Timeline - Pros and Cons - (Thoughts and Feedback appreciated)

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As people have started using the Timeline feature, I was curious what everyone is finding or viewing as the Pros and Cons while putting this feature into play.   I thought I would start with a few thoughts and attempt to get people talking about how and why they use the feature or perhaps why they have chosen not to (yet).

Pros:
- one can sort or only show timeline data based on a specific activity type
- diary of events and account updates in one place
- draft notes for the next meeting and future discussion points for the account
- log calls, onsites, weekly updates, EBRs, latest Deal notes, At Risk Notes  (create a specific activity type for each)
- Given the SFDC widget, most others in the organization can see the Timeline data and find CSM updates one place


Cons:
- small to see/view/edit the information in the GS widget - exploring ideas, but not sure we have many options based on the SFDC account/opp page layout.
- (from what I know - disclaimer) the Timeline only accepts manual entries and no way to auto-add entries like CTA completed or Renewal closed.   Believe this functionality is on the GS roadmap for the rules engine to auto-add entries into the Timeline.

Bottom Line:
- Overall, I believe most teams benefit by deciding on one or two places where ALL the activity / account / deal notes live and the Timeline could easily be that place.

Thoughts, Feedback, alternative uses of the Timeline are welcomed !!
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Tom Wix, Champion

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Posted 7 months ago

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Lila Meyer, Official Rep

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Great conversation starter, Tom! You are correct that you can't load entries to Timeline via rules (or any other other automated method) at this time.
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Nitisha Rathi, Employee

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Thanks for the post, Tom.  
Loading entries via rules is in the short-term roadmap (as you mentioned), I will keep you updated about the ETA. We will also explore improving timeline experience in the widgets.

Thanks,
Nitisha
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Seth, Employee

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Our CSMs who are the most enthusiastic adopters are those who were just eager to have a simple place to take notes that auto-save and that are organized by customer, without having a whole slew of Evernotes, for example. Other CSMs have had a harder time integrating it into their workflow.

Management is thrilled with the idea of being able to go back and review the information for any customer, but I don't think they've ever actually done that yet.

I'm focused on just getting those simple use cases built out. No need to get fancy with the full potential for the technology if we haven't let it have its primary impact across the whole team yet.
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Manmeet Dosanjh, Champion

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I love the idea of Timeline and for the most part it works great and I can see our CSMs adopting this into their workflow at a higher rate in the future. However, there are just some simple issues with it that greatly reduce that chance of adoption.

1) I think the way a Timeline Activity(with sub-tasks) that generates a new CTA in Cockpit is counter-intuitive. It requires coaching on a naming system that would make this work or be convenient for CSMs to use. Currently, the CTA will be named whatever the Timeline Activity was named. This doesn't make sense in most situations as the logged Activity is usually something that has already been completed by the CSM. This confuses our CSMs when they see that CTA and think that activity still needs to be completed. 

2) The second big issue we are experiencing is that the "Activity Type" does not actually sync with the "Type" field for that Task in SFDC. This causes problems when working with other teams that do not use/have access to Gainsight. For example: We have CSAs that prospect and book demos for our CSMs. To get their credit, they would need to have a logged call from the CSM with "Type = Demo". So, as is, the CSM would have to log that in SFDC rather than Timeline. Same thing goes with transparency with the sales teams. 

3) Also, another big problem we are experiencing is that the "Notes" from the TL Activity do not push over/sync when that task is logged in SFDC. I am not sure if this is a bug that we are only experiencing since I keep hearing that the Notes sync is a feature supported by Gainsight.

On the other hand;

Timeline is a great place to put down notes/reminders, log calls/emails (activities that were completed), generate CTAs as follow up to an Activity, search for specific activities, and is organized well with an easy-to-use interface. CSMs have provided feedback that it is much easier/quicker for them to log a Timeline Activity when compared to all the fields needed in CTA creation. 
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Tom Wix, Champion

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Thanks much for the feedback - so for #2 or #3, could you expose the Timeline in the account or opportunity GS widget and have people view the TL activity in the GS widget versus syncing and replicating the data in a SFDC task.   We try to have all the non-CSM teams use the widget for information versus creating separate / duplicate SFDC tasks.   Not sure that would work for your business or team.
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Manmeet Dosanjh, Champion

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Hi Nitisha,

Thank you for the reply! Is there an ETA on when the CTA naming change would be pushed through?

I have Notes mapped to Description by default and I have never seen any of our Timeline Activity notes ever pushed to Salesforce. How did you get it to appear in the "Comments" field? Is that a workflow set up in SFDC? Since the mapping states Notes --> Description (which is not the same field as Comments).

Also, I have mapped "Activity Type" --> "Type" in SFDC. This is a picklist and editable field in SFDC. This should be updating the Type correct? However, for us, everything logs as "Email" in SFDC. Is this not the correct field to sync Activity Type to?

Do you think these are bugs specific to our environment and will require a support ticket? 

Thanks!
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Manmeet Dosanjh, Champion

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Hi Tom,

Yeah for the most part the widget in SFDC would suffice for the transparency that our company would like. We just haven't given the sales team permissions to view the widget yet. However, that is under consideration.

Regardless, we still need the "Type" to push through to SFDC correctly and the widget wouldn't meet those needs. The "Notes" are not as big of a deal since they can be viewed using the widget.  
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Nitisha Rathi, Employee

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Hi Manmeet,

1. We will push the CTA name change in winter release

2. In SF task object, comments & description is the same field. Comments is the display name and Description is the system name.



I am not sure why your notes are not syncing, it should happen by default if the sync is enabled. I will recommend creating a support ticket for it.

3. I will ask the team to debug "Activity Type" --> "Type" mapping and will get back to you with updates.

Thanks,
Nitisha
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Manmeet Dosanjh, Champion

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Hi Nitisha,

Thank you very much for the info! I have submitted a support ticket to resolve the issue with the syncing.
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Jame Ervin

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What I am finding frustrating about the Timeline is that it has behavior that is inconsistent with CTAs.  It doesn't make sense that CTAs and the associated tasks do not sync to the Timeline, but Timeline actions with subtasks become CTAs.  And email tasks in CTAs become Timeline entries.  Additionally, Timeline tasks have a visible type attribute, but CTA tasks do not. It is very confusing and inconsistent. 

Our team was very excited about using the Timeline to track in-person interactions vs phone/online interactions.  But since we intend to have the key repeatable actions live in CTAs and Playbooks, this same attribute is unavailable, and we need to account for this in our design in order to answer what seems like a simple question: how much time are CSMs spending with customers and how much of that time is via in-person meetings or in a phone call/web meeting.
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Dan Ahrens, Gainster (employee)

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Hi Jame,

Sorry that you're feeling frustrated. There is a lot to configure both from a software and process standpoint when considering how your organization will use Timeline. Here are a couple configuration options that you may not have been aware of that can help you as you understand how you can choose to configure your system:

Using Timeline from within a CTA - you can create timeline entries on a specific CTA in the Task Pane (see details here). These entries will also appear on the main timeline view, so saving your team an extra step. Note, you can also set the attribute type in the task view:


Email tasks synchronizing to Timeline - you can optionally turn off the sync of Email Assist tasks to Timeline. Most customers choose to keep this on, but it is a global option to turn off if you find it does not work for your processes.

Tracking time spent with customers - if you add the duration field to your activity type, you can track this whether the event was logged in the CTA Timeline view or on the main Timeline display. 


Hope this helps and let us know if you have any other questions that we can help with!
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Jame Ervin

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Hi Dan - thank you for your response.  

We are aware of the CTA specific Timeline, this also writes back to the main timeline. 

Our playbooks are designed to include tasks for things like preparing and hosting an executive business review, so the CSM just checks off the completion of the task.  Using the Timeline would require them to close out the tasks and log an activity for each meeting.  But the CTA tasks would not have a duration. 

This of course still leaves a gap in providing a full view of all activity related to a customer, as the Timeline would only have a subset of the activities. It has been very confusing explaining to our team why some things show up in Timeline and some things do not.  It requires extensive diagramming.

Was the Timeline ever intended to be a complete view of the customer related activity?  It certainly doesn't function that way today.
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Jeff Kirkpatrick, Champion

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Jame I have a similar concern. 

It feels like an extra step to require a CSM to Log an Activity within a CTA when we already have a task to prepare for and conduct the EBR.  I get the need to have a place to capture notes/attachments, etc I just wish it was a little less clunky.  I also agree that having ONE view of all related activity is important.  You will have some CTAs that have logged activities associated with them but you'll have CTAs that do not, so if you want to track/report on overall customer activity, you have to pull from two sources, so I'm with you here.
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Dan Ahrens, Gainster (employee)

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Hi Jame,

Timeline activity types are identical whether you record them under a CTA or on the main Timeline screen, so if the activity type is configured to have a duration, the CSM could enter the duration from the CTA timeline view. 

The Timeline view on the CTA was designed to provide a simplified view of all actions on that specific CTA only. The thought here was that while working a CTA, relevant notes can be easily viewed, but to publish the entire account history in the small task pane would not be user friendly.

So if you want to see the entire account history, view the timeline for that customer using the C360 page. If you want to only see notes history on a specific CTA, view the timeline for that CTA using the CTA task pane. 
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Jame Ervin

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The account history doesn't include completed CTA tasks, so you have to toggle between the Cockpit and the Timeline to see the activities for a given account. There is no way to get complete context on all account related activity.

Right now the best answer I can give my users is sometimes items for your CTA will show up in the Timeline, but most of the time it won't so you need to look in multiple places.
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Dan Ahrens, Gainster (employee)

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I think I follow you now - unless the CSM takes notes on a CTA task, you are correct that the CTA task would not be visible on Timeline.

There was some intent behind this: the design for Timeline was to provide a central location for note taking (teams were often previously using Evernote, One Note or other platforms for taking notes). As to why we don't pull in all other account related activity (support cases, survey responses, calls to action, marketing events attended, etc) like some other account history panels (like the account history in SFDC) do is that those can often get very cluttered with both high and low value interactions. Feedback has been that if we pull too much into Timeline, it will be hard to find anything because the stream would have a "low signal to noise ratio". 

That said, we are seeing some interest in expanding the capabilities of Timeline and will be building in additional features to allow other sources (including using a rule to create timeline entries). Potentially by our Spring 2018 release we'll have the ability to use the rules engine to create a timeline entry, so if you really wanted closed CTAs to appear in Timeline, you could do that once that capability arrives. 

:)
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Heather Hansen, Champion

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Our CSMs are loving timeline, and it's become the place where they take notes and also track items that we don't schedule for them.  For example, we've created custom activity types for Trainings, Chair-sides, Product Feedback, etc, and they use timeline to enter these items and include key information.  They also love the ability to add the attachment there and easily reference it without having to look through the Chatter history or go to a specific task in SF.
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Nitisha Rathi, Employee

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Hi Jeff & Lila,

Priority and Status fields show up when sync is enabled for Salesforce Task, since these are mandatory fields in SFDC task object. These fields will not show up when 'SFDC Events' object is selected for sync (which is the case for Jeff).

Thanks for pointing out the documentation issues, Jeff. We will update it. Also, are you facing any other issue while syncing to salesforce?

Thanks,
Nitisha
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Jeff Kirkpatrick, Champion

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Ah ok thanks. It might help to explicitly state in the doc that those will only show up on the Tasks tab even though now in hindsight I can see the context earlier in the doc hints at that.  Thanks!
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Mindy

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@Jeff - did you figure out the "magic phrase" to make Timeline -> SFDC events sync work?  We had tasks syncing well but have since switched to events and nothing is coming over.
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Jeff Kirkpatrick, Champion

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Couple of things:

This knowledge article  says "While syncing to Salesforce Events, it’s mandatory to map the Date Time field to the End Date-Time field under Salesforce Fields."

Problem is, there is no end date time field on the Gainsight side, so you have to create a custom End Date field in order to map it to the Salesforce End Date Time field.



When I asked why there isn't a GS End Date time field already - if this is a mandatory requirement to sync to Events - I was told they didn't make a field available by default because it could break sync for customers who are running older versions of GS.  

Second thing - there apparently isn't a way to make this GS End Date field auto populate, so CSMs would have to manually set the End Date on the Timeline activity in order for the sync to process correctly because if that field is empty on ANY timeline record, it will break the sync (according to what L2 support told me).

Very clunky if you ask me.  We've decided just to sync everything to Tasks.  Not the preference but if sync is going to break everytime a CSM forgets to manually set the end date, that would cause too much maintenance.

Oh and it only goes back something like 14 days? (I may have that wrong, but it's a short window) so if you need records  prior to that to sync they won't get picked up.
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Mindy

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Thanks for the explanation, Jeff.  It really is clunky.  I just went through the same thing with support and they built a "duration" field in order to get it to sync.  This actually wouldn't be terrible except that I can't require that field.  We're going to see how it goes though since it's pretty important to us that we sync as events and not tasks.  The fact that it's required but not built by default is baffling.  That means that every person that wants to use event sync basically has to work with support.
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Jeff Kirkpatrick, Champion

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@Tom - one thing I feel is missing from Timeline is the ability to search Activity or Attachments by date range.  That could be a handy use case.
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Nitisha Rathi, Employee

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We are actively working on improving search and filter options in timeline and it will be available soon.

Thanks,
Nitisha