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 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:
Ensure you receive & manage personal email notifications
Commit to a “Chatter thread subscription” strategy using likes and/or bookmarks
Receive your personal digest on a daily basis
Set ALL of your Group notification settings to “Every Post” or “Never”
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:
*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.
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.
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.
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!
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:
If you find that it is helpful/relevant to your day-to-day, you may choose to continue receiving notifications on every post
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
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!
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.
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 notificationsdo 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:
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:
The ability to reply directly to the email notification to add a comment, like, or bookmark
You can always flag/star notifications for later follow up, just as you would with normal emails (I do this constantly)
You have the ability to forward the notification or reply privately if needed
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:
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:
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:
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.
For the next 30 days, I’m going on a diet: I will deprive myself of email attachments entirely. We can call it the 30-Day Detach.
Email attachments are the worst. The worst! They are not far behind fax machines in terms of value. Sure, they were a neat feature in the year 1998, but we are so much better than that now – we’re so much better at collaborating online, now – that it’s time to move on.
Whatare you talking about: I, Becky Webster, will be 100% attachment free for 30 days straight. If all goes well, that streak may indeed continue, but in case something goes unexpectedly awry I’m going to publicly commit to a campaign of 30 days.
Whydo you hate attachments/Freedom:Because attachments are like loose-leaf pieces of paper that we xerox, hand out to each other, scribble on, fax to a bunch of people, get innumerable versions back, have a hard time keeping track of, and generally just cause unnecessary chaos. They’re complete time wasters – especially given our options in today’s gifts of collaborative technology – and this madness must end. I’ve tried thinking of a legitimate use case for sending an attachment, but I haven’t found any yet. None.
How on earth will you accomplish this: Luckily, there is only one rule I need to follow and it’s quite simple:
I cannot send any attachment via email – personal or work – ever. If anyone gets an email with an attachment from me, I start over at day 0.
The only exception I’ll make are email signature logos, which would be a waste of time to manage in this way. I’ll do my best to remove them, but for the most part I’m not going to worry about them. [Incidentally, if you have graphics or logos in your email signatures and have the option of removing them, you probably should. They translate as attachments which is misleading, makes it hard to find emails with actual attachments, and gives my thumb too much work to do when I’m reading on my phone. 8^) ]
Howon earth will you accomplish this part deux:
“But, how will you send documents to other people?
I’ll use one of my nifty tools like Google Drive and/or Salesforce Chatter and/or Salesforce CRM Content to send my documents. I’ll do this by uploading the documents to one of these environments, generate a unique URL address for the document, and send them the link. For example:
“But… what if someone sends you an attachment and asks for your feedback?”
Then I’ll read it and email them my feedback. (I’d prefer to do this on Chatter, but if email is the only option, then email will have to do.)
“But what if they send you a document and ask you to make edits on the document itself and send it back?”
I’ll use one of my nifty tools mentioned above to upload the document with my edits to Google Drive or my Salesforce environment, make them a collaborator, and then share with them the link. Ideally this would all occur in a single Chatter post …for example:
I’ll be sure to adjust the security settings of the document to meet the confidentiality requirements…kind of like magic:
“But what if you want to send pictures to your family?”
Easy breezy with Google+ and/or Facebook.
So, that’s it! Today – February 22nd, 2013 is my first day on this journey. It almost feels like a cleanse diet, of sorts…but perhaps even better! I’ll keep this updated with my progress & happily share any challenges or surprises that come my way.
Going on a diet by yourself is hard to do, right? So…. who’s with me that also wants to be #AttachmentFree?!
One of the things I like most about personal & professional social networks is the context that they provide around communication streams. We’re able to target our messages to specific audiences without needing to remember (or capture) each and every individual, and we also have more control over what messages come to us from other people. (Let’s take Facebook, for instance: I’m a member of a Dave Matthews Band (DMB) group in Facebook, and when I have something to say or share that’s DMB-related, I post to that group rather than to my profile (most of the time). Why? Because my target audience is entirely contained in that group, whereas posting to my Facebook profile would push my DMB news to all of my Facebook friends, most of whom have no interest in viewing or participating in my DMB ridiculousness. So, quick lesson = context is key!) A few weeks ago my company published a post I wrote that highlights this very concept in the professional network we use – Salesforce Chatter. In the post’s matrix we identified how someone should determine the most appropriate audience for any given Chatter post. Just like my Facebook group example, the beauty of Chatter and similar ESN tools is the ability for a single employee to find information, answers, content, and experts even if s/he doesn’t know who to ask. …Which brings me to my point: if you are consistently @mentioning more than a few people in your posts, one of two things is happening:
You’re not contextualizing your post appropriately (so as to reach the intended audience)
Your post is properly placed (in a group, for instance), but the appropriate audience isn’t receiving the message and thus not responding
The latter is not uncommon and is a significant part of what I’m paid to do every day in helping organizations develop consistent processes & streams of communication. When we see people abusing @mentions, sometimes the answer is training, sometimes the answer is adding or restructuring Chatter groups (though if it’s a 1-off conversation that may not be necessary).
I would expect that both of these reasons contribute to why people might be @mention abusers, but for now let’s assume that the first issue – contextualizing your post – is the primary reason for multiple @mentions.
In Chatter, an @mention directs a post to someone specific and, by default, notifies them via email. This can be a helpful tool in many instances, such as this one:
In this case, I saw a post in the “Ideas Central” group and realized that Bailey wasn’t a member of that group, so I used an @mention to flag the post for Bailey. As a result, Noelle’s post is adding value for someone she doesn’t even know because of the great use of an @mention to Bailey.
On the other hand, improper use of @mentions often means that you’re not finding the appropriate context for your post. Take this, for example:
We can see that Reese posted a marketing question to his profile – rather than the Marketing group – and simply @mentioned several people that he knows. In doing so, not only did he provide zero context but more importantly he didn’t reach the audience he needed. If it weren’t for the coincidental timing of Lucie seeing this thread, an inaccurate conclusion may have caused widespread & improper use of their marketing collateral.
Of course, there are occasions where multiple @mentions make sense, but more often than not, you shouldn’t need to use them consistently en masse – if you do, it’s no different then sending an e-mail to everyone in the company because you don’t know who to ask. That’s a problem Chatter is supposed to help solve. Unsure if you’re an @mention abuser? Double check your post placement first (use the matrix as a guide!). If it turns out that you are properly contextualizing your post but not receiving the answers you need, hit me up and we can walk through potential strategies to address your organization’s Chatter environment and communication structures. 8^)
Well… not all meetings. But most of them. I’m not talking about the quick one-offs where you might be helping out a customer or colleague, or recurring status meetings, because those have specific objectives and generally meet the APPS criteria (below). [Although now with tools like Salesforce’s Chatter, the need for status meetings is quickly becoming obsolete.]
What I am talking about here are expectations for those typical, scheduled meetings that usually include 3>= people.
Worthy meetings have APPS:
Agendas: Show me some love. Show me that you care. Don’t waste my time by asking me to attend a meeting without an agenda… or at least a known objective. I also prefer to have time limits on each agenda item, but for most people that’ll probably be phase 2, so let’s just start with getting agendas in the invite well ahead of the meeting itself.
Without an agenda or known objective why would I be inclined to give up my time?
Products: Meetings should produce or build something–otherwise what’s the point? The product could be a decision, a document, a calendar with milestones, action items…something. Don’t waste my time by hosting a meeting where we discuss–I mean, ‘brainstorm’–with nothing to show for it. Even brainstorming meetings should produce an outline, or action items.
Preparation: Nothing drives me crazier than when I prepare for a meeting (such as reading through a content draft so that I come to the meeting armed with feedback) only to find out that I was the only one who prepared, and the meeting is actually spent “discussing” (or regurgitating) what everyone should have known ahead of time. So… read up, review, understand everything you can so your meeting group can hit the ground running.
A great tip for keeping your calendar organized and up to date is to actually schedule your “to-do” items on your calendar. So if someone invites me to a meeting, I’ll schedule X amount of time before the meeting to prepare for it. This (fantastic) HBR blog post goes into more detail and I highly recommend reading: To-Do Lists Don’t Work
Structured discussion: Let’s use lunch time or even Chatter to brainstorm sans limit, and save valuable meeting time for structured, facilitated discussion that sticks to the agenda. It’s so easy to get side tracked and lose focus, so the meeting host or facilitator should ensure the discussion is indeed structured.
Don’t be a jacka**. If someone has taken the time to prepare and execute a proper meeting, don’t waste their time by checking your phone/iPad/laptop. Ever. If you absolutely must send that email, leave the room and come back when you’re ready to contribute.
For meetings in which I play a key role please check my schedule before sending the invite. It’s pretty easy, and most platforms support this super advanced feature (Outlook, Gmail, Lotus Notes).
With so much on our plates these days it’s ever so important for to exercise respect for each other’s time. If I’m asking for your time, you can bet your bottom that I’m going to do everything in my power to make it productive.
Historically I actually cancelled / rescheduled meetings where key people had to bail at the last minute or when it became clear that no one had prepared…so I rescheduled with enough time that everyone could commit to preparation.
To be clear: I’m totally not a meeting nazi, perhaps just a little revved right now. And I definitely am guilty of committing at least one, if not all, of these faux pas, but the point is that I recognize and actively try to avoid them. My goal is to aim for, you know…collective respect.