A lot has changed since 1999, the year Salesforce was founded. Cloud applications, novel in 1999, are widely accepted today. Salesforce itself is no longer an upstart, having earned $1.6 billion in revenue in its latest quarter.
Yet the interface of its flagship CRM software hasn't changed much over the last decade. Salesforce changed that today, rolling out a major redesign called the Lightning Experience that completely changes the look and feel of its popular Sales Cloud product. It borrows some design ideas from Salesforce1, the mobile development platform the company introduced last year.
CRM is supplanting ERP as the central business application in many organizations, thanks to a growing focus on the customer experience, said Sara Varni, SVP of marketing for Sales Cloud. But the Salesforce interface's dated look did not convey CRM's ascent. While the Sales Cloud is the first to receive the Lightning makeover, products such as the Service Cloud and the Marketing Cloud will receive similar refreshes, she said.
The tab-based navigation from Salesforce's old Web interface has been replaced with a left hand navigation column. In addition, a persistent search box is now found on every screen.
The Sales Cloud includes more than two dozen new sales features, many of them based on customer feedback, Varni said. The new Sales Cloud Home page aggregates relevant sales information and includes new features such as Account Insights, which highlights relevant news for top accounts and prospects gleaned from Twitter and other sources, and Assistant, which recommends activities and best practices to keep opportunities moving forward. Another new feature, Pipeline Board, offers a visual representation of all active deals and allows salespeople to drag-and-drop opportunities as deals progress through the selling cycle. Hovering over opportunities will provide additional details.
Admins can use the Lightning App Builder, also introduced last month, to make changes using standard Salesforce components, custom components built internally or custom components built by Salesforce partners and sold on the AppExchange. More than 50 Lightning Components built by Salesforce partners including Apttus, Bracket Labs, DocuSign, Xactly, Financial Force and TAS Group are already available, Varni said.
Salesforce has been focusing on making it easier for organizations to create applications on top of its core platform since introducing Salesforce1 last year, following it up with Lightning, which Varni said utilizes drag-and-drop functionality to "allow any type of business user, whether a computer science major or English major, to build apps."
The revamped Sales Cloud provides a good example of what the Lightning platform can do, said Sean Alpert, senior director of product marketing. "It's not just a set of new buttons; it's a way of thinking about sales in new way."
While Salesforce hopes its 150,000 Sales Cloud customers will all want to use the new interface, administrators can turn it on and off at will, by role, profile or across an entire organization. This makes it easy to try it out with a subset of users before deploying to a broader group, Alpert said.
Lightning Experience for Sales Cloud will become generally available in October.
Ann All is the editor of Enterprise Apps Today and eSecurity Planet. She has covered business and technology for more than a decade, writing about everything from business intelligence to virtualization.