Salesforce Administrator: Myths vs. Reality

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As some Salesforce Administrators can tell you, business leaders and new companies just ramping up Salesforce sometimes have high expectations of their capabilities. Here is a good definition by Salesforce of what is an administrator. A critical element of ensuring an organization’s Salesforce implementation and hiring an administrator are both set up for success is understanding the myths and reality of what they will accomplish. 

After working as a Salesforce consulting partner and providing Salesforce “Admin-As-A-Service” for many years, we’ve compiled our top myths to share with you here. 

Myth #1 Administrators know everything about the Salesforce platform and all related products.

Salesforce has over 20 branded products and over 700 product managers to manage them. With those numbers, it takes a village to completely understand the nuances and features of every product on the Salesforce platform. When you add the 3,000+ third-party products offered on the Appexchange, expecting an admin to know everything about the platform and all the features and capabilities of applications is highly unrealistic and counterproductive for your business operations. 

Experience does matter. Working with a Salesforce Admin that is experienced across industries and businesses, or a company like CRMNinjas that offers Admin-As-A-Service will allow your business to leverage best practices and get ramped up rapidly. Another advantage is having experience with a wide variety of Salesforce 3rd party applications. Even with that level of experience, it is almost impossible to know everything about the Salesforce platform and the wide range of applications available on the AppExchange.

Myth #2 Admins can make magic happen.

Executives and managers get frustrated when they don’t know why things just don’t work or happen instantly. For instance, using data points from unrelated objects to create a single report or dashboard is an impractical use of the technology and can create frustration among management teams when these complex and difficult operations cannot be completed right away. The perception is they paid a lot of money for Salesforce and hired an admin to make things happen immediately but in reality, there has to be a deep understanding of the business needs and then a plan to implement and roll-out in a realistic manner.

Think of Salesforce Administrators as the “Jedi masters” who balance the needs of the business as well as the capability of the platform on a continuous basis with interesting acrobatics. “Jedi’s” need to roadmap changes in Salesforce and update business practices to provide the management team exactly what they want. Part of the Admin’s role is to educate and communicate to executives to set expectations and provide timelines on when things can happen.

3. Myth #3 All admins can code.

In Salesforce, you can program or customize things through declarative programming or imperative (code) programming. Salesforce has a good article that outlines the difference. 

Imperative development uses programming skills where declarative development uses the front end development of Salesforce. Declarative development primarily consists of making changes through the user interface, including creating rules, automating processes and adding formulas. Coding requires advanced training and experience that many admins do not have. 

There are pros and cons for each type of development, but most administrators will easily handle declarative development but won’t be able to write code or imperative development. The administrator unicorn that can code might exist but is unlikely. 

Most admins won’t be able to resolve issues that require programming skills. Conversely, even experienced coders will need additional training to navigate Salesforce’s platform and features successfully.

A lack of understanding about the difference between a programmer and a platform administrator often contributes to a misconception. The two disciplines, however, have different educational and employment paths and require different skills for success.

Myth #4 Admins are only really needed for Salesforce’s initial setup process. Updates and other maintenance will typically manage themselves.

Hands-on maintenance is absolutely required on a weekly and monthly basis. Salesforce’s platform can easily become bogged down with errors or data quality issues if not properly maintained. Think of Salesforce like taking care of your health. You have to do the little things every day to ensure long term health. Things like exercising, brushing your teeth, eating healthy have similar equivalents in managing an enterprise platform!

This is one of the biggest parts of the Salesforce Administrators role. To ensure the long-term health of this platform and its features, regular maintenance is a must.

Myth #5 If problems arise, it is usually Salesforce’s fault.

Many business owners and executives believe that by throwing more resources, apps, or money at Salesforce’s platform, that problems can be solved. One essential element of success, however, is buy-in and investment from management in learning about the capabilities and limits of this platform, as well as embracing and promoting change.

Staff members must be willing to adapt to new workflows and embrace change. Failing to accept the necessary changes to processes will cripple your ability to make the most of this advanced product. In many cases, management and staff members alike may develop an active resistance to making required and recommended changes, which can translate directly into finger-pointing and blaming Salesforce’s platform. 

Institutional resistance to change is a very common reason for the abandonment of Salesforce’s platform and products. Addressing this problem starts at the management level and requires the investment of every team member as well as the Salesforce administrator to ensure the best results.

Here’s an example. We had a client who invested three months of time training on the Einstein product, which is a set of platform services integrating artificial intelligence into Salesforce’s Customer Success Platform. After investing this time and money, the client abandoned Einstein because their staff could not or would not make the changes necessary to make it work successfully. This is a perfect example of how institutional resistance to change can waste money and time and make it look like it was a “platform problem”.

Myth #6 Admins are needed to run reports.

Almost anyone can learn to generate reports and to do other simple tasks on Salesforce’s platform. The training and support needed for these activities, however, should come from an administrator. Especially in a virtual world, teams need to be empowered to perform simple tasks on their own.

Myth #7 Anyone in sales or sales ops can act as the admin on a part-time basis.

Acting as an admin on a temporary basis may be within the capabilities of some of your sales staff, but is not advisable. Salesforce’s expansive line of products and ever-evolving platform, however, require focused attention that should be provided by a dedicated admin.

Splitting the focus of one or more of your staff members will almost guarantee that at least one of their assigned tasks will suffer. Allotting adequate time for admin tasks like integrating, enriching and importing and exporting data is essential to get the job done correctly. 

Too many times, we’ve seen this type of situation being a recipe for disaster for the business and Salesforce. Failure to allocate the proper human resources to Salesforce results in security issues, poor data quality, and improper maintenance of the company’s implementation. Too many times, we’ve been called in as a last-ditch effort to salvage things. 

Myth #8 The admin can change staff behavior.

Management at all levels of a business is the primary driver of company culture and behavior. When implementing Salesforce, management needs to ingrain the culture and behavior change to make it a success. The administrator is there to support and ensure success, but can’t do it alone.

This means that management teams must use Salesforce’s features to manage business intelligence, workflow and deal analysis, and other important activities. By excluding these key processes from the platform, management will be sending a strong message to the entire staff that could sabotage the entire implementation. 

Buy-in for Salesforce’s platform must start from the top-down and reinforced by the administrator. This will help to build a culture that promotes success with Salesforce. 

Myth #9 Companies always need a full-time Salesforce administrator.

The truth is, not every company needs a full-time administrator. Especially during the initial stages of your company’s development, you may not be using all of the features and capabilities of Salesforce’s platform. 

You may want to start with a part-time admin to handle maintenance and build a roadmap to scale up as the business and Salesforce needs grow. There are ways to hire part-time administrators, but you need to understand the pros and cons. We did this article on Salesforce Ben recently that highlights the key questions and timing of hiring a Salesforce Administrator. 

Finally, there’s an emerging technology service we call Admin-As-A-Service. You enjoy the benefits of an experienced admin, save money on payroll, use best practices, and gain shared knowledge and training solutions for your business. We are committed to delivering scalable options that allow you to maximize your Salesforce investment. Give us a call today at 702-248-1033, email us at [email protected] to learn more about our Admin-As-A-Service solutions here for your business operations. We look forward to touching base with you.