Prepare for NPSP and Salesforce Releases
After completing this unit, you’ll be able to:
- State the frequency of release cycles for both NPSP and Salesforce.
- Identify the actions you need to take after NPSP and Salesforce releases.
Continuous Innovation with NPSP
As a Nonprofit Success Pack (NPSP) admin, you have a challenging job. You field all sorts of requests, questions, and issues from your staff (“I forgot my password again!”). You add new users, implement security, change page layouts, create custom objects and fields, scrub your data, and troubleshoot issues. On top of all that, you’re learning all the time and continuing to work to keep adoption high at your organization. It’s not an easy job and one that is too often misunderstood by others in your organization. Salesforce’s continuous cycle of innovation is one of its biggest advantages, but it can also be one of its most challenging aspects for admins, particularly for those who aren’t dedicated full-time to supporting Salesforce. But establishing a strategic and workable habit around new releases is one of the most valuable things you can do as an admin.
NPSP is a constantly evolving application, driven by contributions from everyday users and admins like you. Salesforce.org is committed to the continuous improvement of NPSP and we release free updates that include new features three times a year, along with frequent bug fixes.
Knowing what's included in a release, and when the release is happening, will help you:
- Take full advantage of new features and your investment in NPSP.
- Know when a troublesome bug has been addressed.
- Think through how new features may affect existing customizations.
- Test updates in sandboxes before they hit production.
We release new NPSP features three times each year (Winter, Spring, and Summer releases) to allow you time to learn about, implement, and test these new tools. NPSP bug fixes are also pushed to your production org automatically every two weeks so you don’t have to wait months for an impactful problem to be repaired. In both cases, the NPSP product team releases first to sandboxes, then a week later to production orgs.
As an admin, you have control over most new NPSP features made available in your org (though triggers and classes are always added no matter what, but this won't matter much to you unless you're a developer). New features included in a release must first be enabled by an admin before they're visible to end users. This gives you the chance to test features in your sandbox, and determine the right time to introduce the new functionality to your users.
The exact timing of all sandbox and production updates, along with which issues have been addressed, are announced in the NPSP release announcements chatter group in the Power of Us Hub.
Components of an NPSP Release
When an NPSP release is posted, it generally consists of three components:
- Critical Changes: Changes requiring urgent and direct follow-up by admins.
- Changes: The general list of NPSP updates and features included in the release.
- Issues Closed: Bug fixes and other identified operational issues rectified in the NPSP release.
The additional installation instructions section includes the following:
- Push Schedule: Timing of when the release is being pushed to sandboxes and anticipated being pushed to production orgs.
- Latest Release Installation URL: A direct link so you can manually apply the update if needed (see the resources at the end of this unit for more details).
- The Trialforce Template ID: For partners using Environment Hub (you don’t need to worry about this one unless you are a consulting partner).
Take Full Advantage of NPSP Releases
Let’s check back in with Gorav at No More Homelessness (NMH) as he prepares for an NPSP release. Gorav follows the NPSP release group in the Power of Us Hub. It’s a broadcast-only group, which means he chooses to sign up to get an email notification for every post; posting in the group is limited to the NPSP technical team only, so Gorav knows he won’t get any irrelevant messages. Consider doing the same. You’ll miss important updates if you opt for digest posts.
Gorav scans the new release post in his email (though he can also see it in the NPSP Release Announcement Group in the Power of Us Hub) and looks for anything that might impact his org.
Unless you‘ve been suffering directly at the hands of a nasty bug, the frequent releases that address bug fixes can generally pass by with little action on your part. Gorav doesn’t see anything that he thinks will impact his org or his users, so he archives the email and sets a reminder to catch up later on the details of the release when he has more time.
The three releases each year that include new features or functionality, however, do require dedicated time from you and your organization. Salesforce.org will give you plenty of advanced warning when a great new feature is coming your way in an NPSP release.
With new feature releases, Gorav follows this checklist (and you should, too!):
- Review the release notes in detail.
- Use a sandbox to test the new features before enabling them in the production org (any new fields and objects included in a release are by default not visible to anyone, including system administrators).
- Bring in key users to help understand how the organization can take advantage of new features.
- Evaluate whether any new features conflict with customizations that are already in the org.
- Evaluate whether any new features necessitate an update to the security model.
- Develop a communication and training plan (as needed) for staff to learn about the new features.
After an NPSP release, you will also see an update in the latest release notes section on the bottom right side of the NPSP Getting Started tab. It links to the Release Notes in GitHub. This update is another way to keep up with NPSP release information right in your org.
Salesforce Seasonal Releases
Like NPSP, the Salesforce platform is constantly evolving and Salesforce delivers new functionality to customers three times a year in the Spring, Summer, and Winter releases (there’s no autumn in San Francisco). These releases happen about a month before each of the three major NPSP releases. As an admin, having a release strategy in place will help you (and your staff) stay on top of all the changes and take full advantage of your investment in Salesforce.
We get that this might seem a little confusing, like, “How do I know what is Salesforce versus what is NPSP?” It isn’t always easy to distinguish which specific features or functionality are NPSP and which are standard Salesforce, but the good news is that if you are using NPSP, it sits on top of Sales Cloud Enterprise Edition licenses. So you are in a position to take advantage of ALL the new Salesforce features that are available for Sales Cloud Enterprise Edition (aka “Salesforce”) AND all the new features brought to you by NPSP.
While the release itself happens automatically, most admins need to perform some tasks before and after the upgrade to make sure that the process runs smoothly. Salesforce auto-enables some features (the release notes point these out), so be sure you know what’s coming if you don’t want your users to be surprised. (“Surprise!” isn’t always as fun as it might sound.)
A great way to learn about seasonal releases and to get started crafting a release strategy is to take the Prepare for a Salesforce Release trail listed in the resources section at the end of this unit. You can also attend the free (yes, FREE!) Salesforce.org Release webinars, in which an intrepid guide from Salesforce.org will introduce you to the new, important features and give you an opportunity to ask questions. Watch in the Power of Us Hub for announcements and information on how to sign up. Each seasonal release also comes with its own Trailhead module, which helps you learn specifics of the features included in the new release.
Why Do Releases Matter?
Keeping up with the NPSP and Salesforce releases can seem like just one more thing that you don’t have time to do, but understanding when releases happen and what steps you need to take are critical to getting the most out of the technology and, ultimately, helping you better meet your mission.