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“The Salesforce Certified Data Architecture and Management Designer credential is intended for the designer, who assesses the architecture environment and requirements; and designs sound, scalable and performant solutions on the Customer 360 platform.” – Trailhead Exam Guide
When you ask me, “which is the most valuable certification in the Architect path?” I will say, “Data Architecture and Management Designer” without a doubt. I have more than 10 years of IT experience and can say for sure if your solution is not scalable and the performance is extremely low at some point if a decision to re-create a solution from scratch or significantly refactor it will be required. This is a nightmare that leads to significant expenses for a business.
If you are someone who wants to design scalable and performant solutions using Salesforce, ‘Data Architecture and Management Design’ is the perfect choice for you to get that knowledge.
Who's the Ideal Candidate?
As an ideal candidate, you need to have practical experience in implementing data-centric solutions. I have more than 5 years of experience in implementing enterprise solutions and this is where you practice patterns of application architecture the most. You need to understand the main building blocks required for this certification: persistence, security, data quality, integration/movement, master data management, data-sourcing and delivery. Also, you should have a few years of Salesforce experience.
The official Trailhead Study Guide already summarizes for us a list of the experience, skills and knowledge. This is a great checklist that you need to know and practice:
- Data modelling/Database Design
- Custom fields, master-detail, lookup relationships
- Client requirements and mapping to database requirements
- Standard object structure for Sales and Service Cloud
- Making best use of Salesforce standard and big objects
- Association between standard objects and Salesforce license types
- Large Data Volume considerations
- Indexing, LDV migrations, performance
- Salesforce Platform declarative and programming concepts
- Scripting using those tools (Data loader, ETL platforms)
- Data Stewardship
- Data Quality Skills (concerned with clean data)
Salesforce Exams are made up of different topics, comprised of different weightings for each. It’s important to pay attention to these, as just a few sections will most likely take up the majority of the exam, such as the key topics below (Totalling 54% which is 32/60 questions).
1. Data Modelling/Database Design 20%
When you start a new project and all the requirements are collected, you begin with Data Modeling and Database Design.
- Big Objects vs. Standard/Custom objects: often Big Objects are used for logging or data archiving purposes. What pros and cons do Big Objects have? How will you query this data?
- Lookup relationships vs. Master-Detail. Take a closer look at their pros vs cons and scenarios where they can be used. When is each supposed to be used?
- What is a data skew and how to avoid it? This topic is closely related to LDV and leads to performance degradation and errors when you try to load data.
2. Salesforce Data Management 10%
When the system grows, you will find you need to work effectively with Data. I remember many scenarios related to working with legacy systems or how to integrate with third-party shipping/billing systems.
These are some points you will need to hit during your learning:
- What is an external Id?
- Do I need to store external data in Salesforce?
- What is Salesforce Connect?
- How to avoid duplicates?
- What are the standard matching and duplicate rules?
- How to monitor and enforce data quality? Can I use third-party AppExchange apps for it or should I implement a custom solution?
3. Large Data Volume Considerations 15%
LDV means you are working with millions of records and this is where it is hard to achieve a real-time experience. From my perspective, there are two main issues related to LDVs: performance and errors that are caused mainly by suboptimal code and data skew.
- Read about trigger code best practices. Do I optimize the number of DML and SOQL operations?
- How to implement your data backup and archiving plan?
- Why do I need index fields? How does it affect performance? How to create a custom index?
- Which tool can I use to import data?
- How to use batch apex?
- How to load large data sets with Bulk API?
The Salesforce Certified Data Architecture and Management Designer is pretty tough to achieve without a strong background. First of all, you need to get familiar with the fundamentals: databases and data patterns. There are a lot of great courses and videos on it, however, I recommend two amazing books: The Theory of Relational Databases by David Maier and Patterns of Enterprise Application Architecture by Martin Fowler; one of my favourites and this is where I draw inspiration from.
After that, you need to get familiar with the official Salesforce Trailhead Exam Guide. This gives you a great outline of all the different concepts you need to be familiar with before you take the exam. This can be used as your revision plan. Print it out and stick it on your office wall, ticking each off section once you have fully understood each concept.
When you have mastered the fundamentals and gone through the official exam guide, the next step is to go to the official Trailmix on Trailhead and study this material. Salesforce does a great job by organizing and structuring all the helpful resources for us. There are two types of resources available for learning: links to helpful learning resources and Trailhead modules/projects.
Each module/project of the Trailmix allows you to learn about the feature (like Duplicate Management or Data Modeling) and test yourself by following the challenges and getting feedback in real-time.
Most of the questions are based around Universal Containers (UC) having a requirement related to data architecture and management. How should an Architect design the solution to meet this requirement?
- UC has a large number of account fields (100) that they want to track field history on. Which actions should be taken to meet these requirements?
- UC using Salesforce to manage contacts, what option should be considered to maintain data quality?
- Which methods should be used when importing leads into Salesforce to ensure there are no duplicate records?
- What is the advantage of using a Custom metadata type over a Custom setting?
When the exam day finally hits, there are a bunch of tips we gathered over the years to provide you with the best chance of passing with flying colours.
Firstly, if there are any concepts that you are struggling to get to grips with, then print off a cheat sheet and try and memorize any of these before you take the exam so that they are fresh in your memory.
When taking the exam, pay particular attention to the question, and read it through a few times. For scenario-based questions, there will be prominent clues in the answer to what the correct answer is. If you need to, use the pen and paper provided, to draw out a data schema, role hierarchy or any other diagram that will help you visualize the answer.
When deciding on the answer, be sure to use the process of elimination to get rid of the answers that are definitely incorrect. Salesforce likes to throw in answers that are made up of features or are just plain incorrect. They also like to throw in curveballs, of features that appear to be correct but aren’t best practice. You can often avoid these by focusing on standard Salesforce features that accomplish a task. For example, you could build a custom workflow rule to check for duplicates, but why do this when there is a standard feature that is best practice?
You also have a great tool at your disposal, the “Mark for review” feature. On each question, you will have a checkbox that you can mark. This is great if you cannot think of an answer right at that moment, or if you are doubtful about your answer. At the end of the exam, you will have a chance to review these questions. Depending on the amount selected, this will give you a pretty good idea of how likely you are to have passed the test. Regardless of the questions marked for review, I would always recommend going through every question, if time permits. I do this on every exam, and often spot the mistakes that I made in the answers and change a few.
I have passed a lot of Salesforce and Microsoft exams, and I still believe that Data Architecture and Management Designer Credential is the most important one, in terms of architectural thinking. If you are able to solve all data related issues effectively, you will be a person of very high value in the market.