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Looking for advice: Sandbox refresh while working with complex AppExchange packages with required data

A bit of a story…
We are using several AppExchange packages that rely on configuration data to be usable. As an example, FinancialForce has custom objects that store ‘company’ level configurations, such as Companies, Divisions, Currencies, User/Company allocation and more.

Since these records are highly restricted – FinancialForce (FF) restricts users from creating or updating these records via API (i.e. dataloader) and only allows users to create them through the UI. Some of the records are not even available through the UI and can only be created by the implementation team that set the package up initially.

So far this has caused us to perform all development activities that interact in any way with these packages in Full Sandboxes – since we are able to refresh them WITH all of this data (not to mention the extensive use of @seeAllData in test classes, but that’s a story for another day).
As my development team grows, I am looking to establish more consistent and defined practices, including the use of version control tools, and require new features to be developed in a Developer sandbox prior to deployment into the full sandbox for QA and UAT – but I really am not sure how I can achieve this.

I could invest time writing code that would leverage the FF API’s to create many of these records after refresh, but this by itself would be a significant undertaking which I cannot afford to invest time in currently. Further, some of these other packages are less ‘friendly’ when it comes to even providing a way to create these type of records using code at all.

I’m curious if anyone else has found themselves in a similar situation (I can’t be the only one, right?) and if so – what solutions or advice they have to contribute.

Thanks for reading – I hope this ends up with someone who can help!