This transcript has been edited lightly for clarity and brevity.
Emma: Hello, listeners, it is your host Emma Peet. Over the last few episodes, I’ve been talking with my fellow colleagues at Tricentis, and that’s because there’s a lot of news to share lately. Today is no exception.
It’s a pleasure to be joined by one of our very own, John Lange, Principal Product Marketer. John has been in marketing for 20+ years, and before Tricentis was in the SaaS space, and also Managed Services and Consulting. One of the things you’ve been working on behind the scenes here is getting ready to launch a brand-new product, and the takeoff has now happened. And that is Tricentis Test Automation for Salesforce, the fastest Salesforce-specific test automation platform out there, which is pretty exciting. When we consider how widely used the CRM platform Salesforce is, with more than 150,000 users globally, the potential impact of test automation for Salesforce is really exciting.
What are the main challenges that Salesforce users are facing today?
John: The first thing I want to say about Salesforce is that it’s awesome; it’s more than just a CRM. It’s not just a sales tool anymore. They’re getting into the mid-office, back-office, and it’s that whole customer 360 proposition that;s talking about: how can we illuminate what’s happening in your business? How can we create front-to-back office workflows that really help transform a business? And what’s great about Salesforce is; you can do very basic customizations to very complex customizations as well. You can really have a very intertwined platform across all of your departments, and then you take something like MuleSoft that allows Salesforce to talk to enterprise systems as well.
When you factor in what you can do with Salesforce and their massive vendor ecosystem where you can find help from consultants or manage services providers, or even finding other apps, and really cool add-ons, it’s just pretty amazing what you can do. But with all of that, there are certainly some challenges and that’s obviously what we’re trying to help solve here at Tricentis. First, there’s the release cycles.
Salesforce has three release cycles per year, which can cause problems for certain organizations depending on how they currently have their Salesforce environment set up. And then, there’s your own internal release cycle. You have a roadmap of what you’re trying to accomplish, what you want to do. So, just trying to manage your own release cycle in conjunction with the Salesforce release cycle can be a lot.
John: And then of course, to manage this, you need people—you need to have admins, developers, maybe you work with third parties—but you need to have people that can run and manage these systems. And of course, they’re in hot demand and companies are poaching those skilled Salesforce professionals from one company to another. And so, if you’re a Salesforce professional, it’s a good time for you; finding jobs is actually pretty easy. But the challenge is keeping that staff, because when somebody leaves, you lose that tribal knowledge that they’re taking with them out the door.
When I talk to admin and developers, the thing that always comes up is the backlogs. The list of things that they’re trying to get to that they just haven’t been able to accomplish, and it always seems to be adding up. How do you get relief from the backlog? It’s because there’s a lot of complexity. Companies who buy Salesforce probably have pretty ambitious plans for what they want to do, and that means they’re always trying to add in.
What’s interesting about Salesforce is that there are no two instances that are alike. You can go from one company to another and say, “Oh yeah, I know Salesforce,” but it can look completely different, and that’s part of the challenge.
John: I’m sure you’ve worked at places where Salesforce environments look different even though it’s still Salesforce.
John: What comes from that is tech debt. Also, as Salesforce environments grow organically over time, especially if you have an org that’s been around for a while, that there are probably skills that aren’t needed anymore. There’s also workflows that aren’t quite working correctly, and all these other apps that are maybe integrated, and sometimes you have dueling apps. So, as you have ambitious plans for Salesforce, guess what? You’re going to be building up tech debt, potentially if you’re not doing a really good job of maintaining it.
Emma: That’s a really great overview, and I like introing with how dynamic and versatile Salesforce is. It’s a huge ecosystem, as you say, but as it expands across different verticals and areas, of course there are different instances. Like you say, it’s a highly customizable app, and with every customization comes fresh challenges.
John: It’s important to touch on compliance, because sometimes companies think of it as an afterthought. It’s GDPR in the EU, it’s maybe HIPAA rules in the US if you’re part of the healthcare system now. And then there’s California compliance as well.
Another thing to remember about the Salesforce environment is that it all runs on data. If you’re not doing a great job of cleaning your data and maintaining your data, all those bells and whistles that you have that you want to install aren’t going to work.
John: I worked at a company about 10 years ago with a Salesforce environment, and they wanted to add predictive analytics. It was pretty new at the time; they spent a lot of time and effort trying to make it work. But then they realized, “Our data isn’t good enough to even get this module to function.”
The final thing I want to touch on is that Salesforce charges a premium. You are not signing up for the bargain basement CRM. So if you want to really show value for your CRM, you really have to make sure that you invest in the tools and the people you need to really make it hum. So, for all the amazing things that Salesforce could do, certainly has some challenges.
Emma: For sure. As you say, it’s an awesome app and very unique, but every instance is unique.
In terms of those challenges, how should our listeners go about tackling them?
John: The first thing is: you always need to know your system. You need to understand how it’s configured, what the tech stack looks like, and how those various pieces are playing together; if they’re working together well.
I worked at one organization where there had been a lot of turnover on the Salesforce side, and we had to spend a lot of time just defining what the tech stack looked like; what was being used, what wasn’t being used. There is definitely some in-tech debt that always happens with Salesforce. Again, knowing that it’s a very organic system too, where depending on who is running Marketing or who is running Sales, they need some new feature. And then, sometimes those organizations change and they’re still paying for these apps, or we did this big configuration so maybe they don’t need it now. So:know how your system is configured.
I just mentioned this: clean data. If you don’t have clean data, then all the really cool things you can do with Salesforce, especially as you get into the analytics side of it, just aren’t going to give you results that you can take action on. That’s of course what you want, and that’s the whole idea with custom features.
Emma: For sure.
John: I want to talk about user stories as a way to addressing these challenges. You need to make sure you’re aware of exactly what those final workflows that people need to do are, and make sure that you have workflows that work with them; not made in a silo.
Every internal Salesforce team I’ve ever spoken to feels overwhelmed. And whether you have really talented admins and architects, and developers on staff, or just maybe an admin or two, there are other ways to get help. And looking at consultants and managed services providers can help. What I really want to talk about, how to address these challenges that we’re talking about and the whole purpose of Tricentis Test Automation for Salesforce, is about automated testing and how automated testing can play a really vital role in addressing these challenges, especially if you’re a company that has complex organization, or you have ambitious plans to really enhance how Salesforce works at your business.
Our mission around Test Automation for Salesforce is to really drive test automation beyond those traditional testing centers and businesses, and really get a powerful tool in the hands of admins and developers, to help reduce errors and speed up development time. We wanted to have a tool that’s a major improvement over some traditional testing script-based options—something like Selenium—that can break a lot when you have a lot of changes in your environment.
John: There’s just not enough time anymore to do manual ad hoc testing when you’re continually adding complexity to your system. It’s like, “Oh, I just changed a field, now I have to run 100 tests.” Just for a simple field? No. There are better ways to do it.
I always say, if you’re trying to really ramp up or get control of your Salesforce environment, you should have a robust automated testing process in place, and they aren’t necessarily that challenging to do. Start over time by creating those test cases that you need. To me, it’s the logical next step, and I think that companies that do a great job with automated testing will be able to out-maneuver their competitors. They can pivot faster because they have their vital resources working on things that will really improve their customer experience, and their user experience, versus trying to just do a reactive break-fix approach to Salesforce.
Emma: So let’s zoom in on this awesome new product then, Tricentis Test Automation for Salesforce. It’s extremely context-aware, it’s built for Salesforce, and with this automated testing it’s going to save a lot of time and quicken releases. The fact that anyone can come and use this without coding experience too is another awesome value-add.
Could you share a little more about how the product helps people work with Salesforce, with it being highly customizable and very unique in each use case?
John: Yes, definitely. So, what I’m also surprised by, in talking to admins and developers, is how unaware they are of automated testing. Of course, they’re going to be doing testing, but they’re not aware that there’s a solution out there that can really take a lot of that burden off them once you build up your test library.
When it comes to thinking of a test automation solution, the first thing I would recommend is, let’s start with the basics. What are the basic functions that you know need to happen every day? That’s where you start. You know, “log in,” “search for a record,” “modify a record,” “log in,” “create an opportunity,” “save the opportunity.” Those are vital steps that need to happen in any Salesforce environment. But as you change workflows, or there’s custom code involved, there can be unintended consequences of some of those standard workflows that you just take for granted. That’s the first step.
Then, over time, you build up a very robust test library that you can then run in production to make sure that your environment is working, or you can run it in the sandbox when you have new releases or you’re playing around with something new. That’s always my recommendation.
What we’re doing with Test Automation for Salesforce is what we call context-aware steps that say, “Hey, log in, create an opportunity, log in, create a record.” We’re using those Salesforce terms that admins and developers know very well. You have the ability to record a workflow, so instead of having to manually create some steps, you can just say, “Hey, I’m going to have the Test Automation for Salesforce record a workflow in Salesforce”, and then we create that test case.
For more advanced users, you can even go in and actually adjust the code of those test cases well. What do we see from this? Well, when you have this test library that you can continually rely on, it’s going to find errors before you or your users do, and it’s going to save a lot of time in that manual testing process.
Sure, you’re still going to have to do some manual tests. But the idea is, if we can get rid of 90% or greater of those manual tests, and let’s say your team is spending 10, 20, 30 hours a month doing testing, or even during a big development cycle; if we can take 90% of that time and automate it, just think what an advantage it is for a team when they don’t have to do those manual steps and they can focus on priorities.
Emma: Yeah, it’s huge. I’m so excited that it’s out there now, and in the hands of customers.
A big thank you for talking with me today, not only about Test Automation for Salesforce but its wider context and sharing your experience with Salesforce. Clearly this is a product founded in that experience and awareness of its pain points. Your excitement shines through that this is out of the door!
We recently hosted a webinar introducing the product and giving you a whistle-stop tour of its features. Check it out.
Check out the latest podcast episodes for more insights from thought leaders like John.