If you’re ready to take advantage of more Salesforce features and functionality, it can be daunting to figure out whether you need a Salesforce admin or a Salesforce consultant to get you where you want to go.

Maybe your company has grown recently and now you have enough users that your current Salesforce admin is feeling stretched a little thin. Or perhaps you have some work to do before getting a full-time administrator and you want some help finding that person.

If these situations sound familiar, then let’s talk about the differences between hiring an admin vs. hiring a consultant.

We’ll cover what you need to know about your own Salesforce instance to make those assessments and what you should know before engaging one or the other.

Sometimes there are even cases where you should consider both. Sounds a bit involved, but we’ll break it down, promise.

Get to know your current Salesforce setup

Before you can figure out where you want to go, it’s good to take a look at where you are currently.

Some of things you should know about your own Salesforce instance first include:

  • How many licenses does your company have?
  • How many are currently in use? Are you running out?
  • Has your company moved to Lightning?
  • Do you have any existing integrations?
  • Is there custom code?
  • Are there third-party apps (installed packages)?
  • Are your company/department KPIs run out of Salesforce?

Now think about what your future might look like. Are you:

  • Growing and need more licenses?
  • Adding integrations?
  • Thinking about adding Service Cloud or Marketing Cloud?

Whatever you want your future to look like, there are a number of ways to tell if an admin or a consultant is your best bet.

Admin vs. Consultant: What’s the difference?

So what do Salesforce administrators do and how is this different from a consultant? Generally, Salesforce administrators are internal to an organization while consultants are of course external contractors.

Having a dedicated Salesforce administrator means they can support your company’s needs in house. They’ll know your organization like the back of their own hand.

It’s certainly in the pro column having this kind of dedicated expert in your company, but it also means that you’re responsible for all the salary requirements and benefits this full time employee requires.

At a minimum, you’ll want a Salesforce admin who:

  • Can create reports and dashboards.
  • Knows something about workflow rules.
  • Understands page layouts and record types.
  • Can create custom fields.

If you don’t anticipate that an in-house Salesforce administrator will give you a good return on your investment, it may be worth considering a consultant’s support. But they have their own pros and cons too.

Because a consultant has worked with different companies across industries problem solving each one’s needs, they can bring deep expertise to the table.

They’ve seen what works, what doesn’t, and what’s not worth the time or expense. They can dig into your business requirements and think of ways to fix a process or make it faster while adhering to your schedule and budget.

For a consultant, you’ll want to look for:

  • Salesforce experience that matches your needs.
  • Clear communication throughout the sales and project process.
  • Someone who provides honest feedback on requests and their feasibility (seriously, “yes people” need not apply).
  • Someone who’ll help you become more self-sufficient.

Here’s a good breakdown of what each can bring to your Salesforce setup:

Task Admin Consultant
Maintenance: new users, deactivate users, create reports, update workflow rules, other automations  
Break Fix: workflow/approvals not running correctly, formula field needs correction
Basics: Custom fields, page layouts, record types, new reports/dashboards
Install AppExchange apps
Complex integrations, custom code ✔*
Additional SFDC features/functionality ✔*
Up-to-date knowledge on Salesforce releases/roadmap ✔*
Large, complex Salesforce projects ✔*
Advice on realistic deadlines based on scope ✔*
Team with SFDC experience on other clients/business needs  
Strategic roadmap for future use  

*An experienced, certified admin with project, development, and integration experience can do this stuff. Someone like this is rare. And commands a decent salary.

How much experience will an admin need?

In general, the smaller and less customized your setup, the less experienced Salesforce admin you’ll need. You can compromise on things like certification, for example, as long as the candidate has the relevant experience. Their enthusiasm for Salesforce and willingness to learn is a huge factor, too.

Salesforce has a chart that shows how many administrators you need for the type and number of users you have. You could also consider training your own admin. Is there someone in your organization that everyone goes to when they need a Salesforce report? Do they seem to enjoy troubleshooting and showing other users how to get around in Salesforce?

Will you ever need both an admin and a consultant?

Here’s a pretty common scenario: You have someone doing Salesforce work part-time, they like it, and want to become a full-time administrator.

The timing is good because your company’s growth means you’re adding users and integrations, but your part-time admin doesn’t have the experience to do this work for you yet.

A good consulting company can help with both. While they’re working on your Salesforce initiatives, your future admin can be part of the project team. They can sit in on meetings, take on some basic work to free up the consultants for more complex stuff, and see for themselves how it all comes together.

They can document what the consultants did, and after they leave, you now have a much more knowledgeable and confident admin ready to take over.

Another Option: Salesforce Admin as a Service

At Cloud Giants, we’ve developed a custom solution for clients that need the ongoing support of a Salesforce admin with the flexibility of outsourcing this role to a group of experts.

Salesforce Admin as a Service is an ongoing partnership that can scale to a company’s needs, whether you need additional support for your current team or someone to take over when an admin’s just given their notice.

Admin as a Service provides the best of both worlds by providing a team of consultants who can act as ongoing Salesforce admins for your company.

So how do you make the right decision?

It’s not easy finding the right admin or consultant for your company, but if Salesforce is the engine that drives your business, it’s worth spending time finding the right solution.

Review your Salesforce org, meet with your team to prioritize your Salesforce needs, think about what success looks like to your company, and use that to inform your decision.

Need further guidance? We’re always happy to help steer you in the right direction. We get to work with Salesforce every day, so get in touch if we can help make this process a little less daunting. Hopefully, this blog post is a good start.

If you’re ready for us to do some of your heavy lifting then contact us today to start this journey with us. At Cloud Giants, we’ve worked with small, independent companies and large organizations to make the most of their Salesforce. We’d love to help your company as well.

Kim’s journey as a Salesforce admin is pretty similar to what she describes above. She started with Salesforce first as a user in 2008, then later as a manager for a SaaS company in Cary, NC. That experience led to a love of the platform and a career change to full-time Salesforce administrator. Kim has two decades of experience managing projects and teams, loves the Blue Devils (AB ‘87), and one time she had to kill a snake by shooting it (it’s a long story). Connect with Kim on LinkedIn or send her an email.