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Lightning Strikes Higher Ed: 5 Key Benefits of the Lightning Experience

By September 8, 2015

During the exciting announcement about the Salesforce Lightning Experience on August 25, I was reminded of a quote by E.F. Benson, “Early impressions are like glimpses seen through the window by night when lightning is about.” My “initial impressions” of the Lightning Experience quickly solidified into five key benefits for higher eds using Salesforce:

1. The new user interface is streamlined and consolidated for a better user experience

Most communications from Salesforce about the Lightning Experience say that it’s more than just an updated desktop user interface (UI). While that is absolutely true, I don’t want to downplay how much a good user interface helps the quality of life for higher ed users. Honestly, we have labored under terrible UIs from ed-tech companies for so long that the improvement was hardly needed when comparing the current, “classic” interface to our other systems. That said, the new interface will surprise and delight users because of two key improvements.

First, access to Salesforce objects is hidden through collapsible navigation, much like the Salesforce1 mobile experience, freeing up screen real estate and making it easier to see more of what users want right away. Despite the fact that most higher ed users are still chained to desktops and laptops, the UI unifies the user experience, taking the cool stuff from the mobile experience and making it available to desktop users. Second, the “autosave” functionality for Notes ensures a better experience throughout the Org and the fact that Notes now includes rich-text capabilities and the ability to relate a Note to multiple records is a huge bonus.

2. The homepage is customizable

Wowee, this is big. Salesforce now allows the homepage to be whatever is needed for the user. That means, you can customize the homepage to surface the information and work needed right upon login. A new feature, the Assistant, helps users identify exactly what they need to work on that day.

3. Views are smart

Out-of-the-box Views not only feature analytics but are “smart,” remembering which views are most commonly accessed by each user. That means, information is displayed more dynamically and more visually than ever before. Now, users can focus on what they need to “do,” rather just on what they can “see.”

4. Dashboards aren’t restricted to just three columns!

Undeniably, the most customer-requested update is allowing dashboards to have more than three columns – and Lightning delivers in a big way. Yes, dashboards can have more than the traditional three components, but, impressively, these components are now animated. More importantly, they are instantly refreshed. This not only improves the user experience but gives even more value to dashboard users who truly want to make data-driven decisions with at-a-glance ease.

5. Drag-and-drop status changes make “working” an Opportunity even easier

The new “Pipeline Board” allows schools that have seen the light and use Opportunities to track transactions – application funnel states, enrollment, donations, etc. – now have an easier time with understanding what stage each opportunity is in and, more importantly, can easily change the Opportunity stage by dragging it to the next stage. This, of course, means that forecasts are automatically updated, helping schools better understand where they are with their target metrics.

Of course, with these improvements, schools will definitely need a plan to introduce the Lightning Experience into their Org. I was impressed by the early effort shared by Jace Bryant, Texas A&M-Commerce, who introduced the new release with a message to users that, at once, explained the significance of the release and managed the users’ expectations on when they would have access to all of the new functionality. Check out Jace’s post in the Power of Us Hub’s Sector: Higher Education private Chatter group. [Note: Only higher eds have access to this group!]

So, how can you get ready for the Lightning Experience? First, check out the Welcome to the Lightning Experience video. Remember, there are a ton of new features that I didn’t cover – more than 25! – so be sure to check out all the new baked-in goodness in this release:

Next, take advantage of the free training. If you haven’t already started using Trailhead to learn more about Salesforce, here’s your chance. There are two “trails” on the Lightning Experience, one for administrators and one for developers.

Finally, choose a pilot – perhaps a department that is an early adopter or one filled with super users – and roll it out to them. Although Salesforce expects everyone will soon use the new Lightning Experience, it provides controls to turn on its new interface and features to ensure you’re not introducing the functionality without a solid roll-out plan.

Although the Lightning Experience started with “sales” objects, it won’t end there. In fact, this week, Salesforce announced that the Service Cloud now features the Lightning Experience – and that won’t be the last announcement. No matter how you currently use Salesforce at your school, get ready to be struck by lightning!