In today’s episode of the Talent Hub Talk, we’re joined by Lars Malmqvist, Salesforce CTA, and twice-published author; his most recent book being Salesforce Anti-Patterns: Create powerful Salesforce architectures by learning from common mistakes made on the platform.
We cover a breadth of topics in this episode, including his passion for studying, his career through consulting, launching and scaling a Salesforce services business that became a product business, becoming a CTA, writing to Salesforce books, and much, much more.
Lars blew us away with all that he has achieved in his career and we genuinely question when he finds time to sleep. A really, really interesting episode and we hope you enjoy it!
Lars, welcome to the show.
Lars Malmqvist (00:03.286)
Thank you very much.
I’m really excited because you’ve got a very broad background, you’ve done a lot in your career, so I’m really excited to unpick that and understand how you’ve got to where you are today and some of the decisions you’ve made along the way. If you’ve listened to this before, I’m sure you’ll know what I’m going to ask first, which is to go right back to the beginning and unpick a bit about what your early career aspirations were and I guess why you chose to pursue the education that you did.
Lars Malmqvist (00:32.906)
I mean, it’s actually a bit of a chance occurrence, my career choice, because when I was growing up, I wanted to be a lawyer and then join the Foreign Service. I had a very, very clear plan about that for many, many years. And then what happened was that you had the dot-com boom in the late 90s, where, you know, the internet was just taking off. Everybody was really excited about it and I happened to be the first generation growing up with computers and I was really good at programming and at that point if you happened to know how to how to do some code and create some websites and things like that, you were already in high demand right, so I actually started the company with a friend in my last year of secondary school, which did websites and network configuration for companies in the greater Copenhagen area. And then we parlayed that into quite good jobs with large consultancies, and in my case, what is now Sopra Steria. So I mean, that only occurred because at the point when I was 17, 18, anybody who had any programming skills were in that high demand, right? Otherwise I would probably be a lawyer today.
To have programming skills at 17, 18 back then must have been rare. Because you wouldn’t typically fall into having programming skills unless you have a bit of a passion for technology already?
Lars Malmqvist (02:11.018)
No, it’s true. And I mean, I grew up with computers. I got my first computer when I was six and my big brother had one even before that that I loved to play with. When you were when you were in the 80s and you were doing anything with computers You pretty much had to develop technical skills in order to get it to do what you wanted it to do right you needed to do lots of configuration and tweaking and you know that very easily I think for a lot of people led into also doing some programming because it just made things easier, to be honest.
So did you then carry on the business through education? Did you go and do a formal degree while maintaining that business?
Lars Malmqvist (02:51.83)
Yeah, I mean, I think I’m up to nine university degrees now. And I’ve actually only ever been a full time student for a single year when I did my full time MBA. So for the rest of it I started as a Programmer, and I quickly, you know, I quickly realised that there was lots of background that I didn’t have, right. So initially I did like a diploma course in programming and computer science, sort of at night school. And then I did that and I thought, “well, I actually want to learn some more”. So I started taking all of these random courses, which eventually ended up with degrees in Social Anthropology. And then I sort of went back from there and did technology management and mathematics and just recently completed my PhD in Computer Science. So it’s a big mash and it’s just because once I got into that habit of studying next to work, I never stopped it, right? So it’s always something I’ve done on the side to sort of keep my mind fresh, as it were. So my educational background ranges from Medieval Studies to a PhD in Computer Science. So you can sort of take it from there, there’s not a lot of consistency to it.
So how have you typically chosen what you’re going to study next, just something that you’re interested in?
Lars Malmqvist (04:28.262)
I tend to go back and forth, right? So obviously the first degree I did, I did because I felt it was necessary to get a formal background in the field that I was working, right? Then I thought, “well, you know, now I’ve done that, let me just explore the field a bit”. Then after that, I went back to something, “well, now I’m at a level of my career where I may want to go into management and stuff like that”. So I started with Technology Management. Then after Technology Management, I did my MBA. And we started the company. So I took a little bit of a break for a few years. But when I got back from that, then it was back to like, “I’ve kind of reached a good point in my career. Let me do something that’s interesting”. So it alternates and I’ve always prioritised the useful studies in order to reach a new stage. And then once you’re at that stage, you can relax a bit and explore and let your intellectual curiosity run wild a little bit. I think that’s how I’d describe it.
So you’ve done your PhD in Computer Science and also you’ve done your CTA, which took more out of you?
Lars Malmqvist (05:53.154)
Definitely the PhD. But they’re very different beasts, right? The CTA is very intense in terms of the preparation for the exam, right? You know, it is just grueling, but the PhD is a very big writing project and you need to be very rigorous in what you write and there’s all of this stuff that goes in. So you need to sustain the interest over time in a way where, you know, for the CCA there’s a concrete payoff, right? I’m prepping for the Review Board. I’m going to pass the Review Board. I know pretty much exactly what I need to nail, right? So you can sort of go at it with a lot of passion and energy. Whereas with the PhD, you kind of need to find a way of retaining and renewing that energy over time, I guess. At least that’s how it was for me.
So obviously, your early days, you were a Programmer, you were passionate about coding, you found this kind of niche in the early days of the dot-com boom to find your way. You moved into architecture. How did you make that transition and back then, what were you working on? What kind of projects were you working on?
Lars Malmqvist (07:22.53)
So my early career was in what’s now known as content management systems, right? So basically it was systems to manage web content for larger websites. And back then that was not a standard system. That was something you kind of built with the client. Or you know, the agency you were working for would have their own little variant that they used for their specific clients. These days it’s, you know, they’re pretty standard systems, right?
Is OpenText a content management system?
Lars Malmqvist (07:53.494)
Yeah, OpenText, for instance, is an example of something that’s popular today. Salesforce has a CMS, right? Adobe Experience Manager has a content management system. Back then there were millions and everybody was making them. And I actually became an Architect, as it were when I joined a startup in the digital media space. So I moved from managing just web content to effectively managing digital assets. So digital asset management was brand new at that time. And it was basically a streaming platform that was focused on the B2B space. So we did a lot of things like investor relations videos and that sort of thing, platforms for like, one of our customers was The Stock Exchange right so The Stock Exchange used our software to broadcast all of the board meetings for the companies in Denmark and stuff like that. As is often the case with startups you just come in a little bit above your pay grade to be honest so that’s how I got into architecture because you know there wasn’t anybody else who was going to do the overall system architecture for the thing. So it fell to me and I had to learn as I went along.
So when you say that you kind of fell into it, when did you feel that you were an Architect then? As soon as you had the job title, is that how it works?
Lars Malmqvist (09:33.722)
I definitely got the job title before I knew how to do the job. I mean, I think that’s true for a lot of people. I think it took a couple of years of doing the work. I think I made a lot of mistakes in the early days. And you think back and you think, “not the greatest choices I made”, but you also learn from that, right? It works out. Sometimes it requires late nights of refactoring, bad solutions, but sometimes you end up with just doing something that seems so clever in your mind, and then you try to do it and it just doesn’t work in practice. So all of those things happened and you learn from them and you move on, I guess. Towards the end of my stint with that startup, I was feeling confident about my general architecture skills, but it took a little while. It also took a lot of studying, right?
And then, yeah, well study seems to be something you enjoy, I guess, so you’ll always throw yourself into that to better yourself. But then you moved into strategy consulting, which from the outside, it seems like an interesting move. And what drove that, I guess, and what did you learn as a strategy consultant that you still kind of utilise to this day?
Lars Malmqvist (11:02.218)
Yeah, well, I mean, the strategy consulting was kind of an outgrowth of this company, Arcus, that we did, right? So we did some strategy consulting engagements during the MBA I did at Cambridge. And we were out and we helped some, like you kind of learn the skill set and you learn how to help some companies. And actually it was one of those projects that then led to me and a colleague from that program founding the company that I ran for 10 years called Arcus, which we can talk more about later. And Arcus effectively in the beginning was a strategy consulting company, right? So we effectively had some offerings around how to apply cloud computing and how to save companies money using new technologies. And we had a framework for that. And that was sort of the basis of how we built the company. So for me, it was quite a big shift from technical architecture. I had sort of made an intermediate step in my job immediately before I was moved into a pre-sales architecture role where I led a development team, but I was also sort of in charge of pre-sales. So I had done a bunch of pre-sales consulting in the couple of years leading up to that, but I still wasn’t strategy consulting. So that was sort of a gradual shift into it. But I mean, you come from a technical background and you’re used to, you know, delivering a system, right? And then instead you’re delivering a report and you’re delivering some spreadsheets, I guess it’s a different beast. You approach it differently. You need a different toolkit, right? You need to focus much more on the client engagement, on the quality of the deliverables, on how you present it, on what sensitivities there are around it. You need to have very structured frameworks for how you do things, but you also need to be able to adapt very quickly to sort of the level that your client has. So I think that whole client-focused skill set that you get for it and how you communicate effectively with clients and how you can find sort of structured ways of helping them where they are, I guess for me, that was the key takeaways, coming from a technical background where you can be very focused on the specific solution and whether it’s technically right and whether it’s going to meet all of these architectural concerns that you’ve got for it and all of that. And maybe you’re not so focused on, well, “what’s the business value? How is it going to fit? How am I going to actually get the end users to adopt it? Is this actually solving the real problem or have you been told the wrong problem to solve?” So those are the kinds of things that you don’t often think about when you’re in a purely technical role, which you learn to think about when you move into consulting.
Sure. Yeah, that makes sense. So what came first then? I’m guessing Arcus came before Salesforce for you?
Lars Malmqvist (14:09.682)
It did, yeah. So, I mean, there’s a lot of coincidence here, but it’s actually also a little bit random that I got into Salesforce. So we were moving into this space, and for the first couple of years, we just did strategy consulting around the sort of the general cloud space. We started seeing, like, we were very public sector focused, and we started seeing some opportunities there where we actually wanted to build some software to try to address some of the issues, right? So what we could see was that there were a bunch of legacy systems and they, you know, they weren’t really moving, right? They weren’t making a transition towards the new software as a service model or anything like that. They were kind of just happy sitting on, you know, 10, 20 year old technology stacks and, you know, leveraging the cash flow from that. So we think, “okay, here are some opportunities where we actually can go in and make a real difference”, make some money for ourselves, but also save some money for our clients. And we needed a platform for that, right? My background at the time was from basically a Microsoft.net house. So I figured, you know, I’m gonna build it with.NET, probably use some SharePoint, some BizTalk, stitched all together. And then we met Salesforce at a client, we had a client who was just really excited about it because they brought it in and they started configuring it and you could do all these things. You know, force.com was relatively fresh off the press and they were starting to build little apps in force.com and we looked at it and we were going like, “okay, this is fast”. And we did some testing on it and we basically found that compared to the.NET stack that we were using, we would probably build things three to four times as quickly on Salesforce as we could on.NET. And then, you know, like the rest is history as it were. We adopted Salesforce as our principal technology platform along with Amazon Web Services for the stuff that couldn’t fit on Salesforce and we never looked back, it was just a better choice.
So, when would that have been roughly?
Lars Malmqvist (16:13.554)
Okay, yes, it’s still relatively early in the Salesforce journey, 11 years in or so since Salesforce founded.
Lars Malmqvist (16:22.794)
Yeah, I think force.com had maybe been out for two years at the time. It was very early days.
Yeah, okay. So you set up this business as a strategy consultancy, then you kind of became more of a services business. And then how did that business evolve?
Lars Malmqvist (16:44.17)
Five years into it, we made a decision to sort of pivot properly into products, right? And we did a big investment. We reinvested like a ton of money that we’d made on the consulting side and on the services side. And we threw that into a product roadmap for our particular little sector, hoping to basically come in with a market leading software as a service solution that would just blow everything else out of the water. And I guess, you know, it kind of did that technologically, but we also really underestimated how hard it is to build a product business, right? You know, we were used to a services business and that was relatively easy to run in the sense that we had very, we had very good cashflow, right? We had, you know, there’s always money coming in from people being sold out and that was quite nice. And obviously with product, you are investing a lot of money in building the IP, especially when it’s, you know, we were in a space where it’s kind of enterprise grade functionality, so we did need to get to quite a high level of maturity. And I think we underestimated just how high that bar was. So, you know, we had to go out and, you know, get a lot of private equity money and stuff like that in order to actually scale to the level that we needed. I mean, eventually it worked out, but it was a tough journey.
You were in London at this point, right?
Lars Malmqvist (18:14.454)
I was in London, I moved to the UK in 2008 and stayed until 2019.
And the business from my research was like a hundred people, like it was a decent sized organisation, like as you mentioned.
Lars Malmqvist (18:29.258)
Yeah, still is a sizeable organisation. We’ve sold some of the parts off. So it’s a little bit smaller now because we’ve sold some of the service, like managed services, parts of the business off to fund some of the other stuff. So it’s a bit smaller now, but yeah, it was a hundred odd people.
So what was the biggest challenge about building a product business?
Lars Malmqvist (19:20.122)
Cashflow, obviously is one of them, but you’re figuring out the capitalisation of it and also keeping productivity and hiring quality as you scale. Again with a services business, when you’ve got a 20 person consultancy, you know how good everybody is, you know if you can sell them out or not, you know how clients respond. You’ve got a very good feel for the business.
And when you then go to 100 people where they’re working on different products, you can’t keep it all in your head you need processes and structures around that in order to make it work. And obviously it’s a big transition, right? It doesn’t happen by itself.
I’ve not had too many guests that have gone through the private equity process before. Obviously it’s different in every country and depending on the amount you’re trying to raise and things like that, but do you look back through that process fondly or was that a stressful time in your life?
Lars Malmqvist (19:57.962)
So, initially it was actually fine, right? Because we had a good roadmap, we had a business that had good funding. What made it difficult was then when we figured out that we hadn’t raised enough money, right? The second and third rounds were painful. The first round was fine. So I would recommend that if you are going down that route, you know, raise enough money on the first fundraise. Don’t be afraid to raise more than you think you need, because we made that mistake. I mean, it obviously worked out, but you know, it is with some scars.
And obviously there are lots of people out there that look to bootstrap a business and get as far as they can without doing that. Now obviously you got to a big scale, right? 100 people is a big sized organisation. But was that ever the vision not to go down that route?
Lars Malmqvist (20:58.518)
Yeah, obviously, we built the services business by bootstrapping, right? And I think services businesses, you know, that’s what you do. There’s no reason to fundraise because if you’re any good at what you do, you can fund the growth from cash flow and, you know, maybe a bank loan to just bridge a little bit of extra hiring if you need to. So for services businesses, definitely don’t raise money. I don’t see what would be the point. For a product business I think you should probably, like we didn’t necessarily do that, but you should probably see how far can you get by bootstrapping so that your valuation is better. The further you get then if you can show there is a product, I can show it to you, there are some customers even though they’re not funding then it’ll help your valuation, although you can then overshoot and then get into a point where it’s just a run rate business where the investors then won’t see the huge growth potential that you’re going to try to show them, right, because they just see the run rate business. So I think that’s also a little bit of a danger in going too far in that direction. So I think there’s a sweet spot. So if you can bootstrap to the point where you’ve got some traction and you’ve got sort of good indicators that there’s a lot of potential growth, that’s probably the sweet spot for raising money although I mean obviously it’s not the best time in the world to raise money right now.
Yeah, and I guess product businesses compared to services, like there’s a whole host of differences around how you market that, how you get the brand awareness and things like that as well. It must have, did it require, obviously you had the technology people, you had the architects, you had the people building the product, right, and they could have been doing services or product ultimately. But then around that, I guess you have to wrap all these different skill sets for the different types of businesses.
Lars Malmqvist (22:57.17)
Yeah, correct. Well, I mean, in services business, you need relatively little overhead, right? You can have a thin layer of HR and admin and finance and things like that. And they will basically manage it because, you know, like your senior people will do your selling effectively, right? So the amount of marketing you actually need is limited. That does change. And with a product business, there is a lot more of those kinds of overheads. Even our market was relatively focused, so it wasn’t a huge, like we didn’t need to market to a million businesses, but even so, just getting that awareness out there is a bigger job.
Was it still public sector?
Lars Malmqvist (23:41.962)
Still to this day principally public sector. We were always, you know, we weren’t thinking about ourselves as a sales force company or an AWS company, we were thinking about ourselves as a public sector technology company.
Yeah, interesting. So we’ll go back into your, I guess, journey now, because that was really interesting to understand how that part played, that whole entrepreneurial journey played a part in where you’ve got to. But then you moved back to Denmark?
Lars Malmqvist (24:15.298)
Move back to Denmark in 2019, largely because we had our first daughter, were planning more children and I now have two. My mother was also getting a little bit of an age, she was 84 at the time. London is a phenomenal city, but it’s not necessarily the easiest to manage with two sort of high-powered jobs and little kids and a family that you need to go home to on a regular basis. Copenhagen in that regard is a lot easier going. So it was kind of a pragmatic decision, you could say.
You’ve mentioned studying has been a big part of your life and you joined Accenture and it seems to me, looking at your LinkedIn profile, that’s really when you started focusing on Salesforce certifications. You had some before, but that’s where you really started to put the foot down and go through the paces. Was that because at that point, you realised “actually now my goal is to go for the CTA”?
Lars Malmqvist (25:31.906)
No, not initially. It’s just in Arcus, as I said, we were thinking about ourselves as a public sector technology company. We did do Salesforce implementations, but we did them as part of our own software implementations. So we would sell you some public sector software, and then if you need a community cloud or a service cloud implementation as part of that, you know, we’ll obviously package that in. But we were never really focused on sort of the Salesforce ecosystem or our status with Salesforce as a partner. So certifications were appreciated, but it wasn’t something that we put a lot of emphasis on in Arcus. Obviously, when I came to Accenture, it’s something that gets talked about at every team meeting, it’s something that everybody is a little bit competitive about, it’s something that gets rewarded in various ways internally. The incentives shifted, right? And, you know, as you’ve noted, I like studying, right? So when somebody tells me that I’m gonna get a prize for studying more, then that’s kind of just going to happen. So I did the 18 certifications in a year or something like that. I think I was the highest certification owner in Accenture that year globally. So that was, I was fine. And yeah, I mean, it was basically, I guess basically because it was, yeah, it was an important part of the goals that we were, that we were set. And, you know, that’s also just when you come in as a lead architect effectively, which was my role. I think it’s important that you demonstrate the good behaviour. If I want all of my people in my team to learn and to engage and to spend their own time doing it, then at least I can do it myself.
Yeah. So you’d obviously been running your own business for a number of years. You’d been, I guess, still operating in some sort of architecture capacity to some degree, obviously, along with running the business. What did you have to do to go back into a services business and be delivering enterprise level Salesforce projects across the board? Obviously you mentioned that, yeah, there were parts of other engagements where you would tie on a community or a service cloud, but did you have to really broaden your knowledge of the Salesforce platform at that point?
Lars Malmqvist (28:07.91)
I did. So I was really, really strong on the technical platform. Right. So, you know, like the part of like, how do all of the technical bits fit together? How do you do data modelling? How do you do advanced coding and configuration and all of that stuff was bread and butter. But, you know, if you’d ask me to just configure Sales Cloud, I’m not sure I would have been super great at it at that point. Right. So it’s kind of I guess it’s a very different path to it than most people take. So the things that most people would find quite basic were probably the things that I didn’t have present, because I’d been focused on “how do I use this as an enterprise development platform effectively”. That was my principal use of Salesforce. I mean, I’m exaggerating slightly, but in that general direction. So I actually had to spend a lot of time going through all of the, “how do you do these business processes? How do you set them up? How does it work? How do I do reporting on top of it?” So it’s really like the functional layer. I had to spend just a lot of time understanding, well, how do actual sales people and service people use this platform in a real way, you know, instead of just focusing exclusively on the technical side. Now, that being said, obviously, I was a lead Technical Architect, so most of the questions that come to me are fairly advanced but there’s a broader context that I really needed to focus on when I joined Accenture.
And then when you actually went for the Review Board, if you look back through your career, I guess you’ve probably got like a pretty ideal background for once you’ve got that broader platform knowledge and functional knowledge, actually looking back at the strategy consulting, the presentation, being able to take someone on a journey, it kind of all aligns nicely to the CTA Review Board, right?
Lars Malmqvist (30:08.526)
It does. And I guess, you know, I probably had an easier time getting to the CTA than most people did. And it also didn’t take as long, right? For me, it was like six, eight months from start to finish.
From what would you mark as the start though?
Lars Malmqvist (30:35.758)
I had a chat with my boss saying we need a CTA, right? We don’t have any in the Nordics. “Would you mind giving it a go?” That was effectively what happened. And I said, “yeah, sure. I need to read up on this thing”. So I joined this CTA 601 and then basically that was just before the summer holidays. And then I spent my summer holidays just studying furiously, so be sure that I got it. And I also did sort of a very, very boring and super meticulous preparation methodology, where basically I found a way of reading through the scenarios and converting everything to like lists of stuff that I needed to check off in order to have a viable solution. And then, you know, went through sort of six or eight mock exams where I just, you know, followed that methodology and updated it a little bit to the point where I was timing down to the minute, how much time I was spending on the different sections. And then got to the Review Board just before Christmas and thankfully passed the first time. I didn’t think I was going to pass to be honest when I came out of the review board, but thankfully it worked. But I think you’re right. I think the fact that I have had, I have a, like I had the strategy consulting background, I have a lot of pre-sales background, so the whole communication aspect of it was not something I really had to learn. That was just standard practice. And I had the deep tech background, right? So what I really had to learn was how to, what is the solutioning part, right? Like how do you formulate and justify good solutions on the Salesforce platform. That was really the key thing that I was missing, which is probably different for most people who go for the CTA. I think for most people, it’s probably the easy part of the CTA is figuring out, “okay, this is the right solution to this kind of requirement”. Whereas, when you come into the deep technical specifications around single sign-on or integrations, that may be harder for some people. And again, the communication aspect, obviously, can also trip some people up.
Yeah and also the fact that you’d studied consistently for so long I guess helps because a lot of people, they finish their university and they might study for certifications but they don’t study for blocks of time like you have to with the CTA, whereas you would have been studying on and off for the last however many years?
Lars Malmqvist (33:20.566)
Yeah, true. I’m not going to say how many, that’s going to date me too much, although I guess you can work it out from what I said about my early career.
Well before I ask you the next question which is about your books, I’m going to ask you, we all have 24 hours, you’ve got 24 hours in a day, I’ve got 24 hours, do you ever sleep?
Lars Malmqvist (33:41.946)
Well, I mean, I have very small children, so not so much at the moment.
Snap, I’m in the same boat. But you’ve written two books. You’ve done your CTA, you’ve studied eight university courses, you’ve got a PhD. Where do you find time to do all this stuff?
Lars Malmqvist (34:12.158)
I think it’s just habit, right? I got into a pattern early on where, you know, like work, study, that sort of thing is just something I do. It doesn’t really require mental effort, right? I actually, you know, for me sitting down and reading a bunch of technical papers, you know, I find it quite relaxing, right? It’s kind of something I’ve done so many times. I know, you know, exactly how to do it. So I think the answer is that over time I have habituated myself to doing some things that lead to those kinds of results. So that means that it takes a lot less effort because you just do it. If you’re facing something new and you have to overcome this mental hurdle about how do I do it, what’s the process here, can I do it – all of these factors around it that makes things hard. And I think for me, I got over those many, many years ago and now it’s just, you know, habit.
Yeah, yeah, it’s incredible. I mean, I don’t think I’ve ever spoken to anyone that has, and also run a business for several years, well, more than several years. You know, you were running that business in London for a number of years, grown it to 100 staff. It’s crazy. It’s some accomplishment and I’m sure you are proud but yeah you should be. It’s incredible. So that takes us on to the books and you’ve written two, two have been published. Your most recent book you talk about Salesforce anti-patterns. Can you shed some light into what some of the key takeaways for the book for someone that should read it?
Lars Malmqvist (35:57.79)
Yeah, so the way that I like to explain anti-patterns very simply is think of an anti-pattern as something that seems like it’s a good idea at the time you make the decision, but reliably leads to bad results, right? So, you know, let’s say you’ve got your account object and you don’t really know whether a trigger is the best or whether a flow is the best or how to structure it. And you’ve got different vendors telling you different things. And you decide to just say “you know what guys do what you want to do”. And then, you know, three months later, you end up with, you know, two different triggers with two different trigger frameworks, plus, you know, a bunch of process builders and flows doing various things on this object. And you can no longer figure out what actually should happen. So that’s an anti pattern called automation bonanza, which happens when you fail to have an automation architecture. When you fail to govern your automation architecture, that happens. And it can seem like a good idea at the time because people are telling you different things and it all sounds sensible and you don’t necessarily want to cause a lot of conflict or have these big alignment discussions, but reliably it leads to a bad result. So that’s an anti-pattern. And I think one of the really great things with the Salesforce ecosystem is just how much support there is around the right way of doing things. There are lots of patterns. There’s the architect side. There’s now the well architected framework. That’s just an awful lot of guidance on what to do. But there is not that much, I think there is a huge positivity bias in the Salesforce ecosystem. It’s like, we will do things the right way and then we won’t run into problems. And that’s obviously not reality. Sometimes you do things that are well-intentioned but still lead to really bad results. And studying anti-patterns, like what I just described, can actually help you steer clear of these sort of reliable ways of going wrong. And it could also just broaden your architecture practice to sort of think about the reality that there are trade-offs, right? You know, I think again, back to the positivity bias, there’s a tendency to think that you can’t have it all with a Salesforce solution, and that’s not always true. Sometimes you do have to trade off things. Like architecture is fundamentally about trading off different concerns against each other and finding a solution that is satisfactory in your context. So that’s what I’m trying to do with this book is just asking people to take a step back and consider, “well, what if it doesn’t go right? What if I follow good practice and something still goes wrong? What if my stakeholders don’t play ball? What if something changes along the way? What if my governance isn’t effective? What can I do?” And again, there are good things you can do, but you need to be prepared to actually engage with it.
So who’s it for? Who would get value from it?
Lars Malmqvist (39:04.558)
So I guess it’s not a heavily technical book. So you can read it as any kind of Architect or Functional Consultant. I think even if you’re a Business Analyst, it’s probably worth reading. It seems to be a lot of Admins who also get a lot out of it. That’s perhaps something I didn’t quite expect, but I guess Admins in the sales world is such a broad role that actually knowing this is something that can be really valuable because a lot of the stuff that you’re doing actually has architectural implications. So while it’s written for an Architect slash Functional Consultant kind of an audience, I think there’s a lot of other people who get value from it just from understanding what can go wrong, right? That’s valuable in and of itself, just seeing all of the ways that projects on Salesforce can take a wrong step, even though it’s not obvious.
Do you think architecture on the Salesforce platform has become more challenging than like, I appreciate when you first started doing it, it was looking at public sector and architecture for products, but the role of an Architect over the last 10 years on the Salesforce platform, would you say that has become more complex because of the breadth of the platform or is fundamentally architecture the same?
Lars Malmqvist (40:39.211)
No, I mean, there is a core discipline of architecture, which I think is the same and also is the same between all major enterprise systems. I actually think if you’re looking at this whole category, there is a core of knowledge that all Architects need to be. But if we look specifically at Salesforce architecture, I think the emphasis has shifted. Ten, twelve years ago, it was a much smaller platform. There was much less stuff built out. There were a lot more things where you needed complex technical solutions to the problems that came up. So it was a more difficult technical architecture discipline back then because you had to do a lot more stuff yourself. But if you then shift your perspective and you look at the platform now, it’s obviously a much vaster platform, has a much broader scope, there are many more products in play, businesses are using it at a much larger scale. So if you look at it sort of at the enterprise architecture level, like the Salesforce’s role in the overall system landscape has expanded tremendously, and that means that, you know, while technical architecture might have gotten easier, all the rest of architecture has gotten harder, because you now have a much more business critical function. You need to take into account relationships with all of these other systems. You probably have responsibilities as a system of record that you wouldn’t have thought about necessarily 10 years ago. And that means that you need to up your enterprise architecture game as it were to really be effective here. I think that’s also why you’re seeing Architects on Salesforce become more specialised. There’s a lot more people who specialise in B2B or in B2C or in marketing or they would describe themselves as Functional Architects or Technical Architects. So I think that’s part of just this growth of the platform and the growth of complexity at the higher level.
I think that’s really good insight. And because obviously a lot of people that will listen to this won’t have been architecting Salesforce solutions 10 years ago. You know, they might have only recently moved into the architecture world or be on that journey. So it’s interesting to understand and to see the differences. And then your first book was around architecting AI solutions, which is probably even more topical right now than when you wrote it, right? Because everything’s gone AI crazy in the market right now. With the expansion of AI, there’ll be lots of Architects out there that have never even thought about a solution that might touch AI or have an AI element to what they’re designing. So what are the key considerations, would you say, right now for anyone that is being exposed to AI for the first time?
Lars Malmqvist (43:36.802)
Right now it’s obviously all about large language models, right? When I wrote my book two years back, that wasn’t really a big part of the whole landscape. We were thinking more about the business process automation side, right? How can we get it to fill out your fields quicker, automate the data entry, all of these things. And now it’s all about this generative AI, generating text at scale. But I think what’s common here in terms of AI solutions is that you have to basically shift your mindset from engineering deterministic solutions to dealing with something that’s fundamentally probabilistic. An AI system, it’s not an algorithm. It’s a model that’s been trained on data that will give you correct answers with some probability or good answers with some probability, and a lot of the time won’t. So again, those are the key issues if you also look at what Salesforce are including in their Einstein GBT trust layer. You can see that there are problems around data retrieval. How do I trust this AI with my data? How do I secure data masking so that I can have data privacy? How do I detect when it goes off the wall and gives me an answer that’s completely inappropriate? Those are the kinds of challenges that come in because you’re dealing with a probabilistic rather than a deterministic system. So you fundamentally have to think about it differently. You have to think about it in a framework where you should expect things to go wrong. I call the AI, it does something, it works great. That will be the case 80% of the time, however much. But there will also be a substantial amount of time that it doesn’t, right? It doesn’t give you the right answer. It isn’t quite what you were looking for, or even worse, it’s distinctly harmful, right? It hallucinates something, it’s made the wrong call. And you need to sort of balance that tendency towards having things automated and running more or less seamlessly versus the fact that it can go horribly wrong with a certain probability. Just thinking about it in that way, like thinking about it as a black box that you don’t really know what does, but that gives you an answer that’s good with a certain probability, rather than thinking about it as, “I’m gonna call my LLM and it’s going to generate my sales email”, right? I think, yes, it will, most of the time. And it’s a different mindset. And it’s a mindset that most Architects need to get their head around, because that is really different for AI solutions. It’s different for all AI solutions. So you effectively need to design systems with a degree of robustness and error correction that you’re not used to.
Now I’ve forever been told, I’m a recruiter that’s what I do day to day, and I’ve forever been told that AI is going to revolutionise recruitment, take away my job. What do you think the role of AI will play having been in the consulting field for so many years? Do you see any change in the way that consultancies will operate? Not necessarily implementing AI solutions, but with AI within their business?
Lars Malmqvist (47:25.514)
It will depend on what happens, right? So right now, like the hype machine is in overdrive, right? And if we assume that the hype machine is right and that very soon this AI is going to be good enough to fully replace 60% of intellectual labor, which I think is what the McKinsey Generative AI Report sort of speculates. Then obviously it’s going to have a hugely transformative effect. We’re going to see lots of report writing and slide making and Excel analysis and in Salesforce world configuration and implementing user stories and all of that stuff. It’s just going to go away and be done by a machine. And that will be hugely transformative and we are going to need to figure out what is the business model, like how much of that productivity increase goes into people needing to find other jobs, how much goes into us doing our job better, how much goes into us doing different things. It’s going to be hugely transformative if that happens. I have my doubts about whether that is actually going to happen, right? Because if you look at the current level of capability, what even GPT4 can do right now, I don’t think we’re there, right? I think we are, we are looking at something that is a nice productivity boost. And Lord knows we need it because services productivity has been stagnant for a good long time in most western countries. So it will increase the productivity of knowledge work by some 10, 20, 30 percent as it is right now. In the sense that I can write some documents quicker. I will still need to edit them and put them together, but I can write some documents quicker. I can do some analysis and brainstorming quicker. I can get more ideas without having to spend quite as much time on it. Microsoft Copilot comes out, I can get it to do a draft of my slide presentation, I will still obviously need to tweak it around, but it’ll give me a starting point. That’s nice, but that’s not a revolution. That’s just a boost, right? That’s an improvement, right? But it’s a big improvement, but it’s still just an incremental thing. It’s not a revolutionary, radical innovation that’s completely going to change the way that we do consulting or Salesforce implementation and so on and so forth. So we’ll see. I think it could go either way, but I’m definitely not willing to fire half my team on the basis of what the AI does right now.
Yeah, makes sense. And then the final question, what’s next for you in terms of like, you know, you’ve ticked off so many goals, written books, what’s next in the pipeline of, of goals for yourself?
Lars Malmqvist (50:26.538)
Well, right now we’re trying to build this practice. So I’m in a strategy consulting company called Implement Consulting Group, which is one of the largest strategy consulting firms in the Nordics. And effectively what we’re trying to do is to build a practice that combines strategy consulting skills with Salesforce technical skills, right? It’s something that I would like to be able to achieve because I think actually in the ecosystem we are seeing back to the development I was talking about, sales was just becoming more and more business critical. It’s becoming, you know, a central part of how a lot of large businesses operate. And that means that they’re going to need a different level of advice on how to use that technology strategically to achieve business goals. And that, I think, will require both understanding the technology and understanding the depth of the business. So I’m quite excited about seeing how far we can take that idea of actually creating a Salesforce strategy consulting unit. So that’s kind of my immediate goal for the next few years, I think, is trying to see how far I can take that idea.
And do you see that, like in other countries, is that something you see and hear of often, that kind of strategic consulting, not just implementing?
Lars Malmqvist (51:53.334)
Yeah, I mean, I think it’s a shift in the ecosystem. We see some people, I think there’s one other company in the Nordics trying to do it. Obviously, McKinsey recently announced a strategic partnership with Salesforce to try to do some of this. When I was in Accenture, it was always a goal to try to get more of this, but it was hard to actually make it work in practice. So I think it’s early days, right? A number of companies are realising that they need something like this, but exactly what the offering needs to look like and who’s got to be the players that they go to for advice. It’s not something that’s been standardised yet. It’s a little bit undefined still. So we’re obviously trying to take our part of that space but it’s still work in progress.
So it’s not just purely like advising on a roadmap, but it’s how does the business achieve its goals underpinned by the Salesforce platform?
Lars Malmqvist (53:07.498)
Let’s take an example, right? If I’m a company like Implement that I work with, we do a lot of sales transformations, right? Getting sales people to do better selling, right? Improving their sales effectiveness. That’s something that’s a classic strategy consulting role to go in and train the sales people, create a sort of a custom training approach, creating all of the change management around it, rolling it out. Now, traditionally that hasn’t had any system component, right? And that’s something that a lot of these people are there complaining about, you know, well, we do all of this good work and they still have to work with a clunky system that doesn’t support it and there isn’t the right setup and all of that. So our hypothesis is that if we go in with a joint team, that then at the same time as we’re advising on how to do the sales transformation, we’re also advising on how to adapt their system to work with that and how they can do it in an effective way and where they might have additional synergies by implementing system level changes, you know, even bringing in like the AI stuff that we were talking about before, right, where are the opportunities for automating parts of the journey, can we do sort of, you know, dynamic training at various points based on the material we’re preparing, all of that stuff. If we combine that in a package, that is a much more powerful proposition than doing each of these two things separately, than hiring Implement to come in and do the sales transformation and then hiring Accenture to come in and do some system changes afterwards. So that’s the hypothesis, is that there is a better value proposition.
Yeah, it makes a lot of sense. Well, I’ve really enjoyed the chat. It’s been really eye-opening to see how much someone can achieve and what you have achieved. So I’m sure some of our listeners will have questions. They might want to pick your brains on something you’ve mentioned or find your books. Where’s the best place to find you for a question? And where can people find your books?
Lars Malmqvist (55:19.67)
Books are available either from Amazon or from Packt, who’s the publisher. And I mean, I usually reach out to me via LinkedIn. I am always on LinkedIn, pretty much. So I will promise to answer any queries if you send me a request. So just send me a connection request if we’re not already connected and then feel free to pick my brain.
Awesome, well thank you so much and best of luck with what you’re trying to achieve with Implement and yeah excited to see how that goes.
Lars Malmqvist (55:54.318)
Thank you very much!
You can follow Lars Malmqvist on his LinkedIn page!
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