Salesforce Unveils Trailhead to Train Its Growing User Base

With its digital skills initiative called Trailhead, is broadening access to training and certification for the company's portfolio of apps.

Salesforce Trailhead training

Get ready for the Salesforce economy? Microsoft Office is probably the most ubiquitous of office skills, but demand for workers skilled in how to use Salesforce applications is growing.

Salesforce is already a "global economic engine" said research firm IDC, noting that the software-as-a-service (SaaS) provider and its ecosystem of customers and partners will create 1 million jobs between the end of 2015 and 2018 and generate $272 billion in GDP impact worldwide.

To help in that effort, Salesforce has formally unwrapped Trailhead, a digital skills initiative it's been testing in a private beta for the past year. Trailhead is designed to bring greater online access to Salesforce training and certification.

"Trailhead is a fun, easy way to learn, and it's online; so you can log in anywhere on any device," Sarah Franklin, vice president of admin marketing at Salesforce, told eWEEK. "Salesforce has become a necessary skill, but colleges aren't teaching it, yet college graduates aren't getting any jobs. We said, let's make it easy it to learn."

The courses are free. Every time you complete a segment of training, you are awarded an online badge and that certification is added to your LinkedIn profile. "Salesforce is one of the skills employers are looking for," said Franklin.

While best known for its core CRM application, Trailhead covers other Salesforce products, such as digital marketing and building apps, Franklin said. You could learn, for example, how to automate a business data process in Salesforce like expense approval, and if you pass a test on the topic, you earn a virtual badge in business process automation. This "gamification" approach where the goal is to master new levels of skills is not equivalent to formal academic accomplishment at universities, but these types of "microcredentials" showing specific job skills can be useful to job seekers and those looking to advance their careers.

There are different "Trails" or instruction sets for users, adminstrators and developers, and Salesforce says it will update the cloud-based learning frequently with new examples and content as products evolve. Franklin asserts Salesforce is "a premium skill that commands top dollar" in the workplace.

Companies can take advantage of Trailhead to train employees. For example, companies are free to offer Trailhead for employee training and as part of new employee on-boarding, Franklin said.

Salesforce also plans to make Trailhead available in different countries with localized content.

"Over the coming weeks and months, we'll continue to add "trails" for our users—expanding into sales, service, marketing, analytics, apps, IoT and more—so they can learn cloud computing and do great things with their careers," Trailhead General Manager Adam Seligman said in a blog post.

After a low-key beta launch, Salesforce said it was surprised by the interest in the program, which has already seen participants pass more than 1,000,000 learning challenges, earning more than 250,000 badges.

Salesforce has for years led the charge in favor of cloud computing over traditional on-premise systems and, back when the company was formed more than 15 years ago, packaged software.

IDC forecasts that companies that invest in cloud computing can expect a "significant payback" over the next several years out to 2018.

"But even by then, spending on cloud computing will be little more than 10 percent of spending on IT," IDC said in a report. "We are still on the ground floor of cloud computing, with lots of headroom for ever more success."

And lots more to learn.

David Needle

David Needle

Based in Silicon Valley, veteran technology reporter David Needle covers mobile, bi g data, and social media among other topics. He was formerly News Editor at Infoworld, Editor of Computer Currents...