5 Communities Features You Need to Know in the Salesforce Winter ’17 Release

Written by | Sep 28, 2016

If you live in the Salesforce world, you’re probably focused on one thing right now: Dreamforce. Whether you’re building out solutions to demonstrate, prepping a booth for the expo, or planning out your agenda, you are looking forward to October 4th – 7th in San Francisco. It’s easy to get caught up in the conference hype and forget a very important milestone coming up: the Salesforce Winter ’17 release. It’s scheduled to hit most production orgs in the week following the mega-conference and it will be no exception to the triannual trend of Salesforce customers seeing numerous valuable enhancements hit the platform.

Like I’ve done for years, I have reviewed the upcoming Community Cloud enhancements and boiled them down to a short list that can’t be ignored if you have any interest in Salesforce Communities.

Here’s a quick breakdown of the 5 Community Cloud features in the Winter ’17 release that I consider critical:

  1. Template Packaging and Distribution: Build Once, Then Reuse
  2. Control Public Access for Each Page in Your Community
  3. The Customer Service (Napili) Template Supports Even More Objects | Expand Your Community to Include Field Service Data
  4. Expose Content from External Data Sources in Your Template-Driven Community
  5. Edit Inline and Add Videos More Easily with the Enriched Rich Content Editor

Template Packaging and Distribution: Build Once, Then Reuse [link]


Salesforce’s Take
: Customize and export Customer Service (Napili) templates or pages and use them to jump-start new communities, or package and distribute them for others to use. Save time by building once, then reusing. Whether it’s for your own org or you’re a consulting partner or ISV, you can reduce the time required to build communities and cut development costs. And lower costs make everyone happy.

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My Take: There’s bound to be some confusion with the messaging of Template Packaging and Distribution, so let me address that first. When you hear “Lightning Bolt” at Dreamforce this year, you’re hearing about this major product development.

Until now, we’ve been limited to a small set of templates within Community Cloud, all of which have been graciously provided by Salesforce. However, I say “limited” for a reason – the existing templates cover a few, albeit core, use cases, but leave a large number of use cases untouched.

With Winter ’17, that paradigm changes for the better. ISVs or SIs can now customize/configure/lay out a “base” community and then distribute it for use by customers and other organizations. Still confused? I’ll share the content from an email I recently send to my Salesforce MVP crew explaining this:

First, understand that Lightning Bolt = Lightning Community Template. We’ll go with the Lego analogy for Lightning Components.

  • Lightning Components = Lego blocks
  • Lightning Themes = The Lego brand/version (e.g., Star Wars legos)
  • Lightning Pages = A Lego canvas or area with different Lego blocks to create something useful

Instead of packaging up just the Lego blocks (that’s what we have today), you can now package up all of the above together. For the end user / company using Lightning Bolt, it means that instead of installing a package with a set of Legos that you have to now put together and configure, you have a pre-configured, pre-built Lego set. You can take it from there and further modify it, but it’s a huge head start and a much better customer experience.

 

Does that help? Take a look at some of the offerings from CloudCraze and other partners that are coming out soon:

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Control Public Access for Each Page in Your Community [link]

Salesforce’s Take: Set page-specific access to your community pages. Then you can restrict or open up access as you see fit.

My Take: Sure, it’s not sexy, but you need to know about this. Until now, access level (public vs private) has been difficult to manage and even more difficult to assess without actually trying to navigate to a particular page. This change makes it simple to have a very clear understanding of who can access each and every page in your community. Check out these enlightening visuals from Salesforce explaining how the access logic works:

rn_networks_standard_page_logic copy   rn_networks_object_page_logic

The Customer Service (Napili) Template Supports Even More Objects [link]

Salesforce’s Take: Want to share sales reports and dashboards with partners? No problem! Always wanted to use emails in a community context? We have that covered too. We added support for a bunch of new objects.

  • Activity History
  • Dashboard
  • Email Message
  • External Objects
  • Product
  • Report
  • Service Appointment
  • Shared Contact
  • Work Order
  • Work Order Line Item

My Take: This object expansion is a fairly standard enhancement for Community Cloud these days. Not all standard objects are supported, but the product management team is working to allow more and more objects to be used out-of-the-box. What’s most interesting here (to me, at least) are Products and Work Orders. Both have obvious applications in both customer and partner communities. External Objects are a big deal, too – see the next item below.

Expose Content from External Data Sources in Your Template-Driven Community [link]

Salesforce’s Take: Picture all your data and content, independent from where they’re stored, around a campfire, holding hands and singing Kumbaya! Yes folks, you can now access external data and content that are stored outside your Salesforce org from your Customer Service (Napili) template community.

For example, you can let your community users access:

  • Data that’s stored in another Salesforce org, SAP® NetWeaver Gateway, or IBM WebSphere® that your org accesses via Salesforce Connect
  • Content that’s stored in Google Drive or SharePoint that your org accesses via Files Connect

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My Take: We have been watching Community evolve into a true enterprise-level framework over the past year and this is a clear example of that evolution. Dropping a Chatter feed onto a page that can be accessed by authenticated users is one thing. Exposing data, potentially on a public site, from a third-party system using external objects is pretty special.

You’ll want to watch this space closely over the next few releases.

Edit Inline and Add Videos More Easily with the Enriched Rich Content Editor [link]

Salesforce’s Take: Use the renamed Rich Content Editor component (previously Rich Text) to add and edit content inline and immediately see how your content looks on the page. And with the new video tool, it’s easier than ever to bring your community to life. Instead of adding embedded code, you simply add a link to YouTube or Vimeo and see a preview instantly.

rn_rich_content_rename

My Take: Yes! Quickly producing and exposing rich content within a community has been a challenge for Community Cloud since its inception. If you wanted a new page or new content, you had to snag a technical resource to whip up a Visualforce page or, more recently, create a lightning component.

Forget about that dependency, at least in some cases. Now, your community admin or manager can create content that includes videos, images, and CSS — that’s powerful stuff.

Enjoy the Winter ’17 release and follow me on Twitter for other Salesforce info. Hope to see you at #DF16!

Salesforce MVP | Author of Practical ..read more