to that client right away and tell them exactly where their loan is in the process?

Jeff Berger: I thought that was a really important step in engaging with our clients because it’s one thing to get a lot of loans through the process quickly, but these are people’s jobs, and it’s important to us that we were able to tell folks exactly what was going on and when they might expect money to hit their account.

Mike Gerholdt: It’s huge. And that’s customer first. How do you empower your frontline to answer that question the first time on the phone?

Jeff Berger: Yes, absolutely. We have some pillars for success at Academy Bank and client first is absolutely number one and we are putting the focus on clients this year maybe even more than than ever. So that was a perfect example of how we needed to get information out there in real time so that our clients weren’t wondering. I’ve heard stories from customers who had applied at other banks and they weren’t able to get the information that they needed, they were sending emails with no replies, and that’s not putting the client first and it’s not going to create a sticky client relationship either. I think if you can be communicative now in this time and really be transparent with the client about what’s going on, that’s going to really go a long way towards making that client want to continue to bank with you. We had a lot of new customers come in from this, Mike. Folks that hadn’t engaged with Academy Bank before, so I don’t want to sound callous or like this is a sales opportunity for us. But the fact of the matter is that we have a ton of opportunity here to show these folks who didn’t know about Academy Bank before, what Academy is all about.

Mike Gerholdt: Yeah. I am not too much of the generation of face to face banking, but that in-person experience, I look back at auto loans or home loans or at car loans, any kind of loan, you’re always across, you can always see that person. And now when I can’t walk into the bank, but I pick up the phone. If that person has that transparent information, it immediately leads to trust, and I can see how that would happen and I’m glad you were able to like… How do I thoughtfully empower everybody to get that information as fast as possible?

Mike Gerholdt: Now, the one thing that was really cool, and I know we’re an audio podcasts, so I won’t ask you to explain it, but I think the power of measurement, we talked about that early on, was not only the volume but in measuring the volume and understanding where people need to go. One of the things that Salesforce allowed you to do with this new app was have a dashboard and a dashboard for your executive team. Can you talk about what you put into that dashboard or your thought process for that dashboard? I’d like to know what your executive team’s reaction was to it.

Jeff Berger: Yeah, absolutely. Absolutely. Well, I have to tell you, Mike, if I have a favorite Salesforce feature, it’s reports and dashboards, because the fact is… A lot of people think of Salesforce or CRM in general as an input system. Salespeople are like, “Oh, I got a log my calls, blah, blah, blah.” But the power of the platform is that it’s actually an output system. The value in Salesforce is the ability to immediately, as soon as you stand up a new object, start reporting on it and providing feedback to the team so that they can continue to make decisions that are best for that object and that process, and you can continue to collaborate and iterate on that process together, the executives or the business side and the Salesforce admins.

Jeff Berger: So a couple of things that I did to make sure that this would land, because I knew I was late to the party. There had been many meetings that I had not been involved in about what the process is going to look like, how it was going to work and all that jazz. So I knew I needed to really wow them the next day with my demo. So the number one thing you can do when you’re demoing a new process is don’t focus so much on the process, because as much as you think it looks cool and believe me, I love path, but it’s kind of boring for executives to sit through and have you tell them, “Okay, and then you’re going to move from this stage to this stage and then you’re going to move over here.” That’s not impactful for them because that’s not how they’re going to be using the platform. Yes, the employees that are doing the underwriting and the processing, those step-by-step pieces are really important to the process. But for an executive, they want to see the output. They want to see the data right away.

Jeff Berger: So the finishing touch of my Saturday work was jumping into the folder structure that was being used actively at that moment and pulling out all of the stage information that I could glean of which applications were at which part of the process, so that when I demoed the next day to the executive team, they were seeing… It wasn’t live data, but it was as of the night before data and I could really help them visualize how they could use the platform. So the big key takeaways for the executive team were how many applications do we have, and in what buckets are those applications, because we had different business types and different needs and that was important for us from a prioritization perspective. And then how much in dollars are these loans actually representing? That’s really important. And then where are all of these loans in the process?

Jeff Berger: So we did a lot of stage based reporting, a lot of pretty funnel charts and all that jazz. And then in addition to my executive summary dashboard, it was really important for me to help the two point people who were leading the working teams. We have two primary working teams, the underwriters and the processors, so it was critical that I could provide realtime feedback to those leaders about the volume of the application is being processed by each team and who was really killing it and who needed a little assistance maybe with the platform because they were new to it and just an overall understanding more on the numbers side of it rather than the dollars and cents side of it. How many applications they have left in their bucket that they needed to finish?

Jeff Berger: So it was really critical when I demoed Sunday morning to the executive team, we spent… If the meeting was an hour, we spent 45 minutes of it on the dashboard because as soon as they saw the ability to get this type of data out in real time, they had all sorts of additional requirements that they threw at me of, “Well what if we can measure this and how about looking at this,” that I could continue to iterate on over the course of Sunday and have something even shinier by the time we trained everybody Sunday night.

Mike Gerholdt: The timeline is still… Every time you say that, learned about Friday, built the app on Saturday, did a demo Sunday morning, rolled it out Sunday night. That’s how nimble and admin has to be sometimes. So let me ask you the million dollar question, because my traditional rollouts were get everybody in a room and big training and lots of budget and now we’re all working from our homes. We’re not all in a conference room together. How did you roll out this new app that you built over the weekend?

Jeff Berger: Well I think I said it at the user group too, but amazing things happen when you have executive buy in and when you’ve got something like this that is so mission critical, all eyes are on it, all hands are working on it, and the CEO says, “Yes, I want to start using Salesforce to process these applications.” Everything can fall into place. So I’ll tell you, we demoed the application to leadership at 11:00 AM on Sunday morning and we had coordinated a training at 4:00 for a key group of users, that was a quick 30 minutes, and then we had a followup training at 6:00 for another hour. So basically we went from… In about, what, 20… In 24 hours I’d gone from getting the request to do something to demoing the app and then in another eight hours it was live and ready to go, and by the time everybody walked in Monday, they had been trained and we’re using it.

Jeff Berger: Now, don’t get me wrong, I was Mr help desk Monday morning. I was getting a lot of inquiries, but one of my other favorite things about Salesforce is Chatter and being able to collaborate in contacts on records as people are working them was so critical for us, because somebody has a question like, “Hey, why am I seeing this?” Or, “Hey, I can’t touch this field.” Or, “Hey, I need to be able to do this. I didn’t think I was going to have to.” They could just ping me in Chatter and I could go take action immediately for that user for that record. I will admit, you roll out something this fast, you’re not going to catch everything, but we got something out there. We got a 1.0 version out there so that people could start working and start abandoning the folder structure that we had been using for the weekend, because it was just obvious we weren’t going to be able to process the volume of applications we needed to going that old school folder route.

Jeff Berger: But yeah, it was executive alignment plus a lot of people being willing to jump on training calls and WebEx calls on Sunday, which we obviously all appreciated, because that’s not a normal course of business. And then just a lot of really intense engagement over the next couple of days to get people comfortable with it. There’s no secret sauce. It’s being connected, being engaged, and understanding the business process so that when you get those business questions… I don’t know about other admins you talked to, mike, but I say from a help ticket or help desk sort of perspective, when I get questions in Salesforce, only 25 to 30% of them are Salesforce technical questions. You know what I mean? The rest of them are really business process questions, because in so many organizations, Salesforce and the business process become completely on unseparable, so people turn to admins for help with the business process too. So it was really critical that I was very engaged with the underwriter leader, the processor team leader and the executives so that I was communicating the same message that they were to their teams when those questions inevitably arose.

Mike Gerholdt: I couldn’t [inaudible] any more. We heard this last week on the podcast with Sierra. Being connected with the user and being genuinely engaged and bought into the outcome. And I think that’s what I hear from you. You got the call on a Saturday, responded, and you were genuinely engaged in what that outcome looked like so that everybody at your bank on Monday, virtual doors open, is ready to command and respond as one voice and be super transparent with the customer. I just think that’s amazing.

Jeff Berger: Absolutely. Again, it’s times like these, it’s instances like this that really show how powerful it is to come together and collaborate and be marching to the beat of the same drummer. Because I think it’s easy in the normal course of business, you’ve got different departments and they’re doing their thing, and maybe they’re collaborating and maybe not. But something like this is a real clarifying moment where everybody across the whole organization, it’s obvious that every group, no matter whether you’re in IT or loan operations or sales or whatever, you’re all focused on a single priority number one. That’s so powerful [inaudible 00:24:09], and when you can have something that’s that clear, boy howdy does that make it so much easier to translate into a Salesforce application.

Jeff Berger: Anybody who has developed in Salesforce or been an admin in Salesforce understands that it is sometimes a challenge because you’ve got different departments, you’ve got different priorities. You’re trying to build something that suits everybody, but everybody’s got their own opinions about how things should work. But I’ll be honest, something like this, what is maybe easier than standard development almost in a certain regard, because everybody was saying the same thing, everybody knew exactly what they needed. And that sort of clarity is just gold for an admin like me, because I can immediately translate those business requirements into Salesforce functionality.

Mike Gerholdt: So as we wrap things up, and I know admins are listening to this, a lot of people listen, what is your advice coming out of this. What was a lesson learned, a perspective that maybe has changed for you?

Jeff Berger: Well, the first thing I’ll say is, and I know it’s maybe a cliche, but you can’t let perfect be the enemy of good, and especially in a rollout like this that’s so time-sensitive. I love me some flow and I love process builder and I love all that cool, awesome stuff. But the fact is that when you’ve got to build something like this, you got to check your ego at the door and be okay with a little manual work. That’s just the reality of it sometimes, that you don’t have time or bandwidth to go make it work just right and have all the cool bells and whistles of a fully realized app. Be okay with iterative development, be okay with getting a version 1.0 out the door, and then you can clean it up as time goes by and continue to make impactful changes to the application as you work at.

Jeff Berger: I mean, I’ll tell you, the application that it is today is significantly different than it was two weeks ago. There have been many iterative changes that have occurred across all different facets of the process to just make it easier. That might be new fields, that might be formula fields, that might be a little bit of automation. Now that things have slowed down ever so slightly and I have a little bandwidth to do that. So my number one thing is just prioritize what’s really important and don’t let yourself get distracted by all the cool things could do when you really need to just get a handful of things out the door. I know that’s a problem personally for me.

Jeff Berger: And then the other thing that I preach over and over again is that concept of Salesforce as output system. If you don’t have a clear crystal vision of what your dashboard is going to look like for executives before you start building your new process, then that process is not going to be as successful as it’s going to be. You have to understand the types of questions that leadership is going to ask and that comes with experience, but it also just comes with raising your hand and saying, “Hey, what do you need to know about this?” Now, executives might not even know always right up front what they want to know, so things like my tip about building those timestamps for stage changes, that just comes with experience because they’re inevitably going to ask about that. But you’ve got to start at the end. You got to understand what people are going to want to see to measure the success of the process or the app, and work backwards from there, because otherwise you might as well be using folders.

Jeff Berger: And then I guess the last thing I just want to say is, and this is again just one of the things I love about the platform, leverage Chatter and the collaboration that’s available on these applications right away, right out the gate, because being able to collaborate in context on a record is so powerful, especially right now when everyone is virtual and you can’t just walk down the hall and ask your your buddy what’s going on with this application. The ability for anyone in any part of this process to jump in on an app, because we got ownership changes all over the place in this application. An underwriter’s picking it up and then they’re putting it down and then a processor is picking it up and then they’re putting it down and then somebody in funding is picking it up. So being able to have a record via Chatter of all of the conversation that’s happened on that application over time is just so, so powerful. It’s not stuck in people’s inboxes. You don’t have to send an IM to get the information you need. So don’t be afraid to turn on Chatter when you’re creating a new object right out right out the gate, because I think you can surprise people with how powerful Chatter can be.

Mike Gerholdt: Well, that’s very cool. Jeff, thanks for being on the podcast today. I so enjoyed your presentation to the user group, it inspired me that in just a few hours, any company could pivot to new requirements or something new and really open up that level of trust and transparency to their customers, and I was just blown away by it and that’s why I’m glad we had chance to have you on and share some your knowledge.

Jeff Berger: Well thanks, Mike. I mean the pleasure’s all mine. Love you, love the podcast. It’s been a real honor to be on here and share our story. I know there are a lot of banks out there that have gone through a similar thing over the past couple of weeks. I’m very interested in how other people solve this problem because it was a wild thing to have to basically turn something around in at most a week, between when the CARES Act was approved and when these applications were going live. It was really fun to share my story, and again just thanks for having me on the pod.

Mike Gerholdt: It was great to chat with Jeff and I am so thankful for our Salesforce community groups and the group leaders like Dale Ziegler who lead the Kansas City community group for creating that opportunity for everyone to meet and share their story like Jeff’s. And here are three things I learned from our discussion. First, transparency builds trust. What was so key in the conversation that Jeff and I had was how he enabled all of the people at Academy Bank to really answer the phone the first time somebody called and be super transparent around the application. Transparency builds trust. That was the first thing that I wrote down.

Mike Gerholdt: Second, dashboards are key. If you heard when he rolled it out to executives, he probably spent 45 minutes really going through helping his executives understand how the dashboard could help them make decisions, prioritize, move important human resources to be all hands on deck with this program and the application allowed him to do that. And then third, and it’s honestly a running theme that we’ve heard in so many of our episodes. Communication. Just communication, communication, communication. Jeff stayed connected using Chatter. He enabled all of his users to not only chat questions to them, but he created groups so they could answer those questions. And then of course, as we heard, being connected with Chatter allowed all of the loan agents and everyone in the bank to have full visibility as they moved an application through its process. It had that history. It wasn’t buried in somebody’s inbox, they didn’t have to spend time IM-ing to get that information.

Mike Gerholdt: And also as an admin really being engaged with what the outcome and the opportunity was. We heard this with the Sierra Skyles podcast, really being invested in not only a person but in the outcome that came with it. So transparency builds trust, dashboards were so the key to this, and communication, I can’t communicate that enough. Now, speaking of communication, if you want to learn more about all things Salesforce admin, go to to find more resources. And as a reminder, you’ll love what you hear. Be sure to pop on over to iTunes and give us a review. I promise I read them all. You can stay up to date with us on social for all things admins. We are @SalesforceAdmns, no i, on Twitter. And you can find my guest today, Jeff, on Twitter. He is @JeffreyBerger. Don’t worry. Link will be in the show notes. Of course, I’m on Twitter. You can follow me, I’m @MikeGerholdt, and my cohost Jillian is @JillianKBruce. So with that, stay safe, stay awesome, and stay tuned for the next episode. We’ll see you in the cloud.

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