So, for the past year, one of the items on my list has been “get an introduction to Visualforce (also shortened to VF by many) and Apex”. As you have likely heard, these two development languages are slightly important in the cloud world known as salesforce.com – with these you can build all sorts of triggers, pages and even external websites for your clients, and your own company as a Salesforce user. Alas, like all great plans, this hit the backburner – either due to work, family, or everything combined, there just never seemed to be enough time.
Last week, I started thinking about Apex and VF again and while at Chapters (the Barnes and Noble of Canada for those unsure) I saw the Teach Yourself series. This got me thinking about my lack of drive to really delve in. That’s when it hit me. The documentation out there, right now, is all created for experienced developers. The 101 assumes you know your class from your variable, so to speak…and of course, I am in no way, shape or form, a developer!
IMHO, Java or C++ is essential for Apex. Before, could only modify others’ code.
My concern with this, however, is how it fits into the whole mantra and philosophy of “quicker, easier, cheaper”. Many of my clients have been absolutely blown away with the low cost of implementation and configuration using native salesforce.com – but when you think of the amount of marketing and discussion that has gone into such advances as Apex and Visualforce, or more importantly Sites, there has been little discussion to the end user about what is required. Now, for the administrators to really become the masters of their own domain, they need to learn a language such as Java, or C++, then take the books lovingly put together by salesforce.com on Apex and Visualforce, and learn the differences. If they do not, they are in the same boat as they were with their on-premise CRM applications of the past. They become slaves to consultants such as myself. And honestly, that’s not what I want!
Now, does this mean that I believe Apex and Visualforce should only be used by large enterprise clients who have development staff on hand who could learn the necessary quirks of a similar language? Of course not. One of the major advantages of salesforce.com’s multi-tennant architecture is the ability for small and medium businesses to have access to and the ability to use the same functionality as the big boys do, for the same price! Where I do think that salesforce.com (or a very industrious developer and writer) could really make an earth shattering advance in salesforce.com is in the creation of a “Teach Yourself Apex and Visualforce in 21 days” type book. In other words, write the manual that helps non developers get up to speed, without the need to learn Java or C++. Teach us about classes, methods and all the basic needs to begin, using Apex as the language to teach. Move into how to load Eclipse, the IDE, and how to develop, and finally finish some actual introductory programs for us to work out the basics, both with Apex and VF….even help people make their first sites page!
A book like this would do a couple of things, in my opinion. First and foremost, it would give a non-developer looking to advance their ability to utilize their Salesforce.com a single book to purchase, with a single path to follow in the quest to learn how to step into the force.com development world. In a second, and just as important to me – it allows small to medium companies who wish to move into the world of Apex and Visualforce a simple means to step up to the plate, and not become locked into a heavily configured salesforce.com without any ways or means to either take control themselves or monitor what is being done. I have, in the past seen CRM setups turned into a glass menagerie, only touched (at a very expensive price) by the handful of people who have created it. This is not what I ever dreamed salesforce.com to be, and don’t believe it ever should!
Is it a lofty idea? As the non-programming salesforce.com lover in the house, I don’t think so. But let me know what you think? Until then, enjoy the dream cover, and take care!