Our VP of Partnerships Zak Pines recently sat down with Joe Harris, CTO, and Brittaney Parks, Certified Salesforce Admin, of I.T. Savvy Consulting as part of our ongoing Partner Interview Series. Zak, Joe, and Brittaney had a far-ranging conversation that focused on giving back to the community through Salesforce training and consulting, the 360-student view, and how they use Formstack for Salesforce for their higher education and nonprofit customers. Here’s an abridged transcript of the chat.
Background of I.T. Savvy Consulting
Zak: Let’s kick things off with Joe. Can you tell us about I.T. Savvy?
Joe: We’re a Salesforce partner working primarily with nonprofits and small businesses. Our goal is to give back to the community following Salesforce’s one-to-one methodology. We want to be able to give back to the community we live in. Our mission is to provide customers the Salesforce consulting they need while keeping our costs as low as possible for the types of clients we’re working with.
Zak: Who came up with the name I.T. Savvy?
Joe: We were at dinner one night, and we were going over some potential names, and this one came up and just stuck. I think it was our co-founder Jackie Powe who thought of it. The acronym itself describes what and who we are: we are trying to be savvy with enough knowledge around information technology to do configurations without code.
Zak: Joe, what led you to create the business?
Joe: I created it with some partners, Jackie and Dana Power. I’m the technical guy! We were in the nonprofit space, and Dana had worked directly for a nonprofit organization where I was implementing a couple of different tools, such as Microsoft 360. At the time, I was exploring consulting with Salesforce and had met Dana when they needed services at the nonprofit he worked for.
My background is a combination of a lot of things, from finance to implementing financial systems to VP of finance work with a home builder. I like understanding the business process of things and how technology can enhance those processes.
Zak: What a great back story! And it seems like you really love what you do.
Joe: I fell in love with the processes, which is why I wanted to get into consulting. That’s why we formed I.T. Savvy—to provide honest consulting. Being able to configure and roll out systems in a timely way is so important. The amount of time it used to take to build something out with developers and get things tested was too slow. Times have changed, and once we started working with Salesforce, something as simple as changing a picklist value in 30 seconds versus two weeks was eye opening.
Zak: Time is everything, and the ability to change and grow at scale is important for any business.
Joe: Exactly. The process became more agile when it comes to building things, and now that Salesforce has their partners on the AppExchange, that’s where the world really started changing into quick development and agile configuration. Realizing I don’t need a developer for everything, which is another principle we pride ourselves on. Our goal is to try and build it out with configuration because if something changes, we can go in and make that change without having to figure out where to go to change a whole page or process that was custom built.
I.T. Savvy’s Unique Approach for Bringing on New Talent
Zak: Joe, how did Brittaney get involved with I.T. Savvy?
Joe: One of the unique things about I.T. Savvy is we bring on and train new team members who are displaced or wanting a career change. We train them and get them working on projects that give them the opportunity to learn. Brittaney joined us as part of that program.
Brittaney: That’s right. I’m now a Certified Salesforce Admin and an I.T. Savvy success story.
I graduated from Georgia Tech in biology and spent some time teaching. I started working for I.T. Savvy and started learning Salesforce. It was a perfect match, as I had always wanted to work in the nonprofit space and help give back to the community. It brings me joy when I work with a client and can help solve for their needs.
Joe: We were in need of some support and with a bunch of projects we had coming up, we knew we needed to find resources. Brittaney was able to help us out for a little while, and when she was going through the training, we realized what a quick learner she is! We started to give her a few things to work on, and she did them so quickly that we started giving her more. She caught on so fast that within six months she was certified and really good at what she does. Our main goal around individuals we bring on is for them to demonstrate self development and show that they have that entrepreneurial spirit. When we bring on new people, we get them set up with a mentor and set them up for success.
Zak: Do you have a particular process you follow for hiring?
Joe: My first question I like to ask is if they googled our company because there’s a lot of information out there, and we want individuals who do the research and build knowledge on their own. We don’t want people who sit back and wait. We also look for folks who are problem-solvers, who can walk through processes, who can add value not just to our clients but to our team too.
Zak: I have a similar mindset when hiring—looking for people who will take initiative. Joe, I’m interested in learning more about your approach.
Joe: Our approach is to give back to the community in two ways. First, for our clients and ensuring they’re getting the support and consulting they need. Second, for the community and supporting the training of individuals who are looking for a career change or who are just coming out of school.
My nephew, for instance, was let go from his job at a car dealership. I told him we had an opportunity for him to learn something new, and at first he was doubtful if he could do it, but I encouraged him to get certified. He went ahead with the opportunity, and when the next person came along, he became a mentor. It’s a constant cycle of learning and development.
Zak: Wow. And where is he now?
Joe: He’s moved on and is now a Salesforce consultant. We’ve had about six or seven people rotate through the program. Then when someone new comes along, the graduate is always willing to help out and jump in to mentor the next person. Our clients have been super supportive of this model as well. When we start working with a small business or nonprofit, we’re up front with them around our process and the why behind it.
Finding Formstack & Building Continuous Profiles on Students
Zak: So that goes to show how powerful the mission of your business is.
Joe: Yes, and we do the same on the client success side through student career development. We work with an organization called Area Healthcare Education Centers (AHEC). They’re an education center that provides information to elementary, middle, and high school students about healthcare professions. The goal is to get them interested in healthcare as a career in the professional world.
They are a nonprofit government or state funded program. They provide proof of presentations to different schools to get students interested in the profession, and then when those interested students head to college in the medical field, they have programs where they can do rotations and shadow our current preferred medical professionals to learn more. Once they graduate, students can get a job, come back, and complete their continuing education courses to keep their certification.
Zak: Sounds like the full 360-view of the student.
Joe: Yes, exactly. It’s a complete 360-view of the student lifecycle, and actually allowing students to shadow professionals through the process is a great way to learn and open doors for young professionals ready to start their careers. We provide Salesforce as a solution for them to manage their programs and process.
We’re located in Georgia, and we soon realized there was opportunity in every state. There are program offices in each state, and each state has around five to six different locations. We are up to 10 states now, and we roll out Formstack as part of these program offices.
Zak: Let’s dig into your history with Formstack. How did you come across us?
Joe: We have been working with Formstack for Salesforce for years. As we roll out new programs, we look at their websites and show how we can have their web forms directly powered by and integrated directly with Salesforce.
Brittaney: We help our customers build an integrated process with forms, such as applications or registration forms. They could have previously collected data by putting it into a template; however, they were managing it through a separate system. It has been a win for them when they realize they can transfer that data right into Salesforce and that the systems talk to one another. Having the ability to use web forms and have the data automatically collected into Salesforce helps our customers save time and also get more value out of their Salesforce system.
Zak: Can you expand on some of the use cases or benefits you just mentioned?
Brittaney: We have a couple of different types of use cases. They are mainly centered around collecting information from students and participants they work with. Our higher education clients have events and programs that they might have a recruiter or staff member attend. They may need to collect information from participants who are at the event. They’ll have an iPad where they can have a participant fill out their information using a Formstack form right there, and then it’s uploaded directly into Salesforce. So registration is a big use case we see time and time again.
We also have applications that we can create, so if you need to apply to a program, we’ve built out a lot of different types of applications for that—everything from when they receive the application to it getting automatically added to Salesforce records. Iit also automatically sends an email to the student confirming their application was received. Then we can automate the information and notify the program that they received a new application.
Zak: So you’re able to capture data, have it flow directly into Salesforce, and set up automated email notifications so all parties involved are notified.
Brittaney: Yes, we love those functionalities. We’ll also do surveys. So for participants who apply and are already in the system, a trigger is set up right within Salesforce, and a survey is emailed to those students based on criteria we already know about them. If the student was just accepted into the program and we want to have them fill out a follow-up survey on their experience, we can do that. This all used to live in Excel, but with your solution, we can automate the whole process and keep everyone who needs to be in the loop involved.
Zak: The whole concept of digitizing those manual processes is what Formstack is all about.
Brittaney: Another cool use case involves the student application process and using the matching function in Formstack. If the student is already in our system and comes back to fill out a survey, the contact record for that student is automatically related to the survey, so the records are updated the moment the survey is filled out.
Zak: I’m familiar with that. You can choose what fields you’re using to match to existing records and upsert the new data. And that goes back to the single view of the student!
Brittaney: We are pushing that feature and want to continue building upon these student profiles. We want to be able to enable our clients to follow up with their student population to see where their career goes, regardless of if they completed their program or not.
Zak: Well team, this has been a great conversation. I’d like to finish up with our Lightning Round! What are some of your personal hobbies or interests?
Joe: I used to play racquetball, but I also have an old 65 Mustang that I work on on weekends. It was my first car; I received it when I was 16, and I still have it! I have almost sold it probably ten times now, but I haven’t been able to let go of it. I didn’t actually drive until I was 19, but it was something my dad and I worked on together.
Brittaney: My biggest hobby right now is my son—he is two. He’s an only child and my best friend. We like to go outside for hikes and going to playgrounds.
Zak: Yes, we do a lot of hiking too! Any productivity tips you can share? How do you stay productive in today’s busy world?
Joe: I have to use my phone and little notes. Before each night, I list out everything I need to do to start the next day. I get it out of my head so I can actually rest and I’m already prepared on what I need to get done. It also helps me keep track of everything. I also do a lot of walking—about twice a day. I’m up to about four miles now, and that’s become a nice stress reliever for me, so when I’m back I can be more productive.
Brittaney: Very similar to what Joe is saying. I like to create lists and notes. I also like to take the time to reflect and create lists of priorities.
Zak: What is your favorite TV show, past or present?
Joe: Right now, I’m into “FBI” and “Most Wanted.”
Brittaney: Anything sci-fi related, so I’ll go with “Bones.”
Zak: What is your go-to lunch during the workday?
Joe: Hummus and pita chips
Brittaney: I wouldn’t say I have a go-to. Whatever I make for my toddler!
Zak: Last question—it’s our wrap-up question in this series. Is a hot dog a sandwich?
Joe: I have to say yes. It’s the same type of layering where you can add multiple things to it. So, yes.
Brittaney: Honestly, I’ve never thought of it as a sandwich. I’m going to say no!
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