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Published on January 29th, 2016 | by Chris Edwards

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Admin Commandment #7: An Awesome Admin should always… position themselves between IT and the business

Welcome back to our series on the Awesome Admin Ten Commandments! Last week we spoke at the inaugural London’s Calling community event, releasing all of our ten commandments into the wild for the first time, and we’re excited to share the final three commandments with you all. Starting with…

Admin Commandment #7: an awesome admin should always position themselves between IT and the business.

In a previous commandment, we talked about how admins should know the value of both clicks and code. In that article, we talked about how you don’t want to risk throwing away your seat at the table by being blind to the power and the capabilities of coding. In this commandment, we will discuss how and why admins get that seat at the table in the first place.

In my experience of being an admin and speaking to other admins, it is clear that different organisations call their ‘administrators’ a variety of things. One of my favourite questions in the admin community is this: “Is ‘admin’ the right word for what we do?”. Often this manifests itself as a question from one admin to another: “What’s your job title?”. For me, just as interesting as what you are called within your organisation is where you sit within that organisation – which department do you report to?

For some businesses, the Salesforce ‘department’ (often a synonym for the lone admin) is to be found within their IT organisation. For others, the role sits within functional departments, perhaps those that it most closely works with or assists – maybe sales, maybe support/operations, even marketing.

If you ask a group of admins what department they report to, you are almost certain to get a variety of answers. And that clearly indicates that different organisations see Salesforce as ‘fitting into’ different areas of their business.

The reason for this is clear. Salesforce administration is, obviously, a technical role that requires specific skills, just like most IT roles. But it also has direct, easily-comprehended applications within the functional side of every business. We’re not talking about the kind of technical role that deals with, for example, server upgrades or changes to network security protocols that happen in the background and (hopefully) impact no-one. Instead we administrators enable real-world, highly visible and immediately meaningful business outcomes for the wider team, like who can access what data, making new options available in the picklist, or creating new reports.

And yet even if you do directly impact sales, or operations, or marketing, you are not a sales person, or a support rep, or a marketing professional and therefore you may not completely identify with and report to those teams.

Salesforce administration is, therefore, one of the very few positions in a business that often finds itself equidistant between the technology organisation and the wider business. Some might see this as a negative (“Do people actually understand what I do, and that it’s a *real* job?”) but, for me, it’s more that the role is one that is equally respected for its technical ability and for its capability to impact and improve business processes and performance.

This is why the Salesforce admin finds themselves with that seat at the table, where you can be close to (and even influence) business decisions and strategy and yet still be seen as an impartial technical expert.

Our advice is to take pride in that position and to fight to maintain it. Whereas most other technical roles in a business might be seen by the wider business as “just techies” and most other functional roles might receive a dismissive “they just don’t get the technology” from the IT department, you find yourself in an almost unique position of influence within your company.

Do what you can to preserve that position and to keep a foot in both camps. If you or your company want you to move more towards the technology side of things, fight to stay involved in business discussions and stay close to discussions around strategy and process. If you or your company want you to move closer towards the business, ensure you don’t become one of the crowd and that you maintain that position of technical expertise to ensure you can still benefit from the job-specific training and certification support that your IT colleagues will be getting.

Wherever you sit in your team, be proud – and protective – of your seat at the table.

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