On this episode of the Salesforce Admins Podcast, we’re talking to a Salesforce dream team of Zayne Turner, Senior Director of Architect Relations, and LeeAnne Rimel, Architect, Admin Relations. We’ll cover integrations and the tools coming down the road to make them even easier.

Join us as we talk about why you’re already doing integrations as an admin, what questions to ask about integrations, and the Trailhead content you should look at to get started.

You should subscribe for the full episode, but here are a few takeaways from our conversation with Zayne Turner and LeeAnne Rimel.

Admins are integrators

“Admins are integrators—admins often are responsible for integrations at their organizations, they are often the ones making important decisions about what to do with existing integrations,” LeeAnne says, “so how do we give you the tools to think about integrations in the larger business scope for your company?” If you connect your data in Salesforce to something else, somewhere else, then you’re already dealing with integrations.

Salesforce has been working hard to get better guidance out there to help admins who have to make these kinds of decisions. “One of the biggest things is to really understand what it is you’re integrating,” Zayne says, and while that might be data, “there’s this whole, powerful realm of processes and process integration—when something has to start inside Salesforce and continue outside.” Understanding the two sides of integrations, process and data, is key to making sure you can make a solid plan for whatever it is you need to do.

Salesforce tools to help you get started with integrations

The important thing to remember is that the habits you’re already honing to be the product owner of your environment are going to relevant for integration management. Questions like what kind of security you should have, or what kind of data access should have apply equally to your org and to integrations.

“Loosely coupled” is a term that’s thrown around a lot when discussing integrations. It’s the idea that data and process moves easily between systems, but they’re not chained or locked together in a way that can’t change. The Mulesoft Anypoint platform, for example, gives you a middle layer that adds some flexibility. At the same time, we live in a world with budget constraints, so if you’re using out-of-the-box tools, you need to go through a process to identify what really needs to be integrated and what might be better served with a simpler solution.

There are also some new Integration Pattern Architect Trailhead trails that can help you get a handle on everything, so take the time to brush up on your knowledge. Listen to the full episode for more about integrations from this expert guest lineup, and don’t be afraid to jump into Mulesoft Composer and get started.

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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 your host, Gillian, Bruce, and today we have a very special episode for you. We are talking about integrations. And yes, admins, you are integrators. As you will hear from our amazing guest lineup today, we have the one and only LeeAnne Rimel, admin evangelists joining us as well as Zayne Turner, who is the head of architect relations here at Salesforce, to talk to you about what it means to look at integrations, to build integrations from an admin perspective. So without further ado, let’s get LeeAnne and Zayne on the pod.
LeeAnne and Zayne, welcome to the podcast.

LeeAnne Rimel: Thanks for having us, Gillian.

Gillian Bruce: Some of my favorite people. This is awesome people unite on the Salesforce Admins Podcast. So I have you both here today because we wanted to talk about integrations, which is something that we don’t often talk about with admins. So I would love, LeeAnne, Maybe you can kick us off with a little bit of what do integrations mean for admins? What are we talking about here?

LeeAnne Rimel: Right, so the first, set the foundation, make sure we’re all talking about the same thing, and you’re right, it isn’t something that we often talk to admins about and that’s something that we’re going to change because admins are integrators. Admins often are responsible for integrations at their companies or at their organizations. They are often the ones making important decisions about what to do with maybe existing integrations if they inherited an environment or if there’s some existing tech debt that they’re reviewing, trying to do some prioritization. So admins are often really making a lot of the decisions about integrations. So one of our goals here today and going forward with admins is to think about how do we give you as admins the tools to think about integrations in the larger business scope for your company?
So when we talk about integrations, we’re talking about everything from whether you’re working with some existing Apex in your org, you’ve got platform events in your flows, using one of our existing integration tools. There’s a lot of… Basically with integrations you are connecting your data in Salesforce to something else, somewhere else. You’re either taking data into Salesforce, you’re pushing data out of Salesforce, you’re working with data inside of Salesforce in some ways. So it’s very much within the realm of the Salesforce admin, this is something that’s very much within the realm of their business role. So I’m super excited to have Zayne here today because she is very much an expert in integrations and about integration thinking and architecture thinking about integrations. So I’m super excited for Zayne to share with us some of the ways that she thinks about integrations and decisions, those important business decisions that admins are making about it.

Gillian Bruce: So Zayne, you run architect relations here at Salesforce, which is super exciting, which I would imagine has a lot to do with integration. So tell us a little bit… Carrying on some of what LeeAnne just said, tell us a little bit more about what it means to manage and design and build integrations maybe from an admin perspective.

Zayne Turner: Yeah. I think that a lot of what LeeAnne said resonates about… It’s really on the shoulders of a lot of people who wear the title of admin to think about what their users need and what the business needs, and then make those recommendations. And that’s a big crossover area for what architects are also having to do, those architect responsibilities that you can have no matter what your title is. Our team has been looking at this area of integration and working with the product teams on getting some really good guidance out there. We have these new forms of documentation for architects called the architect decision guides. So we’re going to be launching some decision guides in this space. So it’s super awesome to get to have this conversation about it because we’re trying to figure out how do we start guiding people through the things you should think about with an integration.
And I think one of the biggest things is just to really understand what it is you’re integrating, because I think it’s one thing to think about data, as LeeAnne mentioned, that’s a super common use case, is we need to integrate data inside Salesforce, outside Salesforce for our users, but there’s also this whole powerful realm of processes and process integration, and what happens when something that needs to start inside Salesforce has to continue outside or vice versa, and what does that user experience like? That’s also a super incredible piece of integration, is ultimately what do you need to integrate? Is it just data? Is it data and process? Is it that sort of application logic? And then that really, really unlocks a whole other set of questions about what tool is going to be the best tool for that job.

LeeAnne Rimel: So Zayne, you mentioned the decision matrix and decisions structures that you’ve been working on for people doing this architecture work and how they should make decisions about integrations for their companies, for their orgs. At a high level, what are some of the things that admins should really be keeping their eyes open to and thinking about when they’re starting to get into this territory? What are some areas that they could maybe start paying attention to in their companies today when they are assessing existing processes, existing builds? If they were to take some notes, the best areas to make sure they’re keeping their eyes open for?

Zayne Turner: Yeah, I think some of the most important decision points are around… You’re going to hear it called flexibility or maintainability or ownership, and I think it’s something very much on the admin’s mind is what will this do in the longterm and how flexible can we be? But really understanding who owns and needs to update the process or the data flow. Who in the business and where in the businesses that controlled and what kinds of tools do they like to use, because then that will help where you need to have the greatest flexibility, where you need to empower those different members of your team. Is it a team that writes a lot of code? Is it a team that likes to use low code tools? Is it a team that has both kinds of skills? So that’s one area. Who’s going to own this and need to update it, and what tools do they to use?
But the second area is also really getting an idea of scale, and that means a few different things. It’s not just the number of records or do we have to have cross object or single record things, but also how often will this happen? If it’s a hundred thousand salespeople who during the day, they hit this process one time each, that’s a different scale than a thousand salespeople hitting this every five minutes. So those kinds of questions of how often and what’s the volume around scale are also super important, especially in the areas of integration.

LeeAnne Rimel: Right. That makes a lot of sense. So it’s important to… And hopefully a habit that a lot of our admins have been thinking about as they are making other build and user experience decisions. And I think one thing that’s always important is integration can feel, I think, sometimes like an intimidating topic area to spend time in, but a lot of the habits that admins are honing to be the product owners of their environment are the things that are going to be relevant and important to do when they’re dipping their toe into integration management.

Zayne Turner: Absolutely. It’s a very similar set of questions. And even the questions you ask about what kind of security do we have to have? Data access should we have? All of those things that admins have to do inside their org, it absolutely is the same kind of questions you should be asking about your integrations.

LeeAnne Rimel: I know that you, over the last few years, working with our architect community and in learning more and doing a lot of interviews with everyone who’s out there doing this architecture work, what are some learnings or things that you would be able to share from the integration activities that you’ve seen out there in the field, if you will? Maybe some of the really great examples you’ve seen, or maybe a really great example you’ve seen of integration, and then maybe some things that you’ve seen have been maybe common pitfalls that anyone in any role who’s evaluating integrations has maybe see happen more than once or recurrence?

Zayne Turner: Yeah, when I think about it, it’s what’s hot and integration this year? What’s the fashion in integration? And right now you’re seeing a big push for people who want to build integrations that mean that systems can be, loosely coupled, might be a phrase that you hear, but basically that the different apps and data stores around your business, the different places that people do work across your whole business, you want to let them not have to be chained together by an integration. You want data or process to move easily between them, but you don’t want to lock things together in a way that can’t change. That flexibility piece. So people want to be able to do that. And that’s why you see things like platform events being so exciting or the Anypoint Platform, what MuleSoft talks about, is having a middle layer, that’s really flexible.
But in reality, in the field that can still be really hard to do sometimes because of things like cost management. If you can’t afford the latest, greatest tool that gives you this super wonderful flexibility, how do you make responsible decisions with the tools that you have out of the box to get you the best of that flexibility? And that does come back to then really understanding, you just said, how often is this going to be used? Who needs to own it? Who needs to change it? Okay, once we know that, once we know what we can and can’t use, let’s start really re-imagining what it is we need to integrate. Do we have to replicate data? Is this really just about notifying a user that your request was sent to this other place? We can use a custom notification and then handle it some other place. That sort of flexibility is really what is hard to do in the field.

Gillian Bruce: When you say a lot of this, Zayne, I keep thinking… And LeeAnne, you kind of already mentioned this. This is very, very similar to the thought processes that admins go through when they’re just making existing changes to their org and managing their implementations and maybe building out sales cloud, or building out service cloud, because you’re looking at who owns the data? Who’s putting the data in there? Who else needs to see it? What does it need to talk to? So these are all… I mean, the questions that you’re asking have slightly different terminology, but it’s the same principles that admins have been working with and is so core to the admin skillset. What do you say to admins who maybe do feel a little like, “Oh, integrations, over my head. I just don’t know. This is something that might be a little too much for me.” What is your recommendation for admins who might be feeling that kind of trepidation?

Zayne Turner: Well I’m sure LeeAnne is going to have even better recommendations because I suspect there may be some resources and tools that are about to be in the world. But I think one of the things that I is the fact that the strength of Trailhead is that it demystifies things that can seem really complex. And we do have some new trails out that are architect trails, that are integration pattern trails, but they are true to the style of Trailhead in that they demystify these terms and allow you to get a better sense of how to map what it is you already know, the language and words you are very familiar with, with maybe some of these new terms. But also I think just realizing like you both have just said, integration is more than just something inside Salesforce to something outside Salesforce. Honestly, even connecting business units within Salesforce, that is literally a kind of integration. So it happens on big and small levels all the time, and that absolutely is something that admins very much understand.

LeeAnne Rimel: I love it. I feel like this is… Admins are integrators, they often are doing… Like Zayne said, the definition is so wide now, and there’s a lot of ways that you can be someone who is building or managing integrations that… We probably have a lot of people in the audience that are running integrations that haven’t even maybe called them integrations. Zayne, you mentioned platform events. If you’re working with platform events and a process and a flow, you are part of managing an integration. And I think something that’s important is we work hand in hand often with our developer counterparts as admins, so there might be pieces where even if it is an integration tool that requires some development work, that’s still something that you’re often managing as an admin, how that lives within your Salesforce environment.
So how that works in your Salesforce environment, how your users experience the integration. That’s very much often in the domain of the admin. There’s a lot of fun ways to start getting hands on with integrations. I love our Trailhead trails. I need to take the new architect modules. I’m pretty excited about those. What was the first… So Zayne, to take a step back, what was the first maybe integration you worked with as a Salesforce consultant, before you were doing what you’re doing today?

Zayne Turner: When I was working as an admin, actually, and teaching myself things beyond the declarative parts of Salesforce, I was teaching myself what I learned later, but I didn’t know it at the time was an extract, transform, and label, or ETL tool, which is a common kind of integration tool. But I was just working on… We have applications, because it was an organization that let people apply for residencies, artist residencies. So we had applications coming in in this external system where then wonderful people would tell us, “Oh, this person should be given a scholarship and they should come in this month,” and all that information, and it had to get into Salesforce. So I was just doing data uploads at first. I was using data loader or the data wizard or whatever it was at that time. I am old enough now I don’t remember. And I was doing manual data loads.
And then I finally discovered a tool that had at least a free-ish layer and I could start doing scripting. To me, it was learning new formula syntax, and I was figuring out the new formula syntax so that then I could just put the CSV in a place and hit a button and then magically stuff would appear on Salesforce. So that was my first integration. And that’s actually what got me started on like, “Oh my gosh, I love working in this whole technology area. It’s magic.”

LeeAnne Rimel: That’s awesome. I love that. I think I’ve heard you talk before about building out that tool for artists residencies. It’s super cool to hear about the apps that people were working on in their former professional lives. What were they building? What were they working on? All these really real life applications out there. It’s very cool. Gillian, have you worked with any integration tools? Have you tinkered with any of it?

Gillian Bruce: I think for various demos and things in the past that we have put together in my role as an admin evangelist, yes, we have tinkered. In fact, I think Zayne, you spent quite a long time explaining to me how MuleSoft connector worked for a keynote a few years ago. So in that capacity, sure.

Zayne Turner: I remember.

Gillian Bruce: Yes. You taught me what an API was. I felt very smart after that.

Zayne Turner: The keynote was amazing. You knocked it out of the park. I also remember that.

Gillian Bruce: Yeah, but what I always thought was so interesting about this is it’s… I mean, we love technology. We love technology because it allows things to happen and connect and communicate with each other. And that’s the heart of this. This is the heart of an integration, is basically allowing different things that are happening in the world to connect with each other, to help more things happen. And I think at its basic level, that’s what always excites me about the integration space, and I think that’s why a lot of people work in a technology Salesforce is because you’re able to connect things and make things happen and have an impact and see a result. And like you said, the magic, you get to make that magic happen. You are the magician. Which is pretty amazing. LeeAnne kind of asked the question before when we got all excited about loosely coupled systems and things like that. Pitfalls. Common pitfalls. So if I’m someone who’s just dabbling into integrations, what are the things I should watch out for?

Zayne Turner: Oh yeah. Unfortunately there’s a lot of them. Not going to lie. But I think the mistakes that I made when I thought about my integration patterns and things that I designed earlier was always thinking that the newest tool was the way that I had to go. That newer meant it was automatically better than other things, which may be true if it saves you time and makes it more maintainable, but I built things that then I was the only one who could maintain it. I was the only one who understood it, because I made it way too complicated in order to shove in the new tool. And I think that’s something that is a hard lesson, especially when you’re excited about the new stuff and it seems so full of potential. But making the right decision for your whole team for the long term is really… If you do that, everything else falls into place.

Gillian Bruce: Again, I think that theme holds true for admins even if they’re not doing integrations, because if you build something super custom and weird in your org, what’s going to happen when you’re not there to fix it? And I think especially in admin land, we’re very familiar with that because, “Hey, we are declarative first, we are using native things first. We’re not necessarily creating all this really fun, custom code that no one can understand where it is and what it’s doing.” So I think that’s a very important concept to maintain as you broaden your skillset into the integration space. So LeeAnne, you, as an admin evangelist, have worked with admins for ever, and the admin persona very, very deeply. What are your thoughts in terms of what dabbling in the integration space, what effect that has on the admin skillset, admin career path? Can you talk to us a little bit about that?

LeeAnne Rimel: I think I have been working with admins forever, because I was an admin. I was an admin when I started my career in technology and I’ve always worked really closely with our admin community because I think they do incredibly exciting and meaningful work out in the world, and I think what they do is really important. And on that, what admins do is important. And one of the things that we’re seeing in the technology space right now, and we’re seeing with a lot of our customers and we’re seeing with what companies are expecting is really building these holistic experiences for their employees/users. That’s your end user if you’re an admin. And allowing employees, allowing users to be really productive and really seamless in how they’re moving through their work day.
That’s an ideal, is you want to be able to accomplish the jobs that you need to do during that day and not have to go into different spaces or go into different systems or break out of that work state. And that’s something that we see just trending a lot with how people are trying to set up their work environments, how we’re trying to set up user experience systems like everything. So what to me is really exciting is admins, I think even in a bigger scope than just talking about integrations, admins are really at the center of that, being in a position to build these very enveloping, seamless experiences for their end users, and that’s something is incredibly important to companies right now. It’s incredibly important to a lot of employees and users right now. And then integrations are a huge part of that.
So there’s a lot of things that we do. So if you think about, as an admin, I want to build a really holistic experience, a really seamless experience for my users. So I’m going to build a page layout that has all of the fields that they need, or an app page. All of the things that they need, all the information they need, all of the actions that they need. Everything they need to be successful is going to be on that page. So when we think about that with integration, what that means is thinking and things that beyond the platform and thinking about where does this… This process doesn’t end when… This business process doesn’t end when its time in Salesforce is over. If there’s other systems it needs to go to, or whatever your business process is. And also there might be more information beyond what’s in Salesforce that you need to be really successful.
So what’s exciting to me is that this is this very transformative time for a lot of companies, how they are looking at the speed at which they’re adopting new technologies, how they’re looking at the experience they want to build for their employees. And admins are smack dab right in the center of that. They’re in the position to be building this successful experience and really delighting their end users. And I think that really considering where integrations live for you is a super important part of that for admins. It just is. I think as admins, we really want to be thinking big about owning our user experience. We want to be really design minded and really be thinking about what is my colleague over in sales that is using Salesforce to close business for the company, what does their entire experience look like?
And I think that it’s super exciting is we have all these great clicks not code tools for integration that we’re building more and more, we’ve got MuleSoft Composer launched in March, which is… Or is launching in March, which is super, super exciting, and it’s an entirely declarative interface to build connections to other systems like Google, like many other systems. So it’s super exciting as it’s like, that’s so important for admins, and then at Salesforce we’re really trying to arm you as admins or equip you as admins with the tools to get that done with clicks.

Zayne Turner: And I think what’s super exciting about what you just said, LeeAnne, is also for me, looking at it, it’s also the power we’re bringing to things like testing and debugging and knowing what’s happening, which is super important, of course, with everything, but especially integrations, and the fact that things like MuleSoft composer or some of the advances that we’ve seen in Flow and Flow Builder are now bringing those very powerful, some people would think of them as developer capabilities, that used to force certain kinds of tools because you could only test or debug with certain things. Now we’re seeing that happening declaratively. You can know exactly what’s happening with your integration with those same declarative tools you’re using to build, and it’s really, really powerful.

Gillian Bruce: It’s so awesome, because basically that alone, Zayne, what you just said, enables admins to truly be integrators. Because that barrier is gone or drastically reduced, because you can actually troubleshoot and figure out what’s going on without having to ping your developer buddy. So that’s pretty amazing. One of the things that I think is… Well, I always love having the two of you on the podcast because you’re two of my favorite people anyway, but it’s also… I mean, you are both amazing female leaders in tech and especially we talk about architects and integrations, these are pretty complex technological topics usually. So I think it’s really amazing to have two awesome women talking about this. Well, three. I’m not an expert in the space-

LeeAnne Rimel: Three awesome women.

Zayne Turner: Three, yes.

Gillian Bruce: I’ll put myself in the awesome bucket, but I would also be very excited to see what these new capabilities with Salesforce and opening up the integration space does to help open up maybe the space of people who consider themselves integrators.Kind of democratizing that a little bit.

LeeAnne Rimel: I think that’s such an important point. Not just that we’re all three awesome. But I think that’s a really important point. I think almost particularly for those of us who have been on the platform for a long time, who’ve been working in the Salesforce ecosystem for a long time, I would challenge everyone out there who maybe has been working in the Salesforce world for more than a year, more than two years, more than three years to really have a beginner’s mindset when they think about integration, where they fit… As an individual person, where they fit in regards to their technology stack, where their role is when it comes to managing their existing systems, managing Salesforce. Because like you said, there’s new tools coming out all the time, and we very much at Salesforce have an investment in creating clicks not code tools for admins in spaces that previously were the domain of code.
That’s always been the Salesforce story for the last, what is it, 23 years. That’s how Salesforce started. But that hasn’t stopped. That idea of, we’re going to take things that previously required a specific skillset or required you to write a specific type of code, and now we’re going to make them something that’s available to a wider technical audience. I would challenge everyone out there who maybe looked at integration solutions 5 years ago or 10 years ago or whatever point in time, and to reevaluate and to think about what their position could be in regards to integrations and managing integrations and being an integrator, just because the rate of growth in that space is phenomenal when it comes to the tools that are being made available to a declarative audience. So I think all of our awesome admins are integrators. In my heart you are all integrators just because I see the amazing things that our admin community builds, and I think that we shouldn’t feel like anything is off limits,

Gillian Bruce: Low code love. There we go. Well thank you both so much for taking the time to chat with me today on the podcast and to share your amazing insights about admins being integrators. Really appreciate it. Any final closing thoughts to help admins dip their toe in the integration pond, I guess? Anyway. I just made a thing. Zayne, any closing thoughts from you?

Zayne Turner: I think just that the integration pond is a really exciting place. And as LeeAnne just said, that it is a part of… If you care about the mission or the business of your organization, if you’re passionate about it being the best possible, and the users of those experiences your building being their best possible selves, then to me, that is… You are an integrator in that you’re bringing together those things, as you mentioned, Gillian, that it’s all about bringing together the pieces of enterprise to make things awesome for the humans. And that is where you should start and give yourself permission to be in the conversation if you felt like you couldn’t before. The technology piece truly is second. It’s really that human piece first, which I think is really a powerful thing that admins always bring.

Gillian Bruce: That’s great. LeeAnne, final closing thoughts?

LeeAnne Rimel: Well, everything Zayne just said, because I agree a thousand percent. And if you’re super jazzed right now on integrations and you’re like, “Yes, I’m going to go build some integrations.” I’m going to do a plug for MuleSoft Composer because it launches March 10th, and I think they’re going to have a ton of content out there for how to get hands-on with it and how to check it out. But I feel like if you are, as Gillian said, dipping your toe into integrations, I think MuleSoft Composer, it’s not the only way that you can get started with integrations, but I think it’s a really fun and cool way to start looking at integrations and where they would fit for your company, so I’d encourage everyone to keep your ears peeled for MuleSoft Composer because that’s going to be something that’s only going to get cooler and cooler for our admin audience.

Gillian Bruce: Yeah, great. Well again, thank you both so much. I really appreciate it. I’m inspired. I hope everyone, if you’re listening, go be an integrator, tap into your inner integrator and go play with MuleSoft Composer. So thanks again so much for joining us today, ladies, and we’ll hope to have you back again soon.

Zayne Turner: So great to see both of you.

LeeAnne Rimel: Thank you.

Gillian Bruce: Huge. Thanks to LeeAnne and Zayne for taking the time to chat with me today. Just talking to those two women just absolutely brightens my day and I hope it brightened yours as well, as well as inspired you admins to think about integrations. So for some of my top takeaways from our chat is number one, integrations is just about connecting data and people and systems and processes, all of which you already do as an admin. Now you may just do that within the Salesforce platform at the moment, but I guarantee you can think about more systems and platforms and things that your users interact with every day to get their job done, and that’s what integrations are about. Imagine if you could connect those systems, those processes to deliver one seamless experience for your users. That’s the ultimate admin goal and that makes you an integrator.
So when you’re talking about integrations, a couple of things. You have to think about who is going to own the integration, who’s owning the data, who’s going to maintain it, who’s going to be in charge of the flexibility. You also have to think about scale. So how often will this be taking place? What’s the volume of data you’re talking about or the volume of the frequency? All of those are important questions to think about as you’re venturing down the integration path. And finally, if you’re wondering about what integrations mean, don’t worry, we got Trailhead for that. So yes, there’s amazing content on Trailhead specifically about how to think about patterns. Now it may say architect on the Trailhead content, but believe me, admins, it’s so useful for you to look at.
So I hope this inspires you to think about integrations and to use that mindset and expand your skillset a bit, because it’s really fun. MuleSoft Composer makes that easy. And if you want to learn more about anything Salesforce admin related, please go to admin.salesforce.com, where you can find all kinds of more resources and content to help you be an awesome admin. You can stay up to date for all things social in the awesome admin universe @SalesforceAdmns, no i, on Twitter, and I am on Twitter @GillianKBruce. Our guests today are on Twitter. We have Zayne Turner @ZayneLT, and we have LeeAnne Rimel who is @LeeAnnedroid. You can find myself @GillianKBruce. I hope you all stay safe, stay awesome. Hope you enjoyed this episode, and we’ll catch you next time in the cloud.

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