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Salesforce Winter 21 Features – Communities (Experience Cloud), Salesforce Anywhere & Quip

Post Series: Winter 21
Winter 21

Salesforce Winter 21

I’m a little late with this last post as everyone has Winter 21 as of last weekend. It’s a big release and we wound up breaking up our blog into 5 parts due to that – and maybe that was a little ambitious as we’re getting this last one out after the release is live. In our first part, we covered all of the Sales Cloud and platform features. With part two, we covered Service Cloud and Field Service followed by a post dedicated to Service Cloud Voice in part three. For part four, we did another feature deep dive – this time into Lightning Flow which has a lot of enhancements within Winter 21 and is a critical feature across all of the clouds (Derek, thanks for writing that one up for us). And then we’re here on our last post – this one focused on all of the collaboration features which includes Communities (now called Experience Cloud, which we’ll cover below), Salesforce CMS, Quip, and the new Salesforce Anywhere.

Keep in mind with Communities that you typically need to do an update to your Community version for a lot of the template changes to apply. They don’t just appear like some of the other clouds. Also, if you are a user of Public Communities you must read the changes going on with Guest User access. This is a massive change that started with Spring 20, rolled out even more in Summer 20, and is mostly kicking into effect with Winter 21 (although some parts are dragging out until Summer 21 now). I can’t stress enough that this could have a big impact on your public community if you don’t prepare for it.

Let’s jump right in here. I have some live Radiohead playing and as always that puts me in a good mood. Everything below is assuming you’re using Lightning Communities as very few features work with the old Visualforce + Tabs communities (although I’ll call out the ones that do) and as per usual, the order is a bit random – based mostly on what I think is most interesting. Here we go.

Community Cloud / Experience Cloud

  • Community Cloud is now Experience Cloud – With Winter 21, Community Cloud is now called Experience Cloud. Obviously not a new feature, but this is a nod to the fact that Community Cloud was always really more than just for “communities”. Public-facing help centers and knowledge, public-facing sites hosted with Salesforce, and even mobile apps have always leveraged this cloud without being a real community. At points, this was confusing trying to explain how we were “building a Community” when it was anything but, so it’s good to see the branding realize this. Ideally, we’ll see the product push even harder into the non-community type use cases which will make it even more powerful and flexible.
  • LWC Based Template – In Spring 20, the LWC Based Template came out as a developer preview option only. Basically, you could play with it in a sandbox, but you weren’t able to deploy it to production. With Summer 20 it came out as a pilot which you needed to be sponsored in order to get access to. With Winter 21, this is still in pilot but additional features have been added. We don’t normally discuss pilots, so why are we bringing this up and making it the first thing we discuss? Well, as we discussed in the Spring 20 post, this really is a game-changer type feature. And while it might not help an existing Community until it’s beta or GA, if you are considering a new Community this is definitely something you want to look at and understand. I’m going to steal a bit of my Spring 20 and Summer 20 posts here instead of figuring out a different way to re-write the same content, but basically, here’s where an LWC Based template will help.Over the last few releases, Salesforce has been rolling out the ability to create Lightning Web Components (LWC). LWCs are essentially replacing the older (but still not that old) version of Lightning components with Aura. Lightning components were terrific compared to Visualforce but they had some limitations which tended to hit more with Communities than internal Salesforce, as Communities are usually trying to be part of a website experience. The new LWCs are much more like traditional web development (think frameworks like Angular) and due to this they simply perform better and give your developers much more flexibility. For Communities, in particular, this is a very good thing. As of right now, you can leverage LWCs but there are some limits to dropping them into your traditional Lightning templates. This all goes away with this new LWC Based template. This template completely lets you leverage LWCs and really is a roll-your-own type template.

    Basically, use one of the pre-packaged templates, or if you want your own custom Community, use this template and LWCs and have at it. This opens up a ton of potential for what you can do with Communities and will let you get to that pixel-perfect experience much more easily than you can today (the irony is, the original Lightning components are only a few years old, and if you think about how long we were working with Visualforce to do this, this is yet another massive step above where we were just a few years ago…). Keep in mind though, this truly is a build-your-own template – no more Community Builder (sorry, Experience Workspaces) – so you need developers to do this. This is not a drag and drop community an administrator can build (unless that admin is also a developer, of course).

    The LWC template has some new improvements since Summer 20 – an updated Lightning Locker with cross-namespace communication, Accessibility features, SEO optimization capabilities and a new HTML editor – but, really the overall approach of LWC is what’s really exciting. As I mentioned at the top, if you are looking at a new Community, this is definitely something you want to consider – but, it’s not for every community. LWC Communities will give you complete control in a more traditional web development approach but because of that, you’re going to need more / different resources to support it. If you need that level of control though, this now gives you that option. However, if you don’t need that total control, the other templates will let you roll-out a community much faster and with much less effort. This is a decision you’re going to need to balance for each community you build – but at least now you have those options to consider.

    LWC-Based Community Template

     

  • Guest User Data Permission Changes – This is probably the biggest change you need to review for your current setup to make sure you’re not impacted. These changes were announced in Spring 20, but they have been slightly tweaked and gradually made mandatory across Summer 20 and now Winter 21. With Winter 21 a bunch of these changes are no longer optional and a few stragglers will be mandatory in Spring 21. If you are using public communities in any way that submits data to your Salesforce – this is a must read or you could be impacted. Here’s a rundown of what’s changing and still coming:
    • Guest User Default Record Ownership – The most common use case for guest users is to have a public-facing form that then creates records within Salesforce when filled out. Normally, the guest user is the default Owner of those forms unless you drop the records into assignment rules or build your own logic to assign them. However, even when you have that, the guest user is still the original default owner and then your rules kick in to re-assign them. Going forward, the guest user will not be allowed to be the default owner of any record created by it. Instead, you’ll need to set a default user from within the org and they will become the owner of these records. For existing Communities, you’ll need to set up this default owner (for new Communities it’s automatically defaulted to whoever creates the community) and in addition, if you have built assignment logic, make sure it’s not looking for the guest user as the trigger to fire as that will fail going forward. With Winter 21, this is in place and can’t be turned off.
    • Guest User Object Permissions are Reduced – With Winter 21, guest users will no longer have the View All, Modify All, edit or delete permissions on any object – custom or standard. These permissions have literally been removed so there is no way to opt out, and this change is effective with Winter 21. This previously was recommended strongly, and with Winter 21 the ability to opt out was removed.
    • Guest User Ownership Assignment – In addition to not being allowed to be the Owner of newly created records, guest users will not be allowed to be assigned as the Owner to any new records. This was one of the partial updates, as in Spring 20 we were prevented from assigning new records to the guest user and with Summer 20 you can’t assign existing records. In other words, if you’re trying to assign guest users to any record, you need to stop and figure out who else to assign that to – and then figure out the downstream visibility impacts from these changes.
    • User Record Fields Blocked – External users leveraging the guest user will now be blocked from seeing certain fields on the user record automatically. Most of these fields are definitely things you should not be exposing externally anyway: Alias, EmployeeNumber, FederationIdentifier, SenderEmail, Signature, Username, Division, Title, Department, and Extension. With Winter 21, this is now mandatory and can not be removed.
    • Guest User View All Users Disabled & Others – Guest users will not be allowed to view all users and this setting will now be automatically turned off and unable to be turned back on. Basically, this will prevent someone from leveraging the guest user to see all of your org’s other users. A few other minor permissions have been eliminated as well: Can Approve Feed Post and Comments, Enable UI Tier Architecture, Remove People from Direct Messages, View Topics, and Send Non-Commercial Email. Most of these could be pretty handy for a malicious actor. If you have a guest user leveraging any of these, you’re going to need to figure out a different way to do what you’re doing. While this was added in Summer 20 it could be disabled. Effective with Spring 21, the permission to enable this will be removed and this change will be full in effect.
    • Guest Users Access to Email sent from Visualforce Email Templates – If you send emails that leverage Visualforce email templates to guest users – and I’ll be honest, I can’t think of any reason why you’d do this, but clearly people are – you’re going to need to modify those templates to allow this in the future. Salesforce has a couple of new tags that you’ll need to add to the template – which is detailed within the release note. An easy enough change to make.
  • Manage Pages & URLs Easier – Organizing and rearranging your pages just got a lot easier within the Experience Builder with the new Pages menu. This menu allows you to quickly manage the URL and Name for each page within your Community and also lets you build a site hierarchy of pages super quickly. You can now build up to a six page deep hierarchy of pages by leveraging this. This works a lot like other web CMS tools like WordPress which is always welcome for the community managers out there.

    Community Page Menu

 

  • Apply Audiences to Record Detail Pages – Now this one is really cool. I love how you can build flexible content aimed at different audiences within Lightning components and now you can do the same within the record details as well. You can now allow different audiences to see different page layouts or theme layouts of the same record. You could do this before leveraging record types obviously, but now you can do it without creating new record types and leverage data within the record to determine what the page looks like. This can be done with the following standard objects: Accounts, Assets, Campaigns, Cases, Contacts, Contracts, Leads, Opportunities, Product2, ProductCategory, and Quotes as well as custom objects. Really cool feature
  • SMS Authentication for Users – External users can now leverage SMS as their multi-factor authentication option. Previously you need to download an app if you didn’t have email, now you can just use a text message. Much simpler.
  • Printable Record Pages and List Views – A few releases ago Salesforce went and added printable views to everything within Lightning – but just for internal users. Now the printable view function is available on Community record pages and list views as well. I still don’t know who is printing records these days, but it’s there to use.
  • Content Security Policy (CSP) around Inline Scripts – This is another critical update that you need to prepare for. The Allow Inline Scripts and Script Access to Any Third-party Host setting is being removed in Spring 21 and you’ll have two options you can move to – Strict CSP or Relaxed CSP. Basically, this setting could allow insecure access to your community which is why it’s being removed (similar to the guest users settings). With the two options, the strict one will completely block the execution of all inline scripts and requests for remove Javascript files, turns on the Lightning Locker, and allows the display of non-script resources like images that are from third party hosts only if they are explicitly allowed. This option provides maximum security. The relaxed option allows these scripts to run on your site which does have some risk. It’s still better than the setting previously, but it’s only moderate security and could expose you. With settings like this, as a Salesforce admin, your best off talking to your IT team / webmaster to see what your company’s policy is and let them dictate how to set this. You don’t want to be the reason a hack happens and this really is web security, not Salesforce setup at this point which most of us aren’t really experts on.

Salesforce CMS

    • Organize CMS Content with Folders – Now you can organize all of your CMS content within folders and even share those folders with other contributors. Sub-folders can be added within the folders as well, with the ability to go five levels deep. For those community admins with file OCD like I have, or just those that want to be a little more organized, this is a great new feature.

      Your CMS Content in Folders

 

  • CMS Collections now Support Knowledge – CMS Collections are a pretty cool feature of Salesforce CMS that allows you to create a list view of Salesforce records which become a “collection” and then can be added to a component within your Community. Previously you were able to do this with basic records, but with Winter 21 you can also do this with Knowledge Articles. Leveraging this, you can create a list view of articles – like “trending articles” and have that collection dynamically presented leveraging this. This is a great way to allow your non-admin users to be able to adjust articles that appear simply by changing data within the article so they appear within the list view.
  • Enhanced Rich Text Editor – The rich text editor has been updated allowing you to copy and paste in tables (as anyone who has tried knows – tables are a total pain, so this is terrific) and also view videos in full-screen mode. The previous editor prevented videos from going to full screen, so this update is awesome. Also, Salesforce CMS now supports any videos from Appinium. A quick shout-out to Appinium and their CEO Steve Jacobson – if you’re not familiar with them, it’s the single best LMS on the platform. If you’re looking for LMS for your internal or external users, this is the tool to use and the team there knows the space cold (just for the record, I truly believe this and the fact that Steve owes me countless beers is besides the point – we’re a customer ourselves and have many of our customers using them and very happy).
  • Serve CMS Content with a Content Delivery Network – Salesforce CMS now allows you to hook up a Content Delivery Network (CDN) to allow your content to be delivered with even higher performance. If you have your own CDN you can leverage that, or you can leverage Salesforce’s CDN which is powered by Akamai. The release notes don’t say whether there is a fee or not to leverage Salesforce’s CDN (I have to imagine there is some kind of usage-based fee, but it’s not clear). If not, this is a bit of a no-brainer to use.
  • Import Local Images and Documents – No need to have your content already hosted on a web source to get it into the Salesforce CMS – now you can upload documents and images directly from your laptop. You still need to leverage a bit of JSON and a zip file to upload the content package, but this is still quicker than hosting it online first.
  • Quickly Filter Content – First folders and now filters. Finding and organizing your content really has gotten easier. Now with a quick drop-down, you can quickly filter your content to narrow your view to specific content types.

    Filter Content within Salesforce CMS

 

Collaboration Features

    • Salesforce Anywhere – We covered this in our Sales Cloud post as it’s sort of a mix of a platform feature and a collaboration feature. If you read it there, feel free to skip to the next bullet. Salesforce Anywhere is being listed as a Winter 21 release, but it actually came out between Summer 20 and Winter 21 as a stand-alone beta. From the release notes, it doesn’t look like there are any specific Winter 21 enhancements coming to Salesforce Anywhere, but it’s possible it’s on its own release schedule – like Work.com is. It’s tough to actually see what Salesforce Anywhere looks like through all of the marketing around it (which seems to show a lot of already existing features), but it mostly seems to be the next generation of collaboration for the entire Salesforce platform. With the acquisitions Salesforce has made, collaboration as a whole has become a little scattered with Chatter as the baseline, and then other tools like Quip, Salesforce Mobile, Einstein Voice Assistant, and even the cloud products embedding aspects of these into their own products.

      Salesforce Anywhere will unify all of these and then add some new enhancements of its own. The big new features within Salesforce Anywhere are Zoom integration and real time chat. With the Zoom integration, you can fire up a Zoom session right from within Salesforce – which is definitely timely with everyone being virtual these days (remember, Salesforce Ventures was an early investor in Zoom so the partnership makes sense – although, they did sell off a lot of Zoom in early August). The real time chat is without a doubt a shot across the bow at Slack and Microsoft Teams (but, again as part of the complex partnerships Salesforce has, they have a Teams integration as a pilot in Winter 21). Instead of the static threaded collaboration of Chatter, you can now have a real-time discussion on a record with your team, and that discussion is saved right with that record.

      To me, this is the holy grail if you can actually get this right – which I don’t think anyone has yet, but all of them are trying. Slack’s power is the super seamless and quick communication you can have with a team, but its weakness is all of the information shared in Slack is stuck in Slack. I know you can use the APIs in Slack to integrate it, but that relies on users to remember to fire that off and save relevant pieces of the conversation. If you could have that conversation right on the Case or Opportunity or Account, that data and the decisions made around it won’t be lost like a week later (I’m a huge fan of Slack and we are heavy users here at Gears, but the search functionality is brutal). On the other hand, not every conversation fits nicely onto a record in Salesforce. Sometimes, you just need a place for a team to talk regularly. That balance is key, and it’ll be interesting if Salesforce Anywhere can get there. In addition to these new features, it has its own dedicated mobile app so you can get at all of this information, well, anywhere. Finally, as part of this, Einstein Voice Assistant is being end-of-lifed. Didn’t Einstein Voice Assistant just come out? Yes it did and Summer 20 had a slew of enhancements, but it is essentially being borged by Salesforce Anywhere. To be honest, it’s probably a lot more powerful within this extensive platform than as a stand-alone feature. Once we work with it some more live and it goes GA, we’ll definitely have a blog post dedicated to it.

      Salesforce Anywhere

    • Drive Quip Doc Access from the Salesforce Record – This is really a must-have feature as you start to leverage Quip more and more with Salesforce and I’m glad to see it. Now you have a very simple option to set the security of your Quip document to be whoever has access to the Salesforce record it’s linked to. No more having to worry about whether people have access to that document you’re collaborating on – or any need to maintain two different access lists. Now, simply set it to “Salesforce Record Access” and whoever has access to the Salesforce record has the same access to the Quip doc. Super simple and much needed.

      Let your Salesforce record dictate the Quip Document Access

    • Manage Quip Templates in Salesforce & Quip – Some documents in Quip are actually intended to be templates to create other documents – like an Account Management plan. To make sure those documents stand-out as templates and don’t accidentally get overridden you can now mark them as templates. Once these are marked they can be locked so they don’t get edited. In addition, there’s now a template library that lets you create and share these templates inside private galleries (fancy name for folders). Finally, you can actually add a bit of validation to your Lightning Apps to ensure the starting document is actually a template and not a real document being used by mistake. Quip templates can be really powerful so your documents and the location of specific data points are consistent. If everyone is building out their own document styles for the same document type, it quickly will get more time consuming for your users to find the information they are looking for within Quip.
    • In-line Salesforce Records Fields – This new feature is pretty slick. You can now add Salesforce record fields inline within a Quip document – almost like a merge field. The data looks like any other text within the document, but it refreshes in real time as the Salesforce record is updated. Quip calls this “data mentions” and there’s a ton of use cases for this – especially when thinking of Quip spreadsheets where you can make the data in a cell equal to data from a Salesforce field – like an Opportunity Amount, Probability, or Close Date. For the users to leverage this, it’s pretty easy – simply mention the Salesforce record within the document and then select one of the fields from it. Doesn’t get much easier than that.

      Embed Salesforce Record Field Values in Quip Documents with Data Mentions

    • Relationship Maps with Live Salesforce Data – You can now build out relationship maps within your Account Plan leveraging Salesforce record data. You do this by creating Quip Cards from Salesforce Contacts, and you can then map out the relationships of those Contacts. Any information within the relationship map that is from the Salesforce Contacts is kept up to date in real time as that Contact record is updated within Salesforce. Pretty slick.
    • New Quip APIs – In addition to the tighter Salesforce integration mentioned with the enhancements above, we also get a few new APIs to expand access to Quip data. First off, this is pretty cool – Export to PDF API. Basically, with this API you can automatically generate a PDF from a Quip document and then push that PDF to another Quip document or somewhere externally. Another API allows you to lock and unlock Quip sections with the API. Finally, the last one allows you to export Live App data from a Quip document. Especially as Quip holds more and more critical data about your Salesforce records, the expanded access is welcome.

    Well, that’s it for this post and also it for Winter 21. As I mentioned to start, Winter 21 is now live for everyone so all of these features we’ve written about over these 5 posts – and a slew of other features we couldn’t get to – are now available to you. If you’re looking for help on how to implement these or just want to ask a quick question, please feel free to reach out and someone will get right back to you. As always, thanks for reading, and stay safe out there.

Harry Radenberg

Harry is the President and founder of GearsCRM, with more than 15 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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