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Rob Cowell · 21st July 2023

Forcelandia 2023: Unpacking the code, unveiling the magic

Last week, I had the pleasure of attending the latest edition of Forcelandia in the enchantingly eccentric city of Portland, Oregon. For those not familiar, Forcelandia is an annual event focusing on the Salesforce Community, specifically its developers and architects. The unique concoction of tech-savvy people, mind-bending sessions, and inspiring keynotes truly exemplifies the spirit of the Salesforce Ohana (family).

This year, the event returned to the fitting venue of McMenamins Kennedy School. A former elementary school turned hotel, its historic charm and slightly eerie ambiance adds an extra layer of intrigue to the proceedings.

The future of AI in Salesforce

Artificial Intelligence (AI) was a recurring theme at this year’s Forcelandia, highlighting its growing significance in the Salesforce ecosystem. The event kicked off with an impressive keynote from Josh Birk (Senior Director, Developer Evangelism at Salesforce), focusing on AI and shedding light on innovative ways to leverage AI within Salesforce. This talk pointed to the future, showing us how AI can be used to automate processes, drive insights, and enhance customer experiences. There was also a fantastic panel discussion on the effective use of AI for Developers, with industry veterans sharing their insights and experiences.

Diving into DevOps

I had the honor of kicking off the main speaker sessions with an introduction to DevOps. Tailored to make the complex comprehensible, this session offered a balanced mixture of theoretical and practical approaches to embracing DevOps within a Salesforce context. My session was designed to be a starting point for attendees who are at the beginning of their DevOps journey, or for those simply looking to refresh their understanding.

I started with an overview of DevOps, highlighting how the concept is a blend of team culture, practices, and tools designed to increase an organization’s ability to deliver applications and services swiftly and consistently. This highlighted how adopting DevOps can greatly enhance efficiency, improve team dynamics, and accelerate delivery times in Salesforce environments.

I also discussed the crucial role of “continuous integration” and “continuous delivery”(CI/CD) in a successful DevOps strategy, and explained how CI/CD pipelines could help Salesforce teams catch errors sooner, improve code quality, reduce release risks, and speed up the software delivery process.

API callouts in Flow

Another standout session on this year’s agenda was an in-depth session on using API callouts in Salesforce Flow. This session demystified the concept of integrating external services into Salesforce via API callouts. The speaker, Evelyn Grizzle, effortlessly walked us through a real-world example, making it an engaging session for everyone from novices through to seasoned developers.

In this session, Evelyn took a scenario from their daily work environment — the integration of a database of legal cannabis dispensaries via an API into Salesforce. Given the heavily regulated nature of the cannabis industry, this choice of topic not only made the session intriguing but also demonstrated a complex, real-world application of API callouts in Salesforce Flow.

Visual Studio Code: A new best friend for Salesforce Admins

One of my favorite sessions was the introduction to Visual Studio Code for Salesforce admins, by Michelle Hansen. This session highlighted how this powerful tool can drastically simplify tasks often considered cumbersome when operating directly from the Salesforce UI.

Starting with the basics, Michelle dove into how admins can effectively use VS Code for routine operations like “search and replace”. They demonstrated the simplicity and speed of performing these tasks in a code editor, highlighting how much time can be saved compared to traditional methods.

Moving into more complex operations, the session introduced us to the world of permission set migrations with license assignments intact. This is a task that has often caused headaches for admins due to the intricacies involved. But the session revealed how this process can be made much more manageable with the power of VS Code, and the right understanding of Salesforce’s Metadata API.

This session was a real eye-opener for many Salesforce admins, showing that stepping outside their comfort zone of the Salesforce UI can lead to increased efficiency and a more streamlined workflow. It was encouraging to see the admins in the room embracing the challenge and getting hands-on with VS Code. This shift, from the declarative world to one where code and text editors play a key role, underscores the evolving role of Salesforce administrators in the larger Salesforce ecosystem.

An admin’s guide to Git

I had the pleasure of hosting a session on Git for Salesforce admins. From my experience at Gearset, I understand the crucial role that Git plays in our Salesforce ecosystem, and I aimed to convey its significance and practical application to Salesforce admins.

I explained the core concepts of Git, such as repository, branch, and commit. I took extra care to ensure these fundamentals were easy to understand, drawing upon real-world analogies to make these concepts more relatable for our admins.

One of the key features of my session was the live demo, which ran through a basic Git workflow using Visual Studio Code and GitHub, illustrating the process from the initial cloning of a repository to the final push of changes. This hands-on demonstration was intended to cement the understanding of Git operations in a typical development scenario.

Being aware of the potential challenges faced when getting started with Git, I felt it was important to address some of the common issues Salesforce admins might face. I shared some practical advice on managing merge conflicts and underscored the importance of making regular commits to avoid complex troubleshooting scenarios later on.

To wrap things up, I connected the dots between Git and Salesforce DX, discussing how this integration can simplify the Salesforce application lifecycle management process. Salesforce DX breaks metadata into more manageable small chunks, encouraging focused, small commits.

The combination of explanations and live demos gave attendees a holistic view of Git, hopefully leaving them well-prepared for their version control journey. Reflecting the broader commitment of Forcelandia, my goal was to provide meaningful, hands-on, and enriching content that our Salesforce admins could take and implement in their day-to-day work.

Wrapping up

Forcelandia 2023 was an electrifying meld of learning, networking, and inspiration. The event upheld its tradition of being a great space for Salesforce developers and architects to learn, share, and grow. The unique atmosphere of McMenamins Kennedy School was the icing on the cake, adding an element of the extraordinary to an already remarkable event.

As we move forward, the knowledge and experiences gained at Forcelandia will undeniably help shape the future of Salesforce development and architecture. Whether you’re a developer, an architect, an admin, or just someone interested in Salesforce, I highly recommend marking your calendars for Forcelandia 2024 when dates are announced.

Until next year, happy Trailblazing!

Feeling inspired by Forcelandia?

If you’re looking to bolster your DevOps skills, DevOps Launchpad is here to help! The platform is packed with a wide range of courses and resources, so whether you’re new to the ecosystem or have years of Salesforce experience, we’re here to help you learn, build confidence, and succeed with Salesforce DevOps.