Can I let you in on a little secret?
I’ve always had terrible FOMO when it comes to all of my friends who use Apsona in their Salesforce org. Here I am, uploading and downloading my files while they are zipping through their bulk updates directly their browser. They seem to get a sardonic pleasure boasting about all of Apsona’s amazing features (and frankly, now I see why). Woe. Is. Me.
Somehow in my database journey, I’ve never had the opportunity to work in an org that had Apsona. But now I am making up for lost time!
My friend K recently bestowed the incredible opportunity to use Apsona in a project that was closely aligned with my values and aspirations. The project involves “exporting” data from Salesforce into a well-formatted document that violence-survivors can request at any time from the institution performing an investigation. Technology projects that improve transparency, survivor self-advocacy, and data usability are near and dear to my heart. This one happened to check all three boxes!
In my “mail merge” journey, I’ve tinkered with Google docs, Microsoft suite, various email platforms, and as you may know, Conga Composer. I’ve heard rave reviews of the Apsona suite of products that assist Salesforce users with everyday data management tasks, but none of the orgs that I’ve had the privilege to support were Apsona customers. Well, all of that changed about a month ago!
Read on in this blog post to see key lessons I’ve learned in my first month of using Apsona, as illustrated by GIFs from Schitt’s Creek.
I used a combination of guess and check + formal technical documentation + watch and learn from YouTube (especially this video). As with many mail merge projects, I spent a lot of time learning the underlying data model for the organization. This is slightly less necessary for projects “only” dealing with Contacts and Addresses (like mailing an appeal letter and associated envelopes), but for more complex merges with embedded tables, charts, images, conditions, custom formatting, etc, you gotta get up close and personal with your data. On top of that, you need to learn how the program you’re using interfaces with those data!
In Conga Composer, you access data through using SOQL queries, which are very powerful but not easy to learn as a beginner.
In Apsona, you access data through using what they call a “sublist” or one of a variety of report formats. This was new for me and frankly pretty thrilling! Everything didn’t work exactly the way I expected to on my first try, but I was lucky to engage with 2 fantastically knowledgable and responsive support agents at Apsona who were happy to help.
Within the first 2 hours of configuring the app, I was downloading a nicely formatted word doc, pulling data from a variety of related lists, and enjoying the ride along the way.
Apsona has some cool features for launching mail merge from a variety of mechanisms (list view, report, object-inside-of-Apsona, or a custom button on a Lighting Record Page). I used the custom button configuration and found it to be elegant and effective! Note that I had to download a custom Lightning component for this.
In Apsona, the “merge fields” in the template can be named anything (ie “Princess_Pancake!”) and be mapped to any real field in Salesforce (ie Princess_Pancake = Opportunity.Description). This can make the Template slightly inaccurate to the naked eye. I found the place in Apsona where the field map is stored so that I could download it for documentation purposes! If you want to try this too, follow these simple instructions:
1. In Apsona, click Apsona Items > navigate to Merge Action 2. Click "edit JSON" button 3. Copy JSON text to a notepad or store in your documentation repository
I went down a bit of a rabbit hole trying to use conditional merge logic in Microsoft Word to print a “checkbox” emoji if the Salesforce field was “true” and an “empty checkbox emoji” if the Salesforce field was “false.” It turns out that Apsona has a feature embedded for printing checkboxes, but the instructions for that were located in a different branch of documentation. There are all SORTS of interesting ways that fields can be displayed! Learn more here.
SUPPORT IS YOUR FRIEND! I like to say “none of us are ever really alone when we are learning technology.” For example, if you are learning any of the platforms I’ve mentioned in this blog post, you can always ask ME if you get a little stuck! I got stuck twice while I was learning Apsona, and both times, I reached out to their lovely support inbox and got help the same day. I know Apsona also has regularly scheduled Office Hours where you can drop by for help or just to observe and learn. You don’t have to be shy about asking for help BUT you can help-them help-you by being very clear about what’s not working. Writing an actionable support ticket is a skill that is worth developing!
Can I just say… this project and platform has been SO fun to work on. I love the feeling when my mind and my trackpad (mouse?) are working in sync, and I find myself with a thought pattern like, “How can I… OH! …. what about… ok here we go… no wait, let’s try…. GOT IT!!!… ok next one… “CNTRL + F” … refresh… etc.” I don’t think this is precisely what other people describe as the Flow state (which I would consider what happens when you already know what you are doing, lol). For me, this is more about asking creative questions and getting the satisfaction of completing micro experiments on the way to a bigger milestone. It’s learning and making progress at the same time.
What are you working on?
I have a lot of hopes and dreams for TDAA. One of the big ones is that this continues to be a place that celebrates learning for its own sake (primary) and learning for the sake of capacity building (secondary). Leave me a comment with a platform, skill, process, or idea that you’ve been working on so that I can cheer you on!