Thu, 18 March 2021
Today on the Salesforce Admins Podcast, we talk to Kris Harrison, Director of Product Management at Salesforce for data, integration, and metadata focusing on Enterprise API and External Services. We’ll dive into all those technical topics and more as we dive into APIs and how they affect everything that goes on in your org.
Join us as we talk about why you should be thinking about APIs and how to learn more.
You should subscribe for the full episode, but here are a few takeaways from our conversation with Kris Harrison.
Why APIs are important for admins to understand.
Kris is a Product Manager at Salesforce focused on the Enterprise API Product Suite. “The encompasses the REST, SOAP, and Bulk APIs that provide programmatic access to the core Salesforce data that we know and love and run so many important functions across many different businesses,” he says. That includes the API framework and specific API operations and resources, like the query operation.
While interacting with APIs sometimes feels like it’s out of the scope of your average admin, so much of what goes on happens either implicitly or explicitly through an API request. Even if you’re not writing code, tons of things you’re doing on your org interact with APIs, and it’s important to understand how they work and how they affect your day-to-day. “If you’re interacting with an org, there’s an API that’s part of making that magic happen,” Kris says.
New API changes in Spring ‘21.
For Spring ‘21, Kris’s team has added the FIELDS() function to the SOQL query. This lets you pull back a pre-defined grouping of fields within the results set you can reference. You can return standard fields, custom fields, or even all fields in the resulting data to save on keystrokes and research to make that exploration on data within an org much easier. That means you can stay within the SOQL query and interpret that results without having to toggle back and forth—one of the most requested ideas on the IdeaExchange.
They’ve also created a plan to retire versions 7-20 of the SOAP, REST, and Bulk API. “Every new release we stamp out a new version of the API,” Kris says, “in Spring ‘21, we issued version 51.” So there’s now a plan to retire the oldest versions of the API (version 7 is from Summer ‘06, for example). There’s information in the Release Update tool in Setup on how to think about how to prepare for this change and what steps can be taken to ensure the org and it’s integrations won’t be impacted by the retirement plan. This helps you take advantage of the newest innovations that ship with every major release.
Adding to capabilities to your org.
For admins, we’re always looking for areas of opportunity—ways we can make the environment better and more efficient. While we’re often focused on new declarative features, looking at API improvements can give users and developers access to new innovation.
“As the CLI capabilities are able to evolve and become more feature-rich, they’re plugging into new capabilities that are expressed through the API,” Kris says, “so there’s a win-win there. As you upgrade and make steps to take advantage of the capability that ships with every major release, that’s an opportunity to refresh the state of any older, pre-exisiting integrations with the org, take stock of them, and see if they would benefit from some of those newer capabilities that have been brought to market and question if they’re still needed and providing a viable service for the org.”
Mike Gerholdt: Welcome to the Salesforce Admins podcast, where we talk about product, community, and career to help you become an awesome admin. This week, LeeAnne is sitting in for Gillian, and the two of us are talking with Kris Harrison, who is the product management director for products at Salesforce within data integration, metadata, and focusing on enterprise API and external services.
Kris Harrison: Thank you so much and I'm grateful to be here.
Mike Gerholdt: Ah, it's exciting to always talk with new product majors and have guest interviewers on the pod. Why don't we get started and tell us a little bit about what you do at Salesforce.
Kris Harrison: Sure. I'm a product manager within our platform services area, and my focus is on our enterprise API product suite that encompasses the REST, the SOAP, the bulk APIs that provide programmatic access to the core Salesforce data that we know and love and run so many important functions across so many different businesses.
LeeAnne: So, Kris, I know that you've been working more and more with admins and you mentioned you've been working with a lot of our customers, and I know that many of our admins, myself when I was an admin, we didn't really always view our role as intersecting with APIs, or that didn't always feel like it was within our scope, but I know it is very much within the scope of the admin.
Kris Harrison: So much of what takes place in interacting with the data on an org happens either implicitly or explicitly through an API request. So it's important to keep tabs on that notion of how interactivity with the org and the form of exchange of data or enablement of functionality takes place.
LeeAnne: So APIs are very much are in the domain of admins, even if they're not necessarily writing scripts or writing code that is calling those APIs. All of the things that admins are doing within Salesforce is interacting in some way with the APIs.
Kris Harrison: I think it's safe to say that if interacting with an org, there's an API that's part of that, making that magic happen.
LeeAnne: Awesome. And I think that that's one of the things we think about a lot for our admin community out there. They do a lot of building and they are often using the declarative tools to build out customizations and to build these experiences. But really the scope of what they're making decisions on or helping make prioritizations on, it extends beyond, well beyond what is being built declaratively.
Mike Gerholdt: Absolutely. So the fields function is the latest enhancement to the SOQL query language that I made mention of. So as owners of query operations on Core, you perform those query operations by writing a SOQL query. And so one of the things that we've done to make interacting with data through SOQL more approachable for admins who are writing those queries through the CLI or any number of places where SOQL comes into play.
LeeAnne: So this means like in a practical application, if I was writing a SOQL query and previously maybe as an admin, I would have been going into the object record and set-up and looking at the fields and pulling the API names. But now that can just happen where I'm writing the queries. Is that what you're saying?
Kris Harrison: That's right. You can stay within the context of writing the SOQL query and interpreting the results without having to toggle back and forth or do a lot of that research.
LeeAnne: And this is something that was very much a major request from the community. I think this was one of the top idea exchange ideas.
Kris Harrison: Within our area of ownership, yes.
LeeAnne: It's awesome, and it just reinforces the importance of everyone who's listening, if you haven't participated in prioritization, like this is, it's so important. We love hearing your ideas. We want you to vote on ideas because often they get delivered and they get that visibility with our product teams.
Kris Harrison: Of course. So in December of 2019, we announced a program to retire versions seven through 20 of the SOAP, REST and bulk API. Every major release, we stamp out a new version of the API. In spring 2021, we issued version 51 of the API.
LeeAnne: So this is something that is very important for our admins, especially admins with older, more established environments to be really cognizant of. Because this is something that could impact their integrations, and it's something that's within their scope to be keeping track of and to ideally include updating the API versions in their prioritization and their project planning. Correct?
Kris Harrison: That's right. At every major release, there's additional API based capability to take advantage of, and that newer capability will only ever be able to be accessed by upgrading integrations to consume that latest version. For example, the fields function that we just talked about in SOQL, you cannot access that function if your query operation is going against an older version of the API.
Mike Gerholdt: Well, to me this sounds like the perfect opportunity to have a discussion with your IT. Like what are we integrated? What had been integrated in Salesforce? I mean, if you're running an API from 2006, do we even need that Legacy system anymore? Are we pulling 14 year old data?
LeeAnne: Well, anything to what Kris was just explaining is even if you have some architecture from, or an integration that was built in like 2011, so you've got five years before, or you've got a period of time before that API version's retired.
Mike Gerholdt: So, what you're saying is I should have switched off FireWire a long time ago to USB-C and stay ahead of the different Apple plugs, because that's what it sounds like.
LeeAnne: Yes, always upgrade the hardware as well. I think this is for admins presents a good opportunity, because I think our admins are often out there thinking about the three, six, nine month plans for their environments and doing both tech debt management prioritization of maybe different business schools. But also a lot of our admins are out there, very often trying to find these areas of opportunity. To make the environment better, to make it more efficient, to solve different problems.
Kris Harrison: Definitely. I mean one really handy tool I made mention of data loader before, but the Salesforce CLI, another great tool to take advantage of and to help managing and extend what's going on with an org.
Mike Gerholdt: Kris, for some of our newer admins who maybe are still listening, because it's interesting and they want to ask their IT. They know they've got an integration. How do they go about verifying what version of the API that integration's on?
Kris Harrison: Yeah. So there are a number of touchpoints and solutions are available through event monitoring, primarily, that report on the calls coming into an org and part of that information includes the version of the endpoint that is being called.
Mike Gerholdt: Cool, and we'll be sure to link that in the show notes.
Kris Harrison: Yes.
LeeAnne: So one thing I'd like to just do a quick plug for. I know we talk about Trailhead of course a lot for admins, but if you're hearing some of this and if elements of it do feel a little intimidating, like the CLI, if you haven't used the CLI before.
Kris Harrison: So definitely review the release notes of every major release that comes out and study the API section to see if there's any capability that is of interest. I wouldn't shy away from considering the API section of the release notes as for developers only.
LeeAnne: So we've got lots of awesome API content for our awesome admins, it sounds like.
Kris Harrison: Absolutely.
Mike Gerholdt: Fabulous. Well, I want to thank you Kris for being on the podcast and enlightening us on APIs. I feel like it's the current in our walls that runs along and never makes sense to me when I plug something in. It pops a fuse, but I do it anyway.
Kris Harrison: There are so many great API metaphors out there. One of the...
Mike Gerholdt: Oh, tell me your favorite. Tell me your favorite, please.
Kris Harrison: I can't take credit for it, and I don't know who is the originator of it, but the metaphor of APIs in the context of going to a restaurant, giving an order to a waiter and having the waiter go to the kitchen to fulfill that request and bring the food or drink back to you.
Mike Gerholdt: I like it.
LeeAnne: I really like that metaphor. I'm not on many podcasts, but when I am, we always seem to end up talking about...
Mike Gerholdt: That's because you're on podcasts with me, LeeAnne. That's all.
LeeAnne: Maybe it's just because we record at lunchtime. I don't know.
Mike Gerholdt: Yeah, that was great. Thanks Kris.
Kris Harrison: My pleasure.
Mike Gerholdt: Well, it was a great discussion about APIs with LeeAnne and Kris. There's so much that an admin knows and does and interacts with the API. And I love the analogy that Kris gave us of a restaurant server, taking your order and going back to the chef. That's a neat way to think about it.