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Admins Unlock Success Using AppExchange with Woodson Martin

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In this week’s special bonus episode of the Salesforce Admins Podcast, we’re joined by Woodson Martin, EVP and GM, Salesforce AppExchange. He shares some amazing success stories of Salesforce customers that have made transformative adaptations over the past year.

Join us as we talk about why a balance of speed and preparation is the key to any successful project, how to practice presenting to stakeholders, and why it’s important to make the case for why what you want to do is better than the alternatives.

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

The keys to a successful project

Woodson runs the AppExchange on Salesforce, delivering over 5,000 applications that help you get a head start on your projects or deliver new functionality for your users tightly integrated into Salesforce and ready to go. “If I look at the history over the last 20 years of all the Salesforce projects that I’ve been part of, really successful ones share this careful blend of speed and preparation,” he says.

For speed, if you’re leading a new project or upgrade or anything else, really focus on that question of what is your Minimum Viable Product? What is the simplest set of functionality you need to deliver in order to learn what your users really need, and how do you set yourself up to iterate on that? We use the Agile methodology at Salesforce and it’s really based on this core principle of deliver early and deliver often, and the AppExchange can help you do that by speeding up your ability to deliver.

If you’re looking to implement something new from the AppExchange, you’ll need to get leadership to buy in. And as an executive, we wanted to know if Woodson had any advice for how to convince stakeholders to go with your plan: “I want confidence that a presenter knows the subject matter, has done the homework, really understands the problem, and is bring well-defined alternatives forward,” he says. In other words, it’s not just about what you want to do but why it’s better than the other options on the table; including doing nothing.

An admin at heart

“One of the incredible things about the Admin community at Salesforce and with our customers is just how amazing that group of experts has been this year at adapting to such incredible, disruptive change,” Woodson says, “we have seen so many of our customers take giant leaps forward in digital transformation, digitizing their business, automating process, and going virtual.” There are so many great stories from the past year that team created a dedicated page on the AppExchange website just to put them all in one place.

Woodson actually started his Salesforce career as an admin, and he sees them as a crucial component in customer success. “Behind every successful Salesforce project there is an admin who has sweated the details, really invested to understand their users, what people are trying to accomplish, looked beyond executive objectives, and tuned into the users and the jobs they need to get done every day, and then customized or built what users need to make their businesses successful,” he says. “Salesforce doesn’t magically happen in companies—all of our success is tied to the work of the admin community.”

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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 be an awesome admin. I’m Gillian Bruce.

Mike Gerholdt:
And I’m Mike Gerholdt.

Gillian Bruce:
And today we have a very special guest joining us. We have EVP and GM of AppExchange here at Salesforce, Woodson Martin, joining us to talk about presenting to executives, awesome admin AppExchange magic, all kinds of good stuff. So without further ado, let’s get Woodson on the podcast.

Mike Gerholdt:
Woodson, welcome to the podcast.

Woodson Martin:
Thank you. It’s great to be here.

Mike Gerholdt:
For those that haven’t met you or seen you on any of our stages, can you tell us what you do at Salesforce?

Woodson Martin:
Sure. I run the AppExchange at Salesforce, which if you don’t know about it is the world’s leading marketplace for enterprise cloud apps. And we have more than 5,000 applications there that our customers use to get a headstart on their projects or deliver functionality for their users, all tightly integrated into Salesforce and ready to roll.

Mike Gerholdt:
Yeah, absolutely. I love the AppExchange. Helped me in my many years of being a Salesforce admin.

Woodson Martin:
Yeah. Great. Me too.

Mike Gerholdt:
For admins that are looking to get started, it’s New Year. Let’s ramp our org quickly or maybe a migration or a new project, what would you suggest?

Woodson Martin:
Yeah, well, I would say that if I look at the history over the last 20 years of all the Salesforce projects that I’ve been part of, or watched closely, they all share … The most successful ones share this careful blend of speed and preparation. And so I think of those two words a lot.

Woodson Martin:
And for speed, I think it’s all about taking a flexible, agile approach. And I think it’s just really important if you’re leading one of these projects or you’re diving into a new project or an upgrade or anything else, to really focus on this question of what’s my minimum viable product, what’s the simplest set of functionality that I need to deliver so that I can learn what my users really need so that they can embrace my app and make the whole project a success and then quickly iterate on that.

Woodson Martin:
So to me, that’s just one of the most important things is focusing on speed. And I’d say, if anybody listening hasn’t studied up on Agile or Lean methodology, it’s a really good place to start and inspire you for how to tackle new projects in the new year.

Gillian Bruce:
That’s a great recommendation, Woodson. I mean, we use that here at Salesforce. That’s how we are able to do what we do and put that out there. I know many, many partners in the AppExchange, if not all, probably use some version of that as well, correct?

Woodson Martin:
I think that’s probably true. Certainly the most accomplished do. And I think while it’s a great methodology for delivering product, it also works really well for projects. And for our own internal projects, we use Agile methodology. And it’s really based on this core principle of deliver early, deliver often.

Woodson Martin:
Don’t give yourself such long runways in your laboratory where you’re working on getting things ready, but nobody sees them. It’s really much more effective if you can deliver early, deliver often and respond to the needs of your user community quickly. And they can feel that there’s this pace of innovation happening and that their needs are being met.

Gillian Bruce:
Yeah, I think we can all get caught in our own head of what we think is the right answer. And then, “Oh, we need a little reality check there,” right? So this is actually what people want to hear.

Woodson Martin:
Pretty basic idea, but sometimes it’s easy to overlook it, especially in companies that are making big plans in the back of projects and are placing big bets. It’s tempting sometimes to shift to that, “Well, we have to do it all or we have to get it all right the first time.” And there’s a lot of power in iteration.

Mike Gerholdt:
Yeah. And I’m just thinking of when you mentioned speed, the ability to use the AppExchange to … In one of the projects I was at, we didn’t know what we needed for a project management app. But to try out different ones, we weren’t spending six months building a project management app. We actually tried one out in six weeks and knew what we wanted and what we didn’t want.

Woodson Martin:
Yeah, which I think is obviously one of the huge advantages of Salesforce as a platform and of the AppExchange. Because every Salesforce expert really also wants to be an AppExchange expert because one of the best ways to bring speed and preparation to your project is to lean on people who’ve already tried that same path.

Woodson Martin:
The AppExchange is where you can find thousands of these solutions that have already been built, tested, proven to solve challenges. Look, there’s a lot of commonality in what … Each of us has our own business. They’re all different, but there’s a lot of commonality in terms of what we need to be successful and deliver for our users.

Woodson Martin:
And so a lot of the problems are already being solved and you can find a lot of those solutions on AppExchange and speed up your ability to deliver pretty quick.

Gillian Bruce:
Okay. So let’s say I’m an admin. I found a great app on the AppExchange that I want to implement in my organization, but I need to get some buy-in from leadership. Since you are an executive, I would love to get your perspective on how can an admin best present that idea to leadership, kind of bring that app to the table and get buy-in from the leadership of their org to get that app approved and so they can get work in, and up and going.

Woodson Martin:
Yeah. Great question. I’ll just say that communication, presentations like any other skill, you’ve got to practice and test your skills. But there are, of course, simple rules that apply to all kinds of executive communication and certainly executive pitches. And just as an executive, I want confidence that the presenter knows the subject matter, has done the homework, really understands the problem and is bringing well-defined alternatives forward.

Woodson Martin:
I think it’s really important that when you pitch your ideas, you always frame them versus alternatives. And you back up your recommended alternatives with data, with feedback from your users, your customers, any other stakeholders that matter to the executives you’re presenting to. And I’ll also say that a simple brief presentation is always best. And then you want to have kind of a healthy appendix for all the backup data you might need to support your recommendations or your strategy.

Woodson Martin:
And I would just say, this is a place again where preparation helps a lot.

Mike Gerholdt:
Sometimes saying little take more practice than saying a lot.

Woodson Martin:
Yeah, absolutely. And we can practice our pitches. Whether you can get one or two of your key executive stakeholders to listen to an early version of your pitch, give you feedback and then support you as you pitched to the broader executive audience.

Woodson Martin:
Or if that’s not possible in your situation, then what you can do is find some of their lieutenants who you might be able to practice the pitch words and get feedback early. And just use all that to distill this into something crisp that you just really believe in. And you’ve got backed up with data and then always, show how it stacks up against alternatives. And there’s always an alternative, which is do nothing.

Woodson Martin:
But every alternative has consequences. And you’ll want to include all that in an executive pitch.

Mike Gerholdt:
I would be curious. I mean, it’s crazy because a year ago, I think do nothing was a viable alternative. And now with COVID, there’s a barbecue restaurant just down the street from me, do nothing was a choice. They had to move to curbside pickup. They had to move to … They actually started to do a school lunch delivery program with grilled cheese sandwiches.

Mike Gerholdt:
I would be curious, do you know of a story that’s using the AppExchange during COVID to kind of re-imagine their business?

Woodson Martin:
Well, there are so many of those stories and I think one of the incredible things about the admin community at Salesforce in our customers is just how amazing that group of experts has been this year at adapting to such incredible disruptive change. I mean, we have seen so many of our customers take giant leaps forward and digital transformation digitizing their business, automating process, going virtual, not just in the way that they meet but also in the way that they deliver for their customers.

Woodson Martin:
So yes, tons of great stories. We actually got a page on the AppExchange that documents so many of these stories, and you can get there by going to sfdc.co/api-customers. So API without like the character not happy. And there’s a ton of stories there, but some that pop out to me like Purell, a brand that has become … If it wasn’t already familiar to you before the pandemic, it is now.

Woodson Martin:
For them, they had such a massive change in demand for their product. Overnight, across all the ways they distribute their product, both in the grocery stores and in hospitals. Any medical wards got Purell stands all over the walls. And they had to go for a super rapid growth in the teams that maintain, keep those things filled, deliver all that stuff, but also install those things because they had to put them in so many new places.

Woodson Martin:
And they actually chose an AppExchange partner called ProntoForms that helped them do this, which is really focusing on simplifying, automating, documenting the process for each of these technicians. And they were hiring thousands of them to go out and service of this equipment or install new equipment to make sure that we could all keep ourselves safe. And I think it was just an example of somebody taking an application off the shelf to be able to implement change rapidly. And that one to me is just a great story. It’s documented on that site I mentioned earlier.

Woodson Martin:
And then maybe I’ll just also mention Graymont Medical, so medical device company. They make all kinds of machinery that patients use for rehabbing from surgery or for helping with lactation for new mothers or a variety of other uses. All of their medical equipment requires them to train typically hands-on with technicians who come to your house and help you install and learn how to use this stuff. And obviously, that didn’t work anymore with COVID. It wasn’t safe for their teams to do those kinds of home visits.

Woodson Martin:
So they had to shift entirely virtual with this. And they used a whole host of applications from the AppExchange, from Mogli SMS to Zenkraft, DocuSign, basically take virtual process which had been very in-person for their whole history. And hats off to their admin, Wade Wheatley, who made quick work of all this change and really has helped them to continue to deliver on their service level promise and keep all their employees safe during the pandemic.

Gillian Bruce:
I love a shout-out to the admin who did that. That’s awesome, Woodson. Wade, what was his last name?

Woodson Martin:
Wheatley. Like Wheat, L-E-Y.

Gillian Bruce:
Well, Wade, you’re awesome. You just got a great shout-out on the podcast. Woodson, actually on that note, we are knee-deep and embedded in the admin community. We love admins. We understand how important they are and the incredible work they do. I know you, especially in your role leading AppExchange, you see the work that admins are doing every day as well. Can you give us a little bit of your perspective on kind of the role of an awesome admin in making a successful Salesforce implementation work in helping businesses really kind of function?

Woodson Martin:
Yeah, I mean, yes. Well, I started my Salesforce life as an admin. Before I worked at Salesforce, I worked for a company that doesn’t exist anymore called BusinessObjects. But I brought Salesforce in. I started in this role. I don’t know that I was a great admin, but certainly, it inspired me to really invest in my career in Salesforce.

Woodson Martin:
But I am keenly aware of the super important role that our admin community plays in our customer success. Behind every successful Salesforce project, there is an admin who has sweated the details, really invested to understand their users, what people are trying to accomplish, see beyond what may be executive objectives and tune into the users and the jobs they need to get done every day, and the circumstances in which they need to get those jobs done and then tune Salesforce or add to Salesforce through the AppExchange or by customizing or building and delivering what users need to do their jobs, grow their businesses, make their customers successful.

Woodson Martin:
And we owe an enormous debt of gratitude to this community. So thank you. My hands are making the little thank you sign right now to our admin community. It’s a critical role and obviously, Salesforce doesn’t magically happen in companies. All of our success is tied to the work of our admin community.

Gillian Bruce:
Well, I love that you’re also a former admin. That is so cool, Woodson. I did not know that.

Woodson Martin:
Well, long story for another day, but I began my Salesforce experience.

Mike Gerholdt:
But that’s the way you tease a segue to a part two of the sequel to this podcast.

Woodson Martin:
Yeah. Right.

Mike Gerholdt:
One of the things, and I’ll echo with Gillian, I think it’s so cool you started as an admin. One of the things I love as a customer, and I love learning more about the people I work with, is kind of getting to know what they do outside of Salesforce. Because at work, we all really love to geek out at our platform and some of the stuff that we can do on it. I know on a previous podcast, we had Vin Addala on who worked on Dynamic Forms, and unbeknownst to us, is a huge board game fan. So I would love to know, what are some things that you’re passionate about or things that you do outside of work?

Woodson Martin:
Well, thanks for asking. My big focus outside of work … My job is pretty demanding. But outside of work, my big focus is on immigration issues. And I spend a lot of my time volunteering with … I’m on the board of two non-profits who are focused on immigration issues here in the United States. And part of that is around humanitarian relief for people in the asylum process in the US. And part of that is around people who are … And a lot of that at the border with Mexico down in Texas. And then a lot of that is about communities that are local here in the San Francisco Bay area, where I live, and helping with everything from legal assistance through the immigration process to humanitarian needs.

Woodson Martin:
And we’ve just wrapped up a really exciting project this winter we called Project Reindeer to deliver Christmas to a whole host of newly arrived immigrant families who’d been really impacted by the COVID pandemic. And all got a Christmas tree and presents for the kids and stuff that really helped to brighten what was a pretty tough year for most of them.

Woodson Martin:
So that’s sort of how I spend my spare time. And I’ll just make mention of one project within that domain that I’m really excited about, an organization called Mobile Pathways, which is a nonprofit and which uses Salesforce technology to deliver legal assistance and information to folks who are tied up in the immigration court process. And it’s just an awesome story of how the technology that we work with every day can have such a big impact on the lives of individuals.

Woodson Martin:
If you are a recent immigrant to this country, you’re attempting to gain legal status through the immigration courts, one challenge many folks have is just basic communication. The courts only communicate through the mail if like most newly arrived immigrants, you are not living in the same place a year after you started the legal process, you may not get notifications of your court dates. If you don’t show up for court, you risk being deported. And using Salesforce technology now, we’re able to keep all of those folks informed proactively about changes through mobile messaging and using WhatsApp and the technologies that they live with every day.

Woodson Martin:
And it’s just super powerful to see the impact of the technology and the spirit of volunteerism that’s driving that project. And that’s another thing I’m passionate about and spend my time on.

Gillian Bruce:
Wow, Woodson, that’s incredible. I mean, what I really love about that is that, I mean there’s a clear connection between obviously your Salesforce life and your outside Salesforce life, because you’ve been at Salesforce forever. You really do embody the whole giving back aspect of what it is to be part of the Salesforce Trailblazer Community. So thank you for that and being an awesome example. And also, thank you for the impact that you are making in this very tough space and using Salesforce to help make a difference.

Gillian Bruce:
And I mean, Project Reindeer, who doesn’t want to work on something called Project Reindeer? That sounds amazing.

Mike Gerholdt:
Seriously, absolutely.

Woodson Martin:
Well, thanks. It’s all just getting started. Of course, there’s still plenty of work left to do in all their domains, but a huge honor for me to be here with you guys today and with our admin community. I hope it’s been a useful dialogue and look forward to coming back and doing more.

Gillian Bruce:
Oh, well, careful what you say because we will be back. We will let you get very far. Woodson, thank you so, so much for your time today. Thank you for sharing with us. Thank you for bringing your OG admin spirit to the admin community as well, and doing some amazing things within the AppExchange world.

Gillian Bruce:
And just again, thanks so much. And you’ve got lots of awesome admin love. So everybody hit up Woodson if you’ve got some good [inaudible 00:20:35] and share with them. And hey, you never know, he could call you out on the next story about a great AppExchange success story there. So, Wade, we’re talking about you.

Mike Gerholdt:
So it was great having Woodson on the podcast. And wow, we learned a lot. I boiled it down to three big things I learned I think admin should take away. First, speed and preparation. If Woodson didn’t drill that into our head, what is the MVP? And to focus on speed, we can of course do that with the Salesforce AppExchange. We can try out different apps, and of course, learn Agile or Lean methodology. So if you haven’t picked that up, now is a great time 2021 to learn Agile or Lean methodology.

Mike Gerholdt:
The second, when presenting, practice and test your skills. We’ve seen that. LeeAnne on our team does that a lot with demos and presentations. We practice, practice, practice. You can’t practice enough. And of course, we asked, so what should admins do when presenting to leadership? And this is my big third takeaway. Woodson told us, when you present to an executive, have confidence. Do your homework and bring well-defined solutions forward.

Mike Gerholdt:
And of course, always have an alternate. Be ready to back that up with data. And I love that he even secretly worked in SABWA data from your users. So what your users want, this is why we talk to our users every single day. And much like my three things, keep it simple and brief. Executives are super busy, moving on and to the point.

Mike Gerholdt:
So 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, pop on over to iTunes and give us a review. It’s 2021. I want some fresh reviews. You can stay up to date with us for all things social on admins, @SalesforceAdmns, no I, on Twitter. You can find Woodson on Twitter. He is @woodson_martin. I’m @MikeGerholdt on Twitter and Gillian is @GillianKBruce. Yeah, everybody keeps it simple.

Mike Gerholdt:
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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