Hire? Outsource? Contractors? Managed Services? Consultants?
One thing that isn’t always top-of-mind when implementing a powerful CRM like Salesforce is the best strategy to keep Salesforce evolving with your business. Discussing your ongoing support plan can have major ramifications for the cost of Salesforce, but also the effectiveness of your Salesforce platform.
Here are the 5 things you should consider as you plan to support Salesforce.
1. Understand your Salesforce Technical Needs Before you Look for Resources
Salesforce is huge. There literally are too many clouds, features, and functionalities in the Salesforce-verse for one administrator to know it all. This can make the task of identifying the right Salesforce Administrator resource for your organization a little challenging.
If you are a larger company that has had Salesforce for years, your company probably has an in-house Salesforce individual or even team. Does your company measure that team’s output to ensure you have the right size of team with the right skills? If you are at a smaller company or one that is relatively new to Salesforce, you may be looking to move away from expensive Salesforce consultants and bring that skill in-house. How do you know if that is the right move?
The answer to both scenarios is thorough documentation of your Salesforce ecosystem and what skills a Salesforce professional would need to support your platform. What clouds do you have? What are the integrations to other systems? Do you have a heavily customized Salesforce org? Did your implementation require custom Apex or Visual Force development? How many users do you have? Do you have a current Salesforce backlog of work? Do you just need day-to-day user support?
Answering these questions should start to give you a clearer picture of the perfect person or people you need for ongoing support.
2. Understand what a Salesforce Admin is...and What it isn’t
There are two primary categories when it comes to Salesforce professionals; Admins, and Devs. They have very different skill sets and rarely is someone actually “both” although many will claim to be. Fact is, most will fall squarely on one side or the other of that divide. If you aren’t sure which one you need, chances are more than likely that you need an Admin. Devs are usually working behind the scenes at companies with large, complex systems. Admins, on the other hand, can have a wide range of responsibilities ranging from day-to-day maintenance, bug fixing, user support, user training, reporting and dashboarding, and future requirement documentation and validation. If you find yourself needing someone to do these tasks and think they will need 8 hours per day to complete all those tasks, it may be time to consider hiring a full-time Administrator.
3. So you Need an Admin. But How Senior and How Many?
If you aren’t sure, the following is based on Salesforce’s recommendations:
1-30 Users < 1 Full-Time Mid-Level Administrator ($80K Average U.S. Salary)
31-74 Users 1+ Full-Time Mid to Senior Level Administrator ($95K+ Average U.S. Salary)
75-149 Users 1 Full-Time Senior and 1 Full-Time Junior
150-499 Users 1 Business Analyst and 2-4 Admins
500-750 Users 1-2 Business Analysts and 2-4 Admins
>750 Users - needs can vary from company to company (you may want to make sure you aren’t experiencing Salesforce resource “bloat” as many large companies who run Salesforce do) Often companies can use a blend of in-house and professional services to get a better result at a lower cost than trying to keep everything in house.
Don't forget to check out: My Wild Career Journey: From Lawyer to Salesforce Consultant
4. You Need one or More Salesforce Resources. What are your Options?
Good news: You have options.
Bad news: None of those options is free and you probably will never be “done” needing help.
That is just a reality with all modern software tools that are worth having. They evolve, you need to evolve with them and vice versa.
Here are some simple guidelines about your options and when to exercise those options:
- Promote a “SuperUser” at your company and give them basic Salesforce Administrative responsibilities. This is where most great Salesforce Admins get their start.
- They already work for you = cost-effective
- They already know your Salesforce system
- They understand your processes and business mode
- Super Users are super at their current job. You can’t expect them to continue their old job AND be your Salesforce Admin. You will be losing them in their old role and they may need to be replaced.
- Salesforce Administration is not the same as being a User. They’ll need training which takes additional time and costs money.
- You’ll need to purchase upgraded support from Salesforce (Premier Support) and even that has serious limitations when it comes to supporting your company. Often they won’t help with issues they determine are not part of their scope of service, leaving you on your own.
- It takes years to become a good Salesforce Administrator so don’t expect too much out of the gates.
- Once word gets out that they are a Salesforce Administrator, they will be heavily recruited and you will most likely either need to pay them much more or risk losing them to another company.
- Contract with a Salesforce Consulting Partner Partners tends to offer a range of services that could help: Advisory Services, Managed Services, Project Services, are all common offerings.
- You get Senior Level Salesforce Administrators with experience in your industry
- They have multiple consultants who can cover for each other and they can assign the right consultant specialist for each issue that arises
- You only pay for the hours spent solving your problems
- Hourly cost can seem high (this thinking can be a trap) *
- They typically aren’t “on-site” but that isn’t as important these days...
- Response times can vary depending on how you are engaged with them
- You won’t always get the same person for every task you need to be completed
- Look for a Full-Time Salesforce Administrator
- Lower hourly cost (this thinking can be a trap) *
- Ultimate access to your employee
- They only work on and think about your Salesforce needs
- Very hard to find good ones
- Even harder to keep them for a long time
- Relatively high salary expectations relative to years of experience
- Ex: A good admin with multiple certifications and 5 years of professional experience can cost as much as $120k+ per year
- You should plan on using a specialized search firm and you’ll probably need to replace your Salesforce Admin every 1.5 - 3 years.
- Unless you are positive you need them for 40 hours per week you could be paying more than using high powered consultants
- Salesforce Premier Support (isn’t a viable replacement for a Salesforce Admin but rather a supplemental service for general help desk and support)
- Access to knowledgeable “help-desk” style support
- Relatively quick response times for what you pay (typically next business day)
- You need to know what the problem is. They aren’t great at diagnosing problems
- They don’t get into business requirements and don’t “consult”
5. Recommendations for the type of Salesforce Support you should get depending on your needs:
- Replacing a Salesforce Administrator who left your company - chances are if you had a full-time Salesforce Administrator in the first place, you’ve got regular urgent needs that person was handling. Thus, you won’t last very long without a replacement. There is a massive shortage of qualified Salesforce resources so don’t plan on finding a replacement immediately. You will most likely need to find an interim solution as you conduct the search and hiring process.
- This is the perfect time to try Managed Services from a Certified Salesforce Partner. They will keep the lights on and give you a good comparison of task-to-completion velocity from the departing Admin. If you are like many companies, you may find that a consultant is actually cheaper and does better work than the departed FTE. But even if they remain a temporary solution, the benefits of doing this far outweigh the cost.
- If you know that you need 40 hours per week of a highly specialized resource and Managed Services won’t be an option, you will most likely need help to attract and hire a full-time Salesforce Administrator to meet your needs. You will want to engage a search firm that specializes in Salesforce to perform this service for you. There is virtually a 0% Salesforce Unemployment rate so finding qualified candidates requires actual recruiting where someone is contacting candidates who are employed and convincing them to change jobs. If Managed Services aren’t an option, consider contract-to-hire or remote hire. It is typically a faster way to find a good match than local FTE recruitment.
- Your Salesforce backlog is growing faster than your team can keep up with
- This is another perfect scenario for Managed Services from a Certified Salesforce Partner. If a partner can help pick up the slack for 10-15 hours per week it could end up giving your team the breathing room to catch up. Often you can ask the senior consultants to help train your team members on skills they may not have yet, adding an extra bonus to bringing in temporary “heavy hitters.”
- You think you may be ready for your first Salesforce hire
- Make sure to clearly define how that individual is going to spend 8 hours per day, 5 days per week. If you aren’t sure you can find THAT much work for them...find a Certified Salesforce Partner Managed Services provider instead. You’ll get better results at a lower cost per result*
Check out an amazing Salesforce Infographic here: How to Become a Salesforce Consultant?
To Sum Up:
How you support Salesforce can be just as strategic and customized to your company as the Salesforce system itself. One size rarely fits all and it is a good idea to use a blend of support resources they use for different scenarios of needs.
*The trap of thinking in terms of hourly cost: Analyzing hourly cost can be very misleading when weighing options for Salesforce Support. It is recommended you try to identify a “cost-per-result” instead.
Example: A Salesforce Consulting Partner quotes you a bill rate of $200 per hour. You experience sticker shock and immediately think “I can hire a Salesforce Admin for $80K per which costs me about $50 per hour including benefits and everything!”
The problem with that rationale is that you may not need a full-time Salesforce Admin at all. You may only have enough tasks to keep a Senior Salesforce Admin busy for 5-10 hours per week. Even if you are replacing a full-time Salesforce Admin who left your company, are you sure they were working, “heads-down” for 40 hours per week? What about meetings, long lunches, vacations, sick days, Facebooking, etc?
So while you think you just saved a lot of money, You actually may have just cost your company more money per result.
Consulting companies often can cover the entire job of a departed internal Salesforce Admin in 5-10 hours per week because they are experienced and can do most tasks in a fraction of the time a mid or junior Admin can. Most importantly, they don’t bill for hours they aren’t working on your tasks.
$200 x 7 hours per week x 52weeks = $72,800 (work done by Senior and Architect level Salesforce Resources)
FTE Costs your company $80K (work done by a junior to mid-level Salesforce Admin who may or may not have followed best practices)
Figuring out a cost per result is fairly simple. If you have in-house admins, look at their task completion history for 1 month or a quarter or whatever you chose your timeframe should be.
(Ex: 21 tasks completed)
Figure out how many working days it took for them to complete the tasks. (Ex: 1 task per day for 21 days)
That comes to 8 hours per task
There are approximately 2000 work hours in a year
Divide their salary by 2000 and multiply that by 8 and you have your cost per task
Ex: $80K / 2000 x 8 = $320 cost per result
Now ask a Certified Salesforce Consulting Partner to estimate a similar group of tasks over a month “trial”.
More often than not, the estimate will be a fraction of the hours it took your in-house resource and at or below the total cost per result.