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Show, Don’t Tell: The Importance of Quick Wins

By May 22, 2015

By: Vadim Gorelik, Assistant Director of Enterprise Systems at the University of Texas at Austin, McCombs School of Business

At one point in my life, I thought writing was my calling. I read hundreds of books on writing, took writing courses at the local college, and let my pile of book ideas become larger than my written word count.

All throughout this phase, I kept coming across a single piece of advice that concisely summarized the basic struggle of all fledging Stephen Kings and J.K Rowlings: “Show, don’t tell.” The fundamental premise of the advice is for writing to be successful, writers have to describe what’s happening in such a way that the readers can picture the action in their mind, using vivid imagery the writer provides, rather than just being told that something is occurring.

Well, that dream never panned out. My Barnes and Noble tours are at best ahead of me, and my book idea count still exceeds my written word count, but somehow, that “show, don’t tell” advice has found its way into my everyday life and became indispensable.

Within our business world, this “show, don’t tell” moniker has many different names – pilot, proof of concept, even baby steps, or the term du jour – quick win.

As I began my task of evangelizing the use of Salesforce within McCombs School of Business, I came upon such a stupendous amount of resistance, from so many directions, I was shocked. Resistance seemingly sprang into existence where I thought I had things settled like mushrooms spring from the ground after the rain (see what I did there?) Some resistance was rational, born out of observation of current climate (my development Team Lead objected to introducing another development platform into a team that was already stretched thin), while other resistance was irrational, born out of misunderstanding of…well, everything (“I don’t trust the cloud,” or “Salesforce is just for selling stuff.”)

Although we’re still in the very early stages of our Salesforce adoption, I feel that we were able to overcome many, if not most, of the objections, and learned the following valuable lessons about quick wins.

  1. It really does have to be quick: if the team embarking on the project is new to Salesforce, quick may be a relative term, but what helped us was focusing on projects we could deliver within 8 weeks. Our entire journey is chronicled in my Dreamforce 2014 presentation, but the important take away continues to be that speed of delivery is one of the strengths of the platform and something that needs to be highlighted.
  2. It really does have to be a win: with our first project, we tackled an important area of a single program’s operation, which made them appreciate our efforts that much more. Addressing something important, even for a smaller function of the college, is a powerful way to demonstrate value.
  3. Easy to understand: we continue to pick out quick win projects that are in some sense a micro representation of some larger function. Admissions, event management, email marketing – all of these aspects are easily understood by virtually every department within the college, and use of quick wins in these areas doesn’t require a big leap of understanding to translate it to an interested audience.
  4. Ease of implementation is not indicative of the road ahead: if properly selected, quick wins can show stakeholders how quickly a solution can be developed on the platform. By definition, if properly selected, the quick win implementation will be fairly painless, but it’s important to keep in mind, and keep reiterating that the speed with which a larger solution will be developed will not be nearly the same.
  5. Pick a quick win scenario to showcase your selling points: if you believe that the solution will save the school money by eliminating a $30,000/year accounting package, then pick a project that deals with accounting. If you believe the solution will speed up development time, then pick a quick-win project where you can easily compare before and after efforts in a quantifiable way.
  6. DIY for longevity: and this lesson is optional, but for me, I preferred that our team did a great many of these quick win implementations to learn, understand, and appreciate the platform. From there, we are in full control of our destiny – we can outsource, or develop in-house, and have a far better idea of what it’ll take to achieve something in each scenario than if we were to just outsource from the get-go.

For me, one thing became very clear early on – I can talk about the benefits of the platform until I am blue in the face (and probably win the arguments anyway) or I can show what I mean, solve some business problem, learn the platform, and definitely win the argument – all through the use of quick wins.

So in evangelizing: show, don’t tell.

About the Author
Vadim Gorelik Vadim Gorelik is Assistant Director of Enterprise Systems at the University of Texas at Austin, McCombs School of Business. Follow him on Twitter, @VadimGorelik.