SAN FRANCISO—Borrowing a page from Apple's heavy emphasis on design and usability, Salesforce previewed the new Lightning Experience user interface for its Customer Relationship Management platform.
Company officials say the Lightning Experience interface will make it easier for developers to create apps for the core Sales Cloud and for its corporate customers to add components to the popular CRM system.
"Apple led the way here in the consumer space, where design is really important—design is almost a product," said Salesforce Co-Founder Parker Harris at a media briefing to introduce Lightning Experience here Aug. 24. "We want our products to have that same depth of design and capability and at the same time stay true to our platform roots."
Two years ago, Salesforce brought out the Salesforce 1 platform designed for mobile devices and followed that up a year later with Lightning App Builder and Lightning Components to speed the development of mobile apps.
Now with Lightning Experience and Lightning Design, the company says it is bringing 25 new features and streamlined access to existing features on all mobile and desktop platforms.
The revised interface is initially being rolled out on the company's flagship Sales Cloud platform, where the home page now aggregates all the information a salesperson might need to start their day, such as relevant news related to top accounts and an Assistant component that recommends important actions such as sending a proposal or competitive bid to top accounts. Salespeople can also see at-a-glance what action they did last and what their next step should be.
Many other enhancements are designed to simplify direct access to features so, for example, where it used to take three clicks to complete an action, Salesforce says it now only takes one.
Lightning enhancements to other Salesforce systems like Service Cloud are planned, but haven't yet been announced.
The new home page is now a lot more accessible with features like a Pipeline Board that gives a visual representation of deals in process. You can hover over an area to get more detail.
Salesforce has long boasted of its "no software" philosophy and the Lightning Experience revamp adheres to this policy by insuring that it doesn't require Sales Cloud subscribers to make any updates to their data or applications.
"We don't do new versions of our software and ask you to convert all your data to the new version, we only have one version," says Harris.
Instead components created by Salesforce and developers are added to the platform and are available to all users at the same time. In a demo, the company showed how you can toggle back to a classic view of Sales Cloud without all the new features, although you also won't see new components in the earlier view.
Mike Rosenbaum, executive vice president and general manager for Sales Cloud, said it was important to make the extra effort to keep the classic view because current customers may not want to migrate to the new features right away. Instead, customers are free to migrate at their own pace.
For internal development and customization, Salesforce said the Lightning App Builder makes it easy for administrators to change the page layout and put components like the Chatter feed where they want or to remove other components such as News or Graph if they're not needed.
Blakely Graham, co-founder of Salesforce development partner Bracket Labs, says she was impressed with how quickly her company was able to upgrade its TaskRay project management application with Lightning.
"We built four components for TaskRay natively on the Salesforce platform and it only took us a few weeks," said Graham. Another big improvement is the ability to place components where users need them. "We can provide contextual information on a project and embed it right into the Opportunity or Account page," she said.
Salesforce also announced the Salesforce Financial Services Cloud, the company's first industry-specific product, which leverages Lightning Experience design. It's also the company's first industry-specific product.
Salesforce says financial advisors can use Salesforce Financial Services Cloud to "build deeper, 1-to-1 client relationships, be more productive, and engage more holistically with clients anywhere and on any device."
A preview of the Lightning Experience for Sales Cloud is available now with general availability planned for October. Salesforce will show off the new Lightning at its Dreamforce conference in San Francisco next month.