Mentoring Through Salesforce

By Paul Field – CEO @ Improved Apps

Mentoring using Improved Apps

 

Apprenticeships – A Time And A Place

Apprenticeships have always been a very effective way of bringing new people into an organisation. They provide a programme that establishes a way of passing on skills, knowledge and expertise from the experienced to the inexperienced. Possibly with the benefit of rose-tinted glasses, apprenticeships conjure an image of a grey-haired, patient and knowledgeable old-hand benevolently guiding and directing the fresh-faced new starter through to success and productivity.

Many of these apprenticeship programmes perished or contracted over cycles of recession and cost cutting: Why invest in the inexperienced when you can hire experience cheaply?

The reality is, that whilst it is very possible to hire people with a history, it is never going to be exactly what your organisation needs. As a result, all companies have introduced some kind of on-boarding programme to cram as much information as possible into the heads of new starters. Unfortunately, people forget what they have been taught and do so pretty quickly with the resulting need for the organisation to create swathes of content to provide on-going access to required information.

The final turn of the wheel has come about due to resource scarcity post-recession and a realisation that internal training and development of inexperienced hires can provide a cheaper and better-suited resource for an organisation in the long term. Suddenly mentoring, ‘green-bean’ programmes, internships, graduate training programmes and, yes, apprenticeships are in fashion.

Success Is…Sharing Institutional Knowledge

Cut through all of the noise and at the heart lies a completely practical truism: A significant part of the success of any organisation is due to its ‘institutional knowledge’ – that is to say the body of tangible and intangible ‘data’ that builds up over time:

  • Product and positioning knowledge – what appeals to whom

  • Competitive awareness and how to beat the opposition

  • Process – ways of working that produce the desired results

  • Markets, verticals and roles – who buys, where and why?

  • Customers and prospects ‘intel‘ – a vast amount of data that keeps relationships positive

  • Compliance – what to do and what not to do

Bridging The ‘Mentor Gap’

This represents only a part of the kind of information that a salesperson needs to have available to them to be successful. In an ideal world we could all be guided by our own individual mentor, ready to provide advice and answers at the drop of a hat. Sadly, that is not cost effective or practical, so just how do companies try and bridge the ‘mentor gap’? A few of these have already been mentioned but the measures/reality include:

  • On-boarding training

  • ‘University’ programmes of on-going courses

  • The creation of guides, battle-cards and information repositories in Sharepoint or similar

  • Peer –networking, that often ends up as ‘Swivel-chair moments’ where one person interrupts all of his colleagues with questions

  • Armies of sales-ops just chasing down information for sales, and cleaning up after their mistakes

  • A limited mentoring programme that focuses on a few key people

  • A green-bean/graduate scheme to bring on bright people and give them a taste of different departments

None of these separately or in combination really provide an alternative to a personal permanent mentor though.

A recent article in the Australian Financial Review talks about how Woodside Petroleum have adopted artificial intelligence in the form of IBM’s Watson to meet exactly this kind of challenge: Woodside employed Watson in its “data science division, for an internal program called ‘Lesson Learned’, which pulled together decades of engineering data from sources including testing, projects and messages. It meant workers could ask the system questions and receive detailed answers as if they were talking to the wisest old hand imaginable on the company’s books.” Woodside’s comments on the project say it all: “It has actually surpassed our expectations … we ended up with nearly 400 people taking time out of their day, such as engineers, to train Watson and it has been able to return answers to some very difficult questions.”

The challenge for Salesforce users is exactly the same; how do you take all of the knowledge and experience of the ‘wisest old hand’ and make it available to all users, where and when they need it and in the context of what they are trying to do?

The Answer My Friend…

The answer fortunately is NOT that you go out and buy a supercomputer and spend millions of dollars filling it with all of the institutional knowledge described above. Most companies have already created significant amounts of content that provides the information that they wish to preserve and pass on but it is typically not in the right form or location that makes it easy to find or to pinpoint the specific answer within much larger documents. Users get frustrated and give up or ask somebody else, or just plain guess. What is needed is the ability to provide Salesforce users with the means to pull the right information to wherever they are in Salesforce:

  • Directly

  • Without having to do ANY searching

  • Without having to explain what they are doing

  • In the context of their specific transaction (market/competition/product/vertical…etc)

  • In a form that is easiest to digest (words/images/sound or video)

  • That conforms to all of your company practices and regulatory obligations

  • Wherever they are

  • On whatever device

 

That’s what we thought too! So we built Improved Help to do exactly that. Your own personal mentor in an APP.

 

Paul Field – CEO @ Improved Apps