Techniques: Product Roadmap

The Product Roadmap shows the direction of the product and how the product is intended to grow. It demonstrates alignment to needs and a plan to deliver over time. The Product Roadmap is built around the vision for a solution, it outlines how the vision will be achieved and is defines how to measure progress.

Elements

Elements of the Product Roadmap include:

  • The Defined Vision and Strategy – as an input
  • Another input are the Desired Outcomes
  • Maintenance of the roadmap is performed by the Product Management Team, which ensures it is current and remains aligned properly

  • The roadmap will focus on a collection of requirements or themes, or features.
  • And it deals on a high level of things expected to be valuable to the solution.

Example

Above is a simplified example of a Product Roadmap. It shows parallel development of some capabilities, some that are spread across multiple quarters, and some that may be delayed due to a dependency. This example shows that all capabilities are projected to be completed by Q4.

Description

Dealing so closely with vision, it’s no surprise Product Roadmap is used for the Strategy Horizon. It identifies each feature and positions them in columns related to projected timeframes. This makes it a good tool for projecting resource requirements. The context is Product Management or Refinement and the Audience is the internal Team.

Usage Considerations

Product Roadmaps provide a shared focus on what is needed and overall direction, including MVP discussions. It can be utilized for discussions on priorities or other options. Variations can be provided for a target audience.

However, if the vision is chaotic, this tool loses effectiveness. Also, there is a potential to view this as milestones instead of overall directional goals.

And if it’s too detailed, it can be hard to maintain, so keep things at a high level.

 

 

Technique: Portfolio Kanban

Portfolio Kanban identifies the status of each initiative, this can be a simple communication tool to give visibility across all initiatives, as well as to monitor and adjust resource allocations.  It is used to give visibility to the Process, Work In Progress, which helps in decision making and feedback on the strategy level.

Elements

The Portfolio Kanban will have columns for each step in the organization’s process from idea to completion. Each column has defined criteria for when the item can progress and has limits for entering the column or the work in progress.

The important thing is that each initiative is represented.

Additionally, there are regular meetings to discuss the Portfolio Kanban board and affected prioritization. Metrics are updated to help with prioritization. It is displayed in a place where everyone can see it.

Description

This is a vital tool for the strategy level because it allows decision-makers to have a visual understanding of all initiatives in the organization.  The information displayed can illuminate any bottlenecks and allow for decisions to re-allocate resources.  Also, utilizing Kanban principles, the organization may determine it is beneficial to place constraints or limits in certain cases, which actually increases speed.

The context is Communication and the audience is the Internal Team.

Usage Considerations

Some of the strengths of Portfolio Kanban are that you can set up varieties of this at the Initiative and Delivery horizons., and it allows Portfolio Management to be optimized. It increases feedback and visibility into what is in progress and where the bottlenecks are.

Some limitations are that it is a bit one size fits all at the strategy level – so if there are different paths for some initiatives, this would not work well for them.

And it doesn’t explain why an initiative is in one place or phase for an extended period, just shows that it is.

Techniques: Minimal Viable Product

Because of the title, many people are confused about Minimal Viable Product.

This isn’t the same as just getting by.  For example, if a new internal project is underway, the organization was already “getting by” previously. But the new MVP project provides essential coverage to meet a need without expensive “gold plating.”  If funding ran out and MVP was achieved, you would have a working product in the market or for your internal client and would be doing much better than before.  Additional features may be developed beyond MVP, but those are done after the product is viable. So, just because MVP is achieved does not mean the project will stop, just that it could and still be usable.

That is an important threshold to cross in product development.

Purpose

MVP is an important technique for Avoiding Waste.  When a potential capability or feature is added to the solution, one of the first things we should ask is whether this is necessary for a product to be viable.

And by viable, that means that it meets the minimum requirements for the early adopters of the solution.

Again, it isn’t that non MVP features will never get done.  Just that the MVP features will come first. In other words, it avoids waste by giving priority to what is necessary.

Elements

In defining the MVP, it is important to address the following.

First, identify who needs or wants this solution.  Then from that group, identify the early adopters.

Next, identify what needs to happen for the goal to be met and how you can verify that has been met.

Thirdly, as the solution goes along, actually measure the results to verify the intended need is being met by the minimum solution.

Finally, Define the requirements for each feature of the MVP solution.

Description

One interesting thing about MVP is how this focuses on early adopters.  If you do not satisfy them, you do not have a product.

Another aspect is this is not a static state – MVP can change over time.  As new features are identified, it becomes important to understand whether these are to become part of the MVP or whether they should be delayed for later – risking their exclusion from the product if there is not enough value.

That determination is how waste is avoided with this technique.

The context is Product Management or Refinement and the Audience is both Internal Teams and External Stakeholders.

Strengths and Limitations

Some of the things to be aware of for MVP Using are how it can be used to avoid unneeded or unwanted robust features.

Also, it’s important to realize the amount of research required to identify what is important for early adopters, and that sometimes features may be a best guess.  And if the solution is simple, going through all this might be overkill.

Sacrifice

Sacrifice

It has been a while since I’ve written, and this post will be a little different from normal. Today I’m going to talk about sacrifice.
Thirty months ago this very week, I went into the hospital with severe pain. I’ve written about the experience previously in my post “The Will to Overcome All Obstacles.” And I’m not going to retell the whole story here, but mention a detail I had left out previously. The detail – thirst.
The kind of thirst you have while suffering from pancreatitis is like nothing I’ve ever experienced. I had 6 different IV bags, two of which were saline, going at the same time, so my body couldn’t have been needing fluids. In fact, in a short time, they put about 30 pounds of fluid in me. Still, the thirst was unbearable.
I was not allowed anything orally. I finally got permission to have 2 or 3 ice chips. They lasted a few seconds and I did my best to savor them. But within 2 minutes, the effects were completely gone. I could barely talk because my tongue was sticking to the roof of my mouth.
I don’t know why the subject of thirst came to mind this evening. As I was thinking of my experience, I remembered an old TV show called “Family Affair.” One episode had the oldest sibling trying her first job in a hospital as a nurses aide. Walking past a patient’s room, she heard cries for help. “Please give me some water. They won’t give me any water and I’m dying of thirst.” Sissy gave in, and when the medical staff found out, she was told she couldn’t work there any more.
I know that thirst that the patient had.
Another thought came to mind tonight. In the Old Testament book of Psalms, there are the lyrics to many ancient hymns. Many are written by King David or King Solomon. One in particular is unique, because it gives the gruesome details for a kind of death that the Romans would invent hundreds of years later.
Psalm 22 was written by David. But it’s really about events that would happen to one of his descendants, Jesus. When you read this Psalm, it is almost as if David is recalling the experience of a crucifixion – again hundreds of years before the Romans were in power. It’s an amazing passage.
Vs 15 says:

My strength is dried up like a potsherd, and my tongue sticks to the roof of my mouth, you lay me in the dust of death.

Just before or after this verse, it talks about how people gloat over him. How they gambled for his cloak. How his hands and feet were pierced. All of his limbs were out of joint. All of this would happen in the New Testament as recorded in the gospels.

I can imagine that kind of thirst. I can’t imagine the rest of it. Even reading Psalm 22, and being acquainted with pain, and wondering if I was going to make it – there’s a long way between what I had and what He did.

I know this is hard for many to understand. For Him, what He did was a sacrifice. He was the offering. Others thought they took His life. He laid down his life. Willingly.
Theologians say that Jesus came to experience the kinds of trials that man faces and to overcome them. By doing that, his perfection could pay for our evil.
If that is true, His measure of our worth is much greater than we can imagine.

Today, as this is published is a day celebrating sacrifice – that of Veterans.
I don’t know how people willingly offer their bodies for this nation, our ideals, these people. I don’t know how and, as a civilian, it’s hard to comprehend why. It’s not that I don’t love my country. It’s that this kind of sacrifice goes beyond any reasoning.
So, today, Veteran’s Day, take the time to acknowledge their sacrifice.

How I Became a Salesforce Business Analyst

How I Became a Salesforce Business Analyst

Well, this is my 4th “How I Became …” article. Of all the articles I’ve written, these have been the most popular. Letting people know your path helps others envision how they can do it too, and that the course is NEVER perfect. It resonates. And I enjoy poking a bit of fun at myself while relating those Non-Perfections.

I could say that first, I became a Business Analyst, then I became a Salesforce Administrator. Combining the two and BAM – I’m a Salesforce Business Analyst. But if you’ve read the previous three “How I Became” posts, you know the story is a bit more interesting than that.

And Now – The Rest of the Story

This story could be subtitled “The Art of the Pivot.” There are so many re-directions.

Frankly, I have become a bit frustrated with Business Analysis in my geographic area. I love the job, but it seems to have stagnated, or perhaps the market was saturated here. For whatever reason, I have not and I do not know any Business Analysts in this area that have experienced sustained financial growth. In actuality, most have been flat for several years. Something had to change. But what?

I had just wrapped up a stint with the Transportation Cabinet in October 2019, a terrible time to begin a job search. With it being the end of the year and with Holidays around the corner, no one was in a hiring mood. But I didn’t know how terrible it was going to be.

Too much time on my hands.

So in December, I was just about to catch up on my favorite podcast, ChooseFI. The guest was Bradley Rice, and the topic was “The Case for Part-Time.” Bradley was sharing his story about making more than full time pay as a part-time Salesforce freelancer. I’ve talked about that previously here. With my free time, I decided it was time to investigate. And if I’m going to try something different, it needed to be a game-changer.

With that as an introduction, and if you’re not familiar with Salesforce, let me back up a bit. Salesforce is a platform that hosts enterprise-level software for businesses. It is not an MLM. Some people see the word Sales, and hear the enthusiasm of those in the “Salesforce Ecosystem” and think there must be something up. No pyramids. No cold calls. It’s Information Technology.

Bradley’s interview gave me enough breadcrumbs to investigate. Go to Trailhead.Salesforce.com, sign up for fully functional training environments for free, take online courses on how to do everything for free, then get certified and apply for jobs. The only cost is for the exam at $200.00.

Giving your career a boost for the cost of about 2-3 months’ work and $200.00 – that’s a great deal.

So, in January and February, I was still applying for traditional Business Analyst jobs and was going deep in the interview process. But all of them were about 80 minutes away. And each was wanting that one specific technology, and I never had it. Nevermind that Business Analysts are on the requirements side – it’s the developers that need the technology. I’ve even heard feedback from interviewers saying, “Our hiring manager is crazy for not hiring you. You can learn this in a week.” Still, that was keeping me from winning.

And in this case, winning would have meant a job with wages the same as 5-8 years ago, driving 80 minutes each way to a city that was soon to be in the news way too much.

Every Rejection was a Confirmation

I continued pursuing certification. I knew I had to do this. In February 2020, I sat for the Salesforce Certified Administrator exam and passed.

Oh, but we all know what happened next, don’t we?

Panda-What?

Yep, the COVID-19 pandemic shut virtually everything down. And I realized I needed to double down on things.

First, now that I am newly certified, I needed to expand my network to a whole new audience. It was an audience that wouldn’t have heard me without the credential – I couldn’t start sooner. My LinkedIn profile got an overhaul. Then I reviewed it with Bradley and overhauled it again. Branding is a huge deal, and I was changing my brand.

Next, I realized that one certification was going to get lost now that many more people are entering the job market. And many of those had experience that I didn’t have.

How do I leverage what I DO have?

Another LinkedIn overhaul.

Revise my job target strategy.

Create a new set of Resumes.

Get my name on Salesforce Communities and network there too. That’s a whole new world to explore.

What other certification can I get quickly? Oh – one of the credentials is called Platform App Builder. This is 70% covered by the first certification but deals more with – well – building apps on the Salesforce platform.

Backing up again. I had mentioned that Salesforce is a platform. It does have several core sets of products, such as Sales Cloud, Marketing Cloud, Service Cloud, Non-Profit Success Pack, and others. However, Salesforce was the inventor of the app store, called App Exchange. Third-party applications can be built and purchased there. Also, custom applications for an organization can be built to run in a Salesforce environment (or Org). So, building apps is what the Platform App Builder is all about.

And when I say Building and app, I most likely do not mean coding. Salesforce has native tools allowing for the production of sophisticated applications without writing code. And of course, if you need something beyond those capabilities, you can write code. I would explain how that works, but I had to study it for five months to understand it myself fully.

It has been a great surprise how much you can do in a low code model.

Back to our story

In March and April, I continued building my network in the Salesforce ecosystem and pursuing the next certification. I got the Platform App Builder in April 2020.

Overhaul my LinkedIn profile again. Change the messaging a bit.

What about those Salesforce Communities? Oh – there’s one for job postings. I better make sure to get on that. And there’s Admin and Local groups.

Keep networking.

With the new competition, I need to get some experience. But how?

Bradforce and T.E.A.M 4 Travis

I contacted Bradley, who at this point was hitting a stride in helping people like me, and got some feedback about how to volunteer for organizations to gain experience through the Non-Profit Success Pack. NPSP is offered at a considerable discount to Non-Profits. With Bradley’s help, I was able to sign up through Taproot to help a brand new Non-Profit get started using Salesforce.

T.E.A.M 4 Travis was started to raise funding to help identify children that have Asplenia, a rare and often undetected disease where the spleen is either missing or non-functional. Travis was an energetic four-year-old who, after catching a typical childhood illness, died because his immune system couldn’t fight it off.

So, now I’m getting some experience. Is it enough yet? I don’t think so. And the job market confirms it as COVID-19 rolls along.

What can I do to get attention? I haven’t done anything on video. Is that a possibility?

What is my Strength?

My strong point is Business Analysis. After all, I’ve been doing it for over a decade. Can I do something on video there?

Sure I can.

In the previous summer, I had developed a course for Agile Analysis Certification (AAC) through IIBA. I taught myself how to create videos and turned the AAC class into a self-paced course, and submitted it to Udemy. The process wasn’t pretty. It took about 40 hours to produce 3.5 hours of video.

Is it a rip-roaring success?

Yes. Well, in my opinion, the only opinion that counts, the course has accomplished precisely what I had hoped. Although the original “Virtual Classroom” version had about 65 students, the Udemy version has to date has this many students – three.

And two of them were given a free pass for helping me out while I was learning to do videos. The other – half off.

Honestly, I wasn’t doing this to be a huge hit. I viewed it as the kind of thing that can help later, whether anyone buys the course or not. We’ll see if it does.

Sell Out

More networking. LinkedIn overhaul. Remove ancient jobs. Better focus.

Then it hit me. I need to acknowledge what I’ve been doing with these odd items that have not paid more than $40. The course and TEAM 4 Travis were hidden. I needed to sell my experience toward Salesforce. Instead of just saying I have certifications, who am I now? And how can I promote that?

Then I understood something Bradley had been saying all along. I needed everything to scream Salesforce. Until then, no one believes me because I did not think it myself.

Salesforce Consultant

If I don’t believe that, as a Business Analyst, I am already a consultant and that with my recent experience, I can go a long way with Salesforce, then I’m certainly not going to convince anyone else. Perhaps my biggest lesson is never to let myself believe the voice saying “impostor” instead of the voice saying, “just do it.”

I mean, I have set out to do so much – two certifications, learning to video and producing over 3 hours of self-paced content, starting a new organization on Salesforce – and yet I still did not believe in myself. The unbelief was showing by how reliant I was on Business Analysis instead of Salesforce.

So what do I want for my career after all of this, and how do I communicate that?

Clarifying Goals

Be sure that I’ve had goals for this process all along. But those goals needed to be clarified and take root in my resume and LinkedIn profile. They needed to be a reflection of who I am and what I want.

I came up with this.

“Sr. Salesforce Consultant and Business Analyst with a passion for the elimination of Technical Debt and Process Redesign on the world’s best SaaS CRM platform.”

Sr Salesforce Consultant? Yes – I began listing my Salesforce accomplishments under the umbrella of a Sole Proprietorship company “Applied Agile Analysis,” which is the name of a blog I started well over a year before. That’s not the most appropriate name for the company trying to transition to Salesforce, but that is an advantage. No one knows I’m the only employee. The name reflects my Agile Analysis background. I had a lot of material under that name. And if I say I’m the Senior Salesforce Consultant in a company that focuses on Agile – maybe there are other consultants with a different emphasis. Plus, I am the most senior member of the (one person) staff.

Imposter syndrome – conquered. I’m selling what employers need to hear from me now. I can deliver the goods, but only if given a chance. The title removes the barrier.

But if anyone questions, what do I show them?

Shhh! Don’t tell my wife

OK, I have CBAP, AAC, PSM-1, SCA, and SCPAB certifications. My wife has forbidden me from getting any others this year. And to date, I haven’t. But I have prepared.

Several recruiters have pointed to one of the Salesforce Consultant certifications as the Magic Elixir I am missing to hold their attention. So now, I have completed the trailhead courses for Sales Cloud and am 75% through the Focus on Force training.

And while doing that, more networking.

And out of the blue comes an email from one of the Salesforce communities. It’s the one where I posted that I need a job about six weeks earlier.

Development Consulting Partners

Dorian Earl saw my post and contacted me about freelancing. He has formed a company of freelancers and was winning significant projects. His team includes Administrators, Developers, Consultants, and Architects, and it had just been awarded Partner status with Salesforce.

My first project is a software company catering to education. They have only budgeted 5 hours per week. But over time, I can string together several of these projects, each time demonstrating increasing capabilities and without worrying about losing that one big job again.

This is exactly what Bradley had been talking about as a goal. How Dorian was doing it was a little different.

My client had over 15,000 leads, and they were severely duplicated. We installed a system to help clean up and prevent future problems.

Finally some Momentum – Liberty IT Solutions

I had barely been on that job a week when I got a LinkedIn message about another opportunity. This one, I could tell, was serious. They wanted to talk to me today. Then HR would line up an interview with the director tomorrow, and the HR person would follow up immediately after that.

Now for the comedy portion of our show

The interview with Liberty was scheduled for a Thursday morning. The night before, I drove to visit family. And by family, I mean family that just got a new dog – a rescue – one that we think had been abused.

Leo is a 9 lb Yorkshire, with a bad attitude. He doesn’t trust anybody. I spent the night trying every doggy treat known to man, only to be met with growls and snarls and barks.

Thursday morning, I’m getting ready, and Leo comes after me as fast and hard as he can. He was going to bite, and I barely got my door shut before he face-planted. Ten minutes later, I left the room to set up for the interview and – repeat.

At nine pounds, Leo is no threat. But tell him that. And it is my mom’s dog. And there’re laws against retaliation, not that I’d ever hurt the little guy. Mom – I can’t have Leo acting like that during my interview. So she takes him to the van and sits with him in the driveway during the interview.

Nerves calming, let’s start the meeting link. Oh – it’s Microsoft Teams. That is the one conference service that I’ve never been able to get to work consistently. And the streak doesn’t end today.

My video conference became audio only on my cell phone. Which means I can walk around, and no one knows that I’m not sitting still. I’m more comfortable because I’m the ultimate pacer.

The company is looking for a Business Analyst with Salesforce experience. They were dealing with duplications – and guess what? I’m working on a bunch of duplications right now. They want someone who can mentor others – and guess what? I just developed a course training Business Analyst that has been presented in virtual classrooms as well as self-paced formats.

I told you that would be helpful. But there’s more.
I have previously shared about my survival of a major medical event in 2018. The results of a botched out-patient surgery has given me some of those pre-existing conditions which are so dangerous in this COVID era. Because of that, remote work was a virtual (pun intended) requirement. And this job offered it.

Everything was clicking. Plus, Liberty serves Veterans Affairs. This isn’t just a job for a corporation. This is helping those who fought for our freedoms.

In spite of the events – It All Worked Out

That afternoon, the HR representative texted that the company is extending an offer.

A trail that involved year-end hiring freezes, career pivots, pandemics, more career pivots, working for free, study, learning tons of new skills, prayers, tears, frustration, hopes, and hopes deferred – has finally ended with hopes fulfilled.

Announcing – AAC Certification Course on Udemy

Announcing – AAC Certification Course on Udemy

Hello everyone,
If you’ve not seen my announcement on LinkedIn, I have been very busy developing a course called Preparing for the Agile Analysis Certification Exam. It has been published on the Udemy platform, so it is available to everyone. This is a self-paced version of the course I have taught to Business Analysts across the US in association with the Bluegrass chapter of IIBA.

This covers the entirety of the Agile Extension to the BABOK Guide with over 3-1/2 hours of videos and several quizzes. The quizzes are intended to help foster the “Agile Mindset” and help you grow in understanding of the concepts presented in the Agile Extension.

If you are interested in learning more about Agile, becoming certified as an Agile Analyst, are curious about whether there is a career path for Agile Analysts, or just need some ideas on how to improve your projects – this is a great course to cover everything.

 

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.