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From Superuser to Salesforce Admin with Courtney Coen

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For this episode of the Salesforce Admins Podcast, we’ve got new Salesforce Admin Courtney Coen. We learn how she set herself up as a superuser and got certified to be a Salesforce Admin, her approach to solving challenges from her users, and why being a Salesforce Admin is one of the most social jobs you will have

Join us as we talk about her technique for visualizing the process to communicate to her users, how her story shows how superusers can help you, and why it’s so important to be social as an admin.

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

From superuser to Salesforce Admin

“About four years ago, I was working in a call center and we were doing a lot of things manually, and I hated it,” Courtney says, “I wanted to spend my time helping customers instead of having to count out individual things when we could definitely report on them.” She played around in Salesforce and found the reports and dashboards tab and started figuring it out on her own.

Courtney ended up being the de facto admin for her customer services department and, after she had already built over 150 reports and dashboards, the development team at her company realized they needed to talk. It didn’t take long for them to figure out that she should be a full-time admin, so she got started on the path to certification with the support of the team and her supervisors in customer service, which she finally completed this year in May. “It was very much a story of sponsorship and mentorship, and without everyone’s help I wouldn’t be here,” Courtney says.

How Courtney uses visualizations to explain process changes

Courtney has a unique visual approach to problem-solving. “The first thing I do when I’m tackling a business challenge is talk to the people who are having the problem,” she says, “and I draw the process we have now and color code it and talk to them about why it’s a problem and what their proposed solution is.” That makes it easier for her to adjust all the different components of the workflow to see where she can save people clicks or add automation to save time.

One thing Courtney uses her visualization method for is to keep her users updated about changes she’s making to their workflows. It’s important to her because not too long ago, she was one. “Users don’t necessarily understand all the technical mumbo jumbo,” she says, “but sending them a visual representation of how you’re going to fix something is a much better way to communicate with them.”

Why being a Salesforce Admin means you have to be social

Courtney likes to say that being a Salesforce Admin is one of the most social jobs you will have. “As an admin, your users are your customers,” she says, “they’re our customers, they’re our clients, it’s our job to make everything easier on their side.” The first thing Courtney does when she’s handed a new issue is to set up a meeting to talk through the process and, ideally, watch them work through it as it currently stands so she can ask questions.

In the current remote work environment, many of us find ourselves in these days, that can be a little trickier because you can’t just do some SABWA (Salesforce Administration By Walking Around). For Courtney, video conferencing has been a lifesaver: “We’re actually meeting more now than we did before,” she says, and those meetings are paving the way for even more improvements in the org.

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Full Show Transcript

Mike:
Welcome to the Salesforce Admins podcast, where we talk about product, community, and career to help you become an awesome admin. This week, we’re talking with new Salesforce admin, Courtney Coen, about how to visually solve problems and draw out solutions as a Salesforce administrator. So in this episode, you’ll hear from Courtney on how she set herself up as a superuser within her organization, got certified, and became a Salesforce admin, as well as her approach to solving challenges from her users and why being a Salesforce admin is one of the most social jobs you will have. So with that, let’s get Courtney on the pod. So Courtney, welcome to the podcast.

Courtney Coen:
Oh, thanks Mike for inviting me. I’m really excited to be here.

Mike:
Well, truth be told, I was on my back patio, scrolling through Twitter and a new face and a new name came up in my Twitter feed that I felt like everybody was re-tweeting and talking about your blog. And so we got you on a call and come to find out you have a fun introduction into the ecosystem and I feel like a really poignant way of helping admin solve problems. So why don’t we rewind and give us a high level of how you became a Salesforce admin.

Courtney Coen:
Okay. So about four years ago, I was working in a call center. I was a customer service lead and we were doing a lot of things very manually and I hated it. I wanted to spend my time helping customers instead of having to count out individual things when we could definitely report on them. So I played around with Salesforce and found the reports and dashboards tab and just started figuring it out on my own. So that kind of started me being the admin for customer service for a few years. I had built 150 reports and dashboards and the development team at my company was like, “Wait a minute, who’s doing all this stuff? We need to talk to her.”

Courtney Coen:
So my boss in customer service got me connected with the dev team and I started working on projects with them and it didn’t take long until I realized that I should be doing this job. And so with the help of my development team and my bosses, they helped me get the admin certification and I spent a whole year learning on Trailhead and doing everything. And I passed my certification in May and I received a job as an admin this March. So it was very much a story of sponsorship and mentorship and without everyone’s help, I wouldn’t be here. So I was really [inaudible 00:03:09].

Mike:
Wow. Yeah. Now I think you mentioned, I have in my notes that you’d built over 150 reports for your org.

Courtney Coen:
Before I was even an admin.

Mike:
So being a power user pays off.

Courtney Coen:
It really does, especially if you have a really great boss as I had. She was really great at seeing people and seeing her employees for who they were and she realized right away that I wasn’t in the right spot and that I really needed to do something more technical. So I just kind of shifted into that admin role for the customer service department. And then other VPs started asking me for reports and dashboards too, which got the development team’s attention. It was really helpful to our team because we could be more efficient and I really provided a lot of value to the customer service team during those three years of building out everything. Like I said that’s what got their attention.

Mike:
Yeah, absolutely. I mean, truth be told, I’ve known a lot of people that started off as real power users that quickly I gave delegated admin access to or that was their next step, and then from there it just lit a fire. One of the things that you talked about and I wrote down that I thought was really powerful. As you know, on the podcast, we’re always dividing our time between talking with product managers and diving into product and really diving into helping admins solve problems and solve solutions. And for as many Salesforce admins and businesses out there, there’s that many solutions and challenges that we’re trying to solve. But I feel like you have a, I will call it a unique approach, but I like the approach that you took to how you think through and so much as I’ve done on previous podcasts, I’d love for you to share what your thought process is and what you do when you’re tackling a challenge or a business process at your organization.

Courtney Coen:
Well, the first thing that I do when I’m tackling a business challenge is I talk to the people that are having the problem. Getting on a call is the easiest way to gather requirements and to figure out what’s wrong. So I have the users show me how the process works now and I draw it out. I have a whiteboard in my office and we have one at work, so I draw it out and color code it with what we have now. And then I talked to them about why it’s a problem and what their proposed solution is. What do we need for it to work? Then I go back to my chart and I start kind of fiddling with the different components of that workflow or that chart to try to make things a lot more simple. I trained over 60 CSRs in my time and I’ve trained a lot of people on Salesforce, and the less clicks the better, the more automation the better.

Courtney Coen:
So when I’m going through this chart, I’m trying to take away as many steps as I possibly can, so we can get to a more simple streamlined solution. And I just keep working at that. And if I need more information, I’ll go back to the user or I’ll watch them do something another time, or I’ll consult with one of my coworkers or the Trailblazer Community and kind of just keep tweaking it. Once I figured out a chart that works for me, I’ll go ahead and write down every single step that I need to take to make that work. And I write it down because as admins, a lot of times working on multiple projects at a time, so it can be really easy to forget things. So I try to make sure that I write up every step and I include the chart in my ticket.

Courtney Coen:
So if I have to come back to it later, it’s right there so I don’t forget what I thought about earlier. Then I’ll go through every step. And every time I hit like three or four steps, I’ll make sure the users understand what’s going on and I’ll try to update them. Every user wants their stuff done right now and it’s better to inform them along the way. And so I’m just a very visual person when it comes to solving problems. It doesn’t have to be complicated. You can just draw a square and write the word “Accounts,” or you can do a chart like “If this happens, then this,” and you can kind of draw your workflow to on a whiteboard and everything will start to kind of make sense in a more visual manner, which I just find is easier.

Mike:
Wow. Yeah. And I venture a guess, at least I know I’ve done this for other times I’ve been admin. This might be the first time that the organization is seeing an end to end process visually.

Courtney Coen:
Yes. I mean, one of the things that I bring to my department right now is I have that user perspective because it wasn’t that long ago that I was one., And users don’t understand necessarily all the technical mumbo jumbo. If you send them a wall of text, they’re not going to read it because they don’t have time or just overwhelming. So sending them a visual representation of how you’re going to fix something is a much better way to communicate with them and they can actually see it in their heads, versus you having to explain it multiple times or do a huge presentation or something. It’s just easier to have a chart. It takes less time for them to understand it and you have a better relationship with your user because you’re meeting them in the middle as far as communication styles.

Mike:
Yeah, no, absolutely. How do you find you reference that chart as you go through like user acceptance testing or in training?

Courtney Coen:
Well, before we ever release it to the world, I make training documents. It’s something that I actually really enjoy doing. I know it’s the bane of some people’s existence, but I love it. And I try to include that chart in the training as well so that everyone understands the reason why we’re doing something. You can teach someone to click a button, but if they don’t understand why it’s important, they’re not going to use it or they’re going to forget to use it. So you have to explain the why and a chart is a really easy way to do that.

Mike:
Right, absolutely. Now, another thing that you were talking about that I find interesting now because especially with us being work from home, you said being an admin is one of the most social jobs you will have. Can you tell me why that’s your perspective?

Courtney Coen:
So before I was an admin, I thought that when I got my certification, I’d be in this dark room because we work in a dark room, typing up with my noise-canceling headphones, blasting Lady Gaga, just like working on stuff and not having to talk to anybody. After taking 70 phone calls a day for 10 years, I was ready to not do that anymore, but I was so wrong. I couldn’t have been more wrong. So as an admin, your users are your customers. And I think we need to shift our perspective on users, because yes, sometimes they can be frustrating, but they’re our customer. They’re our client, it’s our job to make everything easy on their side. So for example, when I referenced solving a problem, the first thing you should do is call them. So whether you get a ticket in, an email, or an IM, or a phone call, you should set up a meeting right away.

Courtney Coen:
So you can just see, you can watch them go through the process and you can understand exactly what they need. And so that takes time, sometimes it takes a few different meetings because one process can impact several departments. So you might have to talk to a few different users before you actually come to that solution of your problem. So you need to be on the phone, you were meeting with people to get business requirements, you’re meeting with them to give them updates, you’re training everyone in your org on how to use your product and that is all very social. You’re also, IMing people all the time and emailing or using a ticketing system. So you’re communicating with users all the time. It’s different from customer service, but it really is very similar.

Mike:
Yeah, no, I can totally relate. I mean, when I was in an office as a Salesforce admin, often I would walk around. That’s where I came up with the SABWA. What I would love to know is, so now working from home, you don’t necessarily have that dark room. Although you could if you want, it’s your house. What are effective ways that you’ve transitioned to meeting with users, working through issues? Because for me, I find you often want to be, I want to be at their desk helping them out, looking over the shoulder and it can be somewhat frustrating to be on a Zoom call with them. But I’d love to know how you’re navigating that.

Courtney Coen:
Well, there are a few different things that we’re doing. Microsoft Teams has been a lifesaver for us as a company. We use it all the time. So we schedule meetings constantly. As an IT team, we have a meeting every week to discuss our projects and to collaborate. We are actually meeting more now than we did before. So we’re getting on more calls and more videos with our users on a regular basis and we’re chatting with them and it actually provides the need for more documentation, which I don’t think is a bad thing.

Mike:
Right. It’s never not going to be important.

Courtney Coen:
Right.

Mike:
For something to look back on. So finally, I know you’ve been tweeting and I’ve been following along on your blog, you’re doing, I believe a hundred days of code, is that correct?

Courtney Coen:
Yes. So my goal is to become a certified technical architect and part of that is understanding code. So I am taking a hundred days to learn how to code. Well, actually more than that really, but this is a challenge so I can get comfortable with doing it every single day.

Mike:
Great and how’s that going?

Courtney Coen:
It’s been going good. I’m working on CSS right now with freeCodeCamp and I’m really hoping to get into RAD Women in January, which is really specific to Salesforce developers and I’ve heard it’s an amazing program. So I’m really excited to do that.

Mike:
Awesome. Well, good luck with all of that. A hundred days of anything feels like a very ambitious goal except maybe streaming things on various platforms, as we all catch up with our binge-watching habits. I want to thank you Courtney for being on the podcast. I loved your idea of using a visual chart to solve problems and being social with users is something that I feel every admin should do and I’m so glad that you’re out there talking with users, creating documentation. And you’re documentation champion, that’s just phenomenal because Lord knows I was the worst at creating documentation too. It’s like just make the thing and it’s fine. No one reads the user’s manual anyway.

Courtney Coen:
I mean, I like to have it so I can send it to people because you have tickets come in and you see a common problem over and over again. So it’s this much easier to come up with a document, send it to the users, have a little meeting, walk them through it. And then, you’ll start seeing less tickets over time because someone will actually read it at least one or two people. And when you’re making fixes, it’s much better to have it because you can go back and say, “What did I do?”

Courtney Coen:
And you can go back, read what you did. You can look it up in your ticketing system to see how you fixed it and readdress the problem and fix it a lot faster because you’re not having to hunt through your org for whatever workflow or process builder or anything that you used.

Mike:
Yeah, yeah. Right? How did I do that solution again? Going to take that Trailhead module all over.

Courtney Coen:
Yeah, we all do it. Sometimes it takes you a couple hours to find it and you’re like, “Dang, I wish I would remember.”

Mike:
Yeah, no problem. Well, it was great having you on and I look forward to seeing how your a hundred-ish days of code goes.

Courtney Coen:
Thank you very much. I’m looking forward to the challenge being done, but I have about 80 more days to go. So a lot more content coming your way.

Mike:
It’ll breeze by.

Courtney Coen:
I hope so

Mike:
So it was great to have Courtney on the podcast and welcome to the Salesforce Admin world, Courtney. Three things that I learned in our discussion. One, I love the idea of drawing out a process for users. There’s a ton of online tools that can help you do that. So it may be the first time that executives and users and stakeholders are seeing a full end to end process and showing that to them visually can really be of help. I think the second thing is reading between the lines. Look for super users that can help you. At some point in Courtney’s career, there was a Salesforce admin that really empowered her to create those 150 reports. Look for your super users that can help you create hopefully 150 reports like Courtney did, but you may be sparking a new career and a new career path with those individuals.

Mike:
And then the third be social, don’t be afraid to get on calls with your users. Be there, be the face of Salesforce for organization and be that helping hand to walk them through whether you’re on a Zoom call or a Google Hangout or however you collaborate. Now, if you’d like to learn more about all things Salesforce Admin go to admin.salesforce.com to find more resources. And as a reminder, if you love this podcast, be sure to pop on over to iTunes or wherever you’re listening to us and give us a review. It really helps people find the podcast and be inspired to become Salesforce admins, which is our goal.

Mike:
You can stay up to date with us on all things admins, we are at Salesforce Admins on Twitter, no I. You can find our guests Courtney on Twitter, she is @CourtneyCoen. And of course you can find me on Twitter, I am @MikeGerholdt. My co-host for the podcast, the great Gillian Bruce is @GillianKBruce. 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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