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4 Improvements Cox Automotive Made to Accelerate Salesforce Delivery

Cox Automotive is an Atlanta-based conglomerate with a wide range of subsidiaries that include Kelley Blue Book, Manheim and Autotrader.com. Supported by 40,000+ auto dealer clients across five continents, Cox is on a mission to transform the way the world buys, sells and uses vehicles.

The Challenge: Moving Away from Manual, Error-Prone Software Releases

Cox Automotive approached Copado in 2017 with a clearcut development challenge. While they were leveraging Salesforce to create and deploy low-code software, their manual release process was leading to lots of errors. The issues impacting Cox were two-fold:

  1. Cox struggled to deploy partial functionality since team members often forgot to add metadata changes to each release.

  2. Updates made directly in production created overwrites and syncing challenges — resulting in bugs and lost work.

To solve Cox’s problems, we combined Copado’s User Story-centric approach and admin-friendly, configurable deployments.

The Solution: Embracing User Stories + CI/CD Pipelines

Our User Story records allow teams to track metadata changes directly to an item of work. This relationship between stories and metadata changes helped Cox reduce overwrites and increase visibility into where changes were being made. In addition, Copado Continuous Delivery allows Cox to ensure all metadata changes for each user story are deployed between environments — eliminating both lost work and rework.

Finally, Copado CI/CD Pipelines made it easy for Cox to configure their deployments. And our native Salesforce UI/UX design helps both low-code and pro-code team members follow the process rather than making changes directly in production.

Cox successfully leveraged this streamlined approach to unlock more confidence and consistency in their releases — but they weren’t done yet. In 2019, the automotive brand set out to make four more critical improvements to enhance both their quality and velocity.

“Before Copado, we were losing development hours every month, and we had zero confidence in our releases. Now, we’re pushing new features into production almost every day.”
- TODD BUSSEY, DEVOPS ENABLEMENT MANAGER, COX AUTOMOTIVE

Improvement 1: Make GitHub the Single Source of Truth

Like many Salesforce customers, Cox’s production org was their source of truth before they adopted DevOps. The problem with this approach? Dev, QA and PreProd orgs are always “behind” production. This means that when you deploy from a staging sandbox to production, direct changes get overwritten. What’s more, using a production org as your source of truth hampers your ability to rollback changes.

To tackle this improvement, Cox took a 3-step approach:

  1. Governance: Cox implemented a policy that required admins and developers to capture all changes in a User Story and promote it via the Copado Pipeline.

  2. Version Control: The Copado Pipeline was updated to sync all changes to GitHub, ensuring all changes were tracked and stored with a full audit trail.

  3. Release Versioning: Cox utilized Copado Release Versioning to place a tag in the GitHub branch every time a promotion to production occurs.

In tandem, these three updates allowed Cox Automotive to shift their source of truth from their production org to GitHub — enabling rollbacks and greatly reducing overwrites.

Improvement 2: Implement Continuous Integration

After Cox established GitHub as the single source of truth, they set up a branching strategy to ensure teams were building on the most up-to-date code. Their strategy was two-pronged:

  1. Sandbox Synchronization: Sync each sandbox with the GitHub repository.

  2. User-story Branches: Guarantee developers always work from the most recent code.

Copado’s Continuous Integration tool allowed Cox to tackle these requirements simultaneously. Our back-promotions automatically migrate work between developer sandboxes, allowing admins and developers to create a sandbox with the most recent version of code — directly from a User Story. This functionality combines the benefits of open-source tools with Salesforce best practices.

Ultimately, implementing Continuous Integration prevented lost work and drastically reduced the amount of rework. Since Cox has multiple teams working in parallel within the same orgs, the ability to work from and commit to a centralized repository helped the team become more efficient and produce more value for the business.

Improvement 3: Code & Feature Quality

Following key improvements to their build and deploy processes, it was time for Cox Automotive to tackle quality. The first step of their approach — configuring two quality gates between their Dev and QA orgs within their Copado pipeline:

Following on key improvements to their build and deploy processes, it was time for Cox Automotive to tackle quality. The first prong of their approach involved configuring two quality gates between their Dev and QA orgs in their Copado pipeline:

  1. Apex Testing: Cox enforces Apex unit testing before each promotion and sets coverage minimums to help them track and enforce this standard.

  2. Copado Selenium Testing: Pre-identified tests are built into their pipeline between QA and PreProd — helping streamline final testing and production deployments.

Quality gates and testing improvements help Cox go from frequent overwrites to daily accurate production releases. And they’re planning to build on these efforts by automating test triggers (between QA and PreProd) that will optimize quality and reduce lead time for new feature requests.

Improvement 4: Process Standardization

With version control, continuous integration and quality improvements joining forces to revamp Cox’s software lifecycle, they needed to hammer out a governance process to keep things running smoothly across eight agile teams:

  1. All team members (both low-code and pro-code) must use Copado User Stories to promote all changes from dev orgs to production.

  2. All changes must be committed to GitHub.

  3. Quality gates for promoting between Dev and QA are required and built into the Copado pipeline.

  4. Changes must pass Selenium tests to be promoted between QA & PreProd.

  5. No more sandbox refreshes: Copado back-promotions are used exclusively.

The Outcome: Maximum Throughput and a Mountain of Confidence

Cox’s expansion away from build-and-deploy tactics has helped them establish a single source of truth for Salesforce, improve feature quality and standardize processes across eight agile teams.

Ultimately, Cox went from no single source of truth and tons of dev downtime to 40+ releases and 60+ User Stories each month. The process standardization across Cox Automotive’s five Salesforce orgs has boosted team confidence, while developers can now work seamlessly across development teams without overwriting each other’s work.

Increased productivity and quality not only drive a better development process for Cox — they also improve team morale and unlock greater ROI.

 

Results in 2017-18

Results in 2021

  • Zero confidence
  • No single source of truth
  • Dev Downtime Every month 
  • 40 release per month
  • 60 user stories delivered each month
  • High level of confidence

 

“One of the biggest wins with Copado has been standardizing tools and processes across all our scrum teams. Process standardization has made DevOps seamless across all our teams and orgs.”
- KEVIN MEST, DIRECTOR OF SOFTWARE ENGINEERING, COX AUTOMOTIVE

 

About the Author

Halie is digital product and marketing strategist, with experience launching products and digital campaigns for B2B brands like Rackspace, Salesforce, Intel and HP. Her passion sits at the intersection of data and storytelling—and she's never met a pattern she didn't want to decipher.

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