What I learned this week: Providers & Self-Signed Certificates

I would say that about once a month I have a client or coworker sending me an email that looks like this and asking “what do I do?”

SelfSignedCert has expired
SFDC Expired Certification Notification

I remember getting my first one of these and panicking, and the documentation available for admins with little knowledge of single sign-on is poor. I am pretty sure that we have all found the answer via the Answers section of Salesforce’ Help, as opposed to actual documentation.

I have kept a link on hand to share for just this occasion (it’s here, in case you need it).

Fast forward a few years, and I’m studying security and identify more in-depth than I have in the past, and much like data skew, that involves learning the correct terms for what used to sound like jargon.

As the link above to Salesforce’s help article states, this Self-Signed certificate is most commonly used for Single Sign-On settings, but…what does that mean? As with anything else, stating the purpose or cause of something doesn’t always answer a person’s question. Many people much smarter than me have rightly pointed out that if you cannot explain a concept to a child, you do not truly understand that concept. And Salesforce’s Help Articles aren’t always great for that level of explanation.

So let’s start with the basics: Single Sign-On.

If you work for a company in an office, you may already experience this everyday. You log into your computer, and doing so logs you into other company services – an extranet, your inbox, etc. To varying degree, the idea is in the name – you sign in once to multiple platforms.

Ultimately this works because there are two entities working together to allow this to happen.

The Service Provider is the system you’re being logged into secondarily – let’s say JIRA. This is the platform that is requesting your login credentials. Normally this request looks like a login screen, but for single sign-on the whole point is that you bypass that screen. So instead of asking YOU, it asks the system you’re logging in through.

This initial system is the Identity Provider. It is helpfully passing along your credentials to the system that needs the information.

Salesforce, as you can imagine, can be both. And the self-signed certificate is sort of like your global permission slip. And like a permission slip it needs to be updated every once in a while.

“But I don’t have single sign-on enabled!” you cry.

Well sure, that makes sense. That means that Salesforce may not be a Service Provider in your org.

Have you installed any connected apps, though? Many connected apps walk you through a setup process that includes a handy UI that takes on the heavy lifting of setting up your API connection. During this process, some of those apps may create a certificate, which you’ll see by reviewing your connected apps link to that certificate. Sometimes these will take care of themselves – the third party companies you’re working with KNOW about this, and they plan accordingly, but at the least, you’ll know.

And if you’ve enabled Salesforce as an Identity Provider, even if you’re not using it that way…well, there you go.

Long story short: if you don’t remember setting this up, it’s very unlikely to cause issues, but it’s also very easy to update. Bookmark that link, and next year when you get that email, you’ll be ready.

 

Georgia on my mind

I grew up in the peach state, various towns and cities at different times, only vaguely aware that people lived in other states. It’s weird how that happens. When you define a place as Home, it feels strange sometimes to think that there are billions of people out there who not only don’t live near you, but have most likely never even heard of your town.

When I was very little, I affected a thick Southern drawl, drew out my syllables as folk do in Georgia. But over time that dwindled, even living in the state. People who meet me now will not often guess that I spent the better part of my pre-adult years (and even early adult) in the foothills of Appalachia.

Fun fact: Georgia is the largest state East of the Mississippi. Yes, it’s true. Yes, even when you take the Upper Peninsula into consideration for Michigan.

I mention that because when I tell people I grew up in Georgia, they almost always know someone in Augusta or Savannah. I lived about 6 hours from them, in that case. I most likely don’t know them.

I’m headed that way on Saturday, the hubby and I hopping in a rental car to make the drive down. We’ll spend some time with my family at the homestead in the hills, and then I’m dragging him along with me to Southeast Dreamin’.

SED-Web-Logo-e1453762337688

In addition to being excited about being in the place I learned how to walk and speak and be an adult*, I’m really excited about this stuff:

  1. Charlie Isaacs‘s keynote. He’s one of my favorite people in the community, so I’m very happy to see him speak.
  2. Rebe de la Paz is going to talk about educating end users – a topic near and dear to my heart.
  3. For my NPO friends, you can check out Adam Kramer‘s session on Optimizing NPSP as an Admin.
  4. My friend and fellow #GifSquad member, Amy Oplinger, is reprising her fantastic session on Imposter Syndrome.
  5. Phillip Southern is going to share how they created the open-source Trailhead leaderboard.
  6. Doug Ayers is sharing his presentation on using Process Builder to create a Chatter Bot.
  7. THE Jen Lee of Automation Hour fame is sharing a session on Flow.
  8. Chris Duarte‘s closing keynote! It’s like a delicious Salesforce sandwich, people.

Did I mention the Hackathon on Thursday (this will be my first!)?

Did I mention the SaaSie Tech Social?

Did I mention time with the community, seeing the #Ohana?

To be honest, Georgia hasn’t been home in almost 10 years, but having so many great things to look forward to, I know it’ll feel a lot more like it next week.

See you there?

*I am legally an adult. Whether or not I’m an “Adult” is up for debate.

 

The niche struggle is real

There are so many smart people in the Salesforce Ohana. Seriously. So many. They are in the community, on Twitter, writing blogs, hosting podcasts, just generally being awesome. Need to know how to write a formula? There’s a blog for that. Process Builder trouble? There’s a weekly webcast for that. Prepping for an exam? So many sites to help.

As someone who has always been the person on the edge of social circles, one foot in and just hesitant enough to not insert myself, I can tell you that it can be hard to find your place in any situation. As someone who likes to write, who feels safest being herself behind a keyboard, I can also tell you that it’s not any easier finding your place via the blogosphere.

When I first started with Salesforce, blogs helped me become a better admin. I used Salesforce’s documentation to learn the functionality, but project and product management, understanding users’ needs, best practices…that all came from the community. Once I started feeling more confident, I wanted to share what I had learned with others. I’ve tried a few avenues – speaking at events, starting the local Women in Tech chapter, evangelizing on the streets, you name it. Oh yeah. And this thing you’re reading.

I have a backlog of drafts about a mile long. Posts I’ve started, trying to fit into my own little corner of the Salesforce blog world. Am I a place for new admins to learn basic functionality? Am I a marketing automation guru? Maybe I should talk about consulting? Women in Tech. Community. Automation. Communication. Learning to code. Etc. Etc.

Guess what? It exists already.

There are days I find it disheartening. I don’t have the experience or knowledge that many of the existing bloggers have. It’s easy to be down on myself, to feel inadequate, to think that this whole thing is a waste of time.

Not what it’s about, though.

If you want to share something or do something or create something in this community, I’m giving you the permission and the advice to do it. Even if it’s already been done. Even if you think no one will care. All of those blogs and MVPs and community heroes didn’t become experts overnight. They all started somewhere, and they are all here to support you.

Oh, and if you’re looking for your niche, your expertise? It’s you. It’s your unique perspective, your own experiences. That’s all you need. So you’re basically half way there.

 

It’s Official: Sales Cloud Consultant

I bit the bullet last Saturday and took the Sales Cloud Consultant exam.

(She writes, as if she hadn’t been studying 1-2 hours per night for the past two months.)

I did the online proctoring, something I said I would not do again. But you know the saying about the best laid plans. It only took 10 minutes to get it set up this time. We’ll call it a win.

I thought about how I wanted to share this, if at all. My natural instinct is to provide some sort of guide, some insight to those that are considering taking it, preparing. There are already some great resources out there, though, and I’m not a fan of reinventing the wheel.

So instead I’m going to give you some honest feedback about what you can expect:

  1. Most people don’t pass this exam on the first try
  2. Your test-taking ability will come into play on this exam
  3. There is a LOT of information covered – both breadth and depth
  4. No matter what you study, there will be things you did not anticipate

I prepared for this exam for almost two months, starting with about an hour study each day and moving up to 2 hours each day a couple of weeks out.

I did what I always do. I downloaded the study guide, prioritized topics based on what I felt the least comfortable with, and I went to work. I used Salesforce’s existing documents, reviewed some Trailhead modules, inspected existing blog posts about Sales Cloud (shout out to Salesforce Ben!), and took copious notes. This method got me through both Advanced Admin and App Builder.

I guess technically it got me through Sales Cloud, too.

If you’re looking toward Sales Cloud on the horizon, here’s the best advice I can offer you: be patient with yourself and DON’T PANIC.

dontpanic

As I write this, I’m cool as a cucumber, ya dig? But literally five minutes before the exam, I could feel my heart trying to rip itself free from my chest. Taking these exams IS nerve-wracking. But guess what – it’s not the end of the world. All you can do is take a deep breath and focus on the question. Don’t worry about whether or not you’re going to answer the exact way Salesforce wants you to (because sometimes it’s really not clear). Worry instead about understanding the problem presented, understanding the potential solutions.

Having certifications is great. I love it. I love getting my name printed on paper.

But certifications aren’t going to make you a good consultant. Listening will. Empathy will. Curiosity will. A growth mindset and patience will. If you have those things, then you’ll do fine.

And, if you are taking the exam soon and somehow stumbled here, I hope you take a moment to breathe and relax. You’ve got this.

 

 

I did a thing: Becoming a Salesforce Admin Story

This is kind of awkward for me, which is weird because I’ve acted and spoken publicly, and I don’t get really bad stage fright. This feels different, though.

I did an #AwesomeAdmin video. I was truly honored/humbled to be asked in the first place because, seriously, what do I have to tell people that better smarter other folks in the community can’t say better? But then if I can help someone find their way to a great career or something, then I should do it. (Right, Spiderman?!)

holywhatthatsme

One of the questions they asked me was how I became a Salesforce Admin…and why. I gave an answer that was suitable for a short video. There’s more to it, though, and since I’m way better at writing than speaking out loud, I figured I’d take this opportunity to share that story.

Skipping ahead a bit because I’m not about to sit here and write out all of the random things I’ve done to make money before. So many things. None of them illegal, just to be clear.

I first got a job at Lean in 2013. It was a big deal. I had been working at Geek Squad, which meant some weekends and nights and a bit of a drive. Lean was Monday to Friday, 9-5, and 3 miles down the road.

I started as a Logistics Coordinator, managing inbound freight for one of our clients. It was good work, sometimes stressful (Snowmageddon, I’m looking at you). But as might be evident, I was also doing other stuff in the company because I can’t keep well enough alone. More specifically, I was working with the HR team on an Emergency Response Plan because I had experience with that sort of thing (see unlisted list of jobs I’ve done).

In that work, I was told that there was a data analyst spot opening in Marketing – was it something I’d be interested in? Uh, well, yeah.

I applied when the job opened, interviewed, and I got the job. Hooray!

“You’ll also be the administrator for Salesforce and Marketo.”

“Sounds great!” What is Salesforce? What is Marketo? Cue frantic Google searches, video watching, and standard Hollywood meet-cute.

And thus, I became the admin for my little org. There was an agreement that if I could get certified in one of those systems within a year, I’d be compensated for it. Cool! (Spoiler alert: I got certified in both! Go big or go home!)

Enter Salesforce Community, stage right.

I went to Dreamforce that same year. It was a little overwhelming, really. I had been using/administering Salesforce for less than 6 months when I went. But it drove me to the online community. The online community drove me to learn more about regional things – user groups, and even better, regional events like Midwest Dreamin’.

I’ve talked about Midwest Dreamin’ before. Like…a lot. But it’s because it’s important to me. So, so important.

I took the job offered because it sounded interesting. I took it because there would be fewer late nights trying to find trucks to cover loads. I took it because I really liked the manager.

I stuck with it because of the potential, the community, the people.

I am so proud to be an #AwesomeAdmin. I am so happy to know the people in this community. They always surprise me. There’s always someone else I have to meet that is going to be delightful in a completely unexpected way. Or someone I know but learn eventually that we have even more in common. Or a group of people that are playing D&D for a good cause, and I get to play D&D related to my job. WHERE ELSE DOES THAT HAPPEN IN LIFE?

All of this just to say thank you.

Thank you to the community. All of you out there doing what you do. You’re all inspiring.

Thank you to the Awesome Admin team. How amazing is it that we have an entire team at Salesforce devoted to promoting what we do?!

Thank you to Salesforce in general. So much promise and opportunity for people because of the culture that Salesforce promotes.

Thank you to Marc Benioff, obviously, for getting the whole show started.

 

 

Lessons Learned: Hide, Don’t Delete

There are benefits to starting at level 0.

  1. There’s nowhere to go but up.
  2. No one has overblown expectations of what you can do.
  3. Learning something new is literally the best thing.
  4. No bad habits, all best practices.

This was how I started my Salesforce journey…just like everyone else.

I took over an instance that had been around a few years. I was excited and nervous. I started learning with Salesforce’s Premier Support Getting Started video and training series.

I learned all about naming conventions, org security, page layouts, Chatter, and all of the things we all know and love. I learned that duplicates were bad, too many fields was unnecessary, and that Chatter could help teams communicate cross-functionally. Can we just take a moment to appreciate how amazing Salesforce is, though, seriously?

Anyway. I was a little embarrassed. My org, the one I had just adopted and decided to raise as my own, was not house trained yet. I didn’t want people coming over, even though they already knew the org and weren’t really aware that it wasn’t in optimal condition.

I went on a little bit of a change spree. I documented my org, interviewed my users, ran some reports, and I decided to do some dusting. With a back hoe.

I took out so much stuff.

We had fields that hadn’t been used in ever. Page layouts that no one saw. Profiles whose contents had been emptied long ago. Role hierarchy?! They didn’t need no stinkin’ role hierarchy. (Just kidding. They did.)

I went in like a wrecking ball, and I started to lose track of some kind of important things. Namely my users. And data.

In my desire to makethingsbetterrightthissecond, I just started making changes. Sure, I knew that best practice was to use picklists instead of MSPs, but I missed some things along the way.

Such as hiding fields before you delete them.

As it turns out, sometimes fields are sparsely used because they’re only used on certain record types or in certain use cases. If you delete them, that data goes away.

For instance, if you have a field to track those people that need to be invited to a special client event every year, and that number is small – like only 50 people – it may seem like it’s almost never used. And technically that’s right. But it’s also sparse because it’s kind of a VIP indicator, and not everyone can be a VIP.

People were displeased when that field suddenly went missing.

I received emails and phone calls. I explained righteously that since the field had not been used, it clearly was not needed. Ah…I was incorrect.

Oops.

The next things I learned were how to restore records from the recycle bin, the location of our weekly data exports, and how to import data.

What I should have done

I’m not the first person to learn this lesson the hard way. I won’t be the last. But if I can help one person avoid it, I will consider myself successful.

Hide fields. Hide them. Remove the field from the page layout, take away Read access, whatever you have to do to hide it.

But don’t delete the field.

I know you want to clean your org. You should. It’s a good thing to do. But you have users to consider, not to mention your own time.

So when you’re digging through the muck, don’t throw everything out. Put it out of sight, out of mind. Your users will let you know if you took away something important. Trust me, they will let you know.

Since I didn’t go about it the right way, I can’t tell you what a safe timeline is, but I’d probably give it 6 months to a year. It looks excessive, even to me looking at it after I just suggested it…but really, it’s viable.

In the example I gave, there was a once-per-year conference, so giving my users a year to realize that they were missing it? Totally reasonable.

Take this small but important piece of advice and live by it. You will be glad you did.