It’s Labor Day weekend, summer is over and Dreamforce is a week away. Leading up to Dreamforce, the Winter 16 release notes have been released and with them is the launch of probably the most hyped feature since Chatter was launched – Lightning Experience. Lightning Experience was announced with a slew of viewing parties, private announcements, social media onslaught and overall excitement about the whole new look and feel for salesforce. Normally, look and feel wouldn’t really matter to me. I want functionality. I want automation. The difference with Lightning though is that with the new look and feel actually comes a whole new range of functionality and potential. This isn’t just a new look – it’s an extension of the platform.
Due to the massive change from Lightning, the first part of our Winter 16 write-up is going to be 100% about Lightning Experience and what it brings. From there, we’ll dive into our usual breakdown. Lightning is getting all the early buzz, but this is another big release with some major new features – with over 400 pages in the notes. We’ll be diving into all of the interesting features. Our write-up will look like this:
- Part 1 – Lightning Experience
- Part 2 – Service Cloud
- Part 3 – Collaboration – Chatter, Communities and Work.com
- Part 4 – Sales, Salesforce1 and the General Platform
Before diving into the actual look and functionality of Lightning Experience (LE from here on as I’m already tired of typing that), I just want to discuss how this will get rolled out and most importantly whether you want to roll this out to your users. It is an optional feature and as an admin you’re going to need to make this decision. The good news is, unlike the last UI change that came when Chatter was launched, this is not an all or nothing switch. You can enable this selectively by Profile or Users leveraging Permission Sets. Now why wouldn’t you just roll this out to everyone as soon as it’s ready? Well, that’s where you really need to keep on reading here and in the release notes and learn about some of the considerations with LE. In a nutshell, not all functionality works with it yet, and we’ll call out most of these below. Let’s get at it.
The first thing you’ll notice is that the LE look really takes from the salesforce1 UI and also the Wave UI for reports and dashboards. Due to that, this shouldn’t be overly jarring for your users as in theory they’ve been seeing a UI like this for over a year when using their mobile apps. Second thing you’ll notice is that salesforce didn’t just change the look and feel with LE, they literally have changed the way different functionality works and embedded new features within the experience. Way back in Spring 15 we were wondering why salesforce1 got all of these cool new features that were not in the desktop version of salesforce. Well, this is the answer. They are all part of LE, and salesforce was just trying to finalize this in order to roll them all out. We’ll cover them below. With this change though, salesforce went deep. LE is everywhere. The homepage, app launcher, dashboards, list views, and more – all re-designed. So, when rolling this out, definitely remember this isn’t just a new look. There’s probably some training of the new functionality and re-design you’ll need to do. Let’s get into some specifics (by the way, there are a ton of screenshots in this post for obvious reasons, so just click on the image to see the expanded view of the image):
- Navigation– Say goodbye to the tabs across the top of salesforce, in fact, say goodbye almost to the entire top and left side navigation. The global search is now a simple search bar centered across the top. All of the stuff that used to be in a drop down from your user name are now small icons across the top. The tabs are the largest change, as you’ll see below. Where the left hand bar used to be, there’s now the list of objects in a view that can be collapsed or expanded. Everything is a simple icon with text highlights – but very minimalist and space saving.
- Tab Homepages and List Views– We’re all used to the old homepages for each tab with the set of tools and reports you couldn’t customize at the bottom (and having to explain to every new customer – just ignore those) and the list views and recent items. Well, the tab homepages are essentially gone with LE. Click on the Leads tab now and you’re brought immediately into a List View. These List Views are straight out of the salesforce1 enhancement for tablets including expandable charts, sorting, etc.
- Record Layouts – Big changes here. Record layouts get a major overhaul across the board. Some objects get some special treatment like Opptys, Leads and Activities, but we’ll cover those separately below. This is more for the general objects. In general, LE makes better use of your screen real estate and also leverages sub-tabs throughout the new layouts. Related lists and the record details themselves can be toggled from the primary section, and then activity / collaborate are toggled with sub-tabs on the smaller right hand section. Across the top is a highlights bar – similar to the Service Console bar – that shows key fields (not sure if this is editable). The related lists are organized in a different style, where now instead of the true “list” look and feel, it’s more of a tiled approach, with 3 records across in a row (see below). With all of these changes it definitely feels like you can see more about a record in one place and scrolling with be cut down. It’d be nice if it remembered that you always like Details / Collaboration as your tabs when you open, but maybe that’s coming (possible it’s there now, and I just haven’t been able to find it). Finally, edit mode is also a lot different in that it is a pop-up light box that appears when you click Edit or New.
- Homepage – A slick new homepage starts off your Lightning Experience. The new homepage is definitely aimed at a sales audience and is intended to help highlight information. A new Assistant panel automatically shows specific items like Opportunities with no activity in 30 days or overdue tasks. The dashboard shows some solid information about performance and the Account Insights shows news about their accounts. Unfortunately, it doesn’t appear this is really customizable yet. Once it is, this will be great to be able to modify the Assistant rules and dashboard element.
- Email – Inline email within all records! Inline emails has been a featured reserved just to Case Feed, but looks like now it’s salesforce wide with LE. This leads you compose your email without leaving the context of the record you are on – Oppty, Lead, Case, Contact, etc. – so you can see the record you’re trying to email about. Also, includes a huge beef-up of the email functionality including a rich text editor (with even color options), Outlook style Contact/Users lookups for sending and the ability to preview your email before you send. If your users email a lot, they will love this.
- Leads & Opptys– A lot of the deeper functionality in LE is aimed at the Sales Cloud and Leads & Opportunities get updates of their own. The biggest change is the Sales Path functionality that came out in Spring 15 is now embedded into the page layouts. You can see below, but Leads & Opptys now have more of a guided flow centered around the Stage for Opptys and the Status for Leads. You can customize these page layouts to have different fields for each Status / Stage and essentially guide the user through the Sales process on these records. This is what has been available in salesforce1 since Spring 15, but it’s now core to the Lightning Experience.
- Reports & Dashboards – Big – really big – changes to Reports & Dashboards with LE. With reports, this is strictly display changes as the Report Builder remains the same. As you can see from some of the screenshots below, each of the report types all have a new look and feel. The matrix and summary reports all have much slicker builds and the data is presented in a much crisper fashion. Right from the report you can toggle the chart on or off, which is very nice. One negative to note is the Export to Excel is gone. Supposed to be coming back, just not sure if that’s this release or later. For Dashboards, we get a new builder and new view to Dashboards. This leans heavily on the Wave UI and components. You can see all of the components are much more modern looking and have the dynamic feel that Wave has. The components are animated and interactive just like Wave as well. For the builder, you can now expand components to across multiple columns or rows and you have more flexibility in laying out the components as needed. It’s still only 3 columns across, but I can very easily see how that can be expanded soon with this back-end. One word of warning is, once a dashboard has been edited and saved with LE, it can no longer be viewed with the Classic look. Something to be really careful of if you have users leveraging both UIs.
- Notes – The new rich Notes has been available for a few releases, but Notes is now a dedicated object within the LE navigation. Simply put, this is like having Evernote built right into salesforce. You can optionally link the note to records, or simply use this to keep track of notes to yourself. Powerful feature and looks great in the new LE.
- Calendar– Full Calendaring functionality is included with LE. Nothing really earth-shattering here, but it’s nice to have a full-blown calendar. Obviously this supports the Outlook/Exchange syncs and any Events you add to salesforce.
- App Launcher – Nice little change here. No more drop down list, instead you have a page that looks like your apps do on your phone or ipad.
Alright, so obviously there is a ton here. Why wouldn’t you switch right away for all your users? Well, there’s unfortunately also a bit of a list of features not supported by LE that might make this unusable or break important functionality. I highly recommend reading the release notes for more details on this, but here are some of the highlights around what is not supported yet. If you’re using any of these, you need to plan your roll-out carefully or hold off entirely.
- Some Standard Objects – There is a list of objects that are supported by LE – including all custom objects – but some standard ones are not supported. Not supported means literally not even appearing even if you have it on the layout. The big three that jump out at me are Campaigns, Assets and Orders. Campaigns eliminates this for Marketing users. Assets really hurts your Service team.
- Inline Editing – No inline editing with LE. On records or list views. A lot of users use this heavily and it’s a popular feature. This could be one of the larger complaints from your users if they lose this.
- List Views – They look slicker, but we’ve lost some functionality. As we mentioned above, inline editing is not supported. Being able to follow records with Chatter is also gone. Any custom buttons or mass actions also do not appear. Finally, being able to add advanced filter logic onto a list view is not supported either. These feel like sneaky features that your users will miss if you’re not careful.
- Chatter Limitations – Looks like the Link and Thanks type of posts are not supported. Editing Chatter which just came out is not supported. Topics is not supported. Chatter Questions is not supported.
- Person Accounts – Person Accounts isn’t supported. Not a lot of people using this, but those that do, it’s usually critical.
- Record History – History of field changes for records won’t appear in LE.
- Service Limits – If you’re a heavy Service Cloud users, you’re going to need to wait for LE. Knowledge, Entitlements, Milestones, Macros, all are not supported.
- Account Hierarchy – Not supported
- Record Merging – Lead, Contact, or Account Merge isn’t support with LE.
- Revenue Schedules – Not supported
- Mass Email – Not supported
- Forecasting – Not supported
- Unable to Open Sections to New Tabs – I can tell you one of the things most of the power users are going to struggle with is the inability to open sections into a new window or tab. Records you still can, but navigational items like Setup or Object icons, are just images and can’t be right-clicked to a new tab.
- Schedule Reports & Dashboards – Not supported in LE, but still works if you schedule them in Classic.
- Visualforce – If you’ve built out visualforce components, you’re going to want to be extra careful. Essentially, the VF page will be wrapped into an iframe. If this is a VF section within a record layout, this is going to look pretty rough. A stand-alone VF page while not looking great, is still ok as it’s just sitting within Lightning. At this point developers are being told to not try to convert their pages to Lightning just yet as new tools will be coming.
Please note, this is not an exhaustive list all of the limitations, just the ones that jump out at me. If you’re an admin considering LE, you must read this section of the release notes, and you must test this first. None of the above are massive features, but a lot of these are popular features that you could accidentally shut off by flipping your users to LE. I highly recommend planning out your roll-out of this, and be cautious. Don’t make this a bad experience by accidentally ripping functionality from your users. If you aren’t sure, ask them, or just wait until the next release.
Overall, Lightning Experience is certainly exciting, and it’s going to be huge and I can’t wait to be able to start extending it. However, there is a long list of things not supported by it – and one of the reasons I love salesforce is that they are not shy about this – so be careful. This might be something you tease your users with and wait a release for. That said, if you aren’t using the above or if you have groups of users not using the unsupported items, then test it out and roll it out. Also, keep in mind, users will have the ability to toggle back and forth between Lightning Experience and Classic. Power users in your team probably won’t mind this, but day to day users will. Might be something to keep in mind to roll this out to specific savvy users and get solid real feedback on it.
Again, this is just one part of the Winter 16 release. But man, it’s a doozy. We’ll cover all of the other new features in the next three posts, starting with the new Service Cloud changes.