Salesforce is a market-leading cloud provider that has taken Customer Relationship Management (CRM) to the next level with its interconnected, AI-powered business intelligence features. In fact, Salesforce adoption has been shown to increase sales productivity by 34%.
A common complaint levelled against SFDC Salesforce is that deployments are tricky and time-consuming, resulting in slower development and lead times. It is important to remember that Salesforce depends on other systems, apps and integrations for a successful Salesforce development. This means that Salesforce data needs to be up to date and complete, among other considerations.
You must be prepared to account for dependencies and integrations when modifying apps and the failure to do this can cause many challenges. Salesforce admins may not be equipped to handle the loss of relational data or faulty configuration settings. Companies also use DevOps so that they can customize Salesforce better and to make efficiency savings.
Today’s competitive business scenario necessitates lightning fast deployment and release times. It is no secret that Salesforce teams typically struggle with their deployment pipelines but Salesforce has been stepping up to the plate and delivering solutions. In its recent releases Salesforce has introduced tools to automate and build more robust workflows by incorporating DevOps strategies like CI/CD and Automated Testing. Recently, Gearset announced an addition to its suite of DevOps tools to manage Salesforce deployments and deliveries. Apart from its comparison and deployment engine for Salesforce, Gearset also launched Pipelines, a new product that helps companies manage Salesforce deployments end to end.
SFDC Salesforce deployment and delivery can absorb a lot of time if the right tools are not used to adopt source control and continuous integration. To make the most of this incredible CRM software and to shorten deployment time, companies need to use different strategies like DevOps and careful management of workflow dependencies.
Here are some of the ways you can improve Salesforce development and delivery in order to make it beneficial in the current corporate context.
Determine your outcomes
The most important approach to creating a successful SFDC Salesforce development and delivery system is to aim at the end goals, have steady outcomes in place and then work out a timeline and list of development activities to take you towards those goals. Having a plan in place is especially important if you are working with multiple sandboxes at once.
Create a release management strategy so that your developers can plan and control their deployments in all stages of the pipeline – development, staging and production. Part of this process also means developing a release and iteration framework.
Implement DevOps on the deployment pipeline
When your SFDC Salesforce team completes the coding and configuration, these elements go through a deployment pipeline. Automating and implementing DevOps on this pipeline is an effective way of eliminating the many delays that hold Salesforce teams back.
The deployment pipeline can include environments for system integration testing, user acceptance testing, required code and configuration testing, testing in different contexts, and finally, production. In fact, the SDFX Command Line introduced at Dreamforce in 2016, has successfully integrated DevOps practices like Continuous Integration, Automated Testing, Continuous Delivery and Infrastructure as Code into the Salesforce toolkit.
Simply put, DevOps combines best practices, tools, technologies, and strategies to help a company build software faster. The idea is to evolve with different process requirements at a fast pace in a highly cross-functional and collaborative manner at different stages of the development cycle.
With DevOps, SFDC Salesforce developers can work through changes in the development cycle by fixing bugs quickly without causing disruption to the process or users.
Release small changes frequently
As part of the DevOps approach, companies can optimize SFDC Salesforce delivery by releasing changes frequently with Continuous Delivery, which is about deploying code quickly and effectively using automation.
Releasing small changes in batches reduces the risks that happen with large-sized releases. Using automation, you can apply all the approved changes and configurations to the various code sets. Working in small batches also reduces errors and downtime.
With CI/CD, you can reduce manual errors with releases. You can also reduce downtime because with fewer errors, there are few to no modifications needed at all. With end-to-end automation, there is faster delivery and more efficiency, helping the company to achieve scale faster. Continuous Delivery, for instance, helps you solve a problem as it happens without wasting time in repeating testing processes. With the automation that CI/CD brings, you can be more flexible with your releases and experiment with new features as and when you test.
Create a Software Development Lifecycle
When you have challenges with Salesforce lifecycle and delivery, you must create a Software Development Lifecycle or SDLC. This reduces the risks of delay during deployment and boosts productivity. When developers work independently and do not work together, many conflicts and challenges arise. Here are the stages involved in creating an SLDC.
Source control repository: Create an individual Git repository for each project with a default branch or Master branch. The Master branch will contain the production metadata and instead of using this main branch, various developers can work on multiple branches of the development project created by the release manager. Clear parameters are set for developers to make sure that everyone is working with the end product and results in mind. This is to eliminate risks of variances that will result in problems later.
Development: Developers can work on the production in sandboxes so that the main production code is not affected.
Testing: The testing and QA team also maintains sandboxes for testing code, either partial or full sandboxes. Acceptance testing is when the project is tested for user acceptance, with potential users making sure that the solution meets all expectations and quality standards.
Performance testing: This is the final phase of the project or the performance testing. Performance testing is done on intermediate sandboxes that have all features of the production branch.
Understand the architecture
Before you begin with the Salesforce development, try to understand SFDC Salesforce’s metadata-driven architecture, APIs, data flows and database thoroughly, including all the schema, the ingredients of value and the communications between the different servers.
Architecture knowledge also extends to the differences between the core Salesforce platforms and the many apps that are integrated into them. Learning and understanding the platform architecture includes both logical and physical architecture. This comprises the following:
- Different layers and the interactions between them.
- Apps, APIs, AI and databases, which constitute the horizontal components on the platform
- Interactions and data flow between login and authentication servers to app servers and databases
- Multi-tenant architecture, which is an essential technology used in the cloud to share resources securely. Unlike a standard relational database management system (RDMS), Salesforce combines various technologies, including a custom-designed relational database system and schema. These are designed for clouds and multi-tenancy. Multi-tenancy helps companies that run on clouds to share resources.
Use value stream mapping
A lean manufacturing technique that is used to streamline complex processes and manage the flow of information across the pipeline, value stream mapping is all about looking for what can go wrong and fixing it to make the system work. With a value stream map, you use a system of standard symbols to depict the work/information streams that add value and those that don’t add value from the point of view of the customer. With a Salesforce development, there are multiple handoffs, which is why VSM works.
Pick the right development tools
An Integrated Development Environment or IDE is where your company’s developers build products and processes. Investment in the right IDE and tools ensures better SFDC Salesforce productivity. While you can use free and open source IDEs like VS Code, Eclipse and Sublime, most Salesforce developers like the paid ones because they have so many features that will benefit Salesforce specifically.
Different developers use different tools of the trade and it is important to take into consideration their IDE of choice. Some of the popular choices are MavensMate, Developer Console, Aside.io, Force.com IDE Plugin for Eclipse, and IntelliJ IDEA.
Each IDE has different features that benefit different developers and scenarios. For example, MavensMate is used by developers who need a selection of different plugins to help with UI work, testing, coding and deployments. The Developer Console is perfect for those who want a web-based coding experience and also offers tools like SOQL queries, test execution and debug logs but not very useful for hardcore coders. Force.com is still preferred by Salesforce enthusiasts with a more traditional IDE background and the Schema Explorer helps developers to leverage metadata accurately.
Work on the lead time
Lead time is all the time that has taken since a task is created till the time it is taken to be completed. Shorter lead times ensure better bottom-lines and efficient development and delivery processes. A few ways to reduce lead time are to limit or avoid inserting users in tests and of course, to use automation to increase development velocity with Continuous Integration and Continuous Delivery, and to create reports and aggregates.
Use the Sandbox
A Sandbox is a secure and isolated testing environment for developers, where they can test, build and execute programs before deploying them. It is separate from the application or the system where the live data functions and is being deployed. This is especially helpful for companies that have a lot of adaptations and need additional staging environments.
With Salesforce Sandbox, you can carry out separate tests and
research without having to develop in production. This means you do not lose
your data either. You can go one step further and test your code in the Sandbox
before running it to the production organization. With Salesforce, Sandboxes
are especially easy to create.
To extract the best results, make your Sandbox environment an exact replica of your production environment.
Once your deployment is done, test your changes to confirm that everything is working as it should and you can also double check to see if your workflows and validation are up to speed. Activate any new workflows or validation rules that were disabled during the deployment time.
Implement source control with source driven development
As part of the SFDC Salesforce DX release and philosophy, Salesforce’s aim was to push for source-driven development, which benefits anyone who wants to develop on Salesforce. Source control is also known as version control, and is the process of tracking and managing changes to code. With source control, you can track audit trails, ensure collaboration among employees and do a quick rollback if necessary. Backing up meta data regularly also benefits rollbacks.
There is only limited version tracking with Salesforce Sandbox, which is why opting for a Git-based version control system works best.
If you want a smoother development and delivery process, implementing source control will improve the entire lifecycle velocity, development process and release management. You can also get notifications about code conflicts.
With source or version control tracking, you can have a single source for all team members to access. You can also bring in parallel development streams so that you can write and deploy various versions of code in these different streams across the SFDC Salesforce development stage.
Doing a full export and backup of the production data makes sense so that you can confirm that your data is safe before making any huge changes. Git, TFS and Subversion are version control and management solutions that can back up the organization’s codebase from batch to batch.
In addition to using the Sandbox, it is a good idea to have a Sandbox environment strategy so that you have in place a set of data requirements for each stage of your development lifecycle, key responsibilities and access points for various developers.
With Salesforce, you have four Sandbox models:
Full: This is a fully functional environment with key production data and all integrations in place, which means access is limited.
Developer: This is for isolating specific tasks like quality assurance and testing.
Developer Pro: With 1 GB of storage capacity, Developer Pro offers more capabilities than the basic developer model.
Partial Data: This relies only on meta data and organizational data sample. This is ideal for training the management team and for performance testing.
Automate testing and test as much as possible
Testing continuously is a great way to foolproof the development and delivery process. Automate the testing to take your development process to the next level and to speed up time to market. With AI-driven model-based testing, companies can test smarter, release faster and eliminate errors. When two different teams are working on the same project, they can use automated testing to avoid many re-runs of each test. Companies that use DevOps can rely on CI to integrate code into one software release and update continuously.
It is a good idea to thoroughly test end-to-end to ensure a successful Salesforce development and delivery. Conduct tests before, during and after your deployment by using testing frameworks. You can do this to ensure that your code and app both meet the required standards for deployment and are of a high quality.
Use trigger frameworks to standardize your code: You can split the code into modules and only check the module that shows errors. This brings down time and increases efficiency.
Document to help your team: When you document everything when coding, it helps other developers to understand and control changes and perform audit compliance. When you document, you can build for scale because you are standardizing how you name things in Salesforce and how you build every environment.
Run automated test scripts: To ensure that you are creating code that does not interfere with or jeopardize your production system, test the code before going live with automated test scripts.
The success of your company’s SFDC Salesforce development and delivery can be linked to the tools you choose, the end-to-end deployment solutions you implement, and how much planning and coordination goes into the process. Some of the biggest challenges in a Salesforce development plan is the presence of multiple release cycles, on-demand changes and the lack of visibility. Tools like automation, continuous delivery, continuous testing and sandbox strategies will mitigate these problems and risks greatly. With SFDC Salesforce, releases can be time-consuming and painful but when choosing the right approach, your team can be on track for a simple and painless Salesforce development and delivery management.