About the Episode
Working smarter, not harder is a major benefit of technology and digitization. But getting to this promised land can be difficult. Many challenges can derail digital transformation efforts, from a lack of buy-in to deadline issues and scope creep. How can you simplify the journey to digitization and optimization? Geraldine Gray, CEO of Salesforce consulting agency Endiem, has the answers. In this conversation, Geraldine shares digitization tips she’s gathered from 10 years as a business owner, project leader, and process innovator.
Meet Our Guest
Geraldine Gray “accidentally” started her Salesforce consulting agency Endiem more than 10 years ago. She’s worked in the Salesforce space since 2000 with clients like Blue Cross Blue Shield, eBay, and PayPal. The 13-time Salesforce MVP and sought-after Dreamforce presenter loves helping her customers achieve their business goals, gain efficiencies in their processes, and enable their people to make collaborative, data-driven decisions.
Lindsay McGuire: Simplifying the complicated. Isn't that the dream? It's why we continue to digitize and innovate, right? We know there's a better way. So we're willing to put in the work to get to that simpler solution because most of the time the ripple effects of that change are going to go way further than we think. Our guest on this episode is a digitization queen who knows how to simplify very complex projects. Geraldine Gray the CEO of Endiem, a Salesforce consultancy that focuses on the motivations, operations, and analytical frameworks that link all aspects of a company, its people, and its business processes together.
It's exactly what I talk about each month in our Practically Genius Insider newsletter. She's worked in the Salesforce space since 2000 with clients like Blue Cross Blue Shield, eBay, and PayPal. And she's a 13 time Salesforce MVP. On this episode, Geraldine is sharing all the nitty gritty details for how she makes her clients and her teams more productive by simplifying communication, processes, and project management all through digitization. Here's my conversation with Geraldine.
Hello, Geraldine. We're so excited to have you on the show today. As you know, this show is for innovators who are championing digitization within their organization, and you are definitely a champion for digitization. Can you tell us why? What has made you passionate about digitization?
Geraldine Gray: More so for our customers to be able to take away spreadsheets, sticky notes, bits of stringing rubber bands, yellow legal pads, some of which never go away in truth, but to take away a lot of the busy work and allow them to focus on servicing their customers and closing more deals is truly what I think digitization is and why it's important.
Lindsay McGuire: I'd love for you to tell us just a little bit about Endiem. I know you just celebrated your 10th anniversary in business, which is really exciting. So tell us a little bit about what you do, who you are.
Geraldine Gray: Sure. So I'm the CEO of Endiem. We're a Salesforce implementation partner. As you say, 10 years this year. Started the company completely by accident, and that's a story for a bar really with a glass of wine. But started the company completely by accident 10 years ago. It has grown. The first seven or eight years was really just customer-led growth, so people asking us to do work, us doing good work, people asking us to do more work, customers leaving from company A, going to company B, taking us with them, and then continuing to grow the organization through, as I say, customer-led growth.
And then about two years ago, we sort of decided, "Okay, what would happen if we actually took the reign for... decided we wanted to grow?" It's been quite extraordinary. And it has opened the doors to larger, more exciting projects that have bigger impact on our customers, and the kinds of projects that, although in terms of a business size we're relatively small, we get the projects that other people would just kill to have.
Lindsay McGuire: Talk about that a little bit. What are some of these big large scale digital transformation led projects you're handling at Endiem?
Geraldine Gray: So one customer we can talk about is ENGIE. They've been our customer for about nearly five years. We came in as a sort of also RAM partner to help do some cleanup and five years later we are the only Salesforce partner that they're working with. They have been very good to us. And we have moved them from a few folks with Salesforce CRM to their entire organization in North America running the business on CRM, using it for revenue scheduling on the business side, feeding their information over from their finance team so they can make decisions about where they can have most impact with their customers.
The ability to understand how they run their business and how they work with their customers is really, really interesting. And then for them to see data making an impact on their users' lives and making an impact in how they service their customers is super interesting. Right? So they started with CRM, moved to using it for opportunity management, project management, M&A, predictive analytics, marketing. I mean, they're really using the whole Salesforce platform. They're using it to service their customers as well. And then being able to see the customer satisfaction that comes out on the other end, because we can see the data, is quite thrilling.
Lindsay McGuire: It brought up the point of them starting out very small, having maybe a few people within the system doing maybe one or two very strategic pointed processes with Salesforce and then growing that platform to tackle so many other areas of their business. Can you speak to the importance of expanding your usage of a tool?
Geraldine Gray: If you have your baseline technology, and you're using it to run your business, and it's doing a great job of running certain parts of the business but it's not great for the users, then you can take something like Salesforce. So let's say for example you have your ERP. Right? And you're using them. It has customer information, it has your invoicing, it has maybe your rental information if you're in the rental business, it has the parts that you're selling your customers, it has their assets, and it's got multiple hooks into either the customer machines or it's got hooks from other data sources all coming into this one ERP.
And it's the backbone of how you run your business. And it's hard for people to use and it's hard for people to understand how to make it work. They are very complicated beasts and they're also pretty restrictive in what people can see and what people can do in them. You can put Salesforce as your front end to begin with. So now I can see that ERP data, but I have on my phone, which is in my truck. And then you can take some of the activities that the salespeople are doing day-to-day and turn those into activities within Salesforce. So basically Salesforceify their processes.
And bit by bit you begin to connect the ERP and the customer data to the customer experience and the user experience. When those two pieces come together, it can be quite magical, not just in terms of how easy it's to service your customers, but how easy it is for the salespeople to do their jobs.
Lindsay McGuire: Magic. I love what technology can do. Right? It's just so powerful. And when you do what you talked about up connecting the employee experience and that user experience and the end customer experience and their journey, that really is where the magic happens, because not only are you going to be more successful because your customers are happy and it's easier for them to do business with you, think about the impact on retention there with your employees as well. We've actually found in our research with the digital maturity report that the more that you can digitize your internal processes, the happier and less stressed your employees are.
So really just is like a win-win there. And I want to dig into this process you just talked about. So there's so much optimization that you've done there. So can you walk me through how did your team working alongside this customer, figure out where those optimization points were?
Geraldine Gray: Yeah. So the Mustang team are moving Salesforce into their entire process end-to-end for their customers. And you have to start somewhere, right? So we want to start somewhere, and yet wherever you start, the customer is going to pay the same price for licenses. So you could start with a big project and have a big bang after 20 weeks and go live or you could start with a small piece of the project and release that to the users, iterate on it, get them to be happy, give it to super users, then give it to the other users, get them to be happy, get them to see the value, take away some of that busy work. I like to follow the customer journey.
And it doesn't always make sense. Right? Sometimes people might say, "No, no, the biggest thing that's causing our customers problem is field service. So we need to start with field service." Okay, fine. So maybe you want to start with the biggest pain. But when you're starting from nothing or when you're starting from having a tool which works for one team really well but doesn't work well for the whole business, giving everybody that first foot or that first step on the journey means that each team can come on board at their own pace without having to go all in from day one. Because it is a big change. And so start small, grow it over time. And I think that's where you can start that journey and start that digitization experience.
Lindsay McGuire: And I want to go back to... You were talking about how to get other teams into a tool that maybe one department or one team is using and are power users of but others might not use it. I think sometimes there might be a little bit of a resistance there. Let's say you're trying to bring in a bigger, larger, seemingly more complicated tool to a team that has not used it before or only has a few users. What can they do to make sure that's successful and it doesn't just flop where people just say, "Thanks, but no thanks," right?
Geraldine Gray: Yeah. I think you've got to find the pain so that you can give people the solution. Universally, businesses will accept that not getting paid is a problem. So if you take away some of the pain about how they get paid or how quickly they can get paid, not because Salesforce is magic, but because Salesforce is giving you the ability to take that data from your ERP, put it into a format that is consumable by the users and by the customers, and send it instantly, it means that for the sales rep, they don't have to worry about remembering to send the invoice later for credit, you know, account receivable, they don't have to worry about chasing the customer because, gosh, it's irritating when you have to chase the customer to get paid.
And for the customer, they don't have to worry about whether or not they're going to continue to be serviced because they can then have a conversation with the sales rep about, "Well, you gave me this piece of equipment, but this thing was wrong with it or you gave me this piece of equipment, but actually it says it arrived on this day when it really didn't." They can have that conversation because everybody's armed with the facts. But when that type of information is buried in somebody else's email, they don't know why it hasn't been paid. And it could just be that accounts payable have been on vacation. But finding whatever it is one point of pain is going to be a good way to bring people into the platform.
Lindsay McGuire: So let's shift gears a little bit and talk about some of those bigger longer projects, the ones that might take two or three years to complete and involve a ton of people and resources. Can you share how you approach communicating the value of those projects to all the stakeholders and how you keep the momentum going?
Geraldine Gray: We have this original slide. We use Google Slides so that we can share it with the customer and they can see it at any point in time. But we have this original slide where it says, okay, these are the projects we all agreed are going to work on, and then these are the projects that got jammed in along the way. And so the customer and the team can appreciate that you might miss a deadline. Let's say you miss a deadline on a project by months. Well, did you really miss a deadline on the project or is it actually because some other project got jammed in there as well? You didn't technically miss your deadline if your deadline was moved.
But now, it's one thing to say, "Okay, we're going to go live on the 1st of December," and if you don't go live on the 1st of December because the build team, this build to build, that's on us. But if we don't go live on the 1st of December because the customer said, "Actually, you know what? That Spanish app, that credit app puts it in Spanish and English. I really want it in Portuguese." Okay. Well, do you want it in Portuguese so bad that you want to push your deadline or you want it in Portuguese we can do that after your deadline? "No, no, I want it before the deadline." Okay, well then we're going to have to push a deadline to make it.
So putting the sort of roadmap, having transparency around the roadmap, what you're working on, having transparency around where you are, and I think just kind of trying your best to keep that communication going.
Lindsay McGuire: Just like Ryan brought up on our Practically Speaking episode, a few episodes back, the documentation that really is the bar none where you begin, because if you have all those things documented and something goes awry or something goes off, or like you said, there's a project that creeps in and that scope creep starts happening, and you have proof of where the responsibility lies, what's the reasoning there, but also you can learn from that going forward too. Well, if this came in and it took three extra weeks, well there's your automatic budget assumption, your timeline assumption. And so again, the documentation is so important just to be able to lay that out from the beginning so you're not haphazardly putting it together as you're rolling along because that doesn't benefit anyone.
I also have a question about the scope creep, the mission drift, those things because everyone has their own priorities again. Right? Everyone has their dream this or dream that. And when those things happen and they really, like, "We have no capacity for this, we have no option to add this to the list. It's just not feasible. It doesn't make any sense," how can you have those conversations in a respectful understanding way? How do you have those conversations when someone really wants that Portuguese translation for this but it really doesn't play a role in this project or this business plan? How do you have those conversations and ensure that nobody gets burned, I guess would be a good way to say it?
Geraldine Gray: I mean, it's really hard. There is always something and there's always more than one somethings that you forgot to ask. And there's always at least ten somethings that they forgot to tell you, especially when you're digitizing a process that's been in place for many, many years. Or when you are taking the process out of one platform and putting it into Salesforce. And so it might work really well in one platform for one team, but you are trying to grow something that works for all the teams. And so now people have to appreciate how hard it is for other teams to do their jobs. And so that idea of the Portuguese credit app, which is completely [inaudible 00:13:16] by the way, but if you wanted to put your credit app into Portuguese and they're saying, "No, no, we must have it in Portuguese," like, well, how many times do you send a Portuguese credit app? And they go, "Once a year."
Do you send it once a year to somebody who's going to spend $100 million or $10 million? No. Okay. Well, then we probably don't need the Portuguese credit app today at the risk of this project going late. And so it becomes less about having a conversation of the dreaded out of scope phrase and more about saying, "We have a bucket of time and in the bucket of time there's only so much we can get done." If you would like us to work on Portuguese credit app, that's fine. What would you like to drop? Oh, don't want to drop anything? Okay. Well, then is the Portuguese credit app more important than the other four things we're working on? Okay. Well, then if it's not, it should wait.
And sort of putting it on a realization of, it doesn't matter if we can get the work done, it's can we get it done on time? Because they've also told their whole organization, "Hey, on this date we're going to have this." And it was like, did you tell them that they're going to have a Portuguese credit app on that date? No. Well, see, then don't worry about it. No one's going to be asking for it. That's less important. You can tell them it's coming. And hey, let's put it on the roadmap and plan for it. But I think really it's like focusing on what you said you would do in the timeline, in the budget, and in the hours you have available.
Lindsay McGuire: I love, love, love what you brought up, the idea about the data behind it. Right? Because again, if one person thinks this is such an important part of this process or the success of this project or your business, but then you actually dig into the data and the assumptions are all wrong, that's a great way to come back and have that feasible conversation around the value time benefit does not equate here, and here's the just cold hard data, again, that can help lead you in that direction. So I love that example.
Geraldine Gray: I never want to ask people to work on something that is going to end up being a waste of time. How is that going to help us? Is that going to help our customers? Is that going to help the team? Is that going to make the team feel more stressed? Is that going to help the team feel more comforted?
Lindsay McGuire: Optimization, right? That's the name of the game. Constant optimization, constant innovation. It's a lot of what we talked about this season. I think a lot of leaders sometimes get a little lost in the move fast idea. And the move fast break things, fail fast, fail hard. Those kind of mantras. And they want to just do things and get things done. So why should innovative leaders really lean into those core foundations you've talked about today?
Geraldine Gray: If you don't know where you want to go, how are you going to work out how to get there? Right? So if you don't have a roadmap or a plan, and you don't have to have all the answers, but to have a roadmap would have a plan, we have one for our business. We have a three-year plan. Every year we update it. We look at, okay, how did it do this year? How's it going to do next year? Then we set on track for that three-year plan and share that with everybody else as a team so we can kind of focus on, okay, these are things that are important. If you don't have a plan, it's really just chaos.
I think those small changes, those small adjustments when you know where you want to go as an end goal will help people embrace them. And also to recognize that professional services and product companies run differently. And so you can fail fast on a product company. If you seem to have a build something, it doesn't work, maybe you fix it or maybe you ditch it. Who knows? But to fail fast on a customer project, it's not your money. So you really can't take that [inaudible 00:16:37] hitch to fail fast in one customer project.
But what you can do instead is you can say, one of the things we embraced beginning of this year was, "Okay, I want to look at making 1% improvement on various processes." Right? And then I also worked out that if we don't measure the improvement, I can't tell if it's 1% or none percent. We are going to improve our time entries by 1%. And then I was like, by one more percent. Hey, by one more percent. What I realized was that people were not incorrectly submitting time entries because they were being assholes and submitting incorrectly. People were incorrectly submitting their time entries because we weren't giving people the right place to put their time. So therefore they're like, "Well, I don't know where to put it, so I'll just jam it in here." And then by the time it gets to the invoice, they're like, "That's not right. Wait, that's not right."
So I made it my mission. Let's make it easier for them. And so we tried to make it easier. And then what happened is everybody got way better at putting in their time. And so our lesson there was like, one, we needed to make the way which gave people the ability to lock their time easier. The rollup of that had a huge impact on the rest of the company because now we're not spending much time correcting invoices when we just corrected the time in the first place. And they're a lot less frustrating for the team and more transparent for the customer because time was getting more accurately logged. That was my little 1% as being... I was just like, I just want to improve it by 1%, improve it by a lot more than 1%.
Related: 3 Processes to Digitize in 2023
Lindsay McGuire: But you also brought up some things that actually relate back to our own research in the digital maturity report. One thing we found is that, and this is crazy, 51% of employees spend two hours or more each day, each day, on wasteful manual tasks and tedious things like that time clock entry you're talking about. And then the second piece of that is we found that the more digitally mature an organization, the more likely they are to do what you did, what you literally just told us about, of auditing those processes, figuring out where the pain points here, where are the efficiencies that we can improve. And that's kind of what makes these more optimized organizations more successful because that's built into the culture of their organization and they understand the value in tracking those processes, reviewing that data, ensuring everything is working efficiently and optimized to the best of its ability.
So it's just really fascinating you brought in all those things that correlate so well together. I love it. Well, Geraldine, this has been a wonderful conversation and I've learned so much about you. And I'm very excited just to jump into my own day-to-day processes and take some of your advice back just to myself and my own team and figuring out how we can optimize some processes and be 1% better. But I have one final question for you, and this is a little bit of a doozy because it's figuring out the one thing and it's hard. But if you could only share one piece of advice around how to optimize a process or how to improve your project management overall, what would that advice be for our listeners?
Geraldine Gray: So back in the day, we would've had an online form and then we would've used Drawloop on Nintex to put together the document, and then we would've used DocuSign. Those have been my go-to apps for years. So we've gotten rid of three pieces of technology and replaced it with one. So it's still on the Salesforce platform. But we've actually used Formstack. So it's easier for us, frankly, it's easier for the customer to understand and consume, it's going to be easier for the admin to maintain once we start to hand this work over, and it's easier for the customer.
And so having the digital experience go from data entry through to signature back into Salesforce, where previously we've done that with two to three apps and now we're doing it one, it's pretty cool. If we haven't been open to the idea and we haven't looked for alternatives, we never would've done it. I still love DocuSign. We still use it. You might have to take it away from my cold, dead hands. But also embracing change. And for us this year, the change has been using Formstack. Embracing the change has been empowering for our customers and great for our team.
Lindsay McGuire: Well, I'm never going to get mad about a product placement to close out an episode. So Geraldine, thank you so much for joining us today. Such great advice.
Geraldine Gray: Lindsay, thank you so much for having me.
Lindsay McGuire: Thank you so much for joining us for this great conversation with Geraldine. What did I tell you? Tons of Practically Genius ideas in this one, right? And I'm taking all of my notes from this amazing conversation and applying them to our Practically Genius Insider newsletter, which you should definitely sign up for. You can do that by clicking the link in the show notes. And as always, rate, review, share on LinkedIn, and tell another innovator about the show. You never know. You just might get your next Practically Genius idea right here.