Anatomy of a Deployment Failure (Pt. 1)

We are excited to welcome a new voice to the Accidental Admins, Jess!  Over her years of being a solo admin, she is learning how most of us do, on the job and figuring it out as she goes along.  With a healthy dose of self-reflection (deprecation?), humor, and a willingness to acknowledge there is always room to grow, we are looking forward to Jess sharing her stories with the Accidental Admin community! – Tom

Some mistakes you make as an admin manifest themselves instantly. That one simple change you make to records in production that triggers the process you forget to deactivate, or removing that redundant field that it turned out one person depended on every single day.

These are the mistakes that we tend to focus on, because they’re the ones that embarrass us. We perceive these errors as the ones that cause our users to lose faith in us – the ones that start those impossible-to-quell whispers that say salesforce doesn’t quite seem to work how it should, does it?

This is not a story about these kinds of mistakes, because in reality these aren’t the confidence-killers.

This is a story about the kinds of mistakes that build up slowly, causing something more insidious than immediate embarrassment; a quiet, growing discontent amongst your users. Because those whispers are much more dangerous to your deployment. That’s just how it is now.

The thing I need you to know before you start reading this is that I didn’t write this for you. This is for me; it’s a rant. It’s a post-mortem. It’s a way of ordering my thoughts as I try to come to terms, personally and professionally, with shortcomings that I didn’t recognise until it was too late.

This isn’t going to be a technical post. I’m not going to deal with any of the normal subject matters of a salesforce blog, so please – if you’re here for insights on visualforce, or sandboxes or flows or all of the other things I’m not very good at, go read another post from one of the other Accidental Admins.

In truth, the failure which I talk about isn’t a technical one, particularly. Spoiler alert – the moral of the story is going to be about failure to consider, to plan, to empower and inspire.

So it seems fitting to frame this retrospection around those people I work with, and introduce them to you as I go. As a group, I’ll refer to them as users, but I’m really talking about a small but successful construction business with 14 office-based staff (and 60 operatives on-site).

Both I and Salesforce started with the company in September 2017, so at the time of writing we’re coming up on two years. When I started as Procurement Manager, the company’s purchasing department was entirely paper-based. I’d had some limited exposure to salesforce administration before, so I insisted when I was offered the role that I was given a licence, so that I could quickly cobble together a couple of custom objects with email alerts to give me a duct-taped purchasing system (because scanning and filing most certainly is not my jam).

Growth in both users and scope has since been organic, which is a polite way of saying “reactive, needs-driven and haphazard,” but Salesforce has now firmly taken root in the company. We’ve rationalised, consolidated and replaced many of the previously-independent data sources throughout the business, though some remain equally stubborn and perplexing in their continued presence

There remain gaps, such as pricing (still done on a spreadsheet), integration with our accounts software (invoices raised and received alike are both double-entered on to Salesforce and Quickbooks Pro Desktop alike). But overall, I am happy with the progress that has been made to date.

But the strain between the operational commitments of my role – procuring materials in particular – and the inherently more strategic elements of process planning – have meant that it’s not always been a particularly easy relationship between me and my colleagues.

At times, not always entirely unfairly, I’ve been accused by construction site managers of prioritising Salesforce over delivering value for money for their projects.

It’s taken me almost two years to find the equilibrium, but I finally feel that my Directors understand the value added by the work I undertake with Salesforce, so I have of late enjoyed a sense of contentment, security and indeed respect from those who own the business.

So everybody’s happy, right?


Meet Leslie.

It’s her third flutter through the office. She clearly wants something of me and I can’t pretend to be on the phone anymore.

“Morning Leslie,” I say. My face aims for friendly and/or approachable but doesn’t quite stick the landing, so I slurp coffee to hide the weird smile-grimace that results. It goes a bit wrong. 8.30am and there’s coffee drops on my shirt. Everything always goes a bit wrong around Leslie.

I assume every admin, accidental or otherwise, has a Leslie. The bogey user, capable of finding a flaw in your new process mere minutes after roll-out but still can’t remember how to login. The one who thinks it’s nice you’ve got a hobby, but the spreadsheets have worked fine for 20 years.

Entire nights have been dedicated to coming up with management strategies for Leslie. None have borne success. I even made a table:

Approach Outcome
“I’m making you my roll-out tzar!” “I’m already the coffee tzar”
“Alright, just this week don’t use Salesforce, see if your numbers go up or down. Just for funsies.” “I made four times the number of calls and three times the appointments. I made notes for the surveyors on these post-its.”
Leslie: “I’m not switching to lightning.”

Jess: “I’ve switched to lightning for you.”

HR: “Leslie says you’re discriminating against her by changing the salesforce.”

Jess: “It’s just Salesforce.”

HR: “Alright Napster, lets talk about ageism.”

Leslie: “I want you to remove lead rating, its utterly useless.”
Jess: “…I mean okay…”
Leslie: :O “I never suggested that, you’re confusing me with Stephanie”

Jess: “Stephanie’s blonde and 30 years youn-”

HR: “Hey Jess, quick word?”

But Leslie’s left me alone lately (one of my more successful management strategies was lobbying to have her and her entire team across the street, so I suppose her opportunities are limited).

But now she’s back in the building. Coffee has been shed. And she’s got a gripe.

Oh hey Leslie. Thanks for stopping by. Want me to login as you by any chance?

Confession: for all her flaws, the reason Leslie’s my bogey user has more to do with me than it does her. If we’re talking about failures as an admin, then she is mine made manifest.

Because every time she mispronounces verification code as variation code, or sends a typo-littered message through Outlook rather than one of the diligently-crafted, relentlessly-split tested templates I’ve written, or tries to demand that we switch back to Classic, all I can hear is my own inability to empower my users.

This morning’s no different, as she delivers a withering assessment of how I’d set her leads up in a sing-songy, syrupy, victorious sort of cadence. I’ve long since stopped listening and just nod along vacantly.

“So if you could just pretend to be me,” she says, reaching over me to grab my mouse and bringing me back to reality, “I’ll show you the problem,” promptly discarding the changes to the report I was working on before realising she doesn’t know how to access setup.

I wrestle control back as politely as I can, use the Login As feature and head to Leslie’s Sales Console. Personally I don’t like Sales Console – the telesales team like it for Split View, but I find that when you’re working with lots of different objects your screen fills with records fast and before you know it you’re working on 26 different records.

Everything looks as it should – leads listed on the left, ordered alphabetically, records popping up in the right when clicked.

A lot of leads on the left. 50+. I start scrolling, realisation dawning. 100+. 200. I can’t go any further; split view won’t let me.

I switch to List View, pull up a chart with a record count, and for the first time a sobering thought that has stuck with me since entered my head.

I don’t really understand the telesales role.

3147 leads in total, not that Leslie knew that, stuck in split view as she was. Yes, stuck.

“Is that how many I have?” she asks, lowering her face next to mine and peering at the screen. I hold my breath, not wanting to breathe coffee fumes all over her.

“I’d never have guessed it was that many. This is so depressing. I feel like I’m only treading water with this whole thing.”

“Yeah, and you never knew how deep an ocean it was all along,” I say, and she tuts. Who even tuts at a colleague?

Maths time.

160 calls a week across 4 days, that’s what Leslie averages. But that’s not the number I care about. From that 160, she generates seven solid opportunities for a surveyor to attend, but disqualifies only 30. 37 leads closed out a week.

85 weeks. Over a year and a half.

It gets worse. These aren’t fresh-baked leads hot off an inbound marketing campaign; these are bought-in leads, purchased six years ago, long before either of us were at the company. Meaning that if they were cold leads back then, we by now we were surely north of the wall.

If I ran Leslie’s numbers last quarter, the number of closed out leads would have been higher. The low-hanging fruit was disappearing, the rate slowing. 85 weeks was a best case scenario.

Pause and reflect with me for a moment.

Imagine you earned minimum wage, but you could top your salary up with a generous commission package.

Now imagine that someone told you that your commission for the next year and a half of your life would be spent phoning people who accidentally ticked an opt-in box six years ago.

Finally, imagine that someone you knew was facing those 18 months, and blamed you for it.

So as Leslie trips over herself to both point out and apologise for pointing out, this is my fault. This isn’t why I introduced Salesforce to our organisation. I sold everyone – the telesales team included – on the elimination of bureaucracy.

“No more bad leads,” she says pointedly. “That’s what you said.”

I did say that, back in January, when the telesales team came back in after Christmas.

“Jeff’s pushing me to get through this list. He’s pushing us all, and you’ve told him this would speed us up. It hasn’t! I’m still going through them one at a time and it’s slower than ever!”

Actually she’s right – record for record, the system feels slower, particularly in lightning. Compared to the previous CRM, Act, which was a glorified rolodex – but a bloody quick one.

Of course, you couldn’t actually do anything of use in it, and it didn’t interface with the rest of the business, but that doesn’t matter to Leslie. Why should it? From her perspective, she still can’t do anything of use in it.

“Have you tried running a campaign?” I ask weakly.

“I come in, I call whoever’s first on the list.”

“Have you sorted your leads geographically?”

“I come in, I call whoever’s first on the list.”

“But you’ve got the ability to do so much more with this data,” I say.

“You might have,” she shoots back. Then she says it again.

It’s hard not to get demoralised at this point. I’ve shown the telesales team multiple times how to do all of these things. In a fully-articulated, scaled sales & marketing team they wouldn’t have to, but again – we’re a small business. We all have to wear many different hats.

But it doesn’t matter if I’ve shown them, does it? What matters is if the knowledge and skills are retained. We’re all familiar with the refrain; “if it’s not on salesforce, it doesn’t exist.” But when it comes to functionality – if it’s not our users’ heads, one way or another, it might as well not exist.

“We’ll do some more training,” I say weakly.

“Adrian says Samantha can do training with us, ten minutes every day. Which is good, because she’s less technical than you. She says she’s really looking forward to it.”

Samantha. I haven’t worked with Samantha since the office move. I used to line manage her, back before a departmental shuffle. She’s the closest thing I’ve ever had to a user champion. She was actually my first user; she’s responsible for quality control on our survey reports, and when I saw her struggling to keep up with the volume of badly-worded reports she was re-writing by hand, I went to the directors and secured the budget for a Nintex DocGen licence so that I could build her an automated replacement.

She’s flourished since then, and has recently started managing her own sales negotiations, which she credits to having time to learn the surveyor’s role. She is, therefore, an unashamed advocate for the power of automation in improving one’s prospects.

But training telesales users? This seems like a risk; she’s ignored my advice to get started on trailhead (ain’t no bonus attached to it, after all) and there are all sorts of doohickies, hoozits and indeed wotsits built into the telesales profiles that she’d have no idea about.

“Anyway,” says Leslie brightly, either oblivious or delighted at the inner turmoil she’s caused. “I thought it would be helpful for you to know where all us real people are at.”

And before I have time to contemplate whether she means that admins aren’t real people, she spins on her prissy little heel and waltzes off, leaving me to my coffee.

I need to talk to Samantha.



  1. Christi Kane says:

    Great article! I too started with Salesforce in September 2017. I run the back end and the training. I can relate to those that have already made up their minds against it, and those that find in cumbersome (we were on IBM Lotus Notes!). I too offer people to go to Trailhead. I like what Tom Hoffman said once – “With Salesforce, you can manage processes, but not people.” I feel like we need a “Users Comedy hour” at Dreamforce.

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