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Serious Insights: Release Readiness and Trailblazer Community

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In this episode of Serious Insights for Salesforce Admins, MVP and host, Kristi Campbell, welcomes Tom Bassett to the show. 

Hello, hello, hello! Welcome back to Serious Insights for Salesforce Admins. On this episode, MVP and host, Kristi Campbell, is joined by fellow admin superstar Tom Bassett. Both veterans of the Salesforce community, the two spent their time chatting about Release Readiness and the Trailblazer Community.

Tom’s presence on this episode isn’t particularly coincidental – a SalesforceBen and Answers Community contributor, our special guest has built his entire reputation on guiding users through the frenzy of release season. When it comes to release readiness, few people are as knowledgeable as Tom.

Our fearless host brings with her a wealth of experience as well, of course. With nearly two decades of Salesforce experience, Kristi is more than well-versed in preparing for upcoming releases – even remembering when prep was just a downloadable PDF! 

In this edition, our two hosts combine their years of knowledge to explain the release process and release readiness, as well as share communities and resources that are available for support.

Without further ado, let’s make like the Beatles and rock and roll!

The Release Process

Three times per year, Salesforce releases updates to its various platforms and clouds.

In preparation for these releases, Salesforce uses a consistent, repeated procedure. This consistency allows for the Admin community to collaboratively prepare for the changes in upcoming updates.

First, pre-release orgs become available. These pre-release tools are designed for development and trial purposes, giving users a generic Salesforce model independent from their organization’s customizations. Release orgs will continually update for active users, making this first step redundant for long-time users (like our two pals). Production orgs are updated on a rolling schedule.

A few weeks later, Salesforce drops release notes for the upcoming updates. Proactive members of the community search through these documents to find all the upcoming changes and additions – this is where release readiness truly begins. 

CirrusInsight. Man researching Release Readiness

Shortly after, users are given access to the sandbox preview. Preparing through the preview instance can greatly impact and improve an organization’s promotion path, as it allows admins to test features in their customer environment before deploying the changes. While a traditionally difficult process to understand, the Salesforce community recently developed a Trailhead module and sandbox guide to assist admins in their release readiness.

As the release date grows near, Salesforce begins daily Release Readiness courses. These live webinars give users the opportunity to preview the upcoming release, as well as understand the changes they need to prepare for. Typically, the Salesforce team will host one course per cloud. At the end of each webinar, the Project Managers open the floor for questions and answers.

On release day the new version becomes live, then the process starts all over again!

Release Readiness

As admins, our lives pretty much revolve around release readiness. As a result, it’s important to understand how to prepare for upcoming updates. Of course, how your company prepares will depend on your organization’s needs, as well as available time and resources.

According to Kristi and Tom, there are two primary approaches: active readiness and passive readiness. 

With perspectives from both sides, our two MVP hosts explored the two main ways to prepare for upcoming Salesforce releases:

Active Readiness

When Tom was an admin he found himself in the middle of the release preparation fire. 

Like when Woodward and Bernstein followed the money, Tom methodically dove into the release notes for upcoming updates and searched for notable differences. Specifically, our guest looked for changes related to his company’s products and integrations. He then checked which critical updates would be enforced, as well as ensured he was prepared for any changes of behaviors, such as email to case.

Our hosts recommend doing the same if you choose to be active in your release readiness.

CirrusInsight. Woman taking notes

While not for the faint of heart, users who are actively involved in release season are the backbone of update readiness. If you ever dreamed about being Indiana Jones or discovering the Lost City of Atlantis, you just might be the right type of person.

Active readiness involves being a part of the discovery process for the Salesforce community. This includes diving into the release notes, researching the effects of updates, testing changes in the sandbox, and more. As Tom notes, at every point of the process active participants should be looking for changes and differences – specifically how the updated version is different from the current platform.

Among all the perks and benefits, Tom’s favorite part of actively preparing for releases is the competitively collaborative nature of the community. While there is no medal for discovering something first, thousands of Salesforce admins enjoy going on the collective hunts for all updates, changes, and easter eggs. With tags like #SalesforceTreasure, active admins can even share what they find!

It probably sounds nerdy, and that’s because it is, but the passionate community of active admins makes even reading release notes exciting. If you like being a part of an enthusiastic group, love solving mysteries, or just really like diving into the unknown, you may want to give active readiness a shot.

Passive Readiness

Literally the polar opposite of Tom, Kristi has preferred taking a passive approach to release readiness for the bulk of her career. 

Unlike active readiness, taking a passive approach is entirely reliant on the Salesforce community discovering and sharing what was found in release notes and sandbox tests. Instead of identifying updates herself, Kristi learns from the Salesforce community over various platforms – including blogs, forums, chats, and more.

CirrusInsight. Woman presenting to her team.

A passive approach allowed Kristi to effectively plan for the upcoming updates without sacrificing her other responsibilities (or having to read endless pages of release notes). If you prefer to be presented with information, don’t have time to deep dive release notes, or just hate reading, a passive approach may be best for you.

Three of Kristi’s favorite resources for release season are SalesforceBen, Rakesh Gupta, and SFXD Discord

As many readers already surely know, SalesforceBen provides in-depth looks at upcoming releases and updates, presented by active members in the community (including Tom!). Similarly, Rakesh Gupta showcases top features being introduced in upcoming updates, which he previews as the release date gets closer. Lastly, SFXC Discord offers unabridged released notes, which adds some much-needed snark to otherwise dull release notes.

In addition to her primary resources, Kristi relies heavily on Salesforce’s Release Readiness Live sessions. Led by Salesforce Project Managers, these live webinars highlight upcoming changes for every cloud and offer question and answer sessions.

Not sure what to do yourself? Us too. Our hosts recommend dabbling in both active and passive readiness until you decide what fits best for you!

Communities and Resources

If you’ve listened to most of our episodes, you’ll already have noticed one of our most consistent themes: the importance of the Salesforce community.

Like few other fields, the Salesforce ecosystem has consistently encouraged and enabled admins to connect with one another, share experiences, answer questions, and grow professionally.

In previous episodes, we discussed the popularity of online communities, like Slack and Discord, as well as in-person meetings, such as Salesforce Saturdays. In addition to these common communities, Salesforce offers resources and communities that can help prepare for future releases. Even when not used for Release Readiness, these groups are perfect for both veteran and beginning admins.

Kristi and Tom highlighted the following resources and communities:

Answers Community

Like most admins, Kristi turns to her main communities when she has questions or concerns. As a leader of the Answers Community, Tom quite literally does the opposite.

The Answers Community is a sub-group of Trailhead where Salesforce admins can ask questions on just about anything – workflow solutions, development problems, you name it. 

Users can submit their questions to either a specific community, like the Release Readiness group, or to the general Community Feed. No matter what, all posts are visible from the main Answers Community page – something Kristi just learned about!

As one of Answers most active members, few people know Answers quite like Tom.

Our guest is quick to point out that the Answers Community has a range of users, focuses, and sub-groups. As a result, the forum has a combination of introductory questions, niche requests, and complicated issues. Typically, questions reflect the current issues in the community.

CirrusInsight. Woman shaking hands with her coworker.

Within the realm of version updates, the Release Readiness Answer Community is dedicated to supporting admins as they prepare for upcoming changes. Questions typically cover the best way to adapt to new updates, what to expect from upcoming changes, how legacy products are impacted, and more. As the release date draws closer the Readiness group peaks in popularity, especially after Release Readiness webinars.

Regardless of how it’s used, the Answer Community offers admins the opportunity to connect with other professionals and participate in growing the collective knowledge of the industry. With millions of users, even the most mundane questions are guaranteed to garner conversations about new perspectives and approaches. 

Whether admins join to diagnose problems or to help others, the forum is a perfect place for users to grow together.

As you jump into the Answers Community, make sure to be on the lookout for Tom! As an all-star user, our guest host is almost always ranked in the top-10.

Release Matrix

You don’t have to be Keanu Reeves to enter the Release Matrix!

Rumored to have started as a private project by a Salesforce employee, the Release Matrix is an excel document that displays all upcoming changes for Salesforce in an organized manner.

With filters for different clouds and features, Salesforce admins can use the Release Matrix to stay organized on upcoming releases, as well as to prioritize which updates they want to prepare for most. Clever admins even imported the Release Matrix into their org, giving them the ability to track the parts of the release they want to manage.

No matter how you use the Release Matrix, this free tool can help you be organized for upcoming updates.

Idea Exchange

Formally called the Idea Exchange, ‘Ideas’ is a corner of the Salesforce community entirely dedicated to the formation and development of concepts to improve the platform.

Connecting Salesforce developers directly with admins in the community, the forum allows for users to share their suggestions, as well as express interest in potential updates.

CirrusInsight. Man presenting to his coworkers.

On the platform, users can submit their ideas to improve the Salesforce system. Then, with a virtual coin-based system, users can support the concepts they are more interested in. The more coins an idea receives, the more popular it is with the community. With dozens of filters, users can focus on specific ideas that impact them.

As an example, at the time of writing, one of the top voted suggestions is the ability to clean up old notifications – a sentiment that over 5,000 coins have been spent to boost.

The Ideas platform came in direct response to years of consistent criticism: users wanted a way to show the Salesforce team what they really wanted and needed. In the years since creating the platform, the admin community has seen more relevant updates and releases, including many with concepts that originally started on the forum. 

An extremely active community, the Idea Exchange is great for users that want to share their own solutions, as well as discuss ideal updates. If you hop on right now, you may even see posts by Tom – he typically has 80 to 100 ideas at a time!

AdMinute 

In addition to being active in communities, both Kristi and Tom are active learners. At the conclusion of every episode, our fearless host asks her guests to share any blogs, articles, or resources that caught their attention recently.

For his recommendation, Tom shared SalesforceBen’s newest post with top tips for flows. With best practices and real-world applications, this blog post is sure to give you “flowspiration” as you prepare for Salesforce’s inevitable transition to the future of automation!

Staying on the same theme, Kristi shared SFDC Panther’s video on creating opportunity contact roles with Flow. A perfect tutorial for exactly what she needed, Kristi’s recommendation detailed how to show variables, flow, and more. When it comes to preparing for Flow, SFDC Panther’s entire channel to learn and grow with.

To hear more from Kristi, including her AdMinutes, visit the Serious Insights episode catalog.


Episode Transcript

Kristi Campbell: Hello, and welcome to Serious Insights for Admins. I'm your host, Kristi Campbell, the admin here at Serious Insights. I'm joined today by our first international guest. Hi, Tom.

Tom Bassett: Hiya. How are you?

Kristi Campbell: I am lovely. I'm so excited to have you as a superstar answerer in the community. I think you'll be a great resource to talk about our topic today, which is release readiness and leveraging the trailblazer community, which I will probably refer to as a "success community" at least once because I'm old school, but tell me a little bit about how you came to Salesforce life and have been involved in the community.

Tom Bassett: Yeah, sure. Thanks. Thanks for having me today. Ultimately, my Salesforce career started off as an administrator back in 2018. From there, I've kind of worked my way up to become a consultant, a lead consultant, and now a senior consultant, so I've been going along the methodical trailblazer path there and definitely working with lots of different people throughout my career so far, different types of people. As well as that, in terms of my actual professional career, I do quite a lot on the answers community, as you said, and right now, you might see my face on the leaderboard there as one of the top 10. Also, I do some articles for Salesforce Ben as well, so you might have seen some of my content on there, too.

Kristi Campbell: Very nice. I started back in 2007 with Salesforce. So my release readiness journey has evolved a bit more since starting in 2018, but I wanted to touch on some of the resources as an admin that you can use to get prepared for this three-times-a-year release. It used to be it was a PDF and Mike Gerholdt had some tips about printing it and highlighting things and kind of reading the whole thing, which I think is a little bit larger of an ask now, but what have you found as some great ways to get in touch with these changes that are coming three times a year?

Tom Bassett: Yeah. Okay. When I was an administrator myself, I was part of the preparation for these things, too, so part of that was ultimately reviewing what was coming, having a little look at the release notes, but being sure to filter the release notes by the actual products that you're using because there's no need to look at analytics if you're not using that as a product family.

Also, part of our process and part of our journey was to also just make sure that there aren't any critical updates that are going to be enforced at the same time. For example, if Salesforce was changing the behavior of email to case or something like that that would've affected us, or me as an admin, it's important to know what that is, where that's coming along, and also, maybe taking advantage of testing these things, trying these things out in a sandbox because as you may know, Salesforce update the sandboxes first, and you can also get your hands on a pre-release org, too. Through that, again, you can get to grips with some of these new features, and maybe start thinking about how they could apply to you and how they could apply to your use cases.

Kristi Campbell: Yeah. I definitely think the sandbox schedule sometimes feels a little bit like... Just they've gotten better about how they present it in terms of the decisions you need to make, right, so if you aren't able to refresh your sandbox, knowing what pod it's on, to then understand if it gets updated, that's gotten a lot more interactive. I think Salesforce does a great job of making you aware as soon as possible as to when the release notes come out in advance of making decisions about your sandboxes, if it makes sense to spin up a new sandbox, or depending on which types you have, to really get in.

I find that in some of the communities that I'm in, there's the people who want to use their pre-release orgs and go look for Easter eggs. If you have a pre-release org from a past release, it will get the new release again, right, so as long as you keep it active, that kind of continues to be your pre-release org. I find that I rely a lot on others to surface those things that they find interesting in those various channels, so there's a certain amount of reactive experience on my part. Then, of course, you've got some wonderful people who persevere and read through the release notes and are known for putting out pre-release nuggets, right? Are there any specific ones that you look for?

Tom Bassett: Yeah. Personally, I would usually go to a website like Salesforce Ben, or somewhere like that that I've trust. From there, I would see particular features in regards to, I don't know, top features for Sales Cloud or Service Cloud. That's where I would get the information from. It's interesting, actually, you saying about the treasure hunting, because I'm one of those people that will usually go in and as soon as Salesforce give you access to the latest pre-release org, or as soon as they open the gates, I am one of those people going through the orgs and looking for the treasure.

It's quite interesting because you have to remember what was there before and what's there now to actually be able to identify the difference between the two, and for me, it gets a little bit competitive because Salesforce always put the post out some way in advance, so you know when it's coming and the treasure hunt is starting, and I'm always trying to post something that maybe somebody else hasn't spotted already. I think maybe that's just me and just the competitive nature of who I am, but it's certainly like a game, and Salesforce certainly treat it like a game because they actually have within the release readiness group itself, you have the hashtag #forthetreasure. Ultimately, it becomes a game where you're looking for this Salesforce treasure with pretty much complete strangers around the world. You're all participating in this game looking for this treasure, but you don't necessarily know each other. The only thing you've got in common is the fact that you're actually using the same system. That's definitely a part of the release that I really enjoy.

I guess over time, Salesforce have got better from back when you started in 2007. It has definitely evolved in the time that I've been using Salesforce. It's got to a point now where they kind of have things out on a repeatable process, so you know that the process is going to up with the pre-release org, and then a couple of weeks or days later, the release notes are going to come out, and then again, couple of weeks after that is when you actually get access to the sandbox preview, and then it goes on from there.

I think something that's really helpful and not just to me as... Something that's really helpful, and not just as a consultant, but it would definitely would've helped me as an admin is those release readiness live sessions. Towards the end of the release cycle, Salesforce kind of go into overdrive, and they do these release readiness sessions on a almost daily basis, but they do one per cloud. I've also seen them before do a whole session on flow because as we know, Salesforce are going with the flow, so it is certainly interesting to also just get a glimpse of what your org will look like post-update, and maybe be inspired a little bit about how you can do things using the new features, or maybe how you can make simpler now that something else has come out.

That's, I guess, the thing that I enjoy about the release the most is the collaboration with others in the community and the competitiveness of it. Obviously, Salesforce push out a Trailhead badge or two along the way, too, which is always good to actually test your knowledge of the release and understand what's coming. But ultimately, we are kind of all in this together. Whether or not we know each other is a different fact. We're all using the same system, so we're all kind of working towards the same common goal of understanding what's coming.

Kristi Campbell: Yeah, I think it's definitely, to your point, there's some people who go hunt for those Easter eggs, or even review those early release notes and put out some more general blog updates. You've got Rakesh Gupta does a great top features, the SFXD Discord does the unabridged release notes, which add a little snark to it, which is nice, but you also mentioned, you've got some people that do per cloud kind of focus, so I think that really helps, too, to narrow down the large feeling of having to learn all the things, or look at all the release notes, I think can be intimidating to an admin, so I think those are great ways to help. Then, especially as you mentioned, the release readiness live breaking down per cloud and getting product managers to show you key features, as well as taking live questions and answers, which I think is really awesome that per feature, cloud, or like you mentioned, the Einstein automation, which includes flow and Orchestrator now. It's a great way to see the PMs and be able to ask questions and to get yourself prepared for things that might specifically relate to you.

I think another cool thing is, as you mentioned, taking those ideas, and thinking about how you can optimize your process. Even if it's not something that you want to implement right away, for example, dynamic gauges is a new thing that has been requested on the idea exchange for like 14 years, right? I'm not ready to the next day to jump in and change my dashboards, but it's good to be aware of certain things so that even if you're not going to go order all your flows the next day, right, that you're aware to start moving forward, which I think is an important consideration, right?

To your point, there might be critical updates. There might be certain things that are date specific and that you want to test and make sure aren't going to impact operations. But there's also just a lot of things that being aware of in general, so that, you might have it in your head that you have to do something a certain way, but making sure that you're aware of the current way to do things, right? Even things on the order of execution are changing with this release with some of the changes for flow, so just being aware of some of those things that kind of evolve, even if it might not change your day-to-day life, right?

Tom Bassett: Yeah, no, definitely. Yeah.

Kristi Campbell: I wanted to touch on, you mentioned the release readiness group on the trailblazer community, and I wanted to touch on that. Is that something that you engage with really all year long, or is that your top place that you are going to stay connected with, as you mentioned, other people that are exploring the release? Does that tie into answering questions, or you kind of are doing both? Are the questions a lot about the release, or you just answer questions about all kinds of things?

Tom Bassett: Yeah, so that's a really good question. With that, the release readiness is just one small segment of the trailblazer community. What I focus on personally is the "answers wall," as I call it. Then from there, I would ultimately pick up answers from anywhere in the community, so if they've been posted in that group, or a different group, or maybe just posted on the main answers section, it's very tempting for me actually to answer some of those questions that come in during the Release Readiness LIVE. I have to stand back and let the actual product managers answer those because I don't want to take away their fun. That's what they're there for. I know that Salesforce line them up and get them ready and that's what they're there to do.

Naturally, during a release, you do see a influx of those types of questions. It's usually around the same type of thing, like, "How does flow orchestrator differ from actual flows?" Or, "How does this feature apply to me?" Or, "Maybe this release update is going to be activated soon. What does it mean if I've got code that's using an older API version?" Or whatever it is, I naturally see over time those questions during a release time.

There's also a little part of it as well, that I guess something that we haven't touched on yet in terms of retirement as well because Salesforce naturally do retire some products and some products do reach their end of their life at some point. I mean, you don't see very many of those types of questions, but there will still be one or two that maybe is using a legacy version of something that is impacted by it being retired and is trying to figure out what's a new way of doing things.

For example, somebody might have been considering Lightning Sync would probably now be considering Einstein Activity Capture instead. What's the difference between those two things? The community has those types of highlights and conversations ongoing throughout the year, but definitely when it becomes part of a release window, you then start to see, as I say, the influx. Usually, I can tell. I can go onto the answers community and actually understand what session has happened that day because I can see all of the questions are related to flow, or maybe they're related to sales cloud, and I think, "Okay, so Salesforce must have just done the session on," whatever it was.

Kristi Campbell: It got everyone thinking about that. That's so funny. Yeah, I think for any admins that aren't in the group, it's called Release Readiness Trailblazers, it's got the asterisk on the end. It's probably a featured group in the trailblazer community for the most part, but I do think it's a great point of reference to start from, especially because as you mentioned, you've got people there posting their Easter eggs when pre-release orgs come out, you've got links in the group information that talk about all the different guides and dates and anything you might be getting via email as an admin, they're going to link to those posts as well.

One thing that we talked about that I think some people don't know about is the release matrix, which I think actually started as somebody making it for themselves at Salesforce at that kind of became a thing that now people wanted it after it got passed around a bit. It's an actual Excel document that allows you to filter for different clouds and features, just another way to organize yourself. I've seen some people import it into an org to have objects and records to actually track the things about a release that they want to manage, right? Then, of course, as you mentioned, there's a link to the Trailhead modules and the schedules of the official Salesforce things that they're doing, so you've got a good balance of the members of the group posting things, and then the actual information for the official Salesforce stuff. That's on the groups piece, so that is great conversation to follow.

Then we also talked a little bit about ideas, which I think is another interesting piece in the community. Have you posted any ideas before and putting them in a release?

Tom Bassett: Yeah, I have, I think I'm... Yeah, I think I'm actually responsible for about 80 to 100 ideas right now.

Kristi Campbell: Wow.

Tom Bassett: My day-to-day is building the system out for different customers. If there's something that can't be done, I would definitely be the type of person that goes out and posts an idea for that exact thing. Then I will share those with my own kind of social internal networks as well, and get people to upvote, and is good as well in terms of what we are seeing from Salesforce in regards to the trend and the importance of the idea exchange, as it was formally called, because historically, there was that kind of frustration that there was a number of ideas that had been out there for a long while, and they haven't necessarily been addressed, or maybe not even reply to, in some cases.

Salesforce is trying to improve that and flip the problem on its head a little bit with the prioritization rounds that you get a couple of times a year as well now, where you get given some virtual coins. Trust Salesforce to make something like a game. They do it so well. You get your virtual coins and you spend them on the ideas that they've selected for the prioritization, so that's always good, and you can actively influence there in your own way what is coming up next, so we are actually starting to see some ideas that have come from a round of prioritization have won that particular round, and you're actually now starting to see them through to completion. That's definitely nice to see and good to know that some of the ideas are being addressed by Salesforce and are actually making their way into core products.

Kristi Campbell: Yeah, I think it's an interesting, another approach to looking at the release notes, right, looking at things that came from ideas, because again, those are use cases that people had that they couldn't meet. I think it's kind of funny, over the years to get updates on things I requested two jobs ago, right, that made sense then are something I needed for them that gets comments or continues to get upvotes. I know on the actual records, you certainly can upvote things, but if you don't have a bank, then you can upvote everything all day long if you want, right?

I think the prioritization has been a really good next step into really kind of put you in the seat of a PM to make you think about if you could only have so many development points, right, what would you kind of put your attention on? Has been really cool. I think that, again, is another facet of the community that can be interesting for people to engage, whether it's supporting ideas, or like you said, encountering something that you can't do and building an idea that might end up getting support and then seeing those things through all the way into the release.

Tom Bassett: Yeah. No, definitely. It'll be interesting to see where Salesforce go with that as a concept purely because this gives us a little bit of a glimpse into what their teams are currently working on because the ideas that come up for prioritization are for those teams that have capacity to develop those new features. A recent round was quite strongly focused on NPSP and the Salesforce comment or reply was purely because so many of the other ideas were around core product or around reports or dashboards.

Those teams were already working really hard to deliver those, so it kind of gives you a little bit of a bird's eye view and an appreciation of what Salesforce is doing all at the same time in all of the different arenas because I don't even know how many clouds they have now, I think it's probably got to be 20-plus different clouds, so there's obviously various different teams behind the scenes that support making those ideas part of the core platform. It's just interesting to just see what happens behind the scenes and have your little bit of influence there with your virtual coins, too, as well is always fun.

Kristi Campbell: Yeah. I think it's interesting, too, these little pockets of the community, right? We've talked about groups, especially around release readiness, but there's groups for all kinds of different topics, right? If you are trying to work on flow, you've got a flonatics group, I'm sure, that's answering questions, right? Sometimes those things are in a Slack group, or in Discord, or in a variety of other places, right? But I really like that Salesforce supplies this structure for the community, for, we mentioned group conversation, whether even your local user groups as well and community groups, the idea exchange to allow you to have that voice, and as you mentioned to prioritize.

Then I do want to circle back to the answers community, because I think that's a really interesting... I, over the years, have developed other communities that I talk to, and so I think that's my habit is to go to those to ask questions first. I'm kind of curious, as a top-10 answerer, do you get a lot of introductory questions? Do you get a lot of super-specific niche questions? What kinds of things are people reaching out for help for on the answers community?

Tom Bassett: Yeah, okay. Before I go into that, I think it adds a little bit of flavor here to explain that when somebody goes into a particular group, so they might jump to the experience cloud group and ask a question. When I go to the main answers board, that shows there amongst all of the other questions. It never used to work quite like that, but now it does, and it all feeds into one feed of unanswered questions.

Kristi Campbell: I didn't know that. When you're in a group, instead of posting to the group, if you do ask a question, then it goes into the questions. I did not know that.

Tom Bassett: Yeah. As a result of that, I get a lot of different types of questions. There's always the general influx or flow of Trailhead-related questions, like, "I can't pass this challenge." That type of thing comes up quite a lot. Usually, it's the same type of issues that people are having. The power of the community is with a quick search, you can usually find somebody else that's had the same problem and get some kind of idea or inspiration onto how to fix that, if it's a particular module or project that you're working towards.

Another part of that is you then get the type of people that maybe they're full-time admins, and maybe they are solo admin, and they're struggling to understand. Yeah, exactly. I think we've all been there, struggling to understand a particular feature, or maybe they've built something and it doesn't quite work and they don't really have enough knowledge to understand why, so they're just a little bit stuck. I think the really empowering thing about the community is that I can be sat here in UK and help somebody on the other side of the sea in America or wherever they are and have a really influential impact and positive impact on their day by just making something easier for them to understand. Sometimes I actually have quite a back-and-forth between people and I kind of enjoy that weighing up what's right here and what's wrong because as you know, with something Salesforce, there isn't necessarily a right answer, or a wrong answer.

Kristi Campbell: With just one answer.

Tom Bassett: Yeah, exactly. It's quite funny sometimes. I'll answer a post and somebody else will answer a post with completely different suggestions, so it's definitely useful to have those different voices there on the community because I might give a suggestion and somebody else may then add their own, which is maybe better for you. It works if it's your business processes better, or it helps your users a little bit more, so there's definitely that type of thing that's posted there quite a lot.

Ultimately, sometimes I break it down, and I can get some people are really struggling and they're almost overwhelmed by it as well, so I kind of look after that emotional side of the question as well, or at least I try to, and I kind of own the question for them and reassure them that I will try my best to help them and to get an answer. In some cases, actually, I've gone above and beyond, and they've requested something really niche or something particular, like a flow that does a certain thing, and I've actually just gone out into my own playground, built the flow, and given them a step-by-step screenshot instructions on how to actually do it. Obviously, you can't do that for every question. I mean, I would love to, if that was an actual full-time job.

But you can tell sometimes when people are kind of a little bit overwhelmed and you can make that positive change, that difference to them. I think that's ultimately what community is about, that. Yes, it's gamified. Yes, there is a leaderboard, but it's actually just about helping others and sharing, and sometimes just weighing up different options, like quite often, there'll be somebody posting, and they're looking for form options, and there will be, I don't know, 20 or 30 people that flood into the post and say, "I've used FormAssembly. It's great," or, "I've used Formstack. I preferred it," or various different options, different voices can really have power there, and certainly help the poster get the best solution for them as well.

Something else that I think would just be useful to roll back on in terms of actually release readiness is the Trailhead side of it as well. Talking about in particular, obviously, we have the release highlights that are published every release, but naturally, with Trailhead, there's usually a badge on it. You can usually find it somewhere. There is actually one out there for release readiness in itself and it actually goes through, like maybe as an admin or whatever your role is, what you would do to prepare for said release. Part of that, usually when you are an admin, you don't necessarily users that are working 24/7 and Salesforce time the release on purpose, so it happens in the small hours of the morning usually.

Kristi Campbell: After hours, mm-hmm

Tom Bassett: But there are some use cases where you do actually need to think. I've got users that are going to be using a system at that point, so I need to tell them that they can't get in during that window, and also, maybe I've got something that is going to be impacted by the release, or maybe I just want to give users a way of just making them aware that a release is coming.

Kristi Campbell: Mm-hmm, in case they see anything.

Tom Bassett: As a result, let us know if there's any issues afterwards, so I think that part of release planning is really important, too. If it's just a templated email or something, you send out and say, "Hey, the release is coming. As a result, the system is going to be offline between this window. If you notice anything weird post-release, then let us know. We'll take a look at it for you." I think that just reassures the users as well, because if something's changed in terms of UI-wise in the release that otherwise they're going to be sat there thinking, "What's happened? What have I done?"

Kristi Campbell: "Is it me?" Yeah.

Tom Bassett: Yeah, exactly, so there's that side of it, too, and there's also the testing side of it as well. If you have Salesforce handling something in a different way, then that's really important, too, because if you have some crucial business processes, it's going to be changed by a pending critical update, or a product retirement, or maybe just a new feature or something, it's really important that you keep the show on the road. The post-release, it actually still works. I think that's definitely a little tidbit for you as well there.

Kristi Campbell: Sure. Yeah, definitely. I think the leveraging the resources that you have, again, that are, like you said, helping you learn how to prepare, and actually opening that channel for your users to have that communication path just in case anything comes up that you don't catch, I definitely agree is key. Then leveraging the community for questions that you do have, whether you're a solo admin, or you just within your team aren't sure about something, or as you mentioned, learning other people's use cases.

I even think for new admins that are training, looking at the questions in the answers community can be really helpful to learn, to solve things yourself, right? These are actual business use cases that people are coming up with that they have questions about. Just like Trailhead, I mean, at least then you can check your answers, right?

Tom Bassett: Yep.

Kristi Campbell: But it's giving you scenarios that you're building something to address. The super badges certainly kind of leave you a little bit more to figure things out, but like you mentioned, there's probably a few different ways to solve problems, so look at the type of things that people are asking that you might be facing as a similar admin, and like you said, building those things out and trying to solve those problems, whether you actually reply or not, right?

Tom Bassett: Yeah.

Kristi Campbell: Just it's a great way, to me, to get use cases. I think it can be really interesting for someone who's trying to learn, maybe about a new cloud, or something new that you can be in a playground, and can be trying to learn. Although, I mean, of course, if you do solve the problem, or if there's wonderful people like you that are taking the time to build out a flow, or to dig into something, then that's also a great resource for new admins and those of us just running up against something we're not sure about.

Awesome. Well, I think we've got some great ideas here about preparing for release. We're in release season. Soon we'll be in Easter egg season for the next release because it all just cycles through, right? I did want to finish up with our ad minute. When you're taking an ad minute for yourself, something that maybe you've read or watched, or maybe even written recently, that might be interesting for our listeners.

I know for me, I found a great YouTube video by SFDC Panther that is about using flow to create opportunity contact roles. He's got a great Salesforce flow builder series, and we'll link to the one I was looking at in the show notes, but it was basically almost exactly what I needed to do, and so it's really helpful to see what variables they're building, what the end flow kind of looks like, literally, almost exactly what I need to have a model, so as I'm getting more and more involved with flow, just understanding those concepts. I don't want to build it in workflow or a process builder, because I know I need to go out to flow, so that was a great resource. He's got an entire YouTube series about different flow use cases, so that's been really helpful to me this week. How about you?

Tom Bassett: Yeah. It's actually funny, you mentioned flows because I think there's quite a lot in the community just around flows and almost some people being scared of them. I think it's definitely useful to break that barrier down that people have. I've written a couple of articles for, for Salesforce Ben. One of them was in regards to some real life flow-sporation, as I called it. It kind of gives off-the-wall use cases that have had actual customers that have stretched the limits of what flow can do, and also, as part of that, there were some top tips there in regards to best practices, things to do, things to not do, just to make sure that your flow runs as expected, and ultimately to just utilize flow as a tool going forward because as we know, it's the future of Salesforce automation. It's important to get that type of experience and share ideas and real-life, as I say, flow-sporation with other people, too.

Kristi Campbell: Did you say "flow-sporation"? I like it.

Tom Bassett: Yeah, pretty sure I'm just making up words at this point, but it is definitely very important.

Kristi Campbell: I mean, we love a pun and a made-up word on this podcast series, so awesome. Well, we will link to that as well. Thank you so much, Tom, for joining us and sharing your experience with managing release readiness and engaging with the community, and of course, for all you do for the answers community to help all the other users out there. It was great chatting with you.

Tom Bassett: Yeah. Great. Well, thanks for helping me.

BJ Mendelson
BJ Mendelson

BJ is a Content Strategist with Cirrus Insight.

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