Key Concepts#

Let’s review some important concepts when building and testing features using CumulusCI.


CumulusCI works well with both managed package projects and org implementations. However, packages always play a role in how projects are built and deployed.

A package is a container for something as small as an individual component or as large as a sophisticated application. After creating a package, you can distribute it to other Salesforce users and organizations, including those outside your company.

Unmanaged packages are typically used to distribute open-source (non-proprietary) features or application templates to provide developers with the basic building blocks for an application. After the components are installed from an unmanaged package in a specific org, it’s what’s known as an org implementation. These freshly installed components can be edited by the owners of the implementation. The developer who created and uploaded the unmanaged package has no control over the installed components, and can’t change or upgrade them.

Managed packages are typically used by Salesforce partners to distribute and sell applications to customers. They are proprietary code that can be upgraded and deployed only by the developer that built them. To ensure seamless upgrades, managed packages don’t allow certain destructive changes, such as deleting objects or fields.

In CumulusCI, packages are built and deployed via projects.


When you work with CumulusCI, you do so inside a project. A project is an individual Git repository that contains both Salesforce metadata and CumulusCI automation (such as tasks and flows) that builds and releases the project. If you are building multiple packages, we strongly recommend organizing each package as a separate project in its own repository.


CumulusCI’s standard library assumes that there is one package per repository, so it will work best if you follow this convention.

It’s important to note that a project doesn’t have to contain a package. For example, a project can deliver unpackaged metadata, deliver automation but no metadata at all, or provide test data for QA. A project can contain the entirety of a product offered to customers, or be just one of multiple projects that combine to form a complete product.

To sum up, although a project doesn’t require a package, a package requires a project to be built and deployed.

Tasks and Flows#

CumulusCI uses a framework of tasks and flows to organize the automation that is available to each project.

Tasks are units of automation. A task can perform a deployment, load a dataset, retrieve data from an org, install a managed package, or do many other things. CumulusCI ships with scores of tasks in its standard library. You can run cci task list to view them all.

Popular task commands include:

  • cci task list: Review the tasks available in a project.

  • cci task info <name>: Learn more about a task <name> and how to configure its options.

  • cci task run <name> --org <org>: Run the task <name> against the org <org>.

For example, the run_tests task executes Apex unit tests. If you have an org called dev, you can run this task against it with the command cci task run run_tests --org dev.

Many operations in CumulusCI, including creating new orgs, use flows. Flows are ordered sequences of tasks (and even other flows!) that produce a cohesive outcome, such as an org that’s configured to suit a workflow like development, QA, or product demonstration.

Popular flow commands include:

  • cci flow list: Review the flows available in a project.

  • cci flow info <name>: Learn more about the flow <name> and the tasks it contains.

  • cci flow run <name> --org <org>: Run the flow <name> against the org <org>.

For example, the dev_org flow sets up an org for development purposes. If you have an org called dev, you can run this flow against it with the command cci flow run dev_org --org dev.

Many of the most common flows you’ll work with in CumulusCI are designed to build and configure specific orgs for you. Here’s a few of the most common flows that build orgs.

  • dev_org: This flow builds an unmanaged org designed for development use. It’s typically used with an org whose configuration is dev or dev_namespaced.

  • qa_org: This flow builds an unmanaged org designed for testing. It’s typically used with an org whose configuration is qa.

  • install_beta: This flow builds a managed org with the latest beta release installed, for projects that build managed packages. It’s typically used with an org whose configuration is beta.

  • install_prod: This flow builds a managed org with the latest release installed, for projects that build managed packages.

  • push_upgrade_org: This flow builds a managed org that starts with the latest release installed and available for all Profiles. It then upgrades the package dependencies and the package itself to their latest betas, installing upgrades for System Administrators only, and runs config_qa to set up the org for testing. This simulates a subscriber push upgrade for non-System Administrator users. It’s typically used with an org whose configuration is release.

CumulusCI derives the library of tasks and flows available for any project by combining its internal standard library with your customizations in cumulusci.yml. Customizations can add new tasks and flows, customize the way tasks behave, and extend, combine, and modify flows to better suit the project’s needs. We cover customization in depth in the Configure CumulusCI section.

Project Structure#

Project Directory#

The project directory is the root of your CumulusCI project. Because each project is linked to a single GitHub repository, CumulusCI knows which project you are working on by the current working directory of your shell.


Avoid headaches by making sure you’re in the correct repository for your project before running project-specific commands. Otherwise, your project produces an error. (Check your repo first when troubleshooting in CumulusCI and potentially save yourself an extra trip to this guide.)

In order to be used as a CumulusCI project, a directory must both be a Git repository and contain a cumulusci.yml configuration file. We cover how to get set up with a new or existing CumulusCI project in the Get Started section.


The cumulusci.yml file defines a project’s automation. It contains all the customizations and configurations that pertain to your project’s lifecycle. It can encompass everything from customizing the shapes of scratch orgs to configuring tasks and flows.

Learn more about customizing CumulusCI automation in the Configure CumulusCI section.

force-app (or src)#

The main body of the project’s code and metadata lives in the default package directory, which is the force-app directory for Salesforce DX-format projects and the src directory for Metadata API-format projects. force-app defines what’s included when you release a managed package from your CumulusCI project. (Or when you release an unlocked package, or if you’re not releasing a package at all but running the deploy task to get the metadata into an org in unmanaged form.)

orgs directory#

The .json files found in the orgs directory define the Salesforce DX org configurations that are available to the project. See Manage Scratch Orgs for more information.


Each project can have one or more datasets: on-disk representations of record data that can be inserted into Salesforce orgs, and that can also be modified and re-captured during the evolution of the project. Datasets are stored in the datasets directory. Learn more about datasets in Automate Data Operations.


Robot Framework provides browser automation for end-to-end testing. Each project contains a robot directory, which stores the project’s Robot Framework test suites. New projects start with a simple Robot test case that creates a Contact record.

While Robot Framework is used primarily for automated browser testing, it can also be harnessed to help configure orgs where other strategies and APIs are insufficient.

See Acceptance Testing with Robot Framework for more information.

unpackaged metadata#

As we touched upon earlier, a project doesn’t just encompass the contents of a managed package or a single deployment. It also includes unpackaged metadata: extra bundles of Salesforce metadata that further tailor an org or complete the product.

In a CumulusCI project, all unpackaged metadata is stored in subdirectories within the unpackaged directory. Unpackaged metadata plays multiple roles, including preparing an org for installing packages, adding more customization after the package or application is deployed, and customizing specific orgs that are used in the product’s development process.

Learn more in the Manage Unpackaged Configuration section.

Project Orgs & Services#

Orgs and services are external, authenticated resources that each project uses. CumulusCI makes it easy to connect orgs and services to a single project, or to use them across many projects.


Each project has its own set of orgs, including active scratch orgs, persistent orgs like a production or packaging org, and predefined scratch org configurations. CumulusCI securely stores org authentication information in its keychain, making it easy to access connected orgs at any time. The cci org list command shows all of the orgs connected to a project. Orgs can also be shared across multiple projects.

Configuring orgs in CumulusCI is powerful, but comes with some complexity. For details, see Manage Scratch Orgs and Connect Persistent Orgs.


Services represent external resources used by CumulusCI automation, such as access to a GitHub account or a MetaDeploy instance. Services are usually, but not always, connected to CumulusCI across projects as part of the global keychain. The command cci service list shows you which services are connected in the context of the current project.

Global services are easy to use and share. We recommend that you use them as much as possible. However, services can also be connected at the project level, which means that they’re scoped to a single project and cannot be shared.

For more information on configuring services via the cci command line see the Manage Services section.