Rite of Passage for Force.com Developers

07/08/2011 by Roger Mitchell
How and why building a custom application is the best starting project for new Force.com Developers, and what it taught me as a recent addition to the Force.com community.

Pledging. Probationary period. Tests during onboarding. All of us have experienced some form of rite of passage before, whether it be through football practices in high school, a collegiate fraternity, or at our first job; it separates the driven people from the rest of the herd. I recently had to complete a rite of passage: build a (simple) Force.com application for my new job at Arkus.

My Background & The Project

Prior to working at Arkus, I was the sudo Salesforce.com Administrator for one year with a company whose instance was set up mainly using the Sales Cloud. Before starting my passage at Arkus, I read through the Force.com workbooks to better my understanding of Salesforce and the details relating to the platform. With this knowledge, the task of building a Force.com application is certainly doable, and mirrors many of the sections of the "Force.com Fundamentals" workbook. It also helped that I passed my Salesforce.com Administrator certification exam.

Enough about me. So what was the project? The task masters acted as a fictional client and proposed a project to track the titles within their personal DVD libraries. They wanted to track several movie-related fields, have custom links that searched for the movie on Amazon and IMDb, the movie poster, and user-submittable reviews for each movie. Sounds simple enough, right?

Objects with Fields

After completing the initial setup and creating objects, I presented my "Movie App" for feedback. They created a Family Movie with a rating of NC-17. They wanted to know how many days, months, and years it had been since the movie was released. They created a movie rated PG-13 for a movie in the 1970s, before it was even a rating. Initially, I was discouraged because I thought that I had created something pristine.

But what had I created? A few objects with fields and sample data. This is completely fine for the initial presentation. It is our job as Salesforce professionals to become experts in our clients' products and how their businesses function as we begin tailoring our initial attempt, and expanding on their feedback and requirements. I made some assumptions about what my client wanted, and some were correct, others lead to reconfiguration. This also plays into the Arkus methodology of Agile design.

I spent another 10 to 15 hours configuring the "Movie App", during which I touched custom objects, profiles, search layouts, validation rules, dependent picklists, email templates, workflow rules, and (somewhat) complex formulas. The application met the project requirements, and tracks movies and their reviews, emails users when a new review is added, is intuitively designed for users to add and view movies, and has other useful features for movie enthusiasts.


Did my "client" really want to track their DVDs? Of course not, or at least I don't think so, since none of them asked me to package the app and send them a link to install in an org. The point wasn't to create some beautiful application that gets put on the AppExchange and is heralded as the best thing since sliced bread.

Where do I find this? that? the other thing that we rarely use? Is this possible? Those are the questions that building a custom application answers for a probie starting work with Salesforce, whether as a consultant or administrator. Along with enabling self discovery and hands-on learning for new Force.com developers, it allows you, as a mentor, to act as a client or workgroup and provide realistic feedback concurrent with interactions your firm has with clients or internal business units.

Other Great Resources for Beginners

The Force.com workbooks provide a lot of great information, and are available as PDFs or in the iBooks bookstore for Apple users. Written by Salesforce, it gives you a great no-nonsense approach to Salesforce. If you prefer a wittier read, Salesforce for Dummies is also a great resource, and will be useful as you begin taking certification exams.

As always, if you are interested in how to train your new Salesforce employees (or want to have a "Movie App" free of charge), feel free to comment on our Facebook page at www.facebook.com/ArkusInc or contact me via Twitter @RogerMitchell.