I attended my first Dreamforce a few weeks back, and Salesforce puts on quite a show. But beyond all the keynotes and parties, I was most excited and intrigued by what Salesforce is up to with Community Cloud.
Ever since the debut of Salesforce Portals (re-architected and renamed “Communities” in the Summer ‘13 release), Salesforce Community Cloud has grown in popularity and capability. As organizations look to provide ever-smarter and more engaging self-serve resources to their customers, partners, and employees, Communities has gained greater prominence among the Salesforce Clouds.
But building a really great Salesforce Community always required some significant technical chops, as the only options were to use some combo of Force.com, VisualForce, and Apex code. So really dynamic communities were only possible for organizations with a technical staff that knew how to use these frameworks, or those with the resources to hire a systems integrator.
Over the years, Salesforce worked hard to make it easier to build a Community in a more point-and-click, WYSIWYG way, with offerings like Site Studio and site.com. These were solid tools – and helpful for many – but the majority of folks that wanted a really sophisticated Community usually still went the VisualForce route.
In May 2015, Salesforce announced Lightning Community Builder, a completely new framework for building Communities. And I think it’ll be a game changer. Here’s why….
With Lightning Community Builder, Salesforce didn’t simply try to make Community layouts easier to edit; they built a wholly new, “componentized” framework. Each of these components provides a unique set of capabilities, and admins can simply drag and drop components onto their pages to deliver those capabilities to members precisely how and where they want them.
Even cooler, Salesforce architected Lightning so third-parties can build new components. And with the launch of the AppExchange for Components, Salesforce has created a marketplace for third-party components that gives community managers fast access to a whole bunch of cool capabilities they can easily integrate without help from their IT department or SI.
When we first heard about Salesforce Lightning Community Builder here at Coveo, we were pretty intrigued.
Coveo has been a Salesforce technology partner for a few years now; our Coveo for Salesforce apps are intelligent search solutions that enable organizations to deliver unified, secure search across virtually any enterprise system, source, or cloud application…all from their Salesforce UI. (So basically we turn Salesforce into your single “window” to enterprise content. Note to any folks out there wanting to implement Salesforce but not sure they want to deal with migrating all that legacy data, with a solution like this you don’t have to. Just keep it where it is and index it.)
Beyond simply search, Coveo for Salesforce recommends helpful content to users (community members, support analysts, etc.) based upon their unique context or case-at-hand. Plus, it provides the usage analytics that admins need to understand what articles, docs, and videos are actually driving self-service on the Community and case resolution in the contact center. (And all easily integrated with Wave.)
Salesforce uses Coveo internally to power search on their help & training site and for their 900+ support analysts globally. It’s led to some big boosts in case deflection and agent productivity at Salesforce, and if you’re interested watch their DF session about it here.
So anyway, when we heard about Lightning Community Builder and the new exchange we were quite excited, and we started working with our friends on the Salesforce product team to make sure Coveo for Salesforce would fully support the new Lightning Framework. The collaboration was a success and we even presented a live demo of a Coveo-powered Lightning Community at DF15.
While working with the Salesforce team preparing for DF15, I had a chance to look “under the hood” to see how they actually put Lightning Community Builder together, and I think they got it right. It delivers the flexibility and configurability managers need to build great community experiences.
I’m still curious to see how long it will take Salesforce’s bigger customers to jump on the bandwagon and migrate their custom VisualForce communities to Lightning. Time will tell on that one, but given what I’ve seen of this new framework, the smart money is on making the transition sooner rather than later. Lightning is too good not to consider a priority.