Salesforce Experience Cloud – Licences Deep Dive

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Experience Cloud can be regarded as a far more malleable interface for Salesforce users, but leveraging the same toolkit. It sits on top of the standard Salesforce platform, but can be designed more tightly and branded more heavily, allowing for additional use cases, involving wider audiences. Users often don’t even realise they are using Salesforce.

To facilitate this, there are a range of licenses available, with less functionality than the core Salesforce licenses, but still leaving plenty on offer, at a range of inviting prices.

We’re now going for a deep dive into the different license types available; there’s plenty of options, so hopefully, this will help you navigate your way through the choices available. We will also cover license features and differences, use cases, what isn’t allowed and some tips for more mature implementations.

Getting Started

Experience Cloud is built on top of the Salesforce platform so the fundamentals are the same, such as data access through profiles, permission sets and sharing rules (where available). Being a Salesforce Certified Administrator, or having equivalent experience, is a de facto requirement before you start diving in.

The Experience Cloud Consultant certification is also recommended. Check out the “Further Reading” section, at the end, for lots of extra Experience Cloud-related resources.

Experience Cloud License Features

There are 5 license types:

  • External App
  • Customer Community
  • Customer Community Plus
  • Partner Community
  • Channel

Here is a chart summarising the major features and differences between those license types:

 External
App
Customer CommunityCustomer Community PlusPartner CommunityChannel
AccountsRead & EditRead & EditYesYesYes
ContactsYesYesYesYesYes
CasesYesYesYesYes
KnowledgeYesYesYesYesYes
OpportunitiesYesYes
LeadsYesYes
Custom Objects*10010101010
Send EmailYesYesYes
Sharing SetsYesYesYesYesYes
Advanced Sharing RulesYesYesYes
Reports & DashboardsRead OnlyYesYes

*The custom object limit is per user, so different users may have access to different custom objects. Also Managed Packages do not count towards your object limit (hurrah!).

The Communities User Licenses Help Page has a full breakdown. It’s worth noting that you can also have a combination of licenses (e.g. 100x Customer Community, 5x Customer Community and 1x Sales Cloud licenses), but they are still tied to the edition of Salesforce that you are using – that’s to say Enterprise or Unlimited Edition. Experience Cloud is not available with either Essentials or Professional Edition.

But what are the use cases? I’m glad you asked!

Experience Cloud Use Cases

Customer Community

  • Customer order tracking
  • Case management
  • Membership and benefit engagement

Customer Community Plus

Anything that involves working in a team and sharing data. In a very recent change, this option is not so relevant for nonprofits as the Partner Community is now priced at a similar cost (see next section).

Partner Community

Occasionally referred to as Partner Relationship Management. Anything where suppliers and partners need to see Opportunity data.

Nonprofits: Although Customer Community is available with the standard 76% (or thereabouts) discount, the Partner Community license has recently been co-branded as “Experience Cloud for Nonprofits”. This special version means that Volunteers for Salesforce and other common nonprofit use cases can work, at a better price than was previously available. There’s further documentation available here. Both links are static PDFs, so you will need to ask your Account Executive for up to date documents, for accurate pricing.

Channel Account (pricing not publicly available)

Here you get up to 40 users per account; so it’s good for multiple points of interaction with different employees from the same partner.

External Apps

This is for those that want to make their own apps based on the Salesforce platform.

Bonus: All the links above contain up-to-date pricing information.

License Options

Each of the above license types has cost options based on the number of individual users or the number of times they log in or you can use both simultaneously.

e.g. A supplier might log in regularly to see the status of new orders and invoice payments (for which an individual user license would be appropriate), whereas customers might only log in every six months (for which number of logins per month would be more appropriate).

In fact, a rule of thumb is if you have a user that needs to log in more than four times a month, then an individual license may be more appropriate – but it all depends on your individual licensing costs and any discounts you have.

One use case that isn’t allowed

You cannot use Experience Cloud for paid employees of your company. It is for non-employees, such as customers, members, partners, third-party vendors and contractors.

This may surprise some people, especially as it was not always the situation – e.g. there were Employee App licenses on the Community Cloud in the past.

Historically some flexibility has been shown if it pushes through a deal, but inevitably policies change over time. You can check if there is any discretion available with your Account Executive, as this is within the legal agreement you sign with Salesforce.

Special thanks to Stas Dunayev on this point – I’ve also independently confirmed this in writing from Salesforce, as there was a lack of clarity on this point within the usual official resources.

Tips

Customer Community & Sharing Sets

One of the biggest limitations of the Customer Community license is the restricted sharing rules; you don’t have roles so this stops role-based sharing. Customer Community Plus and Partner licenses do not have this limitation.

Sharing sets open up what Customer Community licenses can do. Here’s what Salesforce has to say: “You can grant Community Users access to all cases related to their account record. Similarly, you can grant Community Users access to all cases related to a parent account that is identified on the user’s account record.”

So if your community users are part of the same company, they can see what cases their colleagues have logged with Customer Community licenses; and in a similar fashion you can open up other objects to the same group of users if they share the same account.

Changing Experience Cloud Licenses

Unlike Salesforce licenses, changing an Experience Cloud license is more tricky. For instance, you can change someone from Customer Community to Customer Community Plus, but you cannot readily change them back again; in the same manner you can change someone to a Partner license, but you cannot readily change them back to a Customer Community or Customer Community Plus license.

The license types aren’t equivalent – it may mean that you have to set up new users, you can’t just point and click and change them over. Salesforce rephrased this slightly and added a bit more detail which you can read about in their help article.

Should you need to undo a license change, for whatever reason, a simple approach for this could be to let the person know that their password will be reset… 

What in fact will happen is you rename their current username and name to something else (e.g. username.old / “Name… OLD*”) and add the new user account. Reassign any existing records as appropriate from the old user to the new user, and then issue a password reset for the new user account (which happens to have the same username as the previous user, but this time be on the new profile).

*Putting “old” on the display name is important, as it avoids confusion within lookups on Salesforce.

Changing licenses means that permission sets are removed from the user. This is the same as for standard Salesforce licenses.

The workaround for this is simple. Keep a note of the Permission Sets on the profile, before changing the profile, and then you can reapply them afterwards.

Contracts

Sometimes it turns out that business requirements significantly alter (thank you Covid!), or that Salesforce product upgrades may mean that a different license is now appropriate (e.g. you previously needed a normal Salesforce license, but you can now fulfil this with an Experience Cloud license).

After you have tried and tested that your new profiles work in a sandbox, it might be financially sensible to buy the new licenses towards the end of your existing contract. That way you can migrate everyone over without having to pay for two sets of licenses simultaneously for a significant period of time. 

It is certainly worth discussing the business case with your Salesforce Account Executive. If you have a multi year contract, then Salesforce may be more amenable to changing your licensing agreement as long as you maintain the overall contract value.

Maintaining Profiles

Just like with the normal Salesforce licenses, keep your profiles very “bare-bones” if you can, with only a few (or zero) objects. Then add in the permissions you require via permission sets.

This enables users with different licenses to share the same permissions, reducing the number of profiles you need, and keeping things relatively easy to maintain going forward as you only need to update permission sets rather than keep track of multiple profiles as well.

Double-Check

Test, test and test again. This is what Sandboxes were made for, before you sign off on a new long term purchase!

Summary

The time spent to work out your licensing costs could have a very high ROI, in terms of helping create a business case for implementing Experience Cloud. You could save internal staff time and empower external stakeholders to access information directly; enabling customers, members, partners, third-party vendors and contractors to get hold of information and status updates with ease, making dealing with your organisation (even) more of a pleasure.

Further reading

Finally, huge thanks to Lindsay Larson, Martin Humpolec and Stas Dunayev for their assistance in putting this article together.

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