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Top 5 Favorite Salesforce Announcements at Dreamforce

After months of planning and anticipation, Dreamforce ’14 has come and gone.  We were inspired by keynotes, learned new things at hands-on training sessions, danced to Bruno Mars, and met people from hundreds of nonprofits in the Foundation Zone.  Dreamforce is always a whirlwind, and when it’s over, it’s good to step back and let it all sink in.  Lots of great new features and improvements to the platform were announced this year.  Here are 5 of my favorite new Salesforce features—plus a bonus!

Process Builder

I’m a big fan of workflow rules, automation, and flows, and I’m thrilled about the new Process Builder.  Workflow rules have been a reliable tool for admins, a handy building block for automating field updates, email alerts, and task creation.  If your workflow rules are individual tools, then think of the new Process Builder as a Swiss Army Knife.  Why is the Process Builder such an upgrade?  There are a few reasons:  for one, the Process Builder can chain together multiple actions with logic, allowing you to consolidate into one process what previously required multiple workflow rules.  On top of that, Process Builder will now allow you to create records, post to Chatter, and launch trigger-ready flows!  The possibilities here for nonprofits are endless—you could automate the creation of an intake record when a new client is created, or trigger field updates on all related contacts when an organization or household record changes. Process Builder will be a point-and-click admin’s new best friend for streamlining processes and automating workflow.

Salesforce Dedupe

Dupes are a chronic problem for admins everywhere.  One of the most frequent questions I hear from clients is, “How do I prevent users from creating duplicate records?”  The best practice is to teach users to always search first, and there are apps on the AppExchange to prevent the creation of duplicates, but Salesforce itself didn’t offer any tools to prevent the creation of duplicates… until now.  Announced in the Admin Zone, Salesforce Dedupe will allow admins to define matching rules and set alerts to warn users when they’re creating a possible duplicate.  While this won’t clean up dupes that are already in your system, it will help you stop the problem at the source in the future!

Lightning Builder

Lightning might not strike the same place twice, but Dreamforce ’14 brought the double hit of Lightning Components and the Lightning App builder.  Together, these tools will allow developers to build mobile-first apps with responsive user interfaces that look great on any mobile device, tablet, or desktop.  Lightning Components will be the building blocks for the drag and drop, point and click Lightning App builder.  The Lightning Components are starting to be released into new orgs, but the timeline for the Lightning App builder has not yet been announced.  Once the Lightning App builder is released, Salesforce administrators will have a great new tool for making their data mobile and expanding their use of the Salesforce 1 platform.

Analytics Cloud
A lot of the buzz at Dreamforce ’14 was about the new Analytics Cloud, also known as Wave.  We all know that Salesforce reports and dashboards allow us to access to our data in real time, but they fall short for more in-depth BI (Business Intelligence) and analytics needs.  The newly announced Analytics Cloud will allow everyday users to view and analyze their data via animated, responsive charts.  This is a completely separate tool from standard Salesforce reports, and it will allow nonprofits to leverage their data for decision making in powerful new ways—as well as making it easier to show crucial data to stakeholders.  Say goodbye to static graphs in Powerpoint—imagine having clickable, flexible charts to pull up on-screen during your next board meeting!  Analytics Cloud is not yet available for nonprofits, but Tal has written a great post about steps your nonprofit can take to get ready to jump on the Analytics Wave.

Microsoft Connect

Let’s be honest, the majority of nonprofits still use Microsoft products in some form, and in the past, the integration between Microsoft and Salesforce hasn’t always been smooth.  The good news is that Salesforce is now working hard to improve the functionality between the two systems.  My colleague, Aiden, detailed the increasingly robust cooperation between Microsoft and Salesforce, and there’s plenty for nonprofits to be excited about.  My favorite part is the announcement of the replacement of the Connect for Office add-on with a version that will support the latest versions of Microsoft and Excel.  Say goodbye to having to keep a machine running Office 2007 just so you can use the Connect add-on!  Once the new add-on is released, you’ll be able to create mail merge templates in Word and add reports to Excel workbooks seamlessly, streamlining your processes and making it easier for you to interact with your data.

Bonus: Trailhead!

The bonus isn’t exactly a new feature—it’s a Trailhead!  Trailhead is a new set of training pathways and modules that are available free for everyone.  Whether you’re just getting started with Salesforce and want to learn more about declarative (point-and-click) development, or you’re ready to dive into Apex and Visualforce, Trailhead has a module to get you started.  The Trailhead modules include challenges that you complete in a free developer org, which can then earn you points and badges.  Trailhead will lead you down the right path for building your declarative and programmatic skills on Salesforce!

Every Dreamforce brings exciting new features, and this year didn’t fail to deliver.  I always count on Dreamforce as a source for inspiration—both for stories of how nonprofits and mission-driven organizations are already using Salesforce, and also for ideas of how they can use the newest tools and features.  But, just because Dreamforce is over doesn’t mean the inspiration has to stop!  Which tool are you most excited to start using in your organization?


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