Cloudy holding a computer next to text that says "Salesforce Release Best Practices."

What Admins Need to Know About Salesforce Releases

By

*Editor’s note: This blog post was updated on November 22, 2021 with the latest information and resources for the Spring ’22 release.

An essential part of every admin’s job is staying on top of the latest Salesforce Releases. But what does that mean? Let’s break down the Salesforce Release process and answer commonly asked questions about releases. Three times a year, Salesforce releases new features and updates to our technology, enabling users everywhere to take advantage of the latest and greatest that our platform has to offer! As an #AwesomeAdmin, getting the benefits from these releases is made even easier by knowing the basics and best practices.

What are Salesforce Releases?

In case you’re just finding our resources for the first time (welcome!), let’s start with a quick overview of what a release is.

A Salesforce Release is how Salesforce delivers new features and functionality to our customers. They occur three times per year (Spring, Summer, and Winter timed with the northern hemisphere seasons), and new features are often based on input from the Trailblazer Community via a prioritization process.

Releases include Pilot, BETA, and Generally Available (GA) features:

  • Pilot – Usually the first phase of public testing, Pilots normally include a small subset of participant organizations. These organizations must request to opt in to a Pilot and then be nominated for participation.
  • BETA – This phase involves rolling a feature out publicly for testing. BETA features are normally given limited Support as they are not yet fully functional or finished.
  • Generally Available (GA) – Once a feature has passed the Pilot and BETA testing phases, it will be formally included in a Salesforce Release. GA features are considered fully functional and, in most cases, fully supported.

You’ll hear us talk about these phases on the Release Readiness Live Admin Preview, a live webinar broadcast with a panel, demos, and Q&A. Be sure to register and tune in — they’re a lot of fun and you’ll learn a ton!

How can I get ready for the next release?

Know the release timeline

In order to stay on top of upcoming changes, you can follow this general timeline:

When (Before Release Upgrade Date) What Why
About 1 month Sign up for a pre-release org. Check out the new features in an org upgraded to the new release before the release hits your own org.

Read the preview release notes.

Around 3 weeks + 1 day Take action before the sandbox upgrade deadline to get early access to all new release features in your sandboxes. Depending on which instance your sandbox resides, it may or may not be upgraded to the new release. Take any necessary action to get your sandboxes to the release you want them to be on — current or preview prior to the sandbox upgrade cutoff. Check out the Salesforce Sandbox Preview Instructions for more information.
Around 3 weeks If your sandbox is targeted for release preview, it will be upgraded to the new release.

You’ll be able to earn a release badge on Trailhead.

You can regression test existing functionality and test new release features in your org’s sandbox prior to the upgrade in production.

You can learn about the upcoming features via Trailhead.

Around 2 weeks Watch our panel of #AwesomeAdmin experts and product managers on the Release Readiness Live Admin Preview. Learn more about upcoming features to help your users or org prepare for the upcoming release. Remember, you are the Salesforce ambassador at your company.

 

We recommend that you refer to the Salesforce Admins blog, where we share important upcoming dates for releases and what they represent. Check the Release Resources page to see the latest. Add these dates to your calendar. It’s important to note that releases will go live on a rolling basis. We highly recommend that you explore the Trust and maintenance calendars by cloud type and org instance or domain to find even more in-depth information regarding when the release will be upgraded in your org (production and sandboxes).

Determine your sandbox strategy

During each release, there’s a group of sandboxes slated to remain on the non-preview instance (that is, the current release) as well as another group of sandboxes that will upgrade to the preview instance.

We recommend you consider the following when determining which instance (non-preview or preview) your sandbox should be on:

  • You should test the new release on a sandbox that’s slated for a preview instance. We recommend that you regression test your configuration and code in the new release but also have a sandbox in the non-preview instance so you can validate whether any issues you find exist on the current release.
  • Regression testing is done to verify that new changes made (in this case, changes in a Salesforce Release) do not impact the existing functionality. This is where test cases are re-executed to ensure the previous functionality is working as expected and the new changes have not introduced any new defects.
  • Salesforce strongly recommends against deploying changes from a preview to non-preview environment. Your deployment path, or the sandboxes you use to deploy to production, should avoid preview sandboxes. Such deployments may introduce errors or unexpected behaviors to your production environment. Salesforce will not provide support if you attempt to deploy from a preview to non-preview instance.

Pro tip: If you cannot avoid having your sandbox on a preview instance in your deployment path and you’re deploying new flows, save them on the flow API version that’s available in production to avoid deployment issues. You won’t be able to deploy a flow API version that’s higher than what’s in production.

A deployment path with preview instance which should be avoided; deployment path should all be on non-preview instance.

Use the Salesforce Sandbox Preview Guide to determine the plan for your sandbox instance(s). Below are screenshots of the tool where you can search by sandbox instance and then specify what you want to do with your sandbox — stay on the non-preview or move to preview. It will then instruct you to refresh your sandbox to get to the desired instance or indicate that there’s no action needed because your sandbox is slated for the desired instance.

The Salesforce Sandbox Preview Guide with the ability to search a sandbox instance.

Sandbox instance search results.

If you want to learn more about this process and why you should be on a sandbox preview, take the Get Early Access with the Sandbox Preview Trailhead module.

Check out the Salesforce Sandbox Preview Instructions for more information.

Read the release notes

While there are release highlights blogs written by the Admin Relations team or by community members, which provide a high-level overview of some changes, remember, they do not include all changes. There’s no better way to learn about the features in an upcoming release than to read the release notes. If you solely rely on release highlights, you may miss out on features you use in your org. Okay, I know the release notes PDF is 500+ pages long and, frankly, you probably don’t have the time to read all that. But you don’t have to read about every single new feature. Instead, prioritize your review and filter or look for categories of features or clouds that pertain to your business or org, and read up on the enhancements.

Pro tip: Take note of any important changes. Then, get hands-on with the new features/enhancements in a pre-release org or in your sandbox preview.

Review the Release Updates in Setup

Don’t forget to read the Release Updates in Setup to review and activate any release updates prior to their activation date in production. In some cases, there may be action needed by you and your teammates, especially if changes to configuration or custom code are needed as a result of an upcoming change. Salesforce gives you a description of the release update and how your org is impacted. Salesforce also provides access to Help resources and step-by-step guidance on what you need to do to prepare for the change as well as when the steps need to be completed by.

Release Updates page in Setup.

Pro tip: Give yourself enough time to take the necessary steps to activate the release update in a sandbox, make any needed changes, and regression test. Salesforce gives you ample time before a release update activation date. Do not wait until a few days before the release update activation date to start accessing the impact. If changes impact code, you may not be able to make the necessary code changes, test, and deploy to production before this change is activated in production.

Regression test a sandbox preview

Do not assume everything will work as expected in your org after a release upgrade. While Salesforce does as much as possible to minimize customer impact, you should do your due diligence and regression test in a preview sandbox. You also need to test those release updates. This is a perfect reason to have automated test scripts that you can run to speed up regression testing, especially in a large org. If you do all your testing manually, now’s the time to start investing in testing automation.

Have a non-preview sandbox handy as well. If you find a potential release defect, test this in a non-preview sandbox to confirm it’s not a preexisting defect. If you confirm that it’s potentially a release defect, submit a Salesforce Support case as soon as possible.

Pro tip: Create a release testing app in your org to track the percentage complete for regression testing (especially if you have several orgs) as well as a mechanism to track any testing defects and resolution. I created an app with automation at my former employer to manage Salesforce Release activities instead of tracking testing and defect progress in a spreadsheet and emails. You can re-use the app for each release.

Share with your team

Once you read through the release notes for feature changes that are important to your business/org, share that release knowledge with your manager, team of admins and developers, and QA team. Let’s not assume everyone will take the same initiative as you. Schedule a “lunch and learn” with your team to communicate the release changes.

Pro-tip: Bring the features to life by showing them to the team in addition to describing the changes.

Communicate with your users

One of the most important aspects of being an admin is user training. This is especially true during releases. Being able to think through which features are meaningful to your users and how they will utilize them is a skill that will set you and your company up for success with adoption and productivity. A great way to think about it is, “What end-user features will be most helpful to my users?”

My biggest tip for success here is to work smarter not harder: Utilize any communication channels you’ve already created to share knowledge and best practices about new features. Examples include webinars, in-person events like a “lunch and learn,” pre-recorded videos, Chatter, Trailhead, and an email digest or newsletter. Remember to customize to include tips and tricks that are specific to your Salesforce implementation and how your users use the platform!

Pro tip: Don’t forget to use In-App Guidance to showcase new features to your users as well.

How do I get hands-on with new features?

The best way to learn how to use new features? Roll up your sleeves and get hands-on. To start testing, building, and getting curious with new features, you can use:

  • A pre-release environment.
  • A sandbox pre-release.
  • Special enablement steps, etc.

Pro tip: Be sure to hang onto your pre-release environment! It will be on pre-release for every release cycle, so customizations will stay there and you’ll be able to test in each release.

What resources do I need to prepare for the next release?

Get ready for the next Salesforce Release with the new Release Resources page, your one-stop shop for all the resources you need to help prepare your org and users.

You may also want to check out this release preparation advice from other admins:

If you have any other tips for preparing for a new release, share them with us on Twitter using #AwesomeAdmin!

Astro holding a trophy and surrounded by confetti and text that says, "Winning ideas from January 2022 Prioritization."

4 New Ideas on the Product Roadmap Admins Will Love

The IdeaExchange is where you can share ideas with the Trailblazer Community and Salesforce Product Managers. Throughout the year, you use your voice to shape Salesforce products by posting and upvoting ideas, then prioritizing top ideas three times per year. Typically in January, May, and September, during a 2-week Prioritization cycle, anyone with a Trailblazer.me […]

READ MORE
Cloudy towing Einstein on water skiis next to text that says "Learn Moar: #4 Dynamic Related Lists."

Learn MOAR in Summer ’22 with Dynamic Related Lists 📝

Follow and complete a Learn MOAR Summer ’22 trailmix for admins or developers by July 31, 2022, 11:59 pm PT to earn a special community badge and be automatically entered for a chance to win one of five $200 USD Salesforce Certification vouchers. Restrictions apply. Learn how to participate and review the Official Rules by […]

READ MORE

Have an Idea for a Story?

We are all about the community and sharing ideas.
Do you have an interesting idea or useful tip that you want to share?

SHARE YOUR IDEA