Month: June 2020

Techniques: Visioning

Techniques: Visioning

Visioning is used to determine the desired outcome for an initiative worded in a concise and approachable manner.

Agile Extension to the BABOK®  Guide – section 7.24

When Patriots coach Bill Belichek meets with his team to begin practices, I would imagine that the first thing he says is something like “Our goal for this season is to win the Super Bowl.”

Everything else the team does is derived from that goal.  The team may not fully know how they are going to do that.  And certainly the other teams want to prevent them.  But everyone on the team knows that when Coach says “We’re going to win the Super Bowl” he knows they can succeed. And they understand what winning means.

Elements of Visioning

Agile Extension to the BABOK®  Guide – section 7.24

But there’s more to Visioning than simple inspiration.  Yes, it is a set of beliefs.  But it also is a SHARED set of beliefs.  Everyone gets there or no one does. That is called a Vision Statement

This shared set of beliefs comes out of facilitated vision exercises – or Vision Exercises. Finally it is expressed in detailed objectives to measure the goals – known as Impact Metrics.  These metrics show that the plan is working, but are not necessarily cause and effect related.

Back to Football, Coach may set goals for player’s strength, speed and skill.  Will those cause them to win?  No. Will they help? Yes. That’s the difference between correlation and causation.

Visioning Description

Agile Extension to the BABOK®  Guide – section 7.24

Visioning begins in the Strategy Horizon, where the organization determines which initiatives align to organizational goals. The vision for an initiative is set just before the beginning of the project and lasts through it’s duration.

The Vision Statement helps orient all those involved in the project toward the overall goal both of the initiative and the organization. It identifies how the resulting product will leave an identifiable mark on the products or services provided or on the organization as a whole.

One additional consideration is that Visioning may be associated with multiple related initiatives.

Finally the context is communication, and the audience is internal teams and external stakeholders.

Letting Go

Letting Go

During the last week, it seems that everywhere I go, I am running into a constant theme. People around me are letting go. And letting go is one of the most challenging things we do as humans.

My family is in the process of decluttering over a decade’s worth of stuff, and I see first hand how some of these items evoke strong emotions. Take the exersaucer, for example, that was used by my daughter, who is now 5ft 9in. As wonderful as that time in our lives was, we can never return to it. The stations on each side are housed in a white plastic casing that now has changed colors to a light tan.

I jokingly asked Lily if she wanted to give it one last turn. Of course, I got the response, “Dad, that sounds pretty shady to me.” That is her way of saying, stop with the Dad jokes.

It’s not just my household, though. My Mother has the loss of her furry companion; a Yorkie named King who passed at the age of 84 in dog years, 12 in actual years.

And there have been others I’ve helped within the last week, too.

I’ve learned that the challenge of letting go involves some level of the grieving process. It doesn’t matter if the letting go is from a tragic loss, or just from the passage of time and how life causes transitions, grief is often involved, though we may downplay its significance.

Life’s Transitions

So how do we make the transition?

If that question is asked too soon, it can be jarring. The stages of grief should not be circumvented for significant life events. And each stage likes to return to visit us often.

So, I will ask the question again, with that as a caveat. Knowing that change often invokes grief, how do we make the transition?

First, we need to see if we are ready to make the transition. If we are not ready for the transition, we will never accept it. And acceptance is vital because we often need to take action over and over again for a change to take hold.

In my decluttering example, it isn’t just the exersaucer that we need to let go. It’s clothing, bedding, toys, artwork, crafts, and a thousand other items. And it’s not just things involving my daughter.

For me, it’s books. Many of which I intended to read but never did. And now that season of my life when I should have read them is past. They are no longer relevant or timely. As I’ve gone through boxes of stuff that have not been opened since our last move 7 years ago, it is surprising how many books I have that I don’t even recognize, and many must have been from before we married. A good portion of which are of the self-help variety – so much that one visitor looked at my shelves and asked, “What’s wrong with you?”

My reply, “You mean you can’t tell?” Followed by a psychotic laugh, just to see the effect.

One of the books I found was “Who Moved My Cheese,” which is a book that is about … you guessed it … Letting Go. Can you guess what I did with that book?

Yep, it’s been donated.

For my wife, it’s things she remembers from shopping experiences with our daughter. Every so often, I hear the exclamation, “Lily! You’ll never guess what I found. Do you remember…?” Then she tells a story about something she hasn’t seen in years, and suddenly we must keep it.

This makes little sense to my logical mind. But I conclude that Marie Kondo doesn’t work when everything “Sparks Joy.” That and the books explains our storage unit.

Still, no matter what the circumstances, letting go is a necessity. Our ability to let go is directly related to our ability to excel in life. Why? Because letting go of the past is necessary for us to envision a future.

And for myself, letting go involves more than just clutter. Every so often, it is important to take a risk, to change course. And this pandemic seems like the natural time to do that.

The Point

As Business Analysts, we often speak of techniques and skill-sets involved to identify process gaps, requirements management, and the like. There is another part of the job that requires empathy, and empathy is a core part of leadership.

Whether it is letting go of the clutter in our lives, painful events, or letting go of what we have done to move toward a better future, letting go is difficult.

As a business analyst, one of my roles is as an “agent of change.” That means some people love seeing me come because they know things will get better. But others are not ready for change. They don’t see the vision or don’t like the vision they see. For these situations, often reminding of the drawbacks of staying put can help soften the resistance.

But no matter where someone is on willingness to let go, it can always be said that letting go is a necessity for moving ahead. And my job is not just to gather requirements on a product vision; it is to create as smooth a transition as possible. The emotional intelligence of handling change is a huge part of getting a project done.

My job is to help them

It may mean that the vision gets adjusted to embrace the concerns of a group that was overlooked. Great – I’ll pass these changes along and get approval.

It may mean that I need to help people see a vision other than what they know. That’s great too. I can help lower the level of fear involved with change by highlighting the benefits, not only to the organization but to the individuals affected.

What do I do to help? The main thing is to listen. Once the problem is voiced, the fear of it lessens.

I’m very thankful for this past week because it reminds me again just how important it is to help people move toward what is next.

And the real reason I have all those self-help books that I mentioned earlier is because in reality they are more useful professionally than many people realize.

Loading Account Information in Salesforce with Data Import Wizard

Loading Account Information in Salesforce with Data Import Wizard

When dealing with a new installation of Salesforce, one of the first things needed is to load data from whatever sources into the new Salesforce Org. It is essential to consider which information needs to be loaded first. For example, if you load monetary transactions before creating accounts, there will be a mess to clean up sorting out which transactions belong to what accounts.

So, when I start a brand new installation, the first things that I consider loading are accounts and contacts. I include contacts because, if I’m working with a non-profit, each contact may be affiliated with a professional organization, but the contact belongs to a Household Account. This means in the Non-Profit realm that creating a contact may create a new account.

If your organization is small, the data is likely a hodgepodge of spreadsheets, post-it notes, outlook accounts, or whatever people can record information on. If you are in a large organization, it is quite possible that you also have many sources of information. So, data cleansing can be a big chore. It is time to get it organized.

The first thing I do is to identify any professional organizations that are represented by all of your contacts. These may be companies, charitable organizations, volunteer groups, or anything where people work together for a common cause. For this discussion, we will call these “Organizations,” and each unique organization will have its organization account.

Each organization will need to be represented by a single row in a spreadsheet, with consistent columns and no blank rows. Of course, some of the information you collect may be missing at this point. But the idea is to gather as much as possible about each organization, such as:

  • Name
  • Mailing Address (separate column for Street Address, City, State, Postal Code, Country)
  • Physical Address (again, separate columns)
  • Account Type (Organization – as opposed to Household)
  • Phone
  • Industry

You may want to look at the Salesforce Account screens to see if there are other editable fields for Organizations that you want to include.

Once all the organizations are uniquely identified, and the information is collected, save the file in a CSV format. You are now ready to begin importing the data into Salesforce.

Several tools can be used for importing. A simple way is built into the user interface, and it is called the “Data Import Wizard.” In Salesforce, go to the Accounts tab and click on “Import.” This invokes a Bulk Data Loader screen. This has some limitations, but its ease of use is quite helpful when dealing with smaller datasets. Of course, you must have permission established, allowing you to update this information before we can go any further.

Click Import from Account screen

This will take you to a screen that walks you through the import process. Select “Accounts and Contacts.”

Select “Accounts and Contacts.”

Next, Salesforce asks what you want to do with Accounts and Contacts. Do you want to Import, Update, or Both (also called Upsert)?

For this example, we will Insert new accounts by selecting “Add new records,” as shown below.

Once a selection is made, Salesforce asks for more information about the source.

Insert Match, Trigger and Campaign options

For “Add new records” (or Insert), the first two options are pre-selected in a way that makes sense. If we were updating or upserting records, we would want to know if the Contacts should be matched on Name, Email, or an internal Salesforce ID. For Accounts, the options are the organization’s Name or internal Salesforce ID. Since we are inserting, neither of these exist in Salesforce, so no match can be made.

Following that, if we were updating or upserting information, there’s a checkbox to update existing information about accounts. Since these are new records, we should leave this unchecked. Of course, if we are performing an Update or Upsert of Accounts, this should be checked. During inserts, this question is not asked.

Next, there is the option to invoke Triggers or Workflow rules with these records. If you have a process designed around new Accounts or Contacts being created, then you may want this option checked. Also, if you want to enforce validation rules, you will want these options checked. Some considerations, though – if any error occurs because of how these triggers or workflows handle the new records, then none of the records will be loaded. Additionally, the logic may slow the process down a bit.

The final option is for contacts to be included in campaigns. This will allow the assignment of these contacts into a campaign.

For our purposes, leave these elements all with the default settings for the “Add new records” option.

The third step is to describe the data. This means telling Salesforce where the data resides, either in a CSV file, or from Outlook, ACT! or Gmail. We can drag a CSV file to the form.

Drag the CSV.

After dragging your file, Salesforce determines a bit of information about the file.

File to load into Salesforce

At this point, we are ready to begin mapping the information for import, which means telling Salesforce which columns relate to which Salesforce fields. So click “Next” to move into the mapping process.

Click Next to begin mapping

On the next screen, Salesforce presents the list of fields from the CSV file and allows defining how they should be mapped to the accounts (or contacts) in Salesforce. On the right side are a few examples from the import file. On the left, we see how the fields are mapped. In the case below, there was only one field which was mapped automatically. So we have some work to get the rest set up properly.

There are a couple of ways to correct this problem. One way would be to rename the column headings in the CSV file and try again from the previous step. But for our purposes, we’ll use to tool.

As mentioned, one field is already mapped – the account type. You can see how it is assigned in the second column, and if that is not correct, the first column (change) allows changing it. In our example, all of the other fields are not mapped.

Clicking on the “Map” button for each field (row on the screen, which corresponds to a column in the CSV file), presents a list of all fields available for accounts or contacts.

Field list for Accounts

In our example, we want the “Institution” to be the “Account Name,” so we select “Account: Account Name” and click the Map button. This returns us to the previous screen, where we can do the same for all the other fields. The final results are shown below:

Completed map for the Import file

Clicking the “Next” button brings us to a summary screen describing the actions defined, how many fields are mapped, how many are excluded, and other information. This is the point where we either continue importing or we back out. To continue, select “Start Import.”

Final Step before actually importing

And the results for our import are confirmed with the message below.

Import Confirmation

If you want to see in greater detail what has happened as a result of this import, from Salesforce Settings, search for the “Bulk Data Load Jobs” and select that from the menu on the left. This will show you a list of the Bulk Data Load Jobs, such as the one we just completed.

Bulk Data Load Jobs

If we click on the Job ID for any of the jobs listed, that will open a detailed log for the import job, such as the one below.

Bulk Data Load Job

And on the bottom, there is a row that contains links to the requested file, and the result file. If you had any errors, you could review the result file to determine what they were.

How I Became a Salesforce Certified Administrator

How I Became a Salesforce Certified Administrator

This is my 3rd article on “How I became a …” So, I’m at it again, learning to do new things and going in directions I had not considered just months ago.

In February, I found myself sitting at a computer taking an exam for Salesforce Certified Administrator. Of course I’m familiar with this kind of setting, as I’ve already completed CBAP and AAC from IIBA, as well as PSM-1 from Scrum. I believe in the current economy, if you are in IT, certifications are a necessary part of ensuring you remain relevant.

But why go for Salesforce?

As I’ve mentioned before, I am a lifelong learner. That thirst for new skills, sources of information about the world and how it operates (or doesn’t operate, which is equally as important at times), is something that has driven me.

However, I needed to do something that would expand my usefulness into areas inaccessible to my previous experience. It’s not that I’m giving up Business Analysis, but that I needed to refocus it. And what I see from Salesforce will allow me to do just that.

Yet, these don’t really answer the question. How did I land on a decision to pursue a Salesforce Certification?

The short version is I got advice from some total strangers.

Well, they don’t feel like strangers to me because I’ve been listening to their podcast for over a year (3 years worth in 1 year). The ChooseFI podcast features two regular guys discussing Financial Independence, which I discovered can be highly relevant to Salesforce. In December 2019, I finally caught up with their backlog. And one of the last 3 episodes I needed to hear was actually released the prior December (remember, I was catching up). So 14 months before taking the exam, ChooseFI released what I was hearing 2 months prior. What was it about?

Go for it

This was one of those actionable messages in which I said, “I’m going to do that. I’m starting on that today.”

The guest was Bradley Rice. And his story gave me hope that that I can still start something new.

Remember my drive to learn? That’s well and good to have it. But it needs an outlet. Preferably one that can be marketed. And what I heard from Bradley was exactly that. A new world to conquer, along with an opportunity to combine the new skills with my Business Analysis background in a way that is challenging and opportunistic.

Personal Goals

The reason Bradley’s message resonated with me is how well it lined up both my experience and with my hopes and dreams. I have a goal of putting my daughter through college. I have a dream of working from home. And although I’ve worked remotely for clients, that work was actually performed in an office 50 minutes away. I have a vision of a sustainable business that I can run from anywhere. But getting the clients has been a challenge.

The story Bradley told answered all of those goals, hopes, dreams and visions, and a few more that I’ve not mentioned here.

Beginning To Learn

Bradley described enough of how to get involved with Salesforce that I had all the knowledge I needed to get started – or so I thought. There’s more to learn than I had imagined.

The first step is signing up on the Salesforce training platform, Trailhead. This is amazing because it allows up to 10 fully functional training copies of Salesforce to be used as a playground for all of your training. And if you need to, you can delete the older ones and spin up new ones in just a few minutes. Plus the cost was a very prohibitive $0.00.

The training materials walk you through everything. There are career and certification paths defined for administrators, developers, consultants, architects and partners.

Trailhead gamifies the learning process. Each module has a maximum number of points for completion. Badges can be earned associated with specific skills, and you can collect points and badges as you move from Scout to Ranger.

During this phase of my learning, I discovered Superbadges on Trailhead. These are the secret sauce for learning Salesforce. Superbadges are real world scenarios in which you must demonstrate that you understand how to perform a complex function, such as establishing security, building a platform or even writing APEX code. Where other badges walk you through doing a few simple tasks, Superbadges give you the requirements and you have to apply what you’ve learned. One of the Superbadges (Billing Specialist) required stringing together about 10-12 steps, in the correct order, to complete only one of the 10 challenges, so they can be very tough.

Superbadges have the added benefit in teaching how to research Salesforce. Since the answers are not apparent by any means, you need to look through all the documentation available on-line. Being able to research is a key skill that I have as a Business Analyst, so again, Salesforce dovetails nicely with my experience.

My first three Superbadges were Security Specialist, Lightning Experience Reports and Dashboard Specialist (Lightning Experience refers to the latest-greatest technology for building applications on the Salesforce platform) and Business Administration Specialist.

There are even some non-Salesforce topics included, such as resume writing, management philosophy based on Drucker, meditation, health and wellness.

Within about 2 months, I had devoured the Trailhead material for Administrators and was ready to prepare for the certification exam.

Final Preparations

In addition to the hands-on experience provided through Trailhead, I joined a group Bradley formed (Learning Salesforce and Building Your Talent Stack) that helps people navigate their Salesforce career transition. From there, I heard about a second source called FocusOnForce.com, which provides sample exams and preparation guides for about $19.00 each – still a great bargain.

Going through FocusOnForce provided me with a better understanding of the philosophy behind Salesforce. Where Trailhead showed me what to do, FocusOnForce taught me how to think.

So in February, I signed up to take the exam, and passed.

Leveraging the Investment

A funny thing happened shortly after certification, a little thing called Covid-19. Now all of a sudden I have a lot more competition for Salesforce jobs. So how do I overcome that added obstacle.

Well, frankly, I’m still working on that obstacle. But here’s how I’m tackling it.

First, I didn’t stop at one certification. There’s a related certification called Platform App Builder which expands on the ideas discussed in the Administrator training.

I already had a pattern for learning. I just needed to cover the additional material and sit for the exam. I finished this exam in April.

Additional Superbadges were also attained. At this time I am up to 8 total.

Team for Travis

Second, I knew I needed to get hands on experience. So I volunteered. Yep, while needing a job as much as anyone else during the pandemic, I volunteered to help a small Non-Profit navigate through the process of migrating to Salesforce. You’d be amazed how many opportunities come because you showed you care.

This gives me the opportunity to demonstrate that I can not only do the work required for a new installation, but it helps show that I can lead, train and coach others on the Salesforce product. There are several platforms set up to help connect non-profit organizations to professionals willing to help. Among them are Taproot and Catch-a-Fire.

I applied for a pro-bono position through Catch-a-Fire for a new Salesforce implementation. I liked that because it was completely fresh, which I felt would allow me to use both my Administration and my Analysis skills. After talking with the founder, we both discovered our stories have several parallels. And the cause was something I felt I could easily get behind. That connection is very important, especially for non-profits and pro-bono work. They want someone who they believe can help them for more than just a gig, to truly help with the organization.

My non-profit is a small organization called T.E.A.M. 4 Travis. This organization is founded by a wonderful parent who lost her son to a rare disease called Asplenia. Travis was a healthy, energetic and happy four year old boy who loved the Texas Longhorns. But the first time he got sick, his body couldn’t fight off the disease due to the undetected abnormality where his spleen did not function properly. Simple testing could have saved his life. Please take a moment to look at this page, learn Travis’s story and, if you can, support this organization.

And it’s showing me that my Business Analysis skills are still very much at work. In the Salesforce ecosystem, Administrators often do double duty gathering requirements for their organizations then building the changes. With the “clicks not code” nature of most of the development, it is quite easy to just build the required changes in less time than it takes to document them.

For example, we are currently discussing various options for documenting contacts made at networking events so that T.E.A.M. 4 Travis can leverage that information in future correspondence. In Salesforce, that is simple, but there are many ways to solve this problem. My BA skills help me find, while consulting with T.E.A.M. 4 Travis which of those ways is best.

Network Strategy – Embrace the Ohana

Third, I am building and expanding my network. I now have long timers in Salesforce who come to me whenever they pass a Trailhead Superbadge! One person has about 10 years experience, and started prior to the existence of Trailhead. So he knows this stuff even though he hasn’t been through the training. But he is very proud to share that he has reached these new milestones.

Salesforce talks about its “Ohana” culture, which embraces traits like helpfulness, involvement and inclusion. It is facilitated through a massive emphasis on Salesforce Communities. Many of these are topical, geographical or skill-set oriented. So I’ve determined to be a joiner.

Once I’ve joined, I’ve observed which groups tend to be more active and that also more closely align with my skills and goals. Then, I began participating (as best as I can while Covid is happening) and connecting with people who can help.

It is very encouraging how many people have been willing to help, giving tips, suggestions and leads. Some have cheered me on saying that I am inspiring them to train more.

What’s Next

I’ll let you know soon enough. But I will say, I’m not done yet.

We Are Neo

We Are Neo

Recently I was talking with someone who is transitioning into Business Analysis. One of the things we talked about is “What other job do you know where you get paid to learn from experts.” Our endless curiosity is met by an endless supply of industries, sectors, changing demands, new technologies, and on and on.

There is another side to that. With that endless curiosity comes an endless demand for applying what we learn – and sometimes for what we have not yet learned. Even for seasoned Business Analyst, there are tools and techniques that we’ve heard of but have not personally used.

And that creates a situation where…

We Are Neo

Who told Neo he could stop bullets?
Who told Neo he could stop bullets?

For example, let’s say a client needs to start embracing Agile but is struggling with a history of deciding everything before the project starts. As an Analyst, you may have worked on many Agile projects, and it’s second nature to you that some questions are not ready to be answered yet.

You do some research in the Agile Extension to the Babok Guide and discover a technique called “Real Options.” But you’ve not used this technique yourself.

What do you do?

You sit in the chair had have one of your Ebenezzer crew-mates plug you in to the “Real Options” program. A few minutes later, you know the pros, cons and concepts associated with using this technique.

Actually, that often is not as far off as it sounds. Oh, we don’t have a portal to plug into the Matrix. But we do have tons of articles, books, blogs and videos we can search.

The Choice Between Two Mindsets.

There’s a couple of ways you can look at what I just described. The first way is through the lens of “Imposter.” How can I claim to be something I’m not? They will see right through me.

The other way is through the lens of “Owner.” If I don’t do this, no one else can or will. Let’s try this and see if it works. If it doesn’t, we’re no worse off than we are now. And this stretches my wings as a leader for our organization.

To move forward we have a mindset that it doesn’t matter if I know it already or not. It’s my job to find the answers, not to have them already. So let’s go.

Consider this famous quote from Richard Branson:

If somebody offers you an amazing opportunity but you are not sure you can do it, say yes – then learn how to do it later!

— Richard Branson

There is a difference between this quote and what I’m describing. It isn’t always just presented to us. As Business Analysts, it is often presented BY us.