Architects / Business Analysts / Consultants

How to Effectively Document Your Salesforce Architectural Decisions

By Hamza Abib

If you have worked on a Salesforce project, whether you are working in-house as an Admin delivering the latest functionality to meet their needs, or you are a Salesforce Architect at a consultancy implementing complex projects for your clients, you will have realized that effectively documenting architectural and technical decisions is absolutely crucial (even if it doesn’t always get done). 

Sometimes what is holding you back is the time needed to document things properly. At other times, you just don’t know where to get started. Either way, hopefully, you can agree that proper documentation not only clarifies decision-making processes but also ensures the smooth execution and success of Salesforce projects.

Understanding Architectural Decisions

Architectural decisions refer to the strategic choices made during the planning and implementation of a Salesforce project. These decisions shape the overall structure and functionality of the solution which influences its scalability, performance, and maintainability. Given their profound impact, it’s crucial to document these decisions meticulously to provide a clear rationale and reference for future projects.

Benefits of Proper Documentation

  1. Clarity and Communication: Documenting architectural decisions enhances communication among stakeholders, ensuring everyone is aligned with the project’s direction and objectives.
  2. Consistency and Standardization: It promotes consistency in approaches and solutions, enabling standardized practices across different projects and teams.
  3. Knowledge Preservation: Proper documentation serves as a knowledge repository, preserving critical insights and reasoning that can guide future projects and troubleshooting efforts.
  4. Risk Mitigation: By documenting potential risks and their mitigations, teams can proactively address issues, reducing the likelihood of project setbacks.
  5. Technical Debt Management: Proper documentation helps in managing technical debt by keeping track of decisions that may have trade-offs, thus allowing for easier future refinements. For more on managing technical debt, read this Salesforce Ben article.

Step-by-Step Guide to Effective Documentation

1. Define the Scope and Context

  • Outline Business Objectives: Start by outlining the project’s business objectives. Describe what the project aims to achieve and why it is important. This sets the stage for understanding the purpose behind architectural decisions.
  • Detail Constraints: Identify any constraints that influenced the decisions. These could be budgetary, time-related, or related to existing systems and technologies.
  • Provide Background Information: Include relevant background information such as previous projects, existing infrastructure, or stakeholder requirements that play a role in shaping the architectural choices.

2. Identify Key Decisions

  • Highlight Major Decisions: Identify and list the major architectural decisions made throughout the project. Each decision should be clearly identified and described, including its purpose and expected impact.
  • Categorize Decisions: Group decisions into categories such as data architecture, application architecture, integration, security, and performance. This will make it easier to navigate the documentation.

3. Detail the Decision-Making Process

  • Document Options Considered: For each decision, document the different options that were considered. This helps in understanding the alternatives and why a particular option was chosen.
  • Evaluate Criteria: Describe the criteria used to evaluate the options. This could include factors like cost, performance, scalability, and compatibility with existing systems.
  • Explain the Rationale: Provide a clear rationale for the final choice. Explain why the chosen option was selected over the others, highlight its advantages, and address any potential drawbacks.

4. Incorporate User Stories

  • Write Clear and Concise User Stories: Write user stories in simple, clear language that is easy to understand. Use the standard user story format: “As a [role], I want [goal] so that [benefit].” Learn more about writing user stories from Ian Gotts’ Salesforce Ben article: How to Write User Stories for Salesforce: What We Learned From Writing 1000.
  • Include Acceptance Criteria: Clearly define the acceptance criteria for each user story. This helps in setting expectations and ensuring that the developed functionality meets the required standards.
  • Prioritize User Stories: Rank user stories based on their importance and impact on the project. This helps in managing the development process and ensuring that critical functionalities are developed first.

5. Use Visual Aids

  • Incorporate Diagrams: Use diagrams, flowcharts, and other visual aids to illustrate architectural designs and decision paths. Visuals can significantly enhance your understanding and retention of complex information.
  • Utilize Functional Decomposition: Functional decomposition helps break down complex processes into manageable components, providing a clear, structured approach to documentation. This method involves starting with the most general elements and drilling down into more specific details as needed. By asking “how” and “why” questions, you can ensure the documentation captures both high-level context and specific details. For more on this methodology, read Caitlin Graaf’s Salesforce Ben article: Is There a Better Way to Document Salesforce? Introducing ”Decomposition.
  • Utilize Universal Process Notation (UPN): Universal Process Notation (UPN) is a standardized way to represent processes visually. Incorporating UPN can make the documentation more consistent and easier to understand. For more on UPN and business process mapping, have a go at the Understand Universal Process Notation module on Trailhead.

6. Document Business Processes

  • Create Detailed Process Maps: Identify the key processes involved in the project. Use reusable diagrams to create detailed process maps that describe each step in the process, who is responsible, and what the expected outcomes are. Learn more about creating business process maps on Trailhead’s Create a Business Process Map module.
  • Analyze and Improve Processes: Use process maps to identify inefficiencies and bottlenecks. Document any improvements made and update the process maps accordingly to reflect the current state of the processes.

7. Record Risks and Mitigations

  • Identify Risks: For each decision, document any associated risks. This includes potential issues that could arise from the chosen option.
  • Develop Mitigation Strategies: Describe the strategies implemented to mitigate the identified risks. This proactive approach helps in anticipating potential issues and developing contingency plans.

8. Maintain an Updated Repository

  • Centralized Documentation: Ensure that all documentation is stored in a centralized, accessible location where all relevant stakeholders can easily access and contribute to it.
  • Version Control and Audit Logs: Implement version control to track changes made to the documentation. This includes maintaining an audit log of changes, which provides a history of edits and updates, helping to understand the evolution of the documentation. Being able to see previous versions is vital for tracking the progression of decisions, understanding past contexts, and potentially reverting to older versions if needed.
  • Regular Updates: Regularly update the documentation to reflect any changes or new decisions made during the project’s lifecycle. An up-to-date repository is invaluable for ongoing maintenance and future enhancements. For a complete guide on Salesforce documentation, check out Ian Gotts’ Guide on Salesforce Ben: Complete Guide to Salesforce Documentation.

Best Practices for Documentation

1. Consistency

  • Standardized Format: Use a standardized format and structure for documentation to ensure consistency and ease of use.
  • Template Utilization: Create and use templates for different types of documentation. This ensures that all necessary information is captured and presented in a uniform manner.

2. Accessibility

  • Centralized Repository: Store documentation in a central, accessible location. This could be a dedicated documentation portal, a shared drive, or a cloud-based document management system.
  • Easy Access: Ensure that all relevant stakeholders, including developers, architects, project managers, and clients, have easy access to the documentation.

3. Collaboration

  • Encourage Input: Encourage collaboration and input from various team members to capture diverse perspectives and insights.
  • Review Cycles: Implement regular review cycles where team members can provide feedback and suggest improvements to the documentation.

4. Review and Feedback

  • Regular Reviews: Regularly review the documentation to ensure it remains accurate and comprehensive.
  • Feedback Mechanism: Create a feedback mechanism where team members can provide suggestions for improving the documentation.

Managing Technical Debt

Technical debt refers to the future costs incurred due to shortcuts taken during the development process. Proper documentation can help in managing technical debt by providing a clear record of these shortcuts and their implications.

1. Identify Sources of Technical Debt

  • Document Shortcuts: Clearly document any shortcuts or temporary solutions implemented during the project. Explain why these shortcuts were taken and what their potential impacts are.
  • Track Debt Items: Maintain a list of technical debt items and update it regularly. This list should include a description of each item, its impact, and the estimated effort required to address it.

2. Develop a Debt Repayment Plan

  • Prioritize Debt Items: Prioritize the technical debt items based on their impact and urgency. This helps in planning the debt repayment process effectively.
  • Allocate Resources: Allocate resources and time for addressing technical debt in the project plan. This ensures that debt repayment is not neglected in favor of new development.

3. Review and Update Regularly

  • Regular Reviews: Conduct regular reviews of the technical debt list to ensure it remains up-to-date and reflects the current state of the project.
  • Update Documentation: Update the documentation to reflect any changes in the technical debt and the steps taken to address it.


Sometimes, it is not about knowing when to document (although you’ve got an idea of that from this article), but it is more about how to effectively document your architectural and technical decisions. Effective documentation of architectural and technical decisions is a critical component of successful Salesforce project management. By following the outlined steps and best practices, you can create clear, comprehensive, and valuable documentation that supports project success and your customer (whether internal or external). 

Proper documentation not only facilitates better communication and decision-making but also helps in managing technical debt, mitigating risks, and preserving valuable knowledge for future projects. By using the steps outlined, Salesforce architects can ensure that their documentation practices contribute to the overall success and sustainability of their projects. Your future self and your colleagues will thank you for it! 

The Author

Hamza Abib

Hamza is a Lead Solution Engineer at Own. He is 24x Salesforce certified with many years of experience demonstrating technical solutions from Salesforce ISVs and SIs.

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