Today on the Salesforce Admins Podcast, we talk to Belinda Wong, VP, Product Platform Management at Salesforce. Join us as we chat about why sometimes admins who are doing the best job go unnoticed and everything User Access Policy.

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

Thank you, admins

Belinda is a Salesforce veteran in the midst of her 16th year with the organization. She actually got her start as an admin way back when. She knows what it’s like to be asked over and over again to “just make it work” when so much more goes into understanding the problem and coming up with a solution that makes sense. She feels like often all you’ll get is a “thanks” for sorting things out without a deeper appreciation of what you’ve actually pulled off. So to everyone out there who’s been in that situation: she says thanks.

“Some of the best admins I’ve talked to know how to anticipate,” Belinda says, they’re doing the research before a new release drops to ensure everything goes smoothly. It can often feel like you get recognition only when you put out a big fire when things going smoothly on the other 364 days of the year is actually the bigger achievement.

What the User Access Policy will mean for you

One thing Belinda and her team are working on to improve productivity for admins is adding the ability to better group together Permissions and find ways for Salesforce to help with that out of the box. “We’ve had standard profiles for 20 years—they haven’t really come along,” she says, which is why they’ve been moving into creating standard permission sets and permission set groups to help.

Belinda and her team are working on User Access Policy to really tackle those problems and help you manage everything. It’ll not only include permissions sets but also things that are currently a little more peripheral, like record-level access controls, public groups, and more. Look out for an early pilot of that later this year (safe harbor) and hopefully, try it out and give Belinda your feedback.

Be sure to listen to the whole episode for what Belinda’s up to with video games and knitting, and what you should wear to Dreamforce.

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Full show transcript

Mike Gerholdt: Welcome to the Salesforce Admins Podcast, where we talk about product, community, and career to help you become an awesome admin. This week I’m talking with Belinda Wong, who’s the VP of Product Management at Salesforce. Now, before we get into the conversation with Belinda, she has been at Salesforce for 16 years. That’s a long time. And she is actually heading up… I’m sure you’re familiar with the name Cheryl Feldman. If not, Cheryl’s working on all of the user access and permission policy things. So Belinda heads up that area. She has a really interesting take on some of the things that we do as admins I look at it as kind of celebrating zero. And so that’s going to make more sense when you listen to the podcast, but really doing those things where we’re being preventative and working ahead. Belinda even gives some advice on how to coach that up to your manager and make a big deal of being proactive. So with that, let’s get Belinda on the podcast.

So Belinda, welcome to the podcast.

Belinda Wong: Thank you, Mike. I am so excited.

Mike Gerholdt: Yeah. Well, it’s your first podcast, which is hard to believe because I feel like I have spoken to Belinda Wong quite a bit in my career, but maybe just not on the podcast. So welcome to your first podcast.

Belinda Wong: Thank you. Thank you. I’m excited.

Mike Gerholdt: Now, you have a really cool title, VP product management at Salesforce. So hey, you’ve done some things. I would love to start off by you kind of introducing yourself to what are some of the products that perhaps you’ve managed that admins have used?

Belinda Wong: So I am nearly at my 16th year.

Mike Gerholdt: Oh, congrats.

Belinda Wong: Finishing my 16th year at Salesforce. So I have done a lot of different things here. But from a product perspective, I moved into product management probably about halfway through that stint. I started off with owning our licensing and provisioning framework basically. I call it our digital delivery. This is how we play the role of the FedEx and UPS for all the products that Salesforce sells. So that was my first product. Then I expanded into some of our authorization space. And it was originally called admin, but it’s really authorization, meaning how do you entitle your users. And think profiles, permission sets and all the goodness around that. So those are my two main areas. I started off doing the direct management. And then now I have a team of PMs. You guys will know that I recently brought Cheryl Feldman to take over that authorization space and she’s been amazing.

Mike Gerholdt: Yeah, rockstar. Rockstar.

Belinda Wong: Yeah, absolutely rockstar. So that’s my space. I affectionately call it entitlement services. So it’s basically all the capabilities and services to entitle your system as well entitling your end users. Is that helpful?

Mike Gerholdt: Gotcha. Yeah. I mean, you are part of the delivery and now you’re the person that keeps the doors locked or unlocked and gives admins the ability to hand out permissions. I like it.

Belinda Wong: That’s great. I’m going to steal that.

Mike Gerholdt: Okay. Use it. So it feels like last year, but it was actually just April, if you can believe, that we did TrailblazerDX in San Francisco and we were crossing paths in the setup area. And I will joke, we found the most splinterable picnic table, I think, available on the planet to sit down and have a chat. One of the topics that you brought up, which was really keen and why I wanted to have you on the podcast, was you said sometimes tasks that admins do are undervalued. And I’d really love for you to elaborate more on that.

Belinda Wong: Yeah, absolutely. In fact, my personal history with Salesforce started as an admin. I mean, before I joined Salesforce as an employee, my first introduction to Salesforce was administering an org for a startup. So one of the things that I figured out that, I mean, it was a great learning and it was also the reason why I fell in love with Salesforce as a product to start with is all the flexibility, all the things that you can figure out, but at the same time, people don’t necessarily appreciate it, right? I remember being on the receiving end of, “Just make it work,” you know?

Mike Gerholdt: Right.

Belinda Wong: “Just give me the… Look, he could do something that I can’t. Just make it so that it works.” Since then, I’ve talked to a lot of administrators that’s come up to me either in conference shows or I’ve reached out and talked to that that said the same thing. It’s like, my users just want it to work, so they don’t necessarily appreciate how much time the administrator has to go and understand what happened, have to go figure out what is or isn’t set up right. And at the end of the day, all they get appreciated for is, “Okay, you fix the problem. Great!” Not that you spent 20 hours figuring out how to do it. And that’s the part that I think we need to really highlight and just give that thanks. And I want to thank every administrator, everybody out there that’s had that experience, even if it’s only once in a while. But it’s like, thank you. Thank you for persevering and staying with us.

Mike Gerholdt: Yeah, I think there’s… And I’ll paraphrase. I read a note somewhere that kind of summarizes what you said, which was, a pipe in a house is clogged and person calls the plumber. Plumber comes over and says, “It’ll be $400 to fix it.” “Well, how, long’s it going to take you to fix it?” “Oh, it’ll be fixed in five minutes. You’re not paying me for my time. You’re paying me for the fact that I know how to fix this in five minutes.” I think that’s what you’re saying, right? It’s a little bit of the reverse of that, but it’s like, “Thank you for doing the thing I asked. However, I lacked to gain the insight into the amount of time that it took for you to get that correct.”

I mean, I have auto bill set up on how many of my home bills and cell bills and stuff like that. When the money just comes out of your account and you pay the bill and the service always works, you have a really hard time finding fault with the service. It’s when the thing doesn’t work that you’re like, “Yeah, this company’s horrible,” right?

Belinda Wong: Exactly. Exactly. And that’s the other part, is talking about another underappreciate, is that anticipation. Some of the best admins that I’ve talked to anticipates, right? They’re the ones doing all the research on, “Hey, I hear a release is coming. Let’s go learn about what’s going to change. How’s that going to impact me? I’m going to go figure it out before it actually impacts my end users.” And again, they’re doing it naturally. They just know that’s the best way for them to get ahead of what might be problems. But I don’t see that as appreciated by all the companies and the managers out there so we should advertise that that is important work.

Mike Gerholdt: Right. So let’s talk about that because I feel like there’s always one part and I listen to other podcasts and like, “Yeah, that’s a problem.” It’s really easy to point out problems, but I think the second part of that is like, “So what’s a solution?” I mean think of it from, I’ll put it very astutely right into your seat, you’re a manager of people and if you have somebody that does anticipate problems and does it very well and somebody that doesn’t, what are things that you do to try and coach the other person and reward one of them for doing that and kind of help the other person not? Or conversely, what should that admin think of them out there, learning all the release notes, proactively putting out, “Here’s what’s coming. Here’s things we need to think about,” but feeling that undervalue from their manager? What should they do to communicate that to their manager? What would you want communicated to you?

Belinda Wong: I’m going to tell you a story. One of the things that I say especially for about my licensing and provisioning area is we are an enormous success when there are no incidents, right?

Mike Gerholdt: Yeah.

Belinda Wong: But reporting zero incidents is not normally what people do. Although, I do. Now that I think about it, I don’t know if they have them around anymore but I remember days when I would go into the office, this was like my pre Salesforce days, I worked at an environmental engineering firm. You would walk into the office in the kitchen and there would be a poster that says, “Number of days with no OSHA violations.”

Mike Gerholdt: Oh, yeah. There’s a construction site I go past to take my dog to daycare and they have a sign that’s similar to that.

Belinda Wong: Right. But you notice that the metric they’re reporting is a number that goes up, right?

Mike Gerholdt: Mm-hmm.

Belinda Wong: And we seem to have a natural tendency towards the bigger the number, the more vanity the better it is to have. But the reality is, what we want to measure is no incident. We actually want a zero.

Mike Gerholdt: Right.

Belinda Wong: But in that particular story, they had to represent it with a number that goes up so that people recognize the importance, like bigger is better. So maybe that’s what we need to do is to say, “Let’s figure out how to celebrate that. A no incident is not just, ‘Okay nothing happened,’ but that there’s greatness in that. There’s a metric what we should come up with to celebrate that.” I don’t know if that answers the question.

Mike Gerholdt: No, I do think… Yeah, it is funny. I didn’t realize that, but I drive past that construction site and you notice the double or triple digit number. And then sometimes you drive by and you’re like, “Oh, it’s at five. Something must have happened, right?

Belinda Wong: Right.

Mike Gerholdt: And it’s similar to like that auto bill that I have set up on some of my accounts. When they just bill me and my cell phone service works and I don’t have issues, it’s kind of cool. But man, you can get me flaming mad if I get out in the middle of nowhere and my cell service drops or something happens and it’s like, “Wait a minute, I forgot about the 364 other days that boring was not even celebrated, but it totally meant they were doing their job.”

Belinda Wong: Exactly. Yeah. I think that’s what I would… I think your question was about how I would coach the people into, “Okay, you’re not anticipating” because they got attention for the incidents that happened, right?

Mike Gerholdt: Yeah.

Belinda Wong: We always jump on escalations. So the person’s name had recognition because there was an escalation. I mean, you could say there’s a small negative connotation to that, but it’s still, there was recognition. Whereas the other person who was doing the job, like doing their job well, was not getting recognized, right? So my coaching or my job as a manager would be, okay, let’s find a way to celebrate that. And like I said, let’s find a way that people understand it’s important and that they see that big number or that big recognition.

Mike Gerholdt: Yeah. I think a lot of what we talk about in admin relations and putting together sample dashboards is, “Look at all of the stories or the case tickets that I’ve burned down over the month.” Like, “Look at all the things I’ve solved.” I think the reverse of that is also… And I apologize I can’t remember the year, but I know at Dreamforce one year we had a presentation that an individual in the community did. It was like dashboard of zeros is what I remember.

Belinda Wong: Right.

Mike Gerholdt: It’s almost like celebrating that, right? Thinking through, “I know we want to talk about here’s all the big stuff that’s happened, but let’s talk about how this dashboard month over month is still zero.” And that could be number of incidences because we’ve anticipated problems that were coming up and proactively worked on solutions. So thinking that through, I can hear admins in my ear. They want to know like, “So Belinda, you manage Cheryl and you got this whole team of people. What’s some of the stuff that you’re proactively working on to make admins life easier?”

Belinda Wong: There’s a couple of efforts that in our authorization space that we’re looking at. One upcoming is something called user access policies. So one of the things that we know will improve our administrators productivity is to be able to better group together permissions, and maybe even to have Salesforce be much better at providing the prescriptive out of the box representation. I mean, the reality is we’ve had standard profiles for 20 years. They haven’t really come along.

Mike Gerholdt: [inaudible].

Belinda Wong: We’ve started moving into a space we call permission sets and permission set groups. We’ve slowly started to put out standard permission sets, but usually along with incremental add on features, things like Einstein or maybe Health Cloud coming out with, “Hey, this is how you can configure a Health Cloud person.” But we need to get a better way to do that in a standardized across all of our features and services. And that’s what user access policy is intended to be, is a way for us to create a grouping that not only includes the permission sets, but also things that are a little more peripheral, like the record level access controls, like public groups and things like that. So look out for that. That is definitely on Cheryl’s roadmap, user access policies. We’re looking to do that, a pilot, an early pilot of that this year, so safe harbor. And then really get more feedback and iterate on that over the next year or so.

Mike Gerholdt: So is that feature functionality just a result of technology changing or the granularity of Salesforce needing to be even tighter? I guess the question I’m poking at is really for kind of newer admins. What about the profile doesn’t work? And I say that because I’ve got a profile on Twitter and I’ve got a profile on Facebook and I’ve got a profile on other things that I log into. And I think maybe the new admin looks at that as like why are we splitting this up a little bit more?

Belinda Wong: The main aspect of it is definitely the growth of different types of functionality in the platform. I mean, when we first started 20 years ago or over 20 years ago, we only had sales, right?

Mike Gerholdt: Mm-hmm.

Belinda Wong: So profiles were set up to say, “Okay, you’re a standard sales user. You do a little bit of contract management, or you just need read-only access to the sales objects.”

Mike Gerholdt: Right.

Belinda Wong: We’ve since grown into service cloud. We’ve grown into experience communities, portals. And our enormous app exchange ecosystem has added a lot more ISV partner solutions that sometimes play with the same objects, but often are their own set of entities, right?It’s kind of like that bolt on. You start putting all this stuff onto the one item, it’s like, “Oh, let me put on an extra pocket on this jacket. Let me put this badge or this pin.” So now you’ve got this really heavyweight jacket that you have to put on. And you actually have to change it completely when something needs to be tweaked.

Mike Gerholdt: Right.

Belinda Wong: So what we’ve said is, “You know what? We need to redesign that jacket so that it is more like the type of jacket where there’s an inner lining that you can take off, or the sleeves comes off and you can actually be able to use this in a much more flexible way.” That’s kind of where that thought process, that design was coming from.

Mike Gerholdt: No, that’s good. That’s a really good analogy. I never really thought of that. I can only say, to me, I see it akin to a lot of the changes that we saw with Apple products. Like if you remember when the iPod came out, well, we synced it with iTunes, right?

Belinda Wong: Mm-hmm.

Mike Gerholdt: And then the phone came out, except now the phone has apps. But you get apps through iTunes, right?It kind of felt weird. They really had to figure out a way to kind of like, this one thing can’t do everything anymore, you know?

Belinda Wong: Right.

Mike Gerholdt: I like your analogy of pins and buttons. You end up with this huge, massive jacket that isn’t as functional because you’ve just kept adding to it as opposed to being able to scope out that vision. So it’s a great analogy. Belinda, one of the things that I love to ask and feel free to answer however you wish. We’ve had a few PMs on and we’ll probably see you at Dreamforce. Admins will be walking around. What is something you love to do in your spare time when you’re not making user access policy products awesome for Salesforce admins?

Belinda Wong: So my two favorite hobbies, they’re actually very different, but my two favorite hobbies, my first favorite hobby really the time sync one is video games.

Mike Gerholdt: Ooh.

Belinda Wong: It’s actually a way for me to get connected with my own family, because my husband’s a big video gamer.

Mike Gerholdt: Okay.

Belinda Wong: The two of us from even before we had children, we would sit side by side and play Final Fantasy in Co Op mode together. It was a great way for us to learn from each other and really connect and be together, because I was always the puzzle solver while he was the one who was like the fighter. He was much more dextrous than me, but we would get to a portion of the game where he is like, “I can’t figure out where to go from here anymore.” And it’s like, “No, you just need to solve that little… Move those boxes around and then you’ll be able to get to that extra passage way.”

And we started doing that with our kids too. It’s like we would play the Lego. I mean, Lego is big French. They take all of these different movies and then turn them into games with the Lego characters. So we just love those. We just love those. Our time sync is family time, video gaming. Although we also do occasionally board games when we’re like, “Okay, maybe we’re a little over indexed on the screen time now.”
But the other thing that I do for me, which is more of a personal thing is knitting.

Mike Gerholdt: Ooh.

Belinda Wong: Because I just love being able to produce something. I’m not as talented as other crafters that we have at Salesforce. I am just totally envious of what Chris Duarte can do with the [inaudible] machine. But I’ve been trying to figure out how do I want designing, knitting a cap with the cloud on it and stuff like that. I’m working on it. Maybe I’ll figure it out by Dreamforce and get you in.

Mike Gerholdt: Yeah. I will take anything knitted. I love knitted stuff. It’s so cool. That’s so neat. I think you probably tapped into a lot of the things that I see our community do. I know there’s a lot of video game people out there. Josh who hosts the Dev Podcast is a big video gamer. I think they’re also on Twitch. I don’t know if you Twitch stream your video games. That’s a whole thing I just figured out, but you can watch a channel where you watch people play video games. One of my friends’ kids told me about it. And I remember thinking to myself, “That’s got to be incredibly boring.” And then later that night I found myself two hours in watching somebody play a video game on Twitch. And I was like, “Okay. Note taken.” So, yeah. Interesting.

Belinda Wong: Yeah. I haven’t quite gotten into that yet. Although my daughters do. My younger daughter loves Roblox.

Mike Gerholdt: Oh.

Belinda Wong: I mean, that is the video game of choice for at least my 11 year old.

Mike Gerholdt: Okay.

Belinda Wong: And she’s watched people do… That and Minecraft, because she’s loves the building aspect, being able to just make giant towers and things like that.

Mike Gerholdt: Yes. Yes.

Belinda Wong: So I’ve seen her do watch a Twitch channel on Roblox or Minecraft.

Mike Gerholdt: Right. Yeah.

Belinda Wong: I haven’t gotten into it myself yet.

Mike Gerholdt: I did the Minecraft Creative mode for a while. I totally got into it. And then I built this huge house thing. I think it’s Creative mode or something, Design mode, you can fly around. And I was flying around and I got lost. I couldn’t find my way back to this big house that I had built. And I was just so devastated that I was like, “Oh.” And so I just never picked it up again.

Belinda Wong: No.

Mike Gerholdt: That, and then I made the mistake of going online and seeing other stuff that people had built. And I was like, “Oh my thing’s not even close to that.” So hey, there we go. But yeah, video games and knitting. Belinda, thanks for taking time out of the day and talking about some of the stuff you’re working on at Salesforce and recognizing that some of the things our admins do that we’ve always realized are things that they should talk a little bit more about.

Belinda Wong: Yeah, absolutely. And thank you for everything. I want to just say again, thank you to all the admins and everything they do in making Salesforce easy to use.

Mike Gerholdt: So it was great talking with Belinda. We can always go down host different alleys. I’d love to know if there’s video game players or knitters out there. I see that all over my Twitter feed quite a bit. And holy cow, if you’re coming to Dreamforce this year, it’s going to be warm, but bring something knitted because that’s going to be super cool. I truly wish I could knit. I have not picked it up. I played some video games, but it was neat to see some of the hobbies that Belinda has. I really enjoyed her advice that she gave us as admins about thinking about some of those tasks that we do and the time we put into it and celebrating ourselves and also paying attention, being ahead of the curve and anticipating new features, new releases or maybe new issues. It’s always worth bringing those up to our managers as well as we work through those things.

So of course, if you want to learn more about all things Salesforce admin, just go to admin.salesforce.com to find resources including any of the links that we mentioned in today’s episode as well as a full transcript. Of course you can stay up to date with us on social, we are @SalesforceAdmns. No I on Twitter. Gillian is on Twitter. She is @gilliankbruce. And of course, I am on Twitter @MikeGerholdt. And with that, stay safe, stay awesome, and stay tuned for the next episode. We’ll see you in the cloud.

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