Are you still waiting to be struck by Salesforce Lightning?

How we were first #struckbylightning

Can you believe it’s been almost a year since the Salesforce Lightning Experience was announced at Dreamforce 2015?

We’re fast approaching the anniversary of a newsflash that promised to transform the way we manage sales on the Salesforce platform. So we thought it would be helpful to review some of the most useful updates about Lightning that have been shared since its initial launch.

If you’re already using Lightning and loving it, this article probably isn’t for you. But there are many customers who haven’t yet adopted Lightning. We think this first birthday is an opportune time to start planning your migration to Lightning if you haven’t already begun.

A quick flashback to electrifying cloud news

What’s so exciting about Lightning, you say?

Don’t worry if you missed the early news. We took a cautious approach at SalesMethods, ignoring the hype and waiting to see how things unfolded. Now we encourage you to take a closer look at Lightning with us.

First, we recommend you get started by reading this short press release announcing the launch of Salesforce Lightning on 25th August 2015.

In summary, Winter ‘16 welcomed the release of a sleek new user interface for sales users of Salesforce.

A lot’s happened since then.

What did Salesforce promise with the Lightning Experience?

This sensational news was followed up with a quirky clip in October 2015. This fun video set an anticipatory tone of what we could expect from the Lightning Experience:

The video shared the reactions of Salesforce Administrators and MVPs to Salesforce’s new, modern interface customers and heralded “the next generation of CRM”. The new look certainly created some buzz.

But were Salesforce customers amazed – or merely amused by Lightning?

What is amazing is how much Salesforce has changed since 1999. Another short video called The Evolution of Salesforce reminds us of the burgeoning success of this relatively young CRM.

It’s hard to believe that the Salesforce mobile app we’re now so familiar with is already three years old. Salesforce pioneered a modern mobile experience for CRM users with Salesforce1. Salesforce1 enabled business users to effectively manage their activity from their phone and their new mobile platform represented a huge leap forward for CRM at that time.

But business users had been using consumer apps on an ever-growing range of devices, and they had high expectations. They expected business or enterprise apps like Salesforce to be as easy to use as the consumer apps they already downloaded for leisure purposes.

Salesforce responded with a revamp to contend with these understandably high expectations. Just one year later, Salesforce announced the start of its Lightning transformation with Lightning App Builder and Lightning Components. These new platform technologies made it easy for anyone to build apps fast, using modular components that are responsive, reusable and scalable.

Lightning was available for general release in Winter ’16 and offered a new way to deliver apps for business that were just as appealing and agreeable to use as consumer apps.

In its own words, Salesforce “is delivering the next generation of CRM with Lightning Experience and Lightning Design System” today.

Is Lightning just a cosmetic change – or a sea change?

I’ve been working with Salesforce for almost a decade. In the last two years especially I’ve noticed a growing number of beautiful CRM applications that are more visual and sleek than ever before. Salesforce, dare I say it, was looking a little old-fashioned compared to its latest competitors. But not now!

But is Lightning just a new, modern User Interface (UI)? Or is it more than just a superficial change in looks?

If you believe the marketing message, it’s certainly not just a sleek UI. It represents a results-driven approach:

Lightning Experience offers a brand new, modern and intelligent experience across any device that enables users to work faster and smarter. Based on feedback from more than 150,000 customers, Salesforce Sales Cloud has been rebuilt from the ground up with Lightning Experience and more than 25 new innovations.

Watch any of the marketing videos about Lightning and you’ll notice they highlight the visual features that sales people are bound to love. The reason sales teams love this visual approach is because it makes their lives easier. Here are just a few of our favourite features:

  • The Sales Path on Leads and Opportunities provides a visual indicator of where you are in the lead or sale process
  • Guidance notes for each stage of the pipeline ensure the sales team are updating stages consistently across the team
  • You can update the stage of an Opportunity by simply dragging and dropping it from stage to stage
  • The Activity timeline displays Next Steps and past activity, so it’s clear what action you need to take next
  • Salesforce Engage lets Sales users share pre-approved marketing content, ensuring communications are aligned across teams
  • Account Insights and the Assistant provide practical guidance and suggestions to users about next steps
  • Salesforce IQ for Sales Cloud provides users with a fully integrated email client that’s integrated with Salesforce1 (this is a winner in our book!)
  • Views now incorporate graphical elements to help you filter and analyse data better
  • Reports and dashboards have a cleaner, more attractive layout

For me, Lightning isn’t just about a new look and feel. There’s an underlying principle of improved sales productivity driven by the new visual features. Every CRM vendor claims to improve sales productivity, but Lightning demonstrates a step change in that direction. As discussed in ‘The Ten Commandments of CRM according to sales people’, Sales are traditionally poor adopters of CRM. But I think the Lightning Experience goes a long way to provide sales users with an app that’s easy to use, includes more automation and provides real intelligence to sales users. I envisage that Lightning will improve sales professionals’ ability to respond to their customers’ needs in a coordinated way.

In last year’s Sales Cloud Keynote Mike Rosenbaum shared insights into Lightning Experience: A New Salesforce. A New Way to Sell.

‘Exciting’ isn’t typically a word you’d expect to find in the same sentence as CRM, but Lightning is exciting. It’s finally looking like business users will have access to apps that are clear, consistent, simple, and maybe even a little fun to use.

And that means fun to build too.

Lightning means great design built-in

I’m not surprised to see this emphasis on making Salesforce easier to use. The best CRM systems require little training. You don’t need training to ‘google’ something. Apps should work like that.

I think we need to focus instead on training that provides developers from any background with the skills required to design the ultimate user experience. Great apps are based on great design. Understanding how users want to interact with your app is critical. We expect apps to be simple and look nice. The real challenge comes in designing apps that anticipate customers’ needs and in building them fast for every channel.

What are the three key ingredients of Lightning?
There are three key aspects to Lightning:

  • Lightning components/li>
  • The Lightning App Builder/li>
  • The AppExchange for Components – open ecosystem

You can use Lightning components to create modern, responsive apps for any device. Salesforce provides you with some standard components, but you can also build your own custom components or use Partner components from the AppExchange for Components.

This component-based approach to app design makes it easier for developers to design apps that work seamlessly across every device, focused on the needs of different user communities. Developers use the Lightning App Builder to assemble their apps from the components that are available. They drag and drop components onto a single canvas to design their apps for multiple devices.

Learn more about this open source framework of style guides and modern enterprise UX best practices in this video about the Lightning Design System.

The AppExchange for Components is an open ecosystem for components. It’s a business marketplace that provides access to both free and paid Lightning components developed by Salesforce partners.

This exciting blend of ingredients results in faster, more beautiful app design that responds to business users’ vital needs.

Aston Martin has been well and truly #struckbylightning

At the Customer World Tour in London in May, one demo in particular garnered a lot of attention. Aston Martin.

When luxury brands like Aston Martin start using the latest technology, you know it’s time to take notice. The Aston Martin Lightning Experience is a story worth hearing. We’re looking forward to seeing how their story continues as Lightning matures further.

Summer ‘16 is the next important milestone for Lightning

And now it’s summertime again already!

Find out what’s in the Summer ‘16 release from Jake Cerf, Associate Manager for Release Marketing at Salesforce.

There are some significant enhancements in this release, which mean now is a good time to make the switch to Lightning, if you haven’t already done so.

It’s time to follow that Lightning bolt

It’s almost a year since the official launch of Lightning.

Not all customers were quick to adopt Lightning whilst the technology was relatively immature. Switching between the Classic and Salesforce Lightning interfaces to perform more complex tasks wasn’t ideal when it first launched. However, that need to switch back and forth is greatly reduced, and we believe the product is stable enough to be taken seriously now.

We predict that the majority of customers will be ready to make the leap and be #struckbylightning in the next months with the Summer ‘16 release. Our SalesMethods apps will follow shortly thereafter.

I hope you’ve found this Lightning review helpful. I can’t begin to imagine what new experiences another year in CRM will bring.

Vanessa Hunt

Vanessa Hunt

Vanessa is Director at Vanessa Hunt Consulting. Her forte is helping businesses and non-profit organisations improve their sales and marketing. Educated at Exeter University and graduating in French and German, Vanessa has been a training consultant to many of the world's leading tech businesses, focusing more recently on helping organisations realise the value of their CRM platforms.