A Look at Salesforce Past, Present & Future: Q&A with Peter Nebel, Salesforce CTA

By Gabe Romero

AllCloud Blog: Cloud Insights and Innovation

AllCloud is thrilled to welcome our new VP of Strategy and Practice Development, Peter Nebel. Peter is a Salesforce Certified Technical Architect (CTA), with over 12 years of Salesforce experience, including a specialty in architecture and analytics.

We sat down with Peter to learn more about his Salesforce experience, the process of becoming a Salesforce CTA, what excites him most about the future of Salesforce and what he looks forward to bringing to AllCloud. Here’s what we learned.

AllCloud: You have a lot of experience with data, AI and Machine Learning. What took you down the path to want to learn more? 

Peter Nebel: In short, I love to constantly learn new technology. When I first started as a developer on Salesforce in 2008, I had never formally coded before. After developing some advanced applications and delivering some complex projects on the platform, I thought it was time to formalize my coding knowledge so I went through the Online Master’s of Science in Computer Science program at Georgia Tech. As part of that program, I had to select a specialty and Machine Learning was the most interesting option that rounded out my skills well.  

AC: Becoming a Salesforce Certified Technical Architect is tough. It’s Salesforce’s highest certification and there are very few CTAs worldwide. In fact, Salesforce calls CTAs “quite rare gems.” How long have you had the certification? And what was the most challenging aspect to get there?

PN: I’ve been a Certified Technical Architect since 2012, but it took three tries. I was so excited about the possibility of obtaining the certification that I participated in the Beta Review Board in 2011 when Salesforce first launched the program. It was sort of like the wild west back then and the program has come a long way in the years since. But the review board process for evaluating candidates still remains today — and it’s a challenging one to get through.

As part of the Beta Review Board, the hardest part was determining how I (and other candidates for that matter) would be evaluated fairly in the process. I actually think that some ways we as consultants would naturally address client problems are in conflict with the “prescribed” Salesforce solutions. As a result, if you approach the review board with the mindset of a consultant, you get dinged. So changing my mindset there was a challenge for me. Beyond that, my biggest challenge was that the first case study I presented to the review board was a poor fit because it was a product and not a project, which is an important distinction Salesforce makes.

AC: Speaking of projects, what was one of the most unique projects you’ve had the opportunity to work on using Salesforce?

PN: From 2010-2012, I was the lead architect behind SchoolForce, which was a suite of applications geared to the K-12 education sector that included modules such as Gradebook, Student Portal, Behavior Management and Attendance Management. It was primarily funded by the Obama administration’s Race to the Top initiative that focused on improving technology in education and was built to disrupt the Student Information Management System sector that was 90% owned by Pearson PowerSchools at the time. 

When all was said and done, SchoolForce was a tremendously complex application with over 10 Visualforce pages, 50 Apex classes, and eight total modules. We deployed it to 10 charter schools, primarily in the DC area, and though not without its hiccups, the adoption went fairly well and the initiative was successful.  

Besides that project, another unique one on which I worked involved deploying a residential door-to-door solution for over 20 regions and 4,000 sales reps for Comcast. Given the size of the project, it had some tremendous LDV (Large Data Volume) challenges, so working through that proved very interesting.  

AC: You’ve certainly done a lot with Salesforce. Based on that experience, what are you most excited about on the Salesforce roadmap?

PN: Definitely the Tableau acquisition, which is Salesforce’s most interesting one to date. Coupled with Salesforce’s acquisition of Mulesoft, this latest move opens a lot of doors. For example, we can now fully break down any silos of data and use, in my opinion, the best enterprise BI tool in the marketplace to quickly understand that complete view of the data.

I believe we’ll see Salesforce invest heavily in this overall platform vision of pushing and massaging data with Mulesoft and then visualizing that data with Tableau. Executives struggle to have access to clean and consolidated data that is actionable, but with what Salesforce has planned, that no longer has to be the case. Salesforce is making such strides here that very soon those organizations that don’t understand the need to make real-time decisions will quickly be left in the dust. 

AC: What is the #1 tip you’d give to new organizations considering the move to Salesforce?

PN: Don’t underestimate the need to put the benefits to your end users first. The true adoption rate for salespeople on SalesCloud is 14%. Just having your data accessible in one location and visible to all will provide a nice immediate lift in results, but if the end users don’t see how it benefits them in their day-to-day activities, they will keep doing things the way they’ve always done them. And that means using email, spreadsheets, and notebooks. When that happens, you end up investing a lot of money and resources in a system with stale data that you cannot fully count on to make informed decisions. The only way to avoid that problem and reap the benefits of Salesforce is to improve adoption — which requires putting the benefits to your end users first.

AC: What are you most looking forward to bringing to AllCloud clients?

PN: My outside of the box thinking and ability to look at the big picture. Salesforce-based solutions will be the answers to a lot of problems our clients ask us to solve, but there may be off-platform solutions that offer a better fit. For example, an organization may be interested in SalesCloud because they have not standardized their sales process and sales funnel, but they may not even know what else they can do after they have that data and process in place.  

Which leads me to big picture thinking. I will of course be happy to provide an ideal solution and architecture that solves our clients’ immediate business problems, but what really excites me is thinking about the end state and long term vision. It’s never too early to lay the groundwork to solve other problems or expand into other strategic growth areas. The better we understand our clients’ long term visions, the better position we will be in to construct a logical roadmap that will help them get there. And with that kind of plan in place, we will be able to better serve the organization’s long term needs.  

AC: What do you enjoy doing outside of work? 

PN: Probably a better way to phrase that is: What did I used to enjoy before my wife and I started having kids? I enjoy spending time with my wife and three crazy boys, who are 3 months, two, and four. It’s a second job right now, but it has its endless moments of fun.  I also try not to miss a snap of Notre Dame football in the fall and enjoy working out when afforded the time, mainly Peloton at home and Metabolic Conditioning.

Gabe Romero

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