The Next

In July of last year, I left BrightStep Partners and began a journey into the Next, which I honestly didn’t know where would lead me.  It was, looking back, one of the best things I’ve ever done for myself because it allowed me to understand what it truly means to live a life of faith.  Faith that tomorrow will bring a new change, opportunity, or challenge that I will have the capacity and resilience to undertake.  Faith that there is something greater than myself guiding me, holding me, loving and healing me as I walk.  It was also terrifying, and, honestly, there were some very dark moments along the path.

2016 was for me a year of, it felt, never-ending loss – personal, professional, death, family, and to add insult to it all, the election of Trump.  I had many components of my world systematically stripped away until that which remained was only the pillar of faith that I’ve been called upon to serve and that drove me to become ordained in 2015.  Along the way, I learned some valuable lessons:

  • I am surrounded by one of the most amazing communities of people anyone could ever ask for. I am deeply grateful to many, many people for hearing me, supporting me, making me laugh, and being a light in the shadows when I needed it.
  • There is no shame, and in fact, a great deal of love, in asking for help.
  • However much I thought I had saved to sustain me for a half-year, double in the future. Truly taking a step back, and having the patience and fortitude to find the next right fit, means having an enduring means to live for a calendar year or more without steady income. Let that be a finance lesson to us all.

It’s easy to allow the good times to dull our senses to the greater world around us.  In fact, this past year has been tremendously difficult for more people than less, both in my immediate and anecdotal circles.  It’s even easier to let the bad times cause isolation and fear.  Two people connected to my immediate circles killed themselves after Election Day – I learn that this has not been an uncommon phenomenon after this November and into the holidays.  In the coming times, may we all reach our hands out to just one more person in peace, understanding, and compassion.

On January 16, I’m joining an amazing team of colleagues as co-workers at Salesforce.org – my new title will be Partner Training and Enablement Manager.  And, I have so many to thank as part of the journey to this moment, I doubt I’d do any justice by trying to list them all.  Instead I will promise, in my new role, to be as of best service I possibly can be to you and this community that has given me so much through the years.

In immense gratitude, and with blessings for us all in this new calendar year.

In Loss…

Anyone who knows me will know that I’ve been an unabashed supporter of Hillary Clinton since last year.  I see so much of my own life reflected in her journey, and have been on the receiving end of the same criticisms for the duration of my own career in technology: I’m too aggressive, too meek, can’t be trusted, too effusive, not effusive enough, too much an insider, too much an outsider, and oh-can-I-speak-to-your-manager, please?

We are in a moment of extraordinary change, it’s just not the change for which many of us hoped.  It’s going to be incredibly easy to give up hope, and allow our sadness and cynicism to take over in the coming days.  Of course, I’m incredibly disappointed and sad, writing this in tears, in a lot of pain, and wishing that this election would have had a different outcome.

Late in the night on CNN, Van Jones called this election a “whitelash,” and reminded everyone that there is legitimate need to hold the values of inclusion and justice now even more so as we move forward.  I am very afraid, for my own body, for my friends, for the issues I care about, and certainly for the lives of so many who are threatened by an incoming president who campaigned on deportation, building walls, isolationism, xenophobia, fear, racism, and outright exclusion and harm of others.

Take a moment, feel our sadness and fear, mourn our losses, and remember that many of us came together because we care about this world and the lives of everyone in it. Our new day is still our new day, and we can endure, we will continue to come together, and we will continue to make our world a better place. Now is the time to pick up the tools many of us were taught to use: love fearlessly, organize relentlessly, give without expectation, hope with joy, and offer ourselves and each other immense compassion.  We can still bear the light.

How do we comfort each other in this time and begin to heal? Remember that at the end of every Tweet, email, phone call, Slack channel, and online forum are one or more persons.  That what we saw on Election Day was an immense amount of pain being expressed, even if we don’t fully understand it.  That, as a friend recently shared with me, there will be many opportunities to teach our children love and tolerance, even if they are surrounded by fear and division.

It’s easy to despise things that we don’t understand, and even easier to write off this election as a reason to completely disengage.  But, being part of this community since 2009, I don’t think that’s what we’ll do.  Because, every day I see us supporting each other, helping each other, and teaching each other.  We now truly have the opportunity to practice what Ohana means: that family can disagree and still be family, that we can still value equality, trust, and openness, and that it’s not just when things go our way we are there for each other, it’s when the chips are down that we reach across to each other and say, simply, “I’m here for you.”

Together, We Rise: The Boston NPSP Sprint

Flying back from the fourth NPSP Sprint I’ve attended in two years, I’m reflecting not only on how far we’ve come, but on the real tangible value of our endeavors as a community.  It’s true that being elected to the Salesforce.org NPSP Advisory Board, I feel compelled to attend these community events – it was an incredible honor to be re-elected again this summer for a second term.  I take this commitment seriously, and to any SI/ISV partner or community member, you are truly welcome to email me, reach out, and talk – tell me your concerns, your triumphs, and your desires for the NPSP.

When I last wrote about a Sprint, it was from the lens of from where we’ve come.  But this time, I want to take a moment and outline where it is that I see we’re going.

One of my personal lessons about consulting for the nonprofit industry is that it represents, to me, capitalizing in some respects on a substantial economic inefficiency: an organization implements Salesforce as a project, the implementation carries for as long as the staff involved with it remain in place, and then falters once those folks move on from the organization.  This is as inextricably tied to both greater constraints of nonprofit funding, as it is the inevitability that many Salesforce implementations for nonprofits are still treated by the consulting industry as a discrete, rather than holistic, moment in time.  After these moments pass, an organization shows up, again, on the doorstep of a consulting industry partner and repeats a Salesforce project to compensate for these losses of staff and momentum.  Lather, rinse, repeat.  Dollars and time lost in a vicious cycle.

But with each Sprint, the nonprofit Salesforce community and those who care about it, shepherd it, and love it become our own Trailblazers.  We become less dependent on consulting partners for shared enablement, and more bound to each other to provide the kind of thought leadership, tools, documentation, and features that will help continue success with Salesforce on terms that the nonprofit community defines.  Add in the tsunami that has become Trailhead, and we have a recipe for enabling nonprofits to consult to each other.  Thus, breaking the cycle of inefficient dependency on consulting partners for simple Salesforce execution and training, and freeing up consulting dollars to be better spent on actual consulting: helping organizations strategically align around Salesforce, and set into place the systems and governance necessary to carry forward Salesforce as a genuine component of organizational operations, and not just a catchall for organization data.

In August, this article in Atlantic Magazine caught my eye, and it added hard numbers behind what I’ve anecdotally observed for years: as much as 60% of nonprofit staff are burnt out at any given time, and therefore, when choosing a platform such as Salesforce, will only have a discrete amount of time to actually focus on the tasks at hand.

How should this time be spent? Paying for tools, repeatable features, and documentation, or, learning how to become a more technologically agile organization that understands how to grow with technology, lead with technology strategy, and establish longer-term mechanisms for truly embracing the platform?

file-sep-14-11-00-20-amWhat began as a dream in Washington DC has turned into a utopia in Boston.  We’re breaking this cycle, bit-by-bit, together:

  • Communicating directly with Salesforce.org and the NPSP Advisory Board about common needs
  • Creating lasting documentation that is both “how to,” and “how to approach”
  • Solving complex data architecture and code to improve the efficiency and scalability of the NPSP
  • Identifying and prioritizing new features based on emerging and scalable needs
  • Creating wish-lists and “what ifs?” to take advantage of emerging Salesforce features such as Lightning, Communities, and soon, Einstein
  • Creating community-sourced enablement in videos, trainings, and other ways of quickly bringing learning on Salesforce to a new level
  • Defining common best practices and documenting them to share with all nonprofits
  • Identifying our reporting and data analysis needs together
  • Creating what I call community-sourced enablement: the combination of shared needs that allow nonprofits using Salesforce to learn for and from themselves, and come back with questions to the consulting industry

The trend here is undeniable: nonprofits know best what nonprofits need from Salesforce, and given the freedom and flexibility to define it, they will, together.  The more we place in the trust of our shared community, the less dollars the community spends re-inventing the wheel across every individual Salesforce implementation.

Nonprofits are customers of Salesforce and Salesforce.org who occupy a unique position – they are given, as a grant, 10 licenses to the core Enterprise Salesforce platform.  And, like all customers, they acquire additional licenses, additional platform tools, and third party integrated applications.  Because of the generosity of Salesforce.org and many companies following the Pledge 1% model, they do so at a substantial discount because the nonprofit industry has the constraints of technology funding that it does.  Thank you to all organizations participating in Pledge 1%.

Unlike all other customers of Salesforce, nonprofits have Open Source agency in where they want the NPSP to go next.  Truly being given the freedom to create a community that is unrivaled by any other competing platform.  And this is the nearest star for which we’ve set sail from Boston, straight on through dawn.