The Future of Automation with Farhan Tahir :

The Future of Automation with Farhan Tahir
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On this episode of the Salesforce Admins Podcast, we’re featuring a conversation with LeeAnne Rimel and Farhan Tahir, VP of Product Management at Salesforce. We discuss the key product features that help you put design features into action.

Join us as we talk about the future of declarative app-building on the platform, and what’s coming soon.

You should subscribe for the full episode, but here are a few takeaways from our conversation with Farhan Tahir.

How the pandemic pushed digital transformation forward

We want to dive into how to build great pages that center the user experience, so we’ve brought Farhan on the pod to help us learn about new approaches and features. He owns Salesforce Pages and AppBuilder, so he has some great insights to share. “My mission is to democratize app development in the local space — I want to make app development easy so all of our Trailblazer community can build apps on top of the Salesforce platform and it’s not just restricted to developers,” he says.

The pandemic has forced years worth of digital transformation into months, and Farhan’s team are creating tools like Dynamic Forms and Dynamic Actions to build, automate, and innovate at scale with a point and click interface. Automation is a big part of that, and Lightning App Builder and Flow Builder make it easier than ever to do it declaratively.

What’s next for no and low code app building

88% of IT leaders plan on using low code solutions to help transform their digital experiences. Driving that is the anticipated need for 500 million applications by 2023 — more applications than have been created in the past 40 years. IT departments will need the help of business users to not get backlogged and continue to innovate. Salesforce is also getting AI and automation involved to help make things even easier, like Guardrails.

Looking forward, Farhan and his team are trying to move away from a UI on top of a database model. Instead, they’re building “mutli-entity experiences” to bring all of the data into one place without having to write a single line of code.

“There’s never been a better time to be really thoughtful about the fundamentals of design,” LeeAnne says, especially as we get more and more tools to shape the user experience. That’s why we’re covering this topic thoroughly in our special Be an Innovator with Design six-part series where we help you get your bearings and center the user experience in everything that you do.



Full Show Transcript

Gillian Bruce: Welcome Salesforce Admins podcast, where we talk about product, community and careers to help you be an awesome admin. I’m Gillian Bruce. And today I am joined by one of our favorites, LeeAnne Rimel, who is here to talk to you all about something very, very special and important that we’re all talking about this month. And that is design thinking admins. We are designers, whether we would like to acknowledge it or not. And what we’ve got going on this month is a special Be an Innovator event to help all admins learn how to be better designers. Now, when we think about design thinking, well, we’ve got some specific product and features that are very critical to helping us make better experiences for our end users. And we have an amazing product leader joining us today on the podcast to talk specifically about that.
We’re joined by Farhan Tahir, who is vice president of product management here at Salesforce. He’s been at Salesforce for 14 years. So he has had a huge part in helping evolve the platform to where it is today. And he’s here to share with all of us some of the incredible products he and his team have been working on and how they fit in to this idea of design thinking and how you can best leverage them. So without further ado, let’s welcome LeeAnne and Farhan on the podcast. Farhan, welcome to the podcast.

Farhan Tahir: Thank you. It’s a pleasure. I’m super excited to be talking to our admin community today.

Gillian Bruce: We’re very, very happy to have you. And we have you on for some very obvious radiant reasons, because you’re an amazing leader in our product group here at Salesforce. But also because we want to specifically talk about something that we want admins to really think about, and LeeAnne, I’m going to kick it to you to kind of give us some framing for why we’ve got Farhan on the podcast today.

LeeAnne Rimel: Well, we have Farhan on the podcast because he’s awesome. And also because we are talking a lot about page design, how to build great pages, really how to put admins front and center with thinking about that user experience as they’re engaging with Salesforce pages. And who better to talk about that with us than product leader who owns Salesforce pages and [inaudible]. So besides your general awesomeness, why we invited you on Farhan, because I think it’s a great chance for admins to hear about features and tools and ways they should be thinking about pages and how to work with that builder. And maybe you’ll give us a sneak peek into some of the stuff that’s coming in the future with that builder and just kind of some general approaches that maybe admins can keep front of mind as they think about designing awesome user experiences.

Gillian Bruce: So with that kickoff, Farhan, can you tell us exactly what you do at Salesforce? Because we’ve hinted around it. Can you tell us exactly kind of what you and your teams work on?

Farhan Tahir: Yes, absolutely. I’ve been in Salesforce for a long time. This is my 14th year with Salesforce. I’ve had multiple different jobs. I started off in account management, I’ve done support engineering, I’ve done engineering R&D and I’ve been in product for the past eight years. So previously I was focused on the programmatic side so frameworks such as Locker Service, Lightning, Web Components. But I’m most excited about where I am today and strategically my mission is to democratize app development in the low code space. By innovating in low code space, I want to make app development easy so all of our credible admin community can build apps on top of the Salesforce platform. It’s not just restricted to developers.

Gillian Bruce: That’s an amazing goal and strategy and vision and admins are falling in love with you right now. I can hear it. Because that speaks to the heart of what every awesome admin is trying to do. So Farhan, can you maybe talk a little bit about, I mean, to democratize app development, I mean, gosh, that’s amazing. Can you talk maybe a little bit about some of kind of the recent innovations that your team has helped deliver in that vein of trying to enable more people to build cool stuff on the platform?

Farhan Tahir: Sure, sure. It’ll be my pleasure. So I’m going to take it a step back first. So there was a time when implementing CRM required an army of engineers and a mountain of hardware. And then came along Marc Benioff and Parker Harris with this idea of cloud where teams could quickly achieve their goals with [inaudible] solutions. And it’s funny because Marc talks about, in his book Behind the Cloud, he talks about Cockatoo, a particular customer who is in hospital. And the customer said, why do we have to call patients lead? And that sort of sparked the idea of customizations, giving customers the ability to customize their applications. So Salesforce has been really a pioneer in this particular space of providing customization to out of the box CRM, particularly using these click-based configuration tools and obviously bridging the gap to programmatic tools where necessary.
And especially right now with the pandemic, we already know the pandemic last 12 months or so, actually more than 12 months now, it has kind of forced years worth of digital transformation into months. So Salesforce, as I mentioned, has been an innovator in this space for a long time, empowering all of your teams to build, automate [inaudible] at scale. So just to give you a couple of different examples where we’re excelling here is just last year, we released the concept of Dynamic Forms and Dynamic Actions. We gave the-

Gillian Bruce: Cheers from around the awesome admin universe. Yes.

Farhan Tahir: So with Dynamic Forms and Dynamic Actions, the admin is now empowered to create unique business enterprise experiences just by using point-and-click. And the advantage to the end user is they have the information or the data and the UI they need at their fingertips when they need it. With things like conditional visibility, additionally we brought the power to the email builder. So now as a marketeer, you can drag and drop components and create awesome emails for your customers. And again, that was something the teams worked on last year.

Gillian Bruce: Those are amazing innovations. LeeAnne, I’d love for you to weigh in a little bit about how those innovations have really helped transform the awesome admin role within maybe app development and that experience.

LeeAnne Rimel: Right. And I think Farhan really said it with the rate of digital transformation that we’re seeing at our customers over this past year in particular, it really added a lot of momentum and speed and frankly urgency to the pace at which customers had to create good remote experiences, good digital experiences, because maybe you weren’t sitting next to someone at work to tell you how to do something, right? You had to have intuitive experiences. You maybe had new employees starting and had to make sure that it was an experience that they could figure out in order to not dampen productivity and efficiency as you’re engaging with the app. So I think all of these changes that our customers are going through and that all of these companies are going through, admins are really at the front of that. So we’re in a position as admins to be delivering those digital experiences and those digital transformations and dealing with how your users engage with records and pages is one of the most kind of fundamental ways that people engage with Salesforce.
Like if they’re using core CRM, using Sales Cloud, Service Cloud, using that kind of account model or a case model, that is so important. It’s fundamental to the success of your whole technology stack. That your users can access and input and work with records in the right way. So it was really, I think, an important time for admins to think about the digital experience for their users as they’re going through maybe change or new business processes or rapid rates of transformation. So I think, Farhan, when we talk about the position that admins are in to kind of deliver on these experiences and deliver these page experiences like with Dynamic Forms, for example, with dynamic pages, are there any sort of trends or things that you’ve seen from our customers or admins out there around what they were doing to deliver those page experiences to their users in the midst of this time of rapid transformation?

Farhan Tahir: Sure. So let’s talk about the future trends, which are, sort of as I mentioned, accelerated because of the pandemic. And these are things that Salesforce and my team, the low code organization, is focusing on with certain urgency. Because as I mentioned, low code is sort of part of the Salesforce DNA and we spend a lot of our time and energy thinking about what’s next. How do we make our admin’s life easier and better? They’re enabled to innovate on top of the Salesforce platform to solve their business needs. So I think automation is something that I would want to call out first. So with low code development, we allow our users to build rich experiences through drag-and-​drop and point-and-click technology. And one key aspect of building that user experiences automation, in the past making static UI [inaudible] to automation was often left to writing code.
However, with Lightning App Builder, with Flow Builder, these things can be built declaratively. So about a month ago, we had the transformative platform episode, and if you haven’t gotten a chance to look at it, I highly recommend spending 30, 35 minutes where we talk about what’s newest in the automation land. In this space, talking about this year’s roadmap a little bit, as well as we’re talking about trends is one feature that I want to highlight is Dynamic Interactions. We talked about Dynamic Forms and Dynamic Actions, which was released last year. This year, we’re going to GA Dynamic Interactions in Lightning App Builder at Dreamforce. And what it will do is it will give you the ability to connect and wire components on a page so they can talk to each other.
So imagine you have a list view and you click on a particular item in the list view, that record ID is automatically transferred or declaratively you’ve set it up so it’s transferred to another component. And that component shows you either the detail of the record or it takes the address and shows you a map of that. Imagine extending that to services. So when you click on a list and you click on LeeAnne as the contact, it sends a text to LeeAnne using Twilio as a service. So this sort of robust UI creation and automation declaratively, I think all organizations need right now and Salesforce is heavily invested in that.
A couple of other things in terms of trend is we’re hearing a lot more about citizen development. So we know there’s a lot of pressure on IT to deliver these experiences. These digital transformation staff and business users want, with the right skills and the right passion, want to help IT in that particular mission. So I think we’re seeing a trend where IT with the right governance, with the right security, with the right permissioning model, is more open to allowing line of business users to be able to create their own applications. So a recent study showed that 88% of IT leaders currently plan to use low code development in the next 12 to 18 months to light up their digital experiences. Now that is caused by the need for about 500 days IDC study, that we need 500 million applications by 2023. That’s more applications than have been created in the past 40 years and IT needs the help of business users to support that mission so that IT departments don’t have this long backlog, which becomes a bottleneck to business innovation.
So that’s another trend that we’re noticing and that’s sort of why we’ve been talking about Dynamic Forms, Dynamic Actions, Dynamic Interactions, because these tools are so easy to use that I believe non IT people with the right governance and the right permission will also be able to handle them.
And then the last couple of quick trends is intelligence. I think AI and machine learning is sort of bubbling up in everything. Similarly, in app development, it is also coming up. And as the world is sort of moving to this low code development, organizations are looking to effectively guide their applications builders wisely, regardless of their role or technical background. So sort of a system that leverages predictive analytics and intelligent algorithms to provide real-time recommendations and best practices through your app development life cycle. A quick example of that, if I may, is guardrail. So on the Lightning App Builder, and you’re using conditional visibility and dragging and dropping fields and actions in the page, you will notice the guardrail notification is sort of helping you along in terms of what does this mean? What do your actions mean in terms of performance? And how do you improve page performance right from within Lightning App Builder for your end users? Or what does this mean for usability? How do you improve usability?
And all of this is within the Salesforce low code platform. So customers can build and deploy applications faster. Again, with confidence in their quality, security, performance, in adherence to best practices.

Gillian Bruce: Farhan, I could listen to you talk for hours about this. I think the way you [inaudible] these trends into perspective and connecting them into the innovations that Salesforce is bringing to help meet these demands. I mean, I think that stat you just mentioned about 88% of IT leaders plan on using low code to help enable more people to build apps to meet that demand of, what was that? You said 23 million new apps?

Farhan Tahir: 500 million new apps are needed by 2023. .

Gillian Bruce: See, I’m not good at numbers. I mixed those numbers up. I mean, that’s incredible. And hearing that perspective, I think really, really puts the importance on a lot of these innovations, normally that your team is building, but kind of Salesforce as a platform overall, and especially the role of the admin. Because I mean, when you’re talking about the people who are going to be building these apps, I mean, we’re talking about admins for the most part, right? And maybe some delegated super users and whatnot. But this is super, super exciting, I really appreciate you sharing that. I would love to learn, you gave us some sneak peeks on Dynamic Interactions coming. Do you have anything on the product roadmap that you’re willing to share? Forward-looking statement, saying that right now with the audience?

Farhan Tahir: I think the team has been hard at work and I’ll give you a couple of different things. So we’ve talked about Dynamic Interactions. The other problem that my team is really trying to solve, and we have good research around from our admins that this is a problem we need to solve is, we need to sort of move away from a UI on top of a database model. If you look at a record, it is a UI representation of an Oracle database, but the work is not being done in terms of records. The work is being done as, I have three or four different steps and I need data from four different records. So what we’re trying to do is, what we’re calling this is multi entity experiences, which gives you the ability to have your record data from multiple entities, whether they’re Salesforce hosted or external entities in one sort of view configured using Lightning App Builder.
So now if you want to close a deal, you have your opportunity lead and account information on the same page, without having to write a single line of code. With all your information right there on singular page, you will be able to have a more cohesive conversation with your lead and be able to close the deal faster without having to navigate to lead and then to opportunity then to account. So I gave you a deal desk example here, but it applies to all sort of applications that you’re building. If you’re building a custom application, which is around purchase order creation, and for that, you need your product and your code and your customer and your contact information, you will be able to bring all of that in a particular view. And all of this will be declaratively point-and-click from Lightning App Builder. So I think that will move the needle a lot further in terms of end user productivity powered by our system admins.

Gillian Bruce: That sounds amazing. I can’t wait for that to come out. I’m sure LeeAnne is already building demos in her head about this.

Farhan Tahir: Yeah. We’re super excited about that. And then one other thing is we’ve always, Lightning App Builder has been around for about a decade or so, and we’ve given you the ability to create dynamic experiences by dragging and dropping components to a page. We want to take that a step further and give admins more control over component creation. So not only will they be able to design the page by dragging and dropping those components, but we’ll also be giving you full control on component development using a declarative custom component builder. So you’ll be able to move these smaller base component type of elements around on a canvas, which will result in a custom component created for you. So you don’t need a developer to create these custom components. And then once the custom component is there, obviously you end up in Lightning App Builder where you drag and drop it on the canvas and obviously configure the properties of that custom component that you’ve created.
So this really enables the system admin to take full control of application development right from creation of custom components to designing and deploying that page. And then the last piece that remains is testing. So this next thing I want to talk about is we also want to bring, sometime this year, later on this year after Dreamforce, this idea of declaratively testing your Lightning App Builder created pages. So imagine if you have a page with conditional visibility and now you have Dynamic Interactions, so your data is transforming as you’re interacting with the page, you should be able to record all of that and assert that this flow always works as other people are making and deploying those changes. So we’re calling that idea, declarative UI testing, and that will be the fourth major thing that we will be working on this year.
And then just quickly, I know there’s a lot of other stuff, but some smaller things that our customers have been asking for such as mass actions. We’re working on delivering Dynamic Actions on list view and related list, customer defined guardrails, MuleSoft actions. So there’s a lot of other work that’s happening that I could talk about for hours, but those are the four major things that I wanted to mention here.

Gillian Bruce: Well, clearly I’ll have you back on the podcast to talk more about them as they come out. So that’s amazing. That’s amazing. So LeeAnne, I know we’re doing something a little special this month. You mentioned it at the beginning of the podcast, focusing on kind of design thinking for admins. Can you kind of connect the dots a little bit for us with some of the stuff that Farhan has been talking about and what admins should kind of start doing right now.

LeeAnne Rimel: Yeah. So there’s never been a better time to be really thoughtful about the fundamentals of design because I think Farhan shared just a breathtaking amount of innovation that’s coming to how admins can build user experiences and really have that full declarative control over page design and over how their users move through the app. And so with great power comes great responsibility, right? And I think as we have more and more tools, it becomes really important that we’re very thoughtful about how we’re using these tools. That we’re thoughtful about how we’re using page real estate and creating intuitive and familiar experiences. And so in order to prepare you admins for that, we have a campaign called, Be an Innovator. And during this Be an Innovator episode experience, you get to learn from design experts at Salesforce.
We’ve got our chief design people at Salesforce that are informing this content and taking what they know about page design and user experience design and helping translate it to the admin experience. And so our hope is that you all participate in our Be an Innovator episode series and learn in practice a lot of these design fundamentals so that when all of these exciting new features are hitting in the fall, you’re like, I’m ready to build these really beautiful page experiences with all of these amazing tools I have access to.

Gillian Bruce: I think that’s great. That’s super important. I mean, hey, these are the best fun ways to kind of work together, to learn something new. These Be an Innovator series and it’s super fun to follow along and get that pay off at the end and build something cool. So this is what I’m especially excited about because it’s a concept we’ve always loosely talked about in the past, but hey admins, you are designers. Hello. Let’s deliver some awesome experiences for our users here.
Farhan, I want to thank you so, so much for joining us and taking the time to share on the podcast. I mean, you blew us away with all of this amazing context and the vision for what you and your team are doing in the platform. And talk about teasers, oh my goodness. You shared so much Farhan. Thank you so much for joining us.

Farhan Tahir: No, it’s absolutely my pleasure. And I’m really looking forward to our Trailblazer system admin community to build cool applications at speed at low cost using the Salesforce low code platform that Salesforce provides. So there’s a lot of excitement within the product team, within the engineering team and I hope that our Trailblazer community also shares that excitement.

Gillian Bruce: I’m sure they will. Also, by the way, you’re now going to get a ton of followers from every single admin who’s listening to this podcast because they’re all going to want to know exactly what you’re working on. And keep up the speed because you’ve clearly got some amazing things coming soon. So thank you so much for joining us. Thank you for all the work you and your team are doing and for being an amazing advocate for awesome admins all around the world.
Well huge thanks to Farhan and LeeAnne for taking the time out to chat with us. I always love being able to kick out over great, amazing products, strategy ideas. And holy wow, Farhan dropped some incredible background and knowledge about not only the future of the product, but the vision of how it all fits together and how he really wants to empower all admins and all citizen developers to be able to build apps declaratively. So pretty inspiring message there. I hope you definitely enjoyed it. I know I did. I can’t wait to have Farhan back because he also teased us with some incredible forward-looking statement features coming in the near future for admins. So you definitely want to make sure you follow Farhan and see what he’s doing. Not only the Trailblazer community, but on Twitter and however else you can get a hold of him.
For some of my top takeaways with Farhan, first of all, pay attention to what’s coming up. So later this year, forward-looking statement, we have some incredible things coming that are going to take kind of Dynamic Forms and Dynamic Actions to the next level. So ideas like Dynamic Interactions and some other, I mean, just incredible innovations this team is working on to really put the power of building apps into our hands as non-coding people. In fact, being able to build our own components with visual tools instead of having to write code. I mean, how cool is that? Pretty amazing.
Another big takeaway is there’s a huge trend out in the industry right now, not only because of the global pandemic that we’re all hopefully, hopefully soon coming out of, that has forced every single business to do really rapid digital transformation. This has put a huge pressure on IT leaders to really understand how they can quickly deliver innovative apps to enable their organizations to get work done. So Farhan had a great point when he said, hey, these IT leaders, the only way they’re going to be able to meet this demand is by enabling people to be citizen developers. And when we talk about citizen developers, that’s people like us as admins, who don’t code, but definitely want to be able to build apps and deliver useful functionality to our users.
So in order to meet that demand that IT is feeling right now, that pressure, hey, we’re the answer admins. So pay attention to that, be ready. And if you are working in an organization right now where you see some opportunities, now is the time to kind of reach out to those IT leaders and be like, hey, I can build an app to help this group or solve this business problem. This is a great opportunity for you to step out and take the lead because you’re going to help them out. Let’s just say that . Another really cool thing that Farhan pointed out is kind of the idea of using AI to help not only end users, but people like us who are building apps. So things like guardrails, which kind of already exists in Salesforce, which is great. But there’s definitely a future there in terms of helping us make intelligent decisions as we build apps based on machine learning.
Okay. So enough I could go on forever. I mean, you just listened to Farhan talk. We will definitely have him back on the podcast. I highly, highly encourage you to follow him. He is on Twitter @tahir, that’s T-A-H-I-R_ farhan, F-A-R-H-A-N. Of course you can find LeeAnne on Twitter, the most amazing evangelist ever. She’s @leeanndroid. And you can find myself @gilliankbruce. If you want more information on all things awesome admin, including our amazing, Be an Innovator campaign about design thinking for admins, go to You don’t want to miss any of it. It’s so awesome. We have so much great content on there as well. Blogs, podcasts, because you know, you always need some more [inaudible] and all kinds of videos on whatnot too. So make sure you check that out. We hope you enjoyed this episode and I hope that you have a great day and we’ll catch you next time in the cloud.


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May 13, 2021 at 05:30PM
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