Heroku Architecture Designer Exam Tips


How to pass your Salesforce Heroku Architecture Designer exam.


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:


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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Summer ’18 Maintenance on Trailhead

A step in the right direction?


Summer ’18 Release Maintenance is now on Trailhead for the following certifications:

I completed all three modules this weekend, and I personally think moving the process of certification maintenance to Trailhead from WebAssessor makes perfect sense.

However, Trailhead cert maintenance is definitely more time consuming than the old way. The WebAssessor maintenance exams were unproctored, so it was very easy to consult the release notes or Google something you weren’t sure of. On Trailhead, in addition to answering multiple-choice questions, you’re also quite likely to face a hands-on challenge testing your knowledge of new functionality – and you must complete this in order to maintain your credentials.

The Platform App Builder module in the Summer ’18 Release contains a hands-on challenge. If you know what you’re doing and are confident with Visual Workflow, you won’t find it difficult, but it will take you at least 30-45 minutes to complete.

Some people will find this a nuisance, but I think it’s a step in the right direction. Instead of just winging the maintenance exams, it forces us all to really take note of the new functionality – which should ultimately benefit our clients.

Photo by Holly Mandarich on Unsplash.

Salesforce Certified Service Cloud Consultant Exam Tips

How to pass your Salesforce Certified Service Cloud Consultant Exam.


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:

Screen Shot 2018-07-20 at 15.16.34

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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Difference Between Profiles, Roles and Permission Sets in Salesforce

A quick guide to the key differences between Profiles, Roles and Permission Sets in the Salesforce security model.


If you are new to Salesforce, or perhaps haven’t worked with the different tools available in the security model for a while, this handy little guide should give you a steer on whether or not you should be considering using Profiles, Roles or Permission Sets as part of your solution.


Once basic access settings have been configured in your Organisation Wide Defaults, Profiles determine a user’s most basic level of access to objects, and therefore users can’t be created in Salesforce without being allocated a Profile. Remember, you can’t use Profiles to revoke access already granted via Organisation Wide Defaults – you  can only grant additional access.

Here is a partial list of what you can control access to using Profiles:

  • Page Layouts
  • Fields
  • Apps
  • Tabs
  • Record Types
  • Admin Permissions (such as being able to manage users or author Apex)
  • General Permissions (such as being able to send emails or convert Leads)

(To see the full list, just log into your Org as a System Administrator and edit a Profile.)


Roles are different to Profiles, and are used to control access to records rather than objects or fields. These are commonly used to implement a Role Hierarchy whereby for example individual sales reps cannot see each other’s opportunity records, but their manager has a view of all their opportunities.

(See this comprehensive post about Salesforce record security for more information on Roles and Role Hierarchy.)

Permission Sets

Permission Sets are more like Profiles, in the sense that they can control the access a user has to specific objects and fields. Remember, you can’t use Permission Sets to revoke access already granted via Organisation Wide Defaults or Profiles – you can only grant additional access.

Here is a partial list of what you can control access to using Permission Sets:

  • Objects & Fields
  • Apps
  • Visualforce Pages
  • External Data Sources

(To see the full list, just log into your Org as a System Administrator and edit a Profile.)

Need more information?

I hope this post has been useful as a quick overview. The security model is a bit more complicated than this and offers even more features such as Sharing Rules, which I haven’t covered here. As always, your first port of call for more information should be the official Salesforce documentation or Trailhead.

Control Who Sees What – Salesforce Help
Data Security – Salesforce Trailhead

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Salesforce Certified Platform App Builder Exam Tips

How to pass your Salesforce Platform App Builder exam.


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:


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!

Did this post help you prepare?

If these tips helped you prepare for the Salesforce Certified Platform App Builder exam, please share the love by leaving a comment and/or sharing with your Salesforce Ohana!

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