January 15, 2023

What is Salesforce Lightning?

Discover how Salesforce Lightning transforms CRM with its innovative interface, tools, and features. Learn what Lightning offers for your business efficiency.

In the bustling marketplace, where every second bears weight on the transaction scales, the right tools for your sales team can be the means of facilitating the difference between mere survival and thriving success. Enter Salesforce Lightning — an innovative platform that not only turbocharges your CRM strategies but also upends how your business interacts with customers, manages data, and forecasts like an oracle without the need for oracles.

1. Introduction

Salesforce Lightning encapsulates a comprehensive set of tools and services designed to bring a modern UX to the platform. From the interface your sales team interacts with daily, to the way developers build apps, Lightning is an ecosystem of innovation. This suite reimagines CRM from the ground up, aligning sales, marketing, and service teams around one clear view of the customer.

Introduced in 2015, Lightning was a significant leap from its predecessor, Salesforce Classic. While Classic served its purpose admirably, Lightning’s introduction represented a fundamental shift in approach, providing a faster, more mobile-friendly, and visually appealing alternative to the older interface. Its arrival also signaled Salesforce's recognition of the need for continuous improvement and cutting-edge technology in its offerings.

In the context of modern business, it’s not an optional upgrade — it's a necessity. The CRM of yesterday no longer suffices. Lightning empowers businesses by unifying all customer data into a single, actionable interface. This consolidation is not only convenient; it’s strategic, ensuring that frontline staff have a thorough understanding of every customer interaction, history, and preference.

2. Key Features of Salesforce Lightning

One of the most notable features is the Experience Builder, a graphical user interface optimized for speed. Administrators can build robust communities using Lightning templates and components following a visual no-code development approach. This enables businesses to deliver a superior user experience while reducing development time and costs.

Another powerful feature is the Lightning App Builder, which follows a no-code development approach providing drag-and-drop capabilities to facilitate app creation and customization. This feature allows businesses to build powerful and customized apps with ease, without requiring extensive coding knowledge or expertise. The Lightning Component Framework includes tools and extensions that enable the development of reusable components and standalone apps, as well as Salesforce Mobile App customizations, further enhancing the flexibility and versatility of the platform.

The AppExchange is another valuable resource for businesses utilizing the Lightning platform, making over 300 partner components available in the App Builder. Businesses can access a vast library of pre-built components that can be seamlessly integrated into their apps, further accelerating development and enhancing app functionality.

The Lightning Design System offers style guides and UX best practices for app development, ensuring that businesses can create apps that look and feel professional, consistent, and user-friendly. Additionally, the Lightning Connect integration tool makes it easier for Salesforce apps to consume data from any external source that conforms to the Open Data Protocol (OData), further enhancing the platform's integration capabilities.

Salesforce Lightning vs. Classic

Salesforce Classic is the original UI of the Salesforce CRM platform. It has been in use for over a decade and is still widely used by many businesses. The Classic UI has a relatively straightforward design that makes it easy for users to navigate and use the platform. However, its interface is not as modern as Salesforce Lightning, and it lacks some of the advanced features that the newer UI provides.

Salesforce Lightning, on the other hand, is the newer UI designed to improve user productivity and make it easier for businesses to manage their customer data. It offers enhanced dashboards and reports, custom components, and mobile optimization not available on Salesforce Classic.

A significant difference between Lightning and Classic is their compatibility with different devices. Salesforce Classic is only compatible with desktop computers and laptops, while Lightning is designed to work seamlessly across different devices, including smartphones and tablets. Users can access the platform on the go and from anywhere.

3. Advantages of Salesforce Lightning

The intuitive design of Lightning streamlines workflows and reduces the clicks it takes to accomplish a task. Let’s take a closer look at its benefits.

Activity Timeline

One of the initial innovations that sparkle within the Salesforce Lightning experience is the Activity Timeline. This feature isn’t just about visuals (though we must say, it’s visually stunning); it’s a timeline that strings together every touchpoint your sales team has with clients, leads, and prospects.

  • The Visual Flourish and Log of Every Step: each clickable element on the timeline opens a richness of opportunities — showing not just the scheduled follow-ups, but also the email exchanges, call logs, meeting notes, and internal collaborations that orbit around each account. This visual log transforms sales strategies by providing a chronological heartbeat of interactions, making it easier to strategize and pivot in real-time.
  • Always One Step Ahead: Lightning doesn’t just rest on being a glorified calendar. It propels your team’s follow-up game. With at-a-glance insights into the history of each lead, every member is poised with a detailed understanding of the relationship’s pulse and when the next follow-up should occur.

AI Integration

A defining feature that sets Salesforce Lightning apart is its integration with AI — unleashing smart insights for lead scoring.

  • Superior Lead and Opportunity Scores: AI integration in Lightning molds a predictive system that doesn’t leave a chance to chance. It sculpts the present leads into clear opportunities by employing advanced protocols to analyze past data, behavior patterns, and internal feedback loops, serving your sales team so they know where to direct their firepower.
  • Marketing Resource Assignments: AI ensures that the right resources are channeled toward your brightest lead hopes. By mapping custom criteria for ideal customers across your marketing constellations, it ensures that customers are continually under the crosshairs of an intelligently orchestrated campaign.

Expanded Forecasting

Salesforce Lightning’s expanded forecasting feature isn’t merely a financial report for your sales numbers. It’s a detailed insight into each potential sale that’s been polished and updated to reflect the complexities of modern business forecasts.

  • Forecast Sharing: the power of knowledge shared is universally recognized, and Salesforce Lightning embodies it by allowing forecasts to be shared across teams, enabling alignment and shared visions. This sharing extends to revenue and quantity forecasts, and territory and product adjustments.
  • Tailored for Your Industry Orbit: Lightning forecasting engine is tailored to the specific needs of your industry, accounting for the intricate nuances that define your market's pulse. This fine-tuning ensures that predictions are as sharp as they are precise weathering the industry storms with clarity.

Salesforce Lightning Security

In a world where digital trust and data security are climbing the corporate ladder, Lightning stands as the gatekeeper. It has an added layer of security between its components and robust authentication protocols making your CRM impenetrable.

  • Multi-Factor Authentication: Lightning raises the bar in terms of digital due diligence. It’s dual, triple, and even quadruple checks ensure that only verified users gain access to the system
  • Component-Level Defense: Lightning’s security is a dynamic defense strategy that guards each component with vigilance. By assigning security permissions at the component level, vulnerabilities aren’t just plugged — they’re anticipated and managed.

Command Center Homepage

Imagine a homepage that doesn’t just tell you your sales numbers but gives you headlines on your key deals, events, a performance snapshot, and a fully customizable dashboard. The Salesforce Lightning’s homepage is your business’s command center.

  • News and Alerts: by delivering business-critical news and alerts straight to your homepage, you're always in the know, ready to pounce on the latest opportunity or ward off the most recent threat.
  • Performance Charts: success is a journey, and Lightning’s performance charts gauge the altitude of your success with real-time charts, pointing your gaze upwards toward newer peaks and profitable paths.

Mobile-Optimized Productivity

The business world doesn’t just revolve around the office; it’s a mobile marathon. Salesforce Lightning knows this and optimizes the platform for mobile.

  • The Cross-Device Consistency: Lightning ensures that your CRM experience is seamless across devices and browsers, so you’re never stalled—your momentum carries from the big screen to the small one, uninterrupted.
  • Mobile Advantage: Speed is of great essence nowadays. Lightning caters to the on-the-go needs of a mobile workforce, ensuring that even the most fleeting of sales opportunities can be grabbed, sealed, and won.

Customizable Lightning Speed Pages

Salesforce Lightning allows users to customize workspaces and even design new pages. If the Activity Timeline is the epicenter of your interactions, think of the Workspace Page Layout as the ever-shifting map of your CRM domain.

  • Adaptable to Every Task: whether your sales team is chasing opportunities or your marketing team is crafting campaigns, Lightning allows for different pages to be designed for different tasks. It adapts to your flow, ensuring that your CRM is as dynamic as the tasks at hand.
  • The Design Power in Your Hands: With Lightning, you’re not just a user; you’re a designer. The drag-and-drop interface of Workspace Page Layout empowers you to craft pages suited to your business's unique needs. From aesthetics to functionality, you get to decide what works best—to create a CRM world, uniquely yours.

4. Implementation of Salesforce Lightning

Whether you’re a seasoned Salesforce admin or a business leader driving digital transformation, this roadmap will provide you with the insights to make your migration journey a success.

Step 1. Conduct a readiness check

A deep dive into your Salesforce organization’s existing use of Classic helps identify modifications that may be necessary to ensure a smooth transition to Lightning.

Any custom code within your Salesforce instance will need to be examined thoroughly. This includes Apex classes, triggers, and Visualforce pages, which might require updates to function as expected in Lightning.

  1. Uncover direct and indirect code dependencies.
  2. Resolve potential conflicts between existing code and Lightning features.

Risks to integrations with external systems and APIs must be identified and mitigated. Utilize sandbox environments to:

  • Test how Lightning will interact with your existing ecosystem.
  • Discover and address any potential disruptions.

Step 2: Perform the migration to the sandbox

The next step is to perform the actual migration of your Salesforce Classic instance to the Lightning interface but in a controlled environment. The essentials for this step include:

  • Ensure that all configuration and data in your sandbox mirror your production environment realistically. Use your most recent data and a copy of your production instance's current state as the baseline.
  • Switching on the Lightning Experience in your sandbox is a critical configuration step. This process might reveal unexpected challenges or impacts on your data and existing features.
  • As you enable Lightning features and transition your sandboxed environment, observe and document any changes in functionality or performance. It’s not just about the look and feel; it’s about how well the system now supports your users’ day-to-day activities.

Step 3: Test your migration in the sandbox

Key aspects of this phase are:

  • Conduct UAT with representative users from various departments. Their feedback is invaluable in identifying any user-specific challenges or unexpected behavior in the Lightning environment.
  • A structured testing plan that considers all aspects of your Salesforce instance, including standard and custom functionalities, will help ensure a comprehensive test.
  • As you encounter issues, document them to prioritize fixes and develop a resolution strategy. Consider setting up a repository for known issues and their status.

Step 4: Roll out lightning to end users

Here’s how to approach it strategically:

  • Schedule the migration for a time that minimizes disruption, such as during less busy periods. Ensure that support and resources are available to address any immediate post-migration issues.
  • Provide comprehensive training and resources for all users to navigate the new interface confidently. Change management techniques, including champions and support materials, can ease the cultural shift.
  • Post-migration, monitor user adoption closely. Tools like the Lightning Usage App can provide insights into which features are being used and which may require additional training or support.

Step 5: Perform post-migration integrity checks

Perform a series of integrity checks to ensure data and workflow integrity:

  • Verify that all data has successfully transitioned to the new environment without loss or corruption. This step often involves a side-by-side comparison between the Classic and Lightning instances.
  • Check that all workflows, process builder flows, and automation rules function as expected in Lightning. Automated email notifications and scheduled tasks must also be reviewed for continuity.
  • Confirm that user profiles and permissions in the Lightning Experience reflect those in Classic. Users should have the same access and privileges in their new interface.

Step 6: Testing post-migration

Ongoing verification is necessary to maintain a high-performing Salesforce environment. This should include:

  • Establish a regular cadence for system health checks. Consider monthly or quarterly assessments of system performance, feature utilization, and any emerging issues.
  • Continue to solicit and act upon user feedback. An iterative approach to enhancements and modifications based on practical experiences is a hallmark of successful implementations.
  • As your business grows and evolves, your Salesforce instance must do the same. Periodically review your Lightning configuration for scalability and ensure that it is compatible with new Salesforce releases and updates.

5. Future Trends in Salesforce Lightning

Salesforce is committed to a relentless schedule of updates and enhancements, continually refining the Lightning platform. This commitment ensures that businesses are not only equipped with state-of-the-art tools today but also remain at the vanguard of CRM evolution. One of the most notable trends that we can expect to see in the coming years is the increased adoption of Salesforce Lightning by enterprises of all sizes. As more and more businesses begin to realize the benefits of using Salesforce Lightning, there will be a surge in demand for this platform. This will lead to further innovation and development by the Salesforce team, which will continue to improve the user experience and expand the platform's capabilities.

We can expect to see the integration of Salesforce Lightning with other technologies, such as AI and machine learning - it is only a matter of time before they are integrated into Salesforce Lightning to provide users with even more powerful tools for data analysis and decision-making.

The surge of mobile-first strategies and the increasing need for AI-driven insights promise to drive even greater adoption of Lightning amongst diverse industries and sizes of businesses. Salesforce has already taken significant steps in this direction, and it is likely that they will continue to do so in the future.

6. Challenges and Considerations

One challenge businesses can encounter when adopting Salesforce Lightning is legacy systems and custom plugins that may not be immediately compatible. A strategic review of integration points and customized solutions might be necessary to ensure a smooth transition.

While the customization potential in Lightning is vast, it also introduces complexity. Businesses need to approach customization judiciously, focusing on usability and long-term maintenance. A robust change management process can help ensure that customizations align with business goals and user preferences.

Check out the set of challenges that demand careful consideration and strategic planning:

  1. Upgrading Third-Party Apps: To ensure compatibility with Lightning, all third-party applications must be updated to versions that support this new environment.
  2. Handling Visual Customizations: The transition from the classic version, which might include numerous visual customizations like tabs and page layouts, requires meticulous planning. Without this, you risk accumulating technical debt and encountering performance issues due to these custom components.
  3. Performance Concerns: Jumping into the migration without thorough planning and analysis can result in decreased page responsiveness, increased load times, complicated navigation, and general scalability issues.
  4. User Adaptation Hurdles: The switch might meet resistance from end-users, such as employees or team members, who find it challenging to adapt to the new features and interface. This resistance can significantly slow down the migration process.
  5. Feature Adoption: Integrating all features of the Lightning version without consideration can hinder efficiency and negatively affect the user experience. It’s advisable to implement only those features that are necessary and beneficial to avoid overwhelming the system and users.
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