How to Digest a New Salesforce Release

May 3, 2016 John Gorup

During the third week of April, Salesforce published the release notes for Summer ‘16. Every new release brings some excitement to the Salesforce community, but it’s hard to appreciate how amazing this is unless you remember (or still live in) the on-premises enterprise software world. Back in the day, I was a PeopleSoft consultant. I remember one project I worked on focused on upgrading to the next version of Peoplesoft. The client wasn’t enthused about the upgrade, but needed to do it to be “in compliance” with Oracle’s helpdesk. The project took a small team 6 months of flights, hotels, and billable hours to complete. In the end, the client had a few nicer features, a new font for their app, and the benefit of getting help from Oracle if there was a bug in the system.

I think about this upgrade project every time Salesforce or Workday (our other big cloud partner), has a new release. Workday, for example, upgrades twice a year and is on its 26th release. We have reached a point where these upgrades have become routine. But getting on top of a new cloud release is a vital business and technology activity many cloud customers are taking for granted.

A quick Google or Twitter search reveals a lot of Salesforce experts talking about each new release — and for good reason. Each new release offers new capabilities that were not in the previous edition. Understanding these capabilities can save customers time and money. Organizations make better decisions when they know what can be configured vs. customized. Also, new functionality can improve business processes, giving you more value for your licensing dollar. Another benefit is in understanding the progress made by features Salesforce has rolled out in a limited way (like Lightning).

Of course, getting to know a release as large as Summer ‘16 takes some work. Here is a list of ways to make the work a little easier:

  • Break down the release notes into smaller bits. Not everyone will download the 480+ PDF of the release notes and read it like a James Joyce novel. On the right side of the release notes page, Salesforce has filtering functionality, which allows you to search the notes by edition, feature, and product. If you use Salesforce just for sales processes, for example, you can digest just those features.
  • Get to know Trailhead. If you haven’t incorporated Trailhead into your learning program, a new release is a good time to start. The Summer ‘16 trail is not available yet, but check out Spring ‘16 to get a feel for what a trail about a release looks like.
  • Read what the Salesforce community has to say. One of the amazing things about Salesforce is the active community around it. Many enthusiasts and firms read the release notes religiously and blog about what they find exciting. Here, for example, is a good summary by Salesforce MVP Rakesh Gupta. And in this blog, Pritam Shekhawat points out the Lightning enhancements he finds interesting.
  • Keep your certifications up to date. In every release, Salesforce-certified professionals have to take a maintenance exam. They can be a hassle, but maintenance exams should be viewed as a chance to dive into a new release. If you are a manager with certified people on your staff, give them time to study, pass their exam, and share what’s new.
  • Customers who use a partner to manage their cloud solutions: ask your lead. Appirio Cloud Management customers should ask their leads for a review of what new features can impact their org.

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