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Putting aside the time related to rolling out a new Saleforce org or customizations after the roll out, how much time should an admin expect to spend maintaining a bare bone Salesforce account per year with a handful of managed packages with less than 10 active users, and why?

Estimates should include any training related to Salesforce required changes, testing upgrades, backups, system monitoring, bulk data loading, user-admin, etc, but not creating new fields, reports, etc; just basically what is required to keep what is in place up and running, and admin tasks that normal users likely would not do such as bulk data loading. If you're able to cite a source for the estimates, even better; if the source happens to be Salesforce, that would likely be the best source.

  • In other words, your company wants to write a proposal for a potential client - or wants to know what it will be charged - to do this? – DavidSchach Apr 26 '14 at 2:04
  • @David Schach: No, they (a nonprofit) have already decided they want to use the "free" version the Salesforce Foundation provides to eligible non-profits. I don't think they understand how much time it will require to maintain Salesforce, and get the impression that they think it will just work as is once setup without any of the sys-admin described above, which is possible, but unlikely in my opinion, hence the question. – blunders Apr 26 '14 at 2:19
  • Any organization that thinks it will be so easy will require much more time than most - because they will need to complain about how it's not as easy as they wanted it to be, and they will continue to mismanage expectations. I'd say to account for a full-time person because of all the functionality they could - and should - roll into Salesforce. – DavidSchach Apr 26 '14 at 3:00
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Updates added per @blunders request

2014-04-30 More Updates added as I thought of a couple of more items

I once had an SFDC system with only 7 users so here is my experience (after all was setup and users trained)

Starting with your example tasks ...

  1. Salesforce required changes : 0 hours - about the only time I ever ran across this was when SFDC dropped support for IE6 and IE6 was part of the standard desktop image installed by IT
  2. Testing upgrades : 0 hours - even on much larger SFDC instances, I would not formally test SFDC upgrades in the PROD environment. The whole point of the cloud solution is that SFDC is responsible for maintaining backward compatibility - you are paying for this 'feature'. If anything, testing SFDC upgrades on pre-releases usually is more frustrating than revealing as it exposes more SFDC bugs than errors in the specific org. Obviously on more mission critical orgs, more rigorous testing makes sense but for 7-10 users - only if you want to bill some hours
  3. Backups - 10 minutes - I set up a weekly export to backup everything to CSV and saved it off to a network drive. I never once had to do a restore because the users had messed up the database so badly that we needed to recover.
  4. System monitoring - 0 to epsilon hours; again, this is SFDC's job and if the org goes down, so do thousands of other orgs. The SFDC OPs team have plenty of motivation to get things back up. I would send an email to my users with links to trust.salesforce.com/status + instance moniker so they could track progress themselves
  5. Bulk data loading - varies - could be 0 to 1-2 hours per week if users are forcing the admin to upload data without troubling themselves to learn the wizards (or if the org is complex enough without good validation rules that user's can't be trusted to do this)
  6. User admin - 0-2hrs -- This could be the common - 'I'm locked out because I forgot my password' to the more tedious (Claude has left the company, can you reassign all his accounts/oppos/whatever to Claudine except for the Illinois accounts which go to Frobisher) requests

That said, on my 7 person org, I could go months without a peep from the user community on any of the items you mentioned

as for other 'keep the lights on' tasks not related to adding features or constructing reports, the items were rare and episodic:

  • Dealing with the renewal SFDC subscription (e.g. justifying the system expense to Finance; seeing that the PO got issued; making sure the invoice got paid). In the aforementioned org, because the cost of 7 users p.a. was so low, there were interdepartmental battles over who would pay for it (ironic eh?) so this could get time consuming
  • Responding to queries as to whether SFDC was secure; what our Business Systems Continuity strategy was if SFDC was down (answer: wait until it comes back up)
  • Email deliverability issues - From time to time, some user would complain that they weren't getting email or email they sent to someone wasn't received. I was reminded of this today when on a different org, we ran into non-delivery of email sent from yahoo.com users due to Yahoo DMARC policy change as documented here in SFDC KB.

Bottom line, you can invest very little time in keeping the lights on if the system you built from the get go is well tested, has easy-to-locate reports, has good validation rules, and is as intuitive as possible. In the aforementioned org, users were plenty happy with the classic SFDC interface and saw no need to even go to Chatter or the new UI - I'm reminded of the systems I see at my dentist - still a Win95-based UI; or at my auto insurance carrier's underwriter's desk - screen-scraped 3270 system --- so you really can get away with very little background maintenance.

  • You can now do password resets via phone app (salesforceA) and mass reassign has improved for the turnover issue. – Shane McLaughlin Apr 28 '14 at 0:55
  • @Shane - good points – cropredy Apr 28 '14 at 4:28
  • +1 @crop1645: Thanks, it appears you might have missed the point of the examples a little bit. The examples were just examples. Did you spend anytime doing anything that was required to keep what is in place up and running, but not tasks for related to adding stuff to the existing build that was not listed above? Realize this might be vague, though the intent is to filter out task that are clear adding onto the existing solution, and not an attempt to maintain what's already in existence. Really like your answer, just requesting clarification on your experiences as they relate to the question. – blunders Apr 29 '14 at 3:42
  • @blunders - added some more bits here; since I didn't have to do much on this org, it was hard to think of the stuff I actually did do :-) – cropredy Apr 29 '14 at 16:14
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    @blunders - a) nature of the system was such that users self-policed the data as there were legal ramifications to not getting it right and b) original system had quite a few validation rules/triggers to enforce data quality – cropredy Apr 29 '14 at 18:53
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I'm going to give an answer--to at least get some discussion going: 2hrs/wk.

For something so small, if you plan to have someone set you up and then leave, that's about it. This time is going to be what we call data hygiene (cleaning dupes, reviewing reports, unlocking someone occasionally, and helping users with their questions) plus the data loading you mentioned.

Salesforce doesn't take much to " keep running " but you will have messy data if you don't stay on top of it.

What really happens is that people. (Admin- types ) typically are constantly adjusting the system to keep up with business needs. Salesforce frees admins from typical sysadmin tasks and gives a reasonably intelligent person enormous power to build stuff, which is cool but can eat more time than you think, once you get hooked on "oh, I can have it do whatever I want?!"

Does anyone "monitor" the system?

  • Alternatively, one could ask "what does it take to keep our instance clean?" Good users might be "no time at all", while poorly trained users might be a full time job... – sfdcfox Apr 26 '14 at 7:35
  • I think this is probably about right, although it could be 1hr./wk depending on the week. Data cleanup is the big issue, and for that, they really need something like DupeBlocker/Cloudingo (or both). Without data cleanup, the usefulness of their instance will go down rapidly. – Evan Donovan Apr 29 '14 at 16:33
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I don't have hard numbers, but here are some things to keep in mind when estimating.

  • Data cleaning is never a one time thing. Depends on volume of records and the training level of the folks entering the data.
  • There are 3 releases per year. Reading release notes, expectations management for users of changes coming, training, all those things take time.
  • Report creation is generally something that a few folks just "get" and others are loathed to learn. Those that "get it" will spend quite a bit of time creating and re-creating reports for the other guys.

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