You’ve implemented Salesforce – Congratulations! This tool is a game-changer in elevating the advancement, recruitment and admissions, student success, communication, and other critical business capabilities of your institution. Salesforce is an investment that can pay incredible dividends to your campus in both the short and long term; protect your investment by putting the right people in the best positions to succeed and ensure lasting success for your institution at large. Just like any technology, realizing success on the Salesforce platform takes careful maintenance, dedication to change management, and intentional roadmap planning.
In part one of our new blog series, Support and Maintenance of Your University’s Salesforce Org, we will explore long-term maintenance and success strategies, starting with best practices for staffing your Salesforce instance. When you’re putting together a plan on how to get the most out of your school’s Salesforce use, focus on ensuring that you have the right people on the team, based on their skills, that can take accountability for their essential responsibilities and then enable them to be successful.
What Kind of Support Staff Do You Need?
We recommend a layered approach to staffing your Salesforce org so that end-users have support at multiple tiers. This strategy gives them the peace of mind that they can access the help they need efficiently while also ensuring that IT staff are not responsible for everything from triaging enhancement requests to fixing declarative and technical bugs. Specifically, your instance should be supported by a “Tier 1” level and a “Tier 2” level of technical staff members.
Tier 1 Support
Tier 1 Support may include Business Analysts (BA) and Super Users (SU). These types of agents may support Salesforce as their full-time job or may have a variety of responsibilities, including, but not limited to, being a BA or SU. In their BA and SU functions, whether full or part-time, they would be responsible for some of the following activities. Let’s dive into the difference between these two roles:
- BA: This role is responsible for identifying functional requirements, maintaining technical documentation, building reports, and training and supporting end-users of multiple systems, including Salesforce.
- SU: These individuals are recommended by their team’s leadership to be the subject matter expert on their team for solutions within Salesforce. They are also responsible for training end-users, reviewing and resolving or escalating tickets, managing licensing requests, building reports, and participating in functionality testing for their respective areas of expertise.
In sum, while BAs are typically experts in the functional business process requirements for a set of users, SUs are generally more technical in responsibility and skill. Some SUs might already work in their sandboxes and have limited admin privileges. One key characteristic that BAs and SUs typically have in common is that they are both identified on a team or departmental basis; thus, rather than being responsible for Salesforce at a broad level across many types of end-users, they can provide focused support for a specific subset of staff.
Tier 2 Support
Your Tier 2 staffing model will typically include both Salesforce Administrators (SA) and Developers. These two roles can broadly be defined as follows:
- SA: Typically, SAs are the owner(s) of the declarative solutions built in your org, experienced in the clouds, features, and third-party tools that are at the foundation of your org, such as Service Cloud and Salesforce Educational Data Architecture (EDA).
- Developers: This support staff owns the technical solutions built in your org, experienced with development on the Salesforce platform (e.g., Apex, Lightning Web Components).
Together, these technical “Tier 2” roles typically make up a university’s CRM Team.
What Skills Does Your Support Staff Have?
The first key component of staffing at both tiers is, of course, competency. It’s important to sufficiently staff and spread resources evenly, but it’s also a critical necessity for support staff to exhibit competency with the technology. We recommend that you create and align on a competency model to compare the skills of your support agents across tiers to the skills needed to efficiently operate the system.
What general skills are required to support your CRM? This may include certifications, such as the Salesforce Administrator and Education Cloud Consultant certifications for your admins, technical expertise, such as report and dashboard creation, or functional abilities such as leading training. What documentation and resources can you provide your team so they can be successful? You can use the competency model to determine gaps between your staffing and your staffing needs which will help you develop your training and enablement plan.
Tier 1 Competency: BAs and SUs are responsible for connecting functional business process requirements with Salesforce technology for a specific user group, so they must be skilled in discovering and documenting end-user needs. These support agents are also adept at training and improving user adoption among their departments. They typically have some advanced end-user skills, often in reporting, at least among SUs. Certifications are not typically required for these support agents.
Tier 2 Competency: As a university expands enterprise-wide, the Salesforce tier 2 team should be comprised of both admins (1 admin per 50-75 users is Salesforce’s official recommendation) and developers. Admins can illustrate their declarative skills by pursuing certifications, such as those for a Salesforce Certified Administrator, Salesforce Certified Advanced Administrator, or Salesforce Certified Platform Builder, as well as specific certifications that apply to your org such as Education Cloud Consultant. For developers, Platform Dev I is typically expected to demonstrate Salesforce development capabilities.
For both admins and developers, additional certifications and skills may be expected depending on the type of org you’re managing, or additional roles may be required. For example, if you are using Marketing Cloud or Pardot, you may expect your existing admins and devs to support your digital marketing technology (and thus have the appropriate certifications) or you may hire additional CRM Team members.
How Do You Enable Your Support Staff?
If you’ve compared the competencies your org needs to the competencies you have on your current team, you may find that there are gaps. Certainly, you could hire additional team members – but sometimes you can instead, or also, provide enablement to your existing support agents to fill those competency gaps. We recommend customizing enablement curriculums for each tier of support to accommodate their unique responsibilities. Specifically, your plans should provide activities for Tier 2 agents, BAs, and/or SUs in recommended orders so that they know what Trailhead modules to complete, what training videos to watch, and what documentation to read so they have the pre-requisite knowledge to be successful in each activity and ultimately can be successful in their job.
Encourage Continued Learning
The plans should promote independent learning as well as provide training and support that can serve to help fill in those competency “gaps” that your institution finds among its support staff to be successful in Salesforce. Enablement curriculums help you onboard and bring up to speed any support agents throughout your university in strategic ways that are consistent with the needs of system end-users. For BAs and SUs, specifically, these paths should first focus on the understanding of functional needs within their team, or what you’d call the “basics.”
From there, staff should move along a designated path covering governance, how to work with other layers of the integrated support model, ticket resolution/escalation, analytics, facilitating end-user training, understanding user acceptance testing processes, and how to write functional documentation – to name a few. Enablement curriculums for admins and developers should be customized based upon the actual configuration of your Salesforce org; for example, if you are leveraging Advisor Link to manage advisee case tracking, ensure your admins are skilled in this tool.
Build a Knowledge Repository
To further support your support agents, and possible end-users, we recommend the creation and maintenance of an accessible, up-to-date knowledge repository. These knowledge bases can help catalog existing system knowledge documentation and point out any documentation gaps that need to be filled for your team. Knowledge should always be stored in a shared place so that all support agents that need it have access. You should link to the knowledge base in your enablement plans as appropriate to ensure agents are reviewing key documentation. Additionally, conducting regular team analysis will help you spot knowledge gaps within your organization. These analyses will help identify if all end-users have access to appropriate support resources.
Staffing your support agents based on the competencies that your university needs and providing them with appropriate enablement materials together ensure that your institution can be successful with Salesforce. If an issue arises, the end-user can raise it to their first tier of support such as a BA or SU – someone skilled and knowledgeable that is easily reachable within their department – to resolve or escalate the issue to a more technical resource such as an admin or developer.
But what if the end-user is asking for net new functionality that could be expensive or have a large impact? How do support agents handle these requests?
In our next blog focused on university enterprise expansion, we will outline recommendations on implementing a governance model that provides your support agents with the leadership and guidance necessary to make the right changes that are approved organization-wide.