If there is one mantra that Salesforce has been driving home, its that its good to listen to your customers. Not only does the platform provide us with some excellent tools to engage with our customers. Salesforce also make sure they are providing tools, communities and events to listen to us!
When you put forward an idea, how often do you stop to think about what your responsibilities are? The obvious one is stating clearly what the idea is. After that, surely your idea is so good it needs no further perspectives? Right? Wrong!
The key to making it an idea Salesforce Product Managers can understand and support is giving them the information to fight your corner when they are allocating development resources ahead of each release. Them agreeing it is a good idea is not always enough to make it through. Developers even in Salesforce are a finite resource. So priority calls have to be made, especially when some ideas are not cheap to develop.
So what can we do to help Product Managers help us?
Idea Exchange is one such place where you can raise your ideas, socialise them and have others vote on them. You can read more about the Idea Exchange process and guidelines here. The sidebar shown on the Idea Exchange page allows you to review ideas implemented and those upcoming. Votes are of course important, but having a well formed idea is also equally important to getting it in front Product Managers and into internal discussions during planning. As per the Salesforce guidelines…
“The minimum point threshold is to help us manage communication expectations only and does not factor in how we prioritize our road map. Product Managers can and do deliver Ideas of all point values big and small, it’s just that we can only guarantee status updates on Ideas that have the most community backing.”
Preparation and Perspective
Take some time to understand what has lead you to your idea. If your a developer or admin, what is the business process or user experience your trying to achieve and could not? How has the lack of whatever feature or facility you need impacted your customers or client? Remember Salesforce are thinking about the customer, as should you. Think about the following and try to answer in as quantitative way as possible.
- What is the impact on the users productivity?
- What common use cases are effected by not having this idea?
- What is the impact on the build cost (e.g. more code and less clicks)?
- What is the ongoing cost of any workaround?
Ensure your idea title can relate to as many people as possible
- Keep your idea focused. You might feel there is a larger problem or concept being missed, but try to avoid letting this creep into your idea. Don’t just state the area of the idea in the title, e.g. “Process Builder – Criteria”.
- Relatable by others. If your a developer or admin, try to make your idea relate to more than just your fellow developers or admins, keep the technical terms to a minimum. Instead of “Add X method to class Y” state “Ability to perform A from Apex”. You can always include code samples or ideas in the body of your idea. Try bouncing the idea off others for feedback before submitting.
- Focus on the idea, avoid being to prescriptive. Unless its pretty clear its the only option, try to avoid preempting the solution to your idea in the title and focus on the idea itself in the title. If your to prescriptive you risk detracting from the problem and what the idea is about. Instead offer details on your thoughts regarding how Salesforce should implement your idea in your description.
Your description is your shop front, sell your idea!
Take a moment to understand the toolbar and the tools on it. Prepare what your going to say separately as you cannot edit what you post and preparing in the posting window can be risky if you accidentally close the browser window!
- Structure your description and prioritise.
Readers only have a limited amount of attention, so it is unlikely everyone will read your idea from top to bottom. So keep it short and try to tell a short story using your preparation above, bring the reader with you so they can better empathize with the problem being solved and thus your idea. Focus on the problem statement and qualification, then the idea, then additional thoughts or specifics that might help with further understanding or solving the idea.
- A picture speaks a thousand words!
Understand what the most visual striking way of expressing your idea is. If its a new button or field you want, consider a screenshot with some annotations on it.
- Format and pretty print your code.
Use the code toolbar button to include sample code. This highlights in a different way from your text. Make sure to get the spacing corrected, don’t force the reader to read through poorly formatted code.
- Use hyperlinks to other resources.
Link to community posts or StackExchange threads where other users are talking about the problem your idea solves. As discussed above try to inline pictures or code in the description, don’t force people to click through to read more about your idea. That said you might want to include a blog reference that goes into more detail, especially if you have included thoughts on workarounds that might help Salesforce in determining the options for implementing a your idea.
- Encourage comments that add maximum value to supporting the idea.
Finally in your description, encourage people to comment on the idea in ways that add value to your problem definition and impacts. Comments that say “+1” or “We urgently need this!” don’t really help. What you want is evidence from the community through brief testimonials or examples of how its impacting them or their users. This of course also applies if your reading this and comment on ideas as well. You can also comment on your own ideas to give updates or further thoughts.
Socializing and monitoring your idea
- Use your social network for sure. I think its also fine to retweet to ask for more support every few months or so, just don’t over do it. Also if you happen to know who the Product Manager is for an area, say on Twitter for example. Then helping by drawing their attention to your idea is also something you can consider, just be polite and professional when you do!
- If you have a blog and or write answers on Success Community or StackExchange provide a link to your idea as well. Try to do this at the top and bottom of what ever peace your writing, again not everyone reads till the end!
- Don’t spam people with your idea, that can have a negative effect.
- While adding a link to your idea to an existing blog or community post is also a good idea, do make sure it’s relevant.
- You’ll get email notifications each time someone posts a comment on your idea. Consider reaching out to them if you think they can add more detail or further support your idea.
At the end of the day….
I’m aware there is sometimes skepticism about Idea Exchange and thus people either don’t post to it or when they do they don’t put in enough effort to frame their idea. At the end of the day its up to you if you feel its worth the effort vs the reward. I know many of the Salesforce Product Managers really value the type of information i am describing in this blog and thus has been one of the drivers behind writing it.
The other thing I do know, through working in an ISV myself. Is if someone has clearly put in the effort to frame and idea vs a short blast, the idea is much more likely to get considered than not. Especially if it contains information that makes the Product Managers job easier by providing use cases and impact analysis they can use internally during resourcing and priority discussions.