5 steps to navigate Salesforce release cycles the VRP Managed Services way

23 January 2020 Salesforce

In the world of Salesforce, Christmas comes three times a year. The tri-annual release schedule of new Salesforce features and products is an exciting time for any company. These updates, ranging from small quality of life improvements to radical transformative tools, can drive business results and help companies stay ahead of their competition.

But along with the excitement of the new features, there also comes the tricky task of managing every transition.

There are new features to review and discover how they work. Then there’s the process of working out how they should be used for your business – or even if they should. Also, staff, stakeholders, and end-users need to adopt these new features and, in some cases, change their workflows. And there they vital task of making sure that any custom code works properly with the latest updates.

All of this takes time, resources and experience to carry out effectively. A haphazard approach can lead to delays or even worse, errors slipping through which disrupt business activities.

VRP Managed Services is the perfect cost-effective way for you to manage these tri-annual transitions. We have deep knowledge of the Salesforce ecosystem and connecting services as well as our client’s business, Salesforce orgs, data and processes. These make us well-placed/the best-placed/ to ensure seamless releases and help clients maximise the value of the Salesforce license.

How Salesforce releases work

Three times a year, Spring (usually February), Summer (usually July) and Winter (usually October) Salesforce.com delivers various features to its customers based on new innovations, expansion of current functionality and of course, top-scoring customer requests.

If Salesforce were a single application, then this would be a significant task. With the different Salesforce products and third-party add-ons, however, adopting these new elements becomes a daunting task. It’s difficult for most companies to consider this a “business as usual” task.

Fortunately, Salesforce follows a structured and approachable methodology that usually starts three months before deployment to customer production environments. The actual release schedules are typically published up to a year in advance and carry an executive summary of the plan on the Salesforce Trust website. All this information is useful for our process of managing transitions.

A five-step framework to prepare for a new Salesforce release

To help streamline transitions during each transition, we have developed a five-step framework. This process ensures that all our clients are properly prepared for the latest releases and aren’t missing out on any features that could benefit their businesses.

1. Review

As soon as the release notes and pre-production environments becoming accessible (approximately 1-1.5 months before release), we start reviewing everything that has changed. We explore the new features, how they function and the way they interact with Salesforce as a whole.

We keep track of our client-specific processes and features so we can easily ascertain any positive or negatives impacts on our clients.

2. Test

After we are familiar with the next Salesforce release, we start the process of client-specific testing. These regression tests are carried out in preview sandboxes with client-specific code. Here we can investigate the new features thoroughly and identify any issues with configurations and customisations of the client’s org as well as any changes that are needed for end-user workflows.

We use both automatic and manual tests depending on the client needs to gain the benefits of both approaches. At this stage, we follow three types of tests focusing on regression (compatibility), unit (code-based) and system testing (process and config).

Thanks to the analysis we previously conducted, we can prioritise our testing with tests that target the potentially affected areas in the client’s system. This allows us to prioritise any potential fixes either directly or via Salesforce support if the issue is within the platform.

3. Prepare & Communicate

Once testing is complete, we have a clear picture of both the required and optional new features, changes and fixes facing the client. We send an overview to our clients so they can make informed decisions regarding optional changes. Where practical, we deliver this at least two weeks before deployment so that the relevant teams can prepare for the new incoming features.

We can also include end-user quick start guides to ensure quick adoption and mitigate against potential user-errors.

4. Deploy

At this stage, the new system has been vetted and any necessary fixes deployed. With the client informed about any upcoming changes, everything is in place to ensure that the transition goes smoothly and with minimal disruption to our clients’ business operations. We arrange a suitable time with the client to deploy the latest version.

5. Smoke test

All that’s left to do is smoke test the production org post-Salesforce release to ensure there are no discrepancies between the preview sandbox and production. We finish by sending detailed documentation to the clients and stakeholders so they can comprehensively audit the entire process.

VRP Managed Services helps your company constantly innovate with the latest technology and trends

At VRP Consulting, we are relentless in empowering our customers to unleash their capabilities within their Salesforce platform. By proactively analysing the new Salesforce releases and our clients’ orgs, we can speed the delivery of the latest innovations and ensure they receive the full return on their Salesforce investments.

Our flexible Managed Services packages start at just 20 hours per month and provide a very low-cost way to administrate, support or conduct small enhancements to your platform.

Author Andy Webster