Peter Bender
Solution Architect and Lead Consultant

The Salesforce release notes can be a lot to take in, but never fear. Long-time nonprofit solution architect Peter Bender has reviewed the latest features for the Salesforce Spring ‘17 release, with an eye towards what will be most useful to our nonprofit clients.

Are you ready for Spring ‘17? The final instances get upgraded this weekend. As we’ve noted in the last two releases, feature enhancements are now primarily for the Lightning Experience UI. However, there are several standout updates that apply to Classic, which I’ve called out below. See our recommendations for Lightning at the end of this post.

In many cases you won’t need to do anything special to activate the features. Read feature links for details on the requirements.

General Updates (Impacting Classic)

Email integration, Community updates and a change to the Notes editor are our favorite changes that apply to Classic.

Email Integration Enhancements for Outlook: You already use your email all the time. Salesforce has added to their Outlook integration, letting you drill down into and edit content records directly from Outlook, view related lists, and even design custom components for your email panes. You can also view Microsoft Exchange calendar attendees directly from Salesforce.

List Views for Communities: The lack of this functionality had been a real issue for some of the nonprofits we serve. We would need to build a custom page to show a unique list of classes, students, or other program data directly into a Community. Community members can now create their own list views, or if they need assistance with the configuration, we can help much faster and with fewer resources.

Updated Notes Editor: The Salesforce Notes editor now uses the document editor Quill. Quill is an open-source editor that is customizable and extensible, just like the Salesforce platform. You may not see any big changes in the short term, but this leaves the Notes editor room to grow.

Google Integration (Beta): Salesforce is bringing together your contact records and your Gmail so you can work on them side by side without leaving email. Sync your contacts between Google and Salesforce bi-directionally over time. You can also sync your Google Calendar attendees.

Lightning Features

When you’re ready to make the switch to Lightning, numerous features offer greater efficiency, customization, and higher level views.

Favorites: Similar to bookmarking, save all your favorite and frequently used pages (up to 200) in a special tab in Lightning. These are unique to your individual user. Mark frequent lists, records, reports, and other pages.

Paths for Custom Objects: Once available just for opportunities, now you can see a bar of the visual “path” or how the status of any given custom object has changed over time, and the highlighted stage. This could allow you to visually view the status of an application or another important process.

Kanban View: You can now easily organize all of your records, not just opportunities, for quick viewing based on status or other picklist values with “Kanban” views. You’ll be able to modify records to update their statuses or other values by dragging them into other columns. This could be very useful if you are tracking and manipulating application stages en masse, or grant statuses, volunteer status, or another key business process.

Utility Bars for Lightning Apps: Somewhat like a “dock” on a Mac computer, your admin can now configure a utility bar in any Lightning app (rather than just through the API), to give users quick access to specific tools, such as Recent Items or Notes. It appears at the foot of your Salesforce screen.

Enhancements for Parity, or Surpassing Classic: Mass action functionality is now available for related lists. There are a multitude of ways to share, view, and follow analytics, reports, and dashboards. You can manage campaign members en masse. See a collapsible hierarchy of parent and child accounts, so you can view all the accounts associated with large partner, donor, or client at once. Update records more quickly by editing directly inline in lists. Console Apps are now available in Beta, allowing you to open and work with multiple records in one screen.

Folders for your Library (Beta): Now you can organize the files in your Salesforce library by creating folders and moving a file into the appropriate one. The Classic UI can use folders, but not create them.

Embed a Flow in a Page (Beta): We’re excited to see that you’ll now be able to embed an active flow in a page with Lightning. Flows are configurable, complex actions. This update will be most interesting to developers, but will also make it easier for admins to use flows. Practically, it makes pages requiring flows look more native and streamlined, without needing to use Visualforce. For instance, you might create a simple or multi-step wizard that can ask a few questions (like “Who are you enrolling?”, “Into which class?”) and then execute a task for the user in the background (such as a new enrollment, notifying the teacher, creating assignments, setting a reminder, or sending a welcome letter). Now this can appear seamless and be done without writing code!

Considerations for Lightning Experience

Lightning Experience is maturing and Salesforce will continue to add new features and performance improvements over time. Here are the areas they’re still working on. You may be curious whether your organization should make the switch yet. The answer will depend on your system, level of customization, and overall needs. For some organizations, it may make sense to begin investigating.

We recommend starting with Salesforce’s Lightning Experience Readiness Check, which will analyze your system and send you a report. To discuss further options, please get in touch with your account manager.