Setting Knowledge Free Using Solutions

03/07/2011 by Justin Edelstein
For years Salesforce has provided the ability to create a knowledge base using Solutions which attach and interact with Cases. In Service Cloud 3 Solutions aren't even mentioned because the Knowledge product has taken over but Knowledge isn't free - so how can you use Solutions in a way that mimicks some of the Knowledge features and allows you to leverage your already existing investment in the platform?

A little background is in order for how Salesforce has gotten to where they currently are with Service Cloud 3. Cases and Solutions have been part of the service and support offering for years - they date back to before there was a "Service Cloud". Solutions have the ability to be categorized, exposure to the public via an iFrame on your website, self service or customer portal, and attach to Cases while being included in email templates for closing out a support case. Although the Solutions product has been around for a while it hasn't been updated or enhanced for as long as I can remember. It is what we at Arkus like to call a class 3 object - no security, no updates in over two years, and seemingly forgotten in the wave of innovations at Salesforce.

About two and a half years ago Salesforce acquired Instranet to extent the service cloud. Instranet already integrated with Salesforce to provide a higher end knowledge base product but it was an on-premise solution. Salesforce aquired it and put it up into their cloud slowly but surely and it has now become Salesforce Knowledge and has replaced Solutions in all the marketing literature and feature upgrades for the Service Cloud.

Is that Knowledge? Nope - Those are Solutions!

While Solutions are a class 3 object they can be built upon using the platform and made into a really useful product without the need to purchase the additional Knowledge product licenses. Part of what makes Salesforce so great is that you get the platform and everything that it affords so it seems a little odd to have to pay for additional native features. Something that we have done for a client is essentially build out Solutions so that it is more like Knowledge with advanced searching, searching ahead based on criteria within a Case, and custom user input and edit screens for solutions which utilizes a templating system to make sure that articles are uniform and standardized in the way that they are written. All of these features didn't exist when the client wanted to start using a knowledge base and we advised them that we could build out Solutions to do just that.

When are Solutions the Right Solution?

There are a certain set of requirements that will lead you down the path of figuring out whether or not you should use Solutions vs Knowledge in your knowledge base implementation. If the following features aren't that important then you can totally go down the path of using Solutions with some custom VisualForce magic:

  • Twitter integration: Knowledge to Tweet?
  • Security: Visible based on role within the organization?
  • Call Scripting: Based on Assets or Products owned by an Account?
  • Search: Multi-faceted searching for articles?

If the above outweighs the licensing cost of purchasing Salesforce Knowledge then you may as well go down the path of purchasing Knowledge and just configuring it to your needs. If the licensing costs outweigh the additional features and the ability to be on a product roadmap then you should absolutely consider Solutions for your implementation.

So Many Options

The great thing about the platform is that there are these options. Sometimes choosing isn't easy and in this case most of the marketing and documentation would lead you down the path of choosing Knowledge while that isn't always the right answer. Interestingly you don't even hear anything about Solutions at all anymore but they still exist on the platform and in my eyes are still viable for use as a knowledge base. Case in point, we just tricked out Solutions for use by a large enterprise and saved them on the ongoing licensing cost of Knowledge and got them exactly what they were looking for.

If you want to talk more about specific use cases around using the Service Cloud and a knowledge base hit me up on Twitter at or comment on this blog post on Facebook at