Admin Commandment #8: An Awesome Admin should always… care about the community!

As we approach the end of our Awesome Admin Ten Commandments series, we simply had to find space for a commandment relating to the Salesforce community which has taught us, and countless others, so much over the years.

In an earlier commandment, we talked about the benefits of admins pushing on with their own learning and doing all they can to pay that knowledge forward to help others. We used Trailhead as our primary example of where to obtain that learning, but of course your options don’t end there. There are several other places where admins can learn, and it’s those we want to focus on to here.

And before we start, let’s mention that this isn’t simply about learning. All of the community resources we’ll discuss here offer us admins much more than just that, like networking opportunities, the chance to contribute and help others and, best of all, to have fun while doing it.

Let’s start with a community resource close to our hearts…

User Groups

There are now so many user groups throughout the world that we almost don’t need to explain what they are and how they work. Just look at this…

Salesforce User Groups

…and that’s without the Hawaii user group which we couldn’t even fit onto the image (and which I’m sure I could make myself available for if they need any guest speakers!).

User groups are customer-organised groups that meet in-person and online to discuss and learn all things Salesforce. They are your key in-person opportunity to network, share ideas and get tips on making the most of your Salesforce usage and career.

And there is more than just one flavour of user group. Take London, for example. Here we are lucky enough to have not just a ‘regular’ user group (recently reborn as the London Business User Group) and a Developer user group, but also the world’s first administrator-focused user group and also the UK Non-Profit group too.

Depending on what role you play within your business and what kind of organisation you work for, there could perhaps be something for you at each of these different types of user group. But what can you get out of attending?

Each meetup is primarily designed to do two things – share knowledge and tips with you, usually through a guest speaker discussing a specific topic, and to give you the opportunity to meet with and get to know other Salesforce users. These could be your peers, your next recruit or even your next boss.

Success Community

The next community resource I want to highlight is perhaps what most people think of when we say ‘Salesforce community’, the Success Community itself.

With the number of community members recently passing the two-million milestone, there is a strong chance you’re aware of and using this community already, so we won’t go into great detail about it and instead we’ll let you use that time to celebrate the milestone using the #Success2M topic tag. But let’s just spend some time listing the areas that you’ll find on Success and how they can help you in your quest to be an awesome admin.

Firstly, the Answers site, many people’s primary destination when they visit Success. This is your forum to ask questions of your peers, to mine their expertise and to solve any problems you’re having or to get help on a tough requirement you’re trying to satisfy.

What the uninitiated often don’t get about Answers is that those answering the questions often get as much out of it as those asking them. And we don’t simply mean the points and ranking that community members accumulate through answering questions. I speak from experience when I say that you will honestly learn more from answering the questions of others than you will teach them in return. Some questions you’ll know the answer to right away and can quickly add value and help others out. Other questions will make you think or challenge how you thought something would work. It’s these ones that will teach you the most – be curious, log in to a dev org and try out a potential solution. If you find one, you can help that person, and you can help yourself if you ever hit the same requirement in the future.

But Success isn’t just about Answers. There are also a large (and growing) number of collaboration groups, where you can join in wider discussions. These groups are often focused on a particular audience (for example regional, industry vertical or by job role) or a certain feature (e.g. Reports and Dashboards), so there is almost certainly somewhere you’ll find the audience that can help you best.

But what else can you find on Success? Well, how about the IdeaExchange? This is your place to voice your opinion on the product and its features (or lack of). The key rule here really is to search before you post – one idea with a thousand votes is going to be much more powerful than ten ideas with one hundred votes each. And recent changes mean that an idea now only needs 250 votes to guarantee some attention from Salesforce’ product management team, so you know that if your idea is popular enough then your voice will be heard.

Finally I want to talk about one of the more hidden areas of Success – the Known Issues site, where known bugs affecting the platform are listed. This really is a hidden gem for admins, and let me explain why.

Most admins will only ever visit Known Issues when they hit a problem that is affecting them, either to check for an existing issue, to see if they need to contact support to raise a new one, or to find out if any known workarounds are listed. Fair enough, being reactive is often all we have time to be. But what about if we could somehow let known issues come to us so that we can proactively monitor them and be made aware of something we wouldn’t otherwise discover or prepare for something that may affect our org in the future? Using the power of recipe-building apps like IFTTT, we can. We discuss that more in this post from a couple of years ago.

Other Community Resources

If user groups and the Success Community are the official community channels managed by Salesforce, then are there perhaps other channels out there in the wider world that admins can learn from and contribute to? You bet.

How about the Salesforce Stack Exchange? Similar to the Answers community or the developer forums in many ways, this where users can ask and answer questions on a variety of Salesforce topics. If you have previously shied away from using this resource thinking it is mostly focused on developers posing deeply-technical questions of other developers, you are not alone – I thought the same thing until very recently.

And for sure there is a large number of Apex and Visualforce questions to be found there. But not only those. Many users are looking for help on other topics that are much more in the ‘wheelhouse’ of us admins – in the 24 hours prior to my writing this post, questions were asked on email alerts, field mapping, login issues, dashboards, and the Data Loader. Even if the question is about how to achieve something in Apex and Visualforce, often there is a clicks solution that might help the asker achieve the same result in a quicker and more maintainable way.

Finally, let’s consider the enormous power and reach of Twitter, where the #askforce hashtag is your route to getting your problem or question in front of a vast and varied audience to find help (provided you can fit your issue into 140 characters, although that limitation may not be there forever).

So how does an awesome admin use these resources?

We’ve seen that there are numerous places where admins can learn outside of the excellent Trailhead, and where they can network, meet others and have fun while doing so.

Part of the journey to becoming an awesome admin is about knowing where to go to find help. These resources will add to your knowledge and will help you achieve more – and that alone will make you more awesome.

But as you know, we are passionate about giving back to the community and paying forward any benefit these many resources may give you. So our commandment is not just to know and use these resources to solve questions and gain knowledge, but wherever possible to ensure that you are giving back and helping others along the way.

Don’t just post questions on these channels, answer them. Don’t just attend user groups, volunteer to speak at them. Often it’s only when you start sharing your story and your knowledge with others that you realise just how much you know and just how much of an awesome admin you already are. And by helping others and contributing to the community, you will grow in knowledge and in stature – in short, you’ll become even more awesome!

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