Salesforce Communities, This Is Heavy

As technology continues to grow and corporations adopt and evolves so does the products that support them. In recent conversations, I spoken to prospects about Salesforce Communities and it made me think of the changes that have occurred over the years.

Thirty years ago, Michael J. Fox stared as Marty McFly in the classic, Back to the Future movie which was the highest-grossing film in 1985. During Dreamforce 13, we were able to hear Huey Lewis and the News perform Back In Time for us. Today we want to visit the history and look back to see the future of Salesforce Communities, This is Heavy.

In 2005, I was introduced to Salesforce while managing a global support team. We self-implemented Salesforce to replace our home-grown ticketing system and adopted the Self Service Portal as an external view for our clients to login to enter and view cases. Self-Service Portal was a nice tool but Salesforce itself wasn’t focused on the Custom Service app so Case Management and the Self-Service Portal received little attention.

There is a great feature in the Self-Service portal that you can’t find anywhere else. It is a text to html converter. This was especially important to me outside of the Self-Service Portal login page. This simple checkbox to show HTML allows you to draft an email or add images and convert to html. From here you can easily create a nice HTML email without even knowing how to write HTML code.

Salesforce Communities

Give it a try: Go to Setup – Customize – Self-Service – Self-Service Portal – Settings and select Edit on a Portal page and on most options you can even use merged fields.

During this time you were not able to share reports or dashboards which was still a manual process of sending and reviewing with your partner or customer. You did have Solutions and a FAQ which you could publish external and was a great value add from legacy systems. Also, there was no difference between a partners or customers as there is today. There was simply a portal that you could design and extend out objects with different profiles.

Licenses always seem to be an important factor regardless of design or functionality and during this time you had partner and high volume licenses to choose from. You will not see a drastic change moving to “Portals” but in moving to Salesforce Communities there was one major change that we will mention now. The High volume license has remained pretty consistent in allowing you to basically over-subscribe your users based on logins per month. This is great for authenticated sites and Customer Communities. The partner license has taken a different and disappointing turn.

Initially, the licenses was 1:1, meaning for every user you could define their own unique experience including login page. Now Salesforce Communities for Partners is sold in blocks of 20:1, so for every 20 licenses you buy you receive one Community. This creates unnecessary work when wanting to provide a unique experience from the web or internally. For example, you could have 4 partners with 5 users or 20 partners with 1 user each. With Salesforce Communities, you have one Community Portal for all these scenarios. In order to create a unique url or internal experience you have to now consider setting up HTTP Redirects, create custom VF pages and profile settings. You can do this but you may never know this during the purchase of these licenses.

As time progressed, as like with Salesforce.com itself, the software split and we grew into Partner Portal and Customer Portal. In speculation it would appear the advances here and even now with Salesforce Communities is not Case Management as much as Knowledge Sharing. Remember in 2005 and before there was only Salesforce.com, there wasn’t a Sales Cloud, Service Cloud, Marketing Cloud, etc. Sales and Service Cloud is basically Force.com built out, segmented and packaged different for resell with new add-ons within their specific calling. We can write about this in more details later.

During the Portal era your license purchase controlled object access along with certain functionality. Partner Portal was more driven towards Lead Management and Sales and Customer Community was driven towards Cases and Solutions. Solutions start to take a turn in the direction of Knowledge which was driven by acquisitions. Through releases leading up to Salesforce Communities, we were able to share reports but the end user was not able to execute them, view only.

In the past 2 years, we have been migrating from Portal to Salesforce Communities and new users really only have one choice now, Salesforce Communities which has 3 options (Partner, Customer, and Employee). Salesforce has added on a Live Chat (2010 acquisition) and pre-built templates for Customer facing Salesforce Communities. Another new addition in Salesforce Communities is the ability to extend Dashboards and report execution to the partner or customer, we’ve been waiting for this. Thank you.

Salesforce Communities give you the option to design and create the user experience that reflects your business characteristics. Don’t try to boil the ocean or buy it all. Always keep it simple and allow yourself and your community whether partner, customer or employee to adopt the changes you are implementing and grow together. You can event have a committee that includes them as early adopters that will become the advocates voice of change.

The real driver behind Salesforce Communities is not Lead and Sales Management or Case Management, it is knowledge sharing and becoming a transparent collaborative 360 degree company. As if this brief history leading up to Salesforce Communities wasn’t enough, you have to know there’s more. Community Cloud, why are things so heavy?