In January (2021) I was fortunate enough to be one of the speakers featured at this years edition of Nonprofit Dreamin. Overall, Nonprofit Dreamin was an amazing event ... in fact I'd say that it's the best Salesforce-focused conference that I've attended to date. Don't worry, I'm not being biased and saying that just because I as a speaker at it. The reason I say it's the best conference I've been to so far, is because of the fact that it was a great experience to be involved in it as an attendee, and it was a conference for those in the ecosystem that I would resemble in role and function the most ... essentially, it was an event for me and people like me ... Salesforce professionals in the Nonprofit sector.
The session I delivered was entitled Challenges for Solo Admins and How to Overcome Them. The content of the session covered five key challenges I believe the Solo Admin faces in their work. I categorised these five challenges based on my almost 4 years worth of experience as a Solo Admin and my observations from within the community.
If you would like to watch the video or download a copy of my slidedeck from the session, you can do so by clicking on these links: Video | Slidedeck
Answering Your Questions
In this post I will be taking a selection of the questions that were submitted during the presentation I delivered. My hope here is to provide answers that will be beneficial to the community as a whole. There will be nine questions that are answered here, eight from the Nonprofit Dreamin conference itself, and one from the session where I delivered this same presentation in Noida India earlier in the month of January.
So with that being said, let's dive right in to the questions:
1. How Many Users Are You Supporting as a Solo Admin?
The org I maintain where I work has (at the time of writing) 63 Active users. We actually have 69 Salesforce Platform licences, but 6 of them are not currently in use. These licences range in function and access rights, with some being in senior management positions, and most staff being frontline workers in one of projects.
2. Are There Any Online Groups Specifically for Nonprofits?
At the moment all (if not, certainly most) Community Groups are online and meeting virtually. There are plenty of Nonprofit focused Community Groups, if there is one in your area you should be able to find that by searching for it on the Trailblazer Community Group website. If there isn't a group in your area, why not consider starting one?
3. Where Do I Access the Slack Ohana?
You can access the Slack Ohana group here.
Please note that you must have an email address associated with one of the domains listed below in order to access the Slack Channel:
If you do not have an email associated with one of these domains, you will need to contact the Administrator of the Slack Channel to request an invitation to join.
4. What Are Some Good Salesforce Podcasts?
I enjoy personally really listening to the Mums on Cloud Nine Podcast from Supermums. The Salesforce Admin Podcast is another go to one for me as well. However, in all honesty I tend to gravitate more to video podcasts more than audio ones, the reason for this is two-fold, one I prefer podcasts in video-form, plus if you watch a video podcast on Salesforce you tend to find that any walk-through content they share is shown on screen, meaning you can follow along with what is being talked about in a real-time manner.
Some of the video podcast I listen to on a regular basis is as follows:
I'm sure I'm missing a ton from this list, please do feel to share which podcasts you watch or listen to in the comments below. I'm very tempted actually to put together a page for recommended Blogs, Podcasts and YouTube channels to watch so that people have a static resource available on this website for content to check out. Let me know in the comments if that is something you would be interested in ... if I do create a page for that, I'll also create a tool for submitting links for this kind of content and update the page on a regular basis when there is enough content sitting in the backlog to warrant an update.
5. How Do Your Respond When Asked a Question You Don't Have an Answer For?
OK, so now we're getting into some of the more meatier questions. This is the question that was asked at the session where I delivered this presentation in Noida India. And it's a very important questions for all Solo Admins I feel. After all, as a Solo Admin we tend to do a little bit of everything. We wear all the hats don't we? As a Solo Admins we end up being the defacto developer, analyst, architect and every other role that your organisation needs filling in managing their Salesforce Org/s. Many Solo Admins in the ecosystem also tend to be the Salesforce person on top of their main job functions such as marketing manager, fundraiser, etc. So being a person wearing multiple hats comes with the job.
As a result of having to wear multiple hats in your role, what often ends up being the case is that you end up being in a position where you can't possibly know everything. There is so much to learn about Salesforce as it is even in a more focused role such as a developer or an analyst, just imagine how much more the Solo Admin needs to have some level of understanding of due to the nature of their role. The Solo Admin has to prioritise what they focus on in regards to their learning and development strategically. So the reality is that there will not be one Solo Admin who knows everything about Salesforce.
This means that we will encounter questions that we don't know the answer to. So how I would answer this question is to respond to the person honestly. It's OK not to know the answer to certain questions, so don't ever feel bad about not knowing the answer to a question that you're asked. But be honest in how you respond, say you don't know, tell the person who asked the question that you will look into it and get back to them. What I will advise here is that you should always get back to someone, it is very easy to take a question, agree to get back to the person who asked and then not to do. We've probably all done that at one time or another, however, we should always aim to get back to someone when we have to go away and do some research on the question they've asked.
As a side note to this question, you may be asked a question that you have an inclining on what the answer might be, but the approach you think may be needed to answer that question is not a priority right now. In that kind of scenario I would respond by saying that you may have an answer, you need to confirm that, but the area in which the answer is centered isn't a priority right now. When you respond like that you should also try to commit to getting back to the person asking the question when you are able to look into it. Users in your org should understand that not everything can be a priority and that you have to be very strict and strategic in what you focus on in regards to building, developing and maintaining your org. It's OK to ask people to wait for a response if you can't give one straight away. If you do have a question like this, make a note of what the question was, who asked it and where possible a date on when you will be able to reply.
6. How Does Your Senior Lead/s Support You?
The support side can be a bit of a challenge as a Solo Admin in a Nonprofit. Overall my experience has been that whoever has managed me tends not to have the technical expertise in Salesforce that is needed in the ways that I tend to need support personally. Historically I've been afforded the room and the trust to manage the system and to reach out for the support that I need at times. To be honest, I don't think that my experience of having a "lack of support" is uncommon. Being a Solo Admin can be at times be a bit of an island in terms of support. My main avenues of support in all actuality tend to come from the Salesforce community rather than from within the organisation itself. When I say that, please don't read that as a criticism of the senior management at my place of work, we do have a great senior leadership team, but supporting me in the way that I need is not something that has historically happens due to the nature of the support I need.
How do you find that you are supported in your role as a Solo Admin? How would you answer this question? Do you find support lacking for the reasons that I have stated?
7. How Are You Managing Watching What Your Users Are Doing Working Remotely?
For me personally this is still a bit of a learning curve. At the time of writing, 100% of my working time is based at home, however for the vast majority of the users I support in my role are doing a hybrid approach where on certain days they are working in their main base of operations, and for the rest they are working from home. I wish I had a better answer to this than this, but for me right now things aren't really that different. Our setup prior to COVID meant that the way we work with Salesforce remained largely the same as it has been during COVID. I'm sure other organisations have had to change the way they work quite drastically, we haven't had to do that as of yet. However, we will be doing so prior to February 2021 with the announcement of Salesforce making MFA required for all Salesforce users by 1 February 2021.
What I have tried to do in terms of my role is to make myself more available. All of the training sessions I've ran have been held virtually with the majority of them being recorded. I have also tried to ensure that I can quickly hop onto a Zoom or Teams call to offer support for people. It's not something that has worked as well as I would've hoped for as there has been issues with uptake with that, but I'm hoping it will improve going forward. I would be interested in hearing how other Solo Admins have done been doing this during the pandemic period? Let me know how you've been doing this in the comments section below. It would be good to hear from others on this front.
8. How Would You Challenge a User Requesting Admin Access to Your Org?
Ah yes, this is such a common occurrence in the ecosystem actually. When I started getting more ingrained in the Salesforce community a couple of years back, I was actually quite surprised when I heard stories of this kind of request being made over and over again. In my time as a Solo Admin, I've only been asked to do this once ... thankfully.
Before I answer this question, let me first go over how I handled it when I was asked to do this in my organisation. It was a little over a year ago, and my line manager approached me and asked whether or not we could give admin rights to all of the Senior Managers that were using Salesforce and all of the Project Team Leaders. Now you can imagine the alarm bells that were ringing in my head when that request came in. So what I initially did was ask my line manager to explain why they were asking for this to be the case. As it turned out, the reason for this was because she wanted Senior Managers and PTL's to be able to reset the password for users they managed in their departments and projects. My response to that was to explain the inherent GDPR risks involved in giving that many people that kind of level of access to our data and to explain that I was intended on monitoring password reset requests as I wanted to identify trends that were coming up around who was asking for their passwords to be reset. My line manager mentioned that she was concerned that users could potentially be sitting for days without access to Salesforce if I was on leave, ill or not working when a request came in. My response to that was to suggest that if the organisation made my role full-time that would limit that a bit and I also highlighted that even when I am on leave that staff don't tend to sit for days without access to Salesforce as I do prioritise resetting passwords even when on leave.
So I guess my response to this is two-fold, first ask for a business case for this request. You'll probably find when you get it that what they are asking for is something that is either achievable through permission sets, modifying roles/profiles or it's not something that should be agreed to. Generally speaking, if it's something that is OK to do, you can probably do it without giving them admin access. The second part is to explain the risks involved in doing such a thing. Admin access should only be granted to those responsible for the administration and/or development of the system. It's a very important role that should only be given out to those who bear the kind of responsibility for maintaining the system that that role in your org affords. That will certainly not be everybody in your org.
9. What Do You Get Stuck With in Regards to Development?
To be honest, thankfully for me, I'm one of those people who if I give something the time of the day, I can generally figure it out and become quite good at it. I'm naturally a very technical person, so what I've done so far with the development side of things has for the most part been OK. So I haven't gotten stuck too often.
What I was getting stuck on the most until recently was loops in Flow. I've been working with Flow for about a year now, and while there is still quite a bit to learn, up until this week looping was the main challenge I faced with Flow. No matter what I tried, I just couldn't get Loops to work in the way I wanted them to. At the moment, I'm also a bit stuck on rendering maps the way I want to in Tableau CRM. For a while I have been working on displaying a map based on the first portion of a post code (in this scenario I did not have the whole post code), and I have been struggling to display all of the locations on a map. I've managed to get a map to work, but not one where each individual location is shown on the map I'm trying to render in a lens.
What I would add to this point is that it's OK to struggle with certain things in Salesforce. Remember how much we have to do as Solo Admins, there isn't enough time in our days to do everything we need to do, or to learn everything we need/want to learn. If there is something you are struggling with, it's OK to take a break and come back to it later. Sometimes space is the best medicine when it comes to these things. Also look for resources that may help you figure it out, and if you want to, reach out to the community. Chances are if you're struggling with something with Salesforce, someone else has struggled with it before you and can give advice on how to work through it.
Well that does it for my answers to the question that came in as part of delivering this presentation. What do you think of the answers that I have given? I'm sure there will be people in the community who can offer much better answers than what I have been able to offer here. So let's hear them. Share your thoughts in the comments below.