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Salesforce Application Lifecycle Management 101

Ben Sinai

June 10, 2023

A robust Salesforce Application Lifecycle Management (ALM) process can elevate your Salesforce release process and help drive business growth. 

Salesforce ALM forms an essential framework for managing changes and enhancements within your Salesforce instance. It involves planning, developing, testing, and deploying changes while ensuring compliance, optimal productivity, and functionality for end users. 

A healthy ALM process lies at the heart of efficient Salesforce operations. It helps you mitigate risks and maximize your Salesforce ROI. In the blog, we discuss the essentials of Salesforce ALM, explain why it’s important, and list the key stages of a robust ALM process. We also provide a quick overview of the different ALM development models within Salesforce, their benefits, and when to use them.

What Is Salesforce Application Lifecycle Management?

An open laptop with “application lifecycle management - how it works” on the screen.

In the context of change management in Salesforce, ALM is a systematic, iterative process that governs the life of an application from its ideation to its retirement. It comprises the planning, development, testing, deployment, maintenance, and retirement of applications.

Interestingly, although you might not realize it, your change management process already has some aspects of ALM. Salesforce changes and applications like bug fixes, feature enhancements, and new processes are all created and deployed using ALM principles. After all, whether you use a formally defined process or not, you always plan, develop, test, deploy, and maintain everything you build.

When you recognize this fact, you can organize your activities into an established, standardized ALM process. This offers significant benefits, including increased productivity, higher-quality changes, and an optimized end user experience.

The Importance of Salesforce ALM

A robust ALM Salesforce process offers several distinct benefits that help drive your return on investment.

Effective Framework for Change Management

Salesforce ALM provides a structured process for efficiently managing changes and enhancements. By using its systematic approach, you ensure that updates, new features, and modifications are thoroughly planned, properly built, adequately tested, and correctly deployed. This significantly reduces the risk of errors and system downtime.

Enhanced Productivity

A well-managed application lifecycle allows you to easily track changes, automate manual tasks, and streamline release management. This saves valuable time—so you can focus more on innovation.

Improved Collaboration and Coordination

With a clear ALM process in place, different stakeholders—from developers and testers to administrators and end users—can work together more efficiently. Everyone knows what to expect and when, which results in smoother transitions and less friction.

Enhanced End User Satisfaction

When you provide regular, well-managed app updates, your end users can benefit more quickly from new features and enhancements. ALM requires a thorough testing process, which reduces the chances of bugs or other issues affecting end users. This means business users can continue to work in a stable and efficient Salesforce instance that’s continually improving.

Essential Stages of a Robust ALM Process in Salesforce

A comprehensive ALM process in Salesforce includes the following five stages: plan, build, test, release, and monitor.

1. Plan

The planning stage forms the foundation of your ALM process. This is where you research what changes to make or what app to build, as well as what the requirements of the project are. In this stage, it’s helpful to use work management tools like Jira or Azure Boards to coordinate tasks, track progress, and facilitate collaboration.

It’s also important to set up your release pipeline with sufficient production-grade development environments for each person on the project. In addition, keep compliance requirements such as access controls and data privacy in mind.

2. Build

This is where the actual development work takes place, whether it’s coding or configuration. You can use scratch orgs or sandboxes to build and fine tune the changes according to the blueprint you created in the planning stage.

3. Test

To ensure the quality and functionality of your changes, you need to test thoroughly. In the test stage, you evaluate the changes’ impact on existing features, as well as the performance of new features.

4. Release

The release stage includes the actual deployment of approved changes from the sandbox to the production environment. Thanks to the testing in the previous stage, the new functionality should not impact the stability of production.

5. Monitor

The last stage in the Salesforce ALM process is monitoring the application to ensure the performance and stability of your changes. Continuous monitoring allows you to catch any potential issues early, which minimizes the risk of bugs, issues, or system downtime.

ALM Development Models for Salesforce—and When to Use Them

There are three main development models in Salesforce ALM: the change set development model, the org development model, and the package development model. Each model offers its own benefits and is suited to different use cases. Here, we examine each model to help you select the best approach for your specific project.

I: The Change Set Development Model in Salesforce ALM

First, let’s examine exactly what the change set development model is and what benefits it offers.

What Is the Change Set Development Model?

The change set development model presents a structured approach to streamlining the development process. It primarily involves deploying changes between Salesforce environments using change sets. 

You make changes in a non-production environment, add them to a change set, and then send them to another org for review, testing, and—once they’re approved—deployment. This method provides a clear workflow for making changes and significantly reduces the risk of bugs or other issues in production.

Benefits of the Change Set Development Model

The change set model offers the following benefits:

  • Improved communication and collaboration: You add all your changes to a single change set, which provides the reviewer with the context they need to understand the why, what, and how of the modifications. 
  • Increased efficiency: Improved communication and collaboration streamline the review process and let you move changes to the next stage in the pipeline faster.
  • Reduced deployment risks: Before deploying a change set, you perform rigorous testing on your changes. This ensures any potential glitches are ironed out before they become a problem.

When to Use the Change Set Development Model

It’s best to use the change set development model when you have a relatively simple Salesforce instance and a small, close-knit team. It’s perfect when the changes are straightforward and there’s a direct line of communication between the developer, reviewer, and release manager. 

In addition, the change set development model really shines in scenarios where you need a high degree of control over which changes to include in a deployment. Why? Because it requires you to explicitly define each change set.

II: The Org Development Model in Salesforce ALM

Next, let’s take a look at the org development model, its benefits, and when to use it.

What Is the Org Development Model?

The org development model allows you to achieve targeted outcomes in an agile and efficient way. It involves a source-driven development process in which you store all code, metadata, and config data in a source control repository like Git. This enables change tracking and facilitates collaboration.

In the org development model, every developer makes their changes in their own scratch org. Then, after testing them, they can either deploy them manually to production or use a CI/CD tool. This structured environment safeguards your production org while still driving innovation.

Benefits of the Org Development Model

When you use the org development, you enjoy these benefits:

  • Reduced risk: Because developers work in their own scratch orgs, they can develop and test changes without compromising production.
  • Higher quality changes: You can iteratively develop and test changes, which enhances the quality of the configurations.
  • Improved collaboration: With each developer having their own development environment, there are no conflicts due to coworkers overwriting each other’s work or stepping on each other’s toes.
  • Easier bug detection and resolution: All changes are stored in a VCS, so you can easily track the history of every change and pinpoint where issues originate.
  • Enhanced compliance: By storing all the changes in a source control repository, you’re also creating an auditable log of all changes in case you need one to comply with regulatory requirements such as SOX.

When to Use the Org Development Model

The org development model is a practical choice when you use a variety of different tools to make changes and need more flexibility than the change set model offers. Moreover, because it supports automation and a CI/CD approach, you can work faster while at the same time ensuring consistency.

III: The Package Development Model in Salesforce ALM

Finally, let’s turn our attention to the package development model and how it can benefit your release process.

What Is the Package Development Model?

The package development model revolves around the concept of packages. These are modular, self-contained units of functionality you can easily manage and distribute. To create a package, you bundle components and metadata that together form a particular function or feature of an application.

When you divide an app into manageable packages, you promote parallel development. In other words, different developers or teams can each work on a specific feature or functionality simultaneously. And because you use a VCS, you can change each package independently, which gives you more control over the development process.

Benefits of the Package Development Model

There are several advantages associated with the package development model:

  • Simplified management of complex applications: The modularity of the package development model allows you to work on different packages independently before assembling them to create the full application.
  • Improved version control: You can make changes and updates to individual packages without disrupting the entire application.
  • Reusable components: Because you can share packages and reuse them, it saves time—and money—on the development process.

When to Use the Package Development Model

The package development model makes a lot of sense when you’re working on large applications with many functionalities. Each team can work independently on one or more different packages before bringing them together to form the whole app.

The package development model is also useful for smaller projects because it makes it easier to reuse components and maintain the application. In addition, if you’re planning to scale operations, adopting this model can offer a proactive strategy for handling increasing complexity.

Final Thoughts on Salesforce ALM

It can be challenging to determine which of the three development models to choose for your Salesforce application lifecycle management process. However, keep in mind that each project has its own needs and the makeup of your team may change over time. That means that what worked yesterday might not be the best option for today.

We recommend regularly reviewing and continuously refining your ALM process. By doing so, you can quickly and effectively adapt to changes—and that in turn helps maintain the health and agility of your Salesforce instance.


What are production-grade environments in the Salesforce change management process?

In Salesforce, production-grade environments are test environments that you configure to match your production org as closely as possible. When you test a change in a production-grade environment, you’re putting it through its paces in a realistic environment to see how it will function in production.

What are the benefits of using a production-grade environment in Salesforce release management?

There are several benefits to using a production-grade environment. It improves the quality of the changes and minimizes the chances of bugs making it into production. As a result, it builds confidence among end users.

How do I create a production-grade environment in Salesforce?

You can create a production-grade environment in Salesforce by spinning up a Developer sandbox or scratch org with the same data and metadata as in production. Of course, these lower-level orgs have far less capacity than your production environment. That’s why you need to only add the data and metadata that’s relevant to what you’re working on. Learn more about creating production-grade environments in Salesforce.


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