Unpicking Salesforce dependencies: Supporting formula dependencies in Gearset

Matt Dickens on July 14th 2016


We’ve spoken before about how dependencies between objects are the most common cause of failed deployments. There are a host of different dependency types, and failing to notice that one object is dependent on another when building a deployment package is likely to cause your deployment to fail.

Thankfully, Gearset’s dependency tracking is here to help. Gearset checks for dependencies before pushing the deployment package up to Salesforce and warns you of any that are missing. Our goal is to eliminate the trial-and-error from deployment - when you click the “Deploy” button in Gearset, we want you to be confident that the deployment will succeed.

Although we don’t currently detect all types of dependency, we’ve been steadily increasing our coverage over the past 12 months guided by our telemetry and, most importantly, feedback from you. Our most recent addition is detecting dependencies in formula fields.

Field Discount_Approved__c does not exist. Check spelling.

Consider the following formula that adds an “Amount After Discount” checkbox to opportunity: IF(Discount_Approved__c, ROUND(Amount - (Amount * Discount_Percent__c), 2), Amount)

To create this formula, we’ll also need to add the custom fields Discount_Approved__c and Discount_Percent__c. If we were then to naively deploy our new “Amount After Discount” field, the deployment would fail validation:

A deployment fails because dependencies of a formula weren't included in the deployment package

That’s to be expected - this formula depends on Discount_Approved__c and Discount_Percent__c and they were missing from our deployment package. At this point, you’d ordinarily go back and add the missing custom field to your deployment package and try again. To make matters worse, Salesforce will only report the first missing dependency it encounters in a formula field, so once you’ve added Discount_Approved__c, the validation will fail again, reporting that Discount_Percent__c is missing. Even in this simple case, you might have two false starts before you build a successful deployment package.

How Gearset helps

With formula dependency tracking, Gearset can help in two ways. Firstly, expanding the tree node for Amount_After_Discount__c will show that the field has the two dependencies above:

Gearset shows the fields and objects that the formula depends on

Clicking the checkbox next to “Depends on” will include the dependencies in your deployment package.

Secondly, as with all of Gearset’s dependency analysis, we’ll check whether there are any missing dependencies and warn you before passing the deployment package to Salesforce:

Gearset catches missing dependencies before pushing the deployment package

This makes it trivial to discover and include dependencies without having to go through the round trip of pushing the package to Salesforce and receiving an error.

If you’ve already seen enough, then go ahead and give it a go - just head over to https://app.gearset.com and start your free 30 day trial! If you’re curious about the details, read on.

Finding dependencies in formula fields

The above is quite a simple example, but formulae can get quite complicated. There are several steps required to figure out what a formula actually depends on:

  1. Parse the formula and extract the names of objects and fields
  2. Translate references to objects into the underlying object types
  3. Use the result of the above to build the list of dependencies

In the most extreme cases, formulae can contain references to fields like: CustomObjectReference__r.StandardObjectReference.AnotherCustomObjectReference__r.StandardField

This is deceptively tricky to untangle! Assuming the above is extracted from a formula field on the Account object, the actual dependencies would be:

  • Account.CustomObjectReference__c ← a custom field on Account, indicated by CustomObjectReference__r
  • CustomObject__c ← The underlying object referenced by CustomObjectReference__c, because we refer to a standard field on it
  • StandardObject.AnotherCustomObjectReference__c ← the custom field on the object referenced by StandardObjectReference
  • AnotherCustomObject__c ← the underlying object referenced by StandardObject.AnotherCustomObjectReference__c

This, of course, just scratches the surface of the complexity - we’ve not even mentioned:

  • VLOOKUP
  • multi-type lookup fields (Owner:Queue, Owner:User)
  • built-in standard object references (what does Parent refer to for different built-in types?)

...and so on. Needless to say, figuring out these dependencies by hand or by trial and error can be really time consuming. Now you can let Gearset do the heavy lifting for you!

As always, if you have any feedback or questions about this feature or about any other aspect of Gearset then don’t hesitate to get in touch with the team at [email protected]. Thanks for reading!

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