Thursday, September 10, 2015

Salesforce Lightning And Juggling Ideas Together For Rapid Development And Rapid Training

When you employ rapid development techniques, you need a documentation and training tool that can quickly introduce new capabilities and concepts and later allow you to expand on that knowledge with added content. Salesforce uses Trailhead as that online learning tool to introduce users around the world to new features associated with the Lightning Experience and other platform capabilities.

While Salesforce's traditional documentation and training resources contain a multi-course buffet of information, Trailhead provides resources more comparable to a delightful cocktail party. The content is lighthearted and approachable and comes in bite-sized portions that are quick and easy to consume.

For developers and administrators who want to gain familiarity with the new Lightning Experience before unleashing it for end-users, Trailhead offers a great introduction with four new badges (pre-Dreamforce '15): Lightning Experience Basics, Features, App Customization Lite, and Rollout.

Being able to offer training content quickly and update it easily has been a benefit of Trailhead, a unique and innovative free training offering from Salesforce.

For the team involved in creating Trailhead, customer enthusiasm for the training modules has been rewarding. "I've never stumbled onto anything this big," says Josh Birk, Developer Evangelist at Salesforce and the developer behind the initial Trailhead prototype. According to Josh, "this last year has been the best year of my career for being part of a team of people with such a passion for improving customer experience."

We can learn from more than the content since, as a project, Trailhead has a lot of lessons to teach businesses by example.

According to Josh, "At Salesforce, we aren't just trying to make things work, we are trying to make things work better." In this case, Salesforce executives lent their support when they discovered multiple groups working independently on an area where the company was already doing good work, according to customer feedback, but individual employees had a desire to move beyond good to great.

Moving a product from good to great might seem like a luxury to companies that are stingy with resources and believe success comes from doing what you did well once before, years ago. Companies like that typically suffer from business short-comings like risk-aversion, groupthink, management by perkele, and bystander apathy resulting in management that gives a cold shoulder to new ideas or any ideas that don't come from the top down. But the culture at Salesforce avoids all of those pitfalls.

Josh feels lucky to work for a company that supports compelling ideas born from employees asking themselves "what if we could give our absolute best?" In this example, Salesforce executives demonstrated their interest in helping employees achieve their best by encouraging their efforts.

Executives knew that multiple people were exploring good ideas and gave those people time to collaborate on what they were all trying to achieve. Managers guided the teams to discover how they might fit their ideas together. Open collaboration is part of the Salesforce culture to keep moving forward, keep progressing and keep being innovative.

For Josh and others working on creating Trailhead, their original ideas to give their best sprang from interactions they had with individual customers. Face-to-face at workshops, online in the Chatter communities, everywhere they found customers, they took the opportunity to think about what might make things better for each of those individuals.

According to Josh, "our approach was not looking at what other companies were doing but instead looking at what our customers needed." What started as a tool for on-boarding new administrators and developers is evolving with new content for more intermediate and advanced users, and of course offers new content around release features like Lightning as well.

For administrators rolling out Lightning Experience, these lessons in collaboration can be applied to the roll out. With the limited Lighting Experience available in the Winter '16 release, we have time to conduct workshops with users and brainstorm on what Lightning has to offer our teams to help them achieve their best. As administrators, we have the opportunity to juggle these ideas together into improvements for our companies as long as we welcome ideas from end users and think about making things better for them as individuals.

To hear more about Trailhead and innovation, sign up for Josh's session at Dreamforce 2015: Making of Trailhead in Moscone West.  

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