Administrator vs. Analyst – a salesforce discussion

Let me first start by saying I have been honored lately as a few people have asked me for career advice and I gave what I thought was honest and helpful advice. This is way different than my normal action which is to deliver truly horrible advice and see if someone yells “Balderdash!” 

What I learned through the recent exercise is that this “salesforce administrator” has hit the proverbial wall with their current situation and wants to move up in the world. Another recent situation is a manager asking their administrator, “What exactly is it that you do for us?” How does one answer this question without an equally dumbfounded look?

Do You Fit the Model

If you are a large organization with hundreds of users, then this particular post may not fit your model. Those systems typically, there I go throwing the word “typical” like candy, have job descriptions and controls in place to manage usage. Instead let’s talk about the organizations that meet the following criteria:

  • There are 1-5 people who manage the salesforce.com system on a regular basis.
  • Salesforce.com has been built to handle more than leads but typically utilizes multiple business processes
  • Salesforce.com probably has a few different apps attached that extend or enhance the base product
  • Users are sending in a number of enhancement requests on a regular basis (weekly or monthly depending on the size)
  • There may be an outside firm that handles more complex requirements or programming needs

As a member of the team managing the system it is your responsibility to:

  • Understand those business requirements and determine the correct course of action
  • Document those requests and help place them in order of execution
  • Define whether an internal employee or an external resource will complete the work
  • Either do the change or manage that the change is executed properly
  • Test that the work was done
  • Gather user feedback on completion

In the salesforce.com world we call these people “Admins” or “Administrators”. And if you have a simple system that may actually still hold true; but for larger organizations this term is inaccurate. Instead you are an “Analyst” and we as members of the salesforce community need to create a distinction between these groups.

In my mind a salesforce admin is performing the point-and-click effort and some of that effort can certainly be challenging, engaging, and worthwhile. And for smaller salesforce orgs this term holds up well.  But for larger or more complex systems these individuals are performing tasks far beyond simple point-and-click and that should require a different distinction. These Analysts have to understand business process and be a clearinghouse for that information. The organization relies on those people to not only listen to the business requirements but consider multiple options before making a recommendation and moving forward.

While the term “Salesforce.com Analyst” can hold up well to scrutiny, I would offer that there are Data, Business Process, Sales, and Support Analysts out there already. These are people who have begun to specialize in unique areas and can bring their skills to bear in unique ways. They have gone far beyond the idea of an Admin and are ready for the next step.

Being a Coder is Not Necessarily the End Goal

There are some people who will never be programmers and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that. Being a coder should not be everyone’s end goal in the salesforce.com world. I have a college degree in programming. The biggest fact I learned from that? I am not a good programmer but I am good analyst. Not all programmers are good analysts and not all analysts are good programmers. This is not a crime but an honest opinion of what people are capable of becoming. 

So for those that have hit a ceiling in their salesforce experience or feel trapped by the idea of being called an “Admin”, I say its time for the idea of Analyst to be seriously considered by this industry and give it the seriousness it deserves.

 

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The Obligatory “Things I’m Thankful For” Post

Last week was Thanksgiving; also known as my favorite holiday of the year. I gather friends, family, neighbors, whatever and invite them to share some food cooked by Yours Truly. Most go home without a food issue or allergic reaction. But its my favorite since its a holiday where the shear idea of gifts, drinking too much, wearing something nice, or putting on a silly hat is not required. All I ask is that you show up, not look like a slob, and then eat and share some time. What a wonderful idea.

To go along with this holiday are 250.1 blog posts across the Internet describing the “Things I’m Thankful For”.  I didn’t see any reason why I shouldn’t add my own to the heap and let the world sort it out.

Some of the Competition are Friends

I can count on two hands (and probably a toe or 3) the number of people that in a traditional software world would be my direct competitors but I consider friends. There are those that I’ve helped start their own firms or go to work for a competitor. Issues and problems I’ve personally faced have been shared with them and I have certainly received some great advice from some of them. I think the others just were shaking their heads in bafflement with my decision-making which I don’t blame them at all. But in the end I appreciate their time and the fact that they are in the same space as me.

Software Not Vaporware

We have a few clients who are healthcare based and so their software needs go way beyond salesforce.com. These poor IT people are looking at software packages to purchase to solve some of their problems. That is of course their prerogative. When they share the sites of these software “systems” here is what you typically find:

  • A bucket load of stock photography of people smiling, giving each other high fives, or deeply listening to someone else.
  • Something I call buzzword jumble. Take a bunch of buzzwords that does good for SEO and marketers and then throw them into sentences as often as possible. (ignite, consensus, collaboration, SAAS, Cloud-based, Standards meeting, Best in class, and synergy)
  • Absolutely ZERO description or screen shots of the product. Are you afraid of others seeing it?

“I just bought this awesome car. It goes up to 200 mph, gets 70 MPG, and is made from balsa wood. You want to see it? Why? Just believe me that it rocks!” Yeah. Right…

What happens in the salesforce space? Not prepared to show the goods on first pass? Forget it. Live in “synergy paradise”? Consider yourself evicted to live in “buzzword purgatory”. The people that build successful apps in the salesforce world are deeply passionate about what they sell and want you to see them immediately. The rest are weeded out.

The Truly Sharp Ones are Sharing

I am fortunate to be a member of the Salesforce MVP group. To really talk about it is another post but there is a video on our YouTube channel where Matt goes into some great description. But basically here is a group of people who go out of their way to share their knowledge to others.

This is free knowledge available to the world online or at user groups or one on one. This means two things: its amazing content and these people are FORCED to continue innovating. (damn it, how did that buzzword get into this post)

For all of us these people continue to come up with great ways of using the service and that is a seriously good thing.

Retiring IdeaExchange Points

If you’re new to salesforce then you may not fully appreciate the IdeaExchange. Have a great idea about improving the service or find something positively glaring missing with a current feature? See if someone else has already posted that idea and vote it up. Don’t see it? Go post a new idea.

This is a chance for salesforce as a business to listen to what their users are looking for and build against it.  Recently they have been on a tear to get some of the higher profile ideas out the door as features and I would think they will continue to do so. We can’t always get what we want but we can get what we need. Or something like that.

Anyway my 800 words of what I’m thankful for. What about you?

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