It’s that time of year again, pumpkin spice starts to invade your food and drinks and Salesforce begins their Winter release process. Even though it’s still early and many new features are in preview or beta, I’m really excited about seeing these live in Lightning Communities!
There’s quite a bit of new features coming to Communities this release, so here’s an overview of my top 5 areas:
Partner Relationship Management
Salesforce is really putting a strong effort into partner-focused communities, which is great to see. The Winter ’18 release is bringing a few really cool new features, including the ability to group partners into channel programs and create levels within each program, providing motivation for your partners, and providing you with the ability to control access to resources through sharing groups. You can now also provide further incentives to your partners through Market Development Funds. Channel Account Managers can set up budgets, allocate funds, manage fund requests and process claims on top of all the great reporting options.
If you’re setting up a partner community for the first time, you may not be familiar with the objects and processes required. Salesforce has brilliantly included the Guided Setup in the Community Workspaces that walks you through, from start to finish, setting up Lead Registration, Lead Distribution, and the new feature, MDF, making it foolproof!
File & Library Enhancements
External Files in Communities, Libraries in Communities, Partner-created content deliveries, File privacy
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While seemingly mundane (libraries sometimes are, amirite?) the enhancements of file and resource handling this release are really great for partners and customers. To harken back to the iPhone slogan of 2009, “there’s an app for that”, these new file features have me saying “there’s a component for that”! Have files in Quip, Google, SharePoint, Box, or OneDrive? There’s a component for that. Want to show your Salesforce Content libraries in your community? There’s a component for that. Want to preview files from your libraries? There’s a component for that. Want to use the Lightning file upload feature in your design? Guess what…there’s a component for that!
In addition to all the abilities to render resources in your community, there are new features that help you and your users control access to those assets. Files uploaded in the community can now have their visibility controlled by the file owner, and partners can create content deliveries or public links to send to their leads or customers.
Customer Service (Napili) Template Enhancements
Being an aesthetic person at heart, I’m quite fond of the UI and UX enhancements in the Workspaces and Community Builder in this release. Custom fonts can now be added to the Branding Editor so your brand can maintain even more consistency, there’s less unnecessary padding around components that are placed on the page for a tighter, more professional look, and there are even new color options in the Branding Editor to further control your brand in the community. Smaller enhancements include being able to edit/delete a component from a page layout from the Page Structure panel, and the ability to refresh the page you’re on in the builder, as opposed to refreshing your entire browser to see changes (!!).
Community Management and Design
I’m REALLY excited about being able to utilize text and picklist fields on the User object to create audiences for page variations allowing for even greater granular control of what your users see. Then there are Branding Sets that allow you to set up color schemes, fonts and logos for different audiences that you can then prioritize.
As a blend of UI Designer and front-end web developer, I’m absolutely in love with the Build Your Own template. This provides developers and UI designers a basic structure of a template to work with. You still have access to all the standard components and basic pages (Home, login-related pages, Create Record, Error, Record List, Record Detail, etc.) but no longer do we have to spend hours overriding template CSS! This template, partnered with all the great Napili enhancements mentioned above are going to make templates that much more powerful in their customizability.
If you’re a frequenter of places like Reddit and Stack Exchange, you know the value of an upvote to help you find the best response or answer to your question. Often times letting your users crowdsource the right answer can be a valuable option in a busy community. Chatter Questions in communities now offers the ability to replace the Like with an Up or Down vote option for posts and answers. This allows moderators a bit more time to do their job without feeling rushed; users can answer others’ questions and moderators can even mark answers as “Company Verified” if it truly reflects how the company would respond.
There’s also some really great enhancements in the feed areas: users can now create their own “mega feeds” – self-curated combinations of feeds from discussions, groups, topics, profiles and objects – to view activity in one place instead of hopping around to different places to catch up on what’s new. Other new features include “pinning” of important posts from an admin or a user, emoji support, adding topics via hashtags and more options for the Ask Button.
Next steps you ask? I recommend setting up your sandbox to view all the Winter ’18 features and review how they’ll affect your existing community and processes, or if you want to include new enhancements for your users. It’s always best practice to test the new release’s features well before it comes out for production instances so you can fix things beforehand.