10 ways to track time! Part 1

Yesterday, we had a long and interesting demo of the Time Tracker with a fairly large group of people at a new prospect. During the demo, one of the people commented “So you have four different ways of tracking time inside Salesforce”. It struck me that I had never thought about it that way. Perhaps, when you work with the product every day, you gloss over some of these facts.

In any case, this morning, I decided that I’d make a list of all the ways

10 ways to track time
10 ways to track time

that you could track time with the Time Tracker. It turns out that there are 10 different ways in which you can track time with the Time Tracker for Salesforce. See my list here on the right. That’s 4 ways within Salesforce, 4 ways on mobile devices and 2 ways on the Time Tracker web app. Pretty cool, huh?

Based on my list, here’s a short description of each of the ways of time tracking and where you could use it.

Within Salesforce

Within Salesforce, you can track time by Check-in, checking in time for multiple tasks using the Multi Check-in, tracking time automatically to specific Salesforce whenever you are on that record in Salesforce and manually entering the time for a specific task when you are on that record.

Check in: Checking in to work within Salesforce means that you

Check In/Out in Salesforce
Check In/Out in Salesforce

are tracking time to a specific project/task (or whatever has been configured for you). You do this by selecting the Track Time button on the Salesforce Utility Bar. Clicking on the button, pops up a configured window that lets you choose your Project/Task from drop-downs. You can also enter in any notes that you may have. In this case, you are tracking time for an activity as you work on it. So you Check in when you Start on the activity and Check out when you are done.

Multi Checkin: Use the Multi Check in option when you want to

Multi checkin in Salesforce
Multi checkin in Salesforce

add multiple activities in a time-sheet format. You may choose to add in all your activities for the day at the end of the day or maybe at the end of the week. We suggest doing this on a daily basis, because chances are you’ll have forgotten something important that you did on Tuesday by the end of the week. 🙂 You select the Project / Task / Worktype fields from drop-downs. Fill in the Start and End times or the number of hours that you worked on each activity. By default, you’ll see 5 lines on this screen. Once you click on the Submit button, you can add your next set of activities.

Automatic Time Tracking: This is a great way to track time for

Automatic time tracking in Salesforce
Automatic time tracking in Salesforce

people who spend most of their time inside Salesforce. You do NOT need to Start / Stop a timer like you do with the Check in process. Every time you go to records in Accounts, Contacts, Opportunities, Cases or any other Salesforce object, an Automatic Timer starts right away. It keeps tracking time until you move away from that record. If you move to another Opportunity, the Auto Timer starts tracking time to the new Opportunity. The Auto Timer can be added to all the objects that you want to be able to track time to.

Single record time tracking: This feature again allows you to easily

Single time tracking in Salesforce
Single time tracking in Salesforce

track time to specific records in Salesforce. But it’s meant for use when you do NOT want time to be tracked automatically. This is meant for users who want to be able to track time to specific Accounts, Opportunities, Cases. But if the users work primarily outside Salesforce using other tools like AutoCAD, drafting and design tools, then this is a great way to track time. These users can go to the specific record where they want to add their time to. A Salesforce component allows you to add the task and the time that you spent on the activity; while the main Opportunity / Case is automatically selected.

So that’s 4 ways to track time just inside Salesforce. Checkin, Multi Checkin, Automatic Time Tracking and Single record time tracking.

Phew! that was a lot. Next week, we’ll talk about the different ways of tracking time on the Web and on the Time Tracker mobile app. Until then, auf wiedersehen!

Point and click Salesforce configuration

Salesforce is an extremely flexible and powerful platform that works for many different implementations. Its power comes from the degree of configuration that it provides, out-of-the-box.

Taking off from our previous post, configuration allows a user to personalize aspects of the system without having to depend on an experienced programmer. With customization, you need bespoke programming done by an experienced programmer.

With Salesforce, there’s a huge range of things that can be done with just configuration. Starting from adding a few simple custom fields to let’s say an Account or Contact object in Salesforce to configuring complex workflows to automate tasks to managing security and data access through profiles and roles – all of these are possible with just configuration. All with a point-and-click interface, without needing to know any programming. The key is for the user (generally the Salesforce Administrator) to understand the business processes of the organization and to have a clear understanding of objects and how they relate to each other. Configuration is a fast, intuitive and relatively simple way to tailor Salesforce to work exactly the way that your organization needs it to work.

The individual making the changes needs to be business-focused, not code-focused. With no dependence on understanding coding or dependence on syntax of a programming language, a person who understands the business is empowered to completely configure the powerful Salesforce platform to the organization’s exact requirements. And with the vast Salesforce ecosystem, you have an almost unlimited amount of tutorials, knowledge bases, forums, videos and documentation to help you in your configuration quest. Configuration is several orders of magnitude less problematic to deal with than customization. But you really need to understand what you are trying to configure and to understand the complexities of the platform, before you attempt making changes to the system. Fortunately, Salesforce gives you the additional comfort of a “sandbox” system where you can make all your configuration changes and test it out before deploying the changes to your production environment.

As an example, let’s consider Salesforce’s Process Builder.

Process Builder.

One of Salesforce’s most powerful tools is the Process Builder. The Process

Process Builder diagram
Process Builder diagram

Builder is a relatively easy-to-use, visual business process automation tool that can trigger a wide variety of automatic tasks or actions. Process Builder takes the work out of repetitive tasks by automating them and streamlining them. Process Builder has a simple user interface, but is powerful enough to send out emails or update fields or for activities to automatically occur based upon preset triggers. The vast majority of automatic tasks can be automated using this simple point-and-click mechanism.

So the crucial question to ask yourself as you start to setup Salesforce for your organization is how deeply you need to modify Salesforce to serve your specific requirements. Break your business process down into various options. See how much of that can be met with configuration. Only after you exhaust all avenues for configuration, should you even consider the possibility of customization.

Some Process Builder examples.

You could use process builder to send out automatic email to a manager when the value of an opportunity value is greater than a preset amount. You could set up an email alert to be sent to a service manager if a Case is not responded to in a specified time-frame. In using dftly Time Tracker, we have customers who set up an automated rule to pre-populate Account related information such as Address to custom fields on the dftly Projects object, when an Opportunity Stage changes to Closed Won.

The bottom line is that with all the configuration tools at your disposal with Salesforce, you really should be able to fit between 70 – 80% of your requirements with configuration. Consider customization only for the remainder of your requirements.

Next week, we’ll talk about how we build on top of the Salesforce configuration to add configurability to the dftly Time Tracker.

Configuration or Customization – what makes sense?

As a society we are increasingly using online or cloud-based software in everything from buying clothes to managing our bank accounts. As you look around for cloud software for your organization’s needs, you’re quite likely to hear the terms “configurable” and “customizable” being thrown around, sometimes interchangeably. It’s critical that we understand the difference between these two terms.

A configurable system is an out-of-the-box solution that allows a user to personalize some aspects of the system themselves, without having to depend on experienced programmers. Configurable software is generally flexible and scalable and can be shaped to meet an organization’s requirements. While the system comes with a default configuration that works out-of-the-box, it generally lets you tweak the system with simple drop-down menus and lists to more closely reflect your own business. Configurable software gives you the advantage of best practices from the industry and other organizations. But overall, may not fit your requirements exactly. Since you can do the configuration on your own, there is generally no additional fee that you need to pay.

Customizable software, on the other hand, requires bespoke programming, generally done by the software company’s technical team or by a partner. With customized software, you get software that fits your requirements exactly. But because you are getting it specifically developed for you, the software itself does not evolve with usage from multiple companies. Whenever you need changes, those changes need to be specifically made for you and therefore will be both time-consuming and expensive.

The best example of configuration vs. customization is that of clothes. You

Configuring a shirt
Configuring a shirt

could get a shirt custom stitched to your exact size OR you could buy a shirt at a store. The custom stitched shirt is the equivalent of customized software, whereas buying a ready-to-wear shirt in a store is the equivalent of configured software. You can “configure” the shirt in the store by choosing your specific collar size, sleeve length from the variations available in the store. The custom shirt is specifically tailored for each of your lengths and sizes, but takes longer to make and may not have all the bells and whistles that come with the factory-made shirt. In software terms, we would say that the “configured” shirt has all the best practices from the industry.

Coming back to software, configurable software allows for users to re-arrange key elements of the software to suit their own business requirements, without programming changes. While customized software that works exactly to your specifications is alluring, the overall cost and time involved is generally prohibitive.

Like with most things, the 80-20 rule holds true for software implementations too. Check to see if out-of-the-box solution fits 80% of your requirements. If it does, you should be able to get the remaining 20% of the functionality through configurations, eliminating customization completely.

This post is the first in a 3-part series on software configuration. Next week, we’ll talk about how configuration makes Salesforce so powerful that it has become the platform of choice for many different implementations. The following week, as an example, we’ll look at how configuration works with dftly Time Tracker.