by ANTONINA ROMANOVA
Back in 2005 when Salesforce was still a very young platform Ed Schlesinger designed Studentforce, the first Salesforce application for Higher Education. In September 2005 Studentforce was among the first 25 products/services that were showcased on the beta version of the AppExchange.
What is Studentforce
Studentforce is a purely declarative application built on the Salesforce platform. It not only helps students to easily manage their day-to-day activities, but also allows school faculty to manage students within their educational life cycle.
As grown ups, we tend to say that the lives of students are easy and full of hedonistic fun. But this is because we have already developed our own life experience. The reality is we didn’t think this way in our school, college and university days. Do you still remember how many different tasks your days consisted of? I cannot name a single student who never missed a class because they thought it was taking place on another day. Neither do I know a student who never had to work on an assignment last minute because they completely forgot about it. Have you ever been in a situation when you (or any of your school friends) couldn’t remember the name of that red head science teacher with big glasses? Well, guess what? That’s because none of us had the power of Studentforce.
With Studentforce, you can track classes, assignments and the grades you receive for each assignment. You can easily manage student loans, search and apply for internship opportunities and set various reminders. It even allows you to store the names of all your teachers and the subjects they teach. My personal favorite, though, is being able to discuss teachers with other students in Chatter. Sounds handy, right?
Teaching students to manage their days in an efficient way also means preparing them to be responsible adults.
Ed told me a story about his daughter’s teacher who forgot that she had already checked and marked an assignment paper. Because Ed’s daughter stored this information in Studentforce, she was able to easily find the missing information and produce it in evidence to back up her case. If that happened to me when I was a student, I would probably end up re-doing the paper. Doesn’t sound fair, agree?
Real life Jedi
I have always wondered what it was like to create Salesforce apps back in 2005. What were the available functionalities? What were the main challenges, frustrations and limitations? How did developers manage to turn their ideas into working solutions without the tools that we have today? Who, and what inspired them?
I believe that people who created those first Apps and made them available to the public were real life Jedi. It can be difficult to design a well performing solution. And, in my opinion, it was much harder back then. In 2005 Salesforce developers didn’t have extensive Apex libraries, Visualforce, Lightning Components or even workflows. Many things that can be easily done by a newly certified Salesforce Admin or Developer today belonged to a long list of unavailable functionalities. There were not many training resources available either. Someone who wanted to design a new Salesforce app had to think not just about the functional side but also how to technically implement it using a very limited range of tools and resources. These people had far less power at their disposal then today’s application developers.
From a great idea to a functional solution
“I am by no means an expert. I am a non-technical Salesforce.com user who has been able to develop what many think is a functional tool for students,”
Phil Wainewright quoted Ed in his blog post “Web 3.0: Salesforce.com’s ‘Business Web’ in January 2006 (http://www.zdnet.com/article/web-3-0-salesforce-coms-business-web/).
A couple of months ago Ed Schlesinger, the first Jedi of Salesforce for Higher Education shared the story of Studentforce with me. Today, almost 11 years later he still stands by his words.
Prior to working with Salesforce platform Ed Schlesinger sold PeopleSoft implementation services to Higher Education. He already knew this industry well and noticed there were no solutions built with students in mind. However it was Ed’s daughter that inspired him to actually start working on a solution design. One day she looked at his computer screen while Ed was working selling Salesforce implementations. She pointed out the calendar, the tasks and said it would be great to have tabs that said Term/Semester, Classes, Assignments, etc.
At that time Salesforce had not made the platform available to developers. Almost the only configuration change type you could do was changing tab names in a rudimentary fashion. Ed was forced to start designing Studentforce without the ability to create new objects. The solution he designed was based upon interviews he had with his children’s college and high school friends.
Ed Schlesinger then made Salesforce aware of what he was doing. Shortly after he received a call from their first CTO/CMO (Tien Tzuo who is now CEO of Zuora).That was in March 2005. By June 2005 Salesforce had announced a beta version of the AppExchange and that 25 products/services built on the platform would be showcased. Studentforce was one of them in September 2005. Studentforce was the only OEM type (built fully 100% Declaratively and 100% Natively and not related to CRM) solution showcased on the AppExchange in September 2005.
Beyond September 2005 Ed continued to mature the application taking advantage of new platform capabilities as they surfaced.
I believe that Ed inspired many developers to create new Salesforce apps. Being the first at something is never easy. You don’t know what to expect. You have no idea whether your project is going to be successful or not. But the only way to find out is to actually do it.
If you have an idea and would like to develop a Salesforce app, do it now.
You won’t be the first Jedi of Salesforce for Higher Education, this place belongs to Ed Schlesinger. But you can be the first Jedi of your own Salesforce area.