So You’re a Salesforce Admin…What’s Next?


Last week I was listening to Shell Black on the Button Click Admin Podcast and something that was said really resonated with me.  Shell Black was talking about the differences between an “order taking admin” and that of a consultant.  I immediately started to think when admins make that progression from just doing what they’re told to providing suggestions and guidance to their business they’ve become a Business Analyst. I then started to wonder why I don’t hear a lot about the BA career path and I’m not even sure many people even know what a BA is.  I think many people classify people that work on Salesforce in two ways admin or developer.

A few hours after listening to the podcast I started to think about my own experience as an order taking admin and how I made the jump from taking orders to leading requirement gathering sessions at a huge financial services firm.  My first exposure to a business analyst was in 2006.  I was working at a start-up where I had done a good job of implementing salesforce for the 50 person company.  I was doing some light BA work, but I was taking a lot of my orders from the Operations Manager who would tell me to create fields, objects or give me requirements for validation or workflow. I didn’t really question it because I enjoyed doing it.

We had an overall requirement to implement something custom to take our contact and opportunity lists out of salesforce and build routing for installations. Besides doing the salesforce administration work I was also importing information into a mapping tool on the new installs sold as well as our current customer list and making up routes for our installation and service crews.  I used to spend 2-3 hours doing this each day.  It was so complex I could never really figure out how to build something on my own.  My manager and I found out about the ‘Cloudforce’ event in NYC and we decided to attend hoping maybe we could find a partner who did this type of thing.  We were in luck!  Our AE introduced us to a partner who had implemented something similar on a much larger scale at a few other companies.  Within a few weeks we signed a contract with the partner and they were going to send a Business Analyst the following week to start gathering requirements.

When we entered the conference room with the business analyst my manager started to tell him exactly what he wanted and how he wanted the application to work, look and feel.  The BA was furiously writing and listening.  After my manager finished speaking the BA chimed in and said “I know you mentioned you wanted the application to look like this and do exactly that, but it’s fairly complex to do that.”  The BA provided an alternative that would be easier (and cheaper) to build but would automate the whole routing piece.  I loved watching the BA and listening to him.  I knew right away I could learn a lot from him.  I watched and listened as to how he phrased questions how he provided alternative solutions without making the requester feel like their idea was a bad one.  I was very impressed.

After witnessing the BA on this project I started to adopt some of the things he was doing.  I was trying to ask more questions so I could provide better solutions to our end users.  The first time I tried out my new BA chops was when our Sales Director approached me and asked me to add 15 new fields to the Account to track some billing and invoicing information.  From working with our finance department I knew that customers could have different kinds of invoices, one for installs and one for recurring service.  Also, there may be separate invoice if the customer asked us to do something special on their scheduled service visit.  I told the Sales Director to give me a few hours and I would come back with something to show him.  I built out a custom object called ‘Invoices’ added some of the fields he mentioned to me in our earlier conversation as well as a few others that I knew maybe important.  I loaded data for a few of our top accounts so he could see conceptually what it would look like.

Later that day I sat in a conference room with our Sales Director and a few other key people in the sales and service organization.  I showed them what I built and how they could use it and get a really good view of the customer all in Salesforce.  I showed them that they could get a report to see when they were last invoiced as well as when they last paid and for what.  They could see as much history as they wanted (pending that we loaded all of the past data from our billing system).  The people in that conference room were not only impressed by what I built but how fast I built it.  I had the conversation with the Sales Director in the late morning by 3 PM I was showing them a proof of concept.  This is one of the things I love most about Salesforce, you can move so quickly and provide so much business value in a few short hours.

The day after I showed my POC for the invoicing object our COO stopped at my desk and wanted me to show the same POC to her, our CFO and two of our key investors the following day.  She also wanted me to come up with a list of everything I would need to complete the project with approximate costs of building out the full end to end process of having installed deals automatically pass to our billing system and once they are billed having the information pass back into Salesforce.

The next day I presented in front of our executive staff and showed my concept, how it could improve efficiency and avoid manual errors of entering incorrect billing information as well as making sure our service department could easily see when someone wasn’t paying so they didn’t visit them.  Everyone in the room loved it and agreed we should move forward with the project.

I learned so much from implementing this project, it was my first experience fully managing a project as well as giving direction to a developer and designing a solution.  After the project was completed I wasn’t referred to as a Salesforce Admin but as the company’s Business Analyst.  I was promoted to work directly for the COO and CFO to help them look at each and every process and how we could make it more efficient using Salesforce.

If you’re currently working as a Salesforce Admin and looking for the next step check out the Business Analyst career path.  I have so much fun each day working with our business leads as well as our developers.  Even if you aren’t sure this is the career path for you having some BA chops won’t hurt.  It’s always good to know why you are doing something.

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