How Salesforce Admins Can Build Business Skills

By

If you’re reading this blog post, you’re a pretty #AwesomeAdmin already.

You’ve got your technical knowledge and maybe a certification (or two). You’ve earned some Trailhead badges, and you’re blazing a new trail with Lightning Flow, Formulas, Apex, or some other Admin Superpower.  

All that’s left to do is wait for the users to present you with bugs or ask you to build some neat new project for them.  

In doing so, you’re definitely doing enough as a friendly neighborhood admin. If you don’t change a thing, you will more than likely survive in both your job and career.

But is survival really the goal? Have you ever thought to yourself, “I wonder if there’s a smarter way to manage my work?” Perhaps you’ve thought, “Why am I only being included at the end of a project plan, when I could have told the users up front that the thing they want built is best created another way?”

What if you could thrive, and not just survive? 

All of this and more is possible when admins harness their business skills.  

Oftentimes, admins are the historians of business processes, the keepers of SLAs, and the one-stop-shop for process improvement. This makes them far too valuable to be relegated to a reactive position in a company. The companies that get the most out of their Salesforce licenses are the ones that root admins in the fabric of their work just as they do executive leadership.  

Not sure what this looks like? Here are five ways that admins can thrive and build their business skills.

1. Require your users to submit incidents or requests via cases (or ticketing system)

Are you already using cases for admin support at your org? Great, now require it for every Salesforce idea or need, no matter how simple. Are you nowhere near using the case object? That is A-OK too. The distinction here is to have your users enter all ideas, frustrations, projects, shower thoughts—you name it—in a clear system.  Perhaps you’re a small organization, and you create a simple Google form that users fill in to tell you a few sentences about the Salesforce need, who you should follow up with, and their preferred timeline to have resolved. Maybe it’s a custom app that you create (try it here). If this is a new step for your organization, expect that some users will be slow adopters. They might love to walk up to your desk, send you Slack messages, or let you know in the parking lot about a *thing* to *fix* in Salesforce. As an admin, you have to set yourself up for success. Without a system to track all of the work being requested, how can you keep straight what was completed, or what exactly the user is asking for? This will make your life easier whether you’re a solo admin or a team of 20. 

2. Ask every user team to provide a seat for you at regular meetings 

We’ve all been here before… A big project request comes your way. Your users want a highly customized object, with a pricey 3rd party integration, and you need to build it stat.  This is a tough position to be in as the admin. You quickly realize that you don’t fully comprehend the business goal, and that the exact deliverables may not be the best way to go about the situation. There’s really one way to prevent this, and that’s to be present during the project idea cycle. Chances are good that your users have regular team meetings where these ideas are generated. Ask that team (or team supervisor) if they would welcome you to attend those meetings. They may be confused or surprised by this request, but continue to advocate for it. Working for a large organization? You and your fellow admins can divide up who attends which team meetings. Your role is to be a fly on the wall, an incognito learner. If and when the occasion arises, you’re present to recommend how your users should think about this work in the Salesforce instance. Your users may not realize the benefits of your company until months down the road, but they will eventually find that you have a sharper user intuition thanks to your time spent in the think tank with them.

3. Shadow your users at the point of service (AKA: SABWA!)

Ah yes, SABWA (Salesforce Administration By Walking Around). Perhaps you’ve heard this said another way: “Click a mile in your users’ shoes.” All of these adages remind us that as admins, we are a bit privileged. We get to build the complex automation without having to wait for the caching. We get to create a validation rule without having to save a record. We get to add a custom field on a hectic console or page layout. As admins, we have trouble seeing these adoption hurdles because we rarely have to do the work of data entry. You can overcome this by witnessing a use case. Ask a rep to show you how they enter in leads. Ask a user to show you how they manage their tasks. While executives often have great perspectives, the ground-level users who spend hours each day in Salesforce may have the richest feedback to share. Maybe you even suggest a project to improve adoption based on what you witness. What a solid way to earn user trust!

4. Stay up-to-date on industry news and content

Given how vital admins are to their company, it’s important that they are not thought of as just IT/just the data people/just the admin. Admins are all of those things, but they can also be the people who bring innovation to the company by suggesting new features in Salesforce that a user didn’t know about (Einstein Next Best Action? Batch Gift Entry? Creating custom fields that will be relevant in a future M&A or transition to an ACO? The examples go on).  This is the next level of being an #AwesomeAdmin. It will, however, require us to know what we are talking about in regards to the business goal. What newsletters can you subscribe to so that you can see what your partners or competitors are up to? What Trailhead modules can you complete to learn about best practices in Sales or inclusive marketing practices? By being able to speak the language, you’ll establish credibility when you do propose radically innovative ideas that users may otherwise be apprehensive about.    

5. Protect your learning time

Simply put, if you aren’t managing your time, someone else is. This is rarely a good thing. When you don’t protect your learning time, it’s doubtful that you’ll be able to stay faithful to it. What can happen is, week after week, your precious time to go on Trailhead,  watch a webinar, or study for a certification will be the first thing to go if a user reaches out. Yet if you don’t learn enough to keep pace with the latest release or new implementation in your org, think of how much longer it will take you to check ‘done’ on that work when a bug or pertinent request comes in. Block off at least 4 hours a week for the sole purpose of learning. Trust your judgment as to when this needs to be rescheduled (emergencies are a possibility). There’s always something new or relevant to learn about Salesforce, even if you’re 10x Certified or an MVP.  

Business skills are what craft talented admins into efficient, recognized admins. If these suggestions feel like a lot of work, try just one to start. It’s always a great time to own your power! 

Trailhead Project
Build a simple suggestion management app. No code required.
3 Tips to Succeed as an Awesome Admin

3 Tips to Succeed in Your Role as an #AwesomeAdmin

If you’re reading this blog post, you’re a pretty #AwesomeAdmin already. You’ve got your technical knowledge and maybe a certification (or two). You’ve earned some Trailhead badges, and you’re blazing a new trail with Lightning Flow, Formulas, Apex, or some other Admin Superpower.   All that’s left to do is wait for the users to present […]

READ MORE

Why Salesforce Admins Should Build a Fanbase

If you’re reading this blog post, you’re a pretty #AwesomeAdmin already. You’ve got your technical knowledge and maybe a certification (or two). You’ve earned some Trailhead badges, and you’re blazing a new trail with Lightning Flow, Formulas, Apex, or some other Admin Superpower.   All that’s left to do is wait for the users to present […]

READ MORE
Salesforce for Admins Keynote Trailmix

Get Hands on With Parker’s Dreamforce ’19 Admin Keynote Trailmix

If you’re reading this blog post, you’re a pretty #AwesomeAdmin already. You’ve got your technical knowledge and maybe a certification (or two). You’ve earned some Trailhead badges, and you’re blazing a new trail with Lightning Flow, Formulas, Apex, or some other Admin Superpower.   All that’s left to do is wait for the users to present […]

READ MORE

Have an Idea for a Story?

We are all about the community and sharing ideas.
Do you have an interesting idea or useful tip that you want to share?

SHARE YOUR IDEA