Making Allies for Your Salesforce Instance: A Practice to Try

Image of a train going across a bridge

As a System Administrator in a nonprofit, it’s not uncommon to feel like you’re a one-person-shop as you work on your instance. You might feel a bit lonely at times, because no one really truly understands what you do on a daily basis. You might even be saying to yourself on some days, “What the heck did I do all day?” but you know you were busy creating new fields, reports, attempting to translate a users needs into something in the instance, cleaning up data, sending out emails, trying to troubleshoot a user problem, and maybe even pushing back on requested changes. It can be a lot for a single person who likely wears multiple hats in the organization.

In our work with nonprofits at Database Sherpa, we try to help database admins close the gap between the day-to-day reality of their work and the understanding others have of it. By closing the gap, you’ll not only hopefully feel more visible (and valuable!) in the work you do, but your nonprofit will also get a stronger base of understanding its own data.

One practice that we’ve been embracing is an Instance Tour. These tours are a proactive, thoughtful way to hold space for introducing your team to your Salesforce instance… and as a bonus, they create more space for dialogue and documentation to be created along the way!

As a database administrator, you know your instance is about so much more than the front-end of Salesforce where program staff, fund development managers, volunteer managers, and others enter data. But often you’re the only one privy to the important back-end of the relationship to data. Instance tours give you a chance to share some of that knowledge and nurture some back-up knowledge on your team so you can take a vacation once in awhile. (What is a vacation? If you’re asking, it’s something you need to take!)

The key to this tour is to have fun and make it enjoyable by showing someone else the delights of administration of your Salesforce instance. Be proud of what you have created and continue to develop… the more excited you, the more excited your tourist will be!

The Path to a Mindful Instance Tour

Inviting Someone Along

Find someone who is interested in learning more about Salesforce. This is someone who you notice may push a bit on the functionality, asking for additional features, or maybe wants to do more of the reporting on their own. Begin by asking questions:

  1. How do you like using Salesforce? What don’t you like about Salesforce?

  2. How would you like to see the inner guts of Salesforce? How the sausage is made? What are you most curious about?

  3. How’d you like to be a backup Salesforce Administrator? (be sure to see if the person’s boss or even your boss are okay with this before beginning).

  4. How would you like to help me document this instance so we have something for our organization long term? As you go through the tour, be sure to have the person you’ve invited make notes, encourage them to ask questions, and agree on a way the notes will be shared after the tour.

Planning the Tour

  1. Choose two or three areas or features you most want to explore with this person. Remember, focus on two or three areas at the most. The point of this is to share details at a deeper level and ask them to write down what you are saying, not to do it all at once. You can do another tour for other topics if this works out well with this person!

  2. Write an outline down in your own words based on your two or three focus areas. This will be used to keep you on track as well as writing down the items you wish to discuss. You could ask your tourist to share one question they have about each of the areas, for example.

  3. Schedule a date for the tour, plan for an hour. 30-45 minutes of show-and-tell and 15 minutes of Q&A.

Hosting the Tour

  1. On the date of the tour, create a copy of the outline for yourself and one for your tourist.

  2. It might be helpful to record the tour itself, but for sure ask your tourist to take notes. You may even point out key sites and ask them to write it down for you. Stay focused on the Why and a little on the How. The key things to remember are business processes and settings. “Why do we do it this way?” is an important question to address during the entire tour. If you need to, remind your tourist to write down as much as possible.

  3. At the end of the tour, ask them

    1. What else would you like to learn?

    2. What is the one thing that sticks with you?

    3. What is one things that surprised you?

    4. For a copy of their notes.

  4. Review the notes and write down your thoughts on what you learned and what they told you. If they asked questions, write those down to begin a little FAQ.

  5. Take a deep breath. You did it! If this was fun, schedule another tour with this tourist or another colleague. Having more than one viewpoint is always helpful. We do recommend doing this one-on-one, to allow for a deeper conversation with your tourist. And if this felt like a helpful approach, you might consider sharing the experience with your team or supervisor, to thank your colleague for their participation and express the hope of making time for more tours in the future. As you share what works, your team will learn more and more about the work you’re doing behind-the-scenes on the data everyone relies on.

Tours can be a great first step to having an ally, colleague and friend who understands the challenges and documenting your instance. If you try it out in your nonprofit, we hope you’ll let us know how it goes! And if you’re looking for more hands-on support for practices like this, consider checking out one of our treks.