I spent Christmas Eve pouring over the new Spring 15 release notes thoroughly enjoying my first Christmas present of the season. Does that make me a little odd? Possibly, but why else would salesforce release these on Christmas Eve unless they knew there were a large group of people like me? (no need to answer that one, I’m going to stick with that as my excuse) Spring 15 is loaded with a lot of features that were announced at Dreamforce, so a bunch of these were not surprises, but still nice to see going to general release. As usual, there’s a lot to cover – the release notes came in at 256 pages this time.
For the Winter 15 write-up, we broke down and did the feature write-up in three posts and feels like we’ll need to do the same here. The posts will be broken out as follows:
- Part 1 – Sales, Salesforce1 and the general platform
- Part 2 – Service Cloud
- Part 3 – Collaboration – Chatter, Communities and Work.com
Obviously, there can be some overlap between these topics, but I’ll do my best to reference this where applicable. Before we really start, I hope all of you had a terrific Holiday Season and have a Happy New Year. I’m personally looking forward to a lot of great things in 2015, and hope you have a terrific year as well. Alright, with that said, let’s have at it. As always, in no particular order here are some of what we think are the most interesting new features:
- Notes Update – I’ve been working with salesforce for over 12 years now and I’m pretty sure the Notes functionality has not changed since I started using salesforce. If it did, it was pretty minimal and I can’t remember what it was. With Spring 15, that all changes and Notes get a hefty revamp. This is pretty big as Notes is such a core piece of CRM functionality and it was awkward how everything in SFDC was so advanced – and then you had Notes. With the new update, salesforce looks like they are taking a page from Evernote. When you create a new note, it automatically suggests the title based on the date you are entering it. The note field itself is a semi-rich text field (not sure why they didn’t go full rich text here) that allows you to add in bullet or number list items which is pretty handy. In addition, the users can pick who to share the Notes with. Supposedly you can relate Notes to multiple records as part of this update, but I couldn’t figure out how to do this from the pre-release org. Another nice touch is that you can create a task directly from a Note if needed. The new Note object is actually reportable and searchable as well (from searching it’s possible to search just in notes) Finally, what is probably a bit of a hidden bonus is, users can follow a Note – via Chatter. This is particularly handy for those users that like to keep a running Note vs. creating a new Note each time. Overall, a nice addition. A few warnings from the release notes. First, this is a pilot, so it sounds like you’ll need to apply to get this turned on. Second, this does not work in Partner or Customer Communities. Finally, once you turn it on, all new Notes are generated using this. Not sure why you’d want to use the old format after, but it’s an all or nothing if you did.
- Assets Revamp – We get our first hooray! of the release with the long long long overdue revamp of Assets! This is one that personally drove me nuts. We are big fans of Assets as a concept and we use them at a lot of our clients. For anyone that has used Assets, some of the limitations on the object were maddening, and would force you to use a custom object in places. That all changes with Spring 15. Assets, welcome to the force.com platform. Now, just like nearly every other object in salesforce, Assets now can have a Tab, Record Types, Sharing Rules, an Owner and even Field History tracking. Woo hoo!
- Duplication Management – Duplication Management leveraging Data.com was out in Beta for the Winter 15 release, and is now generally available with Spring. We covered the beta pretty thoroughly in Winter 15 so I won’t rehash that here. However, unlike a lot of betas, there were actually a ton of improvements added from the beta to the general release. First off you can do Cross Object matching. The obvious use case here is you can check for duplicates across both Leads and Contacts when trying to insert a new Lead. Really nice feature. Another new feature is the ability to manage duplication rules for custom objects. Especially handy if you have a Sites/Addresses custom object to allow for many addresses on an Account, but I can even see some use cases across other objects that have a key that you don’t want duplicated. A few other quick changes include the ability to use Picklist fields in the matching rules now, the ability to map custom fields to standard fields in a rule (so Cell Phone to the standard Phone for example), and finally a bunch of APIs have been added that you can call these rules with custom code. Very handy. This is now a must have feature in almost all orgs.
- Process Builder – Process Builder was one of the Lightning announcements from Dreamforce and has been a feature that salesforce has been teasing admins with for a while now. It came out in Beta during the Winter 15 release and is generally available for Spring 15. The easiest way to think of Process Builder is it’s a visual way to build out workflow – with a ton of improvements over workflow. It’s not quite as powerful as Flow, (it’s not meant to be a visual front end, but is really the back-end engine to create workflow) but the interface to design the Processes is very similar. If you’re like us, you probably spent a lot of time digging into the Beta and came out with mixed feelings about this. With Spring a lot of the issues have been corrected so we’ll need to spend some more time on it. I’ll cover the highlights of Process Builder here, but this feature is big enough it probably needs its own blog post (Update: Here’s our Overview of Process Builder post).
First among the big features of Process Builder is how it extends workflows capabilities. As everyone knows, with workflow you can do email alerts, tasks or field updates. With Process Builder you can do those and then also create new records (and define the fields within the record), create a Chatter post, or submit a record for approvals. These were items that previously you’d need Apex for, but you can now do with config using Process Builder. Second, is the ability to really consolidate workflows. Basically, with Process Builder, you can build a Visio like flow to map out different scenarios. With workflow, if you needed to update a field with X if the criteria equals A or update it with Y if the criteria equals B, you would need two different workflows. With Process Builder, you can do that with one process. The pro here is you can collapse multiple workflows that were really for if/then statements and keep under your 50 workflow limits. The negative is, that it’s not super fast to map these out. If you get past 6 or 7 scenarios it starts to become a bit unwieldy (this is where you’d need a rules engine type approach – like BREeze). There are several other enhancements over workflow, like being able to populate Lookup fields, being able to kick off a Flow, being able to fire an Apex trigger, etc. that also add to the functionality.
Overall, this is a super powerful enhancement. It’s also a lot more sophisticated than normal workflow and will take a lot of practice and getting used to. So, a couple word of cautions on this one before you start firing out processes. First, be sure to really practice in your sandbox before trying this out in Production. Second, especially if you are trying to replace workflow with a process, make sure you deactivate your workflows. This firing along with workflows for the same updates will get messy very quickly. If you’re an admin that gets jazzed up by cool new changes, this is certainly an enhancement for you. Will be interesting to see how this advances in the next couple of releases as well. A ton of potential here with this platform.
- Sales Path – I didn’t get a chance to catch the Sales roadmap sessions at Dreamforce as I was mostly focused on Service Cloud items, so I’m not sure if this was shown then, but this one was a pleasant surprise. The concept of Sales Path is a great one and one we’ve built custom several times for customers. Basically, at each stage of an Opportunity, simply show the Sales person exactly what fields are needed for an Opportunity on that stage AND what guidance or tools might have them move a deal forward from that stage. As you can see in the images below, for each stage, you can map the fields and then you have a nice rich text box where you can add information or links to things like Sales Tools or other content – inside or outside of SFDC. Really this is a nice guided approach to help Sales push their Opportunity to the next stages. With Sales Path, you can create one path per Record Type, so pretty flexible there. The only drawback – and unfortunately it’s a big one – it appears this only works in Salesforce1. I understand mobile is the way of the future, but at the same time, laptops are still here and this is a GREAT feature, that unfortunately we can’t take advantage of across all platforms. I don’t get that. It’s possible I’m missing something, but the directions specifically call out salesforce1 layouts and I don’t see anyway in the pre-release org to make this appear. Hopefully I’m wrong, and I’ll update immediately if I am.
- Exchange Sync – A really interesting new feature that provides an additional option for Contact and Event syncing. Essentially, instead of each user having to install an app to their desktop and then sync individually, this will allow an org to sync directly with the Contacts and Events on the Exchange Server. For Events, this is a no-brainer because if you have Exchange, all of your calendar items are already on the server. Might as well sync directly there. On the Contact side, this is still a little fuzzy, as most of the time, your Contacts will be stored locally with your users. If there was a way to easily get your users to be able to sync their local Contacts with Exchange, and then to salesforce, this becomes really powerful. Outlook sync has always been a hassle simply due to the fact it’s something you need to install on a user’s computer. This means you need to keep up with the latest Office/Outlook versions (which is impossible) and that other installed apps to Outlook can potentially (more like usually) cause conflicts. As a salesforce admin this is brutal to troubleshoot. Let’s admit it, we’re cloud people. Trying to figure out someone’s Windows Registry to fix an Outlook sync is like sticking forks into our eyes. It’s the last thing we ever want to do. Being able to bypass all of that and do it centrally from Exchange makes a ton of sense. I need to think about how to get Contacts to the central Exchange side some more though. In addition to this being a big win for removing the desktop install, this also syncs every few minutes so it’s much faster than the desktop one and, it’ll even sync when your user is offline. Potential killer feature here. For Spring, this is a beta, but it’s available to try.
- Salesforce for Outlook – Some small additions to Salesforce for Outlook. First, you can now sync recurring Tasks. A nice little fix. Second, Emails can now be assigned to multiple records at a time – which can be handy, but I don’t see it being used outside a few power users. (who will love it) Finally, the search on the sidebar has been improved because it will now look at all email addresses on a record, not just the standard Email field.
- Orders get Sharing Rules – A much needed improvement for the newish Orders object. Previously Orders inherited the sharing rules from the Account they were linked to. Frankly this prevented us from using this object almost entirely and kept us using custom objects for Orders. Nice to see this fixed.
- Salesforce1 – There’s a note in the release notes that SFDC is still working on the new enhancements for Salesforce1, so all of the mobile specific enhancements are not included yet. Not sure if that means Salesforce1 is moving to a different release schedule (which makes sense, since it’s an app and doesn’t need to be tied to the 3 release cycle for the platform) or if they will be added to the release notes shortly. I’ll update this if they are added soon.
UPDATE 1/18/2015: The new salesforce1 features are now in the release notes, and there are a ton of them. Enough that we did a bonus post just for salesforce1!
- Maps – I’m not seeing this in the pre-release org, but looks like this is turned on by default with Spring 15. Basically, with all standard address fields, a Google Map now appears below the address. (see below) It’s a static map, but if you click into it a new window opens with a Google Map. In addition to this the Geolocation fields have been updated quite a bit. They are now available in Visual Workflow and formula based criteria for workflow & approvals. (still can’t be used in the filter though) They are now searchable in SOQL and SOSL and also queryable in Apex. Finally Distance formulas are now supported in Entry criteria for workflow & approvals, field update actions and validation rules. If you’re using geolocation features, this is a nice expansion in the functionality. One quick note on this. Salesforce sent out the option to opt-out of this feature. Essentially to build the map they need to send the address information out of salesforce. If this is a concern, you’ll want to do this.
- Inactive Users – Huge admin headache is now gone. You can now edit or even create records that are owned by Inactive Users without having to re-activate the user to do that. This also deserves a hooray!
- Managing Public Groups – Access to manage Public Groups is now able to be given to users leverage Delegated Administration. A nice little admin update.
- Wave – Finally, we have Wave which was the super big announcement at Dreamforce. For those of you that don’t know, Wave is the Analytics Cloud and provides much more robust reporting and dashboard capabilities – similar to what tools like GoodData and InsightSquared provided for salesforce previously. This looks like a really powerful product. However, it takes additional licenses to activate it. So, even though it’s now general release with Spring 15, you will need to purchase it to get hold of it. Due to that, I’m not going to cover it here, but after we spend some more time playing with it, we’ll write up a post just around Wave. It’s big enough to warrant its own post.
Well, that’s it for Part 1. Some pretty big changes here and some exciting stuff – and that’s not even counting whatever coming for Salesforce1. Part 2 will be next and will cover Service Cloud.