The secret to Salesforce success: DevOps culture

The secret to Salesforce success: DevOps culture

David Runciman on

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In recent years, a flurry of reports have highlighted the fact that DevOps success doesn’t rest on tools and process alone. Culture is key. And that’s because DevOps is ultimately about people. The right tools and processes are essential, but it’s the people using those tools and following those processes that make or break a DevOps implementation. Time and again, the data shows that it’s a mistake to expect DevOps success without changes in attitudes, values, and ways of working.

Salesforce development teams are no exception. Digging into the subject of Salesforce DevOps culture, this article presents findings from the last couple of years of Gearset’s State of Salesforce DevOps surveys, which have found that the traits of DevOps culture are the best predictors of elite performance.

The latest report, with all the figures for DevOps adoption and performance plus expert analysis, is still available to download.

Gearset DevOps Summit: Key Salesforce trends in 2024

Find out more

What is DevOps culture?

To define DevOps culture, it’s helpful to look at the characteristics of teams that perform to the highest levels. Elite Salesforce DevOps teams typically have the following three traits:

1. Buy-in for DevOps

No one is likely to stick with a development process they don’t understand or can’t see the value of, so it’s fundamental that your team buys into Salesforce DevOps as an approach to release management. Just understanding how to use a tool or follow a process isn’t enough. Buy-in is what keeps team members following the agreed process, and prevents them from trying to cut corners. It takes only one disillusioned or confused team member to undermine everyone else’s hard work, and for this reason the whole team needs to value DevOps.

How do you achieve buy-in when you’re introducing DevOps? The key is to make sure everyone understands and believes in the benefits of DevOps, since these are the motivation for doing something different. Most teams don’t respond well to an enforced change, so it’s better to travel the journey together and identify the positive impact of specific changes in the process. Version control, for example, might seem like a more convoluted approach in the short term — but its benefits will soon become clear once adopted.

2. Close collaboration

Everyone agrees collaboration is one of the essential principles of DevOps. Elite teams communicate clearly with each other and actively tear down silos, so everyone understands how projects are being delivered. The whole team works within an agreed DevOps process, sharing responsibility for development and releases. With the rising complexity of Salesforce releases, this only becomes more pressing.

Tools and processes help, but need to be used properly to make the most of their potential. Again, we could take version control as an example of how to collaborate effectively. Using Git will generate an audit trail showing who changed what, when, and why — but only if teammates write sensible commit messages, label and explain their pull requests, and tag relevant people where necessary.

3. Continuous improvement

Another of the characteristics of DevOps, continuous improvement means teams are always open to seeing where they could improve. This cultural trait is closely linked to collaboration. Teammates aren’t afraid to admit what they don’t know or point out where someone’s going wrong. They’re not embarrassed about learning from one another; they embrace it. They trust each other.

Everyone in the team wants to keep learning and working together to optimize the release process. There’s no inertia and little resistance to change. Doing something because “it works” or “we’ve always done it this way” isn’t considered a good enough reason not to reevaluate. The team keeps an eye on the latest cutting-edge tools and best practices. Incremental process improvements are effectively a DevOps approach to DevOps.

Three traits of DevOps culture: buy-in, collaboration, learning

Salesforce teams have bought into DevOps

Without the traits of buy-in, collaboration, and improvement taking root in a team’s culture, even the best tools and processes won’t deliver the full potential of Salesforce DevOps.

So where are most Salesforce teams today? Most have cleared the first hurdle of buy-in and understand the benefits of DevOps. According to the findings of our 2022 survey, just 5% of teams have found buy-in a key obstacle to DevOps adoption. And teams that find DevOps aligns well with their wider company culture are in a great position for adopting more automation and upping their release frequency.

If your team is one of those struggling with buy-in, watch this great talk from Dan Appleman on the challenge of building a DevOps culture to find out about the carrots and sticks you can use to foster cultural change.

Collaboration often isn’t working in practice

Salesforce teams understand that collaboration is at the core of DevOps culture. When asked about the most valuable benefits of DevOps, 93% cite collaboration. And many Salesforce devs and admins think they’re doing well in this area, with 58% rating their team’s collaboration on releases either ‘good’ or ‘excellent’. This probably reflects the way most teams now have improved visibility into what their teammates are getting up to. A large proportion of teams use version control (62%) and work-tracking tools software like Jira (67%), both of which help teams to see different workstreams in action and understand how well the team’s projects are progressing.

The problem is that teams aren’t actually collaborating all that well when it comes to their release process. The majority of respondents (54%) admit to deploying work outside of their defined release pipeline ‘some’ or ‘most of the time’, or not having a defined release pipeline at all.

Data showing most Salesforce teams ignore process some of the time

Clearly, lots of teams could use help in defining their process and understanding how to improve collaboration. Ideally, collaboration should be visible in every part of your team’s process, since assigning particular responsibilities to just one person will often make them a bottleneck for the rest of the team. That’s no fun for anyone. And it doesn’t just slow down any given project — it also slows down the transition to a DevOps culture.

Interestingly, our 2023 report found that there’s a strong correlation between how well Salesforce teams collaborate and their company’s willingness to embrace DevOps culture. Clearly, buy-in for DevOps needs to extend beyond the immediate team to the wider business for cultural traits like collaboration and continuous improvement to be supported.

Training needed for Salesforce teams to succeed

Most people can think of ways they’d love to upskill, but they don’t always have the time or the opportunities for training.

Salesforce teams see the need for DevOps training as a particular challenge. Many respondents to the survey identified ‘a steep learning curve for DevOps concepts’ as the largest obstacle to DevOps. Among teams who are finding it increasingly difficult to manage releases, more than half pin the blame on a lack of team experience. And among the teams finding it ever easier to manage releases, two thirds attribute this to team experience.

Bringing everyone into one shared process is an essential aim of DevOps, so the best approach to training is for everyone to be involved. DevOps is a team sport. If just one of your team doesn’t know what process to follow or doesn’t understand a workflow, it can compromise everything.

Most Salesforce teams want to prioritize learning, with almost two thirds of Salesforce teams saying they intend to meet the challenges of 2022 with training. Thousands of Salesforce professionals have accessed the free courses on DevOps Launchpad to learn about key DevOps concepts and how to put them into practice.

See the full picture

The cultural traits of buy-in, collaboration and continuous learning are essential for any team striving to reach elite-level DevOps performance. Our data is clear: teams want to work in that kind of environment, but need guidance on the day-to-day changes that cultivate that kind of culture.

To understand more about why you should focus on improving your Salesforce team’s DevOps performance, and how to achieve a culture shift, download the latest State of Salesforce DevOps report.

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