Business Analysis Skills with Toni V. Martin

Toni V. Martin on Business Analysis Skills


Today on the Salesforce Admins Podcast, we talk to Toni V. Martin, VP of Salesforce Marketing and Communications at Bitwise, Salesforce MVP, and founder of Systems to Success. Join us as we chat about why you might already be a business analyst (BA), the flavors of business analysis, and how to get the experience to take that next step in your career.

You should subscribe for the full episode, but here are a few takeaways from our conversation with Toni V. Martin.

Why you might already be a BA

Toni got her start on marketing automation platforms and then sales enablement on Salesforce. “I was on the admin path, the way everyone starts out,” she says, “but it wasn’t a good fit for me, I was really more interested in improving business processes.” She asked for some advice from Stephanie Foerst, a Salesforce MVP based in Atlanta, who suggested going into business analysis.

But could Toni really just become a business analyst? Didn’t she need a bevy of certifications or years of experience? “According to the International Institute for Business Analysis, anyone who performs business analysis tasks is a business analyst,” she says, “and that’s probably everyone listening right now.” Today, she trains other people in business analysis and produces events like the Salesforce Business Analysis Virtual Summit through her organization, Systems to Success.

The flavors of business analysis

One thing Toni realized, as she gained more experience in business analysis, is that there are actually many different types of BAs. Toni likes to call them the “flavors” of business analysts, and it helps to understand what makes sense for you.

At small and medium sized businesses (SMBs), you’re probably doing business analysis as part of some other responsibilities, like being a Salesforce Admin. At larger organizations, the roles will be split and more specialized so you may only get your hands dirty when you’re prototyping or testing. When you’re looking at BA paths, you need to ask yourself: do you want to be more functional or do you want to be more system agnostic? “You need to know, going in, what flavor you’re looking for,” Toni explains.

Whatever your flavor, Toni reminds us that one of the most useful skills for any Business Analyst is knowing when to say “I don’t know, let me look into it.” Salesforce is a powerful platform that can do just about anything, but sometimes that comes with a ton of added costs or a significant time investment. Give yourself permission to get more information before you commit to something.

The BA fairy

If you want to get into the world of business analysis, you can get started by studying for the Business Analyst Certification. Toni was part of the team that put it together, and she’s been thrilled to hear from everyone using it to take their careers in a new direction.

And while a certification can certainly help you get that next role, Toni reminds us that experience is crucial. “There’s no BA fairy that waves her magic wand and pronounces you a BA,” she says. But if you’re an admin, you’re already doing tasks that require business analysis and you probably just need to find a way to highlight those skills.

Be sure to listen to the full episode for more about getting business analyst experience in your current role, how to get started with Trailhead, and the advice I gave Toni that she said transformed her career.

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Full show transcript

Mike: This week on the Salesforce Admins Podcast, we’re talking more business analysis stuff, this time with Toni V. Martin, who is a Salesforce MVP, and well, let’s just be honest, she’s like everything business analysis in the community. Also, there’s a lot of references to Ko’s podcast. So if you listened to last week’s podcast with Ko Forte, we do reference that. You don’t have to listen to it, it’s not like a Marvel sequel, but it might help fill in some of the gaps for you. Of course, before we get to any of that, I just want to make sure you’re following the Salesforce Admins Podcast on iTunes or wherever you get podcasts, so be sure to click that subscribe or follow button. And the reason I tell you that is then you don’t have to worry about it, new podcast episodes drop right on your phone the second we release them, which is every Thursday morning. So you can wake up, walk the dog, listen to a new podcast, you don’t have to fool around with finding it. But anyway, this is a really fun conversation. So let’s get to our podcast with Toni.
Mike: So Toni, welcome to the podcast.

Toni V. Martin: Thank you, Mike. I’m so happy to be here after all these years.

Mike: I know. It’s okay. Full disclosure: we’ve talked about talking about doing this podcast for I don’t know how long. I remember being at Atlanta World Tour in 2019. It was pre-pandemic.

Toni V. Martin: That sounds about right. Yeah.

Mike: And we talked about it then.

Toni V. Martin: Yes. We’ve talked about it multiple times and then I’ll come and ambush you at Dreamforce or DX or wherever I see you. I’d be like, “Mike, I need to come to your show.” You’re like, ‘Yep, got to do it.”

Mike: Yep, let’s do it. And it’s totally the busiest time of the year, but let’s, Absolutely. Anyway, we’re on the show together now.

Toni V. Martin: Yes.

Mike: Let’s start off, for the five people in the community that listen to the podcast and maybe don’t know who Toni V. Martin is, tell us a little bit about yourself and how you got to Salesforce.

Toni V. Martin: Absolutely. Absolutely. So I’ve been in the ecosystem a little over a decade, and I started like most of us, as an accidental admin. And my background is actually in marketing and public relations, I wasn’t making enough money, and I needed to get my income up and wasn’t sure what that looked like. And I didn’t even know that Salesforce was a thing until somebody told me, “Hey, you know that’s a lucrative career.” And I’m like, “No. No, I didn’t. I didn’t.” So fun fact, my first login was actually Pardot. And I loved Pardot, I loved marketing automation platforms. And then I got the Salesforce login, and I was working in sales enablement, loved it. And so from there, I got plugged into my local women in tech Salesforce community here in Atlanta, and I was on the admin path like everyone starts out.
And I remember just feeling like it wasn’t a good fit. And I was talking to Stephanie first, who’s an MVP down here in Atlanta, and I was saying, “I don’t know that the admin track is a good fit for me. I’m really more interested in improving business processes.” I don’t think I used those words, but something along those lines. And she said, “Why don’t you become a business analyst?” And my knee-jerk reaction was, “Oh, I can’t do that.” Because I thought that it was something you had to sit for a certification or have years of experience. I didn’t know that according to the International Institute for Business Analysis, anyone who performs business analysis tasks is a business analyst.

Mike: Oh?

Toni V. Martin: Yes. So that’s probably everybody listening here. And from there, I dug deep into what the role entailed, and I branded myself as a BA, and it really helped accelerate my career. So from there, I’ve worked for customers, for partners, for Fortune 500 companies, and I started my own Salesforce partner company where I do training and produce things like the Salesforce Business Analyst Virtual Summit. So that’s kind of a nutshell.

Mike: Yeah. I mean, for the longest time, even when I was a customer, you were like business analysis for me. There was 10 people in the ecosystem, and I was like, “Well, Toni does business analysis.” That’s just it. That’s just what I knew.

Toni V. Martin: And where that came from was actually Mary Scott. So I was complaining, and I have a couple complaints stories, but-

Mike: Oh, my.

Toni V. Martin: Yes, I do actually. So some of my biggest kind of career success have come from complaining to you all. So I complained to Mary, I complained that there weren’t a lot of resources for Salesforce business analysts. I saw some general business analysis like I mentioned, the IBA has education, some professionals, but there was nothing speaking to Salesforce BAs. And she said, “Well, then you need to start it.” And I said, “Okay. All right. I guess I will.” And so how the summit came about was me having interviews with people who did business analysis, and I was like, “Hey, what do you do? What tools do you use? What’s your process? What’s your technique?” And I said, “Other people probably want to hear this as well. So let me provide a forum where I just interview every day BAs.” And they’re the experts and we spotlight them and they share their wealth of knowledge, because there wasn’t much formal training. So that’s literally how I started on that branding path.

Mike: Yeah. I mean, you’ve always been branded to me as, if I have business analysis questions, I go to Toni, because she knows, literally. So last week on the podcast, and you don’t know this, but I told you this, we talked to your friend Ko, and we covered… Oh my God, I probably am going to have to go back and re-listen that podcast three or four times. But it’s also amazing. We covered the overlap and how she got started, we didn’t know she was in theater, and becoming that skill of what business analysis does and what business analysts do and the things that admins can learn. I want to pick up from that and kind of keep going a little bit farther into the business analyst realm, I’ll call it that because it’s not a rabbit hole, even though that feels the way everybody says stuff. But, you and I were talking about this for a press record, there’s flavors of business analysts, that you call flavors.

Toni V. Martin: Yes.

Mike: Can you expand on that for me?

Toni V. Martin: Absolutely. So I think still to this day, there’s some mystery around exactly what it is BAs do. I remember when I was on the outside looking in, it just seemed so unclear, like, “What do you all do all day and what tools do you use and what are your meetings like and who do you work with?” I just wanted to know everything. And as I progressed in my career, I realized that just being a business analyst is not accurate, it doesn’t sum up and encompass the different varieties. And those really depend on where you find yourself. So I have them termed as flavors. So if you are at a small to mid-size company and you’re a BA, that company probably doesn’t have the budget to have you just doing strictly, purely BA task. You probably have to configure, you’re probably going to have to do some training, so there may be a lot of overlap, as you mentioned, with the admin role and it’s kind of a hybrid.

As you go to higher additions and tiers, if you’re at an enterprise organization with tens of thousands of users, those organizations are more sophisticated. And so they don’t want business analysts tinkering around in the setup menu. That is not your function, they have people for that, they have devs for that. So you probably won’t get your hands dirty unless it’s maybe to do some prototyping or testing. But you need to know going in what flavor you’re looking for, are you more functional? Are you touching other systems or are you system agnostic? Do you get to sit on a dedicated Salesforce IT team or are you embedded in the business? I’ve seen Salesforce BAs that are embedded in the business. So understanding those actually helps you to capitalize on your strengths and your interests so that you don’t find yourself in a role that’s not a good fit.

Mike: Yeah. So, and you mentioned this in your intro, that when you started, you were on the admin path and you’re like, “Kind of doesn’t feel right,” would you consider yourself maybe not too agnostic, but you’re a business analyst, but you don’t configure?

Toni V. Martin: Yes and no. So yes, in my own business, I wear all the hats. So I configure my own Salesforce all the time. What was frustrating for me with configuration was, I think, the troubleshooting. I think we all want that happy path, you build something, it works, it’s shiny, “Yay, look at me.” And then here comes the stakeholders and they start asking those questions as they do, and you’re like, “I didn’t think about that,” and, “Oh, now this is throwing an error someplace else,” and, “Oh, now we have 9,000 duplicate records, and this wasn’t how it worked in my head.” And that’s a lot of pressure for me, personally. So I realized, and dealing with tickets and requests, I just had to look at my personality and what was a good fit for me. I love learning the tool, I love the platform, but I just saw that was kind of my direction that I wanted to head in.

Mike: Yeah. No, and that makes complete sense. I think what I’m getting at is, so if that’s your path, great, have at it. How much configuration do you do on the side just to make sure that your knowledge of the platform stays up to date?

Toni V. Martin: Oh, now that’s a thorny question.

Mike: Welcome to the podcast, the thorny questions.

Toni V. Martin: If we’re going there, let’s go there. So I have always maintained that if you are a Salesforce business analyst, you need to quantify your knowledge of Salesforce. If you don’t know Salesforce, you can just be a regular BA, there’s no problem with that. But anytime you put that Salesforce word before the business analyst term, you better be able to prove that. How do you prove that? That’s with things like your certification. And I believe in order to be a Salesforce business analyst, you need to have knowledge of the system, of the platform, of the basics of configuration, because you are working with technical teams, and you do need to be able to translate and understand the architecture and how everything fits together, how it operates. So I think that you need to have a base technical knowledge of the platform, you need to be abreast of the changes. So you need to keep up with your releases, you need to maintain that certification. So I think that’s kind of my rule of thumb for how do you distinguish yourself as a Salesforce BA versus just a general BA.

Mike: Right. And I think that’s good because also, you want to go in and offer solutions that are relevant and not suggest things that maybe aren’t relevant to the platform or would be high cost builds.

Toni V. Martin: Yeah, we’ve all been there as well. Can Salesforce do this? Absolutely, it sure can. And then you go and it’s like, “Yes, to the tune of 90 additional thousand dollars for these extra licenses or the development that we’ll have to have.” So that’s a skill as a BA. I don’t know if Ko talked about it, but as a BA, you’ve got to be able to tell people, “I don’t know.” “I don’t know,” or, “I can’t answer that right now.” I’ve said so many things that I’ve been regretful of later, so tell people, “You know what? Salesforce can do everything. We need to scope this out. I need to take this back to the team. We can look into that.”

Do not commit to anything just because you know how it’s done, and that’s another place that you get into hot water as configurer, people who configure, because you know, “Oh, I can build this out.” That might not be the right technical approach. So you’ve promised your stakeholders, “Oh yeah, this will be easy. We could just set this up.” And then you don’t know talking to the dev team that this is not possible in your environment, or there’s some constraints. So that’s a little where you have to kind of be careful.

Mike: No, I mean, that’s a really great segue into where we left that conversation with Ko, because a lot of it, we really focused on the skill of managing the meeting and getting the business to talk, to untangle its processes. And I think what’s great about this conversation is this is that next level. What does the business analyst do after, I think I used the analogy of untangled the bowl of spaghetti? And so, let’s kind of jump into that. So you’re out of that meeting, maybe you’ve generated some process maps with, I love the term swim lanes, swim lanes. So what is your next step as a business analyst sitting down? Are you sitting down with admins and developers to figure out the next level build?

Toni V. Martin: So for me, in that scenario, what I’m doing is I’m really diving into that process map, I’m diving into my notes if I’ve recorded the meeting. And I’m trying to understand and uncover what the pain points are, what the areas of redundancy are, where the bottlenecks are, and what the priority is for those. I will start, again, because of the knowledge that we talked about, I’ll start kind of conceptualizing some things or some directions that we may want to go in, but I am not prescribing a solution, I’m going to sync with my team if I have a solution architect, if I have devs that I can just kind of spitball with them, other folks, other BAs, people who are more senior to me, I may need to go and research if there’s another business unit that has solved some of these problems, what they’ve done, I may look at some existing configuration architecture, so I’m just kind of trying to really wrap my arms around what the problems are and what potential directions for solutions are, so that I can start to begin to write these user stories out.

Mike: Got you. User stories, we didn’t even touch on that. And that could be a…

Toni V. Martin: How can you have a BA conversation without user stories? It’s just required.

Mike: Toni, you haven’t been on a podcast with me. I can find all kinds of things to talk about in the span of a half hour and really only scratch barely the surface.

Toni V. Martin: Which is why you have people back on multiple times, I totally understand.

Mike: Look, I have strung this podcast out for 10 years now and really covered maybe half or a third of the things, because I’ll fill it with random thoughts in Mike’s head, and maybe that’s enjoyable for some, but-

Toni V. Martin: 10 years, it absolutely is. Absolutely. We love it.

Mike: So look, we should have you back in four or five years, because it seems-

Toni V. Martin: Let’s do it. Yes.

Mike: … The cadence. And we’ll talk about epics and stories and sprints and all of that stuff and agile, because that’s all part of it. I want to touch on something that you mentioned earlier and is very near and dear to what I pay attention to, which is certification. When I was a customer, I had it in the seven habits of a highly successful admin is you should get your certification because it’s a common language. I’ve always used the word “common language” between people in the ecosystem and also prospective job seekers and employers and just career changer, certifications exist everywhere in the world. I work with our internal certification team a lot, I know there’s BA certifications. So let’s talk about those, because that came up early in your conversation as well. The importance of the business analyst certification.

Toni V. Martin: Yes. So I was part of the team that helped to bring the certification to light, and I recommended a number of other folks that I knew in the community. And I really enjoy being able to help support and craft this certification, it was something that people have been asking for years. And I know that it was wildly successful, so I’m very, very proud of that. And it’s been so encouraging to see all the people who have been getting their BA certs, people tag me all the time, like, “Thank you for your information that you’ve helped over the years to provide.” And I’m very, very, very thrilled that this now exists in the Salesforce certification landscape.

Mike: How do you convey the importance of certification to maybe an employer that you’re looking to work with? Or how would you suggest perspective business analysts or admins convey the importance of a certification to their current employer or maybe to a potentially new employer?

Toni V. Martin: Sure. And this is a little bit of a hot potato, because there’s recently-

Mike: Well, we do thorny and hot potato questions.

Toni V. Martin: Okay, I love it. I feel right at home. So recently, the certification, when it came out, it had the requirement of the administrator certification as a prerequisite, and that was subsequently removed. And I know that there’s been some concern with that, people who already got the certification feel as if perhaps what they earned is devalued because there’s no longer that first hurdle that you have to cross. But what I love to tell people is that certifications are what you make them. And by and large, when you think about a hiring manager or an HR department, somebody has just told them, “Hey, they need to have their admin cert. Hey, they need to have their BA cert,” not really fully comprehending what that means.

And so the opportunity there is for you to articulate and explain to a hiring manager, to your present boss, to your boss’ boss, to whoever you need to present this to, what it took for you to earn the certification, what concepts it covered, what the knowledge is that you have, and you have to really sell that and push that. And if you happen to have both your administrator certification and your BA certification, then you can go back to that talk track that I said earlier. I am qualified to be a Salesforce business analyst because I have a knowledge of the platform, proven by my associate certification, my administrator certification, my platform builder certification, and I have knowledge of how to conduct business analysis on this platform as evidenced by my BA certification that I have. So you really have to tell that story and impress people with what you’ve actually learned.

Mike: So to play devil’s advocate, earlier, you mentioned the business analyst, was an institute says if you do business analyst, you’re a BA. And we’ve also talked about being tool agnostic and like a BA, that doesn’t configure. So by removing that requirement, does it make it easier to become a business analyst for Salesforce, because then you can become one and then not have to have that configuration?

Toni V. Martin: Well, like the definition said, you’re probably one already today. And I always tell people, there’s no BA fairy that waves her magic wand and pronounces you a BA, like, “Now, you’re an official BA.” So if you do this work, and that’s really kind of, I think, where you’re going with this, what is the work? How do you quantify that you know how to do the work? And how do you convince somebody that you’re good at doing the work?

And so when you say, “Does it make it easier to become a BA?” Sure, everybody’s a BA. But can you get the work done? And that’s where things like your portfolio, that’s where things like past projects, that’s where things like certification come into play. Because as a hiring manager, I want to know that day one, you can come in here, you can see what we’ve got going on, and you can start creating value. And if you can articulate that to me across the phone, if we’re doing a screening or a table, if we’re at an interview, then I’m going to have a vote of confidence in you. But it goes back to, again, you being able to tell that story about what your qualifications are, what your experience is, what your knowledge is. And I know for a lot of people, and this might be kind of another question, how do you get this experience? And this is where I love to tell this story, Mike, about how you went off on me in Atlanta.

Mike: Please tell me.

Toni V. Martin: Yes. Yes, you did. So I was talking to you, I had ambushed you, as I do, and I was complaining about not being able to get experience. And this, of course, was in the pre Trailhead days. So there were the amazing sandboxes and trails and projects that we have now. And so you were saying, “Well, look, you’re conducting a job search. Why don’t you build out an app to manage your job search, configure that, do everything for that, and get your own experience that way? Don’t wait for somebody to give you experience, create your own experience, make your own experience.” And I took that to heart. And so that’s how I started to start to do BA tasks in my admin role. So starting to do process mapping, starting to experiment with user stories even though we weren’t agile, even though I wasn’t on the IT team, but starting to understand what that work looked like and start to build a portfolio and give myself that own experience. So I really have you to thank for that concept.

Mike: I mean, sometimes people ask me for advice and they don’t want to hear it. And other times, I don’t have advice other than, “Maybe it’s on you to do it and not me.” It sounds like I woke up that day and decided everybody else needed to take their own medicine.

Toni V. Martin: I’m glad. I’m so happy. I’m so happy I got that mic that day, because like I said, it really has helped to shape the trajectory of my career and to cause me to not wait to be given projects, not wait to be given a title, to start where I am and make my own experience where I am.

Mike: It happens. It’s good to know that advice will eventually hit bullseye every now and then.

Toni V. Martin: Absolutely. Thank you.

Mike: So last question I asked Ko, and I’m going to ask you the same as well and if you’ve presented an admin track or had me coach you in a presentation, the one thing I always, always, always ask is think of yourself sitting in that seat and standing up and being like, “Cool, you just dropped a whole bunch of knowledge on me, now what do I do?” For the last 20 some minutes, they have had arguably the biggest expert, in my opinion, in the Salesforce space, talk to them about business analyst stuff. What should somebody who’s maybe walking their dog or on their way to work, they get done listening to this podcast, in your opinion, what should they do next?

Toni V. Martin: I love that question. I would say get on the trail. So I also helped to craft the business analyst trails on Trailhead. So Salesforce has resources, has information, that I think is a really good starting point for anyone curious about the role, the responsibilities. There is a user story module, and I think that will give you a more comprehensive overview of what the role is and what it looks like in the Salesforce world. And so that will be my starting point. And from there, of course, as you know, you can discover the certification path and understand what that might look like. You can see prospective jobs, you can get the salary outlook if you’re in the states, as well as additional resources that they recommend, such as my summit, which happens in October of each year. So that would be my number one destination if I had to have an action step for folks.

Mike: I like it. I like it.

Toni V. Martin: Not just because you work for Salesforce, right?

Mike: No. I like it because it gives you something to do next and a place to go in terms of career path. And I feel what Salesforce admins do, first of all, near and dear to my heart because it was a career that really grew me professionally and personally, and is not the end all be all, but also not a dead end. And there’s so many other, to your point, flavors.

You can be a Salesforce admin and a strong business analyst too, and now you’re showing up with even more weight and gravitas to the meetings. And it just gives people options on places to go because I feel like with technology, with workplace changing, with processes changing, with, I think, even classifying AI as its own thing, I don’t even think it’s technology, there’s so many things influx in the workplace right now that people are dealing with, that the reason I ask you a question, the reason I said I like it, is it gives people options. And when you have options, to me, it feels like you have freedom to choose and an area to explore, to maybe unlock new potential within yourself. I’m sure you didn’t graduate college thinking, “I’m going to be a business analyst,” but here you are and you’re an authoritative voice on being a business analyst.

Toni V. Martin: Can I just squeeze something in there that reminded me of-

Mike: Yeah.

Toni V. Martin: No, my degree is actually in English.

Mike: Oh.

Toni V. Martin: Yeah.

Mike: Oh man, I’m totally not going to send you anything written now.

Toni V. Martin: Oh gosh, I’m not one of those people. But one thing that is a secret is that as a business analyst, because I’ve been talking about some roles don’t require you to configure as much, it’s actually an easier role to transition into if you have domain expertise, if you have industry expertise, if you have been in a role elsewhere, in a different company, whatever that looks like, you can take that expertise and pair that with BA techniques and get a job without having to have those administrator chops. Because when you come in as an admin, folks are expecting for you to get in there, roll up your sleeves, be able to tackle things. With the BA route, it’s more about understanding the industry, the business processes, and that can be very, very advantageous if you are transitioning from another kind of role. So that’s a secret that I don’t think a lot of people think about with the BA career path.

Mike: There’s so many. I want to thank you for taking time out, being on the pod. This is wonderful. I’m sorry it took so long, but you know what I’ll do? I’ll book a calendar invite and I’ll actually put you on the calendar invite…

Toni V. Martin: I love it.

Mike: … for another podcast.

Toni V. Martin: And I will show up and-

Mike: And that’s funny to two people. And the two people that are on the podcast right now will find that joke hilarious and that’s it. Because Mike forgets how to invite people to calendar meetings. There you go. That’s the punchline.

Toni V. Martin: But Mike, thank you so much for having me. This time flew by fast, so I can see why people are like, “Hey, I got to get back on the podcast. We got more to talk about.”

Mike: See? It goes… You have no idea. 30 minutes, we can’t cover anything. We might scratch the surface of a couple things. Yes. Well, thanks again.

Toni V. Martin: Thank you for having me.

Mike: Of course, that was a fun conversation. I’m so glad I had a chance to follow through with getting Toni V. Martin back on the podcast after we chatted in Atlanta, sometimes scheduling is difficult. But anyway, if you enjoyed this episode, I need you to do me a favor. I need you to click on the dots in iTunes and choose “share episode.” You can post it to social, that’d be awesome. You could text it to a friend, maybe you got a friend, you want to send them the follow-up to the Ko Forte episode and say, “Hey, you really need to check out this podcast.” But I am looking to make sure that every admin’s getting access to this. Of course, if you’re looking for more great resources, your one stop for everything, Salesforce Admin is, including a transcript of this show. And don’t forget to join the conversation. We have the Admin Trailblazer Group over in the Trailblazer community. Of course, I’ll link all of those in the show notes, it’s right there for you to click on. So until next week, we’ll see you in the cloud.

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