Planning is Golden Salesforce Admins have a crucial role to play in keeping their orgs up-to-date with all the latest bells and whistles introduced by Salesforce with every seasonal release. It’s no secret that Admins work very hard to get their users to love their Salesforce orgs, so investing time into going through this process with a strategic game plan is worth it to prevent users from backsliding in those efforts. Here’s a good plan to adopt when preparing for a Salesforce seasonal release. A Quick Recap on Release Timeframes If you’ve been in the Salesforce ecosystem for at least 3 months, you are fully aware of Salesforce’s tri-annual releases. Each release is jam-packed with usable features we, the Salesforce Ohana, have submitted or upvoted as Ideas. And as frustrating as it may be to see your Idea go weeks, months or years without getting the upvotes it needs to be reviewed by Product Management, Salesforce is still working hard to pump out new features. For those new to the ecosystem, here’s a general overview of the release schedule: There are key dates to be aware of with each release. You won’t want to miss any of these timeframes: With any Salesforce release, there are three main components for which to prepare: ⬬ Release Notes – Study the Release Notes in detail to understand which of the new Features and Updates affect your Salesforce org(s) and your users. ⬬ Sandboxes – Ensure your Sandboxes are on the Preview Instances, or refreshed in the presented timeframe to receive the new release. Test all relevant new Features or Updates in your Sandbox. ⬬ Communication – Perhaps the most overlooked component and perhaps the most critical to your success. When the release is deployed to your Production org(s), your users’ workflows may change. Your preparation and communication of those changes becomes paramount. Like so many processes, this process is simple enough to follow, if you allow yourself the necessary time to complete it. Any infringement on your time will impede the result, so allow yourself plenty of flexibility. Release Notes Usually in the ballpark of 500 or more pages, the Release Notes are a hefty document that requires thorough skimming to ensure nothing is missed. My process includes the Release Notes open in one window, and a blank Word/Google Doc in another. Navigating through the Notes section by section takes time, but for this initial pass, I’m simply copy-pasting section headers and summaries (including the links) into my document. I’m looking for the sections that are relevant and will ultimately categorize the features into two groups: ⬬ Updates – Changes made to the current build that will affect existing user workflows ⬬ New Features – Possible new user workflows that can be built upon request Sandboxes For the sake of continuity, review the Sandbox Preview Instances blog post Salesforce puts out for each release, and be aware of which of your sandboxes will be updated. Additionally, spin up an additional sandbox during the refresh window, if you have one (a Developer Sandbox is fine), devoted to reviewing new features. This will ensure you have the latest configurations from Production to test during the Preview window. Communication Last, and certainly not least, is Communication. There are several points of communication that will need to be utilized in order to ensure maximum preparation for your users. ⬬ Release Announcement(two months before release into Production) – When you receive the Release Announcement email from Salesforce, email your users, document your plan, and include any known, relevant dates (namely, when the Release will be available in Production). ⬬ During Testing (about three weeks before release into Production) – While you are testing new release features in your Sandbox, communicate your excitement and a sneak peek of what’s coming. As you identify specific new and valuable features, communicate those to affected users. ⬬ Release Notes (about a week before release into Production) – Once you’ve reviewed all features and prepared your Release Notes, share them with your users. A week’s time frame will give them ample time to scan and review relevant features to be used in their workflows. ⬬ The Night Before (Friday, the weekend of the release into Production) – Send an email Friday afternoon before users sign off for the weekend to remind them they’ll enter into a different world when they return on Monday. Also remind your users how they can reach out with questions. ⬬ A Week or Two Later (after the release into Production) – This is generally the overlooked communication. Quite frankly, I almost forgot to include it in the list myself. Touch base with your users to see how the new updates and features are working out. Ask if they’ve had a chance to review the New Features that can be built, or if they have any questions you can address. Time Management Time moves quickly in the Salesforce world. Just two weeks after you send off that last email, you’ll receive the next Release Notification email from Salesforce. That is why this process is so important. If you get a release behind, you may find yourself faced with new features, odd behaviors, and urgent requests you are not prepared to handle. Time Management is the key component to executing on this process over and over (three times a year). In total, anticipate this process will take about 4 hours to complete, spread over many weeks. Stay Informed Throughout the Release process, changes will be made to the Salesforce Release Notes. Review these changes weekly to ensure you have the most up-to-date information. Additionally, take time to interact with other admins and devs in the Salesforce Success Community to hear how others are taking full advantage of these new features. Before you know it, this process will become second nature and you will become increasingly efficient in it. Should you struggle with any features, or need an extra hand, please feel free to reach out to our team. Planning Can Be a Challenge. We Can Help. At Shift3 Technologies, we use a consultative approach to help you determine the best strategy to identify your challenges, implement appropriate solutions and enhance your systems. Need to rekindle your users’ love for Salesforce? Check out this 5-minute read. For a free consultation, email [email protected] or call 559 560 3300 today. This post was written by David Akina, a Multi-certified Salesforce Admin, cat dad and human dad. David has become a regular contributor to the Shift3 Technologies blog as well as a presenter for the California Trailblazer Series.