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David Giller Discusses How to Thrive with Conga Composer

8 min read
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When it comes to getting sticky with Conga Composer, there’s no one better to speak with than Salesforce Enablement Leader, David Giller at Brainiate. I, along with three Conganeers, was thrilled to dig into the foundational best practices around becoming successful with Conga Composer.

David, an attorney and founder of Brainiate, has years of rich experience in Salesforce consulting while working at well-known companies such as GE Capital. His expertise, coupled with a bold personality, makes David a catalyst for any company looking to achieve success with Conga Composer and working in Salesforce. 

Let’s hear what David had to say.

Q: With regard to helping customers with Conga Composer, do you have an example of a customer that you worked with who had a skill gap and what was it?
A: A very common issue with most customers is that they focus on the tactical. They’ll say, here's the document that I'm trying to populate, but they don't understand the original use case. They don't think about how the data is populated or the data schema of how it’s organized to support what they need.

It is typically because their data sucks. And by telling them their data sucks, their configuration sucks, especially when the person you're talking to is the one who built it, it usually doesn't go over very well.

So instead, focus on the problem that you are experiencing and how your data is organized. The reason why we have these obstacles, why we're experiencing this friction is because you've got some [data] in here that we need to detangle and fix so that you can have that clean environment.

Q: Do you have advice to give customers to get sticky with Conga Composer or are there specific steps and best practices?
A: My approach with Conga is similar to my approach with Salesforce and life in general. Keep it simple. Focus on what is the actual problem that you're trying to solve. [For example], if you're going to start using Excel, you don't need to know how to use every damn feature of Excel. No, you need to make it relevant to the use case of what you need just to uncover every single feature of Excel.

I always turn it back to what are the kinds of documents that you want to focus on that you want to use in Conga. I'll start with something relatively small that is a real pain point, something that is truly relevant and critical to their business process.

When working with a client, there certainly will be not one but many documents where there is complex Logic that needs to be built and complex filtering criteria that need to be built. But the first few documents should not be of the more complex types because we want their experience to focus on what this tool can do for you and here's the impact of this tool. Think of it like this is our proof of concept and then we simply start building out the template. More often than not, the client will prefer that me and my team that we do it sort of like behind the scenes that we do it first.

Q: Have you seen commonalities around challenges or lessons learned from customers?
A: Many. Usually, it has to do with project scope, scope creep, understanding what their business requirements are, and understanding their business process. What's your goal? What is it that we're trying to accomplish here? And a lot of times [customers] focus on, within the context of Conga Composer, just a document.

What is the process around this document? Who uses this document? Are there other versions of this document floating around? Are only certain people supposed to use this document? Because that will help us identify all sorts of nuances of who we should give access to.

What type of information should we be merging in? Should we make certain components of this document dynamic based on the other use cases that you are not mentioning? It's not about pointing fingers; it's about defining the scope. Those are the most common issues, honestly, with any type of technology project, whether it's a Conga Composer project or a generic Salesforce project.

Q: And is that usually the responsibility you put on the customer? Or do you continue to ask more questions?
A: Amazing question. The people that I'm talking to are either the in-house Salesforce Admin or the person that’s sort of the role of Salesforce Admin. Usually, they do not have the skills or knowledge. They just know that their colleagues want them to help in automating this piece of paper, and a lot of times they don’t have the skills, authority, or knowledge to answer those questions.

I start prodding, asking them, “Who gave you this document?” Who's responsible for [it]? Can we invite them to the meeting? And I'll start reaching out to them and ask these questions.

Typically, during the meeting, I’ll draw out a process map before this document gets generated, the following steps need to happen by the following people, and the following pieces of information are gathered. Then the document gets generated, what happens after the document gets generated? Are we printing it out and shoving it into an envelope and licking a stamp? Are we digitally sending it to them? Are we expecting someone to sign it? Are there more than one or three people that are expected to sign it? Does someone need to approve it before it goes out?

By the end of the meeting or meetings, we have a document that can visually represent, here are the steps in the process. That I can then give them as a PDF or send it to them digitally where they can communicate that around, vet it out internally, and this way they can give me the thumbs up of, yes, that's what we want you to build. Now they know what data points we need to bring into the document, the actions that are supposed to happen after the document gets generated, and the method of delivery.

Q: What did you use to jumpstart your learning on Conga Composer way back when?
A: Typically, what I'm doing is I am searching within Conga content, so either knowledge base or training materials available for partners to see what content is there will help me to accomplish this.

I take the exact same approach that I mentioned earlier, which is, what is the use case that I'm trying to solve. I'm not trying to uncover every feature that's available in Conga. I need to know the features that are relevant to the problem that I'm trying to solve.

Q: Who do you think is the best fit for Conga Composer?
A: The way I see it is three different layers of users or the Conga Composer customer. The decision maker, the person with the authority to actually write the check, and the Salesforce Admin.

The Salesforce Admin plays many roles here. The Salesforce Admin is the user as it relates to configuring the solution. The Salesforce Admin needs to identify what are the use cases, who are the users, and what documents need to be built in Conga Composer.

And so there, in my mind, they're the ones who are also building out the Conga solutions in Conga Composer, and then sales reps maybe customer support reps that are the ones who I'll define it as prior to the introduction of Conga Composer, these are the folks who copying and pasting information from Salesforce into Microsoft Word documents typically, and will be doing the happy dance with the efficiencies that Conga Composer introduces.

So, working very closely with those folks to identify the use cases, which are the templates, to teach them how to use it, or what levels of automation should we do so that you don't have to do anything. The document will automatically get generated and sent out. And those are the people who are going to be singing the praises and identifying additional use cases using Conga Composer. And I think those are also the people, the end users, the folks in sales, etc., are also the people that will really be the primary influencers of the cross-sell opportunities for Conga. Let's say Conga Sign, for Conga Grid, for Conga Contracts, etc., because I think those people are going to be the ones who are like, you know, we also have this other problem.

Q: Do you have any final advice for Conga Composer users?
A: My recommendation is to talk to the business users to start to identify those use cases. The more you ask, the more you will uncover. Identify where they are still copying and pasting information from Salesforce into other documents in order to sometimes send it out to the customer prospect, sometimes it's to file regulatory paperwork, whatever it is.

Guaranteed that in every company, even if they've been using Conga Composer extensively for years, guaranteed that there are still some very common use cases where the folks who are in sales or other operational roles are still doing the copying and pasting. They don't even realize that all they have to do is ask the admin to set this up in Conga Composer and they can streamline it, they can automate it.

It's okay to look for those fringe documents that are only rarely used but I'm willing to bet that for any Salesforce Admin just ask around and there are going to be documents that are created very frequently that are time-consuming and error-prone.

Conga Composer can be leveraged to introduce additional efficiencies, optimization, and automation for sales and other operational roles and by further reinforcing the use of the Salesforce data to populate these documents. It has a tremendous domino effect as it relates to caring about data quality and has a tremendous impact on user adoption.

I might not even bother copying and pasting the information first into Salesforce and then into the PDF that I need to fill, but by showing them that if you put it in Salesforce, you just click on this button, and boom, your PDF is automatically done. We now have better data quality. It has a holistic effect on the entire organization around ROI that they're getting not only out of Conga Composer but also out of Salesforce.

Let’s review the key takeaways:

  • Identify the problem or use case, what you’re trying to solve
  • Ask questions or know the type of persona that can answer those questions
  • Learn Conga Composer fundamentals
  • Ensure you have clean data and a polished environment
  • Keep it simple by starting small and laying a foundation

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