Spring 12 Release Notes Rapid Reaction
Salesforce Spring 12 release is filled with lots of pilot features and beta features included in these release notes. I think these are listed this way due to some backlash Salesforce has received over the last few releases where features were listed but were not actually available at the time of the release. This is a good practice from Salesforce to make it more transparent to us which features we can expect on day 1 and which ones we know we will have to either wait for or contact Salesforce to turn on for us. Now on to some of my favorites (purely based on reading the release notes and not having played with them yet).
Chatter Messenger (Pilot Feature)
With the Spring 12 release users will be able to take advantage of the chat feature we all saw demonstrated at Dreamforce 11. Users will be able to start a chat with other users of Salesforce that they follow and who are currently online. Each user can control their status to Available, Not Available, and Offline. Presence like this is extremely important for a chat application. You need to know that if you send a chat to someone that they will actually be available to answer you. Once a chat is started users can add multiple other users into the chat to create an ad-hoc group chat. The one thing that I am not sure is possible and is not really addressed in the release notes is the ability to have more then one chat session going at one time (I hope you can).
Just like any other chat application you want to make certain that you aren’t asking mission critical questions via chat because as soon as you close that chat window the information is gone. If it’s mission critical, Chatter or Email are still the way to go in my opinion. With that said though, the ability to instantly chat with another user is a fantastic way to make Salesforce even more sticky and more useful as a collaboration tool.
Attach Files to Comments
Often times you start a Chatter conversation and you are asking a question like where is the presentation that we gave to this customer three weeks ago? Or where is the rate sheet that we are going to discuss on our call tomorrow? In Spring 12 Chatter Comments now have the ability to include attachments. This is a much needed enhancement because who wants the answer to a question to be in a separate Chatter message? The ability to attach files to a comment takes Chatter to another level as far as collaboration and conversations are concerned. Add to the mix that in the previous release the sort order of Chatter changed so that you could sort by Post and Comment Date and now Chatter is really starting to become a place that can replace email for back and forth communication in context of your CRM data.
One of the main issues that I have had with Chatter is its read state. As written up in this blog post “Getting Lost & Found In Chatter” the main difference between Chatter and Email is that with Email there are all kinds of ways to flag, tag, capture, and maintain a state for follow-up while Chatter just flows by in a stream of information. With Chatter Bookmarks you can now get closer to the way Email works by at least being able to bookmark or flag something for follow-up. These bookmarks will appear on your Chatter page as a link and there is a preference for receiving an Email every time one of your bookmarked posts gets a new comment added. This feature goes a long way in making Chatter more timely and less of a disappearing act. It’s still not email and there is still no read state but this is a nice first step.
Social Accounts & Contacts
In my reaction to Social Contacts when they first arrived in Winter 12 I was very critical of the fact that they were only Social Contacts and didn’t include Accounts and especially Leads. To me Social Leads is just as important if not more important then Social Contacts. With Spring 12 I get my wish and now both Leads and Accounts will include a Social component.
Aside from working with Leads and Accounts there will now be 2 new profiles including Klout and Youtube. I can imagine over time the list of available services will continue to grow. Klout is a really good one because you can start to gauge a person’s influence on particular topics. As for Youtube, I’m not certain what this will get you but you can’t argue with more social intelligence vs. less. No news though on whether or not the existing integrations will change for the better in any way - I’m hoping they do - particularly the way the Facebook integration works.
One other nice feature of Social Accounts & Contacts is that it will now work with Person Accounts so all those Financial Services organizations out there using the Wealth Management package are no longer left out of the Social Contacts party.
Many Who (Pilot Feature)
The ever elusive feature that has been the most widely popular Idea on the Salesforce IdeaExchange is finally coming as a pilot feature in Spring 12; many Contacts to one Task. It appears as though it will be implemented as one Task that is associated to multiple Contacts as opposed to just duplicating the Task many times to relate it to many Contacts. The way it’s being implemented is absolutely preferable so that if you mark it complete in one place it’s marked complete everywhere.
There are countless use cases for why you would want one Activity associated to many people and this is just the start of rolling out this functionality. The multiple associations will start with Tasks then move on to Events in Summer 12 (safe harbor). To me Events are actually where you get more bang for your buck with this feature but I am not going to complain about getting it for Tasks first. According to the Product Manager’s comments on Facebook, the IdeaExchange, and on the Dreamforce Portal you will have to contact your Salesforce Rep to be nominated for this pilot feature - I imagine not everyone will get into the pilot but good luck trying because this is a big one.
These were my favorite features coming in the Spring 12 release. I purposely did not mention a few big and beefy items like Chatter Answers, Live Agent, and Analytics Edition because they are really large application changes and likely merit their own blog posts.