Tips to Pass the Administrator Certification Exam

I came late to Salesforce, only working with it for the last five years. The upside to that is that I don’t have a bunch of old habits that need to be unlearned in order to take full advantage if this awesome platform. The downside is that I am having to re-brand myself after having risen to the top of a technology space that was decimated by a combination of merger-madness and a vendor-victimization of the acquired customers. Salesforce will eventually fill that nixed niche for both the technologists like myself and the customers who need something that is flexible, scalable and has strong communities for both technical and business users. A big part of establishing oneself in the Salesforce space is certification, and the Salesforce Administrator certification is the foundation for anyone interested in professionally working in the field.

While I have over a hundred certifications, most are from third-party testers rather than the vendor because my experience of vendor certifications is that they require memorizing things that take less than a minute to find on Google and are only used two or three times in a career. And they cost a lot of money. However, they are also a way to stand out in a field where there are many people who rely entirely on search results for their understanding of how to get things done and believe that complex issues can be solved by only re-using the result of the first link that matches the immediate need.

The Salesforce Administrator is definitely one of the more honest certifications in that if you have been working regularly with the product for a couple of years you can pass the exam with little or no study. Not because there isn’t a bunch of those esoteric questions that only the admin-savant knows, but because the passing grade is only 65% and the credential verification site only shows that you passed and not by how many layers of teeth-skin you made it by. 65 is a fair percentage of what you would learn if you were doing the job correctly for some period of time or are adept at acquiring skills quickly through a combination of classroom learning and real life experience (which is how I passed, with much better than a 65% score).

The steps I will outline here are meant for whether you have real-life experience or not. Experience is not necessary to become certified in most technologies, which is why in many (other than Salesforce and a very few others) certification has become meaningless. It is, however, necessary to become good at applying the knowledge that is being certified. As is experience with other technologies and roles outside of technology.

If you haven’t already, go sign up for a free Salesforce Developer account. As soon as you sign up, you will get an invitation to join Trailhead. You can join Trailhead without the free account, but you will want the free account to better grow your skills. Trailhead provides a whole lot of free training is well-designed and relevant to real-world requirements. At the start, I suggest completing a bunch of the beginner modules. They are easy to do and instructional, with many hands-on exercises that will get your confidence up. Confidence is key to test-taking. If you are working with Salesforce in the real world you can be prepared for the certification exam simply by completing all of the beginner and intermediate admin modules for Sales Cloud, providing you do them in a compressed period of time and test soon after completion.

If you are one of those people who are really good test-takers and are interested in high scores regardless of how practical your knowledge is there are several free prep sites on the web. Here is a list of the ones I found fairly useful, even if some of the questions are more about impressing people on the knowledge of the site owner than in preparing for the exam: Administrator Certification Quiz / Sample Questions

Certified Administrator Mock Exam

Certified Administrator Mock Exam

Personally, because of the number of questions that are not on the exam and are both esoteric and overly-clever (i.e., “tricky”), I found the above sites useful in building knowledge but not very helpful for confidence.

For me, the best resource for preparing for the exam was Udemy. There are a few free courses, and you can combine them will all of the above and have a good chance of passing. If you want to guarantee a pass, I suggest two courses.

The first is I can’t say enough good things about this course. It is extremely well-designed and engagingly presented. It covers every aspect of the exam and provides practical and understandable demonstrations.

The second Udemy course isn’t really a course (IMO). It is There are three tests in the course that you can take as many times as you like and the review your wrong answers with both the correct answers and explanation why it is correct. If you are not in a rush, you can sign up for a Udemy account and then wait for one of the frequent sales they have and take the courses for under $15 each, a bargain considering Salesforce will charge you $20 bucks for one practice quiz.

Finally, when the time for the exam comes, be prepared with a strategy. The practice tests should give you an idea of how much of the allotted time you personally will need. I have to variations of my certification exam strategy based on how much of that time is required.

If you find you use most of the allotted time in practice exams, when the real exam comes along take in four phases. In the first phase only answer the questions you immediately know the answer to going from first to last question. In the second phase, go through the unanswered questions as quickly as you can and check the review box for all those you don’t feel confident about. For the third phase, review all of the questions you check for review and take your time until you are confident you have either chosen the best answer or truly don’t know the answer. The final phase is to review the questions from start to finish until your time is down to the last minute.

If you generally finished quickly in the practice exams with a passing score then on exam day go through all of the questions in order and flag any that you are not 100% positive of. Then go back and review those questions and revise the answers where necessary. Finally, quickly go through all the questions again and double check yourself.

© Scott S. Nelson

5 Approaches to lower enterprise technology costs

At the same time that everyone is talking about digital transformations there is demand from the boardroom to lower spending on technology. On the surface, these two goals appear to be mutually exclusive. How can innovation and transformation be carried out with a reduced budget? Here are some approaches that can help resolve the paradox.

Create a contract between business and IT

Everyone agrees that IT and Business must work together to improve operational efficiency and profitability. If you only read business-focused or technology-focused publications, you probably thing everyone is doing this and wonder what is wrong in your organization where you are not seeing the benefits of such cooperation. One reason for this perceptual disconnect is that in many organizations only one side of the equation considers they are working together. In actuality, that side is dictating capabilities to the other side and calling it cooperation. If there are frequent conversations in the enterprise about the same issues occurring over and over again, this is a good sign the cooperation is one-sided.

A contract spells out the responsibilities of both parties and details the necessary interactions that must occur to ensure those responsibilities can be met and the corrective measure to take when they are not. The contract between IT and Business will be unique in every organization with some common items included such as:

  1. Both parties must be present when goals are finalized and that all goals have a clear definition of achievement.
  2. The path to goals are steps, not leaps, and a cadence of interaction for the purpose of reviewing progress and refining expectations and understandings must be set before pursuit of the goal begins.

Double the project budgets

Sure, this is about cost-cutting, so how could doubling project budgets help that? Because two of the most common technology costs are the increase in spending as the project nears the scheduled completion date and the resources necessary to maintain an under-funded development effort in production. By doubling the budget up front inefficient uses of funding will be reduced or eliminated. Providing bonuses for coming in under budget coupled with adequate funding up front will both motivate and enable IT teams to reduce costs.

Leverage professional consulting services

Companies that reduce their consulting costs rarely see a corresponding reduction in overall IT spending. Yes, consultants cost more per hour. This is because they absorb the expenses of recruiting, training and managing highly-skilled specialists. This is not to disparage the recruiting, training and management capabilities within an organization. It is about the focus of those efforts. Within an enterprise, the highly-skilled are need for operations and tactical projects. If they are focused on strategic projects they will either not be able to properly perform maintenance or they will be rushed in their development efforts. Similarly, contracting individual resources to fill in the gaps on either side is a risk because the individual contractors are not used to working together as a team and are motivated to focus only on the short-term. The highest cost for consulting services is acquiring new business, which is a driver for the consultants to provide long-term value. Also, consulting companies have teams that deal with the new and strategic all the time and bring experience acquired from multiple enterprises.

The key to benefiting from consulting is to determine what your needs are up front and ask for references that can vouch for those capabilities. When considering your needs, do think about the ability to work across business and IT as well as skill and willingness to train your personnel in post-implementation maintenance. You should also understand that hiring a consultant is not like hiring a contractor. Where sourcing a contractor, seek out one with specific experience in your exact planned solution, consultants are experienced in dealing with early adoption and rapidly absorbing new technologies. The key thing your consulting partner needs to be experienced in is multiple solutions with similar technologies and challenges.

Promote from within

Another common theme in IT is the high cost of recruiting and dearth of qualified candidates. If (as an example) it costs $40,000 to recruit and train a new architect and the position turns over on average every three years, a $10,000 raise or bonus every year will still cost less and the architect will become increasingly more efficient within the organization as they have a deeper understanding of how things work.

Iterative road maps

The lure of going all in on new technologies, architectures and services is the same as that of playing the lottery or betting on a slot machine: the media and advertiser only show you pictures of the winners. Granted, the odds of succeeding within an enterprise though innovation are better than most gambles, but enterprise technology should be managed more like an investment portfolio than a gambling budget. Compare opportunities by their potential return. Balance your investments between levels of risk. Build on success and knowledge. In IT, this equates to doing a cost-benefit analysis on IT projects then staring with a proof-of-concept or pilot program and then only change existing assets when it is profitable or practical to do so.

Originally published at InfoWorld

© Scott S. Nelson