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A Sensible Approach to Technical Change Management: Release Cadence

Welcome to Part 3(c) of our Ultimate Delivery Machine series. If you’ve missed our previous articles, we recommend reading Part 1Part 2, Part 3(a), and Part 3(b).

Delivering consistent, working releases on schedule is essential for a well-run Salesforce org. In the organizations that can do it, enhancements are delivered sooner, communication between functional groups is better, and adoption is great. These organizations have a positive relationship with their users because when they say, “It’s on the roadmap,” they mean it.

All the planning, tools, and release management theory are meaningless if you’re not delivering new features, patches, and enhancements.

Luckily, you can set yourself apart from the pack by properly planning and executing releases on a  release cadence that works best for your Salesforce org.

What is Release Cadence?

A release cadence defines the frequency with which features are delivered to production. For example, Salesforce’s release cadence is three times a year – Winter, Spring, and Summer. They do this so that their customers and partners are assured that innovation is never far away.

Your cadence is your own, but popular cadences include:

  • Annual
  • Bi-Annual
  • Quarterly
  • Monthly
  • Weekly
  • Daily

Benefits of Defining a Release Cadence

Increase adoption – Users can expect regular enhancements and IT is transparent about what is on the roadmap.

Decrease cost of software maintenance – The longer an issue persists in a production environment, the more expensive it becomes to fix. Regular patch and bug fixes can greatly reduce the cost of maintenance.

Encourage scalability and planning for the future – Now beholden to a release cadence, the Salesforce team must continually plan for future releases. They’ll have to engage users, solicit feedback, maintain a healthy backlog, and stay abreast of new Salesforce functionality.

Ensure a disciplined and well-defined software development lifecycle – The more consistent and frequent your release cadence, the more disciplined your software development lifecycle will need to be. It will also increase the need for change control and continuous integration tools.

How to Determine a Release Cadence

There is no one-size-fits-all approach to release cadence. It largely depends on the size of the backlog (how much stuff do we need to get done) and how often change is requested. Options may be limited by availability of resources, and existing company culture around change.

Review and prioritize your backlog.

What do users want? What is on the to-do list to deliver to your organization? After the backlog has been reviewed and prioritized, group your items into release categories.

Major

  • New feature or product
  • Takes a considerable amount of work and involves complex dependencies
  • Example: Implementing email-to-case or launching a portal

Minor

  • Minor tweaks and changes to existing functionality
  • Takes less time and is easier to test
  • Example: Updating screen flow or adding validation rules

Patch

  • Fixes and small enhancements
  • Quick and easy to implement. Small wins
  • Example: Reports and dashboards; new fields

After grouping your backlog, you can begin to size up the work in front of you and determine a viable release frequency. Are the changes mostly major? You may need to consider a less frequent cadence to support the necessary planning, development, and testing. Are the changes mostly minor fixes and patches? You may be able to have more frequent releases to implement quick wins and build momentum.

Also consider having a release cadence for each category. For example, major releases twice a year, minor releases quarterly, and patch releases monthly.

Other Organizational Variables

Establishing a good release cadence depends on a few variables:

Implementation size and complexity

The more groups that are served by your Salesforce implementation, the more planning and coordination will be required. For example, if you have separate groups that manage Service Cloud and Sales Cloud, you’ll have to clearly coordinate changes and understand dependencies. This may be a reason to opt for a less frequent cadence.

Technology and Resources

Is your team well-versed in source control and continuous integration? Does your organization already have a process for collecting and prioritizing user feedback? If this is the case, more frequent releases may be easier to obtain.

Company Culture and User opinion about change

Some company cultures are change-averse and have rigidly defined processes for change management. In these organizations, it can feel impossible to get something changed. As part of the Salesforce team, it can be very difficult to control the release cadence the way you would like.

If this is the case, the best approach is to find a sensible cadence that the organization will be comfortable with and come prepared with documentation and ways to show you’ve done the due diligence.

Commit To a Release Cadence and Adjust as Needed

It’s better to have some form of release cadence than nothing at all. If you’ve got the backlog to require a quarterly release, but don’t have adequate resources or tools, then start with a twice-a-year cadence and plan to obtain the resources or learn the skills necessary to optimize your releases in the future. This could mean adopting a version control system or leveraging continuous integration tools.

Good luck and happy releases!

Author: Grant Ongstad, Senior Salesforce Consultant

Read more of the Ultimate Salesforce Delivery Machine series:

Part 1: The Backlog

Part 2: Governance

Part 3(a): The Software Development Lifecycle

Part 3 (b): The Release Lifecycle and Technical Governance

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