Over the last couple of weeks (August 2018), Salesforce have recognised that the Idea Exchange isn’t fulfilling it’s original aims. This all kicked off when the man, myth, legend that is SteveMo created an idea to improve the Idea Exchange, which quickly gained several thousand points and came to the attention of Marc Benioff and Bret Taylor.
Some ideas for the IdeaExchange
Not for nuthin’ but it would be great if there was bit more transparency and accountability for Ideas that are in…
Much like the MPs in the United Kingdom Parliamentary Expenses Scandal, those that had seen no problem with the system for several years suddenly decided that it was broken and needed to change. No longer could the Idea Exchange be the Idea Graveyard, where ideas went to die unless they happened to coincide with what the Product Managers already intended to do — if there was a mascot for this area it would be a sloth, and maybe a deaf one.
A blog post quickly appeared acknowledging the problem and setting out the first steps on the path to resolving it.
Building the Next IdeaExchange... Together
Join us as we create the next generation of IdeaExchange, a Trailblazer community where members suggest and vote on the…
Personally I haven’t raised any ideas or voted on anything for a couple of years — if I really need something that isn’t in the product(s) then I build it, and if I don’t need it that badly then I find a workaround or go without. I used to vote a lot when I first came into the Salesforce ecosystem, but as time went on it seemed like it might be a wasted effort.
There’s a couple of problems with how things currently work that any new solution needs to address.
The breadth of the Salesforce product set plus the size of the highly engaged Salesforce community are always going to be challenging. Whatever technical solution is put in place is going to be subject to this and it’s only going to get “worse”. In the blog post linked above, Salesforce refer to 65,000 ideas and how this has become unmanageable, but my feeling is that we won’t be creating less ideas if we get something that works properly — quite the reverse. Organising the ideas better will help — items that won’t ever be acted on or that have been delivered need to be out of the way so that they don’t clutter up the open requests, but they also need to be accessible so that duplicates can be detected and flagged up.
It feels to me that the only way that this can really scale is to enable members of the community to act as moderators and liaise with Product Management, but this surfaces the second problem.
The great thing about the Idea Exchange is that it’s democratic — one person, one vote. The downside to this (and some would say the downside to democracy, especially given the current divided nature of both the UK and the US) is that people often vote for the “wrong” thing. In this case the wrong thing typically means something that Product Management (and, lets be honest, the really big customers) don’t care about or want.
This leads to the somewhat ridiculous situation of ideas with 37,000 points that have been open for 11 years having a status ‘Not Planned’. When support tell me that I should raise a request for a new feature on the idea exchange, I look at items like this and think what’s the point? If the Product Manager wants it, then it will happen, otherwise it won’t. Voting clearly doesn’t have an impact when 3,700 votes and 499 comments over 11 years don’t even get a feature on the roadmap, while an idea with a single vote is in product team review. I can’t see how a new technical solution will change this. So while I think the involving community members in managing the new ideas solution will help scale, unless something changes to make product management are prepared to listen and implement ideas that they don’t really see a need for, we’ll just end up in the same situation on a different platform. Maybe each Product Manager’s V2MOM needs to define how many points they plan to retire and how they will go about doing this — I’m sure if they were measured on it we’d see ideas being smashed out over the year.
An Exercise in Futility?
So given all the above, what’s the point of building a replacement for the idea exchange? The good news is that Salesforce are asking the community to provide input on this via a remote advisory board (you can sign up here), and I think as this progresses we’ll find out how much we are being listened to before we have to go to the trouble of creating ideas. I get the sense that at the top level (Marc Benioff and Bret Taylor) there is a real desire to put something in place that gives all customers a voice, but what I’m not so sure about is how they will enforce this as it goes down the food chain. One thing I am sure of is that the next system will fail fast if it’s going to — if the same problems crop up on a new platform there will be a bright light shone on them pretty quickly.
Does it Really Matter?
This is a very good question. While it might not be apparent from what I’ve written above, on the whole I think Salesforce does a very good job of adding features to their products — sometimes it takes longer than I’d like, but as the great philosopher Lemmy once said,“We can’t have everything ’cause where would we put it?”. So if the idea exchange was simply removed completely and we took what Product Management gave us, I’d be fine with that. It’s the fact that the opportunity to add features that customers really want, and would use, is being missed that grates. And that I keep hoping it might be different this time, that’s the real killer.
One More Thing
My ask for Salesforce (and I have filled out the form to join the advisory board) with the idea exchange replacement is that you listen to us when we say we want something removed or turned off by default. The poster child for this is the Salesforce1 notification banner, which was introduced in response to nobody asking for it, ever. It quickly gained the points to go into product team review, and a slew of entirely negative comments.
Rollback Salesforce Notification Banner to Default Off
Summer 14 release includes the new unasked for Salesforce Notification Banner which defaults to to On for all orgs…
Given the strength of feeling about this, how did Salesforce listen to their customers? You guessed it, Not Planned. Product Management decided to do this and if customers don’t like it, that’s tough. Whenever someone asks me why an obvious feature isn’t available in Salesforce, my go to answer is always “They are too busy creating ad banners that nobody wants”, and I’d really like to change that message.
I’m better known in the Salesforce community as Bob Buzzard — Umpteen Certifications, including Technical Architect, 6 x MVP and CTO of BrightGen, a Platinum Cloud Alliance Partner in the United Kingdom who are hiring.
Brightgen Careers | Brightgen
For 10 years organisations have relied on BrightGen to show them what Salesforce — and their business — is capable of…
You can find my (usually) more technical thoughts at the Bob Buzzard Blog