Archive for May, 2005

Summer 05 Sneak Peak

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I have had a chance to take a sneak peak at the Summer 05 release and I was very impressed with it.

Custom Formula Fields

They are impressive and work just as they are being marketed. However, they do not yet support aggregate functions so you can SUM or COUNT data from child records. I hear that is coming in a future release to expand on the functionality. The report formulas work great too.

Multiforce

Multiforce seems pretty cool. There is a new link under the Extend part of customforce called “Custom Apps”. Salesforce and Supportforce are listed by default. This is where you can create additional Apps and assign tabs to them. Then, in Profiles, you say whether or not the Profile has access to the App.

Self-Service Portal

I also noticed a new tab that isn’t written about in the release notes called “Portals”. When I clicked on it, it was a new tab for managing your Self-Service portal. This tab has some key reports right on it and a preview of the portal itself. Configuring the portal allows for more granular capabilities such as changing fonts and colors on each portal page and for various objects across pages like dropdown boxes or the mouseover characteristics of a tab. It is simpifying the management of a stylesheet. In fact, there were places I could click “Advanced Setup” and it actually had a text box with the information that I could edit straight up.

Mass Address Update

Works great. Piece of cake to use. Will help improve data quality greatly.

Customizable Related Lists

Work just like the customizable ones on custom objects. In a page layout, you highlight the related list to configure and click the “Related Lists Properties” button. Make your adjustments and voila.

I didn’t get a chance to test Customizable Forecasting, Sales Methodologies or Email to Case.

All in all, I’d say Summer 05 looks good and developers will be much happier working with it.

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New Look and Feel for 2005?

Salesforce.com made a posting on the CRM Success website about changing the look and feel of the application for 2005. Their blog provides a forum for providing feedback on the design concepts.

Design 1 is my preference. I like the updated font, the updated graphics and the grey background to the page layout sections. Much more professional looking.

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Getting Started with Salesforce.com

If you are an implementation consultant, it takes more than simply knowing what the product does to be good at what you do. It takes an understanding of CRM as a philosophy, understanding the On-Demand software market, knowing implementation best practices and being able to understand how Salesforce.com can be used to enable a company’s business processes, not how a company has to change its processes to fit Salesforce.com.

Below are a few recommendations on getting started with Salesforce.com:

1. Gain an understanding of CRM and the On-Demand software movement
Refer to sources such as Gartner, Forrester to get an understanding of CRM and the implementation best practices associated with it. There are 100s of sources, but those two are pretty good. Forrester recently did an analysis on the top on-demand CRM packages, which has some very good information in there. If you do not have a subscription to those services, I suggest going to the web sites of many Salesforce.com partners to understand the various approaches and philosophies they have on CRM.

Blogs and newsfeeds are also an excellent way to understand the market.

2. Understand the Salesforce.com Product line
Peruse the Salesforce.com website to gain this understanding. Check out the demos and presentations about the products on that site.

3. Understand the implementation methodology
Traditional best practices such as aligning a project to a CRM vision, creating success metrics and having a strong communication plan apply to Salesforce.com implementations. However, delivering an on-demand solution is different than implementing an on-premise product. For example, the dilineation between requirements and design is a bit blurred with Salesforce.com. Salesforce.com requires more of a JAD (joint application design) approach than the traditional approach. This helps these projects move much more quickly. The CRM Success website is probably the best place to learn about the methodology and best practices.

4. Create a Salesforce.com account
You have 2 options here. You can setup a 30-day trial or go to Sforce.com and create a Developer Editions account. I recommend the latter. A Developer Edition account never expires. It allows you 2 licenses (an admin and a test user acccount, for example) to play around with. This is a great way to prototype what you learn and always maintain a copy of it.

5. Immerse yourself
Now that you have an account, you need to take time to learn about how the application works. I recommend 3 things:

  • Online Training
  • Go to the Help and Training link in the upper-right of the application. Go to the Training tab. There are a lot of very good online training course that will help you get up to speed on things like Fundaments, basic SFA, reporting, Campaign management, etc. If you cannot see the Training tab in the Developer Edition, you may need to do a 30 day trial for this purpose.

  • Play Around
  • I recommend configuring each module very simply and walk through them as if you are selling to and supporting a customer. I recommend starting with Leads, Accounts, Contacts, Opportunities, Activities and Reporting. Then move onto the Support side with Cases & Solutions. Once you get the basics, take it to the next level with Products, Opportunity Line Items and Forecasting. Then onto the web tools like Web to Lead and the Self-Service portal.

  • User Guide
  • In the Help section, there is a little Adobe Acrobat icon. That is a link to a PDF version of the User Guide. I recommend downloading that and walking through it as you continue to play with the application.

6. Take it to the next level
Check out other resources to learn the tricks of the trade. Good places to start are:

  • This blog and others like it (see the sidebar for links to other blogs)
  • CRM Success Best Practices blog
  • Sforce Connector – This is probably the best utility out there for messing around with Salesforce.com data. For people like me that are semi-techie, but not great coders, this is a fantastics tool. It does the heavy lifting of working with the API and still provides flexibility in working with the data. This is a great tool for an administrator to perform data cleansing or for a small data migration effort.

User Guide
Download Page

7. Learn the API
The Sforce website is the place. Here you will find toolkits, API documentation, tech notes and more. Use the platform of your choice (VB, Java, Perl, etc.) to get going. If you are not super-techie, I’d recommend using Office to get started. Either MS Excel or Access will work great.

8. Join the community
Get involved in the community of Salesforce.com developers and users. Participate in the Sforce community forums, comment on blog postings, start your own blog, let me know how I can improve this one, etc.

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Summer 05 Preview

CRM Success.com has a preview of the Summer 05 release that can be downloaded on its website.

Summer 05 Admin Preview

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Short-Term Wish List

I wanted to list a few features that I feel would be extremely beneficial to be added to the platform. I have heard bits and pieces as to how the Summer 05 release will address some of these and how others are on the “roadmap”. We’ll see. The exciting thing is that when functionality is released, it does not require an upgrade. It’s just there and ready to go. That may not sound that exciting, but after having implemented products such as Siebel On-Premise for a long time, it is great to be able to take advantage of new functionality without the expense/headache of going through an entire project focused purely on upgrading. That is a HUGE advantage of Salesforce.com’s product.

Features I would like to see addressed soon:

Calculated Fields

Calculated Fields represent the ability to create a new field on an object whose definition is a formula rather than a piece of data stored in the database. I have heard that this functionality may be coming in the Summer 05 release. It has been described as “Excel-like” formulas can be added as a calculated field. This sounds exciting and should be able to fully support formulas that calculate across a record. For example:

OpportunityLineItem.Calc Field = SalesPrice / ListPrice
This would calculate the discount % on an Opportunity Line item.

Account.Calc Field = If (Annual Revenue > 1000000000, “Strategic Account”)
Uses IF, THEN logic to calculate a value based upon other values.

What is also needed is the ability to roll up values from child records. For example:

Account.Calc Field = If(Opportunity.Won = 1, Sum(Opportunity.Amount))
A calculated field on an Account displays the sum of all Opportunities that have been Won for that account. Today, this must be obtained through a report. Having a calculated field will allow the user to spend their time on the Account record rather than having to toggle between the Account and a report on it.

Personal Contact Groups

Ability for a user to create personal contact groups. For example, suppose a user wants to create a list of Contacts they want to invite to an event in Chicago, IL for the Auto industry. They should be able to create a Contact Group called “Auto Event in Chicago”. To populate that with Contacts, they should be able to run a report and, from the resultset, click a link that says “Add Contacts to Group …” where they can auto add that list to the Group. Additionally, functionality should exist on the Contact itself allowing them to easily add a contact to a Group.

From the Group itself, they should be able to easily edit whose in the group and who is not. Suppose, they want to remove a few of the people that came up in the auto industry report. They should be able view the group, check the contacts to be removed and remove them.

Campaign functionality could be used for this purpose. However, this would be more focused for a sales user. It should be simple and personal. In some applications, this type of functionality is called List Management. The issue with using Campaigns for this purpose is that Campaigns do not have sharing rules. You cannot have "Private" campaigns. Also, adding Contacts to campaigns requires a report –> Excel –> member import process. This is pretty cumbersome for the average sales person.

Dynamic Dashboards based upon the User

A dashboard has a property that identifies the user that it should run under. If you want to create a common dashboard used by Sales Reps, Sales Managers, etc., you need to create a common template and have them clone it for personal use so it can execute under their user name and make it so they only see their own data. Rather, Dashboards should be capable of being run based upon the user that is looking at it. This is how Reports work today. I imagine it was not done this way for performance reasons, but the current design makes Dashboards limiting.

Discount %

Ability to add a discount % on an Opportunity Line Item and having the Sales Price auto calculated.

Record Type Tabs

It would be so very cool if new tabs could use existing objects, but be based upon a specific record type. For example, suppose you wanted to have a Competitors tab, but leverage functionality in the Accounts module. Rather than having to use a custom object, it’d be very cool if you could create a record type called “Competitor” under Accounts and assign the use of that Record Type to a new tab. The result being that they would NOT appear under the main accounts tab and would only appear in their own tab.

Lookup Custom Fields

The ability to add a field to an object that is a lookup to another object. For example, add a new “Billing Account” field on an Opportunity that would reside on the main Opportunity section of the layout resulting in another 1:M relationship from Accounts to Oppotunities. The only way to do this now is through a custom object. However, the custom object would be a M:M relationship, not a 1:M.

Filtered Picklists

Ability to filter a picklist based upon certain criteria. For example, ability to filter the Partner picklist on an Opportunity to only filter by Accounts that are of the type “Partner”. This type of functionality would result in better data quality.

Configurable Related Lists

Ability to modify the standard related lists to exclude inapplicable fields and to include custom, applicable ones. I hear this one may be coming soon.

There are a lot more that come to mind, but I will save those for another day. I would be very interested in anyone providing their knowledge about any of these coming in the upcoming release.

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