Today on the Salesforce Admins Podcast, we talk to Karen Fidelak, Senior Director, Product Management at Salesforce. Join us as we talk about some exciting announcements she’s got about DevOps Center coming up for TrailblazerDX.

You should subscribe for the full episode, but here are a few takeaways from our conversation with Karen Fidelak.

Why we’re psyched about the beta for DevOps Center

We’re really excited about DevOps Center, and there are going to be tons of exciting announcements at TrailblazerDX so we wanted to talk to Karen to give pod listeners a little preview. The biggest news is that an open beta is coming this summer, with a GA planned for the fall.

“We’re excited about where we’re at and we’re excited to show it at TrailblazerDX,” Karen says, “DevOps Center is all about change and release management and introducing DevOps best practices to our entire community, regardless of where you fall on the low-code to pro-code spectrum.” The goal is that this tool will provide easy-to-use change management, source management, push-button deployments, and, overall, will allow hybrid sets of users to work together more easily.

Lessons from the pilot program

“We hear a lot of admins and low-code developers who really want to be more involved in these DevOps practices that include things like source control but haven’t had the experience or tools to easily adopt and feel comfortable using them,” Karen says. Karen’s team wants to give you what you need to do just that and work with other members of your team that may already have adopted source control and other change management best practices.

Their pilot program introduced a number of features to help create an end-to-end, declarative flow around lifecycle management. One thing they added was automatic change tracking, so any changes made in the developer sandbox are added to a list where you can select which ones you want to move forward. It’s a big upgrade over Change Sets, and they’re looking to make even more improvements going into the beta.

A sneak peek at TrailblazerDX

Karen and her team will be at their spiffy dedicated booth at TrailblazerDX, so be sure you stop by if you’re attending. They’ll also be doing some theater sessions to get you up to speed with DevOps and DevOps Center. Finally, there will be a breakout session where Karen will present with a Salesforce partner and a customer to show DevOps Center in action. If you haven’t already, register for TrailblazerDX here

They’re really excited to hear from real customers and get any feedback they can to make DevOps Center even better, so don’t be a stranger. If you can’t make it, be sure to check in on the Trailblazer Community group (link below) to get involved.

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Full show transcript

Gillian Bruce: Welcome to the Salesforce Admins podcast, where we talk about product, community and careers to help you be an awesome admin. I’m your host today, Gillian Bruce and we are joined by Karen Fidelak, who is going to talk to us about DevOps center. Why? Well be because they’ve got some exciting announcements they’re going to be sharing at a little party we’re throwing later this month called TrailblazerDX. That’s right folks. We are having an in-person event. It’s going to be so exciting.

Trailblazer DX, April 27th and 28th here in San Francisco at the Moscone Center. You’re not going to want to miss it. And to get you excited. I decided to pull together a few of the product managers who have exciting things they’re going to be talking about at that event. And Karen is one of them. Now last we talked to Karen about DevOps Center, which is what her team is working on, was a while ago. And since then she and her team have been working very, very hard to get this product ready for prime time. So let’s check in with Karen and hear about all the goodness her team has been working on and get excited about what she and her team are going to be doing at TrailblazerDX. Karen, welcome to the podcast.

Karen Fidelak: Hi, I’m glad to be here. This is exciting.

Gillian Bruce: Well, it’s been a while since you and I chatted. In fact, I think this is my first official podcast I’m hosting since I’ve come back and I think you were the last product managers I’ve worked with before I left. So it’s like nothing has ever happened.

Karen Fidelak: Boy. Welcome back.

Gillian Bruce: Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. I wanted to check in with you Karen because you and your team were working on something really awesome and amazing for admins. DevOps sent her. And I wanted to check in with you because we’re coming up on a little something here in just a couple weeks that we’re getting excited about. TrailblazerDX. And I know that you and your team have some exciting things you’re going to be sharing and talking about related to DevOps Center. So can you give us a little update, catch us up about where we’re at with DevOps Center?

Karen Fidelak: Sure. Yeah. So we, I think last we talked, we were running a pilot. We ran a pilot from about last May through the end of the year. And then early this year in February, we started what we’re calling a Closed Beta, where we added some more users, added some more functionality and that’s what’s happening right now. We’re kind of in the middle of our Closed Beta period. Then we’re planning in around June to release an open beta. And so we’ll open that beta up to all users in the summer timeframe. And then the plan is around fall to go out with the GA. Now this is all sort of safe harbor everything in the future, but that’s our kind of plan right now. And we’re really excited about where we’re at. And we’re excited to show where we’re at, TrailblazerDX in just a few weeks.

Gillian Bruce: Well, yes, again like safe harbor forward looking statement. We always have to reiterate that when people are going to be like, “Oh my God, I’m going to get this then.” We always, we need a little safety there. So, all right. So we talked about, you have gone a long ways through this development cycle with this product so far, which is very exciting. Can you tell us a little bit more about some of the details of that? So you said pilot is, we’re kind of wrapping up the pilot phase, getting ready to go to beta. What happened during the pilot phase? What did you and your team learn? And actually before we get there, can you just remind us kind of a high level, what is DevOps Center?

Karen Fidelak: Sure. Yeah. So DevOps Center is a new product that we’re building. It’s all about change and release management and introducing DevOps best practices to our entire developer community, regardless of where you fall on that sort of low code to pro code spectrum. So the idea here is to bring easy to use change management, incorporate things like source control, really nice, easy to use experience, provide push button deployments and allow teams that involve, like I said, mixed or hybrid, what we call hybrid sets of users to work together, to manage their applications’ entire life cycle. So we’re trying to really bring those modern best practices around DevOps, to everyone in a really easy and accessible way.

Gillian Bruce: And that I think is the key, right? Because this is where admins are like, “DevOps Center is something that I should pay attention to,” because you said this hybrid model of the pro code developers, the low code developers, which admins, that’s you. So this is where they kind of play a role. And this is why DevOps Center is going to be really awesome for admins.

Karen Fidelak: Yes, absolutely. We hear a lot of admins, low code developers who really want to be more involved in these DevOps practices that involve things like source control, but really haven’t had the experience or tools that have allowed them to easily adopt and feel comfortable using them. And so that’s really our goal here is to bring to you a tool that lets you really easily incorporate those into your overall flow and allow you to participate now with those other members of your team that may have already adopted source control, but you haven’t been able to be part of that yet. And so this is going to allow you to just jump right in and take advantage of those really, like I said, modern best practices around DevOps that everybody really does want to adopt.

Gillian Bruce: Yeah. And change management is definitely one of the core Salesforce admin skills that we have … We’re actually going to be focusing quite a bit on some of these. We have 14 core admin skills that we’re going to be focusing and for the rest of the year. And we talked about it at Dreamforce last year, but change management is a big, big piece of that. And this tool, this DevOps Center is going to be such a really great way to kind of get a handle on change management and really kind of give yourself as an admin, a leg up in that arena. So Karen, you told me about this pilot that is now coming to a close. Can you tell us about some of the things you and your team learned during that pilot phase?

Karen Fidelak: Yeah, so the pilot was really all about bringing to bear this fully declarative experience. Like I said, we’re trying to incorporate this whole end to end flow around lifecycle management. And so some of the features that we introduced there were like automatic change tracking. So when you make changes in your developer sandbox now, we’re automatically tracking those and you can see those in a nice list within the application. You can select which ones you want to migrate forward in your flow and just at the click of a button, you can move those changes forward. And as part of that, we’re doing a nice integration behind the scenes with source control and allowing you to then through clicks, promote or deploy those changes through the various stages of a pipeline. And so some of the things that we learned through this pilot was that first of all, people really appreciate that overall experience.

So overall it was really, I would call it a success. The source tracking capability that we have was really loved by people. So just that automatic tracking of the changes was a super nice convenience and really an improvement over our current declarative change management, which is change sets. Any of you who are using change sets probably know it’s not the easiest to use. And so we’ve learned that this is really an improvement over that. We learned that the source control integration is generally, it’s good, right? Like people, while they might have a bit of a learning curve, when it comes to source control systems, we’ve made it really easy. You don’t really have to ever go into the source control system. Basically, all you have to do is create an account and then we handle all of the integration to move those changes into a source control system.

We manage the branches there. You really don’t have to get into it at all if you don’t want. And so that was positive. I think that the people were able to adopt that and appreciated the integration that we were providing there. We also learned some things that from a usability standpoint, we need to improve and we’re working on those right now. Some things that I would say are sort of UI usability enhancements, which we knew going into the pilot. We didn’t have all of that in there. That’s why we kind of put the pilot out there, get people using it, understanding the overall basic flows and then figuring out where it is we really need to add those enhancements to make it really usable and adoptable. And so things just like list management, like sorting lists, filtering lists seems pretty basic.

And we understood that those were the kinds of things that needed to come along. We also added in our, as a result of pilot feedback and as we went into the beta, better, we call it activity history views where we’re seeing a full history of everything that’s happened within DevOps Center. So that gives you a nice sort of auditability trail and visibility into everything that’s happened and better error tracking. So just sort of like that second level debugging capability, error management, history management, those are some of the things that we layered in to our beta and then some things around like how do we handle the cases where things don’t go kind as planned. Maybe you’re moving some changes forward and they’re failing to deploy. We want to make sure that we handle those use cases reasonably well. And so we’ve added some features as we move into our beta to be able to kind of pull those changes back, start over.

If you get into kind of a situation where you’ve got some failed deployments that are sort of partway through the pipeline. We’ve provided a better way for you to kind of start over with those. And these were all based on feedback that we got as part of that pilot. So I would say overall, it’s very positive for us. I think we’re definitely moving in the right direction. We’ve got kind of our core use cases that we’re working on toward RGA. And then we’re layering in these sort of usability and kind of secondary I would call use cases to those primary use cases. And that’s based on the feedback that we’re getting.

Gillian Bruce: That’s awesome. You know what, I always love hearing from product teams about how they really incorporate the feedback from these pilot phases, because I think it’s one of the amazing things we get to do here at Salesforce is being like, “Hey, we know it’s not perfect. If you want to play with us, come on in and play and then tell us what you think and we’re going to make it better.”

Karen Fidelak: Yep.

Gillian Bruce: I love hearing about that process. One of the things that I heard you say a few times, a theme that kind of came out is really this availability to get a better visibility into what’s happening and where it’s happening and when it’s happening and being able to control when it’s happening, which I guess it’s one of the core tenants of DevOps Center, I think all admins will definitely appreciate that. I think every admin is a little bit of a control freak. It’s kind one of our core tenants, I would imagine. So that’s really great. Karen, you’re also doing a lot of stuff at TrailblazerDX, which is coming up here soon on April 26th and 27th. I’m sorry, the 27th and 28th in my head, it’s a day early. Can you tell us a little bit about some of the amazing content that you and your team will be sharing TrailblazerDX?

Karen Fidelak: Absolutely. So we’ve got quite a few different places and sessions that you can come hear more about what we’re doing and see it in action. So first we have a booth demo. So on the floor where all the demos will be happening, we will have a dedicated booth dedicated to DevOps Center. We’ll have team members there. So we really encourage you to come take a look at what we’ve got and talk to members of our team who are building this product. They would love to talk to you and get your feedback there as well. We also have on the floor there a few theater sessions where we’ll be covering DevOps and DevOps Center. So the first one is called Getting Started with Salesforce DevOps. And this is we’re going to be talking sort of about general principles of DevOps and things that you can start doing now to start laying a good foundation for adoption of DevOps Center when it’s available.

So even if you aren’t part of our beta yet, or you can’t get your hands on it just yet, there are things that you can be doing now to prepare yourself really well, to be able to quickly adopt it when it’s available and just think about sort of general best practices around DevOps principles. So that’s going to be a fun one. We also have another theater session called DevOps for Salesforce Developers. And this is where we’ll show the product. We’ll also talk about how we on our team are building it, using some of these practices. So we’ll talk a little bit about general DevOps practices and show the product. And then there’s another one called What’s New at DevOps for Architects, and that’s going to be focused on tailoring the DevOps experience to an architect role, and we’ll be covering packaging as well as DevOps and DevOps Center there.

So it’s another opportunity to see it. And then finally, there’s a breakout session that’s called DevOps Center Practical Use Cases, and this is going to be a really fun one. I’m really excited about this one. I’m going to be presenting with a partner and a customer. And the customer has been using the DevOps Center product from the pilot and into the beta. So they’ll be able to speak firsthand about their experience using it and how it’s providing value to their business. And then also have a partner who is building an integration, building an extension to their own package that they provide through our app exchange. They’re providing an integration to DevOps Center. So that’s really cool to see that it’s getting out into our ecosystem and we’re going to see, I’m hoping, more and more of these partners being able to build extensions, to incorporate like, sort of the best of their product and the best of the DevOps Center experience and bring those two things together. So that could be really fun.

Gillian Bruce: So you’re going to be really busy at TrailblazerDX, is what I’m getting.

Karen Fidelak: I mean, it’ll be busy. And we will see if these sessions actually get scheduled such that I can be in all the right places at the right time. But yeah, I’m excited.

Gillian Bruce: Yeah. Well, I mean, so here’s the great thing about TrailblazerDX and listener, if you’ve never been to a TrailblazerDX or a TDX, this is a great reason for you to come is because not only are you going to get access to all of this great information that Karen and her team will be sharing, but you’re going to get access to Karen and her team directly. And visiting that booth, that DevOps Center booth will be so, so fun because seeing the product in action and asking your questions and getting them specifically answered. I personally am really excited about that theater session about how you prepare basically for DevOps Center, because I think that’s going to be really key for any admin persona to know whether you actually get into adopting DevOps Center or not. Those best practices will serve you well beyond just this specific product, I would imagine. So yeah, everybody, if you can come join us in San Francisco for TrailblazerDX, do it, come, play with us, it’s going to be really fun.

Karen Fidelak: Yes. And I would just like to add that a lot of times it’s me or members of my team that are out talking about this product. I think what’s really exciting about this event is that we’re getting the rest of my team here, out there and able to present and talk to you, the customer. And that’s really exciting for both me and for them. So they’re really excited to be able to hear from real customers maybe who have been using the product already or who are excited about seeing the product and what we have coming and to see all their hard work because we’ve been working really hard on this for multiple years now, but to see all that hard work really become real and something that customers can actually start using really soon. So that’s very exciting for us.

Gillian Bruce: Yes, there’s nothing more reward than actually talking to someone who’s using what you’ve built and seeing, hearing how it has impacted what they do every day. So agreed. That’s awesome. So Karen, if people want to learn more about TrailblazerDX, I’m going to share links to your sessions that you mentioned in our show notes. If they want to learn more about DevOps Center in general and you know, how they can participate in the beta, where should they go?

Karen Fidelak: So the best place to go, we have a public Trailblazer community group it’s just called DevOps Center. So if you go out in our Trailblazer community and search for DevOps Center Group, you’ll find it. And that’s where we post resources. We’ve got some things like FAQs out there. We’ve also got some links to some product demos. We have just a forum for community discussion. And it’s also where I will post updates on our product releases. So like for instance, when our open beta is available, we’ll make an announcement there so everybody can go get their hands on it as it’s being released. So that’s where I would recommend that you go.

Gillian Bruce: Excellent. Well, I will put that link in the notes as well. Karen, thank you so much for the work that you and your team do. I think this is going to be a hugely important and very powerful tool for admins to use, especially as they try to focus on that change management core skills. So thank you on behalf of the community and we’re really excited to see what people start doing with this.

Karen Fidelak: You’re very welcome. Thanks for having me. Always happy to talk more about this product and get the word out there that it’s coming. So thank you.

Gillian Bruce: Excellent. All right, well, I’m sure we’ll have you back before long. So good luck getting ready for TrailblazerDX and we’ll see you there.

Karen Fidelak: Awesome. Excited.

Gillian Bruce: Well, huge thanks to Karen and her team for all the hard work that they’ve done to make DevOps Center a reality and thanks to Karen for sharing her time with me today. I know everyone’s busy getting ready for the event. Now we talked about quite a few things on this podcast that I think is going to get every admin excited for not only TrailblazerDX, but DevOps Center, which is a huge, huge game changing tool that’s going to help all of us be better change management professionals. So a few of the highlights I want you to pay attention to, if you didn’t catch it the first time around, DevOps Center is here. It’s coming. The beta will be opening up in June. If you want to be a part of it, you can join the Trailblazer community group called DevOps Center Group. You can find that very easily and put it in link here in the show notes, and you can find it on the Trailblazer community yourself.

Now, a few things about DevOps Center that I think are really, really key to us as admins is it enables a hybrid change management model. That means your developers can be working in the CLI and you as an admin, who’s maybe not working in the CLI can still track and see all of the changes that they’ve been making right there in DevOps Center. You’ll be able to sort through it, you’ll be able to filter through it. Those list views that Karen mentioned, she and her team got feedback on improving are going to be improved. And this really enables you to make declarative changes alongside your developers who are making code changes. So this is really, really a powerful tool. Want you to check it out, make sure that if you’re coming to TrailblazerDX, which I hope you are, you join some of these sessions.

I think the biggest, most important session for every admin to attend in terms of DevOps Center will be that theater session that Karen mentioned getting started with Salesforce DevOps, steps you can take now to start preparing yourself for DevOps Center and join the breakout. I mean, to hear how Karen has been working with a partner and a Salesforce customer about how they’ve been using DevOps Center, I think that’s going to be a really awesome breakout session.
Okay. So make sure that you join both of those. I’ll put links to them in the show notes so you can get excited about them. If you can’t join us for TrailblazerDX in person, don’t worry. You can join the broadcast. Now you’re not going to get access to all of the amazing things that Karen mentioned, like the demo booth and the theater sessions. But I do believe that breakout session will be available after the broadcast ends or after the event, sorry. During the live broadcast, you’ll be able to join a lot of the super sessions and the main show. You may see me on there as another MC because you know, it’s TrailblazerDX and it’s kind of what I do.

Anyway, I hope you all enjoyed this episode. It’s so wonderful to be back and I hope see you at TrailblazerDX. If you want to learn more about anything we mentioned on today’s podcast, please go to admin.salesforce.com and you can stay up to date with all of the fun, awesome admin happenings on Twitter. We are @SalesforceAdmns, no I. You can find our guest today, Karen Fidelak, @KarenFidelak, very easy Twitter handle to find. And you can find my co-host the one and only, Mike Gerholdt, @MikeGerholdt and you can find myself @gilliankbruce. All right, everybody. I hope you have a wonderful rest of your day. Hope to see at TrailblazerDX. And if not, I’ll catch you next time in the cloud.

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