7 Habits of Highly Effective Salesforce Admins
Pairing down a list of good habits is tough. There could easily be 100 habits that make a Salesforce Admin effective. While acknowledging there are many other useful habits, the following seven habits will help for a core of productive behavior and mindset that will lead to a successful org and successful admin work.
1. Schedule Re-occurring Reviews
When starting a new org, everything is nice, neat, clean, and pretty. It’s easy to handle all of the little things that need to be done like adding a new user, creating a report, etc. As an org develops and matures, these little tasks start to pile up, combined with new requests and enhancements. Before you know, there are 200 reports (191 unused), 12 managed packages, five users who changed positions (and one who left without you knowing), and a partridge in a pear tree.
Reviewing these on a regular basis will help minimize technical debt. Also, the more frequent the reviews, the easier they will be. As you look at different tasks to review, determine the frequency and who needs to be involved. It may be a solo task or Salesforce team task if there is more than one admin. It may involve stakeholders or department managers. Here is an example of a Review Cadence:
As discussed below, training documents are critical and should be reviewed as well; right around the time of a new release is a good time to review, especially if anything has changed that makes the training materials out of date or obselete
Other org-specific or industry-specific tasks may make sense on this as well. The important step about scheduling these . . . is to actually schedule them. Put them on the calendar. Invite the other people. When someone asks for help “cleaning up their opportunities” at that time . . . sorry, you’re busy.
2. Use Description and Help Text
This is often repeated and universally known, but still worth mentioning. Because like eating healthy and exercising, knowing and doing are two different things. All admins know they should use descriptions and help text. Effective admins follow through.
When should we use description versus help text? Description is the one we should use all the time. Do we need to add a description to something as straightforward as Birthday or Mobile Phone Number? That may be overkill, but there is no harm in taking the five seconds to type a sentence next to everything else. This goes for fields, objects, reports, record types, and many more. I would especially point out Flows and Lightning Pages. The infrastructure around these items is constantly improving, but a description field to remind you what the flow does will be a lifesaver when you have 37 flows (and you will, if you don’t already). Lightning Record Pages are difficult to manage, especially when you have several Apps and Profiles. The description field can be used to lead you to the right one quickly.
Help Text does not need to be filled out all the time. Of course, Help Text provide a pop-up hint when a user hovers over the icon next to the field name. This is useful for new fields added to a page. It is also useful if the org has similarly named fields that could cause confusion. Likewise, there may be times where a truncated/abbreviated field label works better on Page Layouts, List Views, and Reports. The Help Text can give a more complete explanation of what the field is. If you’re unsure, err on the side of including the Help Text, and remove if feedback tells you that the field is universally understood.
Use Logical Naming Conventions
For those wading into the pool of development, this is essential. For admins, this is a great practice, too. Whether it is the name of a field or a report or any other item, give the name a logical naming convention so that everyone including medium and low-frequency users can understand.
For reports, a good trick is to use three things: Object + Filter + Grouping. For example, “Open Opportunities by Rep”. This tells you that the report uses Opportunities with a filter of “Open” and a grouping of Rep/Sales Rep/User.
- Example of Logical Naming Conventions
- Cases by Priority by Status – Last Month
- Cases by Priority by Status – This Month
- Cases by Priority by Status – This Year
These reports clearly tell us the object is Cases and the grouping is Priority and Status. By using this same naming convention, we are then able to provide three different filtered options that clearly direct the user to the one they want to see.
However, the most important area for a strong naming convention might be flows. As flows grow more complex it’s common to end up with dozens if not hundreds of Elements and Resources. Even when we move past 20-25 items, these can quickly become confusing if we are not using strong naming conventions.
- Tips for naming Flows:
- For Variables that will be used throughout the entire flow, include flowVar (i.e. flowVarAmount)
- For Variables that will be used within a loop, include loopVar (i.e. loopVarAmount)
- For Resources, include the type. This is helpful if you are going to use similar items a few different ways (i.e. ProviderTypeVariable ProviderTypeFormula, ProviderTypePicklistSet could all be used in the same flow and now I clearly know which one is doing what)
- If you clone an Element, rename the element label and API name; don’t accept the _0 duplicate
- Give the flow itself a logical naming convention – its often useful to start with the object that kicks off the flow
Your future self will thank you for combining a strong naming convention with description and help text.
4. Document Training
Once you’ve got a great set-up for your users, create short videos demonstrating how to do certain tasks. There are three main areas for training focus.
New User Onboarding – the easier you make it for a new hire or new Salesforce user to do their job, the better. Not only will the new hire be grateful for step-by-step instructions, but their managers and co-workers will be, too. There will be plenty for their supervisors and peers to teach about any role, so making the CRM platform easy takes that off their plate.
Infrequent Tasks – perhaps there is a step that only occurs once a quarter or a step that individuals rarely do, such as a weird case escalation procedure. Provide a quick training video on how to handle those infrequent steps and make sure users know where to look for the video, too.
Complex Tasks – ideally we will set up the org to make complex tasks easier, but reality sets in and sometimes a tasks just ends up being more difficult to do. Once it has been defined, make the training video while the information is fresh in everyone’s minds. This will be extremely useful when the situation pops up again.
Salesforce has improved In-App Guidance capabilities that can help, especially for new users to guide them through (which can be turned off as they get experience). Also there are numerous (paid) AppExchange Apps that will house these videos and allow you to make new ones right in the org. The larger your organization, the more useful these Apps become.
5. Quantify and Measure Yourself
We’re already building reports, dashboards, and apps for everyone else. Why can’t we get in on the fun? Create your own reports and dashboards to quantify your efforts and keep you 100% current on the org. For example, a dashboard that shows users, licenses, apps, packages, and other details will help you answer questions from executives instantaneously. Salesforce organically comes with some User Adoption apps, which are helpful, too.
As requests come in, you’ll want to have a backlog to handle the volume of bugs, enhancement requests, and other items that you are handling on a daily basis. Keep in mind that many executives only partially understand what you do. It is good to be able to show them all of the great work you are doing by documenting it and reporting on yourself.
6. Engage Stakeholders
The truly best admins go beyond handling every curveball thrown at them. The best of the best anticipate the needs of their organization. This is only possible if you are fully engaged with key stakeholders, managers, and decision-makers throughout the company. Understand what they do and why thye do it. Talk to end users to understand how they do their jobs. These conversations will unveil pain points that you might be able to solve.
This may take conscious effort, especially if you are carrying a heavy workload. Take the time to engage in conversations with these individuals as frequently as possible.
Additionally, stakeholders will have a varying understanding of what you do. They may have 15 years of experience using Salesforce and working with Admins, or they may look at it as a black box with mysteries inside. Conversations with stakeholders are a two-way street. They will appreciate your engagement in the business and willingness to help the company improve efficiency and profitability. It will also grow your importance to the organization as you position yourself as part of the solution.
7. Know how to search . . .
Joking of course.
Some problems can be solved with a google search, while others can’t. If you’ve found yourself ready to throw your computer out of the window when you can’t find what you are looking for, try a different approach. One technique is to change the scope of the search. If you are looking at something very specific, try searching more broadly. Likewise, if the broad search isn’t working try a long-string text and perhaps someone else had the same problem.
Salesforce’s help sites can be frustrating, but it is also factual documentation. When you jump to help page, it links to associated and related pages, too, which will give more detail and context.
However, there are other pages besides Google and Salesforce Help.
- Check out some of these gems when you are in a jam.
- https://searchtheforce.com/ - like google but for salesforce
- https://unofficialsf.com/ - great site for various different salesforce topics
- https://developer.salesforce.com/ - also a Salesforce site but explains things differently
- https://www.salesforceben.com/ - news, articles, study guides and more
- https://focusonforce.com/ - news, articles, study guides and more
Like Google, YouTube can be a wealth of information, with visual aids to go with it. Considering the easy channel of feedback to the video creator, you can even request answers to certain topics and potentially get a response video.
Last – and certainly not least – is the vastly improved Trailhead Community. Unlike many online communities, Trailhead is extremely active with many experienced individuals ready to respond with their input at the drop of a hat.
Bonus Tip . . . Never Stop Learning.
Whether it's Trailhead modules, certification prep, or getting your hands dirty with trial and error, push yourself to continue learning new things. The knowledge you have today may get you through today’s challenges, but continuous learning will keep you growing and progressing throughout the Salesforce ecosystem.