It’s been a while since Ben & I have brought you a new post in the Admin2Consultant series, but thanks for joining us once more. In this post we will be resisting a post we put out last month, Ask us a question! We got an overwhelming response to the post, but we will answer some of the top asked and varied questions right here.
Question 1 – I am concerned with billable hours at times. I currently don’t record my time in 15 minute segments. What is some of the best ways to track your time and more importantly, make time tracking a habit?
MW – “I will hold my hand up to this and honestly that I am bloody useless at doing my timesheet. Week after week, my boss chases me for the same thing and I never learn, apart from the odd blue moon. Realistically, this depends completely on the culture of the consultancy. I know for a fact my boss would love to be able to track what I’m doing every 15 mins, but sometimes that’s just not feasible. However, I should really learn from some of my colleagues here; I know for a fact that one of them sets a reminder in her calendar at the end of everyday to log her activities and that works well.”
BM – “It was something I definitely struggled with when first making the switch to consultancy. I would leave it for a Friday, forget what I’ve done, but then completely forget to do it anyway so I would have someone chasing me up on a Monday. Currently as I’m working on so many projects at once, I’m trying to do it after every part of work I do. If I work on a solutions doc for 3 hours, I’ll log that after doing so. If I login to a customer org to help them troubleshoot a problem for 15 minutes, I’ll log that after. If you get into the habbit, it works out a lot better!”
Question 2 – How does the concept of “billable hours” impact an employee at a consultancy? I have heard there is wide variation in how these are calculated and managed from one organisation to another and this can have a huge impact on employees.
MW – “To give you a picture of how we work at Cloudreach, we aim to be billable around 70-80% of the time where possible. The other time will be spent on internal meetings where we have team meetings, upskill, knowledge share and have time spent to develop on other things, even personal items.. As a consultant, this will probably be your first KPI, so you should always try to hit it where possible. The culture of the company will then dictate the outcome should you consistently not achieve that.”
BM – “Most consultancies will have a similar level of KPI with billable hours, but as Matt said, 70-80% is normal. One thing we possibly do slightly different at EMPAUA is use a coefficient, this is essentially for more junior employees that may take slightly longer to do a task. If your coefficient is at 0.5, it will mean on average you take double the length of time to do a task. The means the client gets billed “half” what the consultant actually spends.”
Question 3 – I am recently certified and have been the Salesforce admin for my group for 3 years. As I do not have a full Bachelor’s degree; would moving to consulting improve my prospects for career advancement? Also, what are the core skills needed to become a successful consultant?
MW – “Yes, definitely in my view. As for essential skills? Any good consultant comes with a wealth of experience, but that takes time, so you’ll need to be patient there. You will obviously need a vast level of core knowledge as a basis, so go do some certs/trailheads and that should get you started. As for the rest, well, i did write a blog post on this a while back, take a look there for 5 more :)”
BM – “I sometimes make a joke with my friends that University degrees are forgotten after a year in industry. While I know this is a joke, I still think there is some truth in it. If you can demonstrate to an employer you are a great Salesforce admin with great prospects to become a consultant, I think a degree is neither here nor there! FYI Matt’s post is here – 5 Skills You Need As A Salesforce Consultant“
Question 4 – How is professional development addressed within consultancies? Aspects like getting and maintaining certifications? Going to Dreamforce? How do these non-revenue generating activities get handled?
MW – “Well, I can only answer for my consultancy as I’m sure it’s different in every one, but at Cloudreach we’re all for it. Depending on the cert you’re looking to obtain, this can be incentivised by a salary bump or a spot bonus. For Dreamforce, as this is a slightly more expensive overhead, we have to pitch our case to win a spot, but again, we’re all for it and we go every year. We log these as non-billable items and it’s no bother. We would however be expected to either handover any critical responsibilities while away or continue delivering when we had spare time if necessary.”
BM – “Again, as Matt has stated, this will completely vary from consultancy to consultancy. At EMPAUA we are also very encouraging of personal development, we don’t want people to stay stagnant right?! Getting certifications and maintaining them is completely encouraged, Dreamforce is another matter as its hard to justify the large cost back to the business. Billable time expectancy will never be 100%, so if you are using the extra time for development or training then all the better!”
Question 5 – I am considering making the move from Administrator to Consultant but am concerned about the level of expected travel. Is there a specific type of consultant position that may be best suited to me?
MW – “Good question. Sometimes I get absolutely smashed by travelling some weeks and other times it’s a bit quieter, but as a rule of thumb, I will travel around 50% of the time. It’s an occupational hazard, if you’re not down with, consider another role. This will vary by consultancy, but we like to get in front of the client as much as possible and this requires travel.”
BM – “You should definitely find this out from the consultancy before joining. Sometimes they will make it explicit in the job description, but other times it could be just a given that you will need to travel sometimes 50%+ of the time. Personally at EMPAUA, most of our clients are in London so when there is travel, its minimal. For a position that may suit you better, I have heard of some positions where you will usually just be the implementor with SOME client exposure. This may suit what you are looking for, but then you do miss out on main consultancy aspect of the job.”
Question 6 – Is it better to join a consulting group or be independent? Where do you get exposure if you become a independent consultant?
MW – “I personally would always go to a consultancy first, especially if you have less years of experience, as you will need support. If you’re independent, you’re likely to have no support, so you generally need more experience here. As a rule of thumb, I would say you’re only ever going to get exposed to smaller SMB projects as an independent just because of the amount of resource you can manage as one person. Although that said, you could contract to play a role in larger projects.”
BM – “Totally agree with Matt here. I would completely put this up this down to experience, and I’m guessing from your question you are moving from an Admin role? Learning the core concepts of consulting is key and ones you will struggle to find working for yourself. Of course becoming independent or contracting can be very lucrative, but the foundation must come first.”