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Today on the Salesforce Admins Podcast, we kick off Automation April by talking to Sam Reynard, Senior Manager of Product Management on the Flow team at Salesforce. We go over improvements coming to Flow and why it should be your one-stop shop for automations.

Join us as we talk about why you should pay attention to Flow, the improvements coming in new releases, and why it’s so important to start from a place of empathy for your users.

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

Where Flow Builder is going.

Sam is a member of the Flow product management team—focused mainly on Screen Flows—so she’s the perfect person to have on the pod to kick off Automation month. We’ll be highlighting tools that are available to you and helping you make decisions about what automations to build in order to take advantage of this exciting new area of innovation. There’s a lot coming down the pipeline with Flow and we wanted to talk to Sam to find out what’s especially exciting and helpful.

The main goal is to make Flow Builder as easy to use as building a Workflow Rule or working in Process Builder. One thing that’s being released is support for rich layouts in Flow Screens, giving you the ability to create a section of your screen you can divvy up into multiple columns without touching any code using the section component. We’re also adding the ability to send rich text emails from Flows opening some great new possibilities.

More improvements to Flow coming down the pipeline.

“Today, if you as an admin are trying to create automation, there are so many options,” Sam says, “you can create a Workflow Rule, you can create an approval process, you can create a Flow or something in Process builder.” On the automation team, we’ve been questioning why there isn’t just one tool to give you everything you need without having to decide which tool is best for the job.

Another thing Sam and her team are working on is choices. If you need a simple choice that says yes or no, you shouldn’t need to click six or seven times to create it. There are a lot more little changes coming to make choices simpler and faster and make everyone’s lives easier, so be sure to listen to the full pod for more details, including what it’s like to have Mike in a focus group.

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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. This month, we are all about automation. So this month, admins, we want to highlight all of the things you should be paying attention to in the wonderful land of automation or automation land, as I like to call it. Unofficial branding, that’s just a Gillian thing. It’s not a real Salesforce thing, but I like it. It seems like a happy place to be.

Gillian Bruce:
Automation is super important for us as admins to enable our users to work more efficiently, to help us deliver value, to make our lives easier. Automation is just all of the awesome things. So to kick off this amazing automation month, I have two amazing guests joining us, one of which you know very well. That’s LeeAnne Rimel, my fellow Salesforce evangelist who’s really taken the lead on putting together a great set of content for you this month, all about automation, both videos and blogs, and yes on the podcast.

Gillian Bruce:
And then the special guest I have joining us today for the first time on the podcast, which is very surprising to me is Sam Reynard. She is senior manager of product management on the Flow team in automation land here at Salesforce. She is an incredible person to talk to about all things Flow and automation. She’s been working with this set of features and products at Salesforce, I think for almost eight years. So she’s got a lot of great knowledge to share. So we wanted to kick off this month by having a great chat with her. Without further ado, let’s welcome Sam and LeeAnne on the podcast.

Gillian Bruce:
Sam, welcome to the podcast.

Sam Reynard:
Hello. Thank you for having me.

Gillian Bruce:
I can’t believe this is the first time we’re having you on the podcast. This is amazing.

Sam Reynard:
I’m so excited to be here. So thanks for inviting me on.

Gillian Bruce:
Yeah, our pleasure. So Sam, let’s introduce you a little bit to the audience. Can you let our listeners know what you do at Salesforce?

Sam Reynard:
Yeah, for sure. I’m on the product management team for Salesforce Flow. I focus mainly on the enhancements around screen flows.

Gillian Bruce:
Well, okay. Then it’s very timely we have you on, because this is the month of automation and LeeAnne, you have taken the lead in making sure we’ve got great automation content for admins. Can you give us a little background of why we’ve got Sam on the podcast today?

Leanne:
Yeah. So welcome to automation month. We love automation. We know our admins love automation. And so really what we’re doing this month is, and we try to do this every month as well, but really what we’re focusing on this month is trying to teach our admins as much as we can about automation tools that are available to them, maybe how they make some decisions about what automations to build, and just help everyone get and continue to get acquainted with automation tools and also all the updates that have been happening, because it’s an area full of innovation right now.

Leanne:
And so we’re super excited to have Sam on, probably just because we like Sam. We love talking to her and learning from her, and also because she’s got some really exciting updates to share and just information to share about what’s been being added to flow, what’s coming in the future for flow, and just some insight that I think helps admins make those decisions about what to build and how to build when you’re adding automation to your companies.

Gillian Bruce:
Okay, well Sam, then let’s get into it. Let’s talk about what’s cool and new in automation land.

Sam Reynard:
What isn’t cool and new in automation land? So the first thing I would actually want to start with is something that you’ll probably have heard from the big Salesforce events over the past year where John [Cassara 00:04:03] likes to say, who’s the head of our automation product team is, “Flow is the future.” So as much as we know everybody has seen a lot of value with Workflow Rules and Process Builder, we are basically no longer providing enhancements to either of those tools. It’s been a long time since we did anything for Workflow. And instead we’re trying to put all of our efforts into Flow Builder, and make that as easy as building a Workflow Rule at some point in the future, which we have a long road ahead of us, but we’re making a lot of strides over the past year, especially around the record triggered flows that we added recently.

Gillian Bruce:
It’s been two or three years now since that new Flow UI has been rolled out, and I got to tell you, it makes it so much more approachable, especially for someone who does… I had a very hard time with the old version of Flow. So it’s opened up a whole new realm of possibility I think for a lot of us who were maybe intimidated by the former version, but now it’s so much more. The way you talk about Flow is the future is super exciting because it really does open up a lot of possibilities for admins to do types of automation that they maybe felt limited from doing in the past. Can you tell us a little bit more about some of the big things that you’re super excited about that have recently come out in the Flow arena?

Sam Reynard:
Yeah, absolutely. So the big one that I’m most excited about is our recently shipped beta, the ability to add multi com screens to your flows using the new section component. And we just finished off or code for the summer release, and we’re heading into our high quality session before it gets deployed, and I’m happy to announce that that will be safe harbor and all, but we’re going to be shipping that as a GA. The second thing that I am really excited that we shipped recently was the ability to send rich text emails from flows, which you’d think is a really simple thing we should’ve done it ages ago, but it’s finally here.

Gillian Bruce:
Woo hoo. Those are both super exciting.

Leanne:
I love hearing about the stuff that’s coming in Flow. And you said something in your previous answer that I think is really interesting and important to circle back to a little bit. And that’s really, this Flow is the future, investment in Flow and making it your one-stop shop. I know for me as an admin I often had automation that lived in a lot of different places, or things that would fall under the big bucket of automation that I had in different places through Workflow Rules. So it’s really heartening and exciting to hear and think about having it all consolidated in one place for admins. Is there anything more you can share about that vision there of having this Flow is the future?

Sam Reynard:
You know LeeAnne, it’s pretty much for the exact same reasons that you were just mentioning. Today, if you as an admin are trying to create automation, there are so many options. You can create a Workflow Rule, you can create an approval process, you can create a flow or something in Process Builder. We’ve been questioning why should our admins have to make that decision? Why not give them one tool that can essentially offer you all of the options that you need? Instead of choosing between Workflow or Process Builder or Flow, just give you a single place to start and then we can help you make the right decisions for how to build your automation properly.

Gillian Bruce:
I love that. One place to rule them all.

Leanne:
That’s what I thought too.

Sam Reynard:
Exactly.

Leanne:
So you’re saying I don’t have to keep making decision matrix is about what tools to use. That’s going to be awesome.

Sam Reynard:
Yeah. And it also for some more experienced admins, you might be familiar with the whole order of operations question of how do I know which of these things is going to run first and getting your org onto one set of tools? Everything is running on Flow or maybe that’s why everything is running on Apex is just, you have a bit more control in that versus workflows run, they have a lot of limitations and they run in a certain part of when you save a record and then processes would run in a different space and they have a different set of limitations. But just opening those things up and giving you one place to start. I love the idea of one automation tool to rule them all. That should be Flow’s next tagline.

Gillian Bruce:
I still have my Process Builder t-shirt. I love that. I think this is the next version of that. One flow to route them all.

Sam Reynard:
Yep. Yeah. I have that still too. It was the Process Builder is my Swiss army knife. What is a cooler version of a Swiss army knife? That’s what flow is.

Leanne:
I feel like we can track our Salesforce product history through t-shirts. There should be a visual out there of all the various product t-shirts.

Sam Reynard:
Yeah, absolutely. There were some really cool ones posted on the internet recently that… They were Flow targeted ones. I think they did something clever with the old wait nodes was snoozing and some other things there. The Flow community is just so clever. I love them.

Gillian Bruce:
Welcome the Flownadics. We love them. They are amazing. So Sam, you mentioned one future looking thing about a sneak peak about what’s coming in summer about the two column, the visual screens. What else is on their horizon that admins should be excited about coming in this flow automation land?

Sam Reynard:
So to continue on the topic of screen flows, something that I’ve been focusing on more is choices. For those of you who have played around with choices before, they are difficult to work with at times. Actually a lot of the time they are less intuitive than we would like them to be. So we’re putting a lot of focus into that, how we can make them simpler to work with, but also open up the possibilities with them. So in the longer term, I’m going to be focusing on when you just need a simple choice entered into your pick list component or radio button component, how to prevent you from having to click seven times to just create a choice that says yes or no, but also allowing you to leverage the existing collections in your Flow, instead of having to create a brand new choice set for the same purpose.

Sam Reynard:
In the near term, we’re filling some, what we call small but mighty gaps that the community has been suffering through for a long time, like having a default non-option in the pick list component, being able to control the requirements of the pick list component, and being able to set default values regardless of what kinds of choices are in your field. So if you have a record choice set or a pick list choice set, you’ll be able to set the default to a value from a record that you grabbed previously. And the last one around choices that will be really exciting as being able to change the type of choice, like from radio button to pick list, without having to delete the entire field.

Gillian Bruce:
Those all sound amazing. And it sounds like you’re about to save admins a ton of work. So that’s huge. Choices are hard even outside of Flow. So that’s great. Those are so great. I love how much your team pays attention to what the community wants. Can you maybe tell us a little bit more about your connections to the community and how your team gathers feedback and gets the guidance for how to develop further features in Flow?

Sam Reynard:
It’s less streamlined than we would like it to be. How we gather feedback is organic these days. So the way that I gather feedback is generally by looking at what the community is talking about on the [inaudible 00:12:35] community, what they’re requesting and idea exchange or the questions that they’re asking there. What is being posted in the unofficial sf.com website, because we have a lot of customers that will create their own special components or actions, and how interested as the rest of the community in those things? That’s part of why we prioritize this rich text email enhancement, or we saw the rich text email action on Unofficial SF was extraordinarily popular. And so we didn’t fill all the gaps in our recent release, but it is a really good signal for us about how important this kind of enhancement is.

Gillian Bruce:
I would also love to know Sam, I think you’ve been at Salesforce maybe even longer than I have. I would love to know a little bit more about you and your journey to becoming a product manager. So you clearly have the community, you clearly have a passion for automation and Flow. Can you tell us a little bit about how you came to this role and maybe a little bit about your own evolution to becoming a PM?

Sam Reynard:
Yeah. Totally. Happy to share. So I have been at Salesforce a long time. I think it’s eight years at this point. Seven or eight years. I actually started as an intern on the content experience team as I was a technical writer back in 2012, summer of 2012. Later that winter, I was hired on full-time and for five or six years, I was working in the documentation team or as a technical writer. And I spent most of that time writing for Flow and Workflow and approvals about five years. And that’s how I learned Flow and became really excited about the product and the people that I was working with. After we shipped Flow Builder, I got the opportunity to go and be a product manager for our content experience team working on how we’re delivering content to the help portal. And then shortly after, I was hired back on the Flow org as a product manager, which I was really excited to return to the Flow community. And that happened gosh, a couple of years ago now. It was like I’ve spent my entire time as a Flow PM in quarantine at this point.

Gillian Bruce:
The light is there at the end of the tunnel at this point. I think there’s a glimmer. There’s a glimmer. But that’s great. I really think it’s fascinating that starting as more of a technical writer and then going into PM world, technical writing is super important and I know documentation is something that’s very top of mind for a lot of our admins. Can you maybe tell us a little bit about how that training or coming from that background has helped you as a PM?

Sam Reynard:
Well, for one, it gave me those five or six years of working on the flow team as their writer gave me a lot of insight into how the product actually works and really deeply understanding the features that we’re shipping and how flows should be built. But another big piece is customer empathy. As the writer, you have to think in terms of how is someone going to be thinking about this problem? What problem is this feature actually solving, and how can we help to make the customer more successful on top of what the UX designers and the developers have put in place in the app.

Sam Reynard:
With Flow I find that even more important than most other places at Salesforce, because flows can be hard. Flow Builder and the previous iteration, Cloud Flow Designer is intended to be really flexible so that you can build whatever you need. But it means that there’s a lot less guidance in place. Obviously, that’s something we would like to fix longer term, but in the meantime, it falls to what is the UI text that’s being provided and how helpful is that and what content is otherwise available to the community so that we can help them along?

Gillian Bruce:
I think the fact you pointed out empathy is amazing. LeeAnne, I know we’ve talked many times in the past about some of these skills that maybe aren’t necessarily super technical, but are really important for admins. Can you talk to us a little bit about how you’ve seen the role of customer or user empathy play into being an awesome admin?

Leanne:
Yeah. So as admins, so I love that term. I think it’s so important that Sam brought up empathy for your users because they think as admins, our customers are often our end users. And so the more that we can… When you really break down, what does empathy mean, it means, in this context, it’s putting yourself in someone’s position, trying to be understanding of their experience. And that is probably the most important skill you can have as an admin, frankly, because you can have all the technical skills and know how to build cool things until the cows come home. But if you can’t put yourself in that user’s story or put yourself in that end user’s experience, is it going to be meaningful for them? Is it going to be something that meets their needs or something that’s usable for them?

Leanne:
So I think we’ve been thinking a lot for admins about that end user experience, about how we can think about what are your users touching every time they go into Salesforce? What are the areas that are maybe causing them stress? What’s information that they need to put in or get out? What is the things that are maybe causing them a lot of extra work? When we talk about automation, it’s a really great chance to find what are those areas in your end user’s day-to-day that are causing them a lot of extra steps or maybe causing information to get lost or disjointed or cause miscommunications? And those are these really great opportunities to add automation.

Leanne:
So the more that we can exercise our end user empathy or customer empathy as admins, it helps us decide what to prioritize to build. It helps us uncover opportunities for things to build. It can help us with troubleshooting quite a bit. I think if there’s complaints or feedback about a part of an app that you’ve built, take a step back and really try to envision or think about our experience, what that end user is going through in that day, when they’re encountering the app. And I think it can really help us find those areas of opportunity. Maybe it is frustrating to have to look through so many items in a multi-select pick list if you’re on mobile or whatever. Whatever this scenario is, if it’s causing your users frustration, that’s something we should probably try to address. So I’m so glad you brought up customer empathy, Sam because I think it’s super, super important for our admins to keep really front of mind as we’re building solutions.

Sam Reynard:
Yeah. LeeAnne, I think you touched on this a bit, but it’s really highlighting for me, I think this applies to both us as the Salesforce product team and admins generally building for their own customers, but we could pick what problems we want to solve or what features we want to ship, but ultimately if it’s not solving a problem for our users, then they’re not going to use it. And so we want to spend our time on things that will create real value for our customers more than anything else.

Leanne:
Absolutely. Yeah. I love that point. And I think for building the product and then you admins are really product managers of Salesforce. Admins are our product managers at their companies. And so these things that you’re thinking about and taking into consideration as you’re shipping flow solutions, as admins we should be exercising that same muscle as much as we can. So you mentioned some of those small but mighty feature improvements, where there’s going to be a big payoff for your end users, which are admins with some of these features that are just solving a lot of these very small gaps, that’s a great opportunity for admins to think about what are these small but mighty wins that I can get to serve for my end users?

Sam Reynard:
Totally. A great example of that from the past couple of years is when we added the activate button inside of Flow Builder, it was seen as something that’s kind of nice to have. Sure, it would make people more efficient in their dealings with Flow, but the community blew up over it because it saved them so much time. Previously you had to completely leave Flow Builder and navigate your way to the detail page of the flow and then click activate and being able to just activate and deactivate directly from where you were spending your time in Flow Builder, I don’t know, it was just amazing.

Gillian Bruce:
I think that’s what’s always so interesting, Sam is some of the features that we internally at Salesforce maybe think aren’t that exciting or cool, end up blowing up because our hat admins are like, “Oh my God, this is so huge. You change where this button is.” And to us it’s like, “Okay, that was a little thing. We don’t talk about it that much internally,” but externally those things make such a huge difference. And I think of UCM is the admins admin. When an admin does something like that for an end-user and totally changes how they’re able to more efficiently log a call or look up a report, those are the little things that really, really matter. So I think that’s a really great thing to point out.

Gillian Bruce:
Sam, I did have a question for you that I have to ask before we wrap here. And I know in your days working in your previous role as gathering community feedback and doing the technical writing role, I heard that you ran some focus groups and I heard that you had a very interesting focus group participant who, before he joined Salesforce was known as the button click admin. I would love to know what is it like to have Mike Gerholdt in a focus group?

Sam Reynard:
Oh man. I was just trying to learn from Mike. At the time we were looking at our release notes and trying to learn more about how admins use the release notes. I will never forget Mike’s talking about having the three different highlighters and recommending that to other admins of how to work through your release notes and identifying these are the things I have to tell my users about immediately. These are immediate changes. These are the things that I want to talk to my team about taking advantage of. And I think there was something else that I can remember. I don’t know. It was really exciting when he then came onboard as leading the admin evangelism team, because then I had immediate access to him at all times.

Gillian Bruce:
Yeah. He knew that you were going to be on the podcast and he’s like, “Oh boy. I gave Sam an earful when I was in her focus groups.” So had to ask that question. Sam, any other last tips or things that you think admin should really be keeping top of mind when they think about automation?

Sam Reynard:
I think honestly, because I know a lot of these listeners are folks who are building record triggered automation that is really the biggest piece that we see people building and struggling with. And I would just recommend keeping an eye on the enhancements that are coming for Flow Builder and where it makes sense for your org moving your automation into Flow Builder so that you’re just using the latest and greatest in can always take advantage of what new enhancements that we’ve shipped. My colleague, Diana is leading up the charge for getting Flow Builder to parody with process builder and with Workflow, working really hard on getting in the future, sub flow support and being able to debug record trigger to flows from Flow Builder, just like you can screen and auto launch flows. Just keep your eye on the transition that is going on there so that you are building your latest automation in the place where all the enhancements will come in the future, so that then you are ready to take advantage of those.

Gillian Bruce:
I love it. So keep it top of mind admins. Be paying attention. I love it. LeeAnne, any last thoughts for you as we kick off automation month here on the podcast?

Leanne:
No, nothing. I love everything that Sam was sharing. I’m super excited for the next few releases with Flow, and I am most excited to see all the awesome Flow examples that we see from our community. So I think the thing that I get most excited for is really seeing how our community is using automation to create great experiences for their users. So I can’t wait. Keep them coming, those of you who do share us as great examples on Twitter and stuff. I can’t wait to see what you do with all these new tools.

Gillian Bruce:
Let it flow everybody. All right. Well, Sam, thank you so much for joining us on the podcast. It was great to have you on. I’m sure we’ll have you back. So be prepared.

Sam Reynard:
Can’t wait, thank you so much for having me on, ladies.

Gillian Bruce:
Absolutely. Thank you.

Gillian Bruce:
Huge thanks to Sam and LeeAnne for taking the time to chat with me on the podcast. Always love getting to chat with the two of them, especially about all things Flow. And I don’t know about you, but my head is in happy automation land after that conversation. It’s a nice place to be.

Gillian Bruce:
So for my top takeaways from our discussion with Sam and LeeAnne, I got three things for you remember. So first of all, Flow is the future. Sam really talked about how the entire product team is really focusing on enhancing and building out the functionality of Flow to take the place of Workflow and Process Builder. Now don’t worry. Those features and tools, we have not said they’re going away, but there has been no new investments in those areas. So pay attention to Flow. It is really, really a powerful tool and there’s going to be so much more invested and added to that coming very soon. Some of the things which Sam talked about, I hope you listened very carefully, things like two columns screens on visual screens, which was a beta in the last release. And coming summer, forward looking statement, it will be more widely available and some other amazing things.

Gillian Bruce:
So another great thing that Sam reminded us about, and I do view Sam as an admin for admins because she’s basically building things to make all of our lives easier, is thinking about empathy, empathy for your users. One of the things that Sam learned in her many years doing technical writing and documentation, was learning how to really think from that user perspective. And for her, that is the Salesforce admin. For us as admins, that is our end users. So thinking about what it’s like for them to use a product, what it’s like for them to do their workflow every day, that’s really important as you build out features. And that’s the way that’s going to make sure that what you build is going to be something that actually works and makes them happy. So keep empathy at the top of your list as you’re thinking about building out new features in your own organization.

Gillian Bruce:
And finally, this is super cool. Sam said that we should all be paying close attention to the work that’s happening on record triggered flows. So some of the things that we’re used to using Process Builder for are now going to be coming to Flow, which is very exciting because it’s going to enable us to get more granular and have this one tool to rule them all, as we were saying, which will be Flow for all of your automations. So no longer having to choose between different places in your Salesforce instance to own and build automations. You’re going to have one spot to do that.

Gillian Bruce:
So those are my top takeaways from our chat with Sam and LeeAnne, always fabulous to talk to those incredible women. Now, if you want to learn about all the things we just talked about on the podcast, as well as all the things you could ever want to know about being an awesome admin, make sure you check out our website at admin.salesforce.com. We’ve got blogs, videos, podcasts, all kinds of great content there for you. You can also stay up to date with us on social for all things Salesforce admin related, @salesforceadmns, no I on Twitter. I’m on Twitter @gilliankbruce, and you can find our guests today, LeeAnne Rimel is @leeanndroid. And Sam Reynard is @samreynard. Very easy to find them both. Please follow Sam. She is super cool. And as we all just found out, she’s got a lot of good inside information and insights on automation land. So make sure you follow Sam. With that, I hope you all have a great rest of your day and we’ll catch you next time in the cloud.

 

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