Wednesday, April 15, 2015

How to Learn Salesforce

salesforce One of the questions I frequently hear is “What is the best way to learn Salesforce?” Now every student has a different learning style – visual, auditory and kinesthetic. Visual learners are those that want to be shown, while auditory learn best by hearing. They last group is where I fall, as my preferred learning style is by doing. What I will share is what worked for me to learn Salesforce and encourage you to adapt to how you learn best.

Perhaps the hardest part of learning Salesforce is figuring out where to start. There is so much material out there to sift through. Further compounding the challenge, is three new releases a year and related release notes. While this delivers enormous customer value, it means more to learn and often renders old material obsolete. So, where to start?

My first recommendation is to sign up for your own, free development organization, which you can do here. This is your own environment where you can try out features and experiment risk free, which is great for those who learn by doing. You will also see how your development org plays into my next set of recommendations.  Next, the Salesforce User Guide is a comprehensive document with information on a ton of topics.  At nearly 5,000 pages, it is a better reference document to lookup a concept than light reading!

To help validate your knowledge, Salesforce offers a series of certifications from developer to admin to sales and service cloud consultant. Each of the tracks offers a study guide with recommended training courses (both classroom and online) and topics of study. Even if you do not plan to pursue certification, the information in the study guide provides a great learning framework.  To reinforce my learning, I went for the certification exams after going through the material for each track.

For me, I started with Developer track followed by Admin, Sales Cloud, Advanced Admin, then Service Cloud certification.  In retrospect, the Advanced Admin track is better to take right after Admin as there is material overlap and Advanced builds on top of Admin.  Next, I took a slight detour to earn Pardot certification before returning to Advanced Developer, which I am eagerly awaiting programming assignment availability. When I started last summer, the Salesforce online training was a great help. The online training combines all three learning methods – video demonstrations with voice over reinforced with practice exercises in your developer organization.

Now, the online training is a great resource, but unfortunately the full catalog of courses is not free. I had the benefit of being a Salesforce partner which includes access to the premier training catalog.  Access is also included for any customer that signs up for premier support. If you don't fall into these categories, all hope is not lost. There are a series of workbooks available that will help walk you through various topics.  If you don’t want to go at it alone, you can find a local Salesforce User Group or Salesforce Developer User Group to meet up with a like-minded community.

Additionally, there is a new resource available that was launched at Dreamforce ’14, which is a game changer. Trailhead is an interactive learning platform that walks you through the building blocks of Salesforce. There are focused modules of topics from Chatter and Change Management to Apex and Visualforce. Each course provides a lesson with instructions, examples and often videos to watch. At the end of the module there are either questions to test your knowledge or assignments to complete in your developer organization. Successful answers and working solutions earn you points and badges to track your progress. Did I mention that this resource is entirely free!

With a variety of learning resources tailored to your individual learning needs, you will be up an running on Salesforce in no time. 

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