Tips to Master Salesforce Release Management
In this guide, we’ll share proven ways to improve your Salesforce release strategy, best practices, and Salesforce release management tools you need.
Join the DZone community and get the full member experience.Join For Free
Release management in Salesforce can be tricky. With the traditional approach of Salesforce release management using the Change Sets, it’s no surprise that development teams are constantly under pressure to traverse their functionalities through multiple sandboxes and deploy.
Moreover, the complex functionality, limited tools, and tight deadlines to perform deployments on production without missing a single component make Salesforce release management labor-intensive and error-prone. This often leads to frustrating issues, downtime for users, and even business impact (Agility and Velocity)
The thing is, release management doesn’t have to be challenging. While there are no hacks or quick fixes, the more you can optimize your release management process, the more you can make it efficient and deliver features and changes faster, better, and more secure.
With a no-code DevOps orchestration platform, release management is a breeze because it provides a consistent set of repeatable, reliable, and resource-independent processes for teams to accelerate end-to-end release management.
An effective release management strategy helps teams optimize the application delivery value chain, improves deployment success rates, and maximizes customer experience and cost-efficiency.
This guide will share some proven ways to improve your Salesforce release strategy: challenges with Salesforce release management, strategy for your organization, best practices, and Salesforce release management tools you need.
Challenges With Salesforce Release Management
Salesforce is a comprehensive platform designed to meet the needs of a variety of companies. And while it offers some great functionalities and flexibility to the sales teams, it isn’t the easiest to use or most efficient. There’s a significant learning curve.
Developers need to understand complex and large custom objects, profiles, and permission sets and usually extract data from various Salesforce environments to release it to the production org. Repeatedly performing the entire process - adopting new tools to deploy the code manually - leads to not only slower release cycles but also increases the risk of manual errors.
Version control is an absolute necessity for any organization. However, in Salesforce, many quirks get in the way when using version control. It doesn’t offer an easy way to access the metadata of an environment like its source code and config files for storage in a version-controlled repository.
Especially where developers are overwriting each other’s changes or sandboxes are on different Salesforce releases from one another; there’s a good chance of code conflicts leading to bugs and errors and slowing down the overall deployment process.
As part of the Salesforce release strategy, Salesforce change sets allow you to deploy your customizations from one environment to another. You can configure two organizations on them to send and receive changes between each other and select specific changes in the source org you want to deploy in the production org.
While they are good for quick changes and smaller organizations and early-stage companies, it is tough to scale when you have too many environments or have many Salesforce developers working on the same set of components, configuration data, packages, and software. They’re also infamous for being clunky and often do not comply with modern Salesforce release management best practices.
Since change sets do not support all Salesforce components, developers often have to perform changes manually to port functionalities from a sandbox environment to production.
Moreover, it’s a daunting task to create significant change sets. Change Sets are not user-friendly, and it is very hard for the Salesforce teams to consistently perform the deployments across multiple Salesforce orgs and environments. Developers must scroll through several hundred pages if you have thousands of components and various environments, and you can’t add different types of components simultaneously.
These challenges with change set directly increase deployment time, manual intervention, and the possibility of human error.
Dependencies on Stakeholders
For a long time, developers have understood the importance of collaborating with different business units in the company. However, with increasing customer demands, dynamic software requirements, and fast-paced development lifecycles, developers are called to collaborate with additional stakeholders.
Successful release management in Salesforce isn’t possible without true collaboration between all teams, including testing, security, and often customers. As teams grow in size and organizations get more complex, this dependency on multiple stakeholders can become extremely manual and tedious. This, in turn, compromises the project’s development speed, security and quality posture, and human errors.
Quality and Security Posture
Teams have a long list of different focus areas regarding security. From collaborating cross-functionally to understanding interconnected systems, multiple environments, and objects, and keeping pace with release timelines, teams are often stretched thin.
While Salesforce provides built-in security functionalities, they lack the levels of customization and complexity that teams may introduce while using the platform. This means that Salesforce doesn’t offer the depth and breadth you may need to analyze, measure, and mitigate risks that impact your applications or business.
Given the complexity of the Salesforce environment, not having visibility is impacting agility, velocity, and creating efficiencies across various stages of the release management process. As per “Peter Ducket,” the world-famous management consultant, “If you can’t measure it, you can’t improve it,” and this is very true for the Salesforce DevOps environment. There are multiple stages from planning to deployment, and enterprises have to find a way to measure the key metrics that can help improve the agility, velocity, security, and quality (Change Lead Time, Deployment Frequency, Mean Time to Resolution, Change Failure Rate, security and quality posture and release efficiencies by stage and goals associated with each of them, etc.).
Build the Perfect Salesforce Release Strategy for Your Org
A Salesforce release strategy is a series of stages to guide when and where changes are made from one Salesforce organization to another. Whether your team is moving changes from a developer sandbox to integration testing or from security testing to production, a Salesforce release process provides a framework to streamline release management and help you make informed decisions to accelerate your deployment.
According to a report by DevOps Research and Assessment (DORA) and Google Cloud, “high-performing software teams use DevOps to release 46 times faster”. Additionally, these teams have much lower change failure rates and faster incident recovery times.
DevOps helps push Salesforce teams forward to work cross-functionally and deploy changes in the most effective and efficient way possible.
A key element that fuels Salesforce DevOps is automation - it reduces manual, time-intensive tasks, speeds up releases, and boosts team collaboration. Salesforce DevOps orchestration tools empower developers and software teams to benefit from features like no-code pipeline builder, automated toolchain configuration, aggregated and contextual logs, and provide end-to-end visibility across your release management software and improve the agility, velocity and security, and quality posture.
Top 5 Salesforce Release Management Best Practices
Digital business has created a new ecosystem where releases are expected at lightning speed without compromising business capabilities and security.
- Build a Single Source of Truth (SSoT) For Centralized Intakes
In Salesforce release management, there are many moving pieces; source code, user interface, access control rights, static and dynamic components, and more. Software teams often use various solutions and platforms to ensure smooth release management.
The problem is, as the complexity of the project increases, the number of tools also tends to increase - which becomes quite overwhelming to track.
A good way to streamline your Salesforce release process is to build a single source of truth. Teams can synthesize information from various solutions and platforms into a central place. This not only accelerates release management but also avoids work duplication, and creates a standardized knowledge hub for your team, so it’s easier for them to scale.
Start by documenting your Salesforce deployment process. From configuration settings to training materials to test plans, everything should be well-organized in a single source of truth. This SSOT will serve as a handy reference for your team members should they encounter any challenges in the Salesforce deployment.
Moreover, business and IT teams can collaborate and have a regular cadence to discuss the feasibility, impact, and ROI of changes. This enables the entire team to have visibility into the features and changes requested by the business.
- Have Version Control Systems (VCS) In Place
Migrating changes to production is a repetitive process that often takes place in the testing and staging environment. While your team may conduct various tests to ensure these changes are in sync with your code’s functionality, quality, and security, it’s important to have your safety net in case things fall out. That’s where Version Control Systems (VCS) come in.
VCS tools (GitHub, Bitbucket, Gitlab, etc.) provide a full audit trail of changes made to your production, so tracing back to errors and issues becomes much easier and faster. This also helps maintain SOX compliance. Further, it’s a reliable automated solution that identifies and alerts you for any possible security or quality conflicts that your team might have missed during testing.
Overall, a Version Control System helps you build a rollback strategy that ensures your CI build doesn’t break when developers make changes in the production environment.
- Test, Test, Test
Testing quickly becomes an exhaustive process if your software is too large or complicated. Even when rolling out new features or product upgrades, it’s crucial to test all aspects - functionality, quality, and security - before pushing them into the final deployment stage. However, manual testing is prone to human errors, and if detected later, it can impact your business value and even customers in real-time. One of the most efficient ways to perform rigorous testing is by investing in an automation tool that comes with built-in security and quality gates to assess your software.
- Create a Comprehensive Release Management Strategy
A solid Salesforce release management strategy should take into account multiple factors: team structure, technology and infrastructure, best practices, and change management process. If you already have a Salesforce release process in place, you might want to move backward and assess these factors step-by-step. Or, you can create one from scratch using these tips:
- Use an orchestration platform that does the heavy lifting for your team while it focuses on accelerating releases.
- Aim for smaller, faster releases. Instead of working on extensive and lengthy projects, consider working in an agile manner with small sprints. This will help take off some of the pressure on the software team, allow them to be more focused on specific features and modifications, and ensure continuous business value delivery.
- Make sure you have different teams take care of different segments of your release. For instance, your business self-service team can manage users, data, page layouts, and user-based permissions. On the other hand, your IT team can manage more complex tasks like managing integrations and interdependencies.
- Practice Good Compliance and Governance
In Salesforce development, different projects may have different release management processes.
Moreover, while Salesforce APIs support most metadata components, there are a few exceptions. In such cases, it’s crucial for developers to document all the manual steps needed for the release process to eliminate any ambiguity and ensure it’s deployed in a safe way. Otherwise, Salesforce teams run the risk of a huge failure in governance.
To ensure that your Salesforce release management strategy follows good governance, it’s necessary to standardize and streamline the process across different projects, teams, and divisions. Implementing industry best practices in your Salesforce org ensures that everyone across your org has proper user-based access controls and reduces disruption and downtime.
Get On Top of Salesforce Release Management
In this guide, we talked about the most critical Salesforce release management challenges that companies face and the best practices that businesses and teams of any size can adopt. It’s not uncommon to see companies take several years to focus on their Salesforce release process and solidify it.
When it comes to DevOps in Salesforce release management, it's important to have a platform with a source of truth, user-based access controls, automated toolchains, end-to-end visibility, and more.
Published at DZone with permission of Vishnu Vasudevan. See the original article here.
Opinions expressed by DZone contributors are their own.