This year I had the pleasure of collaborating with Jared Miller for our Dreamforce session to rethink what it means to be a successful Salesforce Admin and what habits Admins should be following. Our approach was a bit different than in previous years, rather than just adding more habits we took a look at the habits I had proposed in previous years and tried to put them into context. In addition, we took at look at the timeliness of each habit- because let’s be honest, we can’t do everything everyday. And we don’t need to tackle that much on a daily basis.
Our approach this year was to make the habits consumable and easy to follow. Believe me, I’ve been in your shoes and being a Salesforce Admin can be a tough job because there really isn’t a user manual to success. To help we broke the habits into daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly, and yearly activities that will help you stay informed, keep your users up to date, and ensure that you completing what you need to get done to keep your org healthy. With that said, let’s get started!
Daily Habits- Engage
Salesforce admins need to be social leaders. Unlike many corporate systems Salesforce has a built in social component- Chatter. This immediately gives us an avenue to interact with users in real time to solve problems. A great way to drive adoption of Chatter and lessen your work load is to create a Salesforce Support Chatter group- and invite everyone. For me this is the one place that everyone can post their questions about Salesforce and get immediate support. When you first start the Chatter group don’t be surprised that you are answering most of the questions. But as the group evolves your power users will emerge and start helping others. You need to encourage this activity and reward it! Users helping users will make for a happy Admin.
But aside from the technology we need to get out from behind our desks and visit with our users. Over the shoulder time is invaluable as an Admin! It gives us the ability to see how users interact with Salesforce, how they enter data, and what frustrates them. As a Salesforce Admin it’s a good habit to visit at least one user everyday to see how they do their job and interact with them. I call this SABWA- Salesforce Administration by Wandering Around. SABWA- make it a daily habit!
Weekly Habits- Explore
By spending time with our users we will get a lot of feedback and probably more than a few great ideas. I can’t think of a better place to look for solutions to the problems and ideas they give us than the AppExchange. From Dreamforce 2012 to Dreamforce 2013 more than 1 app per day was added to the AppExchange. Now, we don’t have to keep up on all of the apps. But setting aside time to visit the AppExchange at least once a week is a good way to look for new solutions and apps that can help us improve our processes. Salesforce makes it easy to stay in touch by sending you a weekly newsletter which you can subscribe to by clicking here. Our goal with visiting the AppExchange is to find at least 1 app that we can bring to management.
In addition to exploring the AppExchange we need to explore our documentation, specifically our Data Dictionary. Now, if you don’t have a data dictionary- which I didn’t for a long time- starting one and working on it weekly is a great way to tackle a big project by segmenting the work. Data dictionaries will help benefit yourself, your company, and your users- especially when you get asked “Why did we add this field?”
While we are out on the AppExchange it’s a good habit to check the Salesforce Community. And by community I mean- Answers, Ideas, and Salesforce blogs (like this one) for great advice on solving problems and collaborating with others. If you have a question the Salesforce Answers community is a great place to go. Chances are the wise Steve Molis will have already answered your question or will answer it. If there is functionality you would love to see- Salesforce Ideas is the place to go. This is the place that Salesforce Project Managers and developers go for ideas on how to improve functionality and the platform. As an Admin you can’t explore enough, so make it a weekly habit!
Monthly Habits- Communicate
If we are walking around visiting with users on a daily basis and weekly visiting the AppExchange we probably have a lot of information. So on a monthly basis Admins need to get in the habit of communicating with Stakeholders. These are the business drivers in Salesforce and the ones in the company that processes in the system that are critical to their job function. Our monthly stakeholder meeting should consist of feedback from users, demoes of Salesforce Apps we found on the AppExchange- which by now we should have 4 of them- as well as expected changes to business process. Having a monthly check in with stakeholders will keep the surprise changes to a minimum and help you plan for new users and changes more effectively.
Communicating with Stakeholders is only our first stop. We also need to plan Governance meetings to ensure that our use of Salesforce is in line with the business and make sure that stakeholders are communicating among themselves. Governance meetings are a great place to demo new apps and talk through data flows. It’s also a great forum to discuss future functionality that is needed so you know if you need to look for an app or scope out some new functionality to build.
Quarterly Habits- Evaluate
Up to this point we are engaging with users on a daily basis, exploring the AppExchange and the Salesforce Community weekly, and monthly bringing all that knowledge to our stakeholders and governance. Which means on a quarterly basis we need to manage change. And change in Salesforce needs to be managed on two fronts- one is the change that we push to users and the second is the change from Salesforce as part of their release cycle.
The place to start evaluating is by first looking at your Sandboxes. Recently Salesforce just posted the Sandbox refresh schedule for Spring 14. It’s good to set a habit of meeting with fellow Admins and developers on a quarterly basis to review what sandboxes you need refreshed and which ones should stay on the previous release. This gives you a great opportunity to see the new features coming in the next release as well as keeping your sandboxes nice and tidy.
Now if we are refreshing our Sandboxes it means that we are reading the release notes. As a certified Salesforce Admin this is crucial to maintaining your certification because there will be a maintenance exam on the features of the new release. For tips on reading the release notes click here. In addition to reading the release notes, attending a Salesforce User Group is another great way to stay informed about new features and connect with other Admins in general. Lots of Salesforce User Groups meet on a quarterly basis and you can find your nearest Salesforce User group here. Once you find one, make it a habit of attending and helping out.
Of course, we can’t forget about some housekeeping duties- namely report clean up. Every quarter it’s a good habit to schedule an “Eat & Delete” session with users to review reports, dashboards, and folders. These meetings can be scheduled in person or using an online meeting tool. The key is to get a group of the same users together- doesn’t have to be all of them- to review the reports and folders they use and see if any need to be removed. This is a good way to keep reports in check and users involved with changes.
So on a quarterly basis we are evaluating Salesforce releases, evaluating our sandboxes, and evaluating our reports.
Yearly Habits- Refresh
By now you can see the cadence of habits and how keeping up your daily, weekly, monthly, and quarterly habits make it easy to funnel information to the right places and stay up to date. Which means on a yearly basis our habits are really meant to refresh ourselves and our users so that all the information we have communicated throughout the year gets a level set. On a yearly basis we need to schedule refresher training for our users. Over the year as we are releasing new features and bringing on new functionality it’s easy for users to forget about some features or get rusty. As Admins we need to have the habit of scheduling refresher training for our users on a yearly basis, that way our users stay engaged and up to date.
In addition to training our users, we need to challenge ourselves to stay up to date. To do that I like to schedule a Salesforce training class to continue my education and my certifications. I think going to a Salesforce training class at least once a year not only challenges us as Admins but is a great way to get tips on how we can train our users.
Training is a big aspect of your yearly refresh habit. Another critical element is checking our help text. There can be a lot of help bubble in your Salesforce instance and it’s easy for them to get out of date. On a yearly basis I like to take the time to go object by object and checking my help bubbles to make sure they have correct text. As well as seeing if fields could use help bubbles- especially fields that have a low percentage of population.