State of the Ecosystem ‘22 (French Touch Dreamin update)

Paul in a Golden Hoodie, strutting by the Salesforce's Paris HQ

Written by Paul Ginsberg

12th December 2022

Back in June, I attended YeurDreamin and ended up writing my thoughts about some hot topics, based on all the conversations I had had, which proved to be a useful exercise. With that in mind, and approaching the end of 2022, I turn to the rather excellent French Touch Dreamin (referred to as FTD for the rest of this article). What did I discover and reflect on?

Read on for thoughts about smaller organisations and their usage of Salesforce; the Admin role; Salesforce at the grand old age of 23; the economy; and a bit more besides!

Smaller Organisations

A powerpoint slide with a picture of a crime scene and the following text:
Day 1: Who Should You Talk To?
- Management
- Your Predecessor
- Your Nemesis!

I presented my “Rescuing an Org – A Solo Admin’s First Days” talk at FTD. I don’t write this for self-promotion, but to point out it was only when I had finished updating it, it forced me to consider how the Solo Admin’s days are well and truly numbered.

Salesforce is big now. If you have a single line of business, the competition has caught up and usually there’s an off-the-shelf product that has reduced complexity as well as mature business processes baked in at an attractive price point, without the need for an expensive skillset to maintain it. This means that Salesforce is often no longer attractive to those kinds of businesses. Salesforce rocks, of course, when you have multiple business processes that are constantly being adjusted. So there is a current market for our skilset, just that it is not as large as it was.

On a tangential note, those Solo Admins that remain cannot do everything. The knowledge required is too broad. After paying the licence fee, businesses want to get as much value from Salesforce as possible. We will need to bring in skills from others on an ad hoc basis whether it’s Flow, Apex, Experience Cloud or just deeper Business Analyst skills. So how to cover this skills gap? Network: so that you know others who are available, and can recommend someone trustworthy and reliable as and when required.

There is a little bit more on this at the end of my talk which will appear at some point on the FTD YouTube channel.

The Admin Role

A scattergram of Salesforce Admin Roles with axis for complexity and size of company
Image Credit: Francis Pindar

Francis Pindar just put out a timely piece called “The Salesforce Admin Role is Broken”. He is learning from David Liu on how to create clickbait headlines! But he is right. The title has never worked as long as I’ve been in the ecosystem.

I have a slightly different take, a way to reframe the role. I can’t claim this is my thinking, but you hear something occasionally and know in your heart it is right. The Salesforce Admin role should become a generalised base layer with a number of specialities on top. Whether that’s Automation Specialist, Business Analysis, Reporting, Project Management or Training. Some of these exist as certifications limited to Partners, but surely they should now be generally available, as many organisations want these skills in-house.

If you think about the range of certifications available we’re almost there. Basically the Admin role should be thought of as someone with a certain range of knowledge about the platform, and then focusing on specific areas. Junior Architects if you will. In doing so I’m recommending that the official Admin role be descoped to make it more realistic. We all already laugh when we see Admin roles that mention visualforce and apex. This is just a natural progression.

Perhaps the only way to do that is to retire the Admin certification and call the new one something else?! Salesforce Core Platform Specialist? A less encompassing title, so it can focus on the relevant areas, whatever they are deemed to be. Remove some of this historical backage, which was fine at the time but now limits mobility/agility. Speaking of which…

Tired

Click link to see Salesforce growth figures since 2014

I’m going to speak about the elephant in the room. Salesforce is tired. After 20 years of stellar growth, it is slowing. This year’s growth guidance isn’t so great when you consider inflation, which has finally risen its ugly head.

Acquisitions can only get you so far. The technical debt of being first-in-class and concentrating on new features, rather than deep-diving and fine tuning existing features, has finally come home to roost. It also reduces competition – good in the short term, but reduces the headspace for innovation in the long term.

The many people I’ve spoken to at FTD and beyond, reckon Salesforce is a solid career choice for the next 5-10 years, but no more than that. Whether the powers-that-be can adjust their share price-driven culture and turn this ship around is a different matter. Fingers crossed! Otherwise Salesforce will go the way of all the other tech behemoths and stagnate further in comparison to the market.

Veeva CRM, a $27bn company, may have come to this conclusion. Whether Bret Taylor (ex Co-CEO), Gavin Patterson (ex Chief Strategy Officer), Mark Nelson (ex CEO, Tableau), Stewart Butterfield (ex CEO, Slack), Tamar Yehoshua (ex CPO, Slack) and Jonathan Prince (ex SVP, Marketing/Comms, Slack) are making these same judgments is also matter a for conjecture (courtesy of Keir Bowden). For what it’s worth, the rumour mill also has it on good authority that the churn rate within Salesforce is very high elsewhere in the business, not at just the C-level.

Economy

On a side note, I’ve certainly found my own business pipeline a bit more “lumpy” of late, but apparently I’m not alone. During the pandemic, after the initial shock, business was booming and there was more work going around than people to fulfil it. 

Now I absolutely hear reports that selling cycles are longer (i.e. slowing down). Salesforce, AppExchange vendors (ISVs) and Consultancies (SIs) are all saying that deals and projects are taking longer to be signed off. Management wants to identify the value that the projects will be delivering – selling on vision and emotion alone is no longer enough. Decision makers are taking a cold hard look at the total cost of ownership and the value Salesforce brings, whilst comparing it to alternative offerings from different vendors. Yes, this happened before, but now much more so.

Those with experience will be insulated, but it never hurts to sharpen up, and also be take the shifting market dynamics into account when planning.

Energy

A picture of a full room with hundreds of people, and smiles

Rather than end this blog piece on a sour note, I wanted to reflect on one of the unique qualities that Salesforce does have – its ecosystem.

FTD was vibrant. The new venue meant that 500 attendees, volunteers, presenters and sponsors couldn’t help but bump into each other – the sponsors expo was at the heart, with the presentation rooms branching out from the centre. Friends old and new were bumping into each other like no tomorrow, and there was space to circulate and mingle.

There was a huge amount of energy, from the gaggle of Golden Hoodies being reminded of their representative amazing journeys, to Architects looking forward to discussing evolving best practice, to a range of excellent presentations testing the very latest in publicly available Salesforce technology. Other top tier suppliers may have caught up with “Cloud” but the Salesforce ecosystem supports each other and pays it forward in such an incredible way, globally, to an extent that I’ve not seen elsewhere. This has evolved to become a unique Salesforce selling point and if the goodwill, creativity, spirit and feedback can be (even) better embraced by HQ, Salesforce will find itself on surer footing going forward, delivering what customers need.

Want more? Subscribe to the Naturally IQ blog over on the right hand side for other random musings. I’m still slightly active on Twitter, although I’m keeping an eye out for a new social media home.

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