Welcome to APAC Trailblazers, a series highlighting individuals who are blazing trails to great platform and career development within our #SalesforceOhana. These blogs shine a spotlight on the 1,000s of stories in our Salesforce community that, we hope, will inspire you to take your own Salesforce career to new heights.

Profile: Trevor McDougall, CIO, Open Colleges

Megan: Thank you for talking with me today Trevor. First, can you tell me about yourself?

Trevor: I started my career in support and consulting, implementing medium to large ERP systems in a traditional way. I was first exposed to Salesforce in 2007 when I led a project to implement a student recruitment system across APAC.

That project changed my career and I have been a strong advocate for Salesforce and cloud ever since. I immediately saw the potential of Salesforce as a platform driven largely by configuration rather than development. It really enables smaller more agile projects delivering value quickly and allowing rapid change.

Salesforce put the power back in the hands of the business via admins and moved away from long running projects controlled by IT departments inhibiting innovation.

Megan: So you started your Salesforce career as an Admin and now you’re the CIO of Open Colleges. Tell me a bit about that path?

Trevor: In 2007 I was the admin and project lead of a small team at IDP, which deployed Salesforce to 40 countries and over 80 offices in just under three months. Before Salesforce the technology teams had spent three years trying to get an in-house solution deployed, which failed on even basic user experience because of “technical performance”. On success of the Salesforce project I was promoted to Global Manager Information Systems. I realised to progress my career I needed broader business skills and confidence so from 2008 to 2010 I studied a MBA at MGSM part-time.

"The journey wasn’t completely linear but I learned a lot along the way and my earlier experience as an Admin definitely provided me with some great tools that I still use today."

My next role as Head of IT at Think Education (a Seek.com business) was a good step forward on the path to becoming a CIO. At Think Education we used Salesforce as a CRM and Student management system and it allowed us to grow through acquisition, on-boarding new colleges quickly. In this role, we starting moving away from protected corporate networks and data centres to cloud platforms that enabled us to drive flexibility and agility.

I then worked at Sony as the Head of IT in ANZ but I was quickly promoted to a broader role managing all distribution operations in Europe. This non-tech role provided me with broader business experience to operate comfortably at an executive level steering a business where technology was a key aspect of driving change.

After returning to Australia I got my first CIO role at Open Colleges. The journey wasn’t completely linear but I learned a lot along the way and my earlier experience as an Admin definitely provided me with some great tools that I still use today.

Megan: Can you tell me a bit more about Open Colleges and how you are utilising the power of the cloud in your role there?

Trevor: Open Colleges is an online digital education business with over 65,000 students and technology is a key competitive advantage. We are a 100% cloud business with SFDC as our core platform for managing leads, students, courses essentially every business process except core financials.

We have built a significant Salesforce capability, which allows us to innovate and deploy quickly and keep our instance in good shape. The platform is extremely powerful and flexible and as such requires discipline to ensure you continue to drive value.

My current team at Open Colleges includes:

·       Leadership

·       Salesforce Architect

·       Administrators (Product manager)

·       Systems Support (Jnr Admin’s)

·       Salesforce Developers

·       Integration Developer

·       Data Developer

·       Change Manager

The knowledge gained as an Admin, understanding how a business process works and building great solutions to improve the way a business operates is still a key focus in my role as a CIO.

"Admins are business focused and work well in the space between the business and technology, and they are the new business analysts who can actually build solutions."

Megan:  Given that your path from Admin led to such success, what are your thoughts on Admins being the CIO’s of the future?

Trevor: Well I believe they will definitely be the Chief Digital Officers of the future because even the role of CIO is changing. Admins are business focused and work well in the space between the business and technology, and they are the new business analysts who can actually build solutions.

I actually think Admins are Product Managers, which is the perfect stepping stone to leadership. Think of your Salesforce instance as a “product” serving users as customers. Product thinking stops you building only to requirements. It’s your job as product managers to propose and drive solutions - rather than waiting for requirements. Product focus enables you to be proactive rather than reactive.

To become a Product Manager you need to understand all of your different customer groups:

  • What are they trying to achieve?

  • How does the process work?

  • What information do they need?

  • How are users using a solution you built?

So product management is a great platform to transition into leadership roles. You get the opportunity to build your business knowledge and have the ability to solve business problems with the support of systems which prepare you for future roles. Another great skill you master is working with a wide variety of stakeholders to make a solution work.

Megan: Is there any other pieces of advice you would you give to the Admins/Product Managers of the future?

Trevor: Find a way to give your Salesforce instance a name as this allows you to treat the technology as a “product”. Salesforce is a platform which supports a wide variety of business processes, it’s definitely not just a sales tool.

At Open Colleges, Salesforce is called “Firefly”. We use the technology as a platform which means it supports nearly all business process and not limited to CRM. All staff have a license.

Also, Trailhead is a great tool. Our Admins are always keen to learn more on the platform and the Developer Beginner Trail provides them a great introduction into APEX, SOQL, SOSL etc. It’s a must have resource for Admins exploring more of the salesforce ecosystem

And lastly, think of Salesforce as your enabler. It will make you look good if you use it the right way.

Megan: So what’s next for you?

Trevor: My role at Open Colleges has recently broadened in scope, and I am now responsible for driving all growth initiatives as we look to diversify our business. I am using my knowledge of business and technology to establish new business units and education product offerings within Open Colleges, which allow us to continue to grow beyond our core markets today. I will be relying heavily on the Salesforce team to continue to move quickly as we build new offerings.

Megan: Thank you Trevor for sharing your inspiring story and advice.  

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