Excel as a Salesforce Administrator

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Focus on People: Jasmin Ashley

I have been a Salesforce.com consultant for two years in Wellington, New Zealand. A career in IT was not a focus while I was studying both a Marketing and Psychology degree. I even completed a couple of IT papers while at university, wondering why they were compulsory. Having worked a series of different jobs in different industries in the build up to this role, I observed different businesses and processes and made great connections with the people I worked with. I entered into the working world observing business processes, rolled my sleeves up with some systems testing and got into building and creating solutions.

Salesforce.com consulting to me is a combination of; maintaining relationships, self-directed development and fixing things.

Five years ago I was fresh out of university, working for an Agricultural Finance company as an administrator for their rewards program. Clients spent money, which accumulated points and I would take their redemption requests and place the orders. The company had just switched their solution and the rewards program had been configured at a basic level. I had started the role just after go live and there were a few teething issues that other staff had developed “work-arounds” for.

While working within the role I made notes on both the business process and solution issues that could be easily fixed. As the work place was social I got into a conversation with the head of the IT department and highlighted these issues. Luckily the business was conducting an assessment of both the processes and the fixes in the system and I became part of the team working to fix them all. Here I got a taste for process mapping and system testing and really enjoyed seeing things fixed.

As with any Kiwi, the desire to travel overseas struck and I resigned to take off to London. To get on my feet quickly I took two jobs; one working in an east London fish and chip shop and the other as a global events company administrator supporting a global sales team. It was perfect timing – it had just been announced that a Salesforce.com coupled with financialforce.com solution was going to be implemented and my team was the first to enjoy the new experience.

Spare time, two system replacements and a desire to improve how things work, led to my considering a job working with Salesforce.com

Again, I found myself talking with the company finance manager, an Aussie from Adelaide that I got along with really well. It was that mutual understanding of being in London, so far from home. Testing, training and materials were required for this “soft go-live” and there was going to be a cross over with the new CRM. As I had spare time in my role I was quickly introduced into the world of Salesforce.com and speaking with consultants from both financialforce and Salesforce. I enjoyed learning what features were relevant to the business and helping the sales team adopt the new solution. I also found myself becoming some-what of a subject matter expert in how our company ran and what it required from salesforce. I started to look into the ADMN201 certification and was encouraged by both internal management and those consultants working on the project, to pursue a role and get sponsored. Unfortunately my visa was up and I was heading back to New Zealand.

I wasn’t aware of Salesforce.com while I was in New Zealand, but the experience in London had me sure that this was something that I should look into. Within a month of being back I had signed on to become a consultant with a Wellington based platinum partner in salesforce.com. The week I started, I was having a minor panic that I wasn’t going to be a very good consultant.

A great community, network and the rewarding experience of making a change, has led to where I am today.

The first six months in the role were a learning curve and I had great mentors. From the senior consultant leading my first project, to the project manager and our team manger I was supported. There was a free flow of advice from the wider team who weren’t competing with each other but working together to deliver. Those first few months I focused on the following; trailhead and salesforce basics, requirements gathering, documentation and follow up, I observed client meetings and sat in on presentations. Initially, I found it hard to say no to requests and fixes and while I was still learning salesforce I was conscious of the time it would take to configure. But over time my knowledge and confidence grew.

The senior on my project challenged me and gave me tasks that took me out of the comforts of configuration and put me at the front. The project manager made me aware of not only my part to play but the wider goals of the project and the importance of relationship management and I myself studied the materials to get the administration certificate and took a liking to reports and dashboard configuration.

Over the last 12 months I have worked hard to take on lead roles. I have also specialised in the salesforce add on Conga Composer, developing a relationship with the ASPAC team and implementing document generation functions within salesforce, allowing a well rounded solution to solve all requirements.

The advice I would offer to anyone thinking of getting into consulting; regularly log into trailhead and actively participate in projects.

Consulting is not just configuring a solution and giving it to a company. It’s the before and the after that make the whole experience;

  • Stand ups within your team
  • Touching base with all those involved including project management and sales.
  • Clarification of requirements and managing conversations around priorities and need.
  • Design confirmation
  • Coffee
  • Configuration
  • Research
  • Documentation and emails to clients explaining where you are at and what you are doing
  • Phone calls from concerned managers and project managers regarding timings, go live dates and workload
  • Testers not being able to log in to test
  • Bugs or enhancements and the definition of high priority fixes.
  • More coffee
  • Training sessions with snacks provided, and clients excited about the possibilities of chatter.
  • Webinars of app features or releases
  • Presentations showing all the hard work paying off and client needs being met.

What I have come to enjoy the most from consulting is the solution solving the need and handing it over to the users. When you complete a project on time and within budget and they are excited about how it is going to make their job better. Training and presenting have become the tasks I look forward to on a project because I get to see if I have listened to the client properly. I get to read their reactions when I demonstrate a section of the solution and see the results of the work put in.

What has been a learning curve in this role is the need for clear communication and planning from both sides. Communicating change within the client, communicating why a solution has been designed a certain way. If a project doesn’t have the right foundations it can get out of hand, if the client isn’t sure what their needs are or are struggling to communicate them. It can turn into a game of guessing. If I don’t ask the right questions, I don’t get the answers that help the build.

Both parties are investing time into a project and if it is not used effectively, due to a lack of communication, it can go off course.

In starting with salesforce, my initial goal was to up-skill to be able to design and build great solutions and get back into the UK salesforce market. After returning to New Zealand and consulting my goals have evolved as I have understood salesforce.com and the role it plays within business process and function. I want to be part of building effective and efficient solutions as well as enable users and businesses to take ownership and continue the development of both their business and Salesforce instances.

To achieve this I aspire to continue with consulting, complete the training / certifications and build on my experience with a focus on achieving a Salesforce.com training certification.

Training leads to better ownership and adoption of a solution ensures its success both for the client and the consultant.

My journey into salesforce was surrounded by a supportive community and a drive to get into it and learn as much as I could. I am grateful to those individuals who took the time to mentor me and give me advice. I have also developed with the access to the huge and helpful online community as well as the add-on and app exchange product representatives. I would recommend pursuing a career in salesforce.com consulting if you too are a problem solver that likes to roll their sleeves up and work with people.