171,000 people visited San Francisco earlier this month. Nothing unusual in that you might think. In fact, that’s a surprisingly low number, but what if I tell you that this number is for the people that are solely visiting San Francisco to learn more about Salesforce? This number includes people brand new to the system as well as people who have been using Salesforce for the last 10 or 15 years, if not more. Some had just travelled a few hours across continental America. Others I met had travelled from Sri Lanka and other equally far flung places.

It starts with a journey
Salesforce is different from other CRMs. Where else do you find that the temp ends up running the CRM department?; the person that collates the documents for the bid team ends up transforming everyone’s work processes so that they actually know when a deadline is coming weeks in advance and have visibility of outstanding activities at any all times?; the IT person who actually removes blockages and enables a happier workforce, rather than just telling people to reboot their machine for the 20th time? These are the stories of my friends, whose lives have been transformed.

Salesforce is a strange beast. People end up involved in it from many different directions. What everyone spots, however, is how easy it is to use, and how swift the impact is. It was launched in 1999 with the ethos “clicks not code” and this is part of what sets it apart. It enables people. You want to achieve something? Well, just go ahead and do it! This is what makes people excited – it’s a product of vision, unlocking potential.

There’s no hanging around – some of the biggest impact can happen with a single mouse click. Rather than hide things away, the Salesforce ethos is to be open and transparent, effectively delegating responsibility to the closest to the people actually doing the work – this removes blockages and unleashes creativity. Because it is so easy to use, to enable and change things, people can give ideas a try straight (ideally in a “sandbox” first, but we’ll come on to that) and see straight away whether they have return on investment or expose weak processes around the company that need to be improved first.

Just one example: Sandboxes
I’m going to now skip a few years. Your company has adopted Salesforce and see its sales explode, marketing reach jump, or even refugees lives transformed (because Salesforce can do all of these things!). This isn’t hyperbole, but your humble author has seen these things happen: Salesforce can unleash the potential within your organisation.

It’s not always overnight, sometimes it takes weeks or months, but Salesforce can help leverage the positive energies of all your different departments so that they are actively working together and have a fuller, richer understanding of what is happening right across the company.

A junior team member then claims that if the screen was displayed a little differently they would have better immediate visibility on the data they need. They wouldn’t have to scroll so much and, quite frankly, they may pay more attention to filling in the data that’s required for other people and departments to make better business decisions.

Traditionally this might involve creating an extra column on Excel or printing a screenshot with lots of arrows showing where everything would move to (and then discuss internally). And that’s before pointing out that what benefits this particular individual might make other people’s work slower because it moves the information they need!

So, Salesforce have introduced Sandboxes (and now gives them away for free). This allows a safe environment, a copy of the live system, where you and your colleagues can experiment with page layouts, new fields, and even copies of data, to your heart’s content without disturbing any day to day working. When you’re finished playing around (sorry, I mean working hard… but it’s fun!), then within a few clicks and no downtime, you can update the live system. Oh, and different page views for different people? That doesn’t have to require sandboxes, it’s just part of the standard Salesforce functionality.

This incredible functionality is just part of why people love Salesforce.

Where next?
So I’m typing this from Dreamforce, the amazing experience where one gets to hear about what other people are doing with the Salesforce platform (and that could be an entirely different blog post!). But where do you start?

There’s a number different options:
– Have a look at Salesforce’s Getting Started guide
– You can download a free infinite trial (lots of functionality but data is limited to a few megabytes)
– Speak to a Salesforce Account Manager
– Attend one of the many community events across the country: these are led by volunteers (including this very author) and range from self-help groups (with free pizza!) to technical learning groups
– Look at the many many resources available online, from free training to explanatory blogs.

The Dutch of this article can be seen on the Salesforce NL blog. My thanks to Salesforce for their help with the translation.