July 6, 2016

Should I Hire a Salesforce Administrator?

Before I answer the question “Should I hire a Salesforce administrator?,” it is important to understand the different roles and skills required to ensure success with your Salesforce efforts.  Many organizations fall into the trap of thinking “…I have a Salesforce administrator, they can do it all…,” only to be extremely disappointed and frustrated when they don’t get the results they are looking for. To help you understand the division of labor, let me go through each of the roles, detailing the experience and skills needed to be successful in each.

Salesforce Solution Architect

The Solution Architect is a critical member of a successful Salesforce project team when there are elements of the project that fall outside the core product.  Their job is to envision and design a system, encompassing all the different systems, that gives the executive team the results they need and makes user’s lives easier.  That is a pretty big and hairy job requiring years of both technology and business process experience.  Making a mistake in the architecture stage of a Salesforce project can be extremely costly, both financially and in staff frustration.  There is nothing worse than rolling out a new process and engaging users, only to find that a month after adoption, your Salesforce team needs to change the process again. I bet many of you reading this have been a party to that at one time or another.

Not every Salesforce project requires a Solution Architect and it is very unlikely you will have a person with the skills and experience needed for this role sitting around your office. Do yourself a favor and hire a consultant who specializes in Salesforce and business architecture when you have the need.  The amount of money you spend outsourcing this role, is nothing compared to the money you will lose on a failed system.

Salesforce Developer

The developer is also an important, but not always needed, part of the Salesforce project team.  It is their knowledge of what can and can’t be done programmatically that can make the biggest impact on the user experience.  In the almost two decades I have been doing CRM consulting some of the most impacting modifications have been small, but required coding behind the scenes.  I might note, it would not be the type of code you would find by doing a Google search, so you want someone who truly understands the product customization model. Stay away from the “hacker” whenever possible. There is nothing wrong with experimenting and learning, but be sure the technical foundation is there first! Avoid the temptation of agreeing to let your administrator install some cool code they found on the internet. Even if it appears to work, that little piece of code could be quietly killing your Salesforce system because it was not well designed.

Realistically, you will rarely need a full time developer. If you have one on staff, there is a good chance they are not completely utilized. Whoever you are trusting as your Salesforce support partner probably has several developers they work with on a per project basis.

Salesforce Administrator

The Salesforce administrator role is arguably the most important part of your Salesforce team. Their role is really that of a super-user; someone you can turn to when you need a report printed, need supplemental user training, or a marketing campaign executed. Let’s face it, Salesforce can be complicated. One week of vacation can completely erase any recollection of anything in or about Salesforce from your teams mind!  You want someone you and your team can turn to when that happens.

Given the importance of the Salesforce administrator in your overall project success, it is critical that they are certified and experienced on the latest Salesforce version and that Salesforce administration is all they do. Salesforce is as much experience as it is knowledge.  If they are not working in the product every day, it will be hard to build the type experience needed. The product is simply too complicated and rapidly evolving to really be effective if they are only spending part of their time on Salesforce. If you you don’t have enough time or budget to dedicate a someone to Salesforce full-time, you will be doing yourself a big favor by seeking a partner who can provide an outsourced or fractional Salesforce administrator.

Ok, Should I Hire a Salesforce Administrator?

I think the answer is absolutely dependent on your situation. For companies having fewer than 250 Salesforce users, hiring a fractional Salesforce administrator is probably your best option. Even if there is a long list of things you want to accomplish with Salesforce, your team will probably not be able to adopt the changes at the rate you make them.  That will mean your Salesforce administrator will likely find themselves with lots of free time. Also, most Salesforce administrators are thirsty to learn and experiment. They will likely not last long on your team if the work is constant. Trust me, there is no shortage of demand out there for experienced, certified Salesforce administrators.

If you do hire a Salesforce administrator, keep in mind they are only one of three roles.  Falling into the trap of thinking your Salesforce administrator is actually all three will most likely lead to bad results.

I hope these thoughts have helped put some questions to rest in your mind. Good luck!

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About Kip Smith

In each of his leadership roles, Kip found his success was directly tied to his ability to effectively and efficiently manage sales and operations with technology. Never losing the desire to find success as an entrepreneur, Kip abandoned the stability of the corporate world to pursue his entrepreneurial dreams. He started Alternetics in 1999. Fifteen years later, the entrepreneurial spirit is alive and well in Kip.