D2C #2: Know Your Customer’s Business

Know your Customer’s Business

Hello Folks,

Second part of Developer2Consultant #D2C series would focus on high level overview on how projects are ideated, conceptualized and implemented. It will also highlight consultant’s role in each of these areas.

Do you still remember questions that you need to ask yourself while you work on projects? If not click here, we will focus on below three areas for Salesforce projects and the role played by an dev/admin vs consultant.

  1. Design Thinking
  2. Pre-sales — RFP vs RFQ
  3. Implementation Life Cycle
Design Thinking
Design Thinking : Ideally, businesses may or may not adopt the design thinking approach to find solutions to their problems/pain areas. It is important to identify the end user needs and define the problem statement that is impacting or hampering the growth of business (ROI).

Need to innovate or finding a solution leads to brainstorming or ideating on possible solutions within the team, Customer’s engage with their business and IT stakeholders along with principal consultants from their preferred vendors (optional). They would normally get into series of discussions in a workshop where solution based approaches are discussed and some great ideas are brainstormed with future state of their business (sales, service and marketing) in mind.

Business pain areas/challenges still remains the core part of this discussion but it also allows them to have a broader view of things and look for innovative solutions.

Be curious, keep learning and chase your dreams. They do come true !!

Interested ? Read more here on How Salesforce is focusing on Design Thinking as well.

Pre-sales: What is your preconceived notion about Pre-sales? Have you ever participated in such activities or are you still wondering what it is all about?

Pre-Sales Life Cycle

Your Pre-sales and Account Sales team are actively involved in pursuing any RFP/RFQ where in key solution architects and consultants get a chance to participate and provide their high level solution approach and effort estimates.

Think !! What it will take you to participate in such discussions and be part of a team that gets business for your organization. Now you know why they are most valued lot for any organization.

RFP presents preliminary requirements for the business. Typically reflect the strategy and short/long-term business objectives, providing detailed insight upon which IT vendors will be able to analyze and reflect upon while drafting their response.

RFQ often include the specifications of the items/services to make sure all the suppliers are bidding on the same item/service. It allows different IT vendors to provide a quote, among which the best will be selected.

While each company has its own templates/formats for presenting below facts, will highlight 5 high level points typically involved in such docs.

  1. Vendor’s understanding of Customer’s business objectives/requirements
  2. Fit-Gap analysis based on business requirements
  3. Solution mapping
  4. Implementation methodology/Approach
  5. High level effort estimates

An excellent response to an RFP/RFQ would highly depend on how well you understand customer’s business requirements and then applying your experience to map them to Salesforce ecosystem.

An experienced consultant would always relate to best practices in design, finding the right fit (solutions) for requirements within Salesforce ecosystem, Configure vs customize (build), guide and mentor teams on validation best practices and manage the release cycles.

Consultant is a superhero who can be very effective in each of the above areas and believe me customers only loves superheroes these days 🙂

You can be one of those superhero within your company if you are rock-solid on technical areas, security concepts, know-how on Salesforce ecosystem and are willing to take up the next role (level) in front of your customers, teams and management.

Be curious, keep learning and chase your dreams. They do come true !!

Implementation: Once your organization is awarded the project based on RFP response that’s when the action begins, project team is on boarded and expected to deliver the business requirements within the committed project timelines.

Typical project implementation would go through below phases.

Salesforce Implementation phases

Most of you would resonate with the above phases and its activities. While you possess knowledge (in theory) on all of the phases but get active participation only on some of the areas —  Customize and Configure being the key area.

Solution Architects/Consultants (onsite/offshore) lead the project team into the project by initiating the discovery process i.e. Business process review.

Discovery: Understand the AS-IS process by engaging with end users — sales reps/managers, service reps/managers to walk through and understand their day to day processes and the current ways of business operations.

Details of the discussions are documented to understand the pain areas highlighted during RFP/RFQ and to finalize the high level user stories/requirements from these business users.

Requirements gathering (TO-BE business processes): Consultants along with Business/IT stakeholders have series of discussions in a workshop to go over all documented requirements, validate them and capture the details around each of them to enable your team to design and find the right solutions from within Salesforce ecosystem.

At this stage, some projects might undergo efforts/timeline revision based on the re-defined scope of the project.

Solution Design: This is one of the critical stages on your project. Architects would define the key decisions around application/data security, data model, Build vs Buy, programmatic vs declarative approaches, data integration/migration strategies etc…

Developer’s success is hugely dependent on how well your consultants are able to document and communicate with them on business requirements and related design inputs.

Build – Customize & Configure: Almost all projects today are claimed to be built in agile world. However it’s my personal opinion that projects are best delivered in Hybrid models.

It’s in this world of development where we as devs/admins get entangled, always under pressure to build within the timelines by following the best practices and relying on the design documents or on ad hoc inputs from our immediate leads.

If you understand both sides of the world — technical development and what business is expecting, you will be far more productive and effective in delivering the end results.

Consultants are not made in 1 day or over 1 project, it’s a continuous learning effort over multiple implementations, client interactions which remains with you as your experience.

Validate (UAT): True test of a developer begins with validation of its work. There’s no greater satisfaction for a developer than proving testers wrong when they try to find a bug 🙂

Agree? Unit testing is critical part of our devs/admins role.

Where we miss out is client interaction during UAT, ability to engage with business stakeholders and getting them to validate their own business requirements. Managing their expectations around wide range of topics — from global search to addition of records to creation of reports etc.. It is always challenging to interact with multiple curious minds and meeting their expectations with our salesforce experience.

Most of the times, expectations keep changing from business side and it becomes difficult to defend or justify your build if there is lack of proper documentation or timely sign offs.

UAT of projects is always subject to how well consultants have documented during Discovery and Design phase, how well you communicate with client business/IT stakeholders and ensure that there is minimal gap in expectations during final validation.

Deploy: All your efforts and hard work is deployed to production, businesses these days do not want to impact their revenues and expect the roll out to happen over weekends instead of weekdays.

Coordinating with multiple teams, users, stakeholders and ensuring the project team deploys everything as per the initial requirements is critical. As a consultant you need to ensure next working day when users walk into their office or get on with their job they get their logins sorted, user manuals rolled out and ensure a smoother/stable few weeks after the go live.

After more than six years on Salesforce platform, am still learning with each implementation, with every onsite visit, with every session I attend, with every article I read. Learning never stops !!

Everyone aims for the next role/opportunity in our career path, are we doing enough? Authority comes only with responsibilities.

Be curious, keep learning and chase your dreams. They do come true !!

With Salesforce project cycle understanding, let’s deep dive into Salesforce ecosystem and how as a consultant you need to be on your toes while finding the right fit.

So what’s next in Developer2Consultant #D2C series Part 3 : Let’s talk about a client scenario in our next post and how we will go about Discovery phase and then map business needs to Salesforce ecosystem

Reach me on Twitter : @RupeshBhatia85

You can also find this blog series @ BhatiaRupesh


D2C #1: Are you Curious – What, Why and How?

are_you_curious4“The important thing is not to stop questioning. Curiosity has its own reason for existing.”
Albert Einstein

Hello Folks,

Having worked with multiple teams in various IT services companies, am here to share my experience on how you can grow in your career from Developer2Consultant (D2C)

D2C blog series would focus on different aspects of becoming a Salesforce consultant during a project life-cycle, right from Discovery to Implementation to On-going support.

Are you Curious: A curious mind is always trying to explore new avenues and is on a constant hunt to learn more. Children have purest of minds and they are always curious, they are never shy of asking questions.

So think about it, have we stopped questioning ourselves or people around us?

Questioning with the intent to learn something, discover something makes us a better professional.

What is the 1st question that comes to our mind as developers/admins after hearing a Salesforce requirement? How do I configure/code to address the said requirement right.

As a developer/admin, we all know or figure out how to get things done !! We all are already learning how to implement Salesforce through the means of Trailheads, Success community, Salesforce blogs, Ideas etc.. We have a vibrant Salesforce community which addresses all the how to queries that we encounter in our day to day project work.

Each Salesforce project is a journey which makes you travel in your career by few miles, it is the learning during each of these projects that evolves you as a thorough professional.

End to end Salesforce implementation cycle goes through below phases.

  1. Pre-Game/Discovery/Phase 0 (Optional)
  2. Requirements Gathering/ Phase 1
  3. Design/ Phase2
  4. Build + Unit Testing / Phase 3
  5. UAT & Training / Phase 4
  6. Go-Live/Deployment/Phase 5
  7. HyperCare / Phase 6
  8. Ongoing Support – Enhancements

Developers/admins at offshore are mostly involved from Step 4 on wards in the SDLC process.

Salesforce projects would include all these phases in one way or another, length of each phase might vary based on project requirements and client needs.

You would agree to the fact that client facing roles are given mostly to the project leads/business analysts or consultants and travel opportunities to those who possess a valid VISA right  🙂

Most of them begin their career in a developer/admin role and grow as a Salesforce consultant to get themselves into consulting or client facing role which in turn increases their travel opportunities (Onsite) as well.

What makes you stand apart from the crowd? Am not asking you to compare yourself with others here, but you should compare yourself with yourself.

Confused ? A curious mind should always ask queries – what did I learnt during my last project, did I improve my skill sets over last 6 months? if not, then you need to ACT now.

Have religiously followed this rule to evaluate my skills every quarter to push myself into those unknown territories which I feared once as a developer.

While you and me would have our own approaches, but fact of the matter is curiosity is the common thread among us humans.

You cannot restrict yourself to development or configuration world, you need to be curious, you need to ask relevant questions.

What and Why are you doing things in a specific way? again the intent here should be to learn, adapt and grow yourselves into a better Salesforce professional.

Let me ask you few more questions here.

  1. WHAT is your current role in the project?
  2. WHAT is your client’s business model – B2B  or B2C?
  3. WHAT is your client’s product list or what services do they offer?
  4. WHAT is their sales cycle or service processes?
  5. WHAT is their campaign strategy?
  6. WHERE do they get their leads from?
  7. WHY am i suppose to build/configure this requirement only this way? Can i propose some better alternatives?
  8. DO  you think about BUILD Vs BUY approaches?
  9. DO you think about programmatic vs declarative approaches?
  10. WHAT you build/configure, how does that impact your customer’s business?
  11. WHY your role in the project team is important?
  12. WHAT are the value adds that you bring to the table?

I can go on and on with this list, there are so many queries that you need to seek an answer for at each stage of the project.

You have answers on how to do things leveraging the Trailheads, Success community, Salesforce blogs, Ideas etc.. but why do you configure/code? All the above queries will be answered only by your own project team members/leads/architects.

Once you configure/build any solution or logic it should address one of the above questions that you had in your mind. Always relate it to your day to day project activities with your client’s business.

Trust me, people who are able to establish this relation are the ones who are in client facing roles, making more $$$, having accelerated career growth and more importantly changing someone’s business and impacting a end user’s lifestyle.

God helps those who help themselves !!

Stop blaming your fortune, your colleagues, your managers. Everyone is busy in their work, it is for us to seek their time and get our curious minds answered.

Where there is a will, there is a way !!

Two cents which I always share with my colleagues/teams, you are a good developer only if you can deliver projects on two parameters – Speed with Quality.

No project deliverable is successful with either of them, you have to deliver it on time and with the desired quality. World is changing rapidly and so is Salesforce !!

Be Curious and Keep Learning, Keep Sharing 

So what’s next in D2C series Part 2 : Know Your Customer 

Reach me on Twitter : @RupeshBhatia85

Traveller’s Journey : Scissors to Salesforce

Fortune favors the BOLD !!

This is one mantra which I have religiously followed and lived in its true essence all these years. Am here today to spell out my journey before and after Salesforce. This being my first blog, there’s a lot to tell, lot to listen, lot to share with you wonderful people.

Am not a professional blogger, so please bear with me on this attempt.

Will try and catch up soon…..

This journey can well be divided into two parts : Pre-Salesforce (2000- 2010) and Salesforce (2010 – till date).

Road to Salesforce (2000 – 2010): 

Coming from a financially backward uneducated middle class family, it is expected especially in my part of the world to follow your father’s footsteps and do what your fore-fathers have been doing all these years.

My Dad’s been a barber who migrated during his childhood days to the city of dreams -MUMBAI, managed to held his own. It was a distant dream for many in our community to get proper schooling those days but my father’s hard work and dedication saw the sunlight as he got me enrolled into an English medium school – ran by Christian missionaries from Ireland. This itself was dream come true !!

10th Grade – Year 2000: People had many suggestions and inputs on what should be my career option after fairing decently in school board exams. At the tender age of 15, was informed well by one of my mentors – listen to everyone, process their inputs in mind and do what your heart tells you to do.

While everyone advised Commerce/Arts, my heart and mind said Science was the way forward.

12th Grade – Year 2002: Once again, question here was to run my father’s barbershop or give a shot to become FIRST IT engineer from my small community. While I was fairly clear in my mind to join my father’s business and pursue higher education in Mathematics, there was a hope to secure merit seat in one of the engineering colleges of Mumbai University.

Luckily, got a merit seat even though it meant me to travel 5 hrs daily to pursue my Bachelors Degree.

By this time, had already started learning the barber’s skills from my Father in his shop.

First Job – Year 2006: Badly in need of one, landed my first job within 3 days of my final engineering exam. It was bit on non-technical side dealing with XML pages but went ahead with it to support my family financially.

Just 1 month into the corporate world , while everything was going well. There was some unrest in my mind since it was not a technical role. During an interaction with Sr process manager just spoke my mind that am looking for a technical role and am going to leave this job soon. 

Year 2007 – 2010: It was here where I was introduced to the world of .Net programming and where I grew from a developer to a team lead doing all sort of work from programming to setting up DB’s , servers, LAN’s etc…We dealt with projects involving websites and on premise applications to handle large international Jewelery exhibitions.

Though this job had everything in for me, was still feeling like being part of the crowd. Need to do something different to have that push to my career. That’s when took one of the biggest risk of my life, signed a bonded labor to learn Peoplesoft ERP with one of the leading Indian IT firms.

Year 2010-till date: Bonded for 2 years in 2010 by a company to learn and work on Peoplesoft, had no clue whatsoever where am I heading to. Idea here was to back myself up to learn something new and give honest efforts.

As I said, fortune favors the bold – After 1 month of intensive training on peoplesoft, was not much excited about this product. Adding to that initial project assignment didn’t had much to offer to learn in Peoplesoft either.

Decided to speak up with my PM the very next day, who as expected asked to me show some patience and adapt. This was followed up by a meeting with the CRM Head, who listened patiently to all my past experiences and introduced me to this word called – SALESFORCE.

Yes this was the first time ever heard SALESFORCE, took on this challenge from her to research and help her build a team on this. This is how the journey with Salesforce begins…..!!!

While I studied patiently through Force.com Fundamentals documentation and training podcasts (26 videos) over a period of 3-4 months, there were doubts raised by my colleagues on my madness – Imagine yourself in a Peoplesoft business unit of an IT services firm and you are trying to learn something where there is no support, no team, no projects and you have bonded yourself  for next 2 years (didn’t had enough financials to break that bonded labor)

There were tons of questions in my mind:

  • How do one learn Salesforce ? There is no team around, no one to help in learning salesforce, no documentation that can be referenced either.
  • Who is going to give me projects in Salesforce?
  • Will management support me if i do a certification? How will they get project with just 1 certified resource in their practice?

Had only one answer to all of this…

Am liking this product and platform, will work hard towards it and rest leave it up to destiny and god….

While I worked hard to do POC’s , small projects. Fortune had to be on my side,  got a chance to train, mentor and lead a 15 member Siebel team on Salesforce.

This was the first and THE BEST project of my decade long career, where I worked with the best client, best implementation partners in Salesforce – later acquired by Salesforce.com and learned all the nuances of Architecting, designing and implementing Salesforce for a global client in flat six months. 

Have never looked back since then, have always backed myself against all odds, worked with multiple super-talented people in this community and learnt few key things which would like to pass on to my team members, friends, well wishers….

  • Never give up, believe in yourself. There is an opportunity waiting for you.
  • Give it back to the community. Keep Learning, Keep Sharing!!
  • Customer’s success is your success.

Since 2010 have seen multiple young/experienced professionals trying to learn Salesforce.

For young professionals …..

  • Focus on Basic Concepts – Security Model, Data management, User management, Object Oriented Programming , Integration Patterns etc..
  • Relate what you’ve learnt and implemented on how it will impact your end customer’s business. You will feel good that you are making an impact on this world.
  • Do not typecast yourself just an admin/developer. Aim for a being a consultant who can fit into either of the roles. 

For Experienced professionals…..

  • You’ve been great all these years in your previous technology but that doesn’t guarantee any success in this community.
  • Start learning Salesforce from scratch as a fresher/beginner. Go back to your old learning days and you’ll find learning Salesforce that much fun.

People who have known me for long, will relate to this journey at some point or the other.

Thanks !!