Sunday, November 16, 2014

Salesforce Administrators May Be Developers Without Realizing It

The path from Salesforce Administrator to Developer is much easier than the path from developer to administrator, I have come to believe.  It is easier for administrators because it is a natural progression.  Administrators build skills starting with user management and data security and expand on these basics by building out customizations and user interface changes through native Salesforce clicks not code.  Administrators go from making use of solutions provided by Salesforce to making use of native tools to create custom solutions.

Being a Salesforce Administrator can be very enlightening
for anyone who wants to learn to develop code.
Developers take the opposite approach.  They go from developing their own solutions to trying to learn and keep up with solutions already provided by Salesforce.

If you are an administrator who has built custom fields and objects, you are well prepared for understanding programming concepts like data types.  A date time field is different from a number field, you know that already.  You may even know that you can use formulas to force fields of one data type to be evaluated as a different data type; for example, you can convert text to a Date field using the following:


For a developer, understanding the Salesforce data model is more complex.  Not only do they need to understand that fields are of a specific type, they need to understand how those fields relate to the data model as a whole, and that could involve native functionality like roll-up summary fields or complex data sharing rules and existing workflow rules that enforce specific, custom behaviors.

The adventurous administrator has a reasonable and natural path to growing their skills as a developer as well.  From developing custom fields, objects and user interfaces through page layouts, administrators can begin employing more complex tools.

With Flow, or Visual Workflow, an administrator can create complex user interface changes, including combining inputs for multiple objects on a single page (a master and child record, for example).  Flow also lets administrators run complex data consistency rules, enforcing best practices at a system level rather than expecting users to memorize and consistently act on arcane rules themselves.  Flow gives administrators a chance to manipulate the data behind the scenes in ways that previously may have required a trigger as well.

If you are interested in getting an introduction to Visual Flow, here is a Dreamforce session I co-presented that may help:

Flow also provides an opportunity for administrators to expand their logical thinking skills.  Planning out the steps of a Flow and ways to test the Flow before making it available to users are skills that translate directly to planning out a program that you may want to code and finding ways to test it.

Next week, I will share some more tips on making the transition from Salesforce Administrator to developer.

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