Deploy faster with Salesforce: Why CI/CD and DevOps really matter

After emerging as a revolutionary SaaS CRM tool two decades ago, Salesforce has had quite a journey. Salesforce has since become a very popular and sought-after cloud platform that’s innovating and growing rapidly. Today, Salesforce doesn’t just offer CRM but has solutions for marketing, HR, finance, business intelligence — essentially, aiming to be the one-stop-shop where enterprises run their entire organizations from. Technology has gotten more advanced, and Salesforce-reliant organizations want quicker and more frequent releases of applications they run on Salesforce. Approaches like CI/CD pipelines and DevOps have become quite popular, but they have been slower to reach the world of Salesforce. This is in part because of Salesforce being a bit of a walled garden. In this article, we discuss how you can implement these new approaches into getting your existing software delivery process development up to speed to deploy faster with Salesforce.

What does CI/CD bring to the table?

Continuous integration and continuous deployment (CI/CD) pipelines empower organizations to deliver changes faster and more frequently. The market is moving more quickly than ever, and customers want new updates and releases in shorter intervals. The release frequency can be once a week or even multiple times a day, depending on the requirements. Using traditional rollout methods, this is just not possible. However, employing a CI/CD pipeline ensures that there is a proper process in place that is quick, reliable, and helps roll out changes, big or small, faster. Organizations can use CI/CD tools to automate incremental deployments.

Adopting DevOps in phases

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DevOps is not a tool — it’s a modernized approach for delivering applications. DevOps helps break the silos between developers and different stakeholders by promoting collaboration and communication among them. DevOps is a continuous cycle in which different teams come together and deliver releases much faster. Organizations with large development teams can leverage DevOps to simplify and speed up the build, merge, test, and release processes. Organizations can gradually inculcate DevOps practices by making teams aware of the concept behind it and then eventually selectively integrate these practices into their workloads. Once confident, organizations can scale their CI/CD processes to release 2-3 times a week or even daily, depending on requirements. Ultimately, the maturity of DevOps depends on the size and age of the company, and how open it is to adopt changes in technology.

Challenges with Salesforce

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Salesforce is a multi-tenant cloud provider and can be used exclusively for an organization’s workloads. Organizations looking to keep costs low might opt for a salesforce-native approach. However, this approach is not ideal for faster delivery since you are bound by the limitations of Salesforce.

Another option is to stitch together multiple third-party tools to make your own CI/CD pipeline of sorts. This approach allows you to integrate tools you need to get a more efficient solution. The problem is that this approach takes time to implement as you would need to research which tools you want into your ecosystem and how to integrate them for the best experience. Another challenge is the cost; when you have an ecosystem that uses too many different tools from different vendors, the cost exponentially increases over time. There’s a middle-ground solution where you can use your Salesforce cloud with integrations to other tools to promote faster delivery. But even this solution doesn’t hit the mark. So, what’s the answer?

Purpose-built solutions

This approach is the culmination of the best parts of all the other solutions. The idea is to combine the out-of-box Salesforce functionality with a great CI/CD tool to leverage faster releases and enhanced performance. This platform is tailor-made for Salesforce but isn’t restricted by Salesforce’s limitations. An ideal CI/CD tool for this job should have the following features:

  • Metadata awareness

Metadata is critical to any data as it holds the information about the relationship between the data. Metadata helps to better control code and related artifacts within Salesforce. Once your data is organized and categorized, you can set up rules, policies, and automation based on this metadata.

  • Fast delivery

Although requirements can vary from enterprise to enterprise, an ideal CI/CD solution should promote faster delivery by providing end-to-end automation. Automation is central to the concept of DevOps and CI/CD. It eliminates manual steps and the ensuing errors, and helps not just speed things up, but also enforce better quality at scale.

  • Various deployment options

Workloads are not homogenous anymore. Organizations use private and public clouds, along with on-premise data centers. CI/CD solutions should be flexible enough to accommodate all these different platforms and access your data no matter where it’s stored.

  • Future-proof your CI/CD

Technology changes fast, and your CI/CD practice should be able to evolve with these changes. It is convenient to look for a unified multi-cloud CI/CD platform rather than disparate best-of-breed tools.

Automated release management

A robust CI/CD solution to deploy faster with Salesforce should seamlessly integrate with Salesforce to manage your entire development pipeline end-to-end and help you deploy faster. The ultimate goal of having a mature CI/CD practice is to enable a better developer experience, and this should naturally lead to improved customer experience.

There are a couple of ways you can go about implementing CI/CD for Salesforce. Salesforce itself has its integrations with third-party tools like Gitlab, GitHub, and Travis CI. These are done using Salesforce DX. While this works, it puts the onus of building and maintaining the entire pipeline on you. This is not ideal as it would eventually distract you from your core product development.

The workaround is to hire a Salesforce consulting firm to manage the entire migration, setting up of the CI/CD pipeline, and longterm maintenance of the pipeline. This is an excellent middle ground but may work out to be expensive since you’d be paying for the tools and the consulting services separately.

Another route is to opt for a vendor-provided tool like AutoRABIT. This gives you the best of both worlds – a mature CI/CD pipeline and low maintenance costs. No matter which route you take, CI/CD is essential for Salesforce and should be one of your top priorities if you build and ship Salesforce applications.

The CI/CD solution should allow you to integrate technology into your delivery ecosystem, which is tailor-made for your specific use cases. It should offer features like test analysis, source code analysis, and version control to make your deployment process efficient. If the solution uses metadata, it can act as a powerful way to control the pipeline. Salesforce customizations are represented as metadata. This metadata exists as files that can be retrieved from a salesforce instance. Version control, along with salesforce metadata, can help simplify automating deployments.

Adopt CI/CD and deploy faster with Salesforce

To deploy faster with Salesforce, you need to adopt a CI/CD solution that caters to the entire software development lifecycle and is easy to adopt. However, remember that implementing a CI/CD tool is not going to magically speed up your delivery process. You’ll first need to adopt DevOps and start by breaking down silos that slow down the delivery process as it is today. Implementing a tool is not going to magically speed up your delivery process. Still, it will significantly increase the odds of your organization successfully adopting a DevOps approach and breaking the silos that slow down the delivery process.

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