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Metadata Intelligence Leads Salesforce Devops

Metadata Intelligence Leads Salesforce Devops

Salesforce app production teams are constantly looking for ways to speed up application delivery. That interest in productivity drives interest in Salesforce devops. In 2021, the five leading Salesforce devops companies have put forth platforms which manage an organization’s Salesforce devops process. Each of these platforms’ success is derived from a key, shared characteristic that I call metadata intelligence.

In this analysis I define the term and take you through the need for metadata intelligence. We will see how it has facilitated a new ecosystem category called Change Intelligence. I will then describe the utility of metadata intelligence in speeding up Salesforce deployments. Then we will look at what features to want in your own solutions. Finally, we’ll take a quick look at how some other Salesforce ecosystem vendors besides the Top 5 are using metadata intelligence to facilitate Salesforce application delivery.

Salesforce Release Management is Hard

The need for Salesforce devops arises from the need to speed up the Salesforce release management process. We are in this situation because an existing org’s metadata configuration may be changed by the smallest administrative or setup change by any administrator at any time. So, Salesforce lacks a key feature of cloud native projects. That is the capability for an entire system to be reliably rebuilt from source code and database migrations.

The dynamic nature of a Salesforce org contributes to a common frustration when deploying changes from a sandbox to testing or production orgs. The frustration occurs when deployments fail with errors which fail to fully indicate the extent of a flaw. That leads to several iterations of deployments in which developers incrementally fix metadata issues. Many times, these errors are caused by unrealized dependencies or interim changes to an org’s metadata. This slow and iterative process can be a monumental source of frustration for Salesforce delivery managers.

Metadata Intelligence Features

To avoid deployment frustration, metadata intelligence is perhaps the most important consideration when selecting a Salesforce devops platform. Here are the chief characteristics of what I call metadata intelligence:

  • Ingestion – This refers to a system’s ability to scan a Salesforce org and store a copy of the org’s metadata in a separate, non-XML-based database. Ingestion must be run periodically, automatically detecting org changes between runs.
  • “Dry Run” – Deployment preview, or performing a “dry run ” is a key feature of an intelligent metadata system. The system must preview errors that would normally take several deployment runs to fully understand.
  • Change Intelligence – When altering a Salesforce org, sometimes a change will fail because of a dependence in another part of the org. Change intelligence gives developers and architects easy access to dependency information.
  • Reporting – Reporting of org metadata has many uses, the most important of which is compliance activities for regulated companies. For profiles and other user security management needs, reporting is an important way to audit user access.

Not all metadata intelligence systems have all these features, and the quality of implementation varies. I recommend closely examining the “dry run” features of Salesforce devops platforms. This is usually the greatest time-saving features of the platforms.

Vendors Embracing Metadata Intelligence

Salesforce ecosystem vendors are increasingly developing metadata intelligence as a core technology. Here are several growing Salesforce ecosystem companies who are innovating on metadata intelligence.

  • Elements.Cloud – The company uses an internal metadata management system to assist with running orgs at a high level using agile management. The company has led the way delivering what I call Devops 3.0 services. This is where agile management and technology converge into a better system for app delivery. Elements also does predictive analysis with its metadata system, which implements change intelligence for impact analysis.
  • Opsera – Opsera is a low-code command server and devops platform which supports additional cloud platforms besides Salesforce. Opsera does metadata ingestion to support Salesforce release management.
  • Panaya ForeSight – This service is a cloud native platform and Chrome plugin which gives Salesforce developers instant access to impact analysis reporting. Panaya uses metadata intelligence to focus on predictive functions which help developers avoid changes that produce unanticipated results.
  • Salto – Salto is a multi-cloud infrastructure-as-code system which uses a declarative language to support Salesforce release management. Salto performs metadata ingestion to optimize the Salesforce release management process.
  • Sonar – Sonar is a change management system that uses metadata intelligence and takes a low-code approach designed to work for admin-oriented teams.

All of the Top 5 Salesforce Devops platform vendors have fully embraced the use of metadata intelligence in their integrated platforms as well.

If there is a company or project that I missed who is doing interesting things with Salesforce metadata, please contact me via email [email protected].

Metadata Intelligence is Expanding

Salesforce org management is complex. The best systems at managing Salesforce orgs ingest, store, analyze and report on the metadata used to define each Salesforce org. All the Top 5 Salesforce devops vendors make extensive use of metadata intelligence to simplify and speed up Salesforce release management with the “dry run” facility. The five additional companies I introduced here go further and use metadata intelligence to define a new Salesforce devops category called Change Intelligence.

It also turns out that ingesting, storing, and using Salesforce metadata is a big project. It seems too unwise for an individual Salesforce platform owner to undertake their own metadata intelligence project. Developing a Salesforce metadata intelligence system seems to be a startup-company-scale effort. Salesforce platform owners should be looking for commercial solutions for their metadata management needs.

As the pressures mount to speed up enterprise application delivery generally, Salesforce platforms owners should put metadata intelligence at the center of their devops platform requirements. Effective ingestion and utilization of Salesforce org metadata is the key function of today’s Salesforce devops platforms.