Seven Common Pitfalls to Avoid When Hiring a Freelance Salesforce Consultant
Salesforce has taken the business world by storm. The popular CRM product is disruptive in its approach with a cost-effective subscription model and a state-of-the-art platform that keeps expanding and impressing its most ardent critics.
And now, your company has done its research on Salesforce. And they have opened the door to cloud computing (finally) despite your security department’s overly suspicious concerns. So you have your very own Salesforce Org. (Org is short for Organization, but really it just means a working environment, like production, test, or development.)
Well, what to do with all of this technological potential? It’s time to reinvent your company and yourself. But you need help! You need an expert. You need a Salesforce consultant; someone who has seen a lot and done even more!
But how do you even go about acquiring such expertise? Well, here are a few things you may want to avoid in your search for Salesforce nirvana! Let’s look at the list…
Pitfall No. 1: Not Hiring a Salesforce-certified Consultant
What if you do not have enough platform knowledge to properly interview candidates?
Salesforce (also known as SFDC) has been around for many years, but for some of us it’s all new. Even cloud technology still feels like a recent concept. You may want to bring some skills in-house or you won’t be able to represent yourself well during business negotiations.
So, what do you need to look for in a qualified Salesforce consultant? Strong experience is paramount in candidate criteria, but what about Salesforce certifications? Here’s a quick breakdown of some of the most popular certifications to help you get up to speed.
- Salesforce Administrator (ADM201) — Basic configuration on the platform. It is the starting point for most.
- Salesforce Advanced Administrator (ADM301) — A more advanced certification in the administration track that requires a deeper understanding of the platform. At this level, the consultant can play a key role in working with developers and sharing the workload.
- Salesforce Developer (DEV401) — This is an introductory course for Salesforce developers and surprisingly does not contain any coding skills. This certification is very similar to the ADM201 certification.
- Salesforce Advanced Developer (DEV501) — Traditionally considered one of the most prestigious to possess due to its level of difficulty. It included an exam, a programming assignment, and an essay. Salesforce has deprecated it recently to bring in more advanced platform concepts such as Lightning. New certifications like Platform Developer I and II define the Salesforce developer skillset. You will still see the older certifications on resumes for a while. Don’t worry: These are well respected, quality certifications. A good rule of thumb for sorting out these developer certifications: DEV401 and Platform Dev I are essentially the same (little to no coding), and DEV501 and Platform Dev II are equivalent (solid coding certifications and difficult to earn.)
- Salesforce Architect Certifications — Application, System, and Technical Architect certifications comprise the best of the best in Salesforce. These certifications are rare and respected in the field. Do not expect to see many of these.
- Specialized Certifications — Here the list is growing all the time. There are many new certifications that are specific to Salesforce products like Community Cloud, Field Service Lightning, Marketing Cloud, and Pardot, just to name a few. These may be valuable to you in your search when specific skills are required.
Certifications can tell you a lot about your candidate. Several years ago, Salesforce created a website to verify certification. Do yourself a favor and learn more about the various certifications that put the stamp of approval on your architects, developers, and administrators.
One caveat, though: Many people believe that certifications do not fully equate to real world experience. Be cautious and always conduct technical interviews.
Pitfall No. 2: Consultants Who Disregard the Official Roadmap
“Thunder is good, thunder is impressive; but it is lightning that does the work.” –Mark Twain
It’s important to know where the industry is headed. Does your Salesforce consultant know and support the Lightning Component Framework?
The Lightning Component Framework is a UI framework for developing dynamic web apps for mobile and desktop devices. It helps developers build modern single-page applications (SPAs) engineered for growth and scalability.
If your customers are in need of mobile solutions then you may want to learn more about Salesforce Lightning in general.
Pitfall No. 3: Letting Integration APIs Drive the Candidate Selection
The theory behind just-in-time (JIT) manufacturing extends itself into modern software development nicely.
Most serious architects and developers will be the first to admit that they depend on Google to point them to answers on a daily basis.
In an ever-changing world with so many new products and services available, it can be mind-blowing to keep up with the idiosyncrasies of something as subtle as an API Library. Don’t make the mistake of trying to find consultants that have experience doing Salesforce programming with the specific API services you are trying to implement.
Rather, look for a Salesforce professional that has experience with integration.
They should be able to explain the limitations on generating Apex classes with Web Services Description Languages (WSDLs).
For example, Salesforce has constraints on WSDL size and embedded imported libraries, to mention just a few. Breaking these limitations will cause the Apex-generated code to simply fail.
Perhaps a better approach altogether is to change the protocol from SOAP to REST and integrate with smaller JSON packets. If you are position where you can leverage REST, then it may be the better approach in the mobile age, and your consultant should know that too!
Or, maybe your integration product can be installed directly onto the Salesforce platform, exposing a well-documented API library that can be accessed directly from your Apex code. If your Salesforce consultant doesn’t know how to directly access the API library in new and existing Apex code, then your integration solution is a non-starter and that should be considered a red flag.
Finally, they should have experience working directly with technical support teams of API products. Many integration projects can get complex fast and having the vocabulary to speak to the product experts is essential.
Make sure during the screening interview that you are asking your candidates how they troubleshoot and resolve development issues with an integration product. If they do not mention technical support communication, then probe further. A candid story about working with the support team of third party product is a good sign that your candidate is using all the available sources to solve issues quickly.
To summarize, it is better to have integration “chops” than it is to have intimate knowledge of the products your team uses.
Pitfall No. 4: Having an Unspoken “Hire and Forget” Policy
Believe it or not, freelance consulting is big business. There’s always more work out there in every shape and size.
Because of this, it’s important that you understand the legal and professional commitment your consultant has to you as a client and your work as a project.
Consulting teams often grow quickly on highly visible Salesforce development projects. Deadlines and commitments tend to make us nervous. Sometimes we end up with an attitude of, “Let’s throw some more money at this by hiring more consultants.”
But think about that closely before phoning in your next screening interview. Are your consultants productive? Are you getting task throughput?
Daily stand-up meetings are a great way to keep track of ongoing work and commitment. A good rule of thumb for remote workers is to reach out to them either by phone or email on a regular basis and make sure they are still in your game!
Pitfall No. 5: Assuming You Need a Consultant for Data Management
You don’t need to invest big dollars into data management. Many a good Salesforce administrator can data-load at least as fast as an expert.
Let’s face it, data can be complex. Data models can look like bowls of spaghetti sometimes. Things get complicated. However, with a good plan, data can be merged, archived, updated, upserted, integrated—re-imagined.
Check with your current team. Someone may be a closet data geek and you are not aware of it yet. They are usually passionate about spreadsheets and may already know all of the business permutations of your data.
Sometimes it’s good to trust systems developed by the experts. But if you have any long-term in-house staff who can do data management, they may be preferable to outside help in this situation.
Pitfall No. 6: Believing That Remote Is a Risk
It may be surprising to you, but cloud computing is pushing the boundaries wide open on remote working. Salesforce offers the perfect opportunity to collaborate, share, create, document, and implement from anywhere in the world.
If you haven’t already, it’s time to open up to the idea of creating remote teams. It really is becoming the latest trend and it makes good sense. Distributed teams can work on projects around the clock, and strong talent can be found in less competitive markets.
There are some challenges like working across time zones and building team rapport. Some companies have leveraged software development on remote teams by making the teams focus on single pieces of technology. And building team rapport can be easy in a modern digital internet world where people can share things about themselves.
Many organizations are quickly adopting remote team solutions. So, don’t buck the trend: Consider remote hiring as a real alternative to more traditional team settings, and learn how to manage a blended workforce.
Pitfall No. 7: Assuming Book Smarts Are As Good As Experience
“A new broom sweeps clean, but the old broom knows the corners.” –Proverb
Creating new solutions can be exciting work and great for your business, but keeping your house in order is critical for ongoing success. An experienced Salesforce consultant will have a long checklist of items to monitor and manage. Ask them for it!
Now, the following are not necessarily “must have” responses from your candidates, but they should be able to speak to this list in general terms since the list represents a well-maintained Salesforce Org. Here are a few of our favorites:
Respect the separation between development and testing environments.
When it comes to Salesforce development, developers need confidence in the purity of their code:
- Careless code branching and sandbox mis-management can lead to coding nightmares.
- Testers need stable environments with quality test data.
- Testing scripts are dependent on stable environments.
A good Salesforce professional should be able emphasize this separation to avoid any environmental dilemmas.
Invest in and support a strong deployment strategy.
Consultants should have a better default deployment strategy than simply cloning Change Sets.
Open source tools like ANT, Eclipse, and Jenkins can help gather XML metadata and allow you to do incredibly complex deployments. These tools can even be automated and scheduled. A good Salesforce consultant should be familiar with these tools and how to use them.
Check your System Overview page regularly for red lines.
Your System Overview page is a great place to mash up all of the critical data around your Salesforce Org.
Maybe you are heavy on code development or configuration. It is easy to quantify these metrics on the System Overview page.
You may be in desperate need of more licenses or data storage. A Salesforce consultant will depend on these metrics to identify any critical oversights when brought into a project.
Apex triggers need a solid Event, Dispatch, and Action (EDA) design pattern.
Event management is a very fickle friend. But the Salesforce Apex Developer Guide is packed with trigger best practices!
At best, poor trigger management is unpredictable. At worst, it’s catastrophic to your code base, leaving the best developers scratching their heads and wondering why things are running so poorly.
A seasoned Salesforce consultant can wrangle with bad trigger logic and implement a good EDA design that will force the code to behave.
Test classes, test classes, test classes. No, really!
75% isn’t good enough; strive for 100% whenever possible. If there is such a thing as a mantra in Salesforce, then it must be about test classes.
Perhaps one of the most difficult things in modern code development is to get good developers to implement test-driven development (TDD). Salesforce supports this approach by forcing 75% of all code deployed to production to have test coverage.
It’s as simple as this: If you don’t have a test for it, there’s no guarantee it will still be working after you make changes. Yet it can become a costly mistake if your Salesforce consultant does not recognize and drive development hours towards test classes.
Always reengineer and improve existing code and configuration.
This goes without saying too much. A Salesforce professional shouldn’t clutter their code, or even they themselves won’t be able to understand it the next time changes are needed. Improving existing code should be on any consultant’s list.
The same goes for administrative work on the Salesforce Org: Consultants should know that they need to be vigilant about removing unused or deprecated configurations.
It’s true that Salesforce can help you to more efficiently and cost effectively run your business.
But to really get the most out of your investment, you need to build sound solutions that are easy to maintain and scale well for your future. Getting the job done right means using the right resources.
We have reviewed a short list of some common mistakes. Others like you have suffered from them, but you can instead learn from their experiences. Invest wisely in quality people who have the Salesforce development expertise needed to help you bring your company into a modern day technology success story.
Hiring Salesforce experts that do not have the credentials or experience that you need is a dangerous proposition. Be smart, get the right people on your team, and become a valuable asset to your organization.