Salesforce is a vast and dynamic CRM platform with a range of different tools and features. With such varied functionalities bundled into a single platform, it requires users to take important decisions almost every day. Right from creating custom objects and automating workflows to nurturing leads and building Salesforce applications, you will always be faced with multiple choices you can make to obtain the desired results.

Every choice you make affects the results you obtain and the manner in which you use Salesforce. However, users often choose the easier path when it comes to using tools, features, and technologies while working on Salesforce. While it may provide you with the results you are looking for, it may not be sustainable.

This is what gives rise to the concept of technical debt in Salesforce.

What is technical debt in Salesforce?

Technical debt is a commonly used concept in software development that refers to the implied cost incurred by your organization because of choosing an easier and more limited solution instead of implementing a better approach that was a little more elaborate and complicated.

Let’s understand Salesforce technical debt using a real-life example. Imagine you have gone on a trek in a forest and you encounter a fork in the way with two roads leading to two different ways. While both ways lead to the same destination, one path is clearly longer than the other. However, the longer path contains multiple stops where you can have rest and water along the way. It is also not too rigorous on your shoes. On the other hand, the shorter path gets you to the destination quickly but is a lot steeper and more rigorous which may wear you out by the end.

Here, while the first path is long, it is more sustainable than the shorter path leading to the same destination. Similarly, while implementing your Salesforce org, it is important to analyze the technical decisions you make and the routes you take. If you choose to compromise the quality of code, tools, and features used for programming the CRM platform with the intention of getting the work done faster, it would cost you (quite literally!) in the future.

Salesforce technical debt revolves around the notion that finding shortcuts while compromising the quality of tasks will never lead to sustainable development, leaving you with technical debt. Just like financial debt, technical debt tends to accumulate over time and the users are required to pay an “interest” in the form of additional damage-control.

Factors involved in Salesforce technical debt

Here are some of the most important factors involved in Salesforce technical debt:

Common causes of technical debt in Salesforce
Figure: Common causes of technical debt in Salesforce
1. Inconsistent Configuration

The manner in which you configure your Salesforce org and all its components has a big impact on the quality of outcome you get. Incoherent configurations such as using different approval styles for similar businesses, using different email templates for similar communication, etc. may help you get your work done faster but are definitely not sustainable alternatives.

2. Going overboard with customizations

Salesforce is a highly customizable platform and can be tailored based on the specific needs and preferences of your organization. However, excessive customizations may ruin the performance of the CRM platform in the long run. For example, if you choose to write a trigger while you can use Process Builder to get the same result, it is not the most sustainable choice to make. Similarly, it is not advisable to create a new custom Salesforce object when you can tweak the requirements for using standard objects the way you want.

3. Poor quality of code

At the end of the day, it all comes down to the quality of code used for programming your Salesforce org. Poor quality of code is always more likely to lead to technical debt. For example, writing unit tests for meeting a coverage requirement instead of asserting a valid result, writing the same Apex code several times instead of consolidating the code in a shared helper, and other important code-based decisions.

4. Redundant Components

Salesforce often makes the mistake of sticking to components that are no longer useful because of familiarity and quick results. For example, making use of unused packages, half-built validation rules, proof-of-concept remnants, and other components that can clutter and affect the performance of your CRM solution.

Types of technical debt in Salesforce

There are different ways in which you may need to pay the technical debt in Salesforce because of the decisions you made regarding different aspects of the CRM platform.

Here are the most common types of technical debt in Salesforce you should refrain from getting accumulated:

1. Architecture Debt

As the name suggests, architecture debt is the technical debt that leads to the problem in the architecture of your Salesforce org. Making wrong decisions regarding software architecture during the time of implementation would affect the performance and robust nature of your CRM solution.

2. Build Debt

A build is a pre-release version of a program that is created before the program is officially released. If you tend to go the easy way while compromising the quality of tasks while creating builds in Salesforce, it would lead to the accumulation of build debt for your organization.

3. Code Debt

This is the Salesforce technical debt that revolves around the issues found in the source code. Such debt makes the code more difficult to be maintained.

4. Documentation Debt

This is the type of technical debt that involves issues found in the software documentation. Missing, insufficient, or incomplete documentation leads to documentation debt that affects the performance of the applications built using the Salesforce environment.

5. People Debt

People debt refers to the technical debt arising due to issues related to the people involved in developing or using your Salesforce org. This technical debt may be caused due to insufficient manpower, lack of user adoption, insufficient training, and other related issues.

6. Test Debt

As the name suggests, test debt is accumulated due to issues in testing applications, tools, and features within your Salesforce org. It prevents you from matching the quality of your software to the pre-defined standards set during the initial stages.

How to identify and measure Salesforce technical debt?

It is always important to be on the lookout for potential technical debt to free yourself and your company from the same. To identify and measure your Salesforce technical debt, you need to ask two kinds of questions to yourself while working on each of your solutions – business-related questions and technical questions.

1. Business-related questions
  • Was the solution at hand for a long-term or a short-term requirement?
  • Was it built for supporting a process that needs to be improved?
  • Was the solution built to achieve 100% of your business requirements?
  • Was it built for a specific team or a few select users?
  • Is the ROI generated from the solution greater than the cost of maintenance?
  • Is the solution still actively used by the end-users?
2. Technical Questions
  • Have similar solutions been built by other teams before?
  • Do you have inconsistent user experiences for the same processes?
  • Is the solution following the same reusable frameworks?
  • Have you built your solution using best practices?
  • Is deployment or package validation taking too long?

You can always add to these questions depending on the nature of your organization. Such questions would give you a sense of direction in terms of identifying the debts and taking the necessary steps to resolve the same.

How to avoid technical debt In Salesforce?

Now that we have understood what technical debt is and how it can be identified, let’s have a look at a few important ways in which you can avoid technical debt in Salesforce:

1. Don’t wait to start working on Salesforce updates

Salesforce keeps upgrading itself to stay in tune with the tech trends in the industry. It keeps introducing new features and updates to enhance the experience of the users. However, it always notified the users about the updates that are about to come several months in advance. This gives businesses a buffer to prepare themselves for the change.

This is because most changes are difficult to adapt to and require seamless cooperation with several users across departments. To avoid Salesforce technical debt, make sure that you don’t wait to start working on Salesforce updates. Start informing the users and making necessary changes to make the shift smooth and efficient.

2. Take help from AppExchange

Salesforce AppExchange often helps you fill gaps in your Salesforce gaps in terms of third-party integrations, data backups, pre-built dashboards, and more. This help would prevent you from making the wrong decisions for filling these gaps, helping you avoid technical debt.

3. Plan for the future

Finally, it is always important to be far-sighted and plan for the future while programming your CRM platform. While short-term goals are extremely important, they shouldn’t be fulfilled at the cost of long-term success. This would keep your approach towards Salesforce implementation and operation sustainable, helping you stay away from technical debt.

The Final Word

These were a few important aspects to be considered regarding technical debt in Salesforce. The key to steering away from technical debt accumulation is to choose sustainable processes over faster and easier alternatives that may jeopardize your tasks.