Expanding your Brain and Taking a Risk

brain-power-imagejan2013-programHello again everyone!

If you follow me on here or on Twitter, you are probably wondering where the heck I went for the last three months.  For the last year, I’ve been VERY active on many fronts, but then I pretty much went silent.  Timing was unfortunate as right in the middle of this transition, I was honored with the Force.com MVP designation by the Salesforce.com community.  Fret not everyone, your faith in me is not misplaced.  =)

Why should you keep reading?

Because Salesforce is awesome and by the end of the post, you’ll see why it’s always important to try new things to expand your brain, even if it seems a little odd.  (tl;dr at the bottom)

Ok, I’m in, what’s the scoop?

I was approached last year by a group of people that I’ve known for some time that had a successful and profitable business but were looking to take the company to that next level.  Without miring you in the details of the company history, it needed some very focused energy and fresh blood to get it there rapidly.

They were of course looking for technical direction, leadership, and knowledge, but more so they were looking for someone who could strategize and think further out to “what’s next in technology?”.

This company does lead generation – not exactly in the development / deployment wheelhouse of Salesforce that I have been heavily invested in for the last five years, but it’s that space that we developers and technical people rarely go – the actual real-world execution of “marketing and sales”.  Questions like:

  • “How do we best position web traffic and optimize web pages to capture the highest number and best quality leads, track them through the conversion process, and then further monetize them on the front and back end?”
  • “If a lead contacts us through multiple channels, how do we best maintain a single lead record by capturing and combining all data to best capitalize on opportunity?”
  • “How do we choose the best program or product for this lead in real-time based on their usage habits?”

Normally, it’s the “HOW” that we architects and techies tackle.  Enter the “WHO”, “WHAT”, “WHERE”, “WHEN”, and “WHY” that happen before the “HOW” hits your desk as a smattering of emails and pre-set timeline expectations.

picard-facepalm-300x260So, role-playing for a minute…how many of you have been in the situation where the business comes to you with “ok!  We’ve done our research, here’s what we need to do…”?  Inevitably, the next thing that comes out of your mouth is, “well you know, if you do [x], you’ll be able to far better [monetize / report / enable other opportunities]?”

If you haven’t raised your hand, nodded your head, or smirked at that last part – hold tight, you’ll experience that soon enough.

So how does Salesforce tie back into this?

Salesforce is Customer Relationship Management at its roots.  Everything that is done starts and trying to make money, and finishes with making more money through customer satisfaction, retention, and product innovation.

(C’mon, let’s not beat around the bush – that is truly why we all do what we do)

I firmly believe that Salesforce has proven themselves in the market as the leading platform by at least two laps.  There are a lot of things it does well just as much as there are things it doesn’t necessarily rock at.  I’ve struggled with this for a long time – trying to figure out “why” that specific sales rep wants “that feature”.  Is it because they are on to something I haven’t heard of yet or maybe they’re just weird – who knows?

Unless you actually work in that Sales and Marketing world – do you truly know why “they” do what they do?  Why does lead status really matter?  Why is certain data so valuable to certain people?  I fancy myself to be rather insightful as to a lot of it, but without ACTUALLY living it, it’s all really just conjecture.

Serious question – apart from the SFDC product team, who really knows all of the features that Salesforce can offer?  How do you even know what really to ask if it handles?  The answer is you will never know unless you get your hands dirty – be a fly on the wall in the sales strategy meeting, take a new position that allows you to think differently, really anything that gets you away from only staring at code and admin screens all day.  Get out, talk to the users, get engaged at a strategic level.  Leave your “ooo! ooo! I can solve that with [x]” technical brain home for the day and just listen.  There is always time for you to hit your Ballmer’s Peak later that night.  =)

Ok, tl;dr.  Why am I reading this?

Never become complacent with your level of knowledge.  Always strive to look into the haze to understand the “WHY” behind the “HOW”.  For a technical person, taking the time (and sometimes risk) to step out and immerse yourself into the “uncomfortable” to better understand why the business world does what it does is an incredible opportunity.

Check back to my previous post, “Developers are the new Kingmakers” to get some background on this – and never be afraid to take a risk.

Thanks for reading!  I know it was a bit of a rambling post, but it’s been far too long to keep it to a simple technical article. =)

Questions?  Comments?  Hit me up below or connect with me on Twitter @andyboettcher.