It took 11 years, but salesforce.com finally created an “Admin Zone” at their annual Dreamforce conference. They have a Developer Zone for the coders, a Foundation Zone dedicated to their nonprofit customers, a Small and Medium Business Zone and now one for Admins. Don’t get me wrong, Salesforce wasn’t ignoring System Administrators in previous years. There have always been plenty of sessions dedicated to administrators of all skill levels. But having an Admin Zone and an Admin Keynote dedicated to administrators was recognition that Admins are a key resource for any organization, nonprofit or otherwise.
When a new organization is considering purchasing Salesforce, they are told that they need an Executive Sponsor; someone high in the organization that will support and drive their implementation. Just as essential is the person you select as your system administrator. Admins come in all shapes and sizes and the story of how they became the admin is as different as they are. Some were actual coders working in the IT department; others were receptionists, development staff or even the owners of the company. Whatever their previous duties, it helps if they are curious, not afraid of computers, somewhat technical, and tenacious; the type of person who has to find a solution to the problem presented to them.
It’s not enough to appoint someone as the Admin of one of your organization’s vital software applications. Once you find that person, you must do your best to support and encourage their development. If you can afford it, send your Admin to salesforce.com’s one week Admin training course. Besides standard “how to” instructions, the course will include “Best Practices” that will help your Admin avoid common novice mistakes.
Encourage, support and require your administrator to obtain Salesforce certifications. Some of the topics needed to pass the certifications are focused on B2B environments but much of the knowledge is transferable to the nonprofit world. Besides a sense of accomplishment, studying for certifications will introduce your Admin to aspects of the application that they may not be using on a daily basis. To maintain the certification, Admins must successfully take 3 maintenance exams per year, ensuring they are up to date with salesforce.com’s ever growing list of features and functionality. But it’s not a one-way street; give your Admin time during the work day to participate in online study groups and to watch Salesforce training webinars as they prepare for the exams that will make them a stronger resource for your organization.
Allow your Admin to go to their local salesforce.com User Group. Make it a job requirement. Many professions require their members to pay for professional development sessions. Why wouldn’t you want to see your Admin to be involved in a User Group that, for no cost to your organization, offers salesforce.com training? If there isn’t a local Nonprofit User Group, look for a “regular” group. Learning the intricacies of workflows, validation rules or new functionality like the Process Builder doesn’t have to be nonprofit specific. Even if your Admin lives too far away to physically visit a user group, they should join the closest one they can find. Some groups will hold meetings as webinars and/or post downloadable materials in their Chatter group.
Introduce your Admin to the Power of Us Hub, salesforce.com’s online community dedicated to nonprofit organizations. Allow and encourage them to review and participate in the Hub. It’s amazing how much you can learn by reading the answers to someone else’s questions.
If you live in a city that is fortunate enough to be part of salesforce.com’s World tours (formerly known as Cloudforce tours), give your Admin the day so that they can participate and learn about the newest functionality that salesforce.com has to offer.
Salesforce.com offers a substantial discount on Dreamforce registration fees to nonprofits. If you plan early with regard to travel and accommodations, you should be able to keep the costs down to an affordable amount. Even if you still can’t afford to send your Admin to learn with other nonprofit administrators, provide them with time to watch the sessions that are posted online after Dreamforce is over.
Investing in your system administrator doesn’t mean you have to spend a lot of money. It does however, mean that you need to help and encourage them to be a better system administrator. Provide time to attend and participate in user groups, study groups, online webinars, the Power of Us Hub and salesforce.com events. Don’t look at these as distractions or simply time away from work. Your organization’s requirements will change over time. Salesforce is definitely changing over time. If you want to have the best possible Salesforce system administrator for your organization, allow them to make use of all the resources that salesforce.com provides.
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