“Gearset has helped us take control of our platform, our releases, our products and ultimately enable us to keep in line with the demands of our customers and stakeholders at a much reduced cost.”

Paul Watkeys | Head of Digital Products | Veolia
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Dramatic DevOps improvements help Veolia UK & IRE to deliver massive Salesforce ROI

Having used Salesforce for years, Veolia UK & IRE adopted Gearset in 2021 as part of a big shakeup to improve their release process. At that time, there was no visibility across teams so work was often duplicated and their 65 sandboxes across 4 orgs were out of sync. This became increasingly difficult as Veolia UK & IRE used a number of different partners and suppliers. Implementing Gearset removed silos, boosted their release times and enabled scalability. For the first year, Veolia UK & IRE forecast at least 500% ROI.

Veolia UK & IRE’s extensive Salesforce customizations

To find out about Veolia UK & IRE’s approach to Salesforce DevOps, we caught up with Paul Watkeys, Head of Digital Products. We were also joined by Salesforce Consultant Josh Malcolm of Inardua, who has been key in assisting Paul to build Veolia UK & IRE’s Salesforce DevOps process.

Paul’s teams are responsible for Veolia UK & IRE’s entire Salesforce offering. Two years ago, at the start of the transformation, there were six people internally at Veolia UK & IRE and 10 to 15 offshore contractors.

Veolia UK & IRE makes extensive use of the ability to customize Salesforce, and handles vast amounts of data. As Paul explains, there are “hundreds and thousands of waste types and classifications — we have all of that data as well as our customer account data, and 18 custom objects that we’ve added to Salesforce.”

A problematic release process

When Paul joined Veolia UK & IRE, he led a rigorous self assessment of their capability and maturity as a team. “We wanted to align our capabilities with the ambitions of the organization and the expectations of our customers, industry, partners and competitors,” Paul explained. The team identified a number of problems that they urgently needed to address.

Josh explained that, before Gearset, “different teams and individuals worked in silos”. This meant it was difficult for Veolia UK & IRE to see who was working on what. And there was no consistent deployment process: some people used change sets while others used SFDX. “At one point we had 65 sandboxes all completely out of sync,” Paul added. With no single source of truth, work was often duplicated and thrown away as a result, wasting previous developer time.

Individual work items weren’t technically complex, but the complexities of the process made releases difficult. Technical debt and test failures were becoming a significant issue and slowing down the orgs. Veolia UK & IRE knew they had to do something.

“Before Gearset, we had little confidence in being able to deploy through to production and not break something.”

In Paul’s words: “It was a nightmare!”

The search for a swift transformation

With support from the Salesforce Program Architect service and Inardua, Paul and his team started afresh. Veolia UK & IRE first used Gearset for data migration, automating a labor-intensive job and saving hundreds of thousands of pounds in the process. Gearset was initially recommended by an architect to handle metadata deployments, but Paul’s team quickly identified it as a complete DevOps solution. It also had to be a fast adoption process “to keep this multi-billion pound business running”.

The Veolia UK & IRE team made a list of their requirements. It was crucial they found a solution that favored collaboration and suited mixed skill sets across hybrid teams. Gearset fitted the bill perfectly.

A reliable release process that can scale

Today, Veolia UK & IRE’s Salesforce DevOps process runs smoothly — it’s no longer the “nightmare” it was before. There are now 5 scrum teams with everyone working in their own sandboxes. They deploy to version control using Gearset, while back propagation keeps all the environments in sync. Testing ahead of deploying to UAT and releasing at the end of the sprint takes the pain out of the deployment process. This new approach has transformed both the speed and quality of their releases.

One of the other benefits of a robust and reliable process is the scalability and flexibility it brings. Paul believes the “ability to scale” is a big advantage and Josh agrees that, with this clear standardized process, new teams could be added and they’d be able to work in a consistent way. He is confident that:

“As Veolia UK & IRE’s priorities change and we need additional teams, we can facilitate that with Gearset.”

The Veolia UK & IRE team now has the ability to release more frequently. “If Paul says we want to release even more regularly,” Josh explained, “we can easily do that. With the old process, I’d tear my hair out!”

Achieving visibility with Pipelines

Veolia UK & IRE has seen significant benefits with Gearset’s new pipelines, of which they were early adopters. They are very happy with the results as it is “massive to have a single release manager or tech lead ultimately overseeing hundreds of changes every sprint.” The visibility has had a significant impact on the team and Josh added, “I think we’d really struggle to do that without Gearset”.

Securing 500% ROI with more to come

Veolia UK & IRE’s new deployment process takes less than 10 minutes — almost an hour’s saving per user story. With approximately 20-50 stories per sprint per team, they’re saving about 100 hours every 2 weeks.

They’re also seeing major savings from now being able to “deploy stuff correctly without breaking anything or introducing bugs, then needing hotfixes”. With these time savings it has been possible to reduce outsourced resourcing costs, saving £3k a week, plus saving each of their developers 3 hours a week to focus on other projects.

Veolia UK & IRE has seen a dramatic return on investment with Gearset. They forecast “at least 500% ROI in our first year” and only expect that to increase.

Veolia UK & IRE proudly recommends Gearset as an all-in-one solution

Paul is proud of Veolia UK & IRE’s new Salesforce DevOps process and tooling.

“Gearset has helped us take control of our platform, our releases, our products and ultimately enable us to keep in line with the demands of our customers and stakeholders at a much reduced cost.”

It has been a very positive experience for Veolia UK & IRE and Paul noted, “We found a great camaraderie working with Gearset.” To anyone looking for a solution, Josh advocates, “Don’t just use Gearset to make individual deployments faster. Use Gearset to support your entire release process.” Paul agrees:

“The value of Gearset goes beyond just functionality — it encourages a process.”

Gearset has allowed the Veolia UK & IRE team to realize the Salesforce DevOps process they set out to build. Veolia UK & IRE is constantly innovating and growing so the team isn’t letting up on their DevOps improvements! Paul concludes: “We’re working on a Center of Excellence and what we’d like to do is take control of our Salesforce release management internally, so we really have control over the platform.”

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