Struck by Lightning

So then, the cat is out of the bag. In truth, the bag had looked distinctly feline-shaped for a while now, and in the last few days it had begun to make purring sounds. But now it’s completely, publicly, globally, officially out of the bag.

And how. Salesforce promised us a big announcement, and they delivered. The broadcast, including a lively pre-show and a keynote involving a number of big hitters from HQ, has just finished. Here’s our rapid reaction to the news, along with some pointers about where to get more insight.

What Is It?

It is… Lightning Experience! Yeah, but what is it? Well, it’s a completely new UI for the desktop version of Salesforce!

The previous UI, known internally as Aloha and now re-positioned as Salesforce Classic, has been around for a while and in some quarters was starting to be seen as a little outdated. Well, Salesforce themselves agreed with that. In fact, one thing that didn’t make it into the live broadcast but was in an earlier preview was a Mean Tweets video where Salesforce execs read out some ‘constructive’ feedback of the old UI.

So for the last two years, Lightning Experience has been in development – a modern user interface aimed at making Salesforce users more productive, and with a focus on ‘what you can do instead of what you can view’.

And how is that productivity driven? Through optimised pages which are simple and attractive, yet rich in content, and through a host of new features thrown in.

Here’s our first look:

Family of Lightning

And now let’s dive in a little deeper.

Full credit where it’s due: much of my understanding of the new UI (and therefore much of the below content) was gained from some truly excellent new Trailhead modules. If you take only one thing away from reading this post: go through them all.

What’s In?

Let’s start at the start: we have a new vertical navigation bar, and a brand new home page, with a sales performance chart (the first release of Lightning is targeted primarily at Sales Cloud users) and an Account Insight section to give reps insight on the latest news regarding their accounts. My favourite feature is the Assistant, a widget which displays things you really need to action today: like due and overdue tasks and new leads, but also surfacing less visible things like open opportunities that have been neglected.

One of the most noticeable changes for your users is that record page layouts have been drastically updated, with the new look including a highlights panel showing you the key record information at a glance. But not all object layouts are created equally. There is now a split between ‘workspace’ objects, like Opportunities and Leads – the records you’re working through a process on – and ‘reference’ objects, like Accounts and Contacts that maybe don’t change quite so often. The former have detail page layouts focused on activities, so you get an instant view of what happened most recently and what your next steps are. These pages also contain Sales Path (yes, now on Leads too!), a graphical tool for guiding and coaching users through a series of steps in your sales or lead process. Oh and once the Lightning App Builder graduates from its pilot, you’ll be able to use this to customise record pages and the home page, including adding Lightning components and moving sections/feeds around.

Opportunity Workspace

The focus on Sales Cloud users is also evident in the new Opportunity Board, a kanban board for displaying visually the stages of deals in your pipeline. The visualisation is cool, but the ability to drag and drop records to update their stages and the intelligent alerting of required actions is even better.

Reporting has been bolstered by the addition of new Wave-style graphics, and the new dashboard engine retires the most popular idea on the IdeaExchange with the ability to create dashboards with more than three (up to nine!) columns. List views also get the Lightning treatment – they can now include charts!

Sales Dashboard

What’s Out (For Now)?

So if that’s what’s in, then in the interests of balance we should run through what we don’t yet have. This is release one, remember, so not everything has made the journey yet.

Well, some things simply don’t work in the new interface yet. Those things include quotes, collaborative forecasting, the console, account and opportunity teams, opportunity splits, report scheduling, joined reports, territory management, and campaigns, among others. Not an inconsiderable list, then. But these features do still work, of course, it’s just you’ll need to switch back to the classic UI (more on which later) to work with them. (The exception is Person Accounts: having this enabled precludes you from enabling Lightning at all.)

It’s also worth pointing out that in this first release, the home page components are not customisable, and nor is the vertical navigation menu – so custom object home pages are a couple of extra clicks away via the App Launcher in the top right.

What’s Out (Maybe Forever)?

OK, so some things haven’t made the journey quite yet. But is there anything we’re in danger of losing for good? It looks that way.

Any custom buttons calling either a URL or JavaScript are not supported in Lightning. So all of those URL hacks that, to be fair, were never officially supported but were nevertheless the backbone of a number of solutions will have to be discarded.

Some of what these buttons do could be replicated with quick actions or the new automation capabilities of Process Builder – but for many that word ‘some’ just won’t cut it.

How Do I (And When Should I) Enable It?

The how is easy, and we’ll come to that in a moment. The when is trickier because there are a large number of factors you’ll want to consider, especially in light of the as-yet-unsupported features above. So although the temptation has to be to enable the new UI as soon as you can (Shiny! Shiny!), you should exercise caution and give due consideration to the feature comparisons and impact assessment tips listed here.

That said, enabling Lightning is not all or nothing. Or at least not in Enterprise Edition and above, where you can assign the Lightning Experience User permission either by profile or by permission set. And even for the users that do have this permission, there is the option of switching in and out of Classic at any time using the switcher in the top right of the app.

And of course your production org is not the only place you can experiment with Lightning. Enable it for yourself in your sandbox, or even spin up a developer org to dip your toe in the water.

When you’re ready to enable the new experience, there is a single-page wizard in the Setup menu. It will prompt you to enable some optional but recommended features first (things like shared activities and social accounts, contacts and leads) and then you’re ready to flick the switch and enter the future of CRM!

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