Salesforce Summer ’16 Platform Highlights

Thankfully it’s time to start thinking Summer; the Summer ’16 (v37.0) release that is. Sporting a cheery (but perhaps more Autumnal than Summer) fireworks logo, the new release is available now for partner preview. The release notes are generally available here.

The Summer ’16 sandbox preview starts early May (7th/8th), with production orgs being upgraded early June. Full details of the release schedule are listed in this official blog post.

As expected Summer ’16 is an evolutionary release not revolutionary and continues the trend of Lighting Experience consolidation. As well as closing the gap on Classic functionality, a number of interesting net-new LEX features have been added.

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

– features are GA if not indicated otherwise

Sandbox-to-Sandbox Cloning
Recent releases have provided some interesting enhancements in the sandbox area (post refresh scripts, increased edition allowances etc.), Summer ’16 build on such improvements with a new function that allows a sandbox to be created as a clone of another sandbox (as opposed to a production org). Superficially this sounds like a useful capability; on further thought however this could have a significant impact on development process, allowing QA sandboxes to be cloned as copies of development at the end of sprint (as just one example). Any uni-lateral sandbox-to-sandbox deployments could theoretically be replaced with a clone. Multiple development sandboxes converging into a single upstream org would be the exception. Cloning is also supported by the Tooling API, enabling full automation of environment management. I’ve been unable test this feature as sandbox copy doesn’t appear to be enabled in pre-release orgs, however it would appear that data can be included in the clone. How data copy works between the different sandbox types is yet to be seen.

Summer 16 - Sandbox Clone

Force.com Flow REST API (Pilot)
New resources have been added to describe Flows and to manipulate Flow Interviews. The intent of this will be to enable the development of fully customised user experiences for Flow. Whilst possible to some degree via CSS, the user interface for Flow is difficult to customise in respect to branding, fine-grained control over layout, responsive behaviour etc.. The new API resources allow development of a Flow user interface in any technology that can manipulate a REST API.

Custom Metadata Types – Relationship Fields (Pilot)
CMT now support relationship fields that reference other CMT, custom objects or one of the core CRM standard objects (Account, Contact, Lead, Opportunity, Case). Previously pseudo-relationship fields were required of the text type that held the Name or id of the parent record; the new functionality is clearly a big improvement on this.

Apex – Populated SObject Field Map
As a programming convenience it is now possible to get a map of the fields populated in memory for an SObject instance. Previously, trial-and-error coding approaches have been required to identify whether particular fields are populated; this is prevalent in dynamic code and prone to error. Useful simplifications to the Apex language are always good news.

Lightning Components LockerService
LockerService introduces a new security architecture for Lightning Components comprised of technologies and techniques. Summer ’16 introduces LockerService in the form of two critical updates for existing orgs; one for internal components, the other for communities. New orgs will be auto-enabled by default; Winter ’17 will see all orgs auto-enabled. In short LockerService provides component namespace isolation in respect to DOM access and JS visibility, additionally only public documented Lightning JS APIs can be accessed. There’s considerably more to LockerService than this description covers, the link below provides more detail.

https://developer.salesforce.com/blogs/developer-relations/2016/04/introducing-lockerservice-lightning-components.html

Shield Platform Encryption
Shield Platform Encryption now supports Custom Date Fields and compatible fields within Managed Packages. The breadth of platform features that work with the shield data encryption-at-rest technology has also been extended; the new vertical clouds, Organisation Sync and Salesforce-to-Salesforce being interesting examples.

Create a Calendar from Standard/Custom Object Data
Personal Calendar views can now be created directly from data held in Standard or Custom objects. The calendar configuration requires that fields are specified for event start and end dates and also the name. There are currently limits to the number of events that can be viewed and also no means to share or subscribe to a calendar view of this type. Hopefully the next release will support public calendars of this type; the requirement for this style of data presentation is very common.

Summer 16 - Calendar

Process Builder – Execute Multiple Action Groups
Summer ’16 sees further investment in Process Builder which is great news for implementation practitioners using the process automation capabilities of the platform. Previously a process execution (or Flow interview behind the scenes) applied the logic of a single action groups and stopped. With Summer ’16 action groups can be configured with finish behaviour that continues to to evaluate the next action group in sequence. As such multiple logical conditions can be evaluated and acted upon within a single process execution. This new extension will help reduce the number of processes necessary to deliver even simple business process automations and as such is great maintainability improvement.

User Switcher
Regardless of role, most Salesforce users require access to multiple orgs at some stage; Summer ’16 introduces the convenience of a user switcher located on the drop-down menu accessed from the profile picture in Lightning Experience. Adding a user name provides one-click access from this menu to the org. Streamlined cross-org navigation has been long outstanding; beyond the obvious sandbox access use cases, in my experience the level of multiple-org access continues to increase over time.

Summer 16 - User Switcher

Associate Contacts to Multiple Accounts
The Contact to Account relationship is now extended to support one direct relationship plus multiple indirect relationships. A new junction object [AccountContactRelation] provides a standard Roles picklist, plus the ability to add Custom Fields. The inability to customise Contact Roles historically has resulted in the prevalence of custom approaches to Account to Contact relationship modelling. Note, it doesn’t appear possible to add process automation to the new object.

Summer 16 - AccountContactRelation 2

Summer 16 - AccountContactRelation 1

Enhanced Email
Emails sent from the Lightning Email Composer are now recorded as strongly-defined Email records rather than Tasks. A new Email standard object has been added which supports workflow, custom fields, layouts, triggers etc. Email records can be associated with multiple contacts, leads and person accounts and a single account, opportunity etc. Enhanced Email will be enabled by default where Email to Case is not in use. Representing emails as Tasks has never made complete sense; with Enhanced Email, Email records can be used as the basis for business process. Note, workflow on the Email object is limited to updating Case fields, this will limit the applicable use cases for this new functionality.