Archive for March, 2006

ConnectOnDemand Feedback

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I have had a chance to check out ConnectOnDemand (thanks to Mark for inviting me). It is a really nice idea and I appreciate Salesforce’s efforts in putting this together. As a consultant looking to gain exposure to a wider audience, I like the idea of having ConnectOnDemand as a tool to communicate with Salesforce customers, prospects and developers.

I cannot help but think of LinkedIn when I use ConnectOnDemand and there are a number of things that I really wish could be in this system that are in systems like LinkedIn and other similar tools. I am hoping that only a fraction of the functionality is exposed. Right now, you can do some searching, but there is no real way to connect with someone. I am assuming this is because the system is in beta right now and being deployed.

Below is a list of recommended improvements that spring to mind.

  • Provide the ability to search by first and last name. I have no idea whether people I know are signed up.
  • Ability to see first name, last name and company in the search results.
  • Ability to add a person as a connection. I envision this being a request that can be made through the site. That person would receive an email with the request and could approve the request via a link in the email. Upon approval, you each would see each other in a “My People” list. You should be able to see the contact information of your connections.
  • Ability to subscribe to the discussion groups and topics via RSS. Is this forum replacing the existing forums? If so, then I have a lot more recommendations since it doesn’t seem as robust as the current forums.
  • Ability to create a custom group. For example, I might want to create one called “Independent consultants on the West Coast” and allow people to request joining the group. Like a Yahoo! Group of sorts. Within a group, you should be able to see members, connect directly with them and have discussion groups.

What are your suggestions?

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What is ConnectOnDemand?

I came upon a new site in my Salesforce.com RSS search. Does anyone know what this site is all about? It says it’s sponsored by Salesforce.com and is a networking site related to the Success On Demand events going on now. Is it like a LinkedIn for Salesforce.com users?

http://connectondemand.leveragesoftware.com/

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Functionality Wishes (03/2006)

Here are a few of the functionality wishes that have come out of my recent projects. My wish list category has all of the functionality wishes that I have written about in the past, many of which have already been implemented by Salesforce.com.

Bubble Help
Bubble Help

This could improve usability quite a bit. It’d be great if we had the ability to configure a 1 to 2 sentence bit of help text on a field. It would work similar to the graphic on the right where Salesforce allows you to hover over the information icon for a bit more detail on that piece of functionality.

It’d be really nice have this capability at the Field level. Then, at the page layout level, you would have the ability to show the bubble help text (or not) for each field on the page layout.

Activate Bubble Help on Page Layout

Campaign Visibility & Sharing to allow for broader Campaign usage

I have written about this before, but the need comes up on almost every project I am on. Users regularly request the ability to manage a campaign-like event. This could be a seminar they are conducting, a dinner they are holding, responses to a series of emails they are sending about a new product line, etc. The Campaign module fits this mold perfectly. However, in today’s world, a user needs the Marketing User permission to run any kind of Campaign. Once they have that permission, they have visibility and edit rights to every Campaign in the system.

I am suggesting the Campaign object utilize sharing rules similar to Leads, Accounts, etc. This would allow users to setup personal campaigns without having to work through marketing and without having read-write access to every campaign in the system. This would support the ability to have:

  • Standard Company Marketing Campaigns viewable by everyone.
  • Private Company Marketing Campaigns viewable only by Marketing & key Executives.
  • Private Personal Campaigns viewable by the owner of the campaign and those that they report to (up the role hierarchy).
Threaded Activity Discussions

The Activity History list can become overwhelming, especially when being viewed at the Account level. It’d be really great to organize the activity history into activity threads. This would result in the Activity History list being viewable in a mode that would look similar to a message board . An email conversation would be organized under a thread. A meeting may spawn follow up emails and follow up calls. All of this could be viewable as a thread of activity history. The ability to expand/collapse these threads would be nice too.

AJAX-ify the UI

Someone well versed in UI design would probably have better ideas than I do, but it’d be great to be able to use AJAX technologies to provide better usability in the UI. The main premise would be to allow you to add/edit data quickly without having to refresh the entire page everytime. Serious study would need to be done by Salesforce.com to understand common workflows and pick the “sweet spots” for improvement. Some random ideas:

  • Add a list of competitors next to the Competitor related list on the Opportunity page to quickly add competitors to it.
  • Add a similar list for the contact roles related list.
  • Ability to quickly log a call in a fashion similar to how you can add To-Dos in Backpack.
  • Hover over a link to another record (e.g. the Account field on a Contact record) and get a pop-up preview of key fields on that linked record without having to leave the page you are on. This would act similar to how you can hover over a movie name in Netflix to see a description of that movie with no need to click into that movie’s page.
Tagging records

The del.icio.us / salesforce integration by Thumbware helps with this, but it’d be nice to have it native to Salesforce so that navigation could be improved and so it could be accessed via the API. You should be allowed to tag any record you want. Every record should have a permanent tag based upon the object of the record. For example, an Account record for Arrowpointe Corp. would be auto-tagged with “Account”, but a user could add other tags for it such as “consultant, integrator, salesforce.com”. A tag cloud view would be available to navigate all of your records by tag like you can do on del.icio.us.

Organizing Reports

There is only 1 Personal Custom Reports folder. This folder can grow very quickly and a naming convention is required in order to have any control over it. If a user was allowed to create multiple personal report folders, this problem could be minimized. The new Report Search feature has helped to minimize this issue.

B2C support

Salesforce is an Account-centric system and the Account object is meant to represent a business or organization, not an individual. However, many companies deal directly with individuals (B2C). Today, most of these companies will pirate the Account object to represent a personal account or a household for the purposes of managing Opportunities. They will usually create a Contact record too for the support of email and campaign functions. The concept of a Consumer Account that can be used with Opportunities, Cases, Campaigns and the Send Email function would be great so that you are not required to perform double-entry.

I believe Salesforce is working on B2C support. A client of mine was interviewed by Salesforce on this subject at the end of 2005. They are definitely thinking about it.

Field Validation Rules

Ability to add validation rules against a particular field based upon situational criteria. Example of how this could be used include:

  • If Stage = ‘Closed/Lost’, then a custom field called “Reason Lost Comments” is required.
  • If Account Type = ‘Customer’, then Account Number is required.
  • If Opportunity Probability is > 50%, a primary contact must be associated to the Opportunity

Today, you can work around this limitation by creating a formula field to display an error message when validation rules fail. However, this does not prohibit someone from saving the record.

Please comment with your thoughts and any other items on your own wish list.

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Dynamically Required Picklists

Although Salesforce does not fully support dynamically required fields, you can use the dependent picklist feature from the Winter ’06 release to implement this functionality when the field to be required is a picklist field and it’s requirement-rule is based upon another single picklist (or checkbox) field. To illustrate, the following requirement is common for many sales organizations and can use dependent picklists to fulfill it.

Require the end user to select a Reason Lost when the Opportunity Stage is set to ‘Closed Lost’

The steps to accomplish this are:

  1. Create a custom picklist field called ‘Reason Lost’ on the Opportunity Object.
  2. After creating the field, add a Field Dependency with the Stage as the controlling field.
  3. Add Stage as a Controlling Field

  4. Associate all of the Reason Lost values with the Closed Lost controlling value.
  5. Add Reason Lost as the Controlling Value

  6. Add the Reason Lost field to the Page Layout and require that field.
  7. You are already finished!

Here it is in action. While the Stage is set to values with no corresponding Reason Lost values, the Reason Lost field is read-only and is not required. Once the Stage is changed to Closed Lost, the Reason Lost field becomes read-write and is required.

Reason Lost is now required when stage is Closed Lost

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Email Subscriptions

If you would rather subscribe to Perspectives on Salesforce.com by email, it is easy to do. Visit the subscribe page for more information.

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