Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Dreamforce 2016 Prediction - A New Learning Cloud


After another exciting Dreamforce full of new technologies like the IoT Cloud and customer success, it is a good time to reflect on what was shown and turn an eye to the future.  Here is my prediction on what we will see from Salesforce in the next year.

The Past

Dreamforce 14 saw the launch of Trailhead, a new online, guided learning tool from Salesforce to help developers gain knowledge on the platform.  In the year since launch, the content and capabilities of Trailhead have expanded greatly.  In addition to developer trails and modules, there is content for admins, users, non-profits and ISVs

Salesforce’s launch of the Lightning Experience was backed with extensive training in Trailhead for users, admins and developers.  Finally, the Developer Zone at Dreamforce was all Trailhead all the time, complete with a cool, national parks motif and tons of opportunities for hands on learning.

The Future

I believe next year’s Dreamforce will see the launch of a new cloud – the Learning Cloud™.  With the underpinning technology that drives Trailhead, it is time to make customers, partners, non-profits and all stakeholders successful in their educational efforts.  Here is how each constituent will benefit from the Learning Cloud.


Have you met a customer that does not have the need to train employees?  Because, I have not encountered one.  The obvious application is to train employees of the Salesforce system, including specific customizations and apps.  However, the Learning Cloud can do so much more.  The onboarding that every new hire must complete, from HR to IT, can live in the cloud.  

While I have not heard many people speak excitedly about compliance or HR training, it is time to change the experience.  Do not discount the gamification aspects of earning points and badges while competing with others.  Leaderboards for new hires, departments and team adds an element of fun and peer pressure to keep up with co-workers.  Through integration with Work.com, a manager can setup and track progress on training goals for their direct reports.  Executive dashboards in the Analytics Cloud provide insight into the organization’s skill set and corporate readiness to pursue new ventures.

Employees are only half of the equation for Salesforce’s Customers.  The application for the Customer’s end Customer is extensive.  Need to train operators on a new model of industrial equipment, the Learning Cloud has you covered.  The same is true if you need to certify partners on your solution or service.  Applications can be applied to Business to Consumer application as well.

Looking at the gamification aspects again, consumer behavior can be easily incentivized.  Individualized customer journeys can be setup in the Marketing Cloud to provide a reward code, special level, or discount offer for your active participation in learning activities.  As many products and services have lost their distinguishing characteristics from competitor to competitor, companies need a way to stand out.  Differentiating yourself based on educational capabilities is one more way to avoid competing solely on price.  

SI Partners

The System Integrator partners are in the business of implementing the various Salesforce clouds, including the development of custom applications in the App Cloud.  There is no better way to complete the roll-out and onboarding phase of an engagement then having learning management built into the same platform.  Whether the need is for technical or business process training delivered on-demand or in person, the Learning Cloud covers the need. 

We all know how difficult change management is, especially in larger organizations.  Overall training on the why, where, what, when and how of the change can be distributed in advance of go live.  Additionally, help within the applications can point directly to the correct modules, providing relevant, contextual help when a user needs it.  Creating this educational material, which can be updated and expanded as the solution evolves, only adds to the benefits of developing on the Salesforce customer success platform.

ISV Partners

The case is even stronger for existing partners developing apps sold on the App Exchange.  With packaged application development, there is always the need to produce educational materials for administrators and end users.  The old approach of writing a user manual that sits unopened on someone’s desk clearly does not drive engagement and success. 

Rather than wasting time creating an unread manual, which frustrates users and the content creators, engage with focused modules including interactive content based on actual app usage.  For example, analysis of usage metrics can help identify where additional training is required. 

Integration with the Learning Cloud can go a step further to build compliance into the solutions.  For example, if employees must successfully complete Personally Identifiable Information (PII) training before access sensitive data, the app can block access for the user until the PII module has been passed. 

New Partner Opportunities

With the introduction of the Learning Cloud, new opportunities for partners will emerge.  The first is for SI-like companies.  These partners will be educational theory and/or content creation experts.  The partners will help advise customer on how to setup effective learning modules and paths, including assessment structure to accurately measure understanding.  In addition, these types of partners will help structure effective lessons and questions, as well as the graphics, videos and interactive content that make learning effective.

The second category of new partners will follow the path of current ISV partners.  The Learning Cloud becomes a platform for them to reach customers that have nothing to do with Salesforce.   Need to provide training to customers, these partners will have a range of Learning Management Solutions to fit your needs.  Think of the current solutions provided by companies like Pluralsight or Udemy.  No longer do they need to focus on the mechanics of delivering training.  Instead it is about the content an making trainees successful.


Salesforce is a strong supporter of improving the world through its Salesforce Foundation and 1-1-1 model.  While there are many applications for the Learning Cloud in the non-profit space, a couple applications come immediately to mind.

We have an education system that is not as effective as it should be.  With the Learning Cloud, we could flip how we teach students and improve outcomes.  Rather than having students be introduced to topics at school and reinforce the learning at home with homework, the opposite approach becomes possible.  Use modules to introduce concepts to students, including video, interactivity and initial assessment quizzes.  Homework then turns into schoolwork with the supervision of the trained educator who is versed in educational theory and techniques. 

If revolutionizing the educational module is too radical of an idea, applications remain with the current approach.  What parent hasn’t struggled at one time or another when assisting a child with homework?  Whether a refresh of the topic at hand or a better understanding of how concepts are being taught, parents can finally have a resource to help their children learn.  Add in a connected Community Cloud where parents and educators can work together to ensure no child is left behind to amplify the effect.

Within the Salesforce community, there are multiple outreach groups to bring targeted populations to the platform. For example, Girls Who Code or Vet Force reach out to specific segments of the population.  Part of the mission of these organization is to expose their constituents to Salesforce and how to utilize the platform.  Being able to customize cotenant focused on their member’s needs furthers engagement and participation.  In person learning contests and hack-a-thons are much easier to organize and deliver with a platform to facilitate the event.

Be Prepared

With a relentless focus on customer success and so much need in the learning management space, the Learning Cloud seems like a natural next step for Salesforce.  For the LMS companies out there, consider this your warning.  Salesforce is coming and will disrupt your market.  Most of you are not even aware of the threat.

As an avid user of Trailhead since its launch in 2014, I am excited to see what the next year brings.  Think about all of the content you would publish to the Learning Cloud in order to educate your stakeholders.  Then patiently hold your breath for the next big thing to be announced.

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