The role of a Salesforce administrator is a central authority that can provide support, guidance, training, and declarative (point-and-click) configuration for a company’s Salesforce implementation. Increasingly, however, companies are turning to developers to fill some of these roles, despite drawbacks to doing so.
Some companies are leveraging developers, especially off-shore hourly contractors, to address tickets related to traditional Salesforce administration tasks including user management, permissions management, report generation, and data import. These developers are usually multi-tasked on a combination of administration and true development tickets, alternating between them. The Salesforce admin role is often assigned to the head of the functional group that purchased Salesforce even if they are untrained in the platform. Some duties may even be split with functional group operations staff or IT staff.
Why It’s Happening
Especially in divisions of larger organizations, the decision to hire a dedicated Salesforce admin, full or part-time, can depend on budget allocation. If a functional group decides to implement Salesforce, they may already be straining their budget to purchase licenses and outsourced customization assistance. As a result, the head of the functional group becomes the de-facto administrator of their Salesforce implementation even though they are likely untrained in the platform. This untrained admin then leans on the developers for support, as well as functional group operations staff. Sometimes, the admin can get split time from IT staff not dedicated to them.
In smaller, high-growth companies, misconceptions of the admin role can serve as an excuse for the practicality of running lean. Ironically, it’s often in these organizations that are changing so quickly and dramatically over time that the lack of an admin can be felt most urgently.
1. Lack of Planning for Change
Admins are responsible for much more than responding to support requests. They guide the evolution of the Salesforce implementation, which is never static. As a company’s internal processes change, the Salesforce org should change with them to reflect new workflows, hierarchies, and business lines. It’s the admin who is thinking strategically about what updates should be made and which apps should be incorporated.
2. Shortchanging Training and Documentation
Without an admin responsible for the company’s Salesforce usage, employees that interface with Salesforce may find themselves lost in the processes or may simply ignore the platform. It’s up to the admin to document the implementation, train staff, and evangelize its use.
3. Tickets Get Done, but Should They?
Developers can pump out solutions to tickets, but they may not be focused on how the tickets fit into the larger Salesforce picture and whether they always make sense to implement. Without an admin to guide tasks and translate needs into appropriate tickets, functional groups can inject inefficiency by changing approaches too often, or can create long-term issues by not having a strategic plan. Code debt can creep up and cost much more in the long run than the budget for an admin.
4. Developers May Not Like It
A Salesforce developer is probably in that role for a reason – they enjoy development more than administration. If they are instead tasked with administration, they may suffer from lower motivation.
The lines between admins and developers are starting to blur for another reason: admins are gaining development abilities at higher rates. Some of it is driven by the tools like App Builder or Process Builder that Salesforce provides to allow admins to create custom pages and process in a declarative manner. Also, admins are seeking to pick up true development skills themselves. Understanding the development side enables them to be more effective in their role by enriching their communications with the development team. Eventually, some admins also do fully make the leap to developer out of interest in that side of the equation. But even if you are lucky enough to have staff so skilled, there’s only so much each individual can focus on for success.
Recommendations for Success
Staffing a dedicated Salesforce admin, with or without development knowledge, can improve outcomes for the organization as a whole. Companies concerned with costs can still leverage off-shore staff, including developers, for standard Salesforce support needs. And they can employ software tools to cut costs even further by reducing the number of tickets submitted. In fact, sending standard support requests to software and off-shore staff frees up the Salesforce administrator to focus on areas where they can truly add value: guiding the Salesforce implementation, responding to changing business needs, training and evangelizing with staff, and strategically planning for the future.
The key point for companies running Salesforce to internalize is that the Salesforce administrator is much more than someone who can churn through support tickets. It’s the other aspects of their role that are both harder to replace and have a greater impact on the company’s success. By all means, seek low-cost solutions for the more mechanical work, but leverage an admin for higher-value contributions.
About the Contributor
Marc Lebovitz is CEO of PowerUser, provider of the first chatbot designed to handle complex Salesforce tasks. PowerUser’s mission is to drive down the complexity and total cost of ownership of enterprise SaaS products including Salesforce by providing teams with an artificially-intelligent digital agent that reduces staffing needs and increases responsiveness. The digital agent, which is capable of managing multi-cloud enterprise software, interacts with users through a conversational interface and can take direct action on their behalf as a trusted expert. Learn more at www.poweruser.ai.