Saturday 9 April 2016

Fantasy Trailhead #1 - Maximum Damage

Fantasy Trailhead #1 - Maximum Damage

(Note - this is a humorous post - if you follow any of the advice below your experience will be sub-optimal, but also hilarious, so make sure to let me know just how bad things turned out)



After finishing up my 102nd Trailhead badge a couple of weeks ago, I started thinking about badges that I’d like to see in the future. Before long I’d changed to thinking about badges that we’re never likely to see, which are awarded for doing things badly as opposed to well. To that end, allow me to present my first Fantasy Trailhead - Maximum Damage


A Trail for Everyone

As everyone involved in implementing or maintaining a Salesforce instance has an opportunity to cause damage, this Trail covers the whole range of skills - Admin, Developer and Architect. The aim is to answer questions/implement challenges in the way that would cause maximum damage to an instance. 

Clicks not Solutions

Admins are every bit as powerful as developers when it comes to breaking Salesforce and in the Maximum Damage trail they would be expected to understand not just the terrible impact of their changes on the Salesforce platform, but also the deleterious  effects on their business as a whole. Here’s an example question:

A user would like a mechanism to ensure that they cannot save a Contact record without populating the Other Phone number. No other users are expecting this change and in the majority of cases this information will not be available”.

In a normal universe this request would be rightly rejected, but in the Maximum Damage Trail we leap on it with gusto. The answer options as as follows, along with an explanation of why the are not the right (or the most wrong!) solution:

  1. Add a validation rule that checks if the Contact is being created by the particular user that requested the change, if it is then ensure the Other Phone field is populated.
    This is a reasonable solution to the problem, and therefore not what we are looking for in Maximum Damage - there are no additional unwanted features and other users won’t even know the change has been applied.
  2. Make the Other Phone field required on the Contact page layout
    This is better, as users who do not want this change are being affected by it and their working lives have been made a
    little more difficult. One downside to this is that no existing integrations have been broken, as this is only affecting the UI.
  3. Make the Other Phone required through Field Level Security
    Now we are starting to see some serious damage - integrations and automated loads of Contacts are likely to be impacted, but this is still relatively localised to Contact creation. Is there any more that can be done to cause problems for the wider business.

  4. Make the User a System Administrator so that they can make the Other Phone required through Field Level Security
    This is taking the long view with regard to ruining your implementation - all the downsides of answer 3, plus the user is now empowered to make whatever changes they like to any part of the system. hopefully without any idea of the impact of their changes. It might seem that we’ve taken this as far as we can, but things could be worse.
  5. Share your username and password with the user so that they can make the Other Phone required through Field Level Security
    This is the gold standard - all of the downsides of the previous options, plus a lack of accountability. When the user makes the inevitable badly thought out change, nobody will know it was them and it will look like you did it. This will muddy the waters nicely, as your co-administrators will assume you had a good reason and hopefully spend valuable time trying to understand why.

 Future-Resistant Code

The Developer module in the Maximum Damage Trail is designed to test your ability to produce the worst possible coded solution to a problem that didn’t need code in the first place. Rather than taking the YAGNI (You Ain’t Gonna Need It) approach, not worrying about future requirements, solutions here use a YAGGI (You Ain’t Gonna Get It) approach, producing code that cannot be extended in the future.

This module is more challenge based, and looks for solutions with the following attributes:

  • Replicating standard platform functionality, badly.
  • Use of hardcoded ids wherever possible
  • Only capable of handing a single record, to ensure that data migration is as painful as possible
  • SOQL queries and DML statements inside loops (preferably loops that are nested for no good reason).
  • No unit test coverage
  • Any inputs other than those specified in the challenge would cause the code to fail
  • Consuming as many governor limits as possible without breaching, to ensure that this cannot be added to an existing business process with code.
  • No error checking or validation of inputs
  • Empty catch blocks should be liberally used to swallow any exceptions and plough on regardless.

Technical Incompitecht

The architect module of Maximum Damage looks for decisions that will not only inhibit scale, but also maximise costs throughout the lifetime of the implementation. Fittingly, I’m not sure how well this would scale from a marking perspective, as there would be some subjectivity here so they would probably need manual marking. The Maximum Damage Trail also takes down the author!

Key features of the solution architecture include:

  • Overloading a standard object to provide custom functionality
    This would involve creating a number of new fields which have no relation to the standard object and removing any standard fields from the page layout. Record types must be avoided, as this provides an unwanted degree of separation. Using a standard object in this way maximises the license cost, and the standard object should preferably be one requiring an additional, paid, feature license.
  • Using a Community to do a Site’s job
    It goes without saying that named Partner Community licenses should be used, especially if high volumes are required as this will guarantee a scalability problem before too long.
  • Complex security and sharing
    Org wide defaults should always be Private. If public access is required this should be implemented by multiple sharing rules at the lowest possible level of the role hierarchy possible. Territory management is a must, unless the requirements indicate territory management, in which case it should be avoided at all costs.
  • Little or no Change Control
    An architect should not miss the opportunity to make the development lifecycle harder than it needs to be, so a change control process involving as manual replication of configuration and hand-deployment of code via the IDE will score highly.
  • Centre of Negligence
    The antithesis of a Centre of Excellence, an architect is expected to identify a governance framework that leads to isolated decision making with no idea of the needs of other business units or the organisation as a whole.

Marge my friend

Only Joking … Or Am I?

While I put this post together for a bit of fun, I think there is value in being able to identify the worst solution from a selection of bad options. Most test/exam questions have one correct answer and the others, while plausible, will be flawed in some way. This means that you can figure out the correct answer even if you don’t know it (I’m fond of quoting Sherlock Holmes in this regard - “When you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth”).

Being presented with an entire list of flawed options and having to choose the one which will cause the most problems both now and in the future requires an in-depth understanding of how customisations affect the Salesforce platform, and how seemingly minor decisions can cause major problems in the future.

I have a couple more ideas for Fantasy Trailhead, so stay tuned for more posts so set you on the path to failure.


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