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Community’s Ambitious Summer ’17 Release Highlights

On my way to New York for a launch event for a 6,800 person employee community that we just rolled out, I opened up the release notes for the Summer ’17 release to check out what’s coming for Communities in the next release. I was looking for a specific feature that Salesforce product management had said was coming, and it took me forever to find it, because there are so many new things for Communities this release and many of them are pretty large in scale! It’s a very ambitious and exciting release frankly. I figured I’d summarize the top items that I’m most excited about this release from a core platform perspective, so if you don’t have a lot of time to read the release notes yourself, you’ll be aware of the most critical updates that have the most far reaching impacts.

  1. Automatic Topic Assignment for Articles – this is by far the most important feature in the release in my opinion. Why? Every customer using Lightning Communities with articles needs this feature as the Community Builder templates use topics to group articles, not data categories. Up until now, knowledge authors would set the data categories on an article and a community moderator would manually need to go into Community Workspaces to assign topics to that article based upon the data categories selected by the author so that it would show up everywhere expected in the community. Every customer we worked with on a customer or employee community who used knowledge wanted this feature automated, so that the topic assignment would be instantaneous when the article was published, avoiding a time delay in assigning topics and a manual process that could be error prone. I’m really excited to see this feature get released and to see the flexibility built into it.
  2. Upgrade Community Licenses – We’ve been wishing for this feature for years, since the days of Salesforce Portals, and we’re thrilled to see it come. Let me explain this one, because it’s not obvious to most at first. Basically, if you created a user in a high-volume license (e.g. Customer Community license), you couldn’t ever upgrade that user into a role-based license (e.g. Customer Community Plus or Partner Community license). Rather, you had to deactivate that user and then insert a new user from scratch, then migrate all of their records they owned to the new user. Chatter posts couldn’t be migrated, so users would lose credit for things they’d posted in the past. Now, you just have to update your users profile; no new user or data migration required. It’s worth calling out that you can’t go backwards (from a role-based license to a high-volume license), but that is not a common use case so I don’t think it will impact many companies.
  3. Integrate Custom Apps into the Chatter Publisher – This is another pilot feature and it is definitely the most revolutionary of the features I’m highlighting this release.  This feature allows app developers to build a feature that mimics the way you might attach a file to a Chatter post. I’ve worked with a lot of 3rd party apps that today have had to build a custom component to enable users to post something from that app into Chatter, which isn’t very seamless and takes users out of the context of where they are posting. This feature allows you to stay in-context and to really take Chatter to the next level. There are really endless possibilities to what you could do here. I know that ViewTrac, a video solution, are planning to take advantage of this to enable users to embed videos in Chatter, a common request in many different kinds of Communities. I could also see this feature being used to gamify the community and enable custom badges to be created / assigned.

There are a lot of other very exciting features in the release, like a Partner Community template (which really deserves a blog in and of itself since it’s such a big feature), and some of them may excite you even more than my above selections. You should definitely check out the release notes when you have a moment, because this is just scratching the surface of all of the features that are headed your way in June!

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