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Salesforce Apex Essentials: A Primer for Developers and Sales Executives

If you’re a developer working with a sales team or a manager whose team does most of its work in Salesforce, you’ll need Salesforce Apex. This programming language allows you to extend the functionality of the Salesforce platform. And the good news is: if you’re familiar with Java, learning Apex will be a breeze!

In this article, we’ll walk you through everything you need to know about using Salesforce Apex and how to make it work for you and your team(s). Plus, we’ll include a non-techy breakdown if you’re here to understand how to help your devs do their best work.
 

What Is Salesforce Apex?

Just like Java, Salesforce Apex is a strongly typed, object-oriented language. Typically, you’ll use it to write custom business logic and build applications on top of the main Salesforce platform. Apex code runs on Force.com, AKA Salesforce Platform, a scalable and secure environment for app development (and deployment).

Apex plays a crucial role in Salesforce because it allows you to tailor the platform to meet your organization’s specific needs. With Apex, you can automate business processes, integrate with external applications, and create custom functionality that’s not usually a part of Salesforce.

No matter what your team needs, Apex is more than capable of handling it. For example, you can write Apex triggers or processes to automatically assign leads to sales representatives based on criteria such as geographic location, lead source, or lead score. Similarly, you could automate commission calculations, revenue forecasts, or project cost estimations based on data changes or scheduled processes.

In addition to its customization capabilities, Apex also provides a robust set of features for data manipulation, error handling, and testing. Overall, Salesforce Apex makes it easier for you and your organization to unleash the full potential of Salesforce, especially as you grow and need customizations.
 

Salesforce Apex Explained for Sales Managers

Apex’s benefits are clear, including everything from automating workflows to generating innovative reports. However, communicate your expectations clearly and check with your devs to see what’s possible (and what’s, sadly, not).

Apex isn’t a magic pill here to remove all your daily hassles. It requires maintenance, so some functionality may become unavailable as your developers work to upgrade the Apex code from an older one to the one supported by the newest version of Salesforce.

Similarly, when introducing Apex-based customizations to your broader team, provide training and documentation. In most cases, your sales team won’t feel a thing, but there may be some constraints.
 

Quick Breakdown: Salesforce Apex Data Types, Variables, Exception-Handling, and More

Apex supports a wide range of data types, including primitive types (such as Integer, String, Boolean), collections (such as List, Set, and Map), and custom and standard objects.

In Salesforce Apex, variables are used to hold values of specific data types. You can declare them using the syntax DataType variableName;. Then, assign values in expressions and statements using the assignment operator =. Since variables are strongly typed, their data type cannot be changed once declared, making it easier to ensure type safety and catch potential errors at compile-time.

Apex also supports various modifiers for variables, such as public, private, and static, so you can define variables accessible across different classes and methods or restrict their visibility to a specific context.
 

Salesforce Apex Data Types, Variables, Exception-Handling, and More
 

How Do Control Flow Statements Work in Salesforce Apex?

If you want to control the execution flow of your Apex code based on certain conditions, you can use control flow statements. In Salesforce Apex, this includes conditional statements (such as if-else and switch), loop statements (e.g., for and while), and branching statements (e.g., break and continue).

The control flow statements are at the core of Salesforce Apex’s beauty. Since your code will be able to dynamically change and stay flexible depending on different use case scenarios, you’ll spend less time troubleshooting and more building.

Since Salesforce Apex is an object-oriented programming (OOP) language, it also supports concepts such as encapsulation, inheritance, and polymorphism. These will allow you to build reusable and easily-maintainable code.

In addition to these OOP concepts, Apex supports interfaces and abstract classes, so you can define contracts and create hierarchies of related classes.
 

Salesforce Apex Triggers and Stability

Apex triggers are special bits of code executed before or after specific events occur in Salesforce. These events can be data-related, such as record creation, update, or deletion, or platform-related, such as user login or logout.

In addition to all the standard functionality, you can also use triggers to validate data or enforce complex business rules you couldn’t achieve through standard Salesforce configuration. In fact, if everything else sounds good and you’re not happy with your knowledge of Salesforce Apex triggers, they’re the most crucial points to brush up on.

There will be unexpected situations, but Apex allows you to deal with them gracefully – so long as you have robust exception-handling strategies. When the system throws an exception, the try block will catch it and execute the error-handling logic you specified.
 

Cons of Salesforce Apex

Just like any programming language or tool, Salesforce Apex isn’t perfect. You might find it lacking in these situations (but not to worry – we have a plan!):
 

Governor Limits

Salesforce enforces strict governor limits on resource usage, including limits on queries, DML operations, and CPU time. This can constrain complex operations, but you can optimize your queries, use bulk processing, monitor the governor limits, and use asynchronous processing to deal with the issue.
 

Apex Has Limited Language Features

It’s brave enough of Salesforce to develop its own programming language, but that doesn’t mean we’re 100% thrilled. Its limited language features mean you’ll need to mitigate issues by using standard libraries and built-in functions, implementing patterns, and integrating third-party libraries or APIs to supplement the lacking features.
 

Maintenance and Version Dependency

When Salesforce releases new platform versions, you might need to update your older Apex code. This is unavoidable maintenance, but you can reduce the headache by staying up-to-date on the changes, specifying the API version for your Apex classes and triggers, performing regression testing, using the Salesforce Sandbox testing ground, and maintaining a version compatibility matrix so you always know which pieces of code are compatible with different versions.
 

How to Test and Debug in Salesforce Apex

In Apex, you can use unit tests to verify that individual pieces of code, such as classes and triggers, work as expected. Remember that Salesforce requires a minimum code coverage of 75% for all Apex classes and triggers so that most of the code is tested.

Apex has a testing framework that allows you to create test data, simulate user interactions, and assert expected outcomes. We sincerely recommend writing comprehensive unit tests to catch bugs early, prevent regressions, and ensure the code is performing exactly as you’d expect it to. You can create multiple test methods within a test class to cover different scenarios.

In addition to testing, Salesforce Apex also provides debugging tools and techniques to identify and fix issues in code, such as the Salesforce Developer Console and debug logs, where you’ll be able to inspect variables, step through the code, and track the execution flow.
 

How to Test and Debug in Salesforce Apex
 

Best Practices for Writing Scalable Salesforce Apex Code

We’ve had the pleasure of working with hundreds of teams and developers, all of whom pointed out the following as the best practices for making your code work like a charm with Salesforce Apex:

  • Bulkify your code: When working with large data sets, design your code to handle bulk operations. Remove unnecessary queries and DML operations inside loops and use collections and bulk processing techniques.
  • Use governor limits wisely: Salesforce imposes certain limits on the amount of resources that can be consumed by Apex code, such as CPU time, heap size, and database queries. Be aware of these limits and design your code to stay within them by optimizing queries, reducing unnecessary calculations, and using asynchronous processing.
  • Follow naming conventions: Enough said! Everything is easier when you have consistent and meaningful naming conventions. Use descriptive names for variables, methods, and classes, and follow the naming conventions recommended by Salesforce.
  • Document your code: Use comments to explain complex logic, provide context, and highlight important considerations. Yes, we know it’s a hassle, but it pays off when you’re upgrading two years down the line!
  • Leverage design patterns: Familiarize yourself with commonly used design patterns in Apex, such as the Singleton, Factory, and Decorator patterns, and apply them in your code.

 

Making the Most of Salesforce Apex

We’re done, and it didn’t even hurt! The truth is that Salesforce Apex is a massively helpful way to customize Salesforce for your team. And even if you don’t need it today, you might need it tomorrow, so brush up on your skills and get ready because, by mastering Apex, you’ve acquired a powerful tool. Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to make the most of it.

Good luck and happy coding!

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