This post is a follow up to the talk I did at Dreamforce 2018 and the process below is based on the one we use here at OVO for our salesforce projects.
If you haven't heard of Dreamforce, it is salesforce's annual partner/customer coference and is held in San Francisco, CA every year attracting over 170,000 people. You can find out more about Dreamforce here.
This post is also over on my personal blog, along with lots of other salesforce/general tech content which you can check out at https://mickwheelz.net. With all that out of the way, lets get on with it!
In the salesforce ecosystem, the traditional way of moving code from development environments (sandboxes, etc) to production has been either change sets, or the force.com migration tool (ANT). Neither method is perfect, but until recently they were all we had. Change sets are an easy, but time intensive process. They can be created in the user interface and are well within the reach of most people. The force.com migration tool was arguable more powerful (CLI Tool, Based on ANT, able to be scripted, etc) but a lot more difficult to use. Neither tool was particularly well suited to an agile environment that required continuous integration or delivery.
So what do I mean when I say continuous integration? I am referring to both the development practice and the tooling required to facilitate it.
A good explanation of CI, taken from Microsoft’s Azure docs is as follows: “Continuous Integration (CI) is the process of automating the build and testing of code every time a team member commits changes to version control. CI encourages developers to share their code and unit tests by merging their changes into a shared version control repository after every small task completion. Committing code triggers an automated build system to grab the latest code from the shared repository and to build, test, and validate the full master branch (also known as the trunk or main).”
This has traditionally been difficult with salesforce, because we lacked the tooling to do it effectively. In the old world, salesforce development took an ‘org-centric’ view of the world, with your production org serving as the ‘source of truth’ and sandboxes containing work in progress. This ‘org-centric’ model has a number of problems (e.g prod can be changed by anyone, developing dependent features in separate environments, merge conflicts, etc).
Since the advent of Salesforce DX (SFDX). we have been handed the tools to move towards a ‘source-centric’ world, with our source/version control system (e.g Git) becoming the source of truth, and our scratch org’s essentially becoming ‘runtimes’ rather than org’s in their own right. Scratch orgs are ephemeral things that can be created and destroyed at will, only needing to live as long as the development cycle for whatever feature you are working on, or as long as it takes for code to be pushed to them and tested (if used in a CI pipeline)
Because of SFDX, we now get access to all of the power of modern source/version control systems, such as Git. Git providers like GitHub give us powerful user interfaces, the ability to perform code reviews (pull requests) with ease, the ability to track every single change with information like who changed the file, what was changed and when. As code is versioned we also now gain the ability to revert to previous versions of the source making it much easier to recover if something goes wrong. Along side this, we know that our code is stored safely outside of salesforce and we can set up access control to prevent code being overwritten by un-authorised users.
Another huge advantage we gain from source/version control is the ability to create branches of our source code. For example; you may have your ‘production’ ready application in the 'master' branch, with the version you are currently working on in the 'develop' branch (think of your UAT/pre-prod environment). Whenever you work on a new feature, you can make a copy of your 'master' branch in to its own new branch (e.g 'feature/new-feature') and do the work there. Once you are happy with it, a pull request can be made to merge it in to develop for testing. Once this has been completed and all of the code in 'develop' is ready for release, this can then be merged in to 'master' for your release.
Source/version control is only half of the equation. It is all well and good to have your code in git, and this itself is valuable, but the real power comes from automation and continuous integration. When we have CI setup, every time we make a commit to our feature branch ('feature/new-feature') we are pulling it from git, pushing it to a scratch org and running all of our tests. This lets us know very quickly if a) our code even deploys and b) if we’ve broken any tests. We also use a scratch org ‘locally’ for running and testing our code on our local machine (of-course the scratch org actually runs in the cloud) in a similar way we would have used a developer sandbox in the past.
Once our code is ready for the next environment (e.g UAT) we can have our CI setup automatically push our code to our UAT sandbox whenever a commit is made to develop, finally, once we are happy and ready to move to our production org, we can then have our CI deploy to production upon a merge into the 'master' branch.
Example of CI Development Process
So lets talk about how we actually achieve this with salesforce. In this example I will be using GitHub as my source/version control system (other alternatives are BitBucket, GitLab) and CircleCI as my CI automation tool (other alternatives are TravisCI, Jenkins). The ‘glue’ that ties all of this together is SFDX.
I’ve created a GitHub repository with everything you need to get started, I would suggest you clone it from here as instructions below reference scripts from it. If you want to find out what the scripts are doing, simply open them in a text editor. These instructions require a *nix like environment (e.g macOS, Linux, Bash on windows) and have been tested on macOS only.
NOTE: The first time this build runs it will deploy whatever is in your
force-app/ folder to production. As with anything you do, be sure to try this in a developer edition org, or a sandbox first before using this with your production org!
In this example there is only a simply ‘Hello World’ apex class, test and lightning component. You should remove these before you begin and replace with your own source code. Salesforce provide steps here on how to migrate your existing code to SFDX here, After you’ve cloned the repository to your machine you should follow the instructions here (inside the folder you clone to).
Now that we have our code ready to use with CI, lets get going.
Lets tackle authentication first. To authenticate to our production org and to create scratch orgs we are using JWT to do this.
You first need to create a certificate and key to authenticate with. To do this you can run the script in
Follow the prompts when creating the certificate files
Take note of the Base64 output (big long chunk of text), as you will need this to set up CircleCI later.
Output from the key generation script
You will need to create a connected app in your production (and any sandboxes you wish to use CI with)
First, from Setup, enter App in the Quick Find box, then select App Manager. Click New Connected App.
Give your application a name such as ‘CircleCI’
Make sure you check Enable OAuth Settings in the connected app
Set the OAuth callback to
Check Use Digital Signatures and add your certificate file (
server.crt), this will be in the build/ folder. Once you have done this delete this file
Select the required OAuth scopes
Make sure that refresh is enabled – otherwise you’ll get this error:
user hasn't approved this consumer
Ensure that Admin approved users are pre-authorized under Permitted Users is selected
Ensure that you allow the System Administrator profile is selected under the Profiles related list
Take note of the Consumer Key as you will need it for to setup CircleCI
Connected App Settings
Now that we have authentication setup, we can configure CircleCI. I have provided a basic
config.yml file, this is already within the
.circleci/ directory along with some shell scripts for circle to use for deployment and validation. Circle has extensive documentation on these config files here, so it's worth taking a look at them
You now can set up your CircleCI build
Ensure you have connected your GitHub account to CircleCI, to do this go https://www.circleci.com, click 'Signup' and then 'Signup with GitHub'
Adding a project in CircleCI
Once logged in, click on Add Projects choose your GitHub to use repository and click Set Up Project then click Start building, there is an example
config.yml in this repository already. You can edit this to suit your needs.
Cancel the first build, as it will fail without any environment variables set
Click the gear icon next to the repository name on the left hand side of the screen
In the settings screen, choose Environment Variables you will need to add three variables by clicking Add Variable
SFDC_SERVER_KEY is the Base64 output generated in Step 1
SFDC_PROD_CLIENTID is the Consumer Key from Step 2
SFDC_PROD_USER is the username to use with CircleCI (This should be an Integration user, with the System Administrator profile)
Setting Environment Variables in CircleCI
You can now re-run the first build.
Once you have all of this configured and working, you can use the CI build process from here on our, and hopefully never have to worry about a damn change-set again!
Now, every time you push to any branch other than 'master' a scratch org will be created, your code deployed to it and all tests run. If you then merge in to 'master' a production build will be run, validating and deploying your code.
Remember, this is just an introduction and should be enough to get you started, Circle CI is very flexible so your build process can be as simple or as complex as you like!
If you'd like to view the slides for my talk, you can click here. If you wish to watch the talk itself, its on available to watch here