Are You Ready for a Salesforce Community?

Salesforce Communities are a great way to increase interaction with your customers, partners, and employees.  Communities have come a long way since the early days of Self Service portals, and even since growing beyond the Salesforce Tabs + Visualforce method of presentation. Admins no longer need a development resource to meet business requirements, and have templates that offer configurable bespoke solutions. Honestly, the templates designed in the lightning framework look fantastic out of the box, and that’s a huge leap forward in terms of effort to get a Community where it needs to be. The community cloud has matured well from the ugly duckling of portals into a beautiful and elegant customer and partner engagement solution.

With these new options brought on by the lightning templates, it is quantifiably quicker to get a community up and running. Lurking just beneath the surface however is a monster ready to devour un-prepared Administrators and Developers alike.  Sharing models, licenses, domains, objects, and customizations galore can quickly cause a Communities tailspin that leaves administrators baffled and business stakeholders frustrated – I know because I am speaking from experience.

My first community implementation looked fantastic and was ready to go in only a few hours of configuration. The business stakeholders were pleased at my demo and it came time to migrate and launch the community. That is where the wheels fell off and I spent multiple hours chasing down the finest of details to find a fix for something I overlooked. You may have a similar story, or are trying to avoid what lurks below.

Here are some major considerations an Administrator should account for before spinning up a new Community:

  1. Security is Everything.

Salesforce has a robust security model – as you are well aware! If you aren’t, you should get intimately familiar with all data security aspects before rolling out a community. Make sure to check out trailhead to jumpstart your understanding of the basics.

Profiles, Roles, Permission Sets, Sharing, and Global Defaults are some of the categories you must manage internally. Once you decide to create a community, you must then account for the internal sharing model and the external sharing model. That compounds in complexity when you start looking at the type of community licenses that you need as each license comes with different requirements for access to records.

You can ensure a smooth and efficient community rollout by creating a matrix of the objects you plan to expose and list the access your community users need. For example, if you have a customer self-service community planned and want to give your customers access to viewing only their cases for their account as well as creating them, you must consider the implications of exposing that information. For a full understanding of the data security model, check out this help article for Customer licenses, and this one for Customer Community Plus and Partner licenses.

  1. Know your Licenses.

During my first ever community implementation I made a lot of assumptions about the type of license I would need to provide for my partners. We assumed that it would require Partner licenses based solely on the name alone. However, I found later that I could do everything I needed with the Customer Community Plus licenses and save my company some money on the overall license cost. Each license type gives you different options regarding what objects you can expose and how those records can be shared among external users, and shared with internal users. Make sure you understand the difference between each license type before you submit an order for thousands of licenses. This comprehensive help article can get you started.

  1. Know your Limits.

Each Salesforce community implementation hinges on the ability for users to access the pages and data they need. Often overlooked, access limits can throw a wrench into even the most well planned community. Your Salesforce license type determines the different limits that your community has. Every user story or requirement should be analyzed with these limits in mind. An example would be a highly customized implementation that requires ten API calls every time a user reviews a previous Order. If you only have Customer Community licenses, this will never work – your Costumer Community licenses cannot perform API calls. For a list of all the limits, check out this help article.

  1. Decide on Templates or Salesforce Tabs + Visualforce.

At first glance, a Template like Kokua is a crowd pleaser. It’s elegant but simple. Your customers will love it and showing it to the executive leadership usually results in a few raised eyebrows and admiration. Once the round of applause is complete, the Sales executive asks when Customers will be able to buy the products directly from the handy help articles. If you’re using the standard Salesforce Order’s object to let customers generate new orders, you’ve just been ruined. Orders are only available in Salesforce Tabs + Visualforce. Knowing your requirements ahead of time will help you choose the right option. You can find out more about Templates and Salesforce Tabs + Visualforce, here.

  1. Have an engagement plan.

Standing up a new community is a monumental task. It takes a great deal of effort to get all the pieces working together, providing a seamless and elegant experience for your end users. The day you activate that community will feel great! How then, will you get your customers or partners to start utilizing all the amazing features that you implemented? Engagement is the number one goal of every community implementation. Engaging with customers is a multi-department endeavor. It takes buy in from across the organization to get the word out to your new users and to keep interacting with them in your new community. A rollout strategy is a must when implementing a new community, and you will need to involve marketing, sales, service, and your executive team to ensure a successful implementation. Before you ever put fingers to keys and begin configuration, discuss and decide on your rollout approach with all the project stakeholders.

Communities are a wonderful tool that gives an organization an amazing amount of scalability. With the right preparation and thorough approach, you can construct and launch your community in a fraction of the time that would be required to create a custom facing portal on your website. You can help your customer service team meet their KPI’s with case deflection, build a vibrant customer advocate base, and close deals more efficiently with your partners. Statêra has a team of Certified Community Cloud experts ready to help you navigate every twist and turn on the Community Implementation Adventure. We’d love to work with you to launch the community of your dreams!

About the Author

Josh Sangster is a certified Community Cloud Consultant at Statera with four years of CRM administration and consultation experience. He has worked with businesses big and small across multiple industries and understands the headaches that plague users and administrators. He is a recent transplant from Atlanta, GA residing in Denver, Colorado and enjoys to hike, camp, swim, bike, exercise, and explore his new home state. He is an avid New York Football Giants fan and can often be found wearing blue and white from head to toe on Sundays in the fall. Go Big Blue!