Hi, my name is Dale Ziegler, and I have been a single Admin since January 2011. I’m happily married, so not that kind of single. In this context, single Admin means I don’t have a team of developers on staff, or any other Admins to help keep the lights on in my company’s Salesforce.com org. My role in my company reports through Sales Operations, so my boss manages several other roles in support of Sales and Marketing on top of the CRM. When it comes to Salesforce.com, it’s all on me. And I love it. So how have I been able to maintain a 170-user org from my cubicle of solidarity?
Single Salesforce Admins are bilingual
The first thing to do as a single Admin is to become bilingual. My company operates in both the US and Mexico, but I barely know enough Spanish to order a beer and not accidentally offend someone’s mother. In this case, being bilingual means being fluent in both Salesforce.com and your business. On a team of admins and developers, there could be some team members who meet with the users to gather requirements, and others who translate those requirements into creating the functionality. As a single Admin, you must wear the consultant, business analyst, administrator, and developer hats simultaneously. How could you accomplish this? Identify your more active users and engage them in informal conversations about how they would use the tool, and what they would like to see. In my company, we’ve created a Salesforce.com Steering Committee which meets once a month to foster that dialogue. As you learn from your users, they learn something about your role, and the language barriers break down quickly.
Single Salesforce Admins know their data’s health
As my company’s only Admin ever (not meant to sound dramatic), I had inherited an org whose original source was a dump <shudder> of mainframe data, then added to by users with no duplicate prevention or cleansing of invalid information. Without any intervention, the amount of bad data snowballed quickly. My first year was spent regularly exporting all of my org’s account and contact data through DataLoader, analyzing in Microsoft Access, then de-duping using the standard Merge functionality…which took forever and only scratched the surface of the overall problem. Finally, we invested in Stratus Data Cleanser which not only found our duplicates, but allowed me to merge up to 15 records at a time AND create my own criteria to prevent future duplicates. Within 3 or 4 months, pretty much all of our duplicate data had been eliminated, and we were able to move to a free duplicate prevention tool offered by Cloudingo. Due to the unique nature of my company’s industry, our account base has minimal growth, so I am able to manage the new “fuzzy” duplicates by receiving a simple workflow email alert, then performing a quick search within Salesforce.com to make sure the new account record is, in fact, new. If it appears it could be a duplicate, I use Chatter on the new record to ask the creator if it is the same as the old record, and proceed based on their answer. In my org, a new account record is only created once every couple of weeks, so I understand my experience is not the same as many other Admins.
Next, evaluate the processes you have created for yourself as an Admin and determine how much of your workload is manual. If you are in an edition which supports Workflow, use it as much as possible! If your data management process involves exporting data to evaluate what changed, but the quantity of change is minimal, create a workflow email alert that notifies you when something changed or was created (as I referenced in the last paragraph). Responding to a handful of occasional changes as they occur will take less time than it does to export and evaluate all of your data when the net change is potentially zero. Also note that when creating Workflow rules, you are not limited to setting the criteria using the field filter dropdown method…in the “Rule Criteria” section next to “Run this rule if the following” is a picklist which defaults to “criteria are met”. If you change the option to “formula evaluates to true”, you can leverage the power of formulas to create more advanced criteria, such as ISCHANGED() and PRIORVALUE(). Once you are comfortable with Workflow, you can dip your toe into the waters of Flow (aka Visual Workflow), where cross-object actions and looped sequencing have finally entered the declarative world! There are far too many solutions to speak about in a short space like this, but when a Flow has been activated, it comes with a URL which can be embedded in Custom Links, Custom Buttons, Visualforce pages (if you’re savvy, which I’m not), and…formula fields! And the awesome part of formula fields is they can be placed in…reports and views! My time to review exception data has been reduced drastically by creating formula fields with Flows embedded, then filtering reports or views by the exception criteria. Every record has an “update” link, which is actually the URL to the Flow, and I can run through my list of exception data with one click per record while watching the list shrink until non-existent.
Single Salesforce Admins embrace the community
Finally, embrace and engage the Salesforce.com community, which comes in some form of medium suitable for everyone. I first engaged the community by attending the Kansas City User Group. From there, I learned about various LinkedIn groups, and eventually Mike Gerholdt’s weekly ButtonClickAdmin podcast. From the BCA podcast, I learned that all of important Salesforce.com contacts were on Twitter. From Twitter, I learned more about the MVP’s, #askforce (average response time of 3 minutes, in my experience), and the Admin Hack series presented by Michael Farrington and local MVP Jarrod Kingston. From there I…and then I…and then I…well, you get the picture. I may be the only Admin in my org, but because of the community, I have immediate access to a team of incredibly smart people who are in my same position with slightly different challenges, as well as MVP’s who were once in my shoes and just want to help the rest of us succeed.
I’m proud to be part of the community, and would love to help anyone I can!