The difference between a Salesforce Administrator and a Salesforce Developer

This article is prepared by our Salesforce Administrator Olga Shvaibovich.
Managing your business, you will definitely meet a question how to store and analyze data about your customers and their needs. Times when you did it using spreadsheets or employees managed data manually are passed. Today you can enrich your small or large business with Salesforce CRM. Salesforce CRM is one of the best tools to effectively handle and analyze vast volumes of user data by every employee in the organization and to improve customer satisfaction.

Salesforce has built in features for automating sales and marketing processes, allows users to customize and create objects, fields, processes, and reports inside CRM and integrate CRM with other software products. It means that Salesforce is highly customizable.

If you are new to Salesforce you might need a professional – Salesforce Administrator or Salesforce Developer who will help you to design Salesforce environment considering the specific challenges that should be solved within the Salesforce CRM.

One day you will face pivotal choice: Does the situation call for the technical prowess of a Salesforce developer, or the system mastery of a Salesforce administrator? This decision can significantly impact the success of your Salesforce implementation. Understanding the differences between these roles can help you make an informed decision.

Let’s dive into the Responsibilities and Key Skills of each role

Salesforce administrators

Salesforce administrators serves as the essential connection between business operations and technology. They are responsible for managing and maintaining the Salesforce platform, understanding the organization's processes, and implementing customizations to meet business requirements. Administrators typically handle day-to-day management tasks including:

  • User and license management
  • Basic customization and Salesforce configuration changes, including (but not limited to): simple flows, fields, page layouts, record types, custom settings
  • Maintaining and customizing the Salesforce Org using best practices; full understanding of options, such as automation, record types vs. page layouts
  • Reports and dashboard generation
  • Working with integrated applications (e.g. DocuSign, Conga, Survey Gizmo, Mailchimp etc.).
  • Ensuring data cleanliness
  • Guarding data security
  • Educating team members on CRM best practices
  • Refining the platform's daily use
  • First line of support
  • Exposure to requirements gathering, understand business processes
  • Proactive system maintenance including Security Reviews, Release Updates, Health Check, and Optimizer
  • Creating a platform roadmap and define priorities
Salesforce Developers

Salesforce Developers extend Salesforce Orgs beyond declarative (point-and-click) configuration, building applications and, in turn, optimizing business operations. Salesforce Developers will typically use 2 programming languages: Apex and JavaScript.

The responsibilities of a Salesforce Developer can range from typical code-based tasks, through to work that requires architectural concerns (understanding the wider context of what their code is for).

Salesforce developers work behind the scenes and are responsible for:

  • Custom application development tailored to intricate business processes
  • Customizing the user experience with unique interface designs
  • Writing complex Apex triggers, Lightning Pages to automate complex business processes
  • Solution design
  • API integration for cross-system harmony
  • Database design
  • Handling large-scale data operations and strategic migrations
  • Performance testing and debugging

Key points that should be considered when choosing between a Salesforce developer and an Admin

Business Requirements and Technical Complexity: In a few words If your business requires extensive customization: bespoke applications, intricate workflows, or integrations with external systems, a developer is likely the right choice. In contrast, if your primary goal is to streamline existing processes, enhance user adoption, and optimize the Salesforce environment without extensive custom development, hiring a Salesforce admin may be the more suitable option.

Existing Infrastructure: Consider the current state of your Salesforce implementation. If you already have customizations in place or if you are starting from a standard configuration, this can influence your decision.

Long-Term Strategy: Think about your long-term Salesforce roadmap. If you anticipate ongoing development and customization, investing in a developer could be beneficial. Conversely, if your focus is on ongoing system administration and user support, an admin may be more appropriate.

Budget and Resources: Consider your budget and available resources. Developers typically require more specialized skills and may come at a higher cost compared to admins.

Real-life use cases

Let`s exam some real-life use cases which can bring a clear understanding of when to opt for a developer, an admin, or a combination of both:

1) Custom Application Development

Your business requires custom applications tailored to specific processes and workflows that are not supported by standard Salesforce functionality.

Solution: Choose a Salesforce Developer. Developers are skilled at creating custom applications using tools such as Apex, Visualforce and Lightning Web Components, as well as other programming languages, to meet the specific needs of your business. In addition, they can create their own user interfaces, automate complex workflows, and facilitate integration with various external systems.

2) Custom Solutions

A healthcare organization requires a patient management system within Salesforce that adheres to privacy regulations.

Solution: A developer can build a secure, compliant solution.

3) Integrating Complex Systems

A manufacturer needs a direct link between their Salesforce CRM and the factory’s production planning software.

Solution: A developer can achieve real-time, integrated data flows. A Salesforce developer has the skill to integrate Salesforce with external systems through APIs, web services, middleware, or custom code.

4) Complex Business Process Automation

Your organization has intricate business processes that require automation and customization beyond the capabilities of standard Salesforce automation tools.

Solution: Choose a Salesforce Developer. Developers can leverage their programming skills to create custom automation using Apex triggers, process builders, or custom code to automate complex business logic and ensure that the system aligns with your specific operational needs.

5) Streamlining Operations

A company notices that its sales team spends too much time entering data.

Solution: An administrator could automate certain processes, reducing manual entries and improving efficiency.

6) Reporting and Dashboard Customization

Your managers and executives require advanced reporting and dashboard customization for decision-making and performance tracking.

Solution: Choose a Salesforce Administrator. Administrators specialize in customizing reports, dashboards, and analytics within the Salesforce platform. They can create complex types of reports, implement data visualizations, and provide users with access to the information they need to succeed.

7) User Management and Security Configuration

Your organization requires robust user management, role hierarchy setup, and security configuration within the Salesforce platform.

Solution: Choose a Salesforce Admin. Admins excel in managing user access, defining role hierarchies, setting up profiles and permissions, and implementing security best practices to ensure the safety and security of sensitive data and maintain compliance.

8) System Configuration and Maintenance

Your business needs ongoing system configuration, maintenance, and support to ensure that Salesforce aligns with evolving business requirements.

Solution: Choose a Salesforce Admin. Admins can handle day-to-day configuration tasks such as creating custom objects, fields, and workflows, managing data quality, maintaining system performance, and providing user support.

9) Platform Adoption and Training

Your organization aims to maximize user adoption of the Salesforce platform and requires training and support for end users.

Solution: Choose a Salesforce Admin. Admins can lead user training sessions, create documentation, and provide ongoing support to ensure that users effectively utilize the platform's features and functionalities.

10) Solution Design and Architecture

Your business is embarking on a new Salesforce implementation or requires architectural guidance for complex system enhancements.

Solution: Choose a Combination of Developer and Admin. Engage both a developer and an admin to collaborate on solution design, ensuring that the architecture meets both technical requirements (developer) and user needs (admin). The developer can focus on custom development aspects, while the admin can ensure that the solution aligns with user experience and system governance.

11) Data Management and Migration

Your organization needs to manage data migration from legacy systems or maintain data integrity within the Salesforce platform.

Solution: Choose a Combination of Developer and Admin. Developers can assist in designing data migration strategies, building data transformation scripts, and ensuring data accuracy during migration. Admins can oversee data cleansing, data governance, and ongoing data quality maintenance post-migration.

12) Continuous improvement and updating

Your business needs to continually monitor releases on the Salesforce platform to take advantage of new features, streamline existing processes, and stay ahead of industry trends.

Solution: Choose a Combination of Developer and Admin. Developers can explore new Salesforce features, assess their applicability to your business needs, and implement innovative solutions. Admins can collaborate with developers to ensure that new features align with user requirements and are effectively integrated into existing processes.

13) New Implementations

Your business, startup, wants to implement Salesforce to handle their growing customer base.

Solution: A developer can customize Salesforce to match the company’s sales process, while an administrator will take over once the system is live, managing workflows and overseeing user training.

In conclusion, by carefully assessing such factors, as your organization's requirements, existing Salesforce environment, long-term strategic goals, budget considerations, and available resources you can make an informed choice that will help you to enhance your customer relationships and business processes, and get the most out of the Salesforce platform.