Heroku Architecture Designer Exam Tips

How to pass your Salesforce Heroku Architecture Designer exam.

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It’s been a long time since I wrote one of these exam tips posts. In fact it’s a long time since I wrote any posts for this blog. Since my last update here I have added a stack of Salesforce architect certifications to my name, and I am now a much more confident exam taker.

Having said that, I recently sat the Heroku Architecture Designer exam, and wanted to write about it because it was one of the strangest Salesforce certification experiences I’ve had so far.

A week before sitting the exam I undertook a partner enablement day at Salesforce’s London office on Bishopsgate where we received some training to help us prep for the exam. The team leading the training were great and when I sat a little practice exam at the end of the day, I achieved what would have been a clear pass on the real-world exam.

I felt supremely confident, and booked the exam as soon as I got home. I did a bit more independent study by skimming through the Heroku Dev Centre, and was 100% sure I was going to ace it on the day.

Failed first attempt

It’s been a while since I experienced that feeling of dismay when you read the first question and don’t know the answer. Then it gets worse as you move onto the second question and don’t know that either. By the time I was on question five I had completely lost my nerve.

When I finally clicked the button to submit the exam after sixty tortuous questions, I knew I had failed. I fact, I failed so badly I could probably have obtained a similar result by guessing.

The exam was very odd. The questions were Heroku-related but most of them seemed to draw on a much wider knowledge of things like networking and VPNs, which totally threw me. These questions were nothing like the ones I answered confidently on the practice exam at the Salesforce offices in London! They were much more in-depth, more like a developer-level exam.

So what did I do next? I went back to basics, which is what I recommend you do too.

First step: figure out your knowledge gaps

As usual, I recommend starting with the official exam guide on Trailhead. This page contains a detailed exam outline which breaks down the exam into sections like this:

HerokuArchitectureDesigner

Spend a little time going through this guide and highlight where your strengths and weaknesses are. If you’re relatively new to Heroku this will immediately show up some murky areas where you need to dive a bit deeper to grow your understanding.

As with all Salesforce exams, each section in the Heroku Architecture Designer exam is weighted, with the higher weighted sections having more questions in the exam. You’ll see from the guide that for this exam it’s particularly important to know about the different features and capabilities of Heroku Enterprise – which will come up in 28% of the questions.

Use the dedicated Trailmix on Trailhead

I’ve written several times before about how Trailhead is the best learning resource I’ve ever come across, and this certification is well-covered. There is a dedicated Trailmix for the Heroku Architecture Designer credential, which will help you develop your knowledge. I suggest you also spend time setting up a pipeline and deploying an application in order to get some hands-on. It’s worth the effort as it really does crystalise your learning.

The Trailmix links out to sections in the Heroku Dev Centre, and I recommend you spend some additional time in there, following the links and absorbing as much as you can.

Second attempt – Passed!

It took me about a week to build up enough confidence to sit the exam again, and I’m pleased to say I passed second time around.

I will point out that I had another very odd exam experience. The questions I was presented with on my second attempt were totally different from the first set of questions, and much easier. They were quite similar in depth to the ones I had seen at Salesforce at the end of the training day.

When I finished, I was left wondering if I had chosen the wrong exam the first time. I’m not exaggerating when I say it was like a totally different exam – the difference was as pronounced as the difference between a detail-oriented developer exam and a high-level architect exam.

Suggested study areas

As I’ve already recommended, you need to focus your learning on filling your own knowledge gaps, while being aware of the weightings in the exam guide.

It goes without saying you will need to understand the basics such as the difference between Common Runtime and Private Spaces, Private Spaces vs. Shield Private Spaces, what the different Dyno types are and how you can scale them, etc.

Read up about VPNs, and when you might need to use one, what VPC peering is and when you are able to make use of it. Understand how these apply to integrating with various other enterprise architecture components such as AWS or Google Cloud.

Make sure you spend time understanding Heroku Connect, how it works, what is automated and what isn’t, and also how it deals with things like Shield Platform Encryption on the Salesforce side.

Data residency is a big consideration. Understand where data will be stored for Common Runtime and Private Spaces, and also for Add-ons. I remember there being several questions about this.

Know some typical use cases for Postgres, Redis and Kafka. Understand how Kafka works in terms of Producers, Topics, Consumers, Brokers and Partitions. Be aware of how Heroku users are provisioned with SSO.

It’s also worth learning the difference between the various plans that are available.

One last thing here – if you’re worried about remembering specific CLI commands, you can relax. There are no questions that ask about those in the Heroku Architecture designer exam.

Forget mock exams!

While doing additional research I stumbled across a small mock exam with about ten questions on it. I went through them to test my knowledge and was shocked to find the wrong answers were given for every question, but at least I now knew enough to recognise that.

I will therefore reiterate my usual warning: use mock exams with extreme caution!

The Heroku Architecture Designer certification is relatively new, which means there aren’t many reliable training resources out in the wild, so your best destination is Trailhead and Dev Centre.

Feeling confident?

I can usually tell when I’ve done enough study. My confidence grows and I start to feel a strong desire to book that exam slot as soon as possible.

In order to maximise my chances of success, I always put in the time to work through the study guide, evaluating my strengths and weaknesses, and focusing my learning where it’s needed. If you follow the same approach, you should be able to pass this exam.

It took me two attempts, but I did it – so you can too!

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Salesforce Certified Service Cloud Consultant Exam Tips

How to pass your Salesforce Certified Service Cloud Consultant Exam.

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I’ve been putting off sitting the Salesforce Certified Service Cloud Consultant exam for a long time, and given that I work on Service Cloud implementations for a living, this is a long overdue cert for me.

Over the years I have developed a phobia of Salesforce exams. Something always seems to go wrong: Internet connectivity issues, the window cleaner paying a visit, or one of the cats jumping onto the table (not good during a proctored exam).

Thankfully, this is one of the best Salesforce exams I have done to date. It focuses much more on industry knowledge and consulting experience instead of the ability to remember every nut and bolt involved in configuration. (Which you could just Google in a real-life work situation.)

First step: figure out where you lack knowledge/expertise

Your first move should be to download the official study guide from the Salesforce Certification Website. It’s the same format as all the other study guides, including Salesforce Certified Salesforce Administrator, which is a prerequisite to this exam.

The study guide sections look like this. No surprises here:

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It’s vital that you spend some time reading the sections, because they really do give a good indication of what will crop up in the exam. Put in the time to brush up on the areas you are weakest in, and remember to focus on industry knowledge and your general experience of IT implementations rather than trying to memorise the order in which you need to configure stuff.

Trailhead is your best friend

There are some great Trails and Trailmixes on Trailhead. Some of the puns and jokes can be slightly irritating after you’ve got several dozen badges under your belt, but this really is a fantastic resource that’s free. You should definitely leverage it. I found the following particularly helpful:

Knowledge of the Service Industry

It’s very important to know about Knowledge Centred Service (KCS) and industry terminology such as ACD, Adherence, AHT, ANI, Call Deflection, CTI, DNIS, First Call Resolution, IVR, PBX, Predictive Dialler, etc. These links should help:

Don’t underestimate the importance of this. The exam does use quite a bit of contact centre jargon and if you don’t understand the question being asked you are at an immediate disadvantage!

You don’t need to know how to configure a PBX or Predictive Dialler – you just need to know what one is and what it is typically used for.

A word of warning on mock exams

I say this every time I write an exam tips post, but please do be wary about relying too heavily on mock exams. I have done these in the past and found some of them far too easy (making me overconfident), and others inaccurate (blatantly wrong answers).

Don’t try to memorise questions and answers – putting in the effort to understand the material and content of the exam will pay off.

Be confident in your knowledge

The reason I delayed sitting this exam for months was because as a Solution Architect I’m not doing hands-on declarative configuration every day, and I was worried that I might not know enough of the technical ins-and-outs of things like Omni-Channel or SnapIns.

This exam does not require a detailed ‘under-the-hood’ knowledge of how to configure Service Cloud. It is much more about consultative skills, industry expertise (service industry and IT industry), and experience of thinking through typical business scenarios.

The sample questions in the study guide are a really good example of what to expect. If you answered those correctly first time, and have invested a decent amount of study  into the Trailhead links above, you are probably ready for this exam.

Good luck!

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Salesforce Certified Platform App Builder Exam Tips

How to pass your Salesforce Platform App Builder exam.

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I finally got around to sitting the Salesforce Certified Platform App Builder exam. I have previously said that the Salesforce Certified Administrator exam was one of the toughest I’ve taken, but I will now add that the App Builder exam comes a close second.

Having the Administrator and Sales Cloud Consultant certs under my belt, together with lots of practical Salesforce implementation experience, I felt confident going into this exam and expected it to be a breeze. I was completely taken by surprise. There was a lot of ground covered, and while the breadth wasn’t as wide as the Administrator exam, the App Builder questions did go into a lot of detail, so you need to have experience and will also need to revise in order to pass.

First step: find your weak spots

As always, the best approach is to start with the official study guide from the Salesforce Certification Website. This study guide contains the familiar exam outline, which breaks down the exam into sections like this one:

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It is very important that you look at each of these sections and spend some time honestly trying to work out where your strengths and weaknesses are. Don’t make the mistake of telling yourself you already know this stuff. This is a tricky exam and you will need to put in some study in order to pass it.

As usual, methodically work your way through the exam outline, highlighting sections where your knowledge is limited or perhaps out-of-date. Scoring yourself out of ten for each item is a good strategy, as it will reveal where you need to focus your study/revision. Being totally honest with yourself is crucial!

As with all Salesforce exams, each section is weighted according to its importance, and so the higher weighted sections will have correspondingly more questions in the exam.

Make use of Trailhead

Trailhead is a brilliant learning resource, and we are lucky to have it. There is a complete Trailmix for the App Builder credential, which you can use to improve on your weak areas. Don’t just spend time reading or scrolling through the material – invest some time in doing the exercises too. It will pay off.

Of particular importance are trails that have been updated to cover Lightning Experience. When I did my Administrator exam, Lightning was only just starting to creep into Trailhead, but now it’s everywhere, and lots of content has been revised accordingly. The App Builder exam is very heavy on Lightning, so you will need to know it well.

Many of my questions were around Business Logic and Process Automation, which is understandable considering it’s weighting of 27% in the exam. These questions covered things like Record Types, Roll-up Summary Fields, Approval Processes, Process Builder, Visual Workflow and Workflow Rules/Actions. You absolutely need to know the differences between these.

There were also lots of questions around User Interface, with a particular focus on the Salesforce Mobile App, Quick Actions, and the Lightning App Builder.

Salesforce Connect was an area I wasn’t particularly familiar with, but I’m glad I took the time to study/revise it. It featured quite heavily in the exam I sat, and there were several questions around the types of relationships that apply to external objects.

The capabilities/uses of the different types of sandboxes also featured quite heavily.

Beware of mock exams!

Once again, be very careful about judging your readiness by some of the mock exams that are available. I think this is very important, as some of them will lead you into thinking you’ve got it nailed when in reality you may not quite be there.

There are some good mock exams and some bad ones that include wrong answers! Universally, I have found they are all way too easy. The questions you will face on the actual exam are much more in-depth and will require a lot more thinking through.

So, use mock exams with caution!

Be confident and try to ‘feel’ when you are ready

I don’t know if you’re the same as me, but I get a kind of instinctive feel when I know I’ve done enough study. I suddenly get a surge of confidence and am keen to just sit down and get through the exam as soon as possible.

In order to get there, I make sure I put in the hours of working through the study guide, evaluating my strengths and weaknesses, and focusing my learning where I’m weakest. If you take the same approach, you should pass this exam.

As usual, I had a problem mid-way through, which seems to be traditional for me! The WebAssessor site seemed to go down and I was faced with an HTTP/500 error that wouldn’t go away. If something like this happens to you, don’t panic … just click the little Help icon and wait for someone to come to you. Worst case, they will be able to suspend and immediately reschedule the exam for you, and you can just pick up with the questions where you left off.

I don’t think there’s a lot more I can add here except to wish you luck.

If I can do it, so can you!

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Salesforce Certified Administrator Exam Tips

How to pass your Salesforce Administrator exam.

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So far, I have found the Salesforce Certified Administrator exam to be one on the toughest I have ever taken. Maybe there’s something about the pressure of knowing a stranger somewhere in the world is watching you closely through your webcam while you sweat over sixty multiple-choice questions?

One thing’s for sure – you have to know Salesforce pretty well in order to get through this exam. It goes into a lot of detail and involves thinking through some tricky scenarios, so even if you’ve been working with Salesforce for a number of years, you will need to do some study and revision in order to pass.

First step: honestly assess your own ability

Your first step should be to download the study guide from the Salesforce Certification website. This contains an exam outline which breaks down the exam into sections like this one:

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You should have knowledge and hands-on experience of each of the features and functions covered in each of the sections before you attempt the exam. Don’t try to fluff it, or you will end up failing and having to pay to resit. As with many things in life, preparation is absolutely key here.

Methodically work your way through this exam outline and highlight any sections you feel you may be weak in. A good approach might be to score yourself out of ten for each item, so you know where to focus your study/revision. It’s very important to be honest with yourself.

Each section is weighted according to its importance, and for the higher weighted sections you can expect correspondingly more questions in the exam. So for example, there will be more questions around Security & Access features than there are about the AppExchange.

Fill in knowledge gaps using Trailhead

So you’ve now mapped out where your strengths and weaknesses are in terms of the exam content. What’s the next step?

Trailhead is Salesforce’s very own online learning resource, and it’s fantastic. Salesforce staff use it internally, which should give you an idea of the quality of its content. On Trailhead you can search for individual topics and work your way through detailed modules which explain the concepts, give you hands-on practice, then test your knowledge as you go along.

Update: there’s now a dedicated ‘Trailmix’ for those preparing for their Certified Salesforce Administrator exam.

Mock exams and flashcards

There are many mock exams and flashcards available on sites like Quizlet and Cram. While these are good for testing yourself and gaining a bit of confidence, the quality is variable and you shouldn’t totally rely on them because they may not cover everything you need to know in order to pass the exam.

Salesforce Ben and some of the other Salesforce superstars provide great mock exams for many of the Salesforce certifications. The quality of these is higher, and I recommend them for testing your knowledge, but I urge you not to be lulled into a false sense of security.

On mock exams, I was getting close to 100% and was totally confident I was going to ace the real exam. The truth is the official Salesforce Certified Administrator credential is a killer, with much longer/trickier scenario-based questions than any of the mock exams I have seen. Many other Salesforce Certified Professionals agree this is the toughest exam they have done so far because it is so broad.

You can do it!

Don’t let this post put you off aiming for this credential. If I can do it, so can you. However, don’t waste your money sitting the exam if you’re not ready. It costs $200 for the first attempt and $100 for every attempt thereafter.

The first step described in this post is crucial – identify your strengths and weaknesses, and focus your learning. If you take this approach and cover everything in the exam outline in the study guide, you will pass.

I find Salesforce exams really nerve-wracking. Doing them from home also makes them prone to things going wrong. I have had Internet connections drop mid-way through exams, cats jump on the table and walk across my keyboard, and window cleaners try to chat to me through the glass, all while the timer was ticking and that little webcam was silently watching my every move!

Despite these challenges, I survived the experience and have now passed several Salesforce exams. You can do the same.

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Unethical marketing of services

Several writers have highlighted the fact that there is greater potential for unethical behaviour in the marketing of services due to the intangible nature of services, and also the deregulation of many service sectors.

The intangible nature of services and the high level of competition among service providers means it can be very difficult for consumers to evaluate service offerings, which leaves them highly vulnerable to influence by sales people and marketing promotions.

It is arguable that ethical behaviour is more crucial to services marketing in order to combat skepticism and gain the trust and confidence of consumers.