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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  1. Yes, I think that anyone that conducts button click administration should consider themselves analysts as well. This is my justification – Anyone who can write a workflow rule must also know that they are writing the correct workflow rule. The only way to know that is to be a business analyst and look at the business implications of whatever you are building in Salesforce.

    And if you can realize that you’re actually a business analyst who knows how to configure an application (in this case, Salesforce), the sky is the limit!

    -Garry (@darthgarry)

  2. Brad

    Great question

    In the telecom world there are admins and there are analysts as well. The admin goes into the telephone system and programs telephones and lines and sets up acd queues.

    The analyst will sit down with a business owner and design the acd queues for them based on their needs and then let the admin person do the programming.

    one knows how to get to the needs the other knows how to program it.

    Some can do both and can do only one of those roles.

    I suggest the admin strive to be an analyst and the analyst strive to be an admin. This gives you an all rounded skillset.

    However, if you look at some admin want ads they ask for skills in needs and business analysis but post the job as “SF Admin”. The term Admin can be very narrow or very broad because that is how salesforce created the title and it stuck. Just like Devzone which is for developers but if admins ventured into that area they could learn a lot.

    So the title can be very broad but we all need to cross-function our skills.

    If you generate sales reports then take the time to learn as to what the metrics mean and see it from a sales persons point of view or from the managers view. .

    I have dealt with admins that just say “tell me what you want and i will program it” but I don’t know what i want, can you help me define that better..?…”please tell me what you want in the report so i can program it” where an analyst will use different tools and the such and take the time to figure out what you want or need and provide advise on it.

    Analysts can be proactive and Admins can be reactive.

    Analysts will test out a mobile app while the Admin will only do it if asked.

    i like to be both…manage the system to make sure it works and also think ahead in coming up with better reports and new ways of use to provide better information and thus better results.

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