True to The Core Live: Inside Look into How Salesforce are Developing Salesforce (Platform Edition)

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The consistently popular and highly anticipated “True to The Core” sessions have been transformed into a monthly live broadcast. The first “True to The Core Live” streamed at the end of July, focusing on Salesforce Platform/Lightning development. Leaders from these teams spoke about their top development priorities in the next year, and answered live questions from the audience.

One of Salesforce’s greatest assets is the community of users, admins, consultants, and developers they have built over the years, who proudly blazen the ‘Trailblazer’ label. Trailblazers evangelise the Salesforce platform independently, off their own bat, and as a result become active stakeholders in the product roadmap.

The IdeaExchange is the open feedback platform that uses a points-based system to rank ideas for Salesforce product enhancements. However, there was a growing discontent with how customer feedback was being actioned. Salesforce vowed to increase transparency with the community with two main initiatives: the IdeaExchange prioritization cycles, and “True to The Core” sessions.

The Highly Anticipated “True to The Core”

“True to The Core” (TTTC) has been running as a forum-style session at the annual Dreamforce conference for over 7 years. Many Trailblazers consider TTTC their most anticipated session. Why? TTTC brings key Salesforce executives, like Parker Harris and Bret Taylor*, into the spotlight to share an honest outlook on Salesforce’s forward-looking roadmap and answer audience questions. The forum has proven consistently popular, as some questions asked by audience members can be pretty gritty, pulling back the curtain on the flaws of the Salesforce platform, with the opportunity for Salesforce executives to justify the reasons that lie behind.

*Parker Harris, Co-Founder, Bret Taylor, President and COO.

In the first “True to The Core Live” session*, streamed at the end of July, we heard from leaders from the Platform/Lightning teams. This group is responsible for ‘what sits under the clouds’, the underpinnings of Sales Cloud and Service Cloud – in fact, anything that runs on top of Lightning! Their remit includes:

  • UI Platform, ie. Lightning Web Components (LWC)
  • Automation
  • End user experience
  • Admin experience (ie. Setup interface)

Personally, I’m not surprised this was the chosen topic, as the majority of questions from the annual forums have revolved around the Lightning Experience.

Speakers this month:

  • Jon Sigler, EVP Lightning
  • Ryan Ellis, SVP Product Management
  • Scott Yancey, SVP Software Engineering UI Platform

TTTC is designed to connect Trailblazers with the product teams making decisions about the direction the product is going. Unlike the annual forums, which sometimes skimmed the surface on some topics, these frequent, focused sessions will dig deeper into specific topics. There will be a new focus each month, so if you like what you read here, ensure you mark your calendars for the next session (details in the summary).

“For my money, it gives more insight into the direction of the platform, and how to understand the maturity of the features, than anything else out there on the internet.”

  • Paul Ginsberg, Salesforce Evangelist

What Are Your Top Priorities?

The first question asked each of the leaders’ their top priorities for the next year and beyond, framing the whole session well.

Jon Sigler, EVP Lightning: 

  1. ‘Setup’

“Or what we call ‘setup’”, said Jon, because the term itself is considered misleading. The ‘setup’ is not just for the initial setup, but is where Admins go to continually enhance Salesforce; in short, ‘setup’ does not justify the ‘life of the org’.

  1. Setup Tree & ‘Admin Home’

The collapsible menu on the setup sidebar does not expose everything you need to admin Lightning. This will be addressed in the next couple of releases, changing from the ‘tree’ nodes to launching specific areas, eg. ‘users and profiles’, ‘customisation’, which will align more closely to the flow of how Admins do things. This will be called ‘Admin Home’.

Scott Yancey, SVP Software Engineering UI Platform:

‘Performance’ has been a focus for the past 4 years, and will continue to be. You only need to read the ‘Lightning speed please’ IdeaExchange topic to see how hot this is.

There’s some positive news on this hot topic. Over 4 years, median page load times improved by 60%; as this is a median figure, some orgs have seen even greater improvements than 60%! How?

  • Optimising core aura codebase (powers Lightning)
  • Adding a CDN (content delivery network)
  • Verifying any new features perform well on Lightning to prevent any ‘backslide’

The flipside is that performance still falls short for some customers. There are multiple factors that affect page load times, and those that Salesforce are taking responsibility for improving:

  1. Moving Core Lightning Codebase Aura → LWC: Started with the ‘heavy-weight’ components eg. record detail, highlights panel. Within the next year, list components will move over, predicted to have another significant impact.
  2. Advance Network Routing…and caching capabilities.
  3. Efficiency of Org Customisations

Warn and inform Admins about customisations could negatively impact page performance, plus guardrails.

Ryan Ellis, SVP Product Management:

  1. Mobile & offline capabilities:

Lightning on mobile was delivered last year, which extended the customization capabilities we have with desktop Lightning to the mobile app.

This year and next, the team will bring offline capabilities into our hands, to continue using the rich customization of Lightning, regardless whether you have an internet connection.

LWC has been driving this because it can be cached then ‘served up’ on a device even when the user is offline (known as ‘statically analysable’).

‘We face a complicated balance of prioritization’

One idea that has been floated within Salesforce internally and the community, is to have a release dedicated to solving performance issues, minus any new features.

However, that’s not how Salesforce consider the best way to allocate their resources:

“We still have gaps compared with Classic. We can make Lightning screaming fast, but if it lacks critical features your business needs, that’s not going to be helpful”. As well as feature parity, there’s net new features to consider in the prioritisation, too.

The process of moving from Aura to LWC clearly takes time – but it’s an investment of time. An LWC codebase will be the foundation that allows for more agility to develop and enhance components.

‘While particular items (eg. inline editing on related lists) are not marked as ‘in progress’ right now, they actually are. They are in a journey that’s going to get us there by first delivering the aura capabilities in LWC…which will unlock us to start delivering the rich experiences people are looking for.’

Fixing Features vs. Rearchitecting the Overall Solution

The purpose of this team is to provide the services for other ‘cloud’ products, customers, partners, to build on top.

When a specific feature initially comes to this team to enhance, they often find it has potential applicability across multiple product areas. For example, Service Cloud could develop a messaging feature, then the platform team could see it’s potential to be extended and made available as a shared service across multiple platform areas.

Often a requested feature means that the most sensible direction for the team to go is to take two steps back to make new features both performant and extensible.

Classic vs. Lightning Feature Parity

‘Why after 4 years isn’t Lightning at parity with Classic?’

Lightning was developed to be the UI to support Salesforce for the next 20 years. Lightning is not an extension of Classic: “not a reskinning, updates of font and colours…moving to Lightning is a change management experience, it’s not a ‘lift and shift’”

Lightning was brand new, which meant the team spent significant time considering what to bring forward and what to leave behind.

Salesforce have no intention of full feature parity. Instead, they make suggestions for new features that replace Classic gaps, or ways to get around the functionality gaps in the short to mid-term.

Jon Sigler talks about the decision-making process that goes into addressing the ‘gaps list’ @ 26:50.

‘What are some of the tough cuts you’ve had to make?’

‘Tough cuts’ are the things that the product leaders and their team may have wanted to get done, but haven’t been able to. With a very active IdeaExchange and frequent Prioritization Cycles, there comes a point where no more can be added to the development pipeline. There are tough decisions on what to keep, and what to cut.

How Can You Get Involved?

  1. Mark your calendars

The next True to the Core Live session on Trailhead Live will be on Tuesday, August 25 at 4:00 p.m. PT. The next topic will be Analytics! Product leaders will answer your operational reporting (reports & dashboards) and Einstein Analytics questions.

  1. Submit Questions

Pre-submit questions to the True to the Core Trailblazer Community group ahead of the next session, especially if you are looking for a solid answer to a particularly ‘thorny’ question!

Let’s take advantage of this opportunity to shape the Salesforce products that we rely on both day-to-day, and for long-term transformation.

  1. Keep Updated on Twitter

Follow the hashtag #TTTC to keep up with the conversation on Twitter.

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