The SaaS dilemma

Addressing technical debt in Salesforce projects, the challenges, and solution

Lawrence Coppin,

Vice President, Technology, Salesforce at Virtusa

Published: June 11, 2024

The dynamic realm of Software as a Service (SaaS) platforms like Salesforce and ServiceNow encompasses the fusion of efficiency with innovation, fostering thriving businesses in the digital era. However, amid the excitement of technological progress lies the significant challenge of technical debt.

Imagine embarking on a significant IT project only to find it straying off-budget due to complexity and poor change management. Sounds like a familiar scenario? You're not alone. Studies reveal that nearly half of large IT SaaS projects grapple with this struggle, with an average overrun of 45%.

Additionally, 46% of executives identify technical debt, including deviations from out-of-the-box solutions, as a major impediment to their ability to innovate and grow. Performance hiccups can slash the value delivered by these projects by over half, resulting in a 56% reduction in value. Moreover, compliance and security risks loom large, with 63% of risk managers citing legacy IT systems and a lack of easily accessible high-quality data as primary obstacles in managing risk in the digital era.

Technical debt, stemming from development shortcuts, can significantly impact businesses, leading to various detrimental consequences across operations, service quality, and reputation. These consequences include:

  • Increased costs
  • Lower quality of service
  • Reputation damage
  • Difficulty in scaling
  • Reduced innovation or inability to take advantage of product releases
  • Inability to adapt to new releases
  • Security vulnerabilities or risks
  • Longer time to market

Salesforce technical debt

Despite its success, Salesforce has faced the consequences of its popularity, with many underestimating the complexities of building highly scalable apps on its platform. The reality, however, has proven to be much different. Salesforce technical debts often arise from common practices such as hard coding, excessive customization, and neglecting to remove unused components and access controls. Recognizing and managing these factors is crucial to prevent excessive technical debt accumulation and ensure smoother project execution and maintenance.

Let's delve into a scenario for an in-depth understanding of the significance of Salesforce technical debt: Meet Harry, a seasoned Salesforce Architect embarking on a new journey at his dream company. Harry is thrilled to step into the role of a technical architect within a prominent organization where Salesforce is the primary CRM tool. He envisions optimizing the organization's diverse Salesforce instances, constructing a scalable infrastructure, and enhancing user experience. With a wealth of sales experience as a Salesforce consultant, Harry is confident and eager to revolutionize processes in his new position. Harry wastes no time and dives into his inaugural week. He engages with the key stakeholders, meticulously assesses the current Salesforce configuration, and charts a strategy for optimization.

However, Harry soon realizes that the health of the organization's Salesforce instances is far from ideal. Over a decade, rapid expansion and platform changes, from Classic to Lightning, Process Builder to Flow, Aura to LWC, and others, have led to substantial technical debt within each business unit's org. These instances, managed by disparate teams without cohesive governance, have evolved into complex structures filled with customizations, integrations, and configuration elements; the haphazard architecture results in a suboptimal user experience.

Recognizing the urgency of addressing technical debt, Harry understands that streamlining these instances is paramount. Before implementing any new solutions, he must tackle this challenge head-on. Harry sets out to pave the way for smoother operations and enhanced performance by equipping himself with the tools to monitor and prevent future tech debt accumulation.

Technical debt causes and its evolution in the genAI era

Every business accumulates technical debt differently, and while not all technical debt is bad, it's essential to understand the boundaries. Here are some common reasons technical debt occurs:

  1. Deadline pressure: Tight project schedules or urgent demands may lead development teams to take shortcuts to meet delivery deadlines, resulting in less-than-ideal solutions.

  2. Lack of experience: Inexperienced software developers might inadvertently write code that isn't efficient or maintainable.

  3. Ignoring code quality: Failure to adhere to coding standards and best practices can lead to bad code debt that is difficult to read, understand, and maintain.

  4. Inadequate testing: Incomplete or insufficient testing may cause undetected bugs or vulnerabilities, leading to future complications.

  5. Changing scope: Shifting requirements during development can render previously well-designed code obsolete or incompatible.

  6. Temporary solutions: Developers may implement quick fixes or short-term solutions to address immediate issues, intending to revisit them later, which often never happens.

  7. Platform evolution: While customers benefit from continuous innovation and releases on platforms like Salesforce, technical debt naturally accrues. Newer features and capabilities replace older ones, sometimes necessitating human intervention to ensure the organization maximizes the benefits.

The rising importance of technical governance

As the integration of genAI into development and testing practices progresses, the technical governance landscape is undergoing a significant shift, necessitating heightened attention. The emergence of AI-generated code introduces a new dimension of security risks, particularly pronounced in sensitive sectors such as banking and pharmaceuticals. This emphasizes prioritizing data integrity and formulating tailored AI strategies fortified with robust peer review and detection mechanisms. 

Furthermore, as developers increasingly lean on tools like GPT and other genAI technologies to streamline code generation processes, the need for vigilant monitoring of technical debt amplifies. This vigilance becomes indispensable in safeguarding the integrity and sustainability of a Salesforce instance over the long term. By proactively addressing technical debt, organizations can ensure continued system functionality and adaptability, mitigating the risks of obsolescence and inefficiency. Therefore, integrating diligent technical debt monitoring practices alongside robust governance frameworks becomes beneficial and fundamental to the success and longevity of software projects in today's dynamic digital landscape.


Ensuring proactive governance with Virtusa and Quality Clouds

Virtusa and Quality Clouds equip organizations with tools and insights to manage technical debt proactively. They optimize the health of Salesforce instances and drive long-term sustainability and success in their Salesforce initiatives. Whether you have already implemented Salesforce and need help addressing tech debt or are embarking on a new journey with Salesforce, Virtusa can help. Our partnership with Quality Clouds puts us in a unique position to help you with:

  1. Instant org health scans and tech debt discovery: Instant, in-depth scans of your Salesforce org, enabling rapid identification and assessment of technical debt. We quickly analyze various aspects of your instance, including configuration, customization, and code quality, while showcasing the areas of concern and highlighting potential risks that resonate with your particular business.

  2. Recommended solutions and path to "green" health: Leveraging extensive analysis capabilities of Quality Clouds, Virtusa offers tailored recommendations and actionable insights to guide organizations toward achieving optimal health for their Salesforce environments. Outlining a clear path toward remediation facilitates the transition from technical debt to a "green" health state.

  3. Prevent tech debt with proactive in-platform tools: By shifting quality assurance left, Virtusa and Quality Clouds empower organizations to prevent technical debt accumulation proactively. With thousands of pre-built rules covering various best practices and compliance standards, we take a different approach to building Salesforce apps, embedding quality and transparency into our process.

  4. Customizability: Beyond its pre-built rule set, Virtusa and Quality Clouds allow organizations to tailor their analysis to specific needs by modifying and adding rules. This flexibility ensures the platform adapts seamlessly to unique organizational requirements, enhancing its effectiveness in identifying and mitigating technical debt.

The final word

As with many things, prevention is better (and more time-effective) than cure. Whether you are just embarking on your journey to customer success with Salesforce or are a seasoned customer, Virtusa alongside Quality Clouds can help.

Explore our comprehensive range of Salesforce and cloud solutions, featuring customizable capabilities and a genAI focus. Our offerings are designed to support customers throughout their end to end software development initiatives, enabling them to reduce technical debts, streamline service quality, and embrace a forward-thinking vision for the future. A few Salesforce tech debt offerings include:

  • Salesforce Health Assessment – Identify, catalog, prioritize, and create a plan to address technical debt so that your organization is secure, agile, scalable, and management moving forward
  • Salesforce DevOps and Governance – Assess your current DevOps and governance processes with our experts. Create a path toward hyper-automation and quality assurance, incorporating tech debt prevention with Quality Clouds at its core. 


Lawrence Coppin

Lawrence Coppin

Vice President, Technology, Salesforce at Virtusa

Lawrence Coppin is a prominent figure in the Salesforce ecosystem, bringing over a decade of expertise to the table. Based in London, he leads Virtusa's global Salesforce offerings. With an impressive 19 certifications, Lawrence has spearheaded organizational transformations across diverse sectors such as healthcare, telecommunications, and real estate, leveraging his deep Salesforce knowledge. Notably, he is one of only 12 global leaders appointed to the esteemed Salesforce HLS Partner Advisory Board.

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