It’s hard to believe, but Winter 21 is already almost upon us (for important dates, check out here). Summer 20 was delayed a bit, so that’s definitely part of the quick turn-around, but I think everyone is just feeling that time, in general, is hard to get a handle on. On the one hand, I feel like I just finished the Summer 20 blogs but on the other, it feels like 2020 has been here for 10 years already. Despite everything happening, Salesforce releases keep marching on, so here we are with Winter 21!
I hope everyone is doing well and thanks for reading our latest series. These releases just keep getting bigger and bigger – it’s to the point where I feel like we need 6 parts to the blog now – and the Winter 21 release notes are no different. Normally, this is the “Dreamforce release” which is always packed with big features to show off, so there’s some great stuff in here. With all of these features, we’re going to break up the blogs as follows:
Part 1 (this post!) – Sales Cloud, Platform and Einstein for Sales
Part 2 – Service Cloud
Part 2a – Service Cloud Voice – We’re going to try to sneak in a post around Voice as we just did a webinar on it, and some great stuff to cover.
Part 3 – Communities, Chatter, Quip, and Files
Part 4 – Rotating Topic: Process Builder & Flow
Alright, for now, let’s dive into the Sales Cloud and overall platform features. Feeling a bit mellow today so I have some more atmospheric type music going – some Dntel, a bit of Múm, and even a little old school Appliance. As always, the assumption is all of these features are for Lightning and I’ll call out anything that happens to work on Classic as well and the order is fairly random. Here we go.
Dynamic Forms & Actions – From an admin standpoint, this is probably the biggest set of features that are coming with Winter 21. Technically, this was released as a non-production pilot in Summer 20 (you could play with it in a sandbox, but you couldn’t push it to production) which is why we didn’t cover it in that recap. But in Winter 21, the Dynamic Forms are now GA, and Actions is a combo of GA and beta which I’ll explain. This is a huge new feature – and is yet another massive productivity / usability improvement that if you’re not on Lightning, you’re missing out on. In a nutshell, this allows you to create page layouts that have dynamic fields, sections of fields, and actions based on data within the page layout. For example, if the Account’s Industry field is set to “Bank” you can have additional fields or actions appear that are only relevant if that Account is a bank. This really is aimed at those page layouts that support processes that simply have a lot of fields. For the most part, all of those fields aren’t needed all of the time. A lot of them are conditional based on other values within that record. In some instances, fields are needed for an entirely different business process so record types are the answer, but you don’t want record types for sub-processes or clusters of additional information fields. The other option for this was creating flows to guide a user, but that is definitely a heavier lift than dynamic forms and actions.The administration of this is pretty slick, too. You can set the conditional filtering right at the field’s page layout properties (the same place you set if it’s required or read only), but to make it even easier you can create an entire section of fields and set the dynamic filters for the whole section. In addition to fields, you can also do this with actions and make them conditional as well. For quick actions, this actually includes the Submit for Approval button – which is definitely a powerful use case. Now instead of having to create insane validation rules to ensure someone isn’t submitting something for approval before all the information needed is complete, just hide the quick action until it’s all set. For both of these, you do need to do an upgrade on your Lightning pages to enable this for existing pages, but net new pages have this capability automatically.
Now, what is available for Winter 21 is a little confusing. The dynamic layouts functionality is GA – which lets you set the field visibility on the page layouts. The quick action is where things split a bit. Quick actions for custom objects is GA, and standard objects is beta for desktop users. For the mobile experience, quick actions are beta for quick actions no matter what object type (they actually don’t mention mobile at all for the page layouts, so my assumption is this works in mobile and is GA). This is super cool and we’ve been hearing about Salesforce moving this way since Lightning rolled out, so it’s exciting to see it finally here. That said – expect your users to want more of this, so once you roll this out, get ready for more and more requests. In general though, this completely changes how we build page layouts and present information to our users.
Visualize Opportunity Changes – I really like this new feature. Basically, from Opportunity List Views and the Kanban view, you can now visually see Opportunities that have had their Closed Date or Amount changed within the last seven days. These visual indicators are super easy to read, basically green and red arrows the point up / down or in / out. This is a great feature for managers, as you can obviously build a great pipeline dashboard and see how your pipeline is moving, but being able to quickly assess which ones just moved is super helpful and this makes it a ton easier. One weird thing here is the release notes say this is only available with Unlimited Edition. I’m almost assuming that’s a typo as there’s nothing with this feature that would really require that. Hopefully, I’m right there. For future releases, I’d love to see this include the Stage progressions moving up and down as well as a visual indicator for a new opportunity. It’d also be super cool to actually be able to add this to reports versus just views – but maybe I’m getting greedy? Nah.
Salesforce Anywhere – 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 done, collaboration as a whole has become a little scattered with Chatter as the baseline, but 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 is 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.
Einstein Search Enhancements – Einstein Search gets a bunch of enhancements this release, too. First, the personalized search goes GA. We’ve been using this ourselves in Beta in the Gears instance, and I love it. You don’t notice it at first, because it needs to learn each user’s behavior, but as you’re using search more, the record you are looking for is at the top of your results more and more. Similar to how Google always seems to be listening to you and somehow the autofill knows what you’re about to type, Einstein Search does a great job of personalizing the results to each user based on their search habits. The main reason this works is as a user, you simply tend to be working the same Cases, Accounts, Projects and Opportunities over periods of times. Obviously those periods all overlap as things are won, completed, or lost. But in a window of time, you’re searching for the same record – or records related to that record – over and over. Instead of just doing a keyword search, the personalized search is learning from that behavior and ranking records you’ve searched for, or looked at recently, above records that might have a slightly higher keyword density but you’ve ignored.It also adds weight to record ownership – you’re simply more likely looking for a record you own versus one you don’t and finally location. For us, we’re not regionally organized – and in particular, for me, I don’t care where a customer is located – so I haven’t really seen this in action. But for users that are more territory focused, Einstein Search will notice these trends and start to rank records in the region you tend to search for higher. Other enhancements include a smarter natural language search. This is in beta but builds upon the natural language search by ignoring common words like the, she, it, etc. As a reminder, natural language search allows you to search more with a sentence – like you would with Alexa or Sira, but typing it in – like “accounts in Seattle”. Finally, Einstein Search is now also available in Professional Edition – which is terrific for those instances. If you haven’t turned this on, you’re doing your users a disservice. They might not even notice it, but it really is super helpful and a time saver.
Voice for Sales – Service Cloud Voice was one of the huge new updates in Summer 20 but it was built specifically for Service Cloud to start (hence the name). For Winter 21, it’s now available with Sales Cloud. We just did a webinar walking through all of the great functionality in Service Cloud Voice. It’s worth checking out even for Sales as the functionality is mostly the same for now – it’s just that the sales version (is it called Sales Cloud Voice?) is optimized for leads instead of cases. I won’t go heavily into Voice here because as I mentioned above, we’re going to dedicate a blog post to it, but overall it’s a partnership with Amazon to really provide telephony that is seamless within Salesforce. I’ll save the details for the blog post, but if you want to see it now, check out that webinar recording.
In-App Guidance & Help New Features – We discussed the new In-App Guidance Builder a bunch in the Summer 20 write-up and Winter 21 adds even more features. First up, you can now add guidance to new, edit and cloned pages – including dialogs – so it’s visible to the user as soon as they enter into the record (see below). This is definitely useful as at these points, your users are ready to fire away and starting adding or adjusting data. Great time to hit them with some guidance on what you actually expect of them. Second, you can now send users directly to an in-app guidance flow with a URL. Super handy when trying to reinforce behavior or simply training a user without them having to actually start messing with records. Please note, this only works with active guidance flows. Finally, you can now tweak the color scheme of the in-app guidance. You can select a few pre-setup colors or grab one from the palette so the guidance matches your instance’s color scheme. Keep in mind, the in-app guidance is an extra charge and part of myTrailhead, so it’s not available to everyone.On the Help menu side, we get two additional enhancements as well. First, the help now searches your Trailhead content. Before it would only display the Salesforce product documentation, so this is a big improvement to centralize help if you have augmented it with MyTrailhead. Finally, you can now add up to 30 resources into the custom section of the Help menu. This doubles the previous limit of 15 and really lets you expand the help to link to things like onboarding and training documentation, videos, or even in-app guidance flows.
Auto-add new Fields to Custom Report Types – The one new feature for Reports & Dashboard (the scheduled report attachments went GA, but we covered that in Summer 20 when it was beta) fixes a huge pet peeve of mine. Now, when you add a new field to an object, you have the option to automatically add this field to custom report types leveraging that object. I always get bit by this – building my reports happily, adding a new field I need to make that report exactly like I need and then the minute of confusion settles in when I can’t find that field in the report builder, before the grumbling begins once I realize I need to go back into setup and add the field to the custom report types. Thank you for adding this – and I don’t know who wouldn’t turn this feature on out there. Please note, it is beta, but it’s a beta I’ll be flipping on immediately.
Expanded Hovers – A small but useful enhancement here. Now the highlight panels when you hover over a lookup field, can display the first 7 fields from within the compact layout. Before you could only see the top 5. I’m a big fan of the hovers, so more is better.
Email Enhancements – Some really nice enhancements to the email functionality within Lightning. First, users can now schedule up their list email blasts. We could do this with single emails previously, but never with list emails. Very useful to ensure these go out at a time with maximum impact. In addition, the file size limit for emails has been increased to 35MB from 25MB. Obviously, this won’t help if your recipient’s email service has its own file limits, so we still don’t recommend leaning heavily on larger attachments, but especially if you’re a sales user and you’re in a back and forth with a prospect you know, the extra file size will help with sending proposals and presentations.Creating email templates also just got easier. Now, instead of a user needing to know HTML to add or adjust a non-text template, a user can now use a new Email Template Builder to drag elements into a template. This really ups a user’s game in building professional looking templates – without having to lean on Marketing to do it. Users will need the Access Lightning Content Builder or Manage Content Builder permission sets to use this. Finally, bounce-backs get a nice tweak where if you get a bounce-back for an email address any Lead or Contact with that same email also is updated as bounced back. Especially across Leads and Contacts, this is a nice update.In addition to the updates above, which that all Lightning users have access to, Salesforce Inbox and Enhanced Email also got a nice new feature that lets sales users embed their availability right into an email. Instead of having to coordinate with multiple emails, the user can just include the available time slots and allow the recipient to select which one is best and a calendar invite is added to everyone’s calendar. As a reminder, Salesforce Inbox is an additional fee which is why we’re calling this one out separately.
Einstein Activity Capture – Einstein Activity Capture is officially the recommended way to connect Microsoft 365 and Google data with Salesforce. We mention below, but Salesforce for Outlook is being retired and Lightning Sync isn’t far behind. Einstein Activity Capture is really the way you want to go now. With that being the path, we see a few big improvements with Winter 21 to help that transition. The biggest one is we now have more flexibility with the data flows between Salesforce and your Microsoft or Google account. You can turn off the email sync and just sync Contacts or Events now – where before, you had to sync email.In addition, you can control the direction of the Events and Contacts syncs for the first time, making them go in both directions or just Salesforce to your connect account. As part of this, if you turn off the email activity sync, users now have a way to manually add emails from either Outlook or Google mail directly. If this is the new standard, this is much-needed functionality, so good to see. On the Office 365 side, the setup also just got a lot easier. You can now connect Activity Capture to Office 365 with an org-level connection or a service account. Both of these leverage OAuth 2.0 and the biggest part is, this means you don’t need your users setting this up at the user level – so roll-out and management of this is a ton simpler now. A huge time saver for admins. Finally, on the pure Activity Capture Insights side, we get a new insight called the “Request Insight” which will let your users know when the email sender has requested specific action items. Now the sales user can see there are action items in the email easily.
Optimize Opportunity Scoring – You now have more control of your Opportunity Scoring model with the ability to limit which Opportunities are included in the model and you can even exclude custom Opportunity fields. Now from the Opportunity Scoring setup flow you can set both of these criteria. This definitely allows you to hone your model and conditionally filter out outlier fields and records – like if you’re using a record type for internal processes, or if you have fields that aren’t about closing the opportunity – like Commission fields, etc. As a reminder, Opportunity Scoring is available to everyone in Lightning now and is no longer an additional cost!
Lead Scoring with Less Data – Speaking of scoring, companies that don’t have a lot of lead data can now take advantage of Einstein Lead Scoring as well. Previously, you needed at least 1,000 new leads and 120 lead conversions in the past 6 months for Einstein Lead Scoring to build its model. Now, its taking advantage of broader models – either a global model or a single-customer model that you choose that can start as a baseline model for companies with less data than the minimum.
Analyze Your Lightning Page Performance – We get a handy new utility to actually measure how Lightning pages are performing with Winter 21. Admins will love this as with a click of a button, you’ll get a grade on a Lightning Page’s performance and some recommendations on how to improve it – such as certain Related Lists causing speed issues, too many fields, etc. It’s a good way to see if you’re building pages that are creating a negative user experience and validating if you have an issue when that user complains or if it’s their wifi and not you.
Manufacturing Cloud Updates – Our favorite industry cloud gets a bunch of exciting new updates in Winter 21 as well. In case you aren’t familiar with Manufacturing Cloud, we dedicated a blog post to it back in Spring 20 when it launched and we did a webinar showing it off right after. Since then, Summer 20 included some great new features, and now we have these as well. First up, are a couple of forecasting adjustments. You can now automatically calculate your account forecasts by selecting the Sales Agreements that should be applied to the forecast. Users can create a list view of applicable Sales Agreements and select that list view within the forecast – which then takes the agreements and that list and sums up all of the time period forecasts. Pretty slick. Additionally, you have the option to leverage the Opportunity probabilities within the forecast. This is a toggle within the setup – so it’s an all or nothing option – but if you turn it on, the amounts will be adjusted by the probability – like the expected revenue field.We don’t typically highlight pilots, but one other forecasting update is pretty exciting (but it’s a pilot) and that is the ability to leverage Opportunity Revenue Schedules within the account forecast. That is a really key feature as it will be easier for sales reps to forecast how the opportunity will be fulfilled and that can then be leveraged directly in the forecast, instead of having to manually do the same updates within the forecast. Revenue Schedules might not be the most commonly used feature, but this really makes the transition from Opportunity forecasting to true Account Forecasting for manufacturers seamless. In addition to forecasting updates, we get a really cool new dashboard in MFG Cloud Einstein Analytics to compare the performance of a user or a team against targets. Check it out below, but the best Einstein Analytics dashboard pack out there gets even better with this. Finally, well, there’s this super neat pilot around rebate management, but it’s a pilot and I just said we don’t talk about pilots…ack. We’ll discuss it in Spring 21 but looks awesome!
High Velocity Sales Enhancements – In Summer 20, High Velocity Sales (HVS) introduced Call Coaching, and it gets a few new enhancements here. As a reminder, Call Coaching analyzes recordings of your calls leveraging AI (which today is not stored in Salesforce – but safe to assume Voice is heading this way) and allows managers to gain insights to help their reps improve. We get two new types of insights – Challenges and Trending. Trending is really exciting as it looks across recordings for words or phrases that are trending. This is a really wild enhancement as these trending words / phrases need to be new trends – so words / phrases that weren’t popular before. This could give a manager real insight into an individual rep that maybe is starting to promise too much for example, or across all reps see rising competitors or maybe even sales tactics that the team has started using on their own. Challenges is also a pretty cool insight as it specifically is looking for challenges being mentioned to your team like pricing, feature needs, or timing. Great for managers to be able to see these challenges without having to listen to the whole recording to glean them manually. In addition to the new insights, the coaching experience gets a few improvements like the ability to share voice calls with other users and an improved player to listen to the calls.The call coaching isn’t the only part of HVS to see some enhancements though. Cadences get a few really useful features. First is the ability to transfer a cadence to another rep without having to remove the target from the cadence. So, if a target is in the middle of a cadence, no need to start the process all over. Just hand it over to the new rep and the cadence keeps going. In addition, users can pause cadences now. Maybe the target is on vacation so you don’t want your communications sending then and being wasted – or maybe something is heating up, so you want to temporarily pause the flow to concentrate on the issue at hand. The cadence can be started up again at any point and it’ll continue as planned. As part of this, you can report on how many targets are currently paused across the entire team.The click-to-dial also gets a little improvement to let you select which phone number to call in those leads where you have multiple numbers. The Work Queue also gets upgraded. Now users can filter it by the target status to quickly narrow down targets at different points in the cadence and the queue itself has been modified to make it more structured with all of these new features. Finally, a few limits have been added to HVS. Users can now only send up to 1,000 automated emails per day and in total, an instance can only have 150,000 active targets at a time right now. As a reminder, HVS is only available with additional licenses, so all of these great features are not included with standard Sales Cloud. That said, this add-on product has added a ton of features over the last year and really is a powerful stand-alone product now. Without a doubt, this is worth investigating if you have an inside sales team and keep an eye out for a webinar from us dedicated to it over the next few months.
Collaborative Forecasts Updates – Winter 21 brings two quick updates to Collaborative Forecasts. First, mobile forecasts are now available on Android. Previously, it only worked on iOS, so this is good to see for the 90% of the world using Androids. Keep in mind, for mobile, these are read only forecasts – so you can’t make adjustments to them – but at least now you can view your forecasts from the road. Second, you can update Opportunity Stages view the inline editing from the forecasts page. You had to go to the Opportunity itself to do this before.
Improvement to Assigning a Territory to Opportunities – For Enterprise Territory Management users, assigning a territory to an Opportunity just got easier. Users can now assign the territory while they are creating the Opportunity. Previously, you needed to create the Opportunity and then remember to edit it to get the territory assigned.
Profile Filtering – A pretty useful enhancement that has come up a couple of times over the years – and it’s one of those that when it comes up, it tends to be a really big deal. Now you can prevent users from looking at profile settings that are not their own – in other words, they can’t see what other users are allowed to do. Up to you as an admin if you want to enable this, but if you have functions that are sensitive around who has the rights to do certain actions, or if you just have a user base that is constantly comparing their access to other users, this is a super handy new security setting.
Permission Set Groups for Professional Edition – The Professional Edition is getting some love in Winter 21. First you get Einstein Search and now you also get Permission Set Groups. PE users can now create up to 10 permission set groups and more importantly (and probably the main reason this is happening) is you can now leverage AppExchange packages that use this feature – you can use up to 1,000 of these from managed packages.
Retiring Salesforce Products – As a reminder, the following products are also being retired, so you need to get off of these if you’re using them:
Salesforce for Outlook – Retiring in December 2020. So, it’s not when Winter 21 rolls out, but it’s before Spring 21 does, so you need to plan for it as part of this release. Outlook Integration and Einstein Activity Capture are the replacements here.
Lightning Sync – For now, this is retiring just for new customers as of Winter 21. In other words, no new customers can get this once Winter 21 is out. In other other words – if you’re an existing customer using it, assume this isn’t being updated much and your clock is ticking. Einstein Activity Capture is the replacement for this, so start digging into it.
Territory Management – This has been on the chopping block for a while, but it’s officially retiring Summer ’21. I believe this has been pushed out a few times, so if you’re still on it, you really need to get onto Enterprise Territory Management soon.
Well, that’s it for Part 1. When I wrote the intro, I knew this was a pretty big release, but then as I was really writing this out, the hits kept coming and this is officially a really big release. Some awesome stuff in here for Sales Cloud and administrators in general (dynamic pages!). I’m excited to get these features to our customers, but also selfishly, can’t wait to get these into our own Salesforce. As always, if you’d like some help with getting these incredible features within your Salesforce – or maybe you need that help getting into Lightning to take advantage of all of these – please reach out and we’ll get right back to you. Thanks again for reading and stay healthy and safe. Service Cloud is up next!
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.