Salesforce Lightning Bolt Helps Companies Build Online Communities

The new Lightning Bolt framework is designed to help Salesforce users create customized online communities, portals and websites for improved communications.

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Most companies of any size have a website and perhaps a presence on social media sites such as Facebook or Twitter. Now having that online presence might be extended with Lightning Bolt, a new service from that aims to make it easier for companies to create more customized online communities with industry-specific functionality and design.

"We're helping our customers connect to their customers in a whole new way," Mike Micucci, general manager and senior vice president of Salesforce Community Cloud, told eWEEK.

Lightning Bolt builds on last year's release of Lightning Templates for Community Cloud, designed to help companies easily create customized communities for customers, partners and employees.

Salesforce says more than 900 of the templates have been created. But Salesforce says many customers also were asking the company to create specialized templates for their particular industry. Salesforce says Lightning Bolt takes the template concept to the next level by letting any developer or partner in the Salesforce ecosystem build industry-specific online communities, portals or customer-facing websites for everything from B2B ecommerce to partner relationship management and patient care.

"We have spent a lot of time and resources on Lightning Bolt so our partners can create new solutions and go to market with their own use cases," Mike Stone, senior vice president for Salesforce Community Cloud, told eWEEK. "Now you can put a solution up quickly, with complex business logic and fully functional apps, and just add branding and company-specific requirements."

Among other early customer examples, he mentioned eWAY, an online payment company based in Australia. "They created a self-service online community in four days using the Lightning Bolt template and within weeks they said their case deflection rate was down by 50 percent," said Stone. "So they're not tying up call centers and customers love it."

The Lightning Bolt framework is slated to be generally available in October as part of a Community Cloud license. Customers can start creating Salesforce Bolt solutions immediately and distribute them next month. However, developers won't be able to distribute them on the Salesforce AppExchange until early 2017.

To kick-start the effort, Salesforce announced 11 partners, including consulting firms Accenture, Cognizant and Deloitte, that are developing industry-specific applications using the Lightning Bolt framework. For its part, Accenture announced two applications.

The first is Community for Insurance Agents by Accenture, an online "mobile-friendly" self-service portal for insurance agents that includes sales productivity tools and "data-rich dashboard features."

The second is Store Operations by Accenture, designed to help retail store personnel collaborate with other team members in the store as well as other stores around the world to access and share product information, staffing and other store operations details in real time on any device.

Another Lightning Bolt application, Patient Scheduling by Silverline, is tailor-made for clinical organizations including hospitals, practices and clinics.

A company called CloudCraze announced Lightning B2B Commerce, which augments the CloudCraze enterprise commerce application. With Lightning B2B Commerce, sales reps, service employees and customers in the field can order, reorder or collaborate on a complex set of business to business services or order spare parts directly on their smartphone in three clicks or less.

Alan Lepofsky, a principal analyst with Constellation Research, says Lightning Bolt will appeal to companies wanting to do more than just have a branding presence on Facebook.

"It allows the community owner to completely customize the community. Tailoring includes not just branding (layout/colors/logos) but also what features or components are available in the community," Lepofsky told eWEEK via email. The fact that users can select predefined templates from a growing ecosystem of Salesforce partners "makes it easy to get up and running without a great deal of custom development," he noted.

David Needle

David Needle

Based in Silicon Valley, veteran technology reporter David Needle covers mobile, bi g data, and social media among other topics. He was formerly News Editor at Infoworld, Editor of Computer Currents...