How to prepare for the Salesforce ADM-201 (administrator) exam?

First, go to Salesforce Certification Website and read about the administrator track.  Becoming a certified administrator (ADM-201) is the first and most important step.

You have 90 minutes to pass a 60-question (multiple-choice) exam with a 65% passing score.  Whether you pass or fail, you will not be able to find out where you did well and where not, you won’t know how many questions you got wrong.  It’s either ‘pass’ or ‘fail’.

Next, read the study guide (link), this will be your study bible.  Go through each of the topics and tracks and make sure you understand what each means.  This study guide is your study plan.  You will take multiple passes through this guide, starting with a quick scan through of areas you feel very confident with, and which not.

Then comes the hard part. Spending time reading up on those areas that you’re not confident about.  Even better, sign yourself up for a free developer org and look up and mock up the relevant areas in your dev org (e.g. if you’re learning about assignment rules, build assignment rules).

Salesforce has its own training modules (admin beginner, admin intermediate), but these should not and will not replace getting down and dirty with your dev org.  Also, Salesforce offers a lot of context-sensitive help, so click on those question marks wherever you see them and read.  Also, click on “Help & Training” in your org, and read the relevant documentation under Welcome to Salesforce Documentation

Depending on how many hours you can dedicate each week, it could take you a few weeks or a month before you’re ready.

Stick to the study schedule and keep reviewing it, make another, and another, and you will (hopefully) cross off more topics about which you now feel confident.

In the US, the admin exam costs $200.  Retakes cost $100.  So… it’s a sizable investment, but not the end of the world should you have to retake the exam.

Once you pass and are a certified admin, you will need to keep up your credentials on a quarterly basis (3 times a year: Spring, Summer, Winter).  You do this via maintenance exams, they’re about 5-10 questions based on the latest release’s new functionality.

Do not ignore these – should you forget to pass these maintenance exams, you *will* lose your full admin certification and will have to retake the full admin exam.  Salesforce makes absolutely no exceptions, it will be your responsibility to schedule and plan for these maintenance exams.

That’s it for the admin exam.

There’s also the developer track (which has recently been broken out into different subtracks – read more about this on the same certification site I listed earlier), and a Sales Cloud Consultant and a Service Cloud Consultant exam.

Not all administrators have the admin certification and not all people who’ve passed the admin exam necessarily are experts in Salesforce.  More and more people are jumping on the Salesforce bandwagon, so the exam just helps you stand out a little more.  Also, your average recruiter (who might be recruiting across multiple platforms and applications) might not know that your x years of active Salesforce administration in the work trenches  mean a lot and might just be wanting to check off that “Salesforce-certified” box on their check list.

So… just do it. Play the game.  Most importantly, learn Salesforce and learn to love it.  I switched over to Salesforce in 2010 and have no regrets.  I love it.  I’m a little obsessed.

There are so many blogs out there and as with everything, Google is your best friend. If you run into a Salesforce issue or question, Google it.  Google will return results from Salesforce’s own developer forums, but also from the various blogs out there.

What is the future of

When I took my last exam at college, I thought I was done – no more exams.  Little did I know at the time that I’d end up in IT and would take more exams (and continue to do so) than during my college life.

I used to work in the Siebel/Oracle CRM space before, I fell into the Siebel bandwagon in 2001 and rode it until 2010.  Then I switched to Salesforce and what a refreshing change it was.

Salesforce is a hot topic right now and will probably stay that way for at least the next 5 years.  I don’t think any technology will ever last forever, so it is definitely possible Salesforce might experience a slow death, just like Siebel.  At this point however, I can’t see that happening in the near (5-year) future.

In technology you have to stay marketable, you have to stay ahead of change.  Enjoy the Salesforce ride, but don’t rest, watch what’s going on out there, keep an eye open, be curious and keep learning.  What you already know from other CRMs and/or programming languages, what you’re learning with Salesforce, these are concepts, languages, skills that are transferable to the Salesforce of the future.  Keep learning!

Siebel was HOT in the early noughties.. but it was overpriced, labor-intensive, and taxing on the local IT infrastructure.

Salesforce is so much better than that.

The user interface is very clean and simple and it takes very little time to make changes and have something to show.

A lot can be done via button-click administration, even automation such as automatically creating tasks, sending emails, or making field updates.

The next step is Visual Workflow, which still is button-clicky, but allows you do a little more advanced programming, such as looping through records, creating, updating, querying, and even deleting records.

The more hard-core developers can use Salesforce’s Apex programming language.  If you know other object-oriented languages, it is not that big a leap.  Some of the quirks of Apex include governor limits, which forces you to be more efficient in your coding.  Also, code cannot be migrated from a development environment, until you have reached at least 75% test coverage.

This is another checkpoint to ensure your code is efficient.

The beauty of Salesforce also lies in its user community.  There is a lot of help out there, from Salesforce’s own developer community and user forum to a gazillion blogs by Salesforce administrators and developers.

Between the developer community message boards and Youtube and Salesforce blogs you’re really just a few Google searches away from solving any issue.

The community is more than happy to chime in with suggestions or entire solutions, even when it comes to coding.

Another nice touch is that anyone can get a free developer org set up that comes with 2 user licenses and *full functionality*.  That means you can build everything and anything and test it out and dump it.

Being a developer org there are some limitations, of course (e.g. number of mass emails to send, available storage space), but it makes for a great playground.

Here’s a link to a Salesforce-provided page of training documents tutorials with step-by-step instructions on how to build an app, write Apex code, build Visualforce pages (cf. Salesforce dynamic HTML), understand security concepts etc. workbook –

You can get proficient fairly quickly, but you will have to put in a considerable amount of time to become an expert.

Consider also Salesforce’s free Trailhead training modules: the fun way to learn Salesforce

In Salesforce, what is the difference between a “Lead” and a “Contact”?


  • the equivalent of a business card somebody hands you in passing or drops off at a trade show.
  • No promise of any business, just interest and a potential for future business

“Contact” :

  • someone you have done business with already (in the form of an opportunity, open or closed).

When a lead is deemed worthy of pursuing and turning into (potential) business, it is converted in Salesforce to an account, contact, and optionally an opportunity.

What is CRM?

Here’s how I would describe CRM to people of varying ages. It helps to present the answer in terms the appropriate age group understands.

<4 years old: Don’t bother

4-6 years old: “<Parent> goes to work and works with other people. CRM helps <Parent> remember what <Parent> said to other people and what <Parent> needs to do for the day.”

7-12 years old: “You [kid] have a bunch of friends. You want to know when their birthdays are, so that you can surprise them. You want to know who sent you a birthday card, so you can thank them. You want to know what you’re doing next week, so you can plan. How do you do that? You take a notebook or use some post-it notes, write down these pieces of information and arrange them on your pin-board, so that you remember. CRM is a notebook that people at work use to track such information about other companies/places of work, and the people working there”.

13+ years old: “Companies track which customers and/or companies they do business with. They track what customers ordered, they track when you might have an anniversary (birthday, wedding anniversary), so that they can send that customer a birthday email or remind them to reorder something. CRM helps companies appear more knowledgeable and caring about their customer base.

Also, since a customer might deal with different departments in the same company (accounting, billing, customer service, orders), CRM ensures all departments have access to the same information. For example, if a customer is overdue on paying a bill, then an order rep, with that knowledge, might hesitate on fulfilling a new order for this customer.”

Log a Google notification to Salesforce

How can I log email notification from google docs to Salesforce records?

I have a google form which when filled sends an email notification with a PDF to a few designated email addresses – I would like to have the email notification logged in SalesForce to the appropriate user when the notification is sent. Is this possible?

Go to My Settings | Email | My Email to Salesforce and you’ll see 2 important areas:

  1. Your Email-to-Salesforce address
  2. My acceptable email addresses

Now copy the email-to-Salesforce address and add that to the Google doc notification list of recipients.  This ensures that Salesforce will attempt to store a copy of the notification email.

In order to do that, you have to list the notification email’s sender to the ‘my acceptable email addresses’.  When you currently receive that notification email, copy that sender email and paste it into the area under 2.


Integration: Salesforce & Quickbooks

I’ve worked with and implemented DBSync and Autofy.  Both integrators offer connectors to Quickbooks Online and Quickbooks Desktop.

Both follow a similar path: Salesforce opportunities, once closed-won synchronize to Quickbooks as Invoices (the usual case, you could also select Sales Items).  In addition to the Quickbooks invoice number, Autofy also copies the open/unpaid amount back to the Salesforce invoice.

DBSync has a more robust architecture and is also more expensive than Autofy… but also has some customer service issues (they’re not the best at responding in a timely manner).

Autofy is much more cost-effective if you can go with the out-of-the-box offering.  If you need additional mappings, that extra customization work can push the price up to being close to what DBSync charges.

Autofy’s customer service is better, though you can’t reach anyone by phone.  It’s all about submitting tickets.

When you set out to pick your integrator, know exactly what you’re looking for – write down use cases, make pretty pictures/Powerpoint slides, document every single requirement.  Get input from sales people and accounting on what Quickbooks information they want to see in Salesforce.

Think about what business rules you want to see in place, e.g.:
1. When an opportunity is closed-won, create an invoice
2. When a partial payment is received, do you want to change the stage to “Deposit received”?
3. When the invoice is paid off, what should happen to the opportunity?

Though it’s not directly related to Quickbooks, you might also want to think about what sort of Salesforce business processes/automations to implement, such as:
1. Notifications to Accounting when the invoice is paid off
2. Notifications to Sales when an open/unpaid amount remains unpaid for x days, so that they can follow up
3. Blacklist customers whose unpaid balance is above x

Knowing what you want the end state to be will help you pick the right integrator.  Shop around, share your vision.  No tool will have the perfect fit out of the box, but you will get an idea about the cost and time lines from the vendors, which should help you make a decision.

Total Cost of Ownership (TCO):

Understanding the true cost of a technology initiative can help you determine when (or whether) you should take on a new system initiative, usually in combination with some sense of the potential benefits to be realized from the implementation.  We’ll discuss different ways to evaluate the Return from a project in a future post. What contributes to the purchase cost of technology?

  • Acquisition cost
  • Implementation cost
  • Support/maintenance cost

Acquisition Cost

  • Internal labor: time required to evaluate different platforms and solution providers
  • Solicitation and proposal writing process.  Specialized knowledge might be required, so members of the technology team or outside implementation partners may be included in the process. This results in potential consulting costs.
  • Purchase costs of upgrades to existing hardware (laptops/PCs) and software (e.g. Microsoft Office), and/or operating system
  • Licensing/subscription fees

Implementation Cost

  • Hardware deployed to users
  • Software/operating system upgrades to users
  • Installation costs of a more robust broadband internet connection (for web-based platforms)
  • Time/cost to configure and deploy connectivity changes to users
  • Change management
    • User training
    • Temporary drop in user productivity/efficiency due to early adoption challenges
  • CRM system build (assuming with the help of an implementation partner)

Maintenance/Support Cost

  • (Optional) Hiring full-time support staff to keep the new system up and running
  • Support staff or implementation partner cost to deploy new features / add-ons
  • Scaling to additional users / business groups / business units
  • Warranties
  • (Optional) Support contracts with external implementation/support partners
  • On-going license costs
  • Upgrade costs (based on current vs. forecast future state)

How much can I expect to spend on customizations to a CRM system after initial costs?

Business case: a client engages a consultant/implementation partner to customize a CRM system.  Customizations should be kept to a minimum, but should include some new fields, page layout changes, a few basic business process automations (workflows / emails / tasks) and configuration of complex sales quotes for custom-manufactured products.

This project I would break out into 5 mini projects (I’m focusing on Salesforce as the CRM of choice, I haven’t worked with MS Dynamics, and I assume you don’t want to implement Siebel CRM):

  1. Getting the base CRM system up and running (no fancy customizations or integrations)
  2. Cleaning/deduplicating the legacy data before
  3. Importing the data and building the proper relationships (e.g. positions first, then users, accounts, contacts, opportunities,..)
  4. Dealing with fancy customizations / integrations
  5. Training

I’ll go through these with hour estimates.  The budget will result from these hours times the hourly rate  agreed upon between the consultant / implementation partner and the client.

Mini project 1 – base CRM set-up:

15-20 hours

  • adding fields
  • editing/creating new page layouts
  • some simple (email) communication templates
  • a few simple workflow rules/tasks/field updates
  • pricebook and products set-up


Mini project 2 – legacy data clean-up / deduplication:

30-60+ hours

Sorry, I was joking about this being a mini-project.  This is more of monster project depending on how much data there is and how poorly it was maintained previously.  Do not at any cost underestimate the power of horrible data.  Most legacy data is horrible.

The instinctive reaction might be to think it’s just a bunch of Excel files that need to be imported.  Wrong!  Say this is a migration from ACT! to Salesforce, this might as well just be an excellent reason to shoot yourself in the knee.  ACT! doesn’t have the concept of companies/accounts being required, so there will be a lot of junk data with missing or bogus company information.

In Salesforce the account name is required for every contact (unless you convert the Salesforce system to use Person Accounts [not recommended!]).

I did an ACT! data migration after the data set (some 20,000 records) supposedly had been cleaned up by a third-party vendor (at a cost of $12k) who specialized in this type of data clean-up. 

Unfortunately I spent an additional 60 hours cranking through Excel files with VLOOKUPs to get the data into the right format and exclude all the garbage in it.

If 30-60 hours of data clean-up sounds too unreasonable (from an implementation partner’s perspective on billing or the client’s perspective on paying), a way of saving on the budget is to place the responsibility on the client.  Provide the client with your data templates and invite the client to help do the work.

It’s likely the client will come back on the verge of the knee shot and ask the implementation partner to please take this horribleness off their plate.

Mini project 3 – importing the clean data in a structured manner:

12 hours

Once project 2 is out of the way several weeks later, this part isn’t actually too bad.

Mini project 4 – customizations / integrations:

15-80 hours

Assuming the standard Salesforce quote editor isn’t going to do it for the client (which is understandable), you will need to look at 3rd-party vendors/solutions to handle this.

If you’re looking for a CPQ solutions (advanced configurator/custom price builder), you could use CPQ Software | SteelBrick.

  • It’s licensed software –> monthly licensing fees
  • Set up products/pricing/price books
  • Set up advanced configurator logic and business rules.

Set aside 40-80 hours.

Another option is to use Conga Composer to build fancy-looking Word or Excel templates based on the existing Salesforce data.  Pricing here is $15/user/month with a 5-user minimum.

You will need to build reports that feed into those templates.  Give that another 15-20 hours.

Integrations with other system will take additional hours based on:

  • the target system
  • the integration software
  • whether tweaks need to be made or the entire interface needs to be custom-built from scratch.

This effort could span anything from twenty to hundreds of hours.

Mini project 5 – training:

35 hours

For example’s sake let’s go with:

  • 20 users that need to be trained
  • across 4 different job responsibilities ==> 5 training groups.  
  • training materials need to be prepared for and customized towards these different groups of users and their different day-in-the-life scenarios.  

15-20 hours for the materials preparation

15 hours for the actual training (2-3 hours per training group). 


This is a sample layout of a project and associated hour estimates based on a sample fictitious project. The actual estimates could be vastly different, but without detailed requirements this should be used only as a high-level guideline.