Flavors of Salesforce Business Analysts – Which Path Should You Choose?

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Business Analysts are the people in your organization who are asking ‘why’ – why a process happens the way it does – to understand what the business needs from its technology.

The Business Analyst role has existed for some time in the Salesforce ecosystem, however, the conversation is picking up pace with Salesforce releasing dedicated Trailhead training modules for this career path on topics such as business processing mapping.

To find out why it’s attracting attention, I asked Toni V. Martin, a Salesforce MVP, who’s on a mission to enable aspiring and current Business Analysts to develop by spreading the knowledge and experience she gained while successfully growing her own career in the field.

Toni has found a clear way to define the multiple types of BAs in the Salesforce ecosystem. I hope you find this conversation a delight (after all, there’s ice cream involved)!

What does a Salesforce Business Analyst do?

A Salesforce Business Analyst, in a nutshell, acts as a translator. The business wants to accomplish something and we know it is going to be accomplished using Salesforce.
So, a BA’s job is to translate what the business wants to do, into how it actually gets done.

It’s not a straight path, but if I had to explain to somebody at the bar, this is what I would tell them!

Why did you start your mission to help aspiring Business Analysts to develop further?

I started as an ‘accidental admin’, like many of us. I didn’t know about Salesforce, and when I found out that it is a lucrative career path, I went in headfirst.

These were the pre-Trailhead days, so I found my local user group meetings and interacted with people to learn about the role. But I felt that:

a. I didn’t even know what a Salesforce Business Analyst was or did,

b. I didn’t think I was qualified, and,

c. I didn’t know how to get started.

I networked, pieced together my way through, and got certified. But I always wished that there had been clearer resources to help me in my journey.

I was expressing my frustration to Mary Scott, an amazing Salesforce developer and evangelist, saying: “This is the career path that I think is a great fit for me, but I don’t know how to really make myself successful in it”, she responded: “you need to create what you want to see”. I took that to heart, and created the resources that I wish existed when I was starting out.

Over time, I found other people who felt the same way – the thousands of people who have joined my Trailblazer Community groups and the Salesforce Business Analyst summits. It affirmed that other people were looking for resources to help them become or start careers as Salesforce Business Analysts.

That was probably eight years ago. It’s a very rapid trajectory if you compare it to other career paths! A Salesforce Business Analyst in the US could hit a six figure salary within 3-5 years – that’s unheard of in a lot of industries.

Being a Business Analyst is so subjective, it must be really hard to learn and to teach it?

I would say no. What people don’t see is how much business analysis they’re already doing.

Although you might not call the different tasks that you do, requirements, elicitation, you call it: “oh, I talked to the sales folks and they told me what they hate about Salesforce”. Well, that’s eliciting requirements.

When you take out the jargon and the official terms, people would realize that they’re actually doing this work already, especially if they’re in the Salesforce ecosystem, e.g., as an admin.

Once you understand what it’s formerly called, and you equip yourself with additional techniques and methodologies that help you level up, it clicks. I think a lot of people are further down the road than they even realize.

Why do you think Business Analysts are being talked about so much in 2021?

The past year has been pretty hot for the Business Analyst career path, with Salesforce, themselves launching the Business Analyst badge on Trailhead.

What’s happened is when companies start with Salesforce, if it’s a small company, they probably have an ‘accidental admin’. The management says: “hey, we’re buying Salesforce and you’re a savvy person. You’re good with emails, so we’re going to give this to you”. As that company begins to grow and mature in its operations, they learn that they have limitations with their in-house resources.

They start looking to add specializations because they realize how complex Salesforce actually becomes. Salesforce gives us three releases every year, so there’s a constant stream of new features, which is additional complexity. As these businesses see more, they want more, and realize that they need to add these specialized roles, like Business Analysts.

On the enterprise side, we see the same thing. Companies are going all-in on Salesforce, and in order to get the most out of that investment, they perhaps bought in a consulting partner to carry out the implementation. The organization understands that it’s not cost-effective to keep doing large engagements with consultancies – so, they bring expertise in-house with BAs.

The success Salesforce can deliver for the organizations staking their business on it is driving the demand for this specialized role, that knows how to unlock the most of Salesforce

An increasingly popular job title

The ‘popular’ Salesforce roles that we see and hear about are admin, developer and architect. Those are roles that everybody is familiar with, what are seen on the billboards at conferences etc.

I think as people participate in events (e.g., the Salesforce Business Analyst Summit) and talk to others in the Salesforce community, they understand that this is a really great role to start in because to hit the ground running, you don’t have to have 10 years of experience, or the chops that an admin might need.

If you have prior business experience in your career, you can actually transition that knowledge and pair it with getting your first Salesforce Administrator certification.

As people discover that they don’t have to start from scratch, and that this is a career that is in demand, this becomes a good path for them to explore.

Finally, I think people are becoming interested in what that a career in Salesforce might look like “if I don’t want to be an admin, and I don’t want to be a developer or an architect.

6 ‘Flavors’ of Salesforce Business Analysts

The Salesforce Business Analyst Summit, which took place in April 2021, started with Toni’s keynote talk: “The Flavors of Salesforce Business Analysts”. I thought it really hit the mark because it clearly set out the different types of Business Analysts, described as ice cream flavors. I asked her to give a short summary of each.

One size doesn’t fit all when it comes to the job title “Salesforce Business Analyst”! I break out the different types of BAs because it does make a difference to how you navigate starting this role, or moving into your next role – you should be clear on the type of BA that you are, or want to be.

Flavor #1: Generalists

Generalists can work in a variety of orgs, a ‘Jack of all trades’. They are expected to perform the duties of a BA as well as those of an admin.

This person might handle a project from beginning to end – from the initial thought, “Hey, we should do this in Salesforce”, to “Oh my goodness, this works so amazingly in Salesforce”. They’ll elicit the requirements, create user stories or tickets, and then actually build it out themselves (they don’t hand it to somebody else).

Flavor #2: Specialists

These individuals specialize in a unique aspect of Salesforce, for example, CPQ (which is super hot now), Einstein (any of the AI features in Salesforce is offering), or Health Cloud.

While they have the general Salesforce knowledge, they’ve taken a deep dive into a particular feature, and use that to add value to organizations that have these particular needs. These BAs typically work at Salesforce consultancies, where clients need that specialty only for a project engagement.

Flavor #3: Pure Business Analysts

I term ‘Pure’ Business Analysts as those who are established as Business Analysts, as in they understand the tasks and responsibilities of a BA, but don’t have Salesforce experience.

These BAs typically work at enterprise companies; they could be transitioning from one team to another, or their company is just starting out with Salesforce.

They are tool-agnostic – they can work on a variety of tools (Salesforce is just another tool for them so they are focused on the actual platform itself).

Flavor #4: Technical Business Analysts

These individuals have a heavy emphasis on the systems and on data, who may delve into code. They may have worked as developers and can facilitate requirements elicitation on the coding level.

Flavor #5: Functional Business Analysts

These individuals have a deep understanding of the business process itself and how the system functions.

If a large organization has an IT department, and then other business units, you would find this Salesforce BA in the business unit where they won’t necessarily have access to the systems to actually configure. Although they interact with Salesforce projects, they’re not the strongest in Salesforce – they are stronger in their business domain knowledge.

Flavor #6: Hybrid Business Analysts

These BAs have got a little bit of everything, they can span the gamut no matter what. It’s the ‘Rocky road’ flavor!

Which of the flavors are the most common in the Salesforce ecosystem?

One of our favorite answers as a BA: ‘it depends!’

  • Small and mid-sized businesses will be looking for generalists. They can’t necessarily afford to hire an admin, plus a BA, so they’re looking for somebody who can do both. The job title won’t be Salesforce Business Analyst, it may be ‘administrator’ or some other title that doesn’t have anything to do with Salesforce, but that person is performing the generalist BA role.
  • Enterprises can afford to hire the specialized roles, so will seek all the other types of BAs (the specialists, the pure, the technical, the functionals, and the hybrids).

They will have Business Analysts, or devote technical and functional resources on one project, for example implementing a specific cloud or functionality where they need the specialized BA role.

Enterprises may also staff up when they reach a certain growth threshold. The BA role may start off as a contract role, where they just need them for 6/12 months.

Do you think those demands are going to shift in the next 12-18 months?

I don’t think so. The overall demand for Salesforce BAs will grow as more opportunities exist.

Knowing the profile and the needs of a company allows you as a job seeker to pinpoint where you can bring value, to meet the demand that is already there.

For example, you could recognize an opportunity: “I’m an established Business Analyst. I don’t have Salesforce experience, but my company is talking about doing this implementation. So I need to raise my hand and let them know that I’ve got BA skills, I’m ready to kind of help with this project”.

As career folks, it’s up to us to identify where we want to go with it but the demand, I think, is there across the board for any of these types.

What advice would you give to someone looking to become a Salesforce BA?

The one thing that you need to start with, specifically Salesforce BA, is knowing what the role entails, the deliverables that we create.

From there, you’ve got to get certified if you want to pursue a path as a Salesforce Business Analyst. Getting at least the Salesforce Administrator certification is a great way to show that you have a base-level understanding of the platform.

Then, pair that with your understanding of what a Salesforce Business Analyst does and the deliverables that we create, I think those two are enough to get people started and down the path.

Read more: “How to Become a Salesforce Business Analyst” by Cece Adams.

What would you tell yourself if you were starting out again?

If I had to start over again, I would say knowing the basics, the foundational aspects of the role that really equip you to create the deliverables that you’re tasked with.

When I started out, I would see job descriptions and be completely confused. They would be talking about agile. What is agile? JIRA, how do you use that? Is that complicated? I don’t know.

Requirements, is there a certain format that these requirements are supposed to come in? I just had no concept of what any of this was.

However, these are things that I’ve created resources for, or I’ve done in different forms, and just didn’t have an official name for them.

So, link what you’ve done to the jargon that makes up the foundational BA building blocks. This will allow you to say: ‘yes, absolutely I’ve elicited requirements! I’ve held stakeholder workshops’.

When you have that understanding of what this really means, and you can translate it into business language, it equips you with a lot of confidence!

What resources are available to get started as a Salesforce Business Analyst?

Anybody who’s interested in this career path, the Salesforce Business Analyst Summit is a great opportunity, a free resource that happens twice a year. It pulls together Salesforce MVPs and thought leaders, everyday BAs who are in the trenches, open up their laptop and let you look over their shoulder, letting you in on how they organize their projects and tips and tricks that have been helpful for them.

If you’re looking to further your career, there’s a new membership where I’ll be covering much of what I mentioned here – the foundational elements, such as helping people understand more around agile methodology.

The Salesforce Business Analyst badge on Trailhead is definitely a great overview place to start, if you need next steps immediately after watching this conversation.

If you’re curious → take the Business Analysts badge on Trailhead.

If you want to dip your toe in → watch the Salesforce Business Analyst Summit.

If you’re serious → consider the membership.

4 thoughts on “Flavors of Salesforce Business Analysts – Which Path Should You Choose?

  1. This was a great overview and held good advice and resources! However, whenever I click on the link to the Summit I get a security warning. Is there another way to get to the Summit site?

  2. This interview and contents are helpful.

    However, I couldn’t load the BA Summit link and am keen to know more about the membership.

    Thank you

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