Solo Admins: Are You Spinning Plates?


balancing_many_things_800_11196A few weeks ago, I had the good fortune to be selected to speak at Southeast Dreamin’ in Atlanta.  The topic I chose was about moving from being a solo admin to creating a CoE (Center of Excellence).  I could not have been more pleased at how well the session went and the amazing questions that I got from the audience.  Since there seemed to be so much interest in the topic, I have opted to break down my talk into a few blog posts.

This first post is about understanding why solo admins are constantly in a state of spinning plates and how to to start to get ahead of the plate spinning activity and actually be effective in the role of solo admin.

  1. Lack of Understanding by Management on the role of Solo Admin

What were the original expectations of the role?  Yes, we know that roles tend to evolve over time but often the solo admin role is created off of the back of a small implementation, whereby the admin is responsible for creating new users, delivering some end user training and report building.  As the Salesforce needs grow, the solo admin tries to keep pace and starts taking on more functions.  Reviewing the expectations of the role against what the role currently encompasses is a good way to bring light to the additional duties and if there is a need, justify additional assistance if these are out of balance.  Salesforce also has document that recommends the amount of admins necessary to maintain Salesforce based on the number of users.  Consult with your AE or CSM to get additional up to date information.

When I started as a solo admin, I had a 450 license org for a few lines of business.  In the span of a year, I ended up with 1000+ licenses and 13 lines of business using the same org.  Ideally, it would be best to not get to the point where you drop all of the spinning plates.. which leads me to my next point.

2. Not Quantifying the Amount of Requests Received from Users

Requests come in from end users on a daily basis and these could be through email, chatter posts, phone calls and office fly bys.  Are you tracking all of these requests to adequately quantify your time and where most of it is being spent?  If you are not doing this now, begin immediately.  No, really.  Stop reading and go set this up!  You can finish reading the post later! There are a number of ways to track requests, I’ve used the Cases object and a special record type to record any requests from users.  I’ve heard of others using Chatter (less quantifiable), Ideas and the app exchange app, ChangeIt!  Feel free to leave others in the comments.  The reason why this is important is that it gives you justification for employing additional services, such as Premier Support, Managed Services or a consultancy partner.

3. Spending Time on Non Value Add Activities

Do end users call you for password resets? Do you feel like you spend all day doing things but not accomplishing anything?  By tracking what you’re doing (which you’ll be doing if you read #2 above..) you can see where your time is being spent.  Pluck out the items that bring the most value, such as project work or training and look to offload some of the more mundane tasks to other areas.  A solo admin is in their role because they are the heart and soul of the Salesforce org, so why have them spend time resetting passwords?  That is something that can either be offloaded to IT support or even Premier Support, as I have done in the past.  This all brings me to the fourth point.

4. Create a plan (and possibly a business case)!

Is your Salesforce org holding steady at around the same number of licensing or are you going to be adding functionality, business units or additional licenses?  Have you implemented a change management process and a fortnightly release cycle? (For non Brits, fortnightly is every two weeks!) All of these things will throw off any delicate balance you may have achieved with those spinning plates above.  If your org is holding steady with no changes, then you’ve won the admin jackpot!  But for the other 99.9% of the population, it’s essential to have a plan in place to manage current items in flight, items on the horizon and a block of time for production support.  By having data around production support items, it’s easier to identify the amount of time needed and balance it against the items in flight and on the horizon.  If the total of all 3 equals more than one person, you may need to use that plan to build out a business case.

5. OPTIONAL: Getting Assistance


If the outcome of the four steps above is that you need to take on additional assistance to be effective, don’t worry.  There are ways of doing this that will align nicely with your business case activities from step four.

Review the type of assistance needed and then align to a recommended approach.  Some of these include:

Production Support Assistance: Salesforce Premier Success offers a number of options with a 24/7 support line to assist with everything from password resets to actual development support such as writing apex code.

Project Level Implementation Support: Look to engage with a Salesforce Partner that can manage the requirements gathering, design, build and implementation of your Salesforce effort.  The Partner should also be ideally working with you in a knowledge transfer capacity so that you are aware and can manage the new functionality going forward.

Post Project Support: Most Partners can offer managed services support post implementation to support the functionality that was built as a result of the above implementation.

Hire Staff:  Sometimes it makes sense to onboard additional admins or begin to build a Center of Excellence.  More to come in the next post!