#TalkDataToMe Episode 1
James 'Saywhatsales' Buckley talks data with Justice Sikakane Sr.
James Buckley: How long have you actually been in the Salesforce ecosystem?
Justice Sikakane: How long have I been in the Salesforce ecosystem? So what I like about that is, the operative word being actual because we live in a digital age, so you can pick up on a lot of different technologies very quickly. So, the reason why I like that question is because i picked up on Salesforce in 2016, but you would think based on my developed subject matter expertise, my involvements, speaking engagements, I’ve probably been doing this for over a decade.
James Buckley: Yeah, that’s really the impression I got.
Justice Sikakane: Yeah, no, 2016 was the first time I looked at Salesforce, logged in, and understood its user interface. That’s when I started to understand what is a CRM, what is software service, what is this cloud computing thing. That’s literally when things started to make sense.
James Buckley: I think I had a similar experience. I was 2015 and I was, believe it or not, before I entered the Salesforce ecosystem, I was managing on top of that. Yeah, sounds crazy if you think about it now, but that’s what I was doing before and I had to learn the Salesforce side of things was completely different. I’d never even heard the acronym.
Justice Sikakane: What year was this?
James Buckley: 2015.
Justice Sikakane: Oh, just a year before me, then.
James Buckley: Yeah. So when you got involved in Salesforce, what was the first thing that really stuck out to you as far as data management because this has all been pretty new for me, just relatively the last three months and we’re already in data ops. I know for you getting directly into Salesforce and not going through a third-party app or any type of third-party exposure, there was probably a lot of red flags for you, going through the Salesforce ecosystem and learning Trailhead and getting all the badges that you have. How many badges do you have?
Justice Sikakane: 171.
James Buckley: 171.
Justice Sikakane: 171.
James Buckley: So, what about data management stood out to you first before anything else?
Justice Sikakane: Yeah. So, this is one of those things, James, where listen. Studies will tell you that 90% of the data that we see today came into existence within the last three years, so we have an abundance of data at our disposal. So, now all these terms that we’re hearing – artificial intelligence, how can we catalyze the data, how can we manipulate the data, how can we get the data to serve our organization’s benefit. First you have to understand well, what is that data? What purpose is it serving? Before you can get into … One of the things that not a lot of people know is artificial intelligence – the phrase, the term was coined in 1955, 56 – and from that you have machine learning, deep learning. There’s a lot of elements to what makes up artificial intelligence. But in order for artificial intelligence to truly serve its purpose, you have to have an abundance of data.
Justice Sikakane: So, now when I’m in an organization, I’m trying to understand how is that data traveling, how is it integrated, where does it sit, how is it maintained. Is it clean? Is it normalized? Is there a lot of duplication? Those are the kind of key elements that started coming into play when I started saying, “Okay. Well, John Doe, CEO of X company needs to understand how our bottom line is being driven”, so I need to be able to come up and say, “Here are some aesthetically pleasing reports, dashboards, and it needs to be based on accurate data”, and obviously we live in a day and age where dirty data’s all over the place. So, now we have to get more creative.
Justice Sikakane: So for me, the priority for me has always been data, data, data, data, and how can I manipulate it, massage it so it can actually serve its intended purpose.
James Buckley: Interesting. You brought up a lot of really interesting-
Justice Sikakane: I did, I did.
James Buckley: -points there.
Justice Sikakane: Kind of went all over the place.
James Buckley: No, I think I understand where you’re going with it, though. I heard an interesting analogy today I think you’ll appreciate. One of our leaders here said that Salesforce and your marketing automation platform, whichever one it might be, are kind of like the house that all of your people live in – your contacts, your prospects, your customers – and in that house there has to be, you have to put furniture in it, right? And then there’s this element of over time, you’re constantly accumulating more and more, what we would call junk in our house. But really there are prospects and data and clients and contact information, and it eventually gets overwhelming to the point where we have to do what most people do – we have to have a garage sale. We have to get rid of a huge percentage of our stuff and consolidate it all down to one.
James Buckley: For those of you that are just tuning in, if you don’t know who I’m talking to right now, I am speaking with Justice of Hennepin Theatre. Justice, tell me how to pronounce your last name so I don’t butcher it.
Justice Sikakane: Sikakane. Justice Sikakane. South African.
James Buckley: South African. I spent some time in West Africa, actually.
Justice Sikakane: I like that.
James Buckley: So, Justice is at Hennepin Theatre. He’s a Salesforce admin and quite a big name here and recently decided to go with RingLead as his data management provider. Can you tell us a little bit about why you chose us?
Justice Sikakane: Yeah. So, I’ll go a little bit into that. So in recent years, my expertise has been around Salesforce administration. I recently joined Hennepin Theatre Trust as our IT leader, so one of the things that I manage, obviously, is our Salesforce platform, and we’ve been working through different process optimization, process maturity techniques to make sure that we’re utilizing the platform based on its core functionalities and capabilities. But then we’re also adopting other aspects that we bolt onto Salesforce to enhance the overall user experience.
Justice Sikakane: So, one of the things that we were working on recently was an effort to automate the tax donation letters that we sent out on an annual basis, and this happened to be a very manual and, in my opinion, antiquated approach. So, with the utilization of Conga, which is a phenomenal vendor, number one paid app in the app exchange, we were able to create templates and utilize standard functionality of Salesforce to send out these tax donation letters via Salesforce functionality from the opportunity’s object.
Justice Sikakane: Well, one of the things we have to do was we have to load a series of opportunities into the system that were reflecting donations so that we can send out these tax donation letters. Donations or opportunities weren’t existing in Salesforce before we initiated this effort. If you understand Salesforce standard functionality, you understand you have a lead, you convert that lead, it creates the contacts, subsequently it creates an account, and then optionally you can create an opportunity from that.
Justice Sikakane: So when I created these opportunities, I also needed to create contacts, which subsequently created accounts. So as you can see we’re loading a lot of new data into the system, and what ended up happening, guys, is we had a lot of duplicate of data because of that. So, one of my business end users of development assistant within our fundraising team basically reached out and said, “There’s a lot of duplicate of data in here and I know some of this is due to a recent effort to automate the tax donation letter process”, and I said, “Yes. We need to get to the root of that”, and that was just one of the many things that I had just pegged on my list of let’s circle back to that because I have a long list of priorities where everybody needs me to do something. And one of the things that I do in my daily routine, every morning I wake up, I go straight to Linkedin, and I absorb content because it’s one of the practices that I had learned from a former CEO that I had worked for of just as I wake up at four in the morning, I read BBC World News, and I just kind of take in information and then allow whatever I need to do to organically go from there.
Justice Sikakane: Anyways, this particular time I happened to stumble on a post from a James Buckley, and this is somebody I’ve been connected with on all social platform for some time, and the content you’ve provided, James, has been beneficial, it’s been value added, but oftentimes what we experience is the right time and place. So, all the content you have been providing over the years just had not aligned with my positions, my roles, and my current need within that organization at the time. This particular time the stars aligned, and you had been talking about in one of your videos phenomenal content about duplicate of data, is this a problem, and you went into the root cause of why organizations deal with this. But you did it in a very relaxed, sort of digestible manner, and I said to myself, “It’s almost as if you were talking to my end users, but I happen to be the one absorbing the content”. So I said, “Oh, I want to take this video and play it to my end users” and that just led into a conversation that I literally commented. There was a lot of engagement on this particular post with a lot of folks because obviously a lot of us are dealing with duplicate of data. I said, “James, I’m calling you later today or tomorrow”. It was something very succinct but I wanted to get to the point.
Justice Sikakane: So, we got on the phone. You created an introduction at RingLead, you told me what the DMS platform was, and I was just listening. At the end of the day, it was a sales pitch. It was, “Here’s the value” but it was getting to the root of what I needed. So I’m listening and you’re creating introductions, and then I met Pat Colavito and then I met Ryan Holahan and then I met the rest of the team here, and then everything changed after I got on the call with Ryan. And then at that point I said, “Where do I sign? What approvals do I need? Let’s get this thing rolled out so I can start providing value to my organization now” because there’s an immediate ROY when you’re able to say, “Here’s the problem. Here’s the solution” and it’s a very linear, very binary sort of this is what we need to get it done. So here we are.
James Buckley: That’s fantastic. What a good story. I love that story because of two things. The first one is that branding is so important for individuals. It’s great for companies to build brands, but when you’re somebody like Justice, somebody like myself, somebody like James Shand, you want to have a brand that stands out in a sea of the same. So the only way to do that is to be consistent with good messaging, and as you’ve said one day that timing will just align perfectly and that right person will see that content and say, “That is exactly what I needed. We just talked about that. I’m going to comment and leave a message. We’re going to talk”, and that is how it happened with us and I think that’s so organic and real. And that’s what I think why the value is so much easier to see for us because sometimes, especially in sales, everybody wants to buy something but nobody wants to get pitches, right?
James Buckley: So when you’re doing something that’s truly genuine and you’re truly trying to solve a problem, then you know it’s a macroproblem and you’re creating content that addresses that problem. I almost feel like naturally you can and say, “James, we have to talk about this. When can we talk?” And it was that same day that we had a 10 minute conversation and we talked every day since, and the relationship part is so important. There’s just so much to that story that stands out to me. Tell me a little bit about how this is changed the way Hennepin Theatre Trust use you as an asset to their organization.
Justice Sikakane: Yeah, no. I just had a conversation with my leader about this just the other day, and we’ve been having evolving conversations. Hennepin Theatre Trust is a great organization because it empowers its leaders within the organization to make the best decisions in service of the organization. When you’re working for a non-profit organization, the mission is about supporting the mission of the non-profit, right? So, everything I do gets to the root of how do I support and enable this organization? RingLead has been able to do for me with DMS is furthermore advocate and brand me as the subject matter expert that they brought in because oftentimes what ends up happening when you’re an IT, a former CIO once said this at a previous organization, “You exist to serve your businesses”. We’re not revenue generators. So when I’m able to come with a solution, they don’t need to understand all the granular aspects. They just know that there’s a face, this face happens to be Justice, he said we’re going to be removing this duplicate of data. They don’t care if it’s RingLead, they don’t care about the … I use the term ‘not care’. They’re not too vested in all the key components and aspects that are going to make this solution work.
Justice Sikakane: So right now I was able to send an email out just recently and say, “Hey, we’re going to be in New York for a Salesforce-related conference. I’m going to be meeting with the RingLead organization with my team, and we’re going to have a pretty lengthy workshop-driven conversation around building out the tasks and the rule criteria so that we can leverage DMS specific to our needs”. So yeah, to your point I would say RingLead, DMS, James, the entire team here, you’ve been able to support me and my career aspirations because when I came in I said, “Here are going to be my key goals to support the organization and it’s around utilization and it’s around adoption of the Salesforce platform”. RingLead I’m able now to partner with this organization so that I can achieve that desirably in a manner that has measurable impact.
James Buckley: That’s beautiful. I love that. Measurable impact, that’s fantastic. For those of you that are Salesforce admins out there, know this. Your job is literally to make your users’ lives easier, and if that’s not your focus every single day, I don’t know why you became an admin.
Justice Sikakane: Correct.
James Buckley: That might be something that sounds harsh, but the truth of the matter is that some of you are managing thousands of users with all the data that’s coming into Salesforce and convoluting that data and making duplicate records and having bad information or out-of-date information inside of Salesforce. This makes your users’ jobs more difficult every single day, and you’re the person that has to listen to those complaints consistently as they flow through your email, flow through your voicemail, text messages. How many slack messages do you get every day about duplicate records? It’s countless.
James Buckley: So, Salesforce admins of the world unite and talk about how to solve these macroproblems like enrichment and duplicate removal and prevention and-
Justice Sikakane: Normalization.
James Buckley: Normalization. Tell us a little bit about how you’re going to utilize normalization and standardization.
Justice Sikakane: You put me on the spot.
James Buckley: I sure did.
Justice Sikakane: But I love it, though. I love it. So what really sold me on the DMS platform was, I was thinking very siloed in the sense of there’s duplicate of records in Salesforce. I need to get these out yesterday. Get these out of the system so that I can feel that the data’s clean. One of the things – and that’s a reactive mindset – what RingLead was able to help me get back into was a proactive mindset, and that proactive mindset was around normalization and standardization.
Justice Sikakane: One of the things I spoke about at Dream Forest and other community-led Salesforce conference is about building and sustaining a governance strategy process based on several components. So when you think of normalization and standardization, the DMS platform essentially is going to help us as an organization ensure that duplicate of records aren’t occurring after the initial purge, and that was what we’re going to do at normalization. So when I look at James Buckley from RingLead, director of, it’s going to be the full word director, right? When I go look at your counterpart at another organization, it’s going to be the full word director, so that when I do an active report to say, “Show me all the directors in this particular geographical area”, I’m not going to be missing subsets of data. I’m going to get to the root of what I’m looking for, and normalization is going to be able to support that for us through different tasks that we can create to support that. So, I’m a huge fan of sustainability.
James Buckley: That’s good. Sustainability’s huge when you’re using Salesforce, especially when you’re growing and you’re constantly adding new users that are putting new data into Salesforce. I feel like Salesforce is usually the backbone of every organization that uses it.
Justice Sikakane: I think so. That’s a fair statement.
James Buckley: It’s fair, right, because you spend so much money on it. Let’s be honest, Salesforce is not the cheapest solution out there, but it is the last CRM that you’ll ever have to buy because it’s so customizable. The problem with all that customization is that sometimes that customization can give your users different pieces and access that change the way that data looks. And then there’s the decay of data that’s almost unavoidable. In your case you’re at Hennepin Theatre Trust and you guys sell tickets, right? So if you’ve got someone that has tickets to shows pretty consistently and suddenly they drop off and you’re trying to reach them to invite them to a new show and you’ve got an old phone number, it’s great to be able to have a tool on deck to proactively go and enrich that data and get the latest, greatest contact information. Send that email, get a response, find them on social media, and reengage. Is that something that you think would be useful for your users?
Justice Sikakane: Yeah, I think that’s the very first thing. Ultimately we’re a non-profit organization, but one of the things that I’ve often shared in these sorts of of circles is we’re a non-profit, and I think there’s a certain connotation with non-profit. We’re trying to squeeze the pennies together. But we’re a $40 million organization, so that’s one of those things of we need to make sure that as we scale as an organization – non-profit, for-profit, doesn’t really matter – that we’re able to get to our constituents, our client base in a way that is timely, actionable, and sustainable, and being able to get to donors in a way that, like you said, the latest contact information is reflective on their contact record, that’s key. That’s important. If there’s a social presence and we want to make sure that Twitter account or that Facebook or whatever that social platform looks like is integrated into that contact record. I don’t want to go look for one of our top level donors and then do a global search in the global list of the Salesforce instance and find six James Buckleys and then have to go through and say, “Well, let me see the most recent email” based on the activity history and go to a contact record that hadn’t been updated in ten years, what the James Buckley that I needed was James Buckley whatever.
Justice Sikakane: So you’re getting to the root of it, but every organization needs to prioritize how their data sits within their CRM. Is it clean and how are you sustaining that level of cleanse throughout your instance? That’s huge.
James Buckley: That’s a great answer. One of the things that we say a lot in this building is that data operations is, in fact, a thing, and every company should have somebody that is a cornerstone point of contact for the quality of data that’s being passed through the marketing channels and the sales channels. Do you guys have somebody in house – other than you, of course – that manages the data itself?
Justice Sikakane: I would say at this point, no. One of the things I’m working on, one of the projects I’m actively working on and leading today is a transition to lightning, and what I’ve put together is what I’ve referred to as a gate review team, the governing board. I talked a little bit about establishing a governance strategy process. Well, one of those things is about identifying and/or creating a center of excellence. These are key stakeholders with vested interests in the overall health of how you’re leveraging Salesforce, so one of the things that I’ve been looking for is having a process lead, having a data lead, and then obviously having a technology lead. So, identifying who that individual is as a contact is going to be essential going forward. It’s something I’m actively working on.
James Buckley: So, where are you located so that people that can help you to fill that role might reach out to you?
Justice Sikakane: So, we are in Minneapolis, Minnesota, right downtown Minneapolis, right on 9th and Hennepin.
James Buckley: 9th and Hennepin.
Justice Sikakane: 9th and Hennepin.
James Buckley: So if you’re out there and you want to join the radical team at Hennepin Theatre, reach out to Justice there. Justice, I want to touch one more thing before we wrap this up. You had invited me to speak at the Twin Cities Usergroup. That is a fantastic invite. How many people attend that event every time?
Justice Sikakane: I think our member base is – and folks out there in the Twin Cities that are user group leaders today, please hold me accountable – we’re several hundred for sure, and from what I was told sometime last year, we’re the second-biggest user group in the Salesforce community. But actively it’s hard to put a number, but if you go to our Twitter handle you’ll see it’s a pretty large usergroup. I want to say at least 100+ attend on a quarterly basis when we meet, and these individuals that attend this user group are users of Salesforce, be it leaders, be it administrators, developers, evangelists. It’s a large group and yes, I think you would be phenomenal to come in and just talk with the group. We have a lot of vendors that come through and pitch their products.
James Buckley: That’s right.
Justice Sikakane: And again, for me as a leader today with my organization, I get pitched a lot. I get pitched blindly on Linkedin, I get pitched through spam email, I get pitched at our local user group conferences. What I appreciate is an individual that can come with a unique and a creative approach. Get to the root of what we’re dealing with as an industry, get to the root of what we’re dealing with as a society because Mark Benny of Salesforce often says we’re going through a fourth Industrial Revolution, so that means affects every industry, every organization, every size, be it positive or negative. So, when somebody like a James comes in and has an interesting, kind of energetic, kind of hey, you’re going to engage with the audience. It’s not going to be one of those things of you’re talking at me. You’re talking with me. And being able to do that brings folks out of their comfort zone, just kind of like how we’re having this dialogue now. We’re here in the studio, it’s being recorded, that sort of thing, but it feels like we’re having a one-on-one conversation.
James Buckley: That’s how it’s supposed to feel.
Justice Sikakane: Right. And you bring that out in people and I appreciate it, and there’s a lot of folks that want to be the game changer, they want to be the catalyst for their organization, but they don’t oftentimes know who’s out there. You don’t know it, you don’t know. So when you’re looking at vendors, you need to know, “Hey, how is this organization going to support me?” So when you have somebody that’s on the face of that organization that can help you create those connections to actual resources that will help drive real change, just today while visiting your office, you introduced me to everybody, from the developers to the senior VPs to my man, Grant, here. That’s the sort of interaction that we need that’s going to create real momentum with being able to drive change in our respective organizations.
James Buckley: I think it’s missing in our ecosystem and my aim is to bring it back, and I’m glad that people like you support it. Justice, I can’t thank you enough for coming out. It’s really been great having you out on the show and talking about your experience with RingLead so far. It’s a brand new world for you. We aim to improve your Salesforce usage at every turn, so I look forward to seeing what comes of this.
Justice Sikakane: Thank you, sir.
Grant: One minute break and then I wanted to get into just a quip about you.
Justice Sikakane: Okay, cool.
Grant: You can do the Faces of Salesforce segment, so we’ll still do it on the podcast.
Justice Sikakane: Cool.
James Buckley: That’s good.
James Buckley: So, Faces of Salesforce is something that-
Justice Sikakane: Is that new? Is that a RingLead thing?
James Buckley: It’s brand-new. We actually came up with that, what, last night at dinner?
Grant: Last night.
Justice Sikakane: Oh, shit.
James Buckley: And so what I want to talk about with Faces of Salesforce is I want to bring in Salesforce experts and I want them to tell me what they were doing before Salesforce.
Justice Sikakane: Oh, I have a very interesting story. Much like yourself.
James Buckley: I am all about this. So, tell me what Justice Sikakane was doing before he found the magic of Salesforce and CRM.
Justice Sikakane: It’s funny because I had this conversation. I got invited to a Bold Force meeting at Salesforce HQ yesterday, Salesforce Tower.
James Buckley: I saw your tweet about it.
Justice Sikakane: Yeah, yeah, yep. So, I basically went out to Twitter and said, “Hey, I’m in New York on business for a conference. Who’s around? I’d like to meet up with folks”, and then people just started pinging me, pinging me, pinging me, and this lady by the name of Jacklyn that worked for Salesforce reached out to me and said, “Hey, come speak at our Bold Force meeting”. For those of you don’t know, Bold Force is basically a BRG or an ERG business or employee resource group, and this specific Bold Force is for the African American community that exists within Salesforce. So today I have 35,000 employees worldwide, 2, less than 3% of that mix from an ethnicity perspective is African American or black.
Justice Sikakane: So anyways, so they came and had me speak and wanted me to share my story. So, I’m not going to go into … It’s a very long story, but before Salesforce i was working as a systems analyst, managing a portfolio legacy-based application. So if i were to go even before that, I shared a tweet on Twitter that marked Benny off the CEO of Salesforce ended up retweeting it, and then I think went viral. Look, 15 years ago I was working at McDonalds making $5.50 an hour, trying to figure it out, just figuring it out, and I’ve done a lot of things. I used to be a busboy for two hours and then I quit. I worked at Best Buy in sales. I worked at Office Depot. I’m just a very ambitious, outgoing individual, so I’ve done a lot of different things, and then I stumbled into my first IT gig as a contractor, help desk, and from there I was taking about 50 calls a day. Passive recess, baby. That was passive recess and slamming calls, and from there what ended up happening is I said, “I want to learn other elements of this organization. What does the desktop thing do? What does the mobile team do? What is active directory?”
James Buckley: Oh, my gosh. Active directory.
Justice Sikakane: Right. So all those things started compounding, so now today I rolled out single sign at my org, at my company, and I was in active directory, right back in active directory.
James Buckley: Can’t get away.
Justice Sikakane: Can’t get away. Using azure active directory. But the point is, is yeah, I was just in sales, retail sales.
James Buckley: So, you were in sales, moved to IT, found Salesforce, and you are who you are.
Justice Sikakane: Now I am who I am.
James Buckley: Just to point it out, folks out there that are catching this and listening, becoming something more than what you are takes a lot of discipline.
Justice Sikakane: Absolutely.
James Buckley: Tell me a little bit about the time that it took you to become who you are today and how much everyday work you put in to get the knowledge that you here that makes you who you are.
Justice Sikakane: So, there’s a term that I hold close and dear just because I feel like we can all bolt into how this term can help us grow as individuals, and it’s self-actualization, which by definition is striving to reach one’s full potential. So for me, it’s a long, fascinating story. In 2005 I was expelled from my high school, Woodbury Senior High School in Woodbury, Minnesota. I graduated from that same high school in 2007, and then I was invited back in 2016 to be the first-ever African American distinguished alumni.
Justice Sikakane: So, you have to take every opportunity as a learning opportunity, and you have to strive to reach your full potential. You can’t take one moment and let it define the rest of your trajectory. I’ve always been the same individual, talked the same, carried myself the same, but oftentimes we find ourselves in areas and moments where we might lose a sense of who we are just based on challenges or imposter syndrome or whatever that is, and it’s taking quite a bit of discipline to get to where I’m at today, and one of the things I often coach my mentees is sometimes it’s not about the classes you take. It’s more about the hands you shake, and for me I’ve been very blessed and very fortunate to have a lot of folks along the ride to support me based on being able to recognize that potential, my aspirations, and my passions.
Justice Sikakane: So yeah no, it’s every day I wake up, I’m extremely elated and happy to be where I’m at and have that sort of connections that I do, the resources that I do, the platform that I do, being able to support my family in ways that are very comfortable and beneficial just based on where I’m at in my career. It’s a gift.
James Buckley: Well, as you know, we support you here at RingLead. Anything that we can do to further the Justice journey, just let us know. We’ve got myself. For those of you out there that want to talk data, talk with Justice, talk with me. You can call me directly any time, 305-632-6005. Justice, thank you again for coming out, talking to me. It’s always a pleasure to be in your presence, sir.
Justice Sikakane: Absolutely. Thank you.