Jedi Job Change

Once upon a time, in a galaxy far, far away…

I had what I thought at the time was the greatest job in the world. The work was interesting and challenging, and I was learning something new every day. Then one day I had a meeting with my manager and the president of the company. We talked about the $110 million dollar federal loan program I was managing, and how soon we should be ready to submit paperwork for our first reimbursement. We talked about the processes we built to insure that all of our I’s were dotted and our T’s crossed.  Then the president of the company asked one question that neither my manager nor I had even thought about. (I wish I could recall the question, but I’ve slept some since then, but not much, as you’ll see if you keep reading.) Suddenly all my efforts to be ready to make that big submission by “x” date, went out the window. Suddenly it seemed like I was expected to battle a huge wildfire in 70 MPH winds with only a pint of water and extinguish the flames in 30 seconds! (Ok…to be honest, I was given a deadline of 3 weeks, with what seemed like an insurmountable amount of work to do.)  I simply responded in conversation that what was expected was a pretty tall order, and I wasn’t sure there was enough time to get it all done.

The Beginning of the End (or is it…)

The president of the company then asked me “Eric, how much sleep do you get every night?” I responded with “about 6 hours, why?”  He quickly replied with, “Good!  That means you have 18 hours a day where you can be working to solve this problem and meet my deadline.”   WHAAAT did he just say??  (Look out; it gets a little ugly next. I was a lot younger and a lot less diplomatic than I am now.)  I looked at him and said, “I’m sorry, you don’t pay me enough to work those kinds of hours, and I have a family that I enjoy spending time with. You have unrealistic expectations and there is NO WAY I can get all that done and meet your deadline.”  Yep, you read that right, I just bad-mouthed the company, how much (or how little) they were paying me, and not only insulted the president of the company but also and his relationship with his family….ALL IN ONE BREATH! (For future reference, I would advise against such a thing.)

That Very Next Day…

After I had my “little” altercation with the company president, I got called into my manager’s office and was told I had 6 weeks left at the company and that the next Monday I would start training my replacement. Well now, that’s a pretty clear example of cause and effect. Ouch…Ok, I’ve got six weeks to find a job. I can do that!

And Then Reality Sets In

The job market in Southern Indiana in late 2005 turned out to be lousy. I did manage to get one interview during those 6 weeks. I also managed to get zero offers. My wife was a stay-at-home mom back then, and we also had her aging and ailing parents living with us, so until I lost my job, I was the income source for the entire family. Sure, my wife’s parents were receiving Social Security, but they were lucky to be able to make it through the month with enough cash to buy their food and all the medications they needed to survive another day.

Not UNemployed but way UNDERemployed

The next two and a half years were very difficult for me and my family. Employment in my chosen profession was difficult to find in my home town, and when I did find it, the jobs were temporary at best. So I did what any good husband and father would do, work multiple part time jobs in order to be able to pay the bills and keep food on the table. There were days that, between all the jobs I was working, and travel time, II would only get four hours to be home with my family, and most times, we were all sleeping then.

Enter the Salesforce Ecosystem…almost

Back then, I did a lot of job searching by looking at the Sunday newspaper classified section. I remember seeing and as for a company hiring technical support agents, computer and customer service skills required. I applied online and a few weeks later, late on Sunday afternoon, I got a call from a recruiter asking me to take an online test & if I could be at the company’s office at 7am the next day for an interview. She also wondered if I could start right after the interview, assuming they liked me. “Sure”, I said. I can do that…it would mean rearranging my schedule with a couple part time jobs, but for regular hours at decent pay, I was willing to take that chance, even though they said it was an 8-week, short-term assignment.

I passed their test with flying colors, for the job, and after 3 days of training, was live, on the phones and providing world class support to that company’s clients. The 8 weeks came and went. I began to wonder how much longer they would need me. The call volume on the particular product I was supporting was never that heavy, so the trained me on how to support several other products. I came right out and asked, “Should I be looking for another job soon?” “Don’t worry about that,” I was told. “We will give you a few weeks’ notice if we need to cut you,” my manager said.

The Longest 8 Weeks Ever…

Eight months later, the company’s HR department called and said they had a direct hire role in the contact center available, and wondered if I was interested. Well sure!  Why wouldn’t I want to work only 1 job with good money, normal hours and benefits? Sign me up!!

Wait, you mean I have to interview for the job I’m already doing?

Yes… I had to formally apply and go through interviews. Meh…no big deal. The one thing being “under employed” taught me was interview skills. I got plenty of interviews, but few good offers and on roles I didn’t really want. My first interview for the role (remember, this is for the role I am already working, it would just be a status change and more money) was with the VP of Enterprise Business Solutions. She was in charge of the contact center, and a whole lot more, and she was at HQ in San Diego, so it would be a telephone interview. The call went something like this…

I have just one question to ask you…

Why are we wasting both our time having you on the phones talking to our customers, when your skills could be put to a much better use elsewhere in the company?

My (almost) smart-ass answer…

Because that’s the only job you have open. I know, I just looked at your website.

So…maybe I STILL do not know when to shut up…

“Yes, I know, but I’m working on approval for a new role that would be perfect for you…a Business Analyst role. You can help us roll out Salesforce.com to the contact center,” was the reply I just heard. Then the VP told me to tell HR I did not want to be flipped over to a direct hire. Whoa…back that bus up. You want me to turn down a sure thing for a role you hope to get approved?  That kind of makes me feel like Jack Traven (Keanu Reeves) in the movie “Speed” ->  https://youtu.be/l7jRaGBtVww

Fortunately, I took a chance, and shot the hostage. Not literally, I did NOT shoot anyone! More accurately, they took a chance on me. I told the VP in the interview I had never heard of Salesforce.com, and she still said, “So…do you want the job?” I gladly accepted her generous offer. I also listened to her when she said, “Find a user group and get connected so you can start learning.”

She created a monster!

My first user group meeting was in Chicago, and it was the same day as the Chicago stop of the Salesforce World Tour, or whatever they called it back in 2010. That one event was like knocking over the first domino in a long string of dominos.  After that, I spent 1 to 2 days a month going back and forth to user group meetings all around the Midwest. After a few months of that, I decided that I couldn’t be the only Salesforce user in Southern Indiana so I decided to start a local user group. My first meeting had 6 people at it, but it’s not the size that counts. It’s the interactions and creative, crowd-sourced problem solving that matters!

Fast forward a few months …

Early summer, 2010, and it’s getting closer to Dreamforce. “Can I go?” I asked my manager. “I’m sorry…the budget is shot. We can’t send you this year.”  Most people would simply accept that and say “There’s always next year.” Not me. I thought to myself, “If I can’t go to Dreamforce, I’m going to bring a little bit of Dreamforce to me.” And the idea for Midwest Dreamin’ was born. Apttus was one of the companies who became a sponsor of that inaugural Midwest Dreamin’. Al West, now Senior Vice President, Global Sales at Apttus, was my first connection.  That very first Midwest Dreamin’ took place in May, 2011, and the Galt House Hotel played host to about 100 Salesforce enthusiasts. In 2014, when the second Midwest Dreamin’ took place, it was at Chicago’s Navy Pier with 500 people, which grew to almost 800 in 2015.

Suddenly a Salesforce MVP

I remember it well; it was April 10, 2013. The day I was first awarded the title of Salesforce MVP. I’m not really sure what I did to deserve that award. I’m not big on the Answers board like Steve Molis is. In fact, I’ve asked way more questions than I’ve answered.  I’m not a super technical, awesome developer like David Liu is. I’m more a clicks kind of guy, not code.  I’m not the consummate Admin like Leyna Hoffer. I’ve had admin rights in orgs, but I’ve always been more the analyst.  I’m just a regular guy who seems to have a knack for connecting people together. I was only leading what I liked to say was the smallest Salesforce user group in the world, the Southern Indiana Salesforce User Group, but I also proudly said I likely had the highest percentage of attendees to registrations, averaging about 85% of registrations actually attending, and there was that little thing called Midwest Dreamin’. Yes, being named an MVP was a total surprise, and actually more of a surprise than most people know.  I didn’t access my personal email from work back then, and I had mobile data shut off on my cell phone when the announcement came out so I missed it.  I discovered I had been awarded the title of MVP when I connected my cell phone to a Wi-Fi source at lunch and it started pinging like crazy.  I missed a bunch of emails and tweets from current MVPs all congratulating me. For what I thought…then I checked my email and discovered the official “You’re an MVP” email.

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly…What’s it like being an MVP?

I get asked that a lot…and it’s not really an easy question to answer, at least for me it’s not.  I could simply say it’s awesome and leave it at that, but those of you who know me, would never let it end there. So, I’ll describe it like this – there’s a lot of pressure on the MVPs, however, I would say that 90% of it is self-inflicted. Sure, there are certain things MVPs get early access to, or have knowledge of prior to the rest of the Salesforce Community that we are bound by a non-disclosure agreement to keep confidential, and there are plenty of opportunities for MVPs to provide feedback directly to Salesforce Execs, but I think the inherent pressure comes from not feeling like we deserve the honor bestowed upon us. I don’t think any of the MVPs were doing what they did simply for the purpose of becoming an MVP. I really think the MVPs are just a little more passionate and a little more vocal than your average community member, and they feel driven to a sense of accomplishment from knowing they helped someone solve a problem. So i think, to some degree, when MVP status is awarded to you, it’s like the clock starts ticking.  You know, that 15 minutes of fame clock…everyone wants their moment in the sun. Everyone dreams of being rich and famous. I don’t think there’s been a scientific study done that would prove being a Salesforce MVP will make you rich (in the traditional monetary sense) but I know most of us MVPs feel richly blessed to have made friends from all over the world through the Salesforce Community.  And then, thanks to events like Dreamforce, we get to meet some of those people in person and that is yet another blessing. Of course, with anything good, there’s typically a dark side too.  When I first became an MVP, a few of the more seasoned MVPs told me to expect LinkedIn to blow up with offers to connect from recruiters, and that the number of followers I have on Twitter would likely grow exponentially.  They were right. It seems everyone wanted a piece of me. Within 3 months of first being named an MVP, the number of followers I had on twitter doubled, and there STILL isn’t a week that goes by  without me receiving at least one or two emails or LinkedIn messages asking if I was interested in working for some company, or working through a recruiter that now I don’t recall the name of, or what the companies do, where they are…or if they are even in the Salesforce ecosystem! Obviously, they made a huge impression on me. (And that, my friends is  sarcasm. One more thing I’m kind of famous for.)

Aside from the things I touched on earlier, like early access to knowledge, easy access to Execs (and product managers), MVPs enjoy some other perks. We do have reserved seating at the major Keynotes at Dreamforce, we also get preferred seating at World Tour Events, but those are only perks if you can attend those events, and if you choose to sit with the other MVPs.  Personally, I’d give up the good seats in a heartbeat if I was in the middle of a conversation with a seasoned community member, or a even a first time Dreamforce attendee who wanted to see the keynote, but didn’t want to be lost in the crowd without a familiar face to share it with. (That’s not just me blowing smoke either…I’ve done both of those. Just ask Kristin Puttika about the Dreamforce 2014 keynote.)  I say this every week in my “Bacon” blog series“For me, one of the greatest strengths of the Salesforce Ecosystem is its people and the connections that are shared” because I firmly believe that WHO you know is (slightly) more important than WHAT you know, because who you know can get you access to information you need. Because who you know can get you connect you to others you NEED to know.  Because who you know can lead to GREAT things!

Flashback to Dreamforce 2014…

A week or so before Dreamforce 2014, the Salesforce MVPs got an invite to a half-day training & demo with Apttus that was occurring on the Friday morning just after Dreamforce. I thought about it for all of 10 seconds, clicked the link to attend, and then sent an email to a couple of friends that I would need to change our plans from a morning walk across the Golden Gate Bridge, to an afternoon walk.

Dreamforce 2014

I’ll spare you all the details about the entire week, since probably everyone reading the post would have been to Dreamforce at least once and simply leave this Twitter conversation here:

Tweet XAuthor

And with that one defining moment, my desire to be associated with Apttus was born.

Why I chose to work at Apttus?

cookies

You mean you don’t get it already? Apttus is all over the CPQ and CLM space…world-class, industry leading solutions for Configure, Price, Quote as well as Contract Lifecycle Management but Apttus also has a hidden gem, a secret weapon, if you will, in the battle against poor Salesforce adoption.

Enter X-Author for Excel

X-Author for Excel is a game-changer.  It levels the playing field and makes the point of entry to get data into Salesforce as simple as the Excel spreadsheet your sales team is already using. So what’s the big deal?  Everyone knows you can import data from Excel into Salesforce. Here’s the secret sauce:  with X-Author for Excel, you do NOT import data. X-Author exists as a ribbon inside Microsoft Office applications that brings all your Salesforce controls and inherent security to your Excel spreadsheets. Using X-Author, you simply define fields in Excel that you want to map directly back to fields and objects in Salesforce. Every time a change is made in Excel that change is immediately reflected back in Salesforce. EVERY change, EVERY time. And guess what?  You can use X-Author with any, yes, any, object in Salesforce, including related AND unrelated, standard AND custom objects!  Can you just imagine the power you can put into your users hands?  I said users, not sales teams. That’s because anyone can use X-Author for Excel. Your sales teams, your marketing personnel, even your Salesforce admins will see the power and convenience that X-Author brings. And what’s even better, is that X-Author is a managed package, which means that the custom objects, tabs and apps within X-Author do NOT count against your Salesforce limits.

For more details about X-Author, check out the listing on the AppExchange and visit x-author.com.

 

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Top 10 Reasons to Attend Dreamforce 2015

Here’s my top 10 reasons why you should attend Dreamforce updated for 2015:

10: Networking…its a fabulous place to meet people who think and act like you. Don’t be scared, introduce yourself! You could very well be talking to your next coworker or manager, or even discover a solution to a challenge you have been facing! (Don’t forget to bring plenty of business cards!)

9: Exercise…with all the sessions and activities spread out over Moscone’s 3 buildings as well as a half a dozen or so hotels in the area, you might end up dropping a few pounds from all the walking you’ll do. (Be sure to wear comfortable shoes, and charge up your Fitbit!)

8: Knowledge…Keynote sessions, hands-on training sessions, breakout sessions, even pre-conference training session…who knows what all you could learn! Even without knowing who the keynote or breakout session speakers are, or who the special guests during Marc Benioff’s keynote will be, I’m 100% certain you will learn a lot! (Be sure to take notes – on paper, on your phone, or on your iPad.  Whatever your note-taking device of choice is, keep it handy! You’ll need it!)

7: Awesome…yes, be prepared to hear that word quite a lot. Many will describe the event as Awesome or Outstanding. (Guilty as charged, Your Honor.)

6: Get Social…That’s right, Dreamforce isn’t really just an 8 to 5 event. Social gatherings, dinners, parties and even concerts await the adventurous soul. After Dreamforce, be sure to hook up with your local user group, so you can keep the Dreamforce feeling all year long!  And if that’s not enough, keep an eye out on the Success Community and Twitter for amazing community-driven regional events like Midwest Dreamin’, Forcelandia, and Snowforce.

5: Charity…Don’t just take things away from Dreamforce, give things away! Give back some of your time to help out great causes. Look for the Salesforce Foundation volunteer events and GIVE! Give like there’s no tomorrow! Because if you don’t, for some people who rely on the organizations Salesforce & Dreamforce support, there may not be a tomorrow!

4: Swag…who doesn’t like a freebie?  T-shirts, portable charges, stress balls, t-shirts, pens….you name it, someone is probably giving it away, just for stopping by their booth and letting them scan your badge.  Some things are a random drawing, others, just yours for the taking.

3: Partners…be sure to carve out time to visit the Cloud Expos. Many AppExchange partners will be there to give you live demos, great reasons why you need to extend your Salesforce org outside the box, and pick up some cool swag along the way. You can also connect with Salesforce experts, interact firsthand with Salesforce products, and hear success stories shared by customers at the Salesforce Campground.

2: Rub elbows with the elite…the MVPs and User Group Leaders. Those people are almost overly passionate about the Salesforce ecosystem, but guess what? They are people too, and love helping others gain knowledge and overcome challenges!

And my number 1 reason to attend Dreamforce this year:

1: Community…What’s that? It’s the culmination of all of the other top items rolled into one neat little package. It’s that intangible benefit you get from being part of a group that is fast approaching two million strong. It’s that awesome feeling you get when racing between sessions with over 100,000 of your closest friends. It is Salesforce…it is Dreamforce. And its AWESOME!!!

Chicago’s Weather Forecast – Cloudy and Windy with a Chance of Awesome!

It might seem a little pretentious of me to make such a bold statement, but I am predicting the weather for a very small portion of Chicago. What’s even more audacious is that I’m making this prediction for a couple days that are still more than 30 days away!

I predict that Chicago’s Navy Pier will see cloudy and windy weather on July 9 & 10, 2015.

Now I sure hope that Peter Coffee and Dan Darcy don’t take that statement the wrong way, because sometimes when people say that others are ‘windy’ it could mean ‘they like to talk just to hear the sound of their own voice.’ In THIS case, the wind I am referring to is simply the breeze that comes off of Lake Michigan. That’s it, pure and simple. And the cloudy, well, do I really need to explain that one?

The Opening Event

Midwest Dreamin’ 2015 kicks off on July 9th at 4pm with an Opening Reception for attendees sponsored by Salesforce.com, the Salesforce Success Services team and the Salesforce AppExchange.  Come join us! Check in as early as 3pm, browse the expo hall, enjoy some food and drinks (served from 4pm to 7pm.)  This is prime time to mix and mingle with some of the brightest minds in the ecosystem. You’ll have a chance to hang out with some of the MVPs and enjoy the Demo Jam, where some of our sponsors will each have three minutes to showcase their apps, while our Master of Ceremonies, and 4-time Salesforce MVP, Joshua Hoskins, keeps everyone on schedule and entertained.

Cloudy, With a Chance of Awesome

Please don’t forget to come back to Navy Pier on July 10th! That’s when the main event happens with even more awesome stuff. Check-in will open at 7:30am, and the man once known as the Master of the Dreamforce Demos, the one and only, Dan Darcy, now Salesforce Senior Vice President for Worldwide Product Readiness, will take the stage at 9am to kick things off with his rendition of ‘Thrift Shop’! Ok, that part is a joke, Dan will not be singing, to the best of my knowledge, but he will be sharing a great story with us for our opening keynote!

The REAL Deal

Next up will be a hand-picked lineup of some of the community’s best and brightest, as they all take the stage in a great rendition of ‘We Are The World’. Sorry, that’s a lie too. As far as I know, none of our speakers will actually be singing, but they will be sharing some fantastic content, covering topics like: Chatter, Women in Technology, Platform, Not for Profit, and more!  If you are looking for interaction on a more intimate level, be sure to check out the Circles of Success where you’ll have the opportunity to participate in an interactive, moderated round-table discussion focusing on best practices, with topics including Lead & Opportunity Management, Data Integrity, Driving Success, How to Boost Sales Performance and Change Management.

And the Oscar goes to…
Of course an event like this would not be possible without the generous support of our sponsors. Please make sure to spend some time visiting with them in the expo hall. The hall will be open from 8am to 4pm on July 10th. There’s so much goodness in the ecosystem that you don’t know what you don’t know until you see it! The sponsors are there to help you learn and extend your efficient use of the platform.

How Can I Get in on All This Greatness?

Are you a user, admin or developer?  Attend Midwest Dreamin’!  Register today to beat the price increase. Are you a partner?  Sponsor Midwest Dreamin’!  We still have some opportunities available!

See you at Chicago’s Navy Pier on July 9th and 10th!

If You Find Something That Works…Stick With It!

What’s the biggest challenge facing a user group leader?

  • Finding a place to meet?  No, sorry, that’s not it. You can meet anywhere, a park, the library, someone’s office. You could even meet at someone’s house!
  • Deciding on what time of day to meet?  Nope…that’s only a challenge for the very first meeting, then you ask the group what’s best for them.
  • Getting people to attend?  Uh…NO!  People seem to want to attend user group meetings, so if you build it, they will come.
  • Deciding on what food and beverages to serve during the meeting?  Oh come on, people will eat almost anything, as long as it’s free!
  • Finding interesting and engaging content?  BINGO!!!  We have a winner!  DING, DING, DING!!!!

I seem to have found a way to solve the content issue, and I blogged about it in an earlier post:  Speed Dating.  In this post, I share what happened during the 2nd half of the March 19th meeting of the Southern Indiana Salesforce User Group meeting. (For details on the first half of that meeting see my Lightning post.) 

Will you go out with me?

Isn’t that really what an appexhange partner is saying when they offer you a free trial?  It’s like a test drive on a car, but it usually lasts way longer than just a few minutes.  Most appexchange partners will give you 15 to 30 days to test out their product, to prove the worth to your management, before you start paying for it. That’s pretty cool, and if you ask me, a great marketing tool! 

I’m a no-good, two-timing CHEAT!

Well, not really.  But I did speed date with four different appexchange partners at my last user group meeting. 

 Arrowpointe Corp. – geopointe – Scott Hemmeter, CEO & Founder of Arrowpointe says that with geopointe, you can “unlock the where in your data”. In addition to simple mapping, geopointe gives you advanced routing, optimization and navigation. Imagine what could happen to sales if you not only giving your sales reps a list of who to call on each day, but also the most efficient order and routes to take. Please visit Arrowpointe geopointe on the appexchange at: https://appexchange.salesforce.com/listingDetail?listingId=a0N300000016ZHeEAM for complete details. 

 ContactMonkey – Outlook Integration for Salesforce – Alex Smith, Chief Marketing Officer of ContactMonkey says that with Outlook Integration for Salesforce you can create and update deals in Salesforce without leaving Outlook. In addition, you can automatically add your emails to Salesforce to save time. ContactMonkey also tracks email opens, clicked links, and determines which email subject lines get the most action. Please visit ContactMonkey’s Outlook Integration for Salesforce on the appexchange at: https://appexchange.salesforce.com/listingDetail?listingId=a0N3000000B4mHkEAJ for complete details.

 SteelBrick Inc. – SteelBrick CPQ – Nate Fish, Account Executive, says that with SteelBrick’s Next Generation CPQ you can configure, price and quote anytime, anywhere and from any device.  SteelBrick uses standard Salesforce price books, can deliver quotes to customers in Word or PDF format, and documents are automatically saved in Salesforce for easy tracking, auditing and compliance. It’s built 100% on Salesforce and even works on the Salesforce1 mobile app. For complete details, please visit SteelBrick on the appexchange at: https://appexchange.salesforce.com/listingDetail?listingId=a0N300000016cxaEAA

 Arkus, Inc. – Clone This User – Justin Edelstein, Chief Information Officer of Arkus, Inc. says that with Clone This User the administrator can look up an existing user who will serve as the basis for a new user, enter a name and email, then generate the username and password immediately. And what’s even better is that this can be done from your desktop or via Salesforce1 on your mobile device. For complete details, visit Clone This User from Arkus, Inc. on the appexchange at: https://appexchange.salesforce.com/listingDetail?listingId=a0N3000000B5jTkEAJ

That’s not cheating, is it?  All four Apps do something completely awesome and different. 

Speed Dating, a play in eleven acts

Act 1 – The User Group Leader monologue As the leader of a Salesforce User Group sometimes I find it a little challenging to find content that group members want to see and hear. Sure, every time there’s a new release, we can talk about that, and once in a while a member does or discovers something really cool that they are willing to share, but what do you do with the other meetings, where the members of your group give you very little input on what they need or want to learn about? You’ve got to make the meetings worth the members time and efforts to attend, and content is king!  It drives attendance at the meetings. (Legal Disclaimer – the attached YouTube clips contain explicit language, as they are from movies with rating of PG13 – Hitch and R – The 40 Year Old Virgin)

Act 2 – Setting the stage Speed Dating, according to Oxford Dictionaries – speed dating (noun): an organized social activity in which people seeking romantic relationships have a series of short conversations with potential partners in order to determine whether there is mutual interest. Now I know what you are thinking, speed dating, yeah, right.  Like that ever works. You are probably even remembering the speed dating scene from Hitch, or the Date-a-palooza scene from The 40 Year Old Virgin, where, in both cases, things just didn’t end well.  For the purpose of this blog, I would suggest a slight modification to the definition as follows:  speed dating (noun): an organized professional activity in which users of Salesforce.com seeking knowledge about available apps have a series of short presentations by AppExchange partners interested in sharing best practices and value propositions in the hopes of forming a long-term, mutually beneficial relationship. Yes, that’s what the last meeting of the Southern Indiana Salesforce User Group was…a speed dating event.

Act 3 – Global Tech & Resources – RPaaS – Recruting Platform Charlie Havens, Vice President of Client Services with Global Tech & Resources says that both employers and applicants think a lot of time and energy is wasted in the typical hiring process. How many of us have sat down to be interviewed and were greeted by someone stating that they are here to interview you, and then they ask what position you have applied for? Charlie thinks that hiring systems should help you hire the right person, not just track applicants, and that is precisely the reason GTR’s RPaaS was created. RPaaS treats the hiring process just like a sales process with distinct stages the opportunity, excuse me, applicant goes through, from sourcing and qualifying to interviewing and on-boarding. Check out RPaas on the AppExchange and make sure you are hiring the right person for the right job at the right time.

Act 4 – Kona DataSearch – KonaSearch – Advanced Search for Salesforce Dave Hall, CEO and co-founder of KonaSearch says that Kona DataSearch allows you to search like nothing else! Search inside and outside of Salesforce.com, with the complete solution. Kona DataSearch is scale-able, integrated, secure and advanced, and Kona DataSearch does fuzzy and full-text searches on active and archived records. It can even search multi-value picklists! Check out Kona DataSearch on the AppExchange and filter your search from 300,000 records down to one without even touching the search box!

Act 5 – Data Cleansing Solutions – CRMfusion – DemandTools, PeopleImport and DupeBlocker Brent McCormick, Sales Manager for CRMfusion likened data flowing into a Salesforce Org to the water system in nature, where rain drops are individual records, rivers and streams are data imports of many records at a time Like water in an eco-system, data in a CRM must be cleaned and maintained to provide your Salesforce users with clean, accurate, and reliable data. CRMfusion offers DemandTools to clean and maintain existing Salesforce data (de-duplication; data standardization and normalization; importing/exporting etc.) and DupeBlocker and PeopleImport to help identify and prevent duplicate records from entering Salesforce. Check out CRMfusion on the AppExchange to clean and protect your data.

Act 6 – Content Management – SpringCM – Manage It, Content and Contract Management John Garvin, Account Executive for SpringCM said that work gets done around documents, and you need to be able to access documents, like contracts, anywhere, on any device. That’s what SpringCM’s Manage It™ for Contracts enables your team to do. Using Manage It™ for Contracts, you can build agreements quickly with pre-approved templates and data pulled right from Salesforce. Check out SpringCM on the AppExchange to streamline your contract process.

Act 7 – Data Backup – Spanning Cloud Apps – Spanning Backup for Salesforce  Chris Pinkston, Sales Representative for Spanning Cloud Apps, says that data backup is not glamorous, but it is necessary. With Spanning Backup for Salesforce, not only can you originate your backup from in Salesforce, but you also get in app, ,on page restore capabilities. Spanning Backup for Salesforce doesn’t just backup your object data either, it backs up everything including chatter and attached files as well as your metadata. Check out Spanning Backup for Salesforce on the AppExchange, and protect your data with automated backups.

Act 8 – Enterprise Resource Planning – FinancialForce – ERP, Financial Management, CPQ, PSA and HCM Sally Sullivan, Account Executive for FinancialForce tells us that walls create problems. Those walls come from disparate systems, and the problems caused impact technology, visibility of data, time & cost of operations, and more importantly customer relationships. FinancialForce has developed an ERP system that is native to the Salesforce1 platform so not only is it mobile, but it also breaks down the walls and solved problems. It’s modular approach allows customers to pick and choose the apps they need to customize a solution. Check out all the FinancialForce apps on the AppExchange, and get your ERP up to Customer Speed.

Act 9 – Project Management – Bracket Labs – TaskRay Eric Wu, CO-Founder of Bracket Labs says that TaskRay takes project management and makes it as easy as sticky notes on a virtual white board. You can drag and drop tasks to a prioritized state, and reassign a task simply by dragging the Chatter Face to the task. Yes, that means TaskRay has Chatter Integration! TaskRay is also 100% native to the Salesforce platform meaning that it’s incredibly easy to integrate project management with your existing Salesforce data and the app is infinitely customizable using standard Salesforce admin techniques. Check out TaskRay on the AppExchange, and take the work, out of teamwork!

Act 10 – Excel for Salesforce – Apttus – X-Author for Excel Jules Ehrlich, Vice President and General Manager for Advanced Solutions at Apttus says that X-Author for Excel transforms Excel from a stand-alone productivity tool into a real-time user interface for Salesforce. You keep the familiar Excel look and feel but you work in Salesforce. You can update opportunities, create quotes, and assign territories. Anything you can do in Salesfore, you can now do in Excel with X-Author for Excel. You can even use unlimited related or unrelated, standard and custom objects to create, retreive, update, delete or upset data across an infinite number of Excel worksheets. Check out X-Author for Excel on the AppExchange, so you can work in Excel, and be in Salesforce.

Act 11 – The Closing Act The Salesforce AppExchange is a great place to go shopping. If you have a need to accomplish a task, collaborate with people, exchange data with other systems, prevent duplicates, safely back up your data, or create reports and dashboards that will wow management and foster adoption, it is definitely time to go shopping! Most, if not all creators of apps will let you try it before you buy it with a free trial period of at least 14 days.There are apps for nearly every industry. There are apps that are designed for Salesforce1 mobile users. There are apps that are even totally free to use, even after your trial period ends! I challenge you to go visit the AppExchange and NOT come away with at least one app to try on for size!

Thank you, part two…and a preview of things to come!

You know that song “Hook” by Blues Traveler?

“It doesn’t matter what I say
So long as I sing with inflection”

Hook by Blues Traveler

I’m not so sure I agree with that statement. Don’t get me wrong, I am a huge fan of Blues Traveler, and I do hope they make an appearance at Dreamforce 2013, but, in my opinion, most times it really IS what you say, and not how you say it.

In my last post, I thanked colleagues, friends, coworkers and others in the Salesforce community who have inspired and influenced me. In this post, I extend those thanks out to the ecosystem and feel the need to express gratitude to partners who have helped me on this journey over the past 4 years from rookie Salesforce.com business analyst to Salesforce.com MVP.

Forest Yule from Silverpop, thank you for having faith in me and my crazy ‘Midwest Dreamin’ idea for a regional user group event. I appreciate all the support you have given me, and continue to provide to all the Salesforce user groups.

Darren Cunningham from Informatica, Al West from Apttus, Mary Beth Kush from Acumen Solutions, Andy Thoe from Bluewolf – thanks go out to all of you for your support of the user group community.

Cast Iron, DocuSign, NextGen Consulting and JAUST Consulting Partners – Thank you all for your support to the user community as well.

Without all of you, Midwest Dreamin would have remained an idea in my head.

A lot has changed since May, 2011, and I wish I could have made Midwest Dreamin an annual event since then…but there’s always tomorrow – so…be watching, be on the lookout, there very well could be a Midwest Dreamin 2014.

What can you do with Salesforce (dot)com ?

Some friends of mine who really don’t know much about what I do for a living keep asking me to explain my job. That’s not an easy question to answer. I’m an analyst, and for those of you who are analysts, you can understand why that’s not an easy question to respond to. For those who are not analysts, I’ll try to enlighten you.  An analyst is someone who analyzes thing. Too simple ?  Yes.  Way too simple.  In my case, I tell people that I spend my time looking at data trying to determine the story it is telling. And it really doesn’t matter what kind of data you are looking at, or even what the source is. All data has a story to tell that can reveal some fascinating things about the nature of business, of people, and of society in general.

I have been an analyst for many years and in many industries: higher education; small-box retail; big-box retail; an airline; and a ‘mom and pop’ consulting firm, just to name a few. The one thing I found that was consistent among all that, is that people have a need to understand data and what it means. They want to know more, and more. In today’s terminology, I suppose I could say I am a Data Scientist.

By now you are probably wondering, how does all this tie into Salesforce.com…please bear with me just a little longer. I promise to make the connection.

When I started writing this post, my first ever blog post, I had an agenda in mind. I wanted to compare my career as an analyst to the cloud computing / CRM giant, Salesforce.com. But as I kept writing, I kept coming back to one theme: Asking an analyst what they do, is a lot like asking “What can you do with Salesforce.com ?”  The answer to that question is really quite simple: You can do almost, if not everything your business needs to do to succeed with Salesforce.com or an app from one of the scores of Appexchange partners.

Perhaps the best response to that question is truely a better question: “What can you not do with Salesforce.com?” And personally, I think the sky is the limit…the possibilites are endless, so jump in, sit down and start driving. I can’t tell you where your journey will lead, but I can promise you it will be a facinating ride!

So much for a deep, thoughtful, analytics-based reply.  Perhaps in my next post, I’ll delve deeper into the numbers.  Actually, I won’t, since my next post is almost ready.

Here’s the teaser to have you come back to read the next one:  Passion, what matters most and a Fiat 500 crossing the country in preparation for Dreamforce 2012.

Thanks for taking a moment of your day to read my historical first blog post.