Be a Change Agent: An Epic Battle

change agent is a person from inside or outside the organization who helps an organization transform itself by focusing on such matters as organizational effectiveness, improvement, and development.”

is good

I know that Salesforce administrators are the embodiment of the “learners” referenced in this quote:

“In times of change, learners inherit the Earth while the learned find themselves beautifully equipped to deal with a world that no longer exists.” Eric Hoffer

We have to be.

We are responsible for educating our organization about the power of organizational transformation through effectiveness, process improvement, development and collaboration. We solve people’s pain, as grade-A problem solvers it is literally in our DNA.

We have to be.

Not many people within an organization are as prepared as we are to be a change agent. We have the technology (salesforce.com) and skill set (Salesforce Administration) at our fingertips, and we have the business knowledge etched into our brains. We are at the perfect location, at the crossroads of process and data and automation. We bring big value and return on investment (ROI) for our company’s investment in salesforce.com.

Furthermore, we have a duty to start positive change initiatives instead of responding to them.

So often we are waiting for the business to ask us for something; to tell us what they need. The truth is, they might never know what they need, or how to ask for it or who to ask it from!

And who are “they” anyway!? (More on this later!)

I propose it is our responsibility to share what we know with everyone in our company. If we could gather the courage to walk from our desk and enter the office of the CEO what would we say? We know enough about the state of our business and the state of our efficiencies and the opportunities for improvement (and the power of salesforce) to talk to the CEO for hours!

OK I know what you might be thinking: but so many of us have no resources, we are a one man/woman show or a two man/woman show or a one-women + two man show… the point is our teams are typically small (or there is no team and we are a Solo Admin!)! We are often not even in a true salesforce admin role, and are unable to dedicate 100% of our time to salesforce. It is this role we all know so well, of doing our “real” job and trying to make headway with salesforce projects on the side.

So why would I be asking you to go make MORE work for yourself?

Because we can’t afford NOT to.

It is one of those interesting situations that we often find ourselves in when we have to create our own destiny (and stop the hamster wheel from killing our soul).

We have to first prove the value of salesforce by creating a hype around the office about how much salesforce helps people and efficiencies. Then, our leaders are enabled to be very interested in making a full time role for us (because if we brought all that value when it is not our full time role, just think of what we could be doing if it was!)!

So how do you get started with this new state of mind? What is a real-life example of what you could be doing starting today?

Luckily, I LOVE real-life examples and action items! Below you will find a use case that uses a contract management solution as the project focus. It is meant to be a guide to get you thinking about what you would do if you initiated a change instead of waited for it (or if you have been asked to be a part of it already, this is how to get started making a power impact now).

You can (and should) replace all reference to “contract management” in the below use case with ANY PROCESS in your organization that is causing people pain, because the same exact steps can be followed, and the same exact frame of mind is necessary to tackle it.

Swinging the bat as a Change Agent.

Are you an #AwesomeAdmin for an organization that does not have an automated contract management solution? Does your current CMS house PDF/image documents that are unreadable, and reporting is impossible? No automation or notification of expiration dates or terms, and forget about finding those awesome ACTIONABLE clauses in there that allow for big profit or other value to the organization.

Maybe your company is in the state of mind that HOPES and ASSUMES those clauses are being tracked by the sales reps, or account management, or legal, or accounts payable… or someone!? Or “they” (whomever they are) just think it is acceptable and natural to have people running around to manually find these things when a question is asked or a quarter is ending.

This is how it has always been done so it must be the only way,” people complain.

Is this true!?

Nope.

Not with the power of Salesforce.

Think about when a person with a lot of tenure in the organization leaves the company, where does all that knowledge go? Oh right, there is an Excel file that they give to their manager (or a summary email with bullet points?). Whatever it is, I know it often relies on a lot of finger-crossing and hopeful wishing that knowledge sharing and collaboration is happing each time an employee that manages customer/partner relationships leaves the company.

Is that really how “THEY” want to run their organizations?

No. Of course not.

You  might say again, “they” just think it is the only way.

Well, what if “they” knew the truth. What if “they” were indeed ready for a change but didn’t know it was possible?

I would go even further and suggest a huge mind shift: That “THEY” don’t really exist.

That’s right, every single person that has ever complained about a process says “they” don’t understand what I need; “they” should be doing things differently; if only “they” knew how these things really worked and fixed my problems.

Wow. “They” have a lot of power!

If only “they” were real, you could talk to them.

But “they” are not real, “they” is just a placeholder for YOU:

“They” = YOU + your colleagues + your boss+ their boss

and/or

“They” = The person complaining to YOU + their colleagues + their boss + their boss

See the pattern here?

Saying “they” just allows us (as people) to kick the can down the road and feel like we have no hand in making our own processes miserable. It frees us up to complain and go on with our day. The good news is, once we replace “they” with “I” we immediately see possibilities on how we might be able to make our processes better. This is the (and possibly “only”) difference between a change agent and any other salesforce admin (or employee) within a company.

Here is an illustration of the domino effect happening when we start replacing “They” with “I”:

1) Change Agents:  “I don’t understand what is needed”

1) Others: “They don’t understand what is needed”

2) Change Agents: the “I” in #1 leads us to wonder “what could I do to understand what is needed?”!

2) Others: the “They” in #1 leads them to wonder about why “they” keep doing what they are doing!

3) Change Agents: the action question in #2 leads us to have a belief that there is an action we can take, so we start asking the right questions to the right people (trying to answer the question of how we can understand what is needed) which brings us toward positive change!

3) Others: the fact that there is no leading action question in #2 leads them to do nothing (except maybe complain more )!

TKO, how to knock “they” mentality to the curb:

(1) Acknowledge you have a painful process (or the people complaining to you have a painful process) and start wondering how YOU can start understanding it better or help solve the problem. This will enable you to get a frame of mind that gets you thinking about what you can do something about, it frees you from having to wait for “them” to find a solution; and

(2) Start talking to people in a productive way about the current pain of the processes with an eye toward problem solving (accept that you can contribute to a solution to make positive change happen!).

As a salesforce admin you already have the skills to implement process improvement, and you have the support of the salesforce success community, so you really can do anything! As long as you are talking to people about solutions to their pain and formulating a tactical plan of action along the way.

I know what you are thinking: “contract management is so MESSY!“. No one can see the answer to solve this problem in an easy way UNLESS we want to spend a million dollars to hire a high-end consultant to come in and clean up the mess! Our company doesn’t have that kind of money (or they do but they don’t really understand the value because it is so abstract).

With Salesforce you don’t always need a huge consulting partnership as long as you are approaching the problem from the right angle and are ready to build a strategic plan that will solve the problem using the skills that you have as an admin.

I propose as #AwesomeAdmins it is our job to show the VP OF SALES, the EVP of Business Development, the GENERAL COUNSEL, the CFO and or the CEO the value! What! GASP!

YES!

It is our duty to share the knowledge we have. It is our duty to use our skills to bring people together and make change happen that improves lives, employee moral and the company’s bottom-line.

We must show our colleagues that with a few simple steps and strategic partnerships from the AppExchange, we can solve major problems and bring HUGE VALUE (without consultants, or with a little help from consultants as a resource to do work that you have specifically assigned to them). With Salesforce we have so much at our finger tips: custom fields and objects, validation rules, approval flows, formula fields, dashboards, reports, automated notifications and AUTOMATED OPPORTUNITY CREATION… OH MY!!

If you designed (in a sandbox) just one piece of this automation, showing that you can automatically create & assign a new Opportunity to the account management team as soon as a contract expiration date was close to expiration, you could walk into the office of your CEO (or other leader) with the confidence that they would be EXTREMELY interested in learning what you have to show to them (there would also probably be a “and why aren’t we doing this already?” thrown at you)!

WOW. I love my job, how about you?!

So what does this mean in reality? What is the step-by-step on getting your colleagues pumped up about a new contract management solutions in Salesforce (or any new solution: remember to replace contract management with ANY solution/project you might have in mind throughout this entire article) and writing the project plan?

Well, you have come to the right place, because I happen to LOVE step-by-step guides too!

NOTE: The below guide uses headings that relate to the steps of being up to bat in a baseball game. You have to imagine yourself in the game, and it is your turn at bat:

Digging in and Getting Set.

1. Identify the PERSONAS of the current state. Talk to anyone that will talk to you about the current state. Find all of the subject matter experts (SMEs) and business owners. Find the VP of Sales, the EVP of Business Development, the CFO if you have to, anyone that is ultimately responsible for the business terms in the contract. Find those people that deal with the PAIN that is the current state. Get them talking, listen intensely and ask good questions with the intent of DOCUMENTING everything.

Here are some good questions to get you started:

– What type of contracts do we do as a company? How do we track the contract business terms now exactly? (NOTE: I am more interested in and generally talking about Sales contracts vs. procurement management contracts so please assume I am talking about contracts initiated by a sales team).

– What kind of reports would they want if they could snap their fingers and have them immediately and consistently (reliably)? Ask this of management and the sales team directly. They will want to track slightly different items most likely.

– What would that information drive them to do? What are the action items that are created from the information in these “reports”?

– What are their strategic goals (if talking to management) for the year and how do the terms of our contracts drive the success of these goals?

– What are their biggest pain points in regards to our current contract management solution?

– What type of metrics drive our sales incentive / commission program and how do we use this information to drive behavior (this might or might not have any relationship to the contract directly but this is good to understand if you are going to tackle contract management for your sales organization)

IMPORTANT:

Each time someone mentions another department or part of the process that you did not yet know about be sure to ask the name of the person that is responsible for that part of the process so you can talk to them next! Don’t leave anyone or any department out of the process, this is THE MOST IMPORTANT TASK YOU HAVE. Every key person/department must know they are part of the process and are important to the process, everyone must be involved and represented. Period. This is how you get the support and buy-in you need, so don’t let things fall apart from the get-go, you must do this to set yourself up for success.

Swinging the Bat. 

2. Now that you know what is going on currently you must identify the bombs vs. jams in the current state. Identify clearly the BOMBS (major PAIN of the business) and the JAMS (those pain points that will be solutioned automatically during the solution for the BOMBS just because we have force.com at our fingertips) in the current state documentation.

For example, the major pain might be “we have a standard template that our sales team uses but each one has to be reviewed by legal because we can’t guarantee they are actually on the standard template when loaded into our CMS for review as a PDF (and maybe there are key business terms that are variables and there is no structure currently)”. Ok great this is the BOMB to solve for. The other things they say such as “I need to automatically know when an expiration date is coming up”… well that will be solved for when you solve the major pain just because you know you can report on (or notify someone of) the Expiration Date in Salesforce if the field exists! So that is a JAM.

Now if they say they want an Opportunity to automatically be created based on the Expiration Date and assigned to the sales team, that could be bucketed as a major BOMB to solve for.

3. Watch my Dreamforce 2015 breakout session video on how to document the current state! Whoohooo! This was my first time presenting at Dreamforce and was so excited about the turn out, big thank you to those of you who attended, it was a dream come true for me!  The video walks you through in detail how to go about documenting the current state (and minding your PB&Js!).

It also includes a live role-playing meeting example of a current state gathering session (thank you to my husband Brian Wille @Steamboat77 and my awesome colleague Brian Lewis-Jones @Brianlewisjones for helping me out in this session, it was a blast!)

The Bases are Loaded.  

4. Congratulations, you are now officially an expert on your sales contracting processes! You probably know more about these processes than anyone else in the company as far as how all the processes connect to each other (assuming you did your due diligence correctly by talking to each team that was mentioned during the current state as explained above). The more work you put into current state research, the better your future state proposal will be (and the more impact it will make within your company).

So this is step four… document the ideal future state proposal from your perspective.

Bringing ‘em Home.

5. Now that you know the current and future state possibilities, you need to decide what is more important and what you can deliver given your resources.

Focus on the below items and write a plan. Write it out strategically and thoughtfully. I know it is time consuming, but it is crucial to success because this is where you get the support and buy-in from your stakeholders. This is your proposal, your pitch. It answers “why” it is important to change and go through with this project.

TIP: you can subscribe to my email list to receive a copy of my project template if you would like help getting started!

A. Identify the major bombs you are solving for. You CAN’T and SHOULD NOT solve for everything. This would be a big mistake and would set you up for failure. While it is important to KNOW everything about the current state (and your ideal future state), it does not mean your initial design and implementation should necessarily solve for everything (especially if you are going to do this on your own without a consultant). It is crucial you identify exactly what is the MOST IMPORTANT to solve for as the initial implementation (the “CORE Project”).

B. What will be on the future enhancement list? Anything you are not solving for in the CORE project should be put on the future enhancement list IN THE ORDER OF IMPORTANCE.

C. Given your current resources and priorities what is a realistic timeline to implement the CORE project. Write out what you believe will be the return on investment, talk to leadership in the organization to help you with this. You want to compare time saving efficiencies, tracking efficiencies, employee collaboration and moral into your analyses. If you improved contracting efficiencies by over 50% what would that mean for your sales team and the business overall?

When you send the project plan to your stakeholders include the future state proposal (the big vision/end goal) in the plan. You can make two future states if necessary (one big vision/end goal and one representing the “Core” project). Make action items in the email letting the team know you will setup a followup meeting to discuss any questions and concerns. Do not let them off the hook, if a stakeholder doesn’t want to move forward make them tell you why so you can try again from a different angle.

Home Base. 

6.  Check out my Admin to Admin Academy Video Podcast, where I talk about the “Admins Getting Started Model” (and there is a formula demo at the end of every episode)!

7. Post your ideas, concerns and questions on the Success Community to get feedback and support from your peers. Other #AwesomeAdmins and Salesforce MVPs are there to help you out! The community wants to help and guide you, so take advantage of the community IMMEDIATELY.

Here is a list of some groups to join now so you can start posting questions in them immediately!! 

- Admin To Admin Academy (this is my group, we just reached over 500 members whoohoo I am so excited you guys rule! We are dedicated to the ambitious admin looking to enhance their skills by bringing project management methodologies into their projects!)

- AdminHero.com Community (run by the AdminHero.com Brent Downey himself! If you have no idea who this is, click here now you are missing out big time!)

- Solo Admins (for the solo admin!! This group is run by Dale Ziegler, he is the coolest guy and is super engaged with the community and is always super helpful to everyone looking for some guidance!)

- ButtonClick Admins (this is THE GROUP for all #AwesomeAdmins as it is run the by first #AwesomeAdmin Mike Gerholdt, he now works for Salesforce as their official Salesforce Admin Evangelist but he started out as the ButtonClick Admin the original salesforce blogger!! He has over 3k people in his group!).

- Who Owes me a Beer? (this group is run by the one and only, the infamous SteveMo. Steve is an MVP and is known as the expert in formulas and anything else related to complicated functionality of Salesforce. He loves a good challenge so post your questions in his group and no doubt he will help you out or someone else in his group will — he is amazing — and has over 2k members in his group)!

Winning is Swinging the Bat. Period.

“Incredible change happens in your life when you decide to take control of what you do have power over instead of craving control over what you don’t.” Steve Maraboli

While you are using a methodology here, this is more art than science so take your time and find your pitch. JUST KEEP SWINGING THE BAT. In this game, it is NOT three strikes and you’re out, it is more like: if you don’t swing you’re out.

If you keep swinging the bat YOU WILL HIT THE BALL, I PROMISE!

Being an agent of change all starts with replacing “They” with “I” and continuing to be the grade-A problem solver that you already are.