This week we are taking a different approach to the post, rather than the traditional format we using an interview format. We are following up on a very popular session from Dreamforce “Admins and Business Analysts: Agents of Change” where we talk to the three presenters- Salesforce MVPs Cheryl Feldman, Eric Dreshfield, and Launa Saunders.
They tackle the question- Are Awesome Admins Business Analysts?
What is a Business Analyst?
According to BusinessAnalystSolutions.com: “Business Analysis is the process of understanding business change needs, assessing the impact of those changes, capturing, analyzing and documenting requirements and then supporting the communication and delivery of those requirements with relevant parties.”
CHERYL: I think most Salesforce Admins are business analysts and they just don’t even realize it. I think back to when I started my career, I was always asking questions, a lot of them to get clarity on what our end users ultimate goal was.
As Salesforce Admins become more technical, I think they naturally fall into a Technical Business Analyst (BA) role unless they are more interested in designing business process then they can be more of a Functional Business Analyst. I’ve primarily worked for large companies, in these companies there are typically both functional and technical BA’s working on a project. The functional BA focuses more on the business process at hand, documenting, understanding it and providing process suggestion and figure out what steps should be automated or eliminated. While the Technical BA can get involved and sometimes does get involved in the business process, the Technical BA’s take what the functional BA has given them as far as process and figures out with developers/configurators/technical architects how the design should look. The Technical BA also addresses any technical challenges there might be with the process. I’m a technical BA and a lot of my role is sorting through process and building out POC’s (proof of concept). In addition to that, I spend a lot of time looking at what’s coming down the pipeline for Salesforce in new releases and passing suggestions onto our product owner for functional BA’s as things they may want to put on the road map. So being a BA is not just taking requirements and figuring out a solution, it’s more of understanding the business so well you know what the business needs even before they ask for it.
ERIC: I think the role of a BA can also be viewed as that of a facilitator or translator. BAs often have to mediate conversations between end users and technical resources, and put user requirements gleaned from conversations into more technical documents for others to use.
How did you become a Business Analyst?
ERIC: I think I stumbled into the role of a BA due to my inherently curious nature of processes, and starting out my career in a position that was filled with manual, repeatable tasks, which after a new system install (not Salesforce, this as before Salesforce existed,) I was able to reengineer and automate which allowed for an annual savings of over 1,300 man-hours.
LAUNA: Like Eric, I stumbled into the career. 8 years ago I started using Salesforce and teaching myself the ins and outs of the system, eventually becoming a solo System Administrator. In 2012 a recruiter reached out to me for a Sr. Business Analyst position, I reached out to a few members of the community for advice on this career change (including Eric), and was told that while I had never held the title of a BA, as a solo admin I already was one: I was the project manager, the BA, quality, developer, trainer, and tech support all wrapped into a single role and title. Those conversations confirmed to me that I was ready for the career/title change, and I was qualified for the position: And the rest was history. I love that as a BA I am able to use my Admin background, and focus more on projects. This change definitely gave me a new path in my Salesforce career (a new path that I love!).
CHERYL: (Read My post on ButtonClick Admin) If you read that post you can get more details, but basically the company I was working for hired a consulting firm to implement something really complex for us in salesforce. This was the first time I heard the term business analyst and I was really impressed by him and the questions he asked. I started to adopt things that he did while doing my day to day salesforce admin tasks. It turned out to really impress some people because I was promoted into a BA about 6 months after that. I just have continued on the BA career path since then.
What does being a BA mean to you?
LAUNA: To me, being a BA means constantly improving. Sometimes my position is reactive (based on a need the business brings to me), but I love that I also get to be proactive. I get to solve business problems with technology. What I love is that it wasn’t until I entered this role and received the official title of a “Business Analyst”, that I realized I was one, and had the skills. Looking back I have always been a BA, but my new position is a little more focused on large scale projects.
CHERYL: It means being both smart in business and smart with technology. You need to be both to be a really good BA, especially a technical BA or a Business Systems Analyst. I don’t think you need the title to start doing these things as I think BA skills will make any salesforce admin stronger and better at what they do. If a Salesforce Admin has strong BA skills they become more valuable. You can automate some tasks that Salesforce Admins do, but you cannot automate good BA skills.
ERIC: In my opinion, you are a BA, based upon what you do on the job, not simply based upon your job title. I’ve only had the title ‘Business Analyst’ for about 2 years during my career, but for most of it I have been responsible for reducing costs and increasing revenue by evaluating, changing and automating processes where possible. That’s what a Business Analyst is all about.
As a BA, what are the standard questions you should be asking?
CHERYL: Here are my most common questions: Can you walk me through your business process end to end? What is it you are trying to achieve, what does the end result look like to you? What is the goal of the project (better analytics, more efficiency, more collaboration, something else)? And those questions are for the business. I ask a lot of questions of the tech team I work on. Do we really need a trigger? Can we do it with clicks? Things like that. I’m always pushing people around me to look at the declarative before the code. The good thing about the teams I’ve worked on in my career is we all have to agree on the design.
ERIC: I don’t necessarily have ‘standard’ questions, but I do take an approach very similar to Cheryl. Show me your current process, step by step. Sometimes I find it best to simply job shadow people for a few days and observe how they accomplish tasks, because if they merely tell you what they do, they will most certainly skip steps that are second nature to them.
LAUNA: I don’t have standard questions; they vary based on the scenario. However, the question that I seem to ask most often is “Why?”. I find asking that question over and over again usually gets me to the true issue at hand, it also uncovers a lot of information that the business doesn’t think is relevant (or remember is important).
What advice would you give to a solo admin looking to become a BA or learn skill set of a BA to launch their career?
ERIC: Ask questions, lots of them, but do not be afraid to make suggestions. A former manager of mine once told me “I’m paying you to rock the boat.” And by that, I think he meant, you won’t see improvement in efficiency unless you make changes (but don’t just change for the sake of change!)
CHERYL: Ask questions, lots of them! Be forward thinking! Make sure you understand the business as well as you can. Sit with people out in the business (sales, marketing, client support) whomever is using salesforce and try to understand what they do. If you see a pain point or something that can be automated to ease manual effort, suggest it!
LAUNA: Believe it or not, there are certifications for BAs that you can achieve: The International Institute of Business Analysis has some great information to help get you started if you are interested in learning BA skills in a more structured way https://www.iiba.org/.
As a BA, what is the mantra that you live by?
LAUNA: I have two. The first is from Steven Covey: “Begin with the end in mind”, the second is: “All the technology in the world can’t fix a broken process”. As technical BAs we are often slammed with requests to improve the system, but unless we start from the end, and ensure the process is correct, we are not going to be able to provide the correct solution.
CHERYL: You are only as good as your architecture. My mantra is KISS Kept It Simple and Scalable
What resources should I refer to, to get started?
CHERYL: Lots of great resources on the web, but definitely reach out to other BA’s you may know from your company or local user group and ask to be mentored.
ERIC & LAUNA: In addition to Cheryl’s recommendation to seek a mentor, I recommend picking up one of the below books that the three of us have found useful and inspirational over the years.
About the Authors:
Launa Saunders has been a Salesforce Administrator since 2007, and a Business Systems Analyst since 2012. She is the co-leader of the San Diego Salesforce.com User Group, holds 3 certifications (Administrator, Advanced Administrator, and Developer), and has been an MVP since Spring ’13.
Cheryl Feldman has used Salesforce since 2004, and a Business Analyst since 2007. She is the Leader of the Financial Services Salesforce.com User Group, She is the Co-Leader of the Financial Services Salesforce.com User Group, NYC Salesforce.com User Group and NYC Girly Geeks, she is a Certified Salesforce Admin, is an avid Blogger (https://cherfeldman.blogspot.com/), and has been an MVP since Summer ‘14.
Eric Dreshfield has used Salesforce since 2009 and has been a Business Analyst since 1990. He is the Leader of the Southern Indiana Salesforce.com User Group, Event Chair for Midwest Dreamin’, an ocassional Blogger (https://ericforcefield.wordpress.com/) and has been a Salesforce.com MVP since Spring ’13.
Begin With the End In Mind (Stephen Covey), Business Analysis and Leadership: Influencing Change (Penny Pullan & James Archer), Multipliers – How the best leaders make everyone smarter (Liz Wiseman), Delivering Happiness (Tony Hsieh), The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership (John C. Maxwell), DRiVE – The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us (Daniel Pink), The Five Dysfuntions of a Team (Patrick Lencioni), Who Moved My Cheese (Spencer Johnson, M.D.), Crush It! (Gary Vaynerchuck), Start With Why – How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action (Simon Sinek), Enchantment – The Art of Changing Hearts, Minds and Actions (Guy Kawasaki), The Pursuit of Social Business Excellence – How to Compete, Win and Expand Through Collaboration (Vala Afshar & Brad Martin), Behind the Cloud (Mark Benioff), Poke the Box (Seth Godin), Agile Estimating and Planning (Mike Cohn), Business Analysts for Dummies (Kupe Kupersmith, Paul Mulvey, & Kate McGoey)