Podcast S2 Ep.8 – Gemma Blezard – Part 2

Sometimes, it’s better to Build than to Buy.
#RawTruth about the white elephant in the #Salesforce Partner game by Gemma Blezard in Part 2 of my podcast.

This time we focus more on what she’s passionate about – how she continues to provide value through The Architech Club.

Like many true professionals, her goal is to ensure the client gets the RIGHT solution, and sometimes that may mean having difficult conversations.

That’s how Integrity works.
By standing for what you believe in.

I feel so privileged to have had these conversations with Gemma.
She continues to inspire and impact the people she touches.

Please enjoy.

Spotify link here.



Pei Mun Lim 0:03
Well, hello again, Gemma, welcome to part 2, I think we had such a great time on the previous session that I thought we have to have another one in this one in particular, and I’ll explain why we are having this one was, at the end of the last session, I said, so what you’re going to be doing now, and you said you were going to see a customer, you’re going to do a video on with them. And I thought, Ah, right, I just had I just recorded a podcast with Kevin White where. So he’s a Salesforce architect at Salesforce. And he was talking with, you know, the observer come up, but he was talking about the fact that most organizations could do with running that exercise right in the beginning, before even embarking on a project like this. And lo and behold, I’m talking to you, and you are doing just that. So for today’s session, actually, I was thinking it would be great to just understand your process and how you help your customers. So is that the very first thing you do when you get a lead? And they say Help Help? Gemma, we’re drowning, I need your help. What do you do?

Gemma Blezard 1:14
Yeah, well, well, if we get a lead, and somebody comes to us wanting some help, the first that’s the first thing we do right is understand the pain. First of all, like, come on therapies open. Tell us what’s on your mind. First of all, why are you here? What’s and what’s what, why now, what has brought you here, now to talk about what’s brought you to the point where you feel like you need to think more closely about what you’re doing with Salesforce. And once we’ve got an understanding of that we can actually empathize with it, we can share anecdotal stories of, of where we’ve helped other customers to overcome some of those challenges. And, you know, sometimes we can we can tell that we can tell many stories about about other customers experiences, and that helps to kind of build that trust in that relationship. So it’s really important to do that. But then, but yeah, we do. The next step after that is to actually get the right people in the room or in the virtual room to discuss what what are they trying to do with Salesforce right now. Because I think that is such a great way to do it. Because it’s easy to sit and say, right, I’m just going to throw an architect or throw some more resource, or I’m going to go and hire, you know, five admins and put a program manager in place and get a BA and all the rest of it, right. But that’s just throwing resources at a problem. And hoping that it’ll get solved. With the v2 Mom, what you’re actually doing is looking at the possibilities, you’re looking at where you are now and where you want to be. And you’re, if once you’ve got your mind focused in that space, you’re in a much better position to come up with ideas, and think more widely about how you can make the program more successful.

Pei Mun Lim 3:00
So for the benefit of my audience, can you just expand a little bit on the v2 mom in what it means and how do you actually run? Sure.

Gemma Blezard 3:09
So the v2 Mom was first devised by Marc Benioff, it’s his strategic alignment framework. It’s almost like a SWOT analysis strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats. But it’s looking at it in a slightly different way. The vision is what you want to achieve. What do you actually want? What’s what, for example, if you’re using a v2 monster design of a conference, for example, you might say, I’m doing London’s calling, my vision is that this is going to be the biggest privately run or volunteer led community conference in Europe. And our vision is to for people to come together and learn outside of the trappings of the marketing spiel and sales environment that you get that you get a world tour or something like that. And then equally for a project, I mean, the v2 one we did this week, the vision is to actually stabilize Salesforce, they’ve got an MVP, service, cloud basic, minimum viable products stood up. And they they actually their other, their other, the other side of that vision is to build confidence in that program, they actually want to operationalize it properly. And they, they’re just not sure how to do it yet. So so that vision is really important, because that needs to permeate all the way through the project in order to to increase the perceived success of

Pei Mun Lim 4:28
that project. Okay, so what’s the second fee?

Gemma Blezard 4:32
The second fee, the second fee is values. It’s all about what’s important, what behaviors and what mindsets are really important to you as you go about realizing that vision. So things like transparency, collaboration, honesty, spirit of humanity, you know, things like that. So, our values as the architect club is trust, obviously because you know, we have to We have to make sure that our customers trust us and that we trust them. But we also have humanity ownership and transparency as our as our values as well, and that permeates throughout. And, and serves towards creating a set of guiding principles for how the program will function.

Pei Mun Lim 5:19
So, you’ve touched on a point where I find quite interesting in terms of where you are. So my experience has been working in partners, but when I’m in front of the customer, the first time during kickoff, a few steps down the road already. So they will have met with Salesforce who have given them a demo, if met with our sales team from my company who has given them a demo and ideally should, you know have run a bit more with them at that point. But then they’ve sold the project. And now it’s my turn right that to your ticket from there, and sometimes feel quite late in the process. And then I’m seeing the fact that maybe what you’ve been sold isn’t quite the solution that you need. But you are positioned, or the architect club is in a great position to have that conversation now. Do you go through the whole process with them? Or just let’s start with the first fee? Because when it comes to values, for example, how honest is your client with you when you’re talking about this? And does it align with what you observe in how they’re running their operations and their communication with you? Yeah, good

Gemma Blezard 6:34
point. Not always, because if you think about it, the v2 mom is a it’s a strategy, it’s the way we want to work, it’s the possibilities, the reality, as we know, can be quite different. And so that’s why we use the v2 mom is like, start with it. Also, we need to remember the v2 mom is a living thing. So at the beginning you started but that doesn’t mean that that’s going to be the same v2 mom forever, it’s not going to necessarily be the same methods, the same obstacles. You have to review it regularly at different checkpoints. And make sure that I make sure that your vision is valid, but also ensure that you’re completing project retros. And giving feedback and creating creating a culture of feedback so that, you know, whether you are whether the v2 mom has changed needs to change or whether your behavior needs to change.

Pei Mun Lim 7:29
So it sounds like a consultative process with them. How do they when you proposing this? What’s the general kind of feedback and perception? Do you get do do they go? Oh, there’s another Hokey Pokey for you to do to go through? Oh, wow. You know, it’s something that we ought to do. And we’ll carry it through. So have you seen a different kinds of clients in terms of how they approach this particular exercise with you?

Gemma Blezard 7:59
Yes, actually, and a lot of it is about how you sell it as well, like, because some people would think it’s a gimmick, especially here in Britain, where we’re all very cynical, but, but actually, from my experience, it’s about taking them through the experience of actually aligning with it, and having the right people on the call, who have who can share perspectives and are willing to share perspectives, because then it turns it you people see the value of it as an alignment tool, as opposed to a set. This is a stat a rubber stamp, if that makes sense. So we do take time to explain it. We also explain why it worked for Salesforce, we provide background me Mark, Mark has written a blog, written a post on the blog and Salesforce blog about it as well. So we make sure that they’re informed about that in advance. And we actually fill out a slide deck on the call with them. So as they’re speaking, we’re taking notes, and we’re capturing that information. And then it goes into our proposals, we actually say this is what you’ve told us you want to do. And we use that that kind of direct language where we say, you know, thank you for your time. This is what you’ve told us. And then this, these are your this is your vision. And these are your values. This is your methods to say you’re going to do it. This is your obstacles. And these are some measures that we know are important to you. And we know that some more would come back. So it’s you’re right, it is completely consulting, it creates that consultative experience and helps to build trust. And that’s why we do it.

Pei Mun Lim 9:31
So taking that on board, so when you look when you’re looking at your clients, and we had this conversation, I think it was particularly offline where you’ve said, the reason why the architect club needs to exist is because it’s for customers who have already started their journey, and they need that expertise or that help in order to grow and scale it to the next level.

Gemma Blezard 10:00
That’s partly it. It’s also that I mean, the latest proposal that we did for a prospect talked a lot about now your life, let’s get organized. So that’s another kind of call to action. The other the other clients that we work with are ones that are perhaps feeling a little bit overwhelmed by all of the shiny things that are being presented to them and want to think about it in a systematic way, and be made sure they’re really ready to embark on a Salesforce program at that point, so. So really, it’s a profile of customer, it’s what where are you in your journey. And with this, with this latest one that we’ve done, it has been about it has been about growth, people need to see and touch, you can’t be what you can’t see. So people do need time to actually get on board with Salesforce, look at it understand what they’re dealing with look at Trailhead. And actually, there comes a point, they come to a point where there’s a realization like, Okay, we’ve done this bit now. Now I need to really think about how this is going to scale like you said. So yeah, perfect timing.

Pei Mun Lim 11:10
So in terms of where you’re positioning yourself. So in my world, generally, in the world of the consulting industry, for Salesforce, you have the client to see Salesforce and go, Wow, that’s amazing. I’d like to figure out how to do it myself, a good trailhead, staff can learn in I can implement. And then you’ve got the others who go, Oh, I like Salesforce. I don’t know very much about it. Let me engage a partner to do in both scenarios, you’ve got success stories, and you’ve got the not success stories. It sounds like the architect club is focusing on? How do we make sure that the solution that you get is the right one, regardless of which avenue you go down? How do you have that conversation with an organization that says, Oh, I like this? I’m not quite sure what I need to get off the ground. But I think we don’t want a partner. We want to grow it ourselves. And we want to create a sense of excellence. How do you have that conversation? And what are the things that they need to think about in order to make sure that that strategy is the right one for them? And is there a wrong one? Is there a situation where no actually you shouldn’t think about having a center of excellence? You should actually outsource all of this?

Gemma Blezard 12:49
Yeah, good point. So I think as you say, there, there are red and red, amber and green projects on both sides. And actually, I encourage our our customers to go down the center of excellence route. consultancy costs a lot of money. And there are some consultancies that, how they are incentivized to draw out engagements for as long as possible, to maximize revenue and to maximize that longer term relationship. But actually, if you just get your mind in the right place, Salesforce doesn’t have to take four years to implement.

Pei Mun Lim 13:22
We know this. So

Gemma Blezard 13:27
with the architect club, what we tend to do is we look at, we look at various factors. So we complete orientation projects with customers. It starts with the VT mom setting the vision and what they want to do, but we actually immerse ourselves in that customer’s business for four to six weeks in an ideal world. And we look at everything. So we look at the data management, integration, strategy, solution, architecture strategy, we even look at the culture. We look at the methodologies that are employed, we look at any governance and compliance restrictions, we look at their staffing. So we look at the level of knowledge and talent that’s there with Salesforce. And at the end of that period, we write a report that shares recommendations with them, and actually lists the decisions that they are going to need to make. Sometimes the decision that they need to make is which route you’re going down or you’re going to treat, or you’re going to go down a custom build route first. So we’ve had a client that used Salesforce as if it was platform as a service, so everything was coded. And there were lots of unnecessary processes on Salesforce that really could have been handled elsewhere and just integrated. So setting that, that that main core strategy and sets of design standards is really important as well. And you can only really do that if you can immerse yourself as a consultant into that business. Really feel like you work there. Understand as much as you can about the environment. And then that will help you to get a feeling based on your experience and your knowledge of what is going to work for this customer. Some customers are going to struggle to own Salesforce themselves. They don’t have the resource, they don’t have the time, they’ve got other priorities that are in play. And therefore, it’s actually more convenient to outsource to a company that will charge a reasonable price and has all of the appropriate knowledge and skills and all you do is feed them requirements. The downside to that is, how good are your requirements? And are they actually requirements? Or are you running to your partner and saying, I need you to build me this, which is a solution, it’s not a requirement, it’s a solution. So a lot of the challenge on that side is around mindset and say, right, okay, I’m not glorified help desk here. You know, you you might want this field put in or you might want this data cleaned up, but what, what’s it for? So and then on the other side, on the partner side, on the actual enablement side, that’s that’s where the architect club really strengthens itself, because you’ve got experienced people who’ve delivered all these projects year in year out as delivery. And they’ve grown in the Salesforce ecosystem, without trailhead, just by doing projects over the last few years. And some of those people have no certifications, by the way, because when have they had time to do certs? They’ve had no time at all, because they’ve been out delivering. And they’ve constantly been delivering with excellence. So they’re in demand all the time. And you know, there are a few unicorns out there, if you really, really good consultants out there. And there’s no real problem with that. But the great thing is, is that if they’re actually the work they enjoy is advisory work. But you get to get to a point where you get sick of you get sick of delivery, you get sick of configuring, and you get sick of having a Statement of Work land on your desk, that you’ve not been involved in scoping. And the architecture is completely different. When you get into the client, compared to all the discussions, that all the sales and pre sales people had before you got there, as to your point earlier. So in those scenarios, that’s when you end up having to have difficult conversations about scope. This isn’t in scope, I can’t deliver that. And the client doesn’t like it and everything else. So that part inside the architect clubs, I was like, why? How can we just make sure that me as an architect, selfishly can walk into a customer know I’ve got commercial coverage, and I can have any conversation that I need to have with that customer? And it doesn’t matter if it’s in scope or not. It’s still relevant. So if I do care, so what if I care about what’s happening in your master data management system or your data warehouse? Yes, I care. Because even though even though it’s not Salesforce, it impacts Salesforce. And it’s that thinking that I’m trying to encourage and our and our architects are here because they want to help and enable the 9.2 million, it’s now 9.2 million new people that are joining the market by 2026. And we want them to be thinking carefully strategically about how they’re building Salesforce. So that enablement pieces, actually, I think is far more, I think it’s, and of course, I’m biased, but because I’m running the architect club, but it’s far more rewarding and easier to enable a client than it is to do to do it for them. And that’s just my view.

Pei Mun Lim 18:27
I think that it goes Hmm. Isn’t there a fable somewhere about teaching a man to fish? It’s like that, isn’t it to

Gemma Blezard 18:38
hold on to fish? That’s the thing. I just don’t want to fish. They want to go to the supermarket and buy the fish.

Pei Mun Lim 18:47
Okay, that analogy went that direction. Your can you? So one of the very interesting things I realized when I some time ago was you actually have your knee to mom on your website available for others to see which I actually had aganda that last time not Not, not recently. Can you tell me your process about how you’ve gone through the recruitment for the architect club? Because it seems to be working quite nicely for that.

Gemma Blezard 19:23
I do it every year. Or and I revise it. We downloaded the Salesforce v2 map into our org as well for personal VT mom’s thing is it’s not really been very widely adopted. And I think it’s just because we’re two smaller team at the moment. But for me, it’s the first thing I do when I come back to work after Christmas is I do the FY two month of the year. And I think about what what about what of our priorities need to be for the year and that a lot of that is based upon what obviously the metrics so what financials do we want to achieve what project and success stories do we want to obtain for that year, etc. But the values pieces is exceptionally important for me because it helps to drive the quality and experience that we give our customers as well. So I guess I guess I just kind of go through and go right is this vision from last year still valid, the vision is that we want to be a home for Salesforce architects, we want to create more, we want to enable the workforce of the future of we want to enable the future workforce to become to see a clear career path, we want to be somewhere that consultants, people who are working as consultants, admins, developers, right now, we want them to come and work for us. Because they see us as that as a as a great next step place to go to grow that and develop their career as an architect. But equally, you know, we want to get paid for delivering exceptional service to customers in a very pure way, you know, for me, it’s we, we don’t have to become millionaires to be successful, or multimillionaires, you know, for me, my measure of success is that our customers book us again, and they’re happy with us. They’re happy with the work that we’ve done. And they tell that they tell Salesforce and others about the impact that we’ve had on the project. And I feel most proud when I see a client of mine stood on stage at World Tour, telling everybody what a great project they’ve had. And knowing that I’ve been the little roadie in the background making it actually happen. You know, it can be a thankless job when that happens. But um, but at least I get the satisfaction of sitting there knowing that I worked on

Pei Mun Lim 21:46
it. So that’s, I think one of the advantages of running your own business, right? Where you can get to say it’s more important for me to do it right and to earn money. And I think, well, no, yes, absolutely. But I mean, a lot of partners, because it’s so driven by utilization and revenue, and the p&l and things like that it can get lost sometimes. In trying to do things right is not the type of deal.

Gemma Blezard 22:21
Yeah. Yeah, this is all about doing things, right. learning the lessons of work from working for revenue focused consultancies, and seeing projects just stall, because they’ve had, the customers had so much thrown at them at once here is here, all the products you need here, all the licenses you need, and here is the cost of the services, implementation services. And this is what we’re gonna do in phase one. And this is what we’re gonna do in phase two, phase three, here’s your roadmap. And you’re just kind of like, Whoa, that all just hit me one hit me at once. And I haven’t even logged in Salesforce yet and seeing what it can do. And you get this great big dream salty at the beginning. And then as the project goes, you realize you’re still just putting an IT system in. So there’s always going to be stuff that comes up that you’re maybe not happy with or want to change. But it’s taking the customer on a gradual journey, step by step, helping them to really understand the world that they’re getting involved in. Because Salesforce is intense. It’s, it does hit you smack in the face. And then once you’re in it, it’s kind of you do get kind of pulled in. Culturally, and you know it because the tool itself, the product is great, it sells itself. And there’s a reason that we all like working with it, right? It’s fun. We like learning and, and that’s and Trailhead is has really tapped into that and realized how fun it is. But it is complex. And it can be overwhelming. So with the architect club, we are just taking a step by step, let’s walk with you hold my hand, we’ll take the next step together, hold my hand, we’ll take the next step together. It doesn’t have to be all, you know, rushed in and hitting you in the face all at once. You don’t have to be live in three weeks, because it tells a great story. You can be live in three weeks because you’ve actually pulled your socks up and got on with the work. And you’ve managed to achieve that. And you’ve involved your users. But it’s really, really you’re only as successful as the perception of the success of your project. You can you can build the most beautiful code and the most beautiful contractor management solution. But if it’s hard to use, and people hate it, the project’s not going to be considered a success. You’re going to get that same story that we always get when we got a new lead. That’s been live for it for a few years and they go we’ve got Salesforce. Yeah, it’s just not it’s been implemented badly. And implemented badly and those That’s two words that have got so much to unpack underneath.

Pei Mun Lim 24:59
100% So thank you for that. Can you talk us through that mum bit of your business, there’s something you can share.

Gemma Blezard 25:11
The mum part is all about how you go about it, what’s standing in your way and how you know you’ve been successful. So the first part of the MAM is methods, what are you actually going to do? So at a strategic level, I look at what projects do, I actually want us to complete because it’s got to cascade down the team into their v2 months. So So for our v2 My most head right this year, we, we’ve got the standard kind of grow revenue, you know, we’re going to grow revenue by selling more discoveries or more more orientation projects, we’re going to grow revenue by, you know, by tapping into other channels, other sales channels and partnerships and things like that. But then at the same time, there are other methods as well, like we want to become part of the vision is about also be establishing ourselves as a property or acting like a proper company. So, you know, we’ve spent two years being a startup during the pandemic, we’ve now implemented internal processes, we’ve set up financialforce PSA so that we can forecast and that we can manage our contractors, because architects, ultimately, a lot of them are contractors. So we’ve got a robust supplier management experience now that we’ve built, which has been all apart all part of the method of becoming more organized as business and more compliant as a business. So you know, and the things that were standing in our way, this is why it kind of all links together, because this, what we’re standing in our way was actually time and being stretched. And, frankly, you know, limited availability due to, you know, this annoying thing called cancer that gets in the way. You know, we don’t, we don’t have a big team of 30 people who are all on the payroll, who can just crap, you can just throw jobs that we have to be really, we have to prioritize how we use people’s time, because people’s time is very valuable. Right down from from myself, right way over to Romania, where our copywriter, Stefan works for us part time, and we have to maximize the time that we get with him. So and that, and that’s, that’s something that we’ve all taken seriously at the architect club, because we’re all a dispersed team. But we we try really hard to make good use of each other’s time. And the v2, mom helps to kind of keep us on track. And we go through all hands calls and things like that, as well. So

Pei Mun Lim 27:44
so that’s the oh, that’s the obstacle, right?

Gemma Blezard 27:47
That’s the obstacles. And then the measures is how you know you’ve done it. So for like the revenue targets, that’s easy enough, you have done X in revenue, how you know, you’ve done it is that you get a good contract of customer contractor satisfaction rating. You can use glass door, I’ve been encouraging my team to fill out glass door. And be honest, you know, we’ve got an anonymous feedback bot in Slack. And that people can use where they can just type something honest. And you can turn it into discussion, they can do it anonymously. And other measures like, you know, our obviously our part our partner, our partner standing, so what level are we in the Salesforce partner program? This year, we’re a rich partner, be nice to be a crest partner. And what do we have to do to be a crest partner? Well, we’ve got to go and grow our revenue, we’ve got to make sure that we have stronger relationships with Salesforce. So that we recognized for Salesforce ACV. And that’s really hard for us, actually, because we’re not, we’ve had a few occasions where we’re not the only partner in there. And the Salesforce partner program doesn’t handle multiple partners very well, to handle white labeling very well, either. Because you could be doing 40 50% of the work on behalf of another partner. And then they get the story and they get the their name on the ACV, which is a key target in the partner program. So, you know, there are metrics that we can, there are metrics that are important to Salesforce. And there are metrics that are important to us. And there is some overlap. But it’s not, but we don’t have our partner metrics driving our strategy for the business because we know that there are other elements like we also can’t link everybody’s certifications to our AppExchange profile, for example. But we know that we all of our architects have an average of about 12 certs each. But it doesn’t say that on our App Exchange profile because a lot of our partners do work for other partners and they give them the credit for a while. So you know there’s there’s a real missed opportunity for Salesforce to create more equity to create equality of opportunity for partners in that sense.

Pei Mun Lim 30:02
Yes, indeed, it looks like a lot of what you do or what your company does is the hard work, but not getting a share of, you know, useful glory loosely, but not being acknowledged and recognized. But it is so important. I think I’ve mentioned to you quite a few times already, that a company like yours, exists to focus solely on the success of the project, because, as you’ve already mentioned, a consulting partner, sometimes they’ve got a, what’s the word? I’m looking for agenda? Yes. I mean, it’s in their interest to, you know, being cynical to not being not not be as efficient as they could be. I’m not saying that about all partners, but some do, because, you know, it’s paying the bills, why should I give them a quicker solution?

Gemma Blezard 30:58
The money’s most important, whereas for us, the money is the second most important you need to get paid for what we do. I mean, he’s get paid fairly for what we do. But the success is far more important than sitting in a client just make your raking millions in year after year.

Pei Mun Lim 31:15
Yeah. On that note, actually, I think this was quite a nice round up to our part one, which was to get a deeper look at your company, which is something that has intrigued me for a long time. So I want to thank you for your time again, Gemma for this part two, and I’m hoping for more, part three, part four as we go along. I’m having so much fun, just, you know, getting to know you a lot more. Thank you. Okay, thank you.