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Salesforce Winter 17 Features – Communities & Chatter

Salesforce Winter 17 We’re up to part 3 of 4 of our Winter 17 write-up. Our last post covered a a huge update for Service Cloud while our first part covered Sales Cloud and Lightning Experience. This part will focus on the Collaboration features coming out in Communities and Chatter. For both Communities and Chatter this is a very big release and really the end of what has been a major shift in the platform. Very exciting stuff and I’m sure you’re going to see a ton of it at Dreamforce (just one week away!). Let’s dive in.

  • Template Packaging – For such an important feature I’m surprised Salesforce didn’t come up with a new name for this like Lightning Storm or Tornado. Instead, this is a subtle new feature that officially changes everything for Communities. On the surface this new feature allows you to start with the Napili template (officially renamed Customer Service with Winter 17) and re-build it to however you’d like. From there you can save it and re-use it. You can even distribute it if you wanted (see Lightning Bolt below for some of the use cases here). So, overall pretty cool but unless you’re a consulting partner it doesn’t seem that mind-blowing. However, this change really marks the end of Visualforce Communities. With this ability to create your own template (coupled with some of the other new features in the blog), you now can build new Communities on Lightning with pixel level control of your design and components. Previously unless your use case fit nicely into one of the templates, you had to build your Community leveraging Visualforce. Visualforce worked great, but it was getting outdated and certainly didn’t have a lot of the out of the box benefits that Lightning came with – 100% responsive, the ability to re-use custom components and a nice library of pre-built standard components, the ever increasingly slick Community builder that allows non-developers to do a lot of the work and most importantly the benefit of all of the updates that Salesforce has been rolling out since Communities first started this cut-over. At Gears, we have spent a lot of time internally reviewing this and as of Winter 17 – unless it’s an extreme use-case – we will no longer be using Visualforce for our new Communities. We’ve been waiting for this for a few releases now and excited that we’re finally at this point. If you’re already using Communities that have been built with Visualforce, nothing is going to happen to them, so there isn’t a rush to get off, but you might want to start looking at a road map of when you would want to cut-over to Lightning. The biggest issue you’re going to have is you’re not going to get the benefit of all of the new features that keep coming out for Lightning until you do.
  • Lightning Bolt – Tied to the new packaging features above, Salesforce just announced the arrival of Lightning Bolt. Lightning Bolt is essentially a library of new pre-built templates created by several Salesforce partners. These are the first in what will probably be a steady stream of new 3rd party templates (we’re considering doing one for different self-service use cases ourselves). This first round is very use case / industry focused with templates for Insurance Agents, Supplier Marketers, B2B eCommerce and High Tech Partners for example. Not everyone will fit into these use cases obviously, but as you’re considering a Community for different functions within your business, it’s now worth taking a look at these Lightning Bolt templates to see if there is one that is close to what you need. If so, it could be a great starting point – and maybe even the entire community if it fits perfectly.
  • Theme Layouts – With Winter 17, you can now change the “theme layout” of a template. As we mentioned above, this is part of the ability to design the page however you’d like with pixel level control. The theme layout is the top-level layout for the Community – the biggest components being the header, footer, navigation, search and the user profile menu. Previously you could only adjust individual components in the Napili template, now you can replace the header and footer elements entirely with your own custom built theme that will apply across all pages (except the login screens). This also gives you the ability to create your own search, user profile and navigation options. Below is a good example of this as this was not possible before Winter 17 without using Visualforce. Super exciting stuff!
    Community Custom Theme
    Community Custom Theme
  • Google Analytics Integration – Communities now include out of the box integration with Google Analytics. This is huge as this was possible but painful previously. Now you can tag all of your pages to track simple stuff like Visits and Page Views, but also more advanced functions like Path Analysis, A/B testing, Clicks, and more. In addition, when building Lightning Components, you can also add an Analytics Insertion event to allow Google Analytics to track events that were fired from that component. So happy to see this one.
  • Control Public Access for Each Page – Interesting update here for admins. Now, from the Community Builder you can set a flag on any page to show if it the public can access it. Super handy if you have a mixed community where some pages are public and others require authentication to get at. This will actually override the default setting of the Community, so it’s the end-all-be-all for that page’s access control.
  • New Customer Service (Napili) Objects – A slew of new objects can now be exposed through the Customer Service template. Big ones include Reports & Dashboards and some of the new Field Service objects like Work Orders, Work Order Line Items and Service Appointments. Others include Activity History, Email Messages (very nice for Customer Service Communities), Product, and Shared Contacts. Finally, this also includes any External Objects that you’ve created leveraging Salesforce Connect.
  • Reports & Dashboards on Community Pages – Well, the objects were exposed to the Customer Service template above, so I guess there has to be a new feature to actually show reports and dashboards right? It’s a very cool feature that you can add a reports or dashboard component to any page in the Community. The report just needs to be in a public folder and have a dashboard enabled within the report. The dashboard just needs to be in a public folder as well and will be displayed as the running user of that dashboard. Please note, community users cannot change the running user.
  • Moderation Improvements – A ton of improvements to the Community Moderation functionality. Please remember these are all part of the Salesforce Communities Management package which is on the AppExchange. You’ll need to install this to get these features and it’s supposed to be published right after the Winter 17 update is completed.
    • New Look & Feel – Moderation now has a sleek new look and feel that easily presents the list of items that need to be reviewed. Each of these tiles are clickable to get to specific records for that tile.
      New Moderation Homepage
      New Moderation Homepage
    • External Users can Moderate Community Content – Especially if you have a large and active Community, sometimes it’s impossible to keep up with the volume of posts that get flagged. External users could already help by flagging posts, but now they can actually participate in the moderation. As long as they are a Community User and given the correct permissions, they will be able to access the Moderation page and moderate Feeds, Files, Message, Posts, Comments and Users. Each of these is a separate permission so you can mix profiles if you want to get sophisticated any create different levels of external moderators.
    • Premoderation Updates – Premoderation was launched as a beta in Summer 16 and was limited to just Posts. Basically, this allows you to force all Posts into a queue to be moderated in advance. Until it is approved that post can’t be seen by the public. Winter 17 has expanded this and also pushed it to generally available. First, it now works in Comments. This is critical for this feature as a lot of the time the Comment is the offensive record that needs to be blocked. In addition, this used to only work in the Napili templates. Now, this works in the older Tabs and Visualforce Communities. So, anyone with a Community can now use this.
    • Record Feeds – Previously you could only moderate in the community feeds. Now, you can also moderate any of the record feeds. So, if someone posts something offensive on any object you expose, you can moderate these.
    • Notes for Moderated Posts – This is a terrific one for Community Managers. Anyone that has every moderated a Community (I did for three years in my prior life before Gears for a health community) knows that as soon as you take away that post or comment you’re going to get a nasty email or another post asking “What happened to my post?!”. Despite the total lack of self-awareness from some users, what prevents that a good percentage of the time is if you actually leave the post / comment behind with a note stating that it was removed from being inappropriate. Well, now you can do just that in Communities. You can even leave a note for the other Community Moderators that can appear in the Insight reports so you have a good audit trail.
      Moderation Notes in Communities
      Moderation Notes in Communities
    • Notification for Posts Pending Review – Now Moderators can get an email alert whenever a post has been flagged and is pending review.
  • Send Emails from the Community – This is the first of a few features that are definitely more aimed at Partner users. Now, if you enable it, users can send an email from a record within the Community. For Partner users this could be very handy if they are working Leads or Opportunities right from within your own Community. Definitely behavior to encourage and enable because if the Partner uses it, now you have a nice activity record of the emails they are sending. The email editor is the new enhanced email for LEX.
  • Sales Path in the Community – Another nice one for Partner users. Now you can expose the Sales Path functionality on the Opportunity to Partners with a Sales Path component. If you have Partners co-working your Opportunities within the Community, this is a very useful feature to help guide the Partner through your Opportunity process.
  • Topic Improvements – A few quick hitters for Topics. First, you can now subscribe to a Topic and get an email alert whenever a new post is added to the Community and tagged with that topic. Great for subject matter experts to be able to react quickly to posts on their expert topics. Next is a Topic Search component (I love it!). A quick little search box that will allow Community users to search for a topic. From there they can drill down and see all of the records and Chatter related to it. Finally, for Topic Hierarchies there is now a Breadcrumb component that you can add so users are never lost in the hierarchy.
  • Counts – Two small but nice additions to show metrics. First is a View Count on the Related Articles component. Right from the component you can see a quick could of how many times those related Articles have been viewed. Same concept for the Related Questions component. Now you can see how many comments and have added to the Question right from the component.
    Related Counts for Articles & Questions
    Related Counts for Articles & Questions
  • Inline Videos – A cool new update allows you to play inline videos in both the feed but also within Community pages. For Community pages, with the rich text editor you can embed a video into the page and users will be able to play it inline. Within the feed, when the URL is for a video, it will automatically embed the video inline and then users can play it there. When I was playing with this within the feed, the controls were a little wonky as it was shaking trying to click on the Youtube video commands, but that’s just the pre-release so hopefully that gets fixed. Please note, this looks like it will only work with Youtube or Vimeo videos – similar to Knowledge. If you want to be able to embed any video format from a video stored wherever you’d like, you need to check-out one of our partners Appinium. They are the makers of ViewTrac which is the only native video player out there. Great tool with analytics and other features that we use quite a bit.
    Inline Videos in Chatter
    Inline Videos in Chatter
  • Expanded Questions – Questions have been expanded so that they can be posted in Accounts, User, Case and Group feeds. With Chatter Answers being retired good to see Questions being expanded even further.
  • Comments and Answers Improvements – A nice update to Comments and Answers. First, rich text and code snippets now work in both of them. Previously you could only use rich text and code snippets in the Post and Question themselves. Expect to see lots of bold, colored and italicized answers to your posts. In addition, Comments and Answers now support inline images. This works in both internal feeds as well as Community feeds.
  • Files List Component – Two quick updates to the awesome Files List Component. First, it now works on mobile devices and not just the desktop. Second, you can now include Files that are within your Content Libraries.
  • Community Search Dashboards – A cool new Dashboard is now available for Community Managers. The Search Dashboard will allow you to review what terms are searched the most, frequency by day, and even a breakdown by member type. This will allow you to make sure you have Articles or Answers in place for the most commonly searched terms.
    Community Search Dashboard
    Community Search Dashboard
  • More Files per Post – In LEX only, you can now add up to 10 Files in a single post. No more having to add these in as separate comments! In the feed itself, this will show the first two as thumbnails and then give a “+X” to show you the others that are remaining.
    More Attachments per Post
    More Attachments per Post
  • Chatter Groups Improvements – A bunch of small improvements to Groups. First is a new Wizard to walk you through the steps of creating a Group. This is a quick multi-step wizard that let’s you add the Group, insert the picture and then add members. As part of this the Add Member component has been improved making the search easier (this always was a bit of a pain). Next up is the ability to create reports and dashboards based on the records associated with a Group. Pretty neat idea, but one I haven’t really had to use yet (this also works in Classic). Group Feeds are now real time as well. This one is pretty cool. As you’re in a Group Feed it will automatically update with any new posts that someone enters in while you are there. No more needing to refresh. The new post will be highlighted in yellow (see below). This feature works in all feeds and not just for Groups.
    Real Time Group Feeds
    Real Time Group Feeds
  • Share News – We mentioned in the Sales Cloud post that with LEX you can now share News items within the Feed. Very cool new feature.
  • Find out Who Liked Your Comment – One devastating feature that was lost with the move from Classic to Chatter was the ability to see who liked your comment. The world is now right again for those of you that must see who likes you – I mean likes your comments. More importantly, you can now expose people who like their own comments again.
  • Feed Tab has been Renamed – The Feed tab is now renamed to Chatter. Not earth-shattering, but good to know it’s been done.

Man, that is a ton. As I mentioned at the beginning this is a huge update for Communities. Looking at all of these features – in a single release – and it just really hits you how there isn’t another platform out there like this for Communities. Even if the Community is stand-alone the functionality is huge, but then when you put the Community on top of your CRM to expose your data, it just blows everything else away.Alright, that’s it for this part. Our final part with be on all of the new Pardot features.

Harry Radenberg

Harry is the CEO and founder of GearsCRM, with more than 18 years of experience working with the Salesforce platform. Outside of Gears, Harry enjoys debating Star Wars and Marvel with his son and sharing music and videos with his daughter. He is an avid racquetball player, bleeds Dodger blue, cries Jets green and always tries to find spare time to read a good fiction novel.

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