Salesforce Spring ’18 Platform Highlights

Spring is once again upon us (in Salesforce release terms at least) this year we have a nice logo featuring the trailhead character Codey the bear practising the Japanese art form of Bonsai (I think).

This post briefly outlines selected highlights related to the Force.com platform (in no order of significance).

The new release is available now for pre-release preview.

The release notes are available online here.

– features are GA if not indicated otherwise

Flow Design

Flow or Visual Workflow if you prefer, gains significant new capabilities in the Spring ’18 release. It’s clear how strategically significant Flow is for Lightning Experience in providing a rich declarative build option to balance the technical complexity of Lightning Component development.

    Key design features for this release include:

  • Stages (beta) – the ability to track progress through a flow interview via Active Stages and Current Stage resources.
  • Flow Local Actions (pilot) – the ability to call the JavaScript controller of a Lightning Component and therefore invoke script running client-side in the browser.

Flow Distribution

In addition to the various design related changes the new release also introduces improved execution options enabling tighter UI-level integration of Flow interactions. The most significant of these options is the ability for Flows to be auto-launched as Subtabs in the Lightning Console in response to an associated record being opened. The release notes describe this feature as Lightning Flow for Service – which implies some level of restriction in terms of supported objects to start with.

Einstein Data Insights (pilot)

Described as one-click data science this new feature enables standard report data to be analysed to provide key insights. The feature is invoked by a button within report builder and specific numeric fields can be targeted for analysis. This could be a very powerful new capability for Salesforce reporting with broad appeal, the proof of this will lie – of course – in the usefulness of the insights drawn which could be limited by the available data.

IoT REST API

Toward the end of 2017 Salesforce introduced the impressive sounding Saleforce IoT Explorer Edition, a platform to process events from connected devices in near real time. With the Spring ’18 release a new REST API is added to enable manipulation of the various IoT components (orchestrations, traffic etc.). It would be great to see more information on this somewhat mysterious edition; who’s using it and for what specific use cases.

Lightning Console – Pinned Regions

Previously available as Salesforce Classic feature, pinned regions are now available in the Lightning Console. 3 new templates are now available in the Lightning App Builder (e.g. Console: Pinned Header and Left Sidebar). Pinned regions provide an effective tool in composing optimised agent experiences that reduce the dreaded click-count.

Change Data Capture (pilot)

The Winter ’18 release introduced a pilot for Change Data Capture – a new data integration technology to support ongoing synchronisation of external data via an event bus. In short the client subscribes to a channel and receives published changed data events relating to record creation, modification and deletion operations taking place on the Salesforce platform. Spring ’18 adds Activity and PersonAccount objects plus Gap events (background process changes not normally published) and Overflow events (for high volume cases where the 10K change per transaction limit is exceeded). CDC offers a robust and scalable alternative to the data synchronisation capabilities of the SOAP API and also Heroku Connect.

Data Protection and Privacy

An obvious theme of the Spring ’18 release is Data Protection; with the European Union General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) coming into effect in May 2018 (plus other equally significant regulations on a worldwide basis becoming more prominent) platform changes have been made to aid compliance and specific guidance provided for all business in respect to the processing of customer data.

    Key data protection and privacy features for this release include:

  • Individual Object. A new standard object for storing data privacy preferences that relates to Lead or Contact (or PersonAccount). The Individual object supports custom fields, validation rules, triggers etc. to enable full customisation as required for compliance with applicable regulations. In the previous absence of a standard approach to privacy data, many organisations have added custom objects, fields etc. for this purpose. For less forward thinking organisations data protection compliance has just become slightly easier to approach.
  • Contact data for customers in the UK and Ireland have been removed from Data.com Connect. In simple terms, for GDPR compliance such customers would require an explicit opt-in with reason etc. for processing.
  • Inbox Read Receipts can be turned off; to protect customer privacy.
  • Event log deletion.

Salesforce Surveys

A new Survey Component enables rapid development of User or Customer facing surveys. In short the Component is embedded in a Lightning Page and surfaced internally for Users or via Community to Customers (public or private).

The new Survey tab provides access to the Survey design environment.

Surveys can be previewed to test the runtime experience.

Surveys introduce new standard objects.

Action Overrides by Experience

Object overrides can now be set individually for Salesforce Classic and Lightning Experience, a huge improvement where both experiences are in use; which is the majority case.

Time Data Type (public Beta)

The highly useful Time field type moves from private to public beta in Spring ’18. Where time values need to be tracked outside of a given date, this new field type will be invaluable. Interesting that it’s taken until 2018 for such an obvious data type to make an entrance.

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