Time. That one pesky commodity that just doesn’t stand still. Our society has been fortunate enough to see technology explode an exponential rate, allowing everyone to do more and in better ways. But while the quantity of work to be done has grown, time still moves at the same rate. This can be especially troubling for the single Admin. As data becomes cleaner, new requirements are gathered to leverage its intelligence. As Salesforce.com releases new versions with awesome new functionality (NA8 is just hours away from seeing Spring ’14!), new ideas for processes come to life. But developing, testing, implementing, and supporting all these tasty new goodies takes time the single Admin probably doesn’t have. But there are some powerfully simple ways to keep the time budget running without incurring a negative balance.
ISSUES AND ENHANCEMENTS LOG
How many times have you received an email (or 5) where a user says “I really wish Salesforce.com could do this, but I don’t see it, so I guess it can’t”? Or have you received the classic email with subject line “Sale’s Force” (note the improper grammar, annoying extraneous space, and lack of specific information), where the body of the email is a user complaining because (s)he assumed Salesforce.com was broken when a validation rule fired as a result of the (correctly applied) process requiring information? Several issues come to mind when addressing these questions, but many could probably only be answered with a facepalm and a shot of tequila (#WhySFDCAdminsDrink). The issue that remains with the few remaining legitimate concerns is email. Only you have access to your email, so you are the only one aware of these questions from your users. And as these various requests mount, prioritization becomes difficult because everyone NEEDS your assistance now. Enter the Issues and Enhancements Log, a custom object with read/create/update access available to all profiles, and a tab that sits farthest to left as possible in every App.
The Issues and Enhancements Log allows users to log issues with potentially broken or archaic functionality, as well as make requests for enhancements they’d like to see. Immediately following the implementation of the Log, notify users that email requests will no longer be honored. Setting up email alerts allows you to receive notifications when new records are created so that you can quickly act on fixes. As changes are applied to your org based on the I/E Log request, you can update status and developer notes, all of which is readable by all users. I also have a child master-detail object where I track time ticket information, which I then roll up to the Issues and Enhancements log to track total time to complete.
One more thing…if the ticket created isn’t a fix and is an actual enhancement, you can leave it in the queue for the next time you have a meeting…with the committee you need
SALESFORCE.COM STEERING COMMITTEE
As your Issues and Enhancements Log grows, savvy users who know to look at the object can start to gauge how much is loaded in the queue of future Salesforce.com changes. But what about those users who don’t know how to interpret the information…or don’t know how to find it…or don’t log into Salesforce.com at all, yet should be actively engaged because a significant portion of their individual performance scores are dependent on its usage? My friend, I empower you to create the Salesforce.com Steering Committee.
Invite (with “required” as attendee status) at least one representative and manager from each of your Salesforce.com org’s functional units, and try to hold monthly meetings. Within these meetings, the Issues and Enhancements Log will serve as your agenda. The first part of the meeting should be to review status of “in progress” projects, and celebrate the closure and good news effects of “completed” projects. The other part of the meeting will be for the committee as a whole to review new projects to the Log, and set priorities based on the other projects which have been prioritized (high, medium, or low). Creating discussion around all projects allows users to understand the scope and magnitude of Salesforce.com requests, while allowing everyone to engage in the conversation of how to proceed, and offers full transparency and dialogue regarding your efforts to make Salesforce.com the most usable tool possible for your company.
Following prioritization and agreement within the committee comes time budgeting. As I alluded to in the beginning, time is what time is. You can’t control it, you can only hope to maximize it. But also keep in mind that working through these projects is not your only open task. Never forget about your day-to-day operations as Administrator, and persistent time commitments associated with your role.
BLOCK OUT YOUR TIME!!!!!!!!
Because you are one person who is pulled across multiple roles, I feel you should never be more than one click away from your calendar. I manage my recurring to-do items as time blocks on my calendar, showing as “free” by default, but able to change to “busy” if I know I need to focus and cannot be scheduled for meetings. Once you and the steering committee have agreed on prioritization in your meeting, do not offer any time commitments just yet. Open your calendar and start to block out the times you think you would need to complete a project. Then give yourself pad time for “just in case” issues, and go back to the committee with an estimated date of completion. Ball-parking a time to complete while shooting from the hip in a meeting never ends well, and your users owe you the right to really scrutinize level of effort to do something right.
Once you have received consent from the committee on ETA, go back to your calendar and block your time to complete the projects, and dig into the Sandbox! If you’re like me, you sit in an open-air cubicle with no door to close, so reserve conference rooms if you need to focus and be left alone, or if you just need room to spread out. I’m also one of those types who needs music to help focus on building while tuning out the rest of the world. Keep your earbuds on you at all times! My flavor of choice is a shuffle of Streetlight Manifesto, Bloodhound Gang, and Led Zeppelin on Pandora. And sometimes, you just need to find a coffee or sandwich shop with Wifi. Why? Because it’s someplace different to look at. The bigger the project, the greater the urge to break out and occasionally seek a change of scenery. Let’s just say I have few free bagels and coffees left for me to use on my MyPanera card.
These tips won’t create new time for you. But they should at least alleviate some of the stress associated with managing a clock that never stops running.