What is Metadata in Salesforce?

Salesforce Metadata Types

We place a lot of focus on the code that goes into our DevOps projects. And while there’s very good reason to do so, it shouldn’t come at the expense of paying attention to other data types that make up our Salesforce environments.

what is salesforce metadata - metadata in salesforce


Exactly What is Salesforce Metadata? 


Salesforce metadata refers to the underlying configurations, code, automation logic, and page layouts that dictate the behavior of objects (and subsequently records) in Salesforce. Not only does it define the functional aspects but it also determines the visual aesthetics of your Salesforce organization.

The different Salesforce metadata types can be confusing. We’ve all heard the definition of metadata as “data about data” but that doesn’t truly encapsulate the way it impacts a Salesforce instance.

So what are the different Salesforce metadata types and how do they impact your DevOps pipeline? How should you care for the various Salesforce metadata types?

1. Platform Metadata in Salesforce

Platform metadata is one of the two major buckets of metadata types. There will be subsets that exist within these buckets, but for the sake of simplicity, we’ll group metadata into these two major types.

Platform metadata refers to information that describes functions and fields within your Salesforce environment.

When a piece of data was created, an identifier for who created it, and other descriptive data will be included within the subset of metadata types. This metadata is important to your Salesforce environment and needs to be protected like other forms of sensitive data.

2. Custom Metadata in Salesforce

Custom metadata is the second bucket of metadata types within Salesforce. And of the two Salesforce metadata types, custom metadata is commonly what we’re referring to when talking about metadata in Salesforce.

Custom metadata allows you to create relationships between objects within Salesforce.

For example, this could define which cities belong to which states or countries, business logic or rules that define workflow or business processes, or how data validation rules are followed. This information might not contain identifiers, but it does have direct impacts on the functionality of your Salesforce environment. Losing custom metadata can be a severe setback for the operational capacity of your platform.

3. Increasing Complexity

metadata in salesforce - metadata types salesforce

All Salesforce metadata types are continually growing in number and complexity. The relationships between pieces of data are always becoming more complex. These logical relationships create chains across your Salesforce environment that becomes more intricate as time goes on.

Metadata defines, captures, and relies on these existing relationships which create dependencies over time.

 Simplicity is one of the major attractions to Salesforce development. The clicks-not-code mindset opens the world of software development up to people that aren’t as experienced with the mechanics of programming. However, this simplicity is only temporary as the metadata relationships grow more complex over time.

4. Properly Handling Salesforce Metadata

Think of the Salesforce metadata types as a web that operates in the background of your environment. Pulling on one end of the web will manipulate various other parts of the web, many of which you might not have realized before doing so. This is why handling metadata can be so tricky—we are often unaware of how complex these structures have become.

Mapping dependencies and maintaining a clear view of the structure of objects and their relationships enables your team to make customizations and changes without unforeseen impacts on your Salesforce environment.

Utilizing tools such as static code analysis ensures the data in your system is of the highest quality and avoids errors and bugs that can have impacts on the metadata existing in the background.

5. Protecting Metadata

Data security is becoming an increasingly important topic. Cybercrime rates have spiked over the last few years, and this trend is forecasted to continue. This has become such a pressing issue that the White House issued a statement instructing companies on how they need to be protecting their systems.

All Salesforce metadata types need to be protected as vigorously as other system data sets.

This can be done through a variety of tactics, including a metadata backup method to prevent data loss. And when it comes to data security, you need to make use of every available means of protection. For example, including your metadata in backup snapshots is an essential aspect of maintaining proper functionality.

6. Addressing Technical Debt

What Are the Different Salesforce Metadata Types - what is salesforce metadataTechnical debt hides within your Salesforce environment. Speed is often prioritized in application development, leading to errors that are meant to be corrected at a later stage. However, these errors aren’t always rectified and can become forgotten. This leads to a slowing of your platform and can even create data security risks.

Finding and eliminating technical debt with the help of a static code analysis tool assists functional metadata by removing factors that can slow your system down.

Another aspect of properly managing technical debt is finding and removing old and unused metadata. These outdated relationships contribute to growing complexity and make it more difficult to focus on necessary functions.

7. Metadata and Compliance

Regulatory compliance is a major concern for industries that deal with sensitive information, such as the financial, insurance, and healthcare industries. There are a series of rules in place to ensure protection for customers and clients that put their trust in these companies, and metadata plays a role in their ability to meet these demands.

Metadata needs to be included in data security measures or companies risk falling out of compliance with regulatory guidelines.

All Salesforce metadata types—both platform and custom metadata—have the potential to expose sensitive information if they aren’t properly protected.


Casually defined as “data about data,” metadata provides identifying information about data such as when it was created. It can also define relationships between objects and functions.

Metadata needs to be protected and backed up as vigorously as other types of Salesforce data. Losing metadata can lead to a loss of functionality in important aspects of your Salesforce environment while also exposing sensitive information.

Metadata is constantly being created and can only be managed. Failing to address metadata can lead to improper data security situations and broken dependencies.

Develop high quality, secure code!

Setting Up and Using CodeScan Effectively
Setting up and CodeScan in your salesforce org

Running CodeScan on your Salesforce Org is a great first step towards quality code, but maintaining that quality is a Read more

Estimating ROI with CodeScan
Estimate ROI using static code analysis tool CodeScan

Every Software Development Professional knows the following fact: the later bugs are found, the more expensive they are to fix. Read more

SFDX Tutorial | Setting Up CodeScan
CodeScan with Salesforce DX

Salesforce DX is a new focus on source-driven, collaborative development. The Salesforce CLI (Command Line Interface) easily integrates into your Read more

CodeScan and Visual Studio Team Services
continuous integration visual studio

Visual Studio Continuous IntegrationVisual Studio Team Services (VSTS) is a quick and powerful tool to set up continuous integration and Read more