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#036 - How I decided which certifications to do next
Welcome to Issue #036 of The Forcing Function - your guide to delivering the right outcomes for your projects and your users.
🤔 Made me think: “Hard choices, easy life. Easy choices, hard life.”
👨💻 Worth checking out: The Regret Minimisation Framework.
My thought process on how I’ll be developing my Tooling Dexterity capability group.
This a continuation of a mini-series as I consider what certification(s) I want to achieve in 2023 and where do I want to go next in my business analysis career. If you missed it, here’s Part 1 in Issue #034.
In the final part of this 3-part mini-series, this is where the rubber meets the road as I choose which certifications to do this year.
Whilst my reflection on my as-is situation has been insightful, it’s been tempting to continue with that but that’s also a slippery path down towards the hell of analysis paralysis. A quarter of 2023 has already flown by so I need to decide now so I can plan enough time for study and revision in amongst my other commitments and priorities.
Choosing my 2023 certifications
As I wrote about in Issue #002 - Considering certifications, I use these three questions to help guide me in evaluating what certification to do next and why.
How important is the certification to my career journey?
What’s the opportunity cost of doing certification?
How valued is certification by those who matter?
For conciseness, as this issue is almost 2,000 words long, I won’t be covering my thought process on how I’ll develop each of the four capability groups. Instead, I’ll just zoom in on how I’m going to further develop my Tooling Dexterity capability group as I have already committed my career to the Salesforce ecosystem.
Using the popular Eisenhower’s Matrix, I’ve done my own variation which maps each potential Salesforce certification I could do next based on these two dimensions:
Immediate Value: Does the certification move the needle for me in the short-term?
Applicability: Do I have the practical experience for the certification to be applicable (rather than academic) to my career today?
A couple of things to note about this visual before we get into it.
I’ve only included those certifications in the Salesforce role tracks that are relevant to my career: Salesforce Administrator, Salesforce Consultant, and Salesforce Designer tracks.
For reference, an example of an irrelevant track I’ve excluded from this options analysis would be the Salesforce Developer path as I have no coding background or inclination to do that role.
The options listed, naturally, don’t include the 3 certifications that I’ve already earned.
What each quadrant reveals
Now, looking at each quadrant in turn reveals some intriguing insights. Let’s get start with the certifications I’ll be doing next and I’ll finish with the ones that I’m simply going to ignore.
Earn (High Immediate Value + High Applicability)
When doing this exercise, I genuinely didn’t expect to end up with these two certifications in this quadrant:
User Experience Designer
Both are part of the new Salesforce Designer path which is Salesforce’s work-in-progress attempt to recognise that there are those of us who work with their platform but who aren’t technical. Yet we still play a critical part of any successful implementation. We’re unlikely to chase becoming an elite Certified Technical Architect but we need our own path.
Focusing less on the “harder” technical aspects of the Salesforce platform, these certifications are centred more about the “softer” discovery and design aspects. Both aspects sit ahead of doing the actual delivery work. Doing both discovery and delivery right helps ensure that the end-result delivers the right outcomes for the users.
From my perspective, this is beneficial in several ways:
As a business analyst (BA), having good facilitation and consulting skills is fundamental to what I do when I deliver a project. Those same skills overlap with those needed to be successful in the discovery work. So, getting more involved in discovery both reinforces and extends my skillset - essentially, driving the T-shape of my career.
As I now get more involved in Salesforce projects at an earlier stage than a Process BA would (see Issue #035 for the four types of BA), I’m already starting to build practical experience in this area. So, it would helpful to have a more structured perspective and foundation to build upon. Both to learn from and to validate that I’m following best practice.
As I continue to specialise even more in the Functional BA quadrant, focusing on these “softer” skills will give me a competitive advantage as another point of differentiation and distinction of the value I can bring to a project team. In particular, as I’m working with a Salesforce consulting partner where I am the only non-technical resource.
Although these certifications are so new that they not widely recognised today, I am confident in the long-term that they will be. Just as business analysis discipline has come on leaps and bounds over the last 10+ years and was finally recognised with a Salesforce Business Analyst certification which I earned last year.
Schedule (Low Immediate Value + High Applicability)
In the long-term, earning these certifications will be valuable to my career. They relate to core Salesforce building blocks that you need to effectively wield to successfully implement and utilise their platform. As such, they are popular to obtain as they are widely appreciated by clients and recruiters alike.
In a slightly roundabout way, because they are so popular, I don’t feel the need to “follow the herd” and get them right now. Instead, I’m expecting that my actual experience delivering Sales Cloud for multiple clients gives me the same credit as someone who has earned the Sales Cloud Consultant certification. It might even give me the edge over someone who hasn’t implemented this product frequently (if at all).
So, for now, I’ll wait until I’ve cleared the certifications in the Earn quadrant before scheduling these in do.
Backlog (High Immediate Value + Low Applicability)
These certifications are the ones that I’ve identified as being useful to have in the long-term. But they are also the ones that I need to gain sufficient practical experience on first.
They are the few that repeatedly come up when looking at industry trends, looking at job descriptions, and directly from the clients I’m working for. However, as I’ve written about in the previous issue (#035), I always believed that it’s only worth doing a certification if I also have real-world experience to back it up. So, these are on my roadmap to do by getting on projects that use these capabilities.
Most likely, the next one to earn from this quadrant will be the Advanced Administrator certification.
That not only builds on the base Administrator certification I’ve already earned. It also ties in with the remediation theme on brownfield Salesforce projects I’ve started to get more involved. Specifically, cleaning up the mess that’s been created by those who didn’t know what they were doing in (not) maintaining their implementation.
Ignore (Low Immediate Value + Low Applicability)
What remains are those certifications that:
Target a niche business sector. Such as the Non-profit Cloud Consultant certification for the non-profit, non-governmental, and charity clients.
Relate to building specialisation in products that Salesforce has acquired. Such as becoming a business-to-business marketing automation consultant with the Pardot Consultant certification.
For others, they may be valuable. For me, they are “noise”. They don't fit in my career path to date or in the future.
Getting these would only move the needle if I was repeatedly working with clients in either those sectors or needed those specialisations.
Beyond the Methods Competence capability group
Whilst there are those who do love earning as many Salesforce certifications as they possibly can, that’s not for me. My aim is to get at 7-8 and then stop unless there’s a new certification or a substantive change in my circumstances to warrant re-consideration.
The next capability group I’d look to bolster would be my Domain Expertise where, in the past, I focused on the financial services industry. This has always been a difficult group for me to develop as most certifications in this area focus on meeting regulatory requirements. Such as having the Chartered Financial Analyst certification to be a portfolio manager for an investment fund.
So, these certifications have typically fallen into the Ignore quadrant as they are too niche and too tangential from my BA career.
However, now that I’m working closely with a Salesforce partner, I have access to doing accreditations. Simply put, they sit at the intersection of a Salesforce product and how it serves a specific industry. Such as, the Financial Services Cloud Accredited Professional for the banking sector.
Of particular interest for me, as I’ve branched out into serving clients in the energy industry and in the communications industry, there are equivalent accreditations for each of them. All of which are examined so they do have some level of rigour involved. And because you must be with a Salesforce Partner to even get them, they are more advanced than certifications, rarer to earn, and leverage how I’m already developing my Tooling Dexterity capability group.
All of which should help me stand out more with clients and provide even more value to them in the long-run.
Over to you …
I hope that you found this mini-series helpful as you develop your own business analyst career. If you think this would be interesting to a friend or colleague, do share it with them.
Finally, if you have any questions or just want to have a 30 min chat to work through where you are now, where you’d like to develop, and the options you have, simply get in touch.
🤔 Made me think
“Hard choices, easy life. Easy choices, hard life.”
Whilst there’s the argument of working smarter, there does come a point where you’re confronted between a hard choice and easy (or less hard) choice.
Following this adage by Jerzy Gregorek, a record-setting Olympic weightlifter, has been one of those small yet powerful changes in my life.
It’s a lever that applies to all levels.
From making the “hard” choice to stop having any snacks at home which has made improving my health and my fitness easier; to finding it easier to find the right client to work for (and reject poor projects) because I’ve already made the “hard” choice to give up my personal time to study and sit for each of my certifications.
What’s the “hard” choice that you’re avoiding?
🧑💻Worth checking out
📺 The Regret Minimisation Framework | Jeff Bezos
Zooming out from all the analysis that you could do, there’s also a place for just following a simple rubric.
For me, sometimes it boils down to whether doing something is a gut feeling of “hell, yeah” or “hard pass”. More often that not, that’s been a robust predictor of whether that decision felt right (or not).
In a similar vein, I like Bezos’s rubric of “In X years will I regret doing this?” as it’s also simple, clear, and easy to remember to do.
🖖Until next Thursday ...
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For now, thank you so much for reading this week's issue of The Forcing Function and I hope that you have a great day.
PS: Thanks to P for reading drafts for me.