Salesforce is a massive platform and can be extremely overwhelming to pick up and learn. Being actively engaged as a Salesforce admin I tend to forget how difficult it can be to jump into the Salesforce ecosystem and not feel absolutely lost for a little while. I recently was speaking with a few friends who were looking to begin the process of “learning Salesforce” and they asked me for my opinion on where to start. Trailhead was the first thing that popped into my head and I quickly got them the necessary links to get started.
This blog is for all of the people out there who continuously ask me how I got to know all of the stuff about Salesforce. Quite simply! I use Trailhead when I want to learn a new topic and I have a masters degree in Google searches if Trailhead doesn’t cover something I need. Did I mention that the Trailhead platform is free to use? Yup, that’s right, it’s absolutely free to use. I would recommend that if you are not already a Salesforce customer that you sign up for a developer org (also free) so that you can learn all of the parts of the platform without having to be concerned about what license your company has. This is a part of the sign up process for Trailhead if you do not already have a Salesforce account.
What Is Trailhead?
Trailhead is a platform that salesforce.com created to help Administrators and Developers learn to use the Salesforce platform. It typically breaks content down into beginner, intermediate, and advanced topics so a user can quickly identify the path they need to take. The main objective, from my perspective, of the Trailhead platform is to provide a place that allows for continual education in a self paced environment.
How is this different from just reading training manuals, work books, and blogs? The easiest way to explain it is with the graphic above. When you first start you will typically find a trail (topic) that interests you. Each trail has a series of modules (sub-topics) that will teach you specific content in each unit that you participate in. Trails also will have projects that allow for more open projects to be undertaken. You are given a series of steps to complete and how you go about doing it is up to you. The great thing about the modules and projects are that you are connected into a Salesforce org (typically a Sandbox or Developer org) to do an actual verification that your work is set up correctly. This provides a great hands on educational process that gives you the freedom to try things out and tailor them to your business needs once you’re done with a module.
What Can I Do With Trailhead?
There is quite a bit to do within the Trailhead platform. As I mentioned earlier, the platform’s content is, for the most part, aimed at assisting developers and administrators further their education. However, there has been a recent surge of content that isn’t geared toward that normal demographic. The kind of content that has been put out fairly recently that breaks the traditional mold are modules like CRM Basics, Coaching & Feedback, and Great Management. There are several others that fall into this type of content, but these mostly deal with helping the business users understand how to leverage Salesforce to their advantage.
This is fantastic! For a long while it has been a tedious job to teach each new team member how to use Salesforce if they have never done it before. Now you can provide them access to Trailhead and have them complete some of the business user content to ramp up on the basics of using a CRM. I’m certainly not advocating abandoning your training regimens in favor of purely using Trailhead, but I am saying that this can certainly offset some of the basics that need to be taught when it comes to Salesforce.
Let’s assume that you’re a developer or administrator, what does Trailhead have to offer you? Trailhead is broken into two major categories of trails; the ones that focus on declarative configuration and the trails that focus on using code to customize the platform. Each path has beginner, intermediate, and advanced trails that you can pursue to understand the intricacies of the platform. There are also several ancillary trails that cover things like learning how to use Wave Analytics, design things with Heroku, and build integrations into Microsoft products.
How Can Trailhead Potentially Improve?
Although Trailhead is one of my favorite things that Salesforce has created, there is always room for improvement. Here are a few ways that I’ve thought of where Trailhead could improve in the future to further assist in education for the community:
Salesforce is really big in supporting the ISVs that produce amazing apps to supplement the platform. One of the challenges that I hear about is having to learn so many apps. I could easily see Salesforce releasing something like ISV Trails for popular applications to get people taught and trained on the things they use. Having each ISV create a trail would make the Trailhead environment very unwieldy. One method of handling this might be that once a user connects to an org Trailhead will see which managed packages are installed and present the ISV Trails that correspond to the content in that org. This would allow users to get trained on the products that are relevant to them and would bypass some of the other restrictions with having to have ISV app licenses.
What I envision for this is the ability to have our SuPICE customers log into Trailhead and see the SuPICE trail available to them. This would allow them to go through several hands on exercises to learn how to use the SuPICE platform and verify that they are doing the tasks correctly. This would also allow TerraSky to automate some of the training that takes place with our AppExchange applications. This is a very selfish desire for the ISV trails, but I know that if we have a desire to improve the rate and efficiency of training for our users then there must be other ISVs out there who want the same thing.
Company Specific Trails
Every company has a very specific way they use Salesforce and it can be a challenge to ramp people up on that process. What if Trailhead allowed companies to create trails specific to their business? This would allow the company to create interactive education that verified that the user not only took the course but also actually understands how to do the basic tasks. The biggest drawback to this idea is that someone at the company would have to invest a lot of time into making this a reality, but it could be well worth their while if it allows people to plow through Salesforce training at their own pace.
If you are trying to learn Salesforce then start with Trailhead. Between the 17+ trails and 70+ modules that are offered, it is difficult to have a more complete and comprehensive view of Salesforce in one place. In addition to that a majority of the modules and projects are interacting with your actual org, or a developer org, so that you can gain the hands on experience you need. Put on your learning hat and dive into Trailhead to really accelerate the way you work with the Salesforce platform.