Supporting the LA28 Games with Salesforce with Kat Aquino

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Today on the Salesforce Admins Podcast, we talk to Kat Aquino, the Salesforce Admin for LA28, otherwise known as the organizing committee for the Los Angeles 2028 Olympic & Paralympic Games.

Join us as we talk about how she’s setting up LA28’s Salesforce infrastructure to help power a massive, international event and what she’s learned so far.

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

Work together better

The Olympic (and Paralympic) Games are coming to LA in 2028, and Kat is the Salesforce Admin for the organizing committee, LA28. Obviously, they’re in the planning stages right now, but that’s the perfect time to build a foundation in Salesforce.

Kat spends a lot of time talking with users to figure out what tools to build, but she’s also keeping an eye on the bigger picture. “As we onboard all of these different departments which all have different processes,” she says, “we need to think about how we can work together better.” That means a thorough understanding of how things are done and, more importantly, how they could fit together.

Prioritization when you’re starting from the ground up

So Kat has this massive list of things that need to be built in Salesforce, but how does she make decisions about what to prioritize? There’s a triage element of who needs what and when, but she also factors in how much time a task will take to accomplish. If she has the chance to score a quick win she’ll take it in a heartbeat.

Rolling out new tools lets Kat show the organization how Salesforce can enable them to collaborate like never before. Dashboards have been a game-changer for Sales, for example, because everyone can see what’s going on and collaborate on new approaches. Automations are mind-blowing if you’ve been stuck with the same repetitive process for years. This helps with adoption and generates momentum for the future.

Athlete data: are they custom objects or contact records?

One thing Kat has to solve for that might not be a problem in your Salesforce org is how to deal with data for athletes—it is, after all, the Olympics and Paralympics. “Athletes are quite different from the regular business contacts you’d normally associate with an account,” she says. They need more specific fields (like sport, discipline, or what year they participated), but it’s really important to control who has access to that information with tight security and access.

Kat initially built a custom object and related lists solution, which worked great for reports but not for users. She went back to the drawing board and created a new record type for the contact of an athlete. They can still use the related lists and custom objects they previously created and the user experience is much improved. It requires a lot more management of page layouts and deciding who can see what, but it’s well worth it.

There’s so much more about how Kat is weening a department off of spreadsheets and what she’s looking forward to in the future, so be sure to listen to the full episode for more. We’ll be sure to check back in with Kat as we get closer to LA28.

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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 am your host today, Gillian Bruce, and we got a fun one for you. We are going to be talking with Kat Aquino, who is working as a Salesforce administrator for the LA28 Olympic and Paralympic Games. She is actually building Salesforce to help support this huge event that’s happening in just a few short years, and they’re starting at ground zero, so I wanted to get Kat on to talk about some of the amazing processes, unique processes, that are special to running an Olympic and Paralympic games using Salesforce, which kind of processes she’s bringing in, how she’s thinking about the strategy. She’s going to be growing the use of Salesforce massively over the next few years, leading right up to the LA28 games, and so I think it’s really fascinating to hear from her.

And we are going to check back in with her in a few years to follow along her story, but I wanted to get her on to talk about some of these unique use cases and really explore some of the ways that maybe will help you expand your ideas of how you can use Salesforce to help support your business, as well.

All right, without further ado, let’s please welcome Kat to the podcast. Kat, welcome to the podcast.

Kat Aquino: Thanks so much for having me. I’m excited to be here.

Gillian Bruce: Oh, well, I am very happy to have you here. It’s so fun. Now, I have had the opportunity to chat with you a little bit, but we got to share all of your goodness with everybody else who’s out there listening, because Kat, you are doing something pretty special. Can you just give us a little overview of what your role is at the organization that you’re at?

Kat Aquino: Yeah, so I work at LA28, and we are the organizing committee for the Olympic and Paralympic Games, which are coming to Los Angeles in 2028. And my role is the Salesforce admin, essentially, of our organization.

Gillian Bruce: Okay, so kind of a big deal.

Kat Aquino: No pressure or anything.

Gillian Bruce: I know. The Olympics are kind of a big deal, and they’re coming back to LA. I think they’ve got, they haven’t been in LA since forever, I feel like, maybe even in my lifetime. Maybe they’re in LA in the eighties or something. Do you know when the last time they were there?

Kat Aquino: Yeah, I believe it was ’84.

Gillian Bruce: ’84. There you go. I was two years old. So yeah, pretty much the first time in my lifetime, the Olympics are coming to my home state, not my home city, but very exciting. And I mean, it’s a very unique way that the LA ’28 is kind of set up. I mean, as a Salesforce admin, you’ve got a lot going on in the next few years. Can you tell me a little bit of the overview of how the organization is growing or plans to grow to prepare for this huge undertaking?

Kat Aquino: Oh, yeah. So at our organization right now, we are kind of just setting up foundations for how we can plan the games. And we are currently planning the games. We have multiple departments that support that mission. And with being in the technology department, we’re tied in with working with other departments to help them succeed and give them the tools that they need to be able to do their jobs. And so right now, as the admin, I’ve been going through talking with different departments and understanding what their needs are and how we can better collaborate with each other. And I think I’m in a really unique position to be able to help do that through the use of Salesforce. And the different departments, they really do need to work together. Right now, there’s a lot of silos. And when they collaborate, they’re not really leveraging technology in the best way that they can to be able to do that.

Gillian Bruce: I mean, you’re at the center of a really, really big effort. So, I mean, you talked about different departments and different silos and talking to all of your stakeholders. What are some of the questions that you go in with? Because a lot of admins, maybe they’re not working to support the Olympic games, but they might be coming into an organization where, again, there’s a lot of different stakeholders, a lot of different departments. How do you go about engaging with them and understanding their needs and identifying how Salesforce might be able to play a role in their business processes?

Kat Aquino: Yeah, that’s a really good question. I would say that one of the most important questions to ask is processes. What are they currently doing? And really understanding, not just from a broad perspective of how that ties in with the organization as a whole, but really getting down into the nitty gritty details of understanding what exactly it is that they are doing on a day to day basis, because that’s where we can really take a look and examine that process and understand how we can take it apart and tinker it together and put that process into Salesforce.

Gillian Bruce: Okay. So, let’s talk about that, because, I mean, the LA28 organization does a lot of different things. What are some of the first things that you’ve been able to set up in Salesforce to help manage their processes a little bit better?

Kat Aquino: Yeah, so earlier I mentioned that I had interviewed a number of departments to really understand what they needed and what they were trying to do. I came up with a huge list. And in order to understand and prioritize what needed to be done, put together the urgency, a list of departments requests that needed a solution quicker. And then I also divided that up into figuring out which of those solutions don’t require that big of a lift, so which of those solutions could be set up a little bit more easily than others. So, after doing that, the first department that we set up was our commercial sales department. And that was of simple solutions, seeing that the bread and butter of Salesforce was to help the sales teams do their jobs. And so we set up opportunities, we set up accounts, we set up contacts and allowed them to be able to track their conversations using the activity timeline. And we added the Outlook integration so that they can add their emails into the opportunities. And being able to see all of that in one space for them has really changed the game.

Gillian Bruce: Yeah, I would love to hear… What was the reaction once you were able to set that up? Were the sales people happy with you and super excited to now have this all into one place, or how did that go?

Kat Aquino: I would say, yeah, there was excitement, absolutely. And they loved seeing it because I would show examples of how they can do the work that they’ve previously done in this new platform. And I would say that there were some challenges that came along with it as well. It was adoption, just making sure that some of the users knew how to use the system, because a lot of them never used Salesforce before. So, that was a challenge that we took on and helped them to increase their confidence and knowledge about how they can leverage this platform to sell, essentially. And I would say the other side of that is… Their leadership was super excited about the dashboard that we were able to set up for them and the reports that were available on that dashboard. It really gave them that one stop shop to be able to see what the progress was looking like on a daily basis, weekly, monthly, how are we tracking towards our goals, things like that. It helps them to just really level set with each other because they were all looking at the same data.

Gillian Bruce: Well, yeah. And then it’s automated. Once you put it in Salesforce, right? It just pops up right there, and nobody has to compile different spreadsheets and talk to different sales groups and understand who’s done what.

Kat Aquino: Exactly. And it allowed them to work together better. Previously, their leadership and the people who were actually having the conversations and keeping tabs on what was going on, they were very much separate. But now that they have them all available on these dashboards, they’re working together much more closely.

Gillian Bruce: Well, that’s good. Congratulations. Okay, so you set up sales and Salesforce, but I know you had a few other things on your list. So, what other things have you been able to set up in? And let’s also be clear, how long have you been in this role?

Kat Aquino: It has been a little over a year now.

Gillian Bruce: So, forever, such a long time. So in just a little over a year, so you set up a sales process. What other things have you been able to build out in Salesforce?

Kat Aquino: Yeah. Well, specific to the Olympics, we, of course, have to work with athletes. And one of the other projects we are working on was how do we actually set up athletes in our system, because athletes are quite different from the regular business contacts that you’d normally associate with an account. And so thinking about that was a little bit challenging. We initially landed on looking at creating a custom object to hold athlete information. And the reason for that is so that we could create as many fields as we needed to that were really specific to athletes and attributes about an athlete. And being able to control the security and access to that information was also important.

Gillian Bruce: Oh, no, I bet. I mean, it’s such a unique set of data to track because you’ve got all these different things that the athletes do with you and the community and whatnot. So, I could imagine that that took quite a high level of customization.

Kat Aquino: Yeah, there was a lot of customization. And we thought about, okay, we needed to create additional related lists/custom objects to be able to associate them with games that they had participated in and the sport that they participate in, and the discipline that they participate in. So, a lot of that was designed so that we could be able to easily report off of that information to be able to create reports and search for athletes in a more aggregated way. But we realized that the setup of that athlete record, separate from a contact and separate from an account, was not providing the greatest user experience for our athlete department. And so we’ve had to come back to the drawing board and kind of rework what that should look like and how we should store athlete information in the system.

Gillian Bruce: Interesting. I love that you rolled out something, and then we’re like, “Hmm, it’s not quite right. We need to come back to the drawing board.” Can you talk a little bit more about that process? Because I know, even the limited admin work that I have done, it’s not always great the first time around, and so sometimes you have to come back and revisit it.

Kat Aquino: Yeah.

Gillian Bruce: Tell me a little bit about that process and how you approach it, because it can be a little humbling, it can be a little difficult. What have you learned that might be able to help some other admins in the similar position?

Kat Aquino: Yeah, totally. I would say that this process was… It was tough. We’re early in our stage of using Salesforce. So in that sense, I’m kind of lucky that we’re going to establish a better foundation, but it was difficult to look at it and say, “Oh, we didn’t do that the best way that we could have.” And having to go back to the drawing board and re-architecting the data that currently existed was important to determine what connections can we make that don’t disrupt the requirements that we initially had heard of from that department. So, pulled up a lucid chart, looked at how everything was connected there, and decided, okay, maybe we could keep all of these requirements just by using a new record type on contact records. So, we decided to try that out and create a different kind of record type for the contact of an athlete to be able to hold all of their athletes specific details and still be able to use the previous related lists, custom objects that we had created that were initially tied to the athlete and tie them into the contact object.

So, that serves the purpose of eliminating the matrioshka and clicks that the athlete department would have to go through to get to the athlete’s information. It was really just opening up their account, and then opening up that contact record, rather than going to account, contact, then athlete.

Gillian Bruce: Yeah.

Kat Aquino: Does that make sense?

Gillian Bruce: Totally. Yeah. Well, and I think it kind of goes to this classic debate of custom object versus using a record type, right? I know that’s something that-

Kat Aquino: Yeah.

Gillian Bruce: It’s kind of hard to figure out sometimes what the right answer is there, so I really appreciate you breaking down kind of decision points that you used to evaluate, okay, we went in with the custom object, but we learned that there were some things that weren’t ideal for the end user. So, then you use the record type. I think that’s always a good thing for our admins especially to remember, because record types could be really, really useful, especially if there’s enough similarities there to where you can add some more customizations and plug into the existing relationships and schema that are already built in Salesforce.

Kat Aquino: Yeah, exactly. And I think early on, I was scared of record types just due to some stories that I had heard, and also the amount of care that it required, considering you’re having to adjust page layouts now and making certain things visible depending on a profile, things like that. It was just a lot more management. But with the user experience, that greatly improves. And I think that in itself makes it worth it.

Gillian Bruce: I love that. That’s great. Okay, so you built a sales process, you built a process to manage athlete, athlete data. What else are you working on? I mean, I know you’ve been busy so far, so I would imagine-

Kat Aquino: Yeah.

Gillian Bruce: … there’s not that much time for you to do a whole bunch else, but what else are you working on in terms of bringing different processes into Salesforce for LA28?

Kat Aquino: Yeah, so we are also bringing on more and more departments. Right now, we have about four departments that are presently using the platform, and we’re coming up on bringing on two more. And one of these new departments, this is our communications department, it is probably our biggest build yet. We’ve had to create a number of new custom objects to be able to support the processes and workflows that they have. And it’s been really interesting to see how we can take their work and translate it into Salesforce processes. So, example is that the communications team handles all of the internal requests to participate in certain events within the local organization. Maybe there’s an award ceremony or maybe there’s an interview that a media outlet would like to have. All of that is managed through our communications department. And they do have a lot of spreadsheets, presently,

Gillian Bruce: Boo.

Kat Aquino: … how they have run their systems. And all of these spreadsheets are kind of… They have multiple tabs within them. And so it’s been very interesting to see how they’ve worked through switching through different spreadsheets, different tabs within a spreadsheet to be able to do their work. We had to take a lot of time understanding what they were doing so that we could translate it into Salesforce. And at the end of the day, what we’ve been able to do is organize their sheets, so that in Salesforce, you’re looking at one object. And that one object, we’ve created additional record types so they can adjust the kind of media engagement, per se, that they are looking at. So, different fields might show up, different values might show up, depending on a status or a stage for that particular engagement. And that is a much more organized way of viewing things than their three different Excel sheets where only a couple of tabs really related to that whole piece.

So, having that tied back to accounts, so accounts being their media outlets, and then the contacts in which there are journalists and reporters, having all of that tie back together and being able to see that bigger picture of, okay, these are the engagements that we’ve got going on under this particular category, these are the people that are involved in it, this is the reporter, this is our LA28 representative that’s going to be in it, this is the comms team person who’s going to be staffing this and supporting this project. These are the topics that are involved, we’ve been able to create a number of custom objects to be able to support all of their needs.

Gillian Bruce: That’s awesome. I mean, I can very easily envision that nasty spreadsheet with all the tabs, because I feel like we’ve all encountered those.

Kat Aquino: It was rough, and I think they would agree.

Gillian Bruce: Well, that’s awesome. I mean, that’s a very complex and unique process to bring into Salesforce, so I think that’s really interesting that you were able to do that. I mean, I would imagine there’s probably some other processes that you may be working on in the future. What else are you working on? What is in the vision for the next steps of Salesforce with LA28?

Kat Aquino: Yeah. And right now, I think we’re heavily focused on foundations and making sure that we are doing what we need to do without too much fuss and too much frill. But as we onboard all of these different departments, which all have different processes, and some processes really overlap with other departments, we start to think about how we can work together better. Maybe, is there a way that we could optimize certain processes? Can we use flows to automate certain things? And can we adjust a field so that it serves a greater purpose? Can we serve a greater purpose by adjusting a custom object? And all of that, I think, is something that has been coming out of what I’m calling as… We have a steering committee and the steering committee that we have meets on a monthly basis, and it has representatives from each department so that it provides a space for our users to have a voice and really be involved in the planning and what features that we’re going to be prioritizing, what features are needed, and really help shape what our Salesforce instance is going to look like.

So, I’m really excited to continue meeting with our steering committee to be able to shape how we can create a better collaborative environment.

Gillian Bruce: What I love about that, Kat, is that, I mean, knowing that basically you’ve got a very collaborative building environment kind of across the whole organization, because I think, I mean, you’re all gearing up for this huge event in a few years, and it’s a massive undertaking, and it’s really unique to hear your perspective as the admin who’s building all of the Salesforce infrastructure to help run this whole organization. I mean, it’s really, really fascinating, and especially at this stage where everything is kind of… You are, you’re laying the groundwork, you’re setting up the infrastructure that is going to run this massive, massive event. It’s really fascinating to hear how you think about what to set up and the steerco with all of the different departments, making sure stakeholders are involved from the get-go. This makes me really excited.

Kat Aquino: It makes me excited too.

Gillian Bruce: Yeah. And I think it’s a really great example too, for maybe even admins who are maybe at some more established Salesforce instances and companies and organizations. But the idea of having that fresh look and really looking at how people are getting their work done and doing those evaluations that you’ve done, and not being afraid to come back to the drawing table and reevaluate stuff, I think those are some really, really great learnings that you’ve been able to share with us, and I so appreciate that.

Kat Aquino: Yeah, of course.

Gillian Bruce: I mean, what has it been… I mean, I can imagine being an admin for the LA28 games is probably… It might seem a little daunting at times, but where do you see a couple years from now, or even maybe as you head into the last year or two before the games, what’s your vision for maybe what you have built out by then or what it’s going to be like to be the Salesforce admin or running the Salesforce instance for such a huge undertaking?

Kat Aquino: Yeah, that’s such an interesting point that you brought up about what the vision should look like, because I think earlier when I was interviewing all these different departments and understanding their functions and what they do, that started to help formulate the vision of what Salesforce could be for our organization. And I think what it really could be is this glue that brings together these different departments to be able to provide transparency across all of the different work streams that we have. Because as an organization that’s developing and planning the Olympics, there’s a lot of entities and organizations that we need to communicate with, and ensuring that everyone uses the platform so that they can understand, this is what I talked about with this department in this company. Another department at LA28 might see that and say, “Okay, I know that that happened. Let me readjust the way that I’m going to speak to that company about this topic.” And I think the real vision for Salesforce is just being able to bring all of those departments together to better collaborate with each other.

Gillian Bruce: I love that. That makes me… I’m really looking forward to, hopefully, Kat, if you’ll let me, continue to talk to you over the next few years because I’m so fascinated to hear what else you build and all your different learnings and experiences. This is kind of like a startup in some senses, right? You’re starting from ground zero.

Kat Aquino: Absolutely. We absolutely are. And I think one of the key that we’re excited about is Salesforce is going to help us create a more holistic understanding of the different stakeholders and accounts and companies and organizations that we work with. We’ll be able to open up an account and see all the different facets that involve that account, like whether or not that account has a stake in venues. Are they a manager of a venue? Do they operate a venue? Are they a concession provider for that venue? Have they been engaged with our communications team before? What have they been involved in? What are they involved in as far as our sales department? Have they been in touch with them at all in any capacity? So, it’s really going to allow all of us to be able to look at what we’re working with and share that information across our organization.

Gillian Bruce: You are building the customer 360 for LA28. Good job, Kat.

Kat Aquino: It totally is.

Gillian Bruce: Well, Kat, I really appreciate you taking the time to chat with me and share some of the things that you’ve already built and what you’re going to look at building next. And I do also really appreciate that grander vision. because I think every Salesforce admin, no matter what organization you’re in, you should have a vision of what you want Salesforce to do in the long run. And I think your very clear vision about it being the glue. I literally just wrote that down because I’m like, that is great. It’s very clear and concise, and so it’s helpful to have that as a direction that you’re going, that vision. So, any little tips or advice do you want to leave the listeners before we wrap up today?

Kat Aquino: I would say keep things open-minded. Stay open-minded about what is possible and what’s available. I know that at a certain point, when you’ve encountered numerous problems and understand, “Oh, I’ve encountered that before, this is how we do it,” there might be alternative solutions that maybe work better nowadays relative to the previous ways that you’ve been implementing a solution. So, staying open-minded.

Gillian Bruce: That’s a great note to end on. Thank you so much, Kat, for spending time with us today. I look forward to seeing what else you’re going to build. And get ready. Now, all Salesforce admins are going to hit you up for advice and interesting stories about working for LA28.

Kat Aquino: Happy to hear, and happy to learn from them as well.

Gillian Bruce: Excellent. Thank you so much.

Kat Aquino: Thank you so much.

Gillian Bruce: Well, thank you. Thank you, Kat, so much for taking the time to join us on the podcast. I hope that all of you listeners got some great insight from Kat about how you can build the infrastructure and the foundation for a very successful Salesforce implementation to run a huge, huge amounts of project or program. And hey, especially if you’re an admin at a small business or a startup, there are some great learnings here and here from Kat to help you set up for success. I love how Kat said she’s got a vision for Salesforce. It is clear. It is going to be the glue that brings all of these very separate departments all together. And having that vision for what you want Salesforce to be in the overall, it’s just so important. At Salesforce, we talk about our V2mom all the time, which is how we set our vision and values and metrics and methods for the year.

Kat does the same thing. So, really having a clear vision for how you want Salesforce to function within your organization is so, so helpful. If you want to learn more about being an awesome admin, you can find all kinds of great content on admin.salesforce.com, blogs, videos, podcasts, all kinds of great things, even the Salesforce admin skill kit. Check it out if you haven’t already. You can follow all of the awesome admin fun on Twitter using hashtag #AwesomeAdmin or @SalesforceAdmns, no I. You can find our guest today, Kat Aquino on LinkedIn. I’ll put her LinkedIn link in the show notes. Please give her some love. Follow her. She’s going to be building some very cool things in the next few years. And you can find my co-host, Mike Gerholdt, @mikegerholdt on Twitter, and you can find myself @gilliankbruce on Twitter. You can also find us on LinkedIn. We exist there too. We’re on all the platforms. With that, I hope you had a great day or having a great day, will have a great day, and I’ll catch you next time in the cloud.

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