My New Adventure!

I am thrilled to announce that I am starting a new chapter in my career! A few weeks ago I left my company of 4+ years to join my fiancée, Fred, in an independent consulting business (Allenium) that he began earlier this year and has been fortunate to have plenty of work come his way!  This means that we now own and run our own little consulting shop focusing primarily on salesforce.com platform architecture, business and communication strategy, and application development. It is, of course, a little scary to not have a steady paycheck coming through the door, but working for myself has always been a personal goal and I feel so fortunate to be able to give it a shot so early in my (hopefully) long career. 

We’re making slow but steady progress on our website where we’ll host much more detail about what we do, but in a nutshell: we work with each other and with several other independent consulting partners to help our mutual clients make the most out of their investment of the Salesforce platform. We both feel strongly about “drinking our own champagne” and we are constantly exploring new ways of working as a small business. Ultimately we want to find and test different IT solutions for ourselves, and then share the models that we like (and use) with other small businesses who would benefit from a similar approach. This type of small-shop R&D is intriguing and is something that I am really excited to explore. 

Another reason (of many) that I am attracted to the smaller consulting shop model is that we have very little overhead (and no employees) which means we can be super flexible with the type of services support that we offer clients, including the ad-hoc “pay as you go” services model that bigger companies simply cannot support in the personal way that we can. I also love that when clients choose to work with us, they are choosing to work specifically with *us*; our brand = our personal identities, experience, and credentials, and when we bring someone else in to support a project it’s someone that we know very well and deeply trust. This kind of flexibility is enormously attractive to me and I hope to our current and future clients as well. 

Overall we’re super excited for this new adventure! I’m so grateful for all of the support from my friends, family, clients, former colleagues, and Salesforce community members, and I look forward to continue growing all of these relationships in the context of my new role. It’s a new era and I am beyond ready for it! #BringItOn! 

Using Your Inbox to Keep Up With Chatter: Part 2

Using Salesforce Chatter email notifications are monumentally important for anyone who wants to successfully use Chatter as a business communication tool.  In Part 1 of this blog post I explained why email notifications are important and how they can drastically reduce the number of overall emails that you receive and/or have to respond to.

Now that we can (hopefully) move past those common objections, I will reveal how I manage my Chatter email settings & notifications to ensure that I a) stay engaged and b) don’t miss anything important.

At a high-level, here are the steps I recommend to ensure that you remain as engaged as possible around important conversations and updates in your Chatter community: 

  1. Ensure you receive & manage personal email notifications
  2. Commit to a “Chatter thread subscription” strategy using likes and/or bookmarks
  3. Receive your personal digest on a daily basis
  4. Set ALL of your Group notification settings to “Every Post” or “Never”
  5. Set your “Default Setting for Groups I Join” to “Every Post”

I’ll go into more detail about each of these below.

1. Ensure that you receive and and  manage personal notifications
Almost all of these are enabled for me, with a few of exceptions that I’ll make a note of in a minute. But for the most part, if you disable these notifications you will not see posts/comments directed to you that would otherwise be sent to you via email, and eventually the people who posted these will be forced to send you an email with the same content. Best to not waste their time (or yours) and make sure you get these.

Here are what my personal settings look like, and what I recommend for most* Chatter users:

Personal Notification Settings

*This will work for most users; exceptions are those in the organization who have particularly high visibility (i.e. executives) and will gain high volumes of new followers, likes, and comments. If you’re an executive, think carefully about what is most important (the bottom section) and keep as much of the “mandatory” settings as you can handle.

2. Commit to a “Chatter thread subscription” strategy using likes and/or bookmarks
The strategy I describe below works for me, but could very well be tweaked and remain just as effective. I recommend this strategy as a starting point, and once you are accustomed to it you can tweak it to make it work for you in whichever way you need. Ultimately you should define and commit to a likes/bookmarks strategy.

  • Likes: I will like posts/comments not only to indicate that I actually like something, but perhaps more frequently to acknowledge receipt, i.e. let the author know that I read what they have to share. (This can be a powerful tool – think about the difference between seeing a post with 0 likes and a post with 20 likes… the post with 0 likes makes the author wonder if anyone saw it.) However, many of the posts that I “like” are congratulatory or are a discussion thread that I have no interest in or time to participate, so I’ve disabled notifications for “Comments on an item I like” so that I don’t receive endless, redundant, and/or irrelevant comment notifications.
    Like
  • Bookmarks: I use bookmarks to subscribe to – or “follow” – conversations, particularly those in which I have not yet participated (i.e. commented). If I receive a Chatter email notification with a new post and I want to make sure I am tuned in to the responses, I simply bookmark the post (often by replying to the email notification with “Bookmark”) so that I automatically receive notifications when someone responds. If the conversation gets to a point where I am no longer interested, I can simply remove the bookmark and the notifications disappear. The beauty of this is that no one else can see when I bookmark/un-bookmark conversations, so I don’t risk offending anyone by “unsubscribing.” Using bookmarks this way is basically a hack for following/unfollowing threads (like in Facebook). If/when Salesforce Chatter releases a comparable feature, I will likely shift how I use bookmarks. Bookmarks

3. Receive your Personal Digest on a daily basis
I also recommend receiving a daily personal digest on a daily basis. There are a number of areas in Salesforce where we can use Chatter but we cannot receive notifications (such as record feeds, other user profiles, and topics). It can be a challenge to keep up with these during the day, but your Personal daily digest will capture all of these conversations so it’s worth scanning every morning to make sure you haven’t missed anything.

Chatter Notifications Strategy - Personal Daily Digest

4. Set ALL of your Group notification settings to “Every Post” or “Never” – this is important!!
Chatter group email notifications seem to be a huge pain point for so many people, and in many cases it’s because of one simple issue: they elect to receive daily digests for each individual group in which they are a member. This causes inbox chaos every morning if you’re a member of more than a few groups (which most of us are). Remember that your personal daily digest will capture your group activity as well, so it’s redundant to also receive daily digests for individual groups.

To make the most of group email notifications, you should opt to receive notifications on “Every Post” or “Never,” period.

Chatter Groups are generally focused around teams, projects, initiatives, or on topical areas of interest. As a consultant, ALL of my project teams use Chatter rather than email to communicate throughout the day and with our clients, so it’s important that we are all seeing these conversations as immediately as they happen, otherwise Chatter would not be an effective email replacement.

However, there are other groups that I am a part of in my company that are interesting, but not critical to my projects or daily activity (such as some of our Partner groups or interest areas). For these groups, I never receive an email notification but I will see posts from those groups in my feed and in my personal daily digest, which is perfect.

People frequently join far too many groups to effectively keep up with, and my final recommendation for managing group notifications will help:

5. Set your “Default Setting for Groups I Join” to “Every Post” –  this is arguably the most important step of this strategy!

Groups I join default

When you join a group, you are doing so for a specific reason whether it’s your team, a new project, or a subject matter area you are interested in. If it is your team or a project group, you will want notifications right away anyway, so this setting will reduce the steps in that process. For all other types of groups, receiving notifications initially will force you to get a sense of the group dynamic, post frequency, and types of conversation, and from there you can make your decision:

  1. If you find that it is helpful/relevant to your day-to-day, you may choose to continue receiving notifications on every post
  2. If you are interested in the conversations but it isn’t relevant to your day-to-day, change the email notification settings to “Never” but remain a group member so that conversations appear in your feed and daily digest
  3. If you find that it is completely irrelevant or uninteresting, instead of changing the email notification setting to “Never,” use this as a prompt to leave the group entirely! If you remain a member of a group like this you will be adding “noise” to your Chatter feed. And remember you can always view public groups as a non-member or join private groups later.

————
Annnnd that’s it! Just five easy steps that will change your Chatter experience entirely. You’ll be more engaged, more productive, and you’ll quickly become a new type of leader in your organization. I promise you that this overall notification strategy technique will go so far in helping you manage what you see in your Chatter feed. And if it doesn’t, I would love to hear why and what you do to fix it! If you have another second to spare, let me know what you think of this strategy in the poll below! 

Chatty is pumped

Using Your Inbox to Keep Up With Chatter: Part 1

One of the biggest challenges for many Salesforce Chatter users is effectively keeping up with their Chatter feed(s) and ensuring that nothing important is missed. For any organization to successfully use Chatter as a communication tool, everyone absolutely must know how to manage and access the information and conversations that are important to them. Without taking the necessary steps to do this, Chatter feeds become chaotic, important conversations are missed by key players, and Chatter quickly loses its value.

But fear not, Chatter friends… I have discovered the secret ingredient to ensuring that you can keep up with everything important to you: Chatter email notifications. Yep, you read that correctly – as of today, our email inbox is the best tool we have to help us effectively track and manage our Chatter conversations.

Chatter plus email equals like

Yes indeed, I am a big fan of Chatter email notifications. They are a critical business tool, and if used strategically they will make your Chatter life so much easier.  Whether we like it or not, the truth is that we still live in an email-centric world: email is where most of us go first, last, and consistently throughout the day. Rather than trying to fight the email monster head on, let’s embrace our inboxes for the time being & make them work for us.

Emails vs. Chatter Email Notifications

Whenever I make this recommendation, the response I get 95% of the time is: “But isn’t the point of Chatter to reduce the number of emails I receive?” The answer to this question is yes, absolutely! Even with Chatter email notifications in place, the act of simply using Chatter will reduce the number of emails that you receive.

There is a critically important distinction between “Emails” and “Email Notifications” that everyone should understand:

  • Emails almost always require you to act and the sender chooses to subscribe you 
  • Email notifications do not always require you to act and you choose whether to subscribe

I’ll use this opportunity to share my absolute favorite video that demonstrates this concept (hat tip to vinJones Videos):


In summary: receiving a Chatter email notification is not the same thing as receiving an email, and is in fact preferable because the call to action is in your own hands.

Let’s dive a little deeper and do a side-by-side comparison of Chatter notifications vs. emails, by type:

Email vs. Chatter Notifications

As you can see, while Chatter email notifications are still hitting your inbox, they are drastically reducing the number of overall emails that you receive and/or need to take action on.  Other benefits of receiving Chatter email notifications:

  1. The ability to reply directly to the email notification to add a comment, like, or bookmark
  2. You can always flag/star notifications for later follow up, just as you would with normal emails (I do this constantly)
  3. You have the ability to forward the notification or reply privately if needed
  4. You are less likely to miss things that are truly important!

My goal with this post was to make the argument that there is significant value in using Chatter email notifications. With this foundation in place, my next post (Part 2) will reveal my specific Chatter email notifications strategy that make keeping up with Chatter feeds a breeze!

I would be interested know where you all stand on this (somewhat controversial) topic via the poll below:

Using Chatter Groups: Creating the Core Structure

I was recently honored to be a guest on the amazing ButtonClickAdmin Podcast – thanks again to Podcast hosts Mike and Jared for having me!

One of the topics we talked about was the importance of creating an intuitive context structure in any Chatter environment.  This was the first time I’ve explained the concept without a visual aid, and while I hope the idea was clear on the Podcast I wanted to create a quick post to demonstrate how it works.

In any working environment – whether it’s physical or virtual – employees need to know where they need to go to find certain people and/or types of information.  In a physical office building we place departments and teams together, which not only makes it easier for them to work but also makes it easier for their colleagues to find them.  The idea with creating core groups in Chatter is to do the exact same thing: represent your organization’s departments, regions, products, and teams through a deliberate and consistent Chatter group structure.  Every single team should be represented, like this for example:

Core Chatter Group Structure

In this example, every group represents an organizational team or function, and ideally each group uses a naming convention to make it easy for employees to immediately understand the context of each group (i.e. Region: Southwest, Product: Acme Widgets, Internal: Marketing, etc). Ultimately the goal is to ensure that:
a) the relevant people are members of the group (i.e. whomever is on that team) who all have a clear understanding of intention and use cases, and
b) that valuable information is published through the group’s information section as well as in the feed.

Having the right people in each group is only part of the battle.  The next important piece is ensuring that they publish the most commonly needed material from your group or team using the group’s “Information” section.  One of my favorite example strategies for doing this  is around product teams and their groups: I like to create a consistent set of bullets for each product group’s information section that all link to Content Packs (or folders) of material that is kept up to date by the product/marketing teams.  Here is an example:

Chater Product Group Information (example

When all product groups have this consistency built in, it makes it super easy for any employee to know where they need to go to find information or ask questions.   The same concept can be applied to any type of group, whether it be your regions, internal departments, etc.

The overall goal here is fairly simple: we want to make it easier for people to find what they need in order to get their work done.  If you don’t create some level of organization people are going to be lost, they won’t find what they need, they’ll become frustrated, and they’ll want to leave (the environment and/or their job).   Creating a core Chatter group structure like this will significantly improve your Chatter environment’s organizational environment, spur adoption, and ultimately help your colleagues be better at what they do.

What’s in my Dreamforce bag?

Of the many pieces of Dreamforce wisdom that I’ve gained over the years, selecting the contents of my daily Dreamforce bag is among the most important.  You will do a lot of walking (yes, I’ll have my FitBit so #GAMEON) and you should always plan to be away from your hotel from 8am -> 10pm+ (this doesn’t always happen but you should plan for it just in case), so it’s important to make sure you are armed with the essentials.   I was inspired by my fellow MVP Brent Downey’s recent post about what goes into his Dreamforce bag, so I thought I’d share what goes into mine since I’m apparently a tad more high maintenance than my friend Brent 😉

The Bag

I completely agree with Brent that this Rickshaw Commuter bag is the best bag ever.  It’s light, has pockets for everything, has perfect length and depth, is made of high quality material, has a soft liner for your laptop… it’s really just awesome.  If you don’t have one, go ahead and do yourself a favor by picking one up.

My Dreamforce Bag

The Essentials

Going counterclockwise, starting with…

  • Chatty! Obviously.  He is so excited for DF13, he can hardly contain himself…
  • Business cards and a business card holder (I just hate when they are everywhere)
  • Phone/card holder with wrist thing:  sometimes you want to drop your bag at your company’s booth or with some buddies while you go off to do X or Y.  I don’t always have pockets that accommodate my phone/business cards , so I keep them in this handy dandy holder so that I can easily grab and go.
  • Notepad and pen…you know, just in case…
  • FitBit Charger: I will not lose a single FitBit step because of low juice, no sir. (Friend me on FitBit for a lil friendly competition!)
  • GridIt: I LOVE LOVE LOVE my GridIt organizer (courtesy of Salesforce’s Erica Kuhl and Matt Brown) because it keeps what would otherwise be loose charging cords/headphones organized and together.
  • Extra wall charger …just in case
  • Mophie and/or Limeade battery charger (depending on which one Fred has): MUST.HAVE.JUICE at Dreamforce and I for one am not interested in being tethered to a wall.  These portable batteries have changed my life.
  • iPad: … yes, it’s 1st gen but hey – it works as well as I need it to!  But man, I cannot wait to get a Nexus tablet!
  • Personal hygiene/maintenance items + carrying case:  hand sanitizer, lotion, Listerine Pocketmist x2 (don’t worry, I have plenty more of these at the hotel), an extra hair band, eye drops for dry contacts, lip gloss, and Rubz for emergency foot massaging (thanks for the rec, Becka Dente), and Friction Block for preventative foot blister care (thanks for the rec, Brandy Colmer!).  Carrying case is essential so that these little things don’t end up everywhere!
  • Sephora’s Instant Depuffing Eye Mask: okay so I probably won’t actually bring this to Dreamforce, but I wanted an excuse to recommend these AMAZING one-time-use gel eye masks that makes you feel refreshed and amazing, even if you feel good! (Thanks for the rec, Cristina!)

So, I *think* that’s it.  Will keep note for next year in case any other bright ideas come along the way.  Happy DF13, all!

Join My Dreamforce 13 Sessions!

I am absolutely thrilled to have the opportunity to speak at Dreamforce this year! Not only is this my first time speaking at Dreamforce, but I am presenting in 4 different sessions.  I’m super excited and would love to see and hear feedback from all my friends!   Remember that the Agenda Builder goes live at 9am PST on Thursday 10/10. Drum roll, please …. here are my sessions (titles link to the sessions in the Dreamforce org):

MVP Throwdown 2013; Bring It On
Monday, November 18: 1-2pm

Join Salesforce’s MVPs as they share stories of their success, brainstorm cool ways to use technology, and even bring the (friendly) heat to salesforce.com product managers in the dreaded dunk tank of doom — actually more of a chair.

Chatter Launch – What you wish you knew first
Monday, November 18:  3:30-4:25pm

You’re about to click “Enable Chatter.” What don’t you know? Have you thought of everything? Do you have reasonable expectations for success? We all realize what brilliant things we should’ve done once a project is completed. Launching Chatter has little to do with the technology, and everything to do with people and processes.  Hear how a Salesforce Customer prepared for their Chatter launch, the outcomes, and what they would have done differently.  Join us for highlights of “what you wished you knew” before you clicked “Enable Chatter.” Ask questions and share your experiences in our session’s Chatter feed!

Set Up Your Org Like a Pro
Tuesday, November 19: 12:30-1:25pm 

Join us to learn from four seasoned admins and developers about some of the common mistakes made when setting up a new org. If we could start from scratch, how would we set up the ideal org? If you already have an org up and running, we’ll show you how to transition to these best practices. We’ll cover both old and brand new features, so there’ll be something for everyone.

Turn Chatter Into Your Sales Team’s Secret Weapon
Tuesday, November 19: 3-3:50pm

Chatter can be your sales team’s best friend or worst enemy – which is it for your organization, and how much have you done to make Chatter intuitive and valuable? Realizing a positive sales impact from Chatter depends on whether you’ve focused on a variety of people, processes, and technological considerations that are frequently overlooked. Join us as we uncover the keys for what every VP of Sales, sales rep, and Salesforce administrator should know to ultimately turn Chatter into your Sales Team’s secret weapon. If you take advantage of these recommendations – including how to measure adoption and success – your sales team will gain an advantage unmatched by your competition.

Comedy of Clouds (2nd Annual)
Wednesday, November 20: 9-10am

Join us to break away from stuffy coworkers and awkward networking to laugh your tail off. With this second annual installment, Comedy of Clouds is the hippest Dreamforce tradition since bean bags were invented. Salesforce-related skits and comedy will have you in tears… but in the cloud… so instead of tears it will be rain. Be there.

See you all soon – cheers to being #DF13Ready! (Click here to view/follow me in the Dreamforce org!)