At Salesforce, Nichola Palmer works with customers to bring their stories of innovation and transformation to life. In this blog series featuring Trailblazers, Nichola introduces Johan Yu, a Salesforce MVP, business systems architect, blogger, and author, based in Singapore. Johan loves using the power of data for the benefit of all business stakeholders.
In the remote Indonesian village where Johan Yu grew up, electricity was a rare luxury. Therefore, all tasks connected to his father’s farming business were done manually. Along with the farming itself, these included record-keeping of expenses, crop production levels, and sales accounts.
At school, Johan began to learn about computers. Very soon, he recognised the power such technology would bring to his father’s business, as well as his community. Johan wasn’t thinking of anything sophisticated like artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning, or robotic automation. Such technology was still a long way off. He could simply see that certain jobs were better left to machines, enabling humans to be better at what they do.
“At my high school, we had a computer lab and I became very interested in computers,” says Johan. “Once my teachers knew I was interested in computer science, they guided me on a path to study at university in Jakarta.”
Johan earned a Bachelor of Computer, Management Information Systems, at Jakarta’s BINUS University. Then, he took a Master of Management, Information Systems, at BINUS University and Australia’s Curtin University.
While studying, Johan realised his dream could come true. As a child, he had imagined using the power of computing to help businesspeople like his father. Today, he is a business systems architect and Salesforce MVP , who works with businesses to solve problems using technology.
Becoming “skilled, more competent, and faster”
For seven years during and following university, Johan worked for an insurance firm. Then he moved to Sydney, Australia, and took a job with the country’s first Salesforce partner. Immediately, the Salesforce platform made sense to him. It wasn’t so much about what it did, but more about what it allowed him to do.
“I had come from using basic systems to building applications,” Johan says. “And I realised there were a lot of things that I thought IT professionals shouldn’t have to do any more.
“I saw that we could focus more on how technology can enable the strategic needs of the business, rather than just the infrastructure required. The capabilities of the technology enabled us to think about the business in a different way.”
The capabilities of the Salesforce platform made him feel “skilled, more competent, and faster”, Johan says. In the past, he had never experienced a strong community around a platform or brand. So when he had challenges, it was sometimes difficult to find solutions. But once he discovered how active the Salesforce community was, he realised he was able to find answers immediately, from Trailblazers all over the world.
“I appreciated the speed to execute,” he says. “In the past, I had to spend a long time setting up the server, the database, and more. But the Salesforce platform is so convenient. I could just start working on projects immediately. And reach out to the community for help when needed.”
Success = user experience + empowerment
Johan is currently working in a multinational company, from his home in Singapore, with more than 10,000 people around the globe. How does he ensure they’re all making the most of a platform or application that has been developed for them?
“We try to make sure apps are simple for users to understand and interact with,” he says. “We don’t want to put too much effort into documentation. If it is user-friendly, then it makes sense. If it’s not user-friendly, it’s just wasting money.”
Importantly, Johan says, technology is not about replacing people. Its true power, as he realised when he was a young boy, is in making people even better at what they do.
“In the corporate world, we don’t use AI to replace people. We use it to enable people,” he says.
“Our people can use AI to see how likely it is that a sale will close. The propensity to close is based on historical data and on the experience of similar customers. So, the AI helps salespeople to prioritise their work. We see that it makes them more successful.”
Leading the Salesforce community in Singapore
In Singapore, Johan is well-known as a generous leader within the Salesforce community. He is considered a knowledgeable expert, who spends a great deal of time helping others to find solutions to powerful business challenges.
This assistance includes a Salesforce-themed blog site, managed and written by Johan, which attracts more than 2,200 people every day from around the world. Most of his visitors are not from Singapore. They come from the USA, UK, and India. His reputation has spread around the globe.
The prolific sharer of knowledge has also written three books. They are Salesforce Reporting and Dashboards, Salesforce Lightning Reporting and Dashboards, and Getting Started with Salesforce Einstein Analytics.
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For more stories of our Trailblazers, check out these other posts from our Inspired Trailblazers series: