One of the many benefits to Cloud Computing is the constant upgrading that brings new features and functions to the subscribers with each release. Salesforce.com has a track record of producing three feature-rich releases a year for almost a decade now. While we always tend to focus on the new features, buried in those glorious release notes are sometimes the dark clouds representing the death of popular features.
Presentation Builder (Page 38 - Winter 12)
With the release of Salesforce.com Content years ago came the impressive demo of real-time editing, building and distribution of presentations right insides the web browser. It allowed a user to search for a slide in the the library and quickly add it to a new or existing presentation. It was a slick application and while it demoed well, it was put out to pasture in the Winter 12 release.
This feature was part of what Salesforce.com bought when they acquired Koral in March 2007 and while I remember my account executive heralding it as the next great thing, it probably never caught on like they wanted and with Content going free didn’t warrant the upkeep going forward.
Self Service Portal (Page 77 - Spring 12)
The Salesforce.com Self Service Portal is one of the oldest service features that I know of allowing customers to log in, submit, comment and check on customer cases. It has always been a little clunky, a little hard to customize but usable and more importantly, free. With the release of Spring 12 it will no longer be available to new organizations which ultimately means is going away in a future release.
This is most likely a push to other customer login capabilities like Customer Groups in Chatter and Customer Portal supported by Force.com Sites and Siteforce which should make everything less clunky and more in line with the forward looking road map. The problem, of course, is only one of those four products is free, the others requiring separate paid licensing.
Google Adwords for Salesforce (Page 37 - Spring 12)
The last of the Spring 12 features to be given a “new home, with a loving family” is Salesforce for Google Adwords. This feature was an installed package that allowed an organization to connect up their Adwords account with Salesforce to enable tracking from click to lead to conversion and ultimately closed won opportunities. It worked well when configured correctly but had some long standing bugs that seemed to always be popping up.
Out of all three features this one surprises me the least. It is a product that involves Google as a third party and that relationship seems to be getting worse not better. The reporting functionality has been replaced by a lot of what Google Analytics has to offer, which is much more in depth and a better web analytics package.
Cloud Depreciation is clearly something that all cloud computing service providers are going to have to deal with in the next phase of the growing industry. Google has been getting quicker to kill off new products and features if they don’t get a certain level of adoption (see Death of Google Wave). It will always be a challenge to these companies to provide an ever growing list of new features which requires development resources while also supporting the ten years of features they have already launched. Traditional software vendors have less of an issue since the user can choose to stay on an older version if any feature is mission critical for the organization.
In this case, Salesforce.com should take a play out of the Google playbook and be much more transparent about what exactly is happening to a feature, when it will no longer function and publish that information two to three releases in advance as Google did with Wave. It would also be helpful to have documentation with suggestions and best practices on replacing the depreciated feature. I have outlined some of these suggestions on a idea in the IdeaExchange
If you have any thoughts or opinions on cloud depreciation in Spring 12 leave them below or tweet them at @JasonMAtwood