Shannon Hale on the New Mulesoft Composer

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This week on the Salesforce Admins Podcast, we’re joined once again by Shannon Hale, Platform Product Leader at Mulesoft. We learn what Mulesoft Composer is and what it can do, why she’s so passionate about making admins’ lives easier, and what the Shannon Hale Salesforce SWAT Team is.

Join us as we talk about what Mulesoft Composer can do for you and your org, and why admins hold a special place in Shannon’s heart.

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

Integrating multiple systems

“It’s always a challenge when you have data in one system and data in another system but your workflow doesn’t necessarily take that into account,” Shannon says, and if you don’t have any sort of integration you’ll find yourself manually entering data from one to the other. Not only is that highly prone to error, but it’s time-consuming. “Anytime you can automate those processes,” she says, “you can save yourself time and you can streamline those business processes.”

To solve this problem, Shannon and her team are building a new Design Time tool, Mulesoft Composer, for building integrations across different systems to connect your data sources together, developed specifically for admins. “You’re just a person, trying to do a job, and your job happens to have data in two systems and you want them to talk to each other,” she says.

Why Mulesoft Composer makes Integrating easier

When it comes to how to put Mulesoft Composer to work for you, Shannon says to start with the things that are time-consuming or error-prone in your org—anything that happens frequently. So you can identify where you need your integration to happen, then which data you need to move over and whether or not there are multiple steps involved (like sending an email or Slack message), then switch over to the composer.

Mulesoft Composer comes as a Managed Package, so it’s embedded directly into Salesforce, so the next step is to start a new flow and create your integration. From there, you log into both systems, choose the fields, objects, and triggers you want to work with, and then choose an action and a system to do it to. Think about it like Flow Builder, but for creating integrations between two systems. At the end of the day, this is about putting tools that were previously only in the purview of developers into the hands of admins to help them work their magic and make things easier for everyone.

Listen to the full episode for more info about how to get executive buy-in and why Mulesoft Composer is a lot like the point-and-click tools you’re already used to using.

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Full Show Transcript

Gillian Bruce: Welcome to the Salesforce Admins podcast, where we talk about product, community and careers to help you become an awesome admin. This week, we are talking with Shannon Hale, cue the theme song, about how admins can use MuleSoft Composer to bring even more data insights into Salesforce. And in this episode, you will hear from Shannon on what MuleSoft Composer is, her passion for the Salesforce admin, many of you may already be familiar with that. And, what the Shannon Hale admin SWAT team is. So without further ado, let’s get Shannon on the pod.

Mike Gerholdt: So Shannon, welcome to the podcast.

Shannon Hale: Thank you, Mike.

Mike Gerholdt: You’re over at MuleSoft now, which is a Salesforce company. Why don’t you tell us all of the exciting things for admins that you’re working on over there?

Shannon Hale: I’m not sure we have that much time.

Gillian Bruce: We have as much time as you like Shannon. Go for it.

Shannon Hale: Okay, let me just grab my list here. So as you know, MuleSoft is all about integration. And, sometimes when we think about integration, we think about bigger picture of things. We’re connecting data from all these disparate systems, and it’s an enterprisey topic. But in reality, almost all of our customers have data in multiple systems. We’re in the cloud now. We may be storing stuff in Trello, we might be working in Workday, and Salesforce, and Tableau, and maybe we have multiple Salesforce orgs, because that’s not uncommon either. And so, it’s always a challenge when you have data in one system and data in another system, but your workflow doesn’t necessarily take that into account. For you, if a record gets created, say a new hire gets created, a new worker gets created in Workday, if your job is then to go and provision a bunch of stuff for that user in Salesforce, if you don’t have any sort of integration, you will find that you’re waiting for stuff to happen.
In one, maybe you get an email, maybe you run a report, and then you go over to the other system and you do a bunch of stuff manually. And, you have to type information in that was in the system one into system two. And of course, that’s time consuming and also highly prone to error. And so, anytime you can automate those integrations and make them happen automatically, you can save yourself time and you can streamline those business processes. And so, what we’re working on right now is, MuleSoft is traditionally been very much an enterprise company, very much IT focused, big picture, full digital transformation kind of a company. And we’ll be honest, they have a little bit of a reputation for being complex. And, considering that studio is basically an eclipse IDE plugin, Yeah, it’s a little hard for our admins to make use of.
And so, what we’re building is a new design time tool for building integration across different systems, and connecting all of your different data sources together. But, it’s aimed really directly at admins. We’re focused on admins and business users, people who aren’t necessarily developers, or who aren’t integration specialists to think about those fancy integration design patterns like Scatter-Gather. You’re just a person trying to do a job, and your job happens to have data in two systems and you want them to talk to each other.

Gillian Bruce: All right. So, basically you’re saying “Admins, you can now integrate these systems,” which is typically not something that has fallen in the traditional admin area of work. Let’s talk a little bit about maybe, how an admin who has never really thought that they could do this, might start thinking about doing their first integration and using MuleSoft to do so. What are some like the initial kind of steps that you’d recommend someone who’s new to this take before even going down this path?

Shannon Hale: Sure. So obviously, much like any other sort of automation that you might be doing, you want to think about things that are time-consuming or error prone that can be automated, things that happen frequently. So, it might be that you have NetSuite, you’re using Netsuite for your ERP, and you want to keep your accounts in sync between Salesforce and NetSuite. So first, you want to identify where you need your integration to happen. And then, what you would do is, you would probably sort of figure out which data you needed to move over. It’s always good to have that stuff written down ahead of time, and really think about whether or not there were multiple steps that you need to go to. Is it something where you’re going to take the data out of NetSuite, put it in Salesforce, and then you’re going to do something else?
Do you need to send an email? Do you need to send a Slack message? See which steps are in there, MuleSoft Composer is the new tool that we’re building over at MuleSoft. And so, what you would then do, is you would open MuleSoft Composer. Now, here’s the fun part. Composer is actually, even though it’s a MuleSoft product, we are actually embedding it right inside of Salesforce. So, it comes as a managed package. And what you can do is, you can just go to the app launcher and you click MuleSoft Composer, and it’s right there. And, you see your typical list view. You can go in and create your new integration, or your new flow. And then, you just basically connect to the first system. So, you’re connecting say to NetSuite, and you type in all your credentials to sort of make the connection work.
We want to make sure that you’re authenticated and not pulling in random data. And then, you can basically choose which fields you want to bring over, which object you want to deal with, what you want to trigger the integration off of. So, maybe it’s when a new record happens, or maybe it’s when an account gets updated, because you’re trying to keep the information on the accounts in sync. And then, you just choose an action and choose the system that you want to put the data into. And, you can do things like create a record or update a record. And then, you specify… You basically map the fields that you got out of the first system and put them in the action where you want to put them in the second system.
So for example, if you’re creating a new account in NetSuite, and then you wanted to create a new account in Salesforce, you would simply, in the Salesforce action put name, and then it would be the linking to the NetSuite record. So, it’s really easy just to sort of map the fields back and forth in a very straightforward manner. It’s a lot like using flow builder, to be honest.

Speaker 4: Which we’re familiar with.

Shannon Hale: It’s not [inaudible 00:00:07:18]. Yeah. Well, I hope so.

Gillian Bruce: I was going to say, I mean, Shannon, you worked on Flow Builder, so it kind of makes sense that now when you’re working on this MuleSoft connector, it has a lot of echoes of Flow Builder. And, I saw you do a demo of it just a couple days ago, and the first thing that hit me is like, “Wow, this looks like everything else that I’m used to using and seeing as an admin.” So, I get this, this does not look intimidating. This is exciting. I intuitively understand how to work with this interface. So, thank you Shannon for making it easy.

Shannon Hale: Well you know me, I like to make things easy. I was just thinking the last time we probably talked is when I came in as the product manager for Flow Builder. And now, you’re talking to me when I come in on MuleSoft.

Mike Gerholdt: Well, we really just follow the Shannon Hale tour as she goes around making things awesome for admins.

Shannon Hale: Well, that is what I look for.

Mike Gerholdt: That’s what we do. So Shannon, I have a question. I feel like the barrier to integrating things was always there. And, I ran into it as an admin. And, thank you for knocking down that wall for me. What would be something I should do as a Salesforce admin when I’m having these discussions with the business on, “Hey, the salespeople…” I’ll give you an easy example, “The salespeople really want to see invoice data.” And, invoice data could be kept in another system, often that system also has an owner that’s protective of the data. What are some of the questions that I should be asking? And, what are some of the things that I should be doing that will help my business reassure that system owner, that when I use MuleSoft Connect, I’m not going to be injecting a whole bunch of records and, or updating a whole bunch of… Like, what happens when I open up that tube? Like, what are some of the things that I should help as an admin, be more cognizant of?

Shannon Hale: Yeah, for sure. I mean, one of the things that you might want to do particularly is, create an account or auth credentials for a very specific integration user, rather than perhaps using your admin credentials. Especially if you have something like Modify All Data, you might not want to do that. So, when you’re dealing with multiple systems and maybe you have different administrators for the different systems, you want to make sure that you’re talking with them about the content that you really need and locking things down. So, it’s that rule of least access, that we all talk about as admins. You want to make sure that you give them the minimum permissions that they need to do their job and no more. Because if you do any more, you run the risk of scary things happening. And, nobody wants that to happen, even if it’s Halloween.

Gillian Bruce: Yeah. And, we don’t need any spooky incidents inside of our own orgs and instances, you are correct. No trick or treat surprises. So Shannon, There’s a lot of this technology. I mean, it’s incredible what you and your team are doing in really making it possible for admins to do, things that they traditionally have not been able to do. How do you suggest… I mean, you just talked about kind of working with the other administrators of the other systems. Let’s say, an admin is saying, “Cool, I got this, like I want to kind of take this on and add this to my role and responsibilities, and I have a vision for how I can make these things work together.” Any tips for how they could talk to maybe their business leaders about, “Hey, I know that I’m not a developer,” this is traditionally something you’d ask a developer to do, as an admin, this is why you should trust me. Any tips for admins in that space?

Shannon Hale: I mean, I think there’s two things. One is, you’ve got to get buy-in right. So, you want to demonstrate the impact that you can do. And, if you can point out that by working with this tool and creating this integration, you can basically save hours of time. It’s what I know I’ve talked about before. If you have a task that you do repeatedly, and it maybe takes you two minutes and you shave a minute off of that, that can be hours or days worth of time over the course of a year, if enough people are doing it or if you’re doing it frequently enough.
And, especially with integration where things do tend to happen, like you’re filling in the same data in multiple systems, the amount of time you’re going to save by not having to basically go to system one, stare at it in one browser tab and then flip to the other browser tab and type the data in. It’s so error prone and time-consuming. You can really sort of demonstrate your impact and show them how you’re going to be able to save them all out of work, or help streamline the process. So I think one thing is like, definitely showing them that you have that impact. Obviously, our admins are all heroes. And, hopefully you’re already working with someone who understands your value. And so, this is just something new that you can say, “Hey look, I found out that there’s this other tool that we can use that will help us integrate our data across these different systems.” “I think we should try it out, and here are some of the processes that I think might work really well for that.” And, always show, don’t tell.

Gillian Bruce: Yeah. I mean, once they can show something on a screen like you did the other day and I’m like, “Oh, this is so admining, I get it.” But yeah, like you said, “Kind of showing the value prop, and showing time saved, showing what’s possible.” I think that’s a very good recommendation there.

Mike Gerholdt: Shannon, I think one of the… So, the beginning of the topic, we kind of discussed like integrating with one system. And, what should we be thinking about as we use MuleSoft Composer to integrate Salesforce with many systems?

Shannon Hale: Right. So, I think one of the key things there, just sort of ties back to one of MuleSoft’s key value propositions which is that, when you are starting to deal with a lot of integrations, you probably want to start thinking about other tools like building custom APIs that cross those systems, plugging into MuleSoft’s application network. At that point, you may be in a position where you want to start thinking about upgrading into a full, any point solution. As far as, while it’s still in the sort of admin realm, you mainly, much like when you’re doing other automation type things at Salesforce, you want to make sure that your triggers aren’t tripping over each other, you want to make sure that your processes aren’t tripping over each other. You want to make sure that you don’t have multiple processes doing the same thing that might sort of get things in the wrong order, or update things twice and so on.
So, you definitely want to make sure that you’re sequencing things well. Again, making sure that you’re using an integration user, rather than having a number of different people logging in with different credentials, those types of things.

Mike Gerholdt: Oh, that’s good. And, I purposely threw a hard one out there, because I feel like sometimes we talk about like, “Oh it’s easy, just one-to-one, but what happens when it’s one-to-many.” I would love to know, as you are working on Composer, and full disclosure, we saw a great demo of it from you, what was one of the harder things to make in the interface seem simple?

Shannon Hale: Hard things simple. Some of it is honestly the mapping part. Even though it doesn’t seem very complicated to sort of say, “I’m going to map name from the NetSuite objects to name on the account object in Salesforce.” In some of these cases, when we’re building out the different steps in the application, we might have one step or the trigger where you’re getting the Salesforce object, for example. So say, you’re getting account. And then, you might be doing something like the next step, getting a list of contacts associated with that account. And then, when you go further down, you might be in a loop through the contacts or something, and you might be creating something in, say at this point you’re creating something in NetSuite, and so making sure that you’re using the right Salesforce one step, when you have multiple steps that are connected to the same service can be a little bit tricky to portray.
The other thing is obviously building queries. In Salesforce, when we have a query, we obviously don’t want to just present you with a text field and ask you to write a Sokal statement. But fortunately, some of these things, we already have existing patterns for in Salesforce, like Flow Builder, Process Builder, even Workflow rules, or even reports, an app builder. All of these tools inside of Salesforce have these patterns that we already know about. We already know how to set condition criteria, because we do it for dynamic forms, we do it for conditional rendering in flow. And so, the nice thing is that by mimicking those patterns or following those patterns, we make it possible for someone who’s already used these tools in Salesforce to go, “Oh yeah, I know how this works.” “This works exactly the same way as I would do it over here.”
We’re definitely following the Salesforce builder patterns and the SLDS builder patterns, wherever it makes sense to do. So, there are a few cases where we do do things differently, because composer is very much dealing in data. Data is a little bit more front and center, than in something like Flow or Process Builder, where it’s a little bit more about sequence, and process and logic. So, we have a few places where we’re really focused on making sure that we show you what you’re working with, and you can be confident that you’re working with the right content. But, a lot of the other things we definitely wanted to take advantage of all the design work that’s been done ahead of time. And, the fact that you already know how to use these tools, and really make sure that coming in, you just say, “Oh yeah, this is just like that.”

Gillian Bruce: That’s awesome. So Shannon, I know, you’ve been in Salesforce product world for quite a while, but jumping to MuleSoft, it had to have been a little bit of a shift for you. And now, hearing what you’ve been able to help the team do at MuleSoft to kind of integrate these core Salesforce patterns and build our models. Tell me a little bit about that process. Like, how is it like being a Muley, and kind of bringing this core Salesforce methodology and thinking, which is very admin first, to kind of this new part of the business?

Shannon Hale: Well, there are kind of two things that I thought about there. Yeah. I’ve been around for a while. I started at Salesforce in 2008 as a designer, and moved into products in 2011. And as you know, I’ve owned pretty much every point and click tool that Salesforce has by this point, every admin tool. I understand Salesforce really well. I know the data models, I know the systems, I understand a lot of the spectrum. Because, often admins are working with developers, so there’s a spectrum of tooling. There’s the point and click tools and there’s the developer tools, but often it makes sense for the developers to use the declarative tools. I know all of this stuff, and I get to MuleSoft and it turns out it’s a different product. And, none of the stuff that I know from Salesforce is actually particularly useful.
I mean, that’s not entirely true. But, it was a really big culture shock. I was like, “Oh yeah, it’s just transferring to another part of Salesforce, it’ll be fine.” But as it turns out, like none of it is the same. So, it took me a little while to sort of accept that. But then on the bright side, obviously the user who’s going to be using this tool is going to be the admin. And, I know the tools that the admin uses really well. I understand how they think, how you think out there in the world. And so, I think from that, it was easy to look at something and say, “Oh well, this is a lot like this other tool.” So, I was able to do things like introduce the design team from flow, and from App Builder, and various other parts of Salesforce, introduce those to the MuleSoft designers who hadn’t necessarily had a lot of opportunity to interact with these people before.
We’ve been able to, as I said, “Take advantage of the existing design patterns, work with SLDS to make sure that we’re following things, or following the patterns correctly and not introducing new patterns.” Definitely just knowing everyone that I know on the Salesforce side has made it a lot easier. So, when we were talking about using like Salesforce Connect to show the MuleSoft objects in Salesforce, it was easy to reach out to the product manager for that and talk about how we might do that. So, that’s hugely valuable, I think, going back and forth. There are quite a few people over at MuleSoft who started in Salesforce. In fact, our new lead designer on the… Well, he’s not really that new anymore. I had actually hired him when I was working at the foundation on philanthropy cloud, so he’s come over to join me. So, building these relationships across the company, I think is helpful. And, just really introducing the admin user to the MuleSoft audience. Because, it’s not someone they’ve traditionally thought about.

Gillian Bruce: It’s like the Shannon Hale admin SWAT team.

Mike Gerholdt: Yeah, I’ll echo that Shannon, the MuleSoft team has been wonderful to work with. I’ve had a ton of great conversations with them around the admin persona, and what Salesforce admins do in organizations. And, every time we’ve left a meeting, it’s always, “Let’s go schedule a followup,” because we want more information, so it’s great.

Shannon Hale: Yeah. There’s definitely the desire to understand the user. It’s just, when you don’t have 12 years worth of admin tooling, you don’t have that experience with that user in your space. It’s a little bit harder to understand the kinds of problems they’re solving. But, we’ve got a great user research team. We’ve been doing a lot of talking. I know our evangelism team and your evangelism team are talking together. And that reminds me, I have to set up a meeting.

Mike Gerholdt: Shannon as an admin listening to this, and really wanting to take that next step, and get into composer and start doing integrations. What would your advice be as the first thing they should do after they finish listening to this podcast?

Shannon Hale: Well, there’s going to be some trail head content coming out. That is definitely like, as usual, your first place to stop and get an overview of what the product is, and understand how it works. Now, it is a paid product. So, there are also some considerations around that. Obviously, you’ll have to work with your AE to get access to it for the time being.
But, definitely starting off in Trailhead. And, we’ll be doing lots and lots of… You’ll see me around, I’ll be doing podcasts like this one, and webcasts, and webinars and yeah, we’ll be around. And, we’re also creating a MuleSoft Composer group in the Trailblazer Community where you can go and ask questions and get information. And I, and my colleague, Ashley, who’s another really terrific admin focused product manager on my team that you are all going to get to know and love, I am sure. She and I will be in there answering questions and making sure that people get some of the support that they need.

Gillian Bruce: And, a member of the Shannon Hale admin SWAT team. I love it. Welcome Ashley. Well, Shannon, this has been great. I am very stoked for all the work that you and your amazing admin SWAT team have been doing to make MuleSoft assessable for admins. And, I am very excited about the prospect of stuff that traditionally goes beyond the admin arena, is now not beyond them anymore. And, this is something that… Yeah, I mean… Yeah, way beyond just resetting passwords and building page layouts, this is definitely a tool that admins can absolutely use to propel them into much more of a strong leadership and strategic position within the organization. So, on behalf of admins everywhere, I thank you.

Shannon Hale: Well, admins everywhere, you are always very welcome. You’re my peeps.

Gillian Bruce: I love that.

Mike Gerholdt: Thanks, Shannon.

Shannon Hale: No matter where I am, you’re my peeps.

Gillian Bruce: You’re keeping your admin peeps close to your heart. Well Shannon, thank you again so much. Really appreciate it. And, everybody could go check out MuleSoft Composer, it’s awesome.

Mike Gerholdt: Mm-hmm (affirmative). So, it was great talking with Shannon. I always enjoy having her back. I am so excited. She is now on the MuleSoft team, but three things that I learned in our conversation with Shannon. First integrations are admin friendly with MuleSoft Composer, holy cow, it’s going to be an amazing time to be an admin and integrate all the things. Second thing, I loved her discussion about when she joined MuleSoft, and how she was going across the organization, and introducing herself and also introducing MuleSoft to Salesforce. And, I think that’s very important for admins to do, especially when we’re building integrations across our org. So, it’s never too early to start thinking about your entire organization and the entire customer experience. And then, the third thing is, of course, goes back to that mantra, “Show, don’t tell.” So very much, get out there, show what you can do with Salesforce, show what’s possible with MuleSoft Composer, and be the voice in all of your executives ears.
Now, if you want to learn more about all things, Salesforce admin, go to admin.salesforce.com to find more resources. And as a reminder, if you love what you hear, we’d love to have a review, it helps other people find the podcast. You can stay up-to-date with us on all things social for Sales.
force admins. We are @salesforceadmns, no I on Twitter. You can find our guests Shannon on Twitter. She is @shannonsans. Don’t worry, link will be in the description. You can find me on Twitter, I am @MikeGerholdt. And of course, Gillian is @gilliankbruce. So with that, stay safe, stay awesome, and stay tuned for the next episode. We’ll see you in the cloud. (singing).

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