During the first two days of Dreamforce 09, Salesforce.com tried a novel approach to customer training that turned out to be a raging success. Typically Salesforce.com training involves a room full of students building a common application  by an instructor. For the "Admin to Hero App Building Workshop" Salesforce.com took a gutsy move by turning this training paradigm on its head. They essentially put out a call to customers and said, "Bring us each a custom app that you want to build and we'll do it together in two days".

Most customers built an app to replace a out-dated process, reduce some type of pain-point in their organization or replace an existing application. There was a wide variety of applications that ranged from purchasing apps to RMA processing. Each student worked with their own "buddy" and Salesforce.com threw some considerable clout behind this workshop. Instead of hiring typical "trainers" to staff the workshop, they brought in some of their best product managers including:

  • Mary Scotton - Product Management Director
  • Adam Torman - Product Manager, Platform
  • Andrew Smith - Senior Product Manager (App Packaging)
  • Varadarajan “Raja” Rajaram - Product Manager, Workflow
  • Sebastiano Costanzo - Technical Training Instructor
  • Eugene Oksman - Product Management Manager
With that said, Appirio chipped in with some of our best consultants to balance out of the skill-set. Our 8 consultants had a combined total of 5,235 years of Salesforce.com experience (if measured in "cloud-years") and meshed with the Salesforce.com employees very well. It was a truly collaborative experience with consultants, PMs and customers all working together on whatever needed to be done to accomplish the task. Sarah Whitlock (Technical Evangelist), who lead the workshop, did a great job of corralling everyone and keeping them on task.

Sarah had spoken with all of the customers before hand to help them define the scope of their project and set expectations. Independently and sometimes in groups we worked through the application lifecycle of a project. We defined business requirements, designed the object model, implemented business logic and finished most projects off with a little Visualforce and Apex (including test cases!!). Did we build a production-ready application for each customer in two days? Not really, but fairly close. By the end of workshop each customer had a fully functioning application that they could take back home and expand upon with further business requirements.