Designating a Salesforce administrator is crucial to your success

Keep the data clean! I'm watching you.

Admins keep an eye on their data

As nonprofit Salesforce consultants, we ALWAYS recommend that organizations have a designated database administrator. In fact, we feel so strongly about it that we don’t start a project unless the organization commits to finding (and allowing time for) someone to fulfill that role. Here’s why:

  • You need someone to “own” your data. This person is responsible for making sure your data is clean — dealing with duplicates, bad data, and other inevitable side effects of multiple people entering data from multiple sources. If your users can’t trust the data in the database, they won’t use it. They’ll go back to maintaining their individual spreadsheets. (Yes, we’ve seen this happen.) On the other hand, an admin who is keeping an eye on data quality and integrity will help ensure the database stays useful and relevant to your organization.
  • You need someone to lead the user adoption effort. The shiniest and most amazing database will not be so shiny and amazing if no one is using it. Successful user adoption requires knowing your users and what motivates them, conducting trainings that target the tasks your users actually need to do in order to do their jobs, and ongoing support. Ongoing training and support is critical to your organization’s success with your database, and your administrator should be the one to lead this effort. Your administrator will also need to stay up on how new releases will affect your database, and prepare users for any upcoming changes.
  • You need someone to manage changes and user requests — for new functionality, new fields, updated reports, workflow rules, validation rules, licensing new staff, deactivating licenses for staff who have left your organization, etc. Your needs as an organization aren’t static, and neither is your database. You want someone to help your database grow with you and manage changes in a logical way that makes sense for your organization. Having a central person who has a handle on your data model and how the data fits together, along with an understanding of the needs of the different users and programs, will go a long way towards ensuring that new requests and functionality are introduced in a thoughtful, rather than an ad-hoc sort of way.
  • You need someone who knows where to get help. Being an effective administrator doesn’t mean knowing everything about Salesforce — but you do need to know where to get answers to your questions. Your administrator should know how to make the best use of the plentiful resources available to nonprofit users of Salesforce, such as Salesforce Support, the Salesforce Foundation’s Power of Us Hub, and local Salesforce Users Groups, to name just a few.

How much time should you allocate for your Salesforce administrator? It depends on a number of factors, including the complexity of your system and the number of users. For organizations with multiple programs and over 30 users, we recommend a full-time staff person. For smaller organizations, with up to 10 users, you can probably get by with 25% of a staff person’s time. If you have several teams (fundraising, programs, events, etc.) that use Salesforce, consider using a hub and spoke model. In this model you have one primary administrator that supports a designated administrator (or power user) in each team. See Salesforce’s “Best Practices for Administrators” for additional guidance.

The crucial piece is that you actually prioritize this work, and make sure that the designated staff person has the appropriate amount of time to do their job well. Doing so will put the foundation in place for happy users and long-term success with your database.

What qualities make someone a great admin? Two great posts are Top Qualities in a Great CRM Administrator and 10 Must Have Qualities Your Administrator Should Have.

Ready to get someone started as an admin? Learn the first things a Salesforce admin needs to know.

Finally, our friends at Bright Step Partners have a great post digging more into the importance of the database ownership role in an organization.