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How to manage your organization’s tech debt

March 24, 2021By
three traction employees sitting at a desk smiling

As vaccination numbers steadily rise and restrictions begin to sunset, there is an optimism that we are rounding the corner into a less reactionary, post-Covid world. A new rhythm has begun to take shape for organizations across all industries and attention is beginning to turn back toward strategic expansion on the Salesforce platform. Organizations are either revisiting initiatives that were paused when the pandemic hit, or planning new undertakings that have arisen due to a shift in strategy caused by their experiences during the past year.

Before jumping right into the next major enhancement to your Salesforce environment or integration to an external system, it’s critical to get a clear understanding of the current state and any technical debt that has been lingering or introduced as a result of the need to adapt to rapidly changing business priorities.

Let’s be real

As much as we may want to think that tech debt doesn’t exist in our Salesforce orgs, it does. Tech debt is an inevitable side effect of innovation, and that’s OK! The presence of tech debt doesn’t necessarily mean that someone is at fault or that you’ve wasted money, time, and resources to get where you are. “Tech debt” isn’t a dirty word and it’s certainly not irreversible. Much like financial debt, however, tech debt needs to be continuously assessed and managed so that it doesn’t get out of control and become an increasing drag on future agility and innovation.

How does tech debt occur?

Often, it accrues slowly over time. You configure solutions and write custom code to provide desired non-standard functionality, and eventually Salesforce introduces new features that serve a similar need. On the more dangerous end of the spectrum, those responsible for enhancing your Salesforce org willfully ignore best practices and standard functionality, instead opting to write Apex code to fulfill a business requirement, for example.

Martin Fowler established great terminology around the types of tech debt in his oft-referenced blog post on this topic, so I’ll borrow from him here. It’s easiest to think of tech debt as coming in one of four flavors:

diagram

In Salesforce, tech debt can commonly look like the following:

  • Long, cluttered page layouts
  • Redundant or unclear fields
  • Custom objects where standard objects are best practice (e.g. a custom Tickets object rather than leveraging Cases)
  • Custom JavaScript buttons or Visualforce pages whose functionality is now inferior to Lightning UI and other native, declarative functionality
  • Excessive Workflow Rules that could be simplified in Process Builder or Flow
  • More than one Apex trigger for a given object
  • Poor code coverage and test classes
  • Abandoned minimum viable products, proofs of concept, or apps

Managing your tech debt

Assess

Firstly, it’s important to get an in-depth understanding of the health of your Salesforce org and where tech debt may exist. With the breadth of the Salesforce platform, this can be a daunting task to undertake manually. Here at Traction on Demand, we’ve helped hundreds of organizations perform this type of assessment and, as a result, developed a proprietary tool named X-Ray that drastically speeds up the process and points out risk areas in need of further analysis.

Plan and execute

With a clear view of the current state, we can begin to plan for platform optimization, prioritizing based on the functional impact of the identified risk items and organizational goals. Considering those goals will enable your organization to continue making progress on initiatives that may be time sensitive.

Maintain

The job of managing tech debt in your org is never done. With Salesforce’s triannual major release cycle and increasingly flexible platform, it’s critical that Salesforce teams budget between a quarter and a third of the time in each sprint cycle addressing previous configuration and customization, refactoring to ensure adherence to best practices and paying down accrued tech debt.

Get started on your optimization journey

The key to a scalable, healthy Salesforce org is awareness and intentional management of the technical debt that will inevitably surface. Our team is excited to discuss performing an X-Ray assessment on your org and improving your tech debt “credit score” in more detail.

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