Guide to Salesforce Platform Licenses – Tips, Tricks & Best Practices

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There are lots of different Salesforce licenses for the core Salesforce platform. In this article we’re going to explore two of the newer kinds that have been launched: Platform Starter and Platform Plus (until very recently known as Lightning Platform and Lightning Platform Plus licenses). These ‘new kids on the block’ are available for Enterprise edition and above.

They can sit in tandem/co-exist peacefully with existing licenses (e.g. Sales Cloud and Service Cloud), but aren’t talked about too much, so this article offers a deeper dive.

“Salesforce”

Salesforce Licenses – Recap

As a recap, here are the links to all the main Enterprise licenses types, including a rather handy PDF specification/comparison sheet – just click “download the full comparison sheet” on the relevant page:

And the Platform licenses in particular:

  • Platform Starter (10 custom objects, available on Enterprise and Unlimited only)
  • Platform Plus (110 custom objects, available on Enterprise and Unlimited only)

What are Platform Licenses?

Platform Starter and Platform Plus licenses offer the standard Salesforce functionality you’ve come to know and love. However, the range of standard objects and the number of custom objects are severely curtailed – e.g., barely anything sales or service-related.

Here are some examples of where the Platform licenses could be suitable:

  • Your business uses Managed Packages for the majority of its processes
  • For a particular department that doesn’t use Opportunities (e.g., post-sales operations)
  • You have a non-standard business model – quite frequent for nonprofits, where you might be tracking applications or providing non-monetary goods or training

Platform licenses do include Accounts, Contacts and Reports as well as the automation tools that you know and love (e.g., Process Builder, Flow and Apex), but they do not include individual or mass emailing, though email via automation still works.

Depending on the license you choose, you get access to 10 or 110 custom objects per user (Starter and Plus respectively).

You can also mix and match licenses, for example having 20 Platform Starter licenses and 15 Sales Cloud licenses. However, as a reminder, they all must be on the same Salesforce edition (e.g., you can’t have some on Enterprise edition and some on Unlimited edition).

Important Tips!

  1. Contract restrictions – recreating standard objects. Salesforce is extremely clear about this. If you copy certain standard features using custom techniques, then you must pay for those standard features. The main example is Opportunities and recreating the functionality contained therein to save on cost. Salesforce takes enforcement action against this as you are breaking their terms and conditions.
  2. Features do change over time – you can check the date at the top of this article for when it was last updated! e.g., a license may have a certain limitation at one point in time that may be changed later on.
  3. If you’re not sure, test it in a sandbox. You can ask your Salesforce Account Executive to get (demo) licenses enabled.
  4. When you change a user’s license (e.g., between “Salesforce” and “Salesforce Platform”, as we’ll see later on) all the existing Permission Sets are removed from that user. You can just reassign them back immediately after the license change if you’ve kept a note of them(!).
  5. Included data and file allowances change, depending on both, edition and number of licenses.
  6. Some features are more flexible than others – e.g., with these licenses you can sometimes buy more objects, rather than change to a different license type. Speak to your Salesforce Account Executive for more info.
  7. Publicly available AppExchange products do not count towards the 10 or 110 object limit.

Changing Salesforce Licenses

Sometimes you’ll see references to “Salesforce licenses”, which are Sales Cloud, Service Cloud or a combination thereof and sometimes to “Salesforce Platform licenses” which are the Platform Starter and Platform Plus licenses. In practical terms there’s no difference – both types have the same standard interface. It’s just a matter of a couple of clicks to transfer users between one and the other (as often as you want!) bearing in mind Tip #4 above, that you have to reapply any Permission Sets each time.

All licenses are controlled via profiles. When you buy the relevant licenses you get a standard profile for that license added to your edition, which you can clone and customise. You then just assign a user to the particular profile and can change their profile assignment as often as you want, should their role change.

To change between a Platform and “normal” (e.g. Sales or Service license) Salesforce license: on the User editing screen, you simply change the “User License” and pick the correct Profile (basically it’s a dependent picklist).

Best Practice

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 (or permission set groups of course) – this enables users with different licenses to share the same permission sets. It reduces the number of profiles you need 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.

Summary

There’s a lot of information to take in about Salesforce licenses and a lot of options. The time spent to work out your use case could have a very high ROI and unlock Salesforce for more areas of your business.

Further reading:

p.s. Huge thanks to Caroline Häming (especially for the Sales and Service Cloud comparisons) and Esti Raif for their assistance with putting this article together.

4 thoughts on “Guide to Salesforce Platform Licenses – Tips, Tricks & Best Practices

  1. Can you please explain more or provide pointers what do you mean by copying standard functionalities(Contract restrictions – recreating standard objects)

  2. I’ve been going back and forth with support and our AE (who both say they don’t know and to ask each other) about how to Manage Flows with a Salesforce Platform Plus license.

    https://www.salesforce.com/editions-pricing/platform/ clearly shows that process automation is available on a Platform license, but we don’t seem to be able to assign the needed Manage Flow permission to these users. However, the comparison chart PDF for Platform has a small hidden footnote:
    > Salesforce Platform licenses are intended for end users. App developers must have access to admin rights either via a full CRM license or a Salesforce Platform admin license.

    Do you know what a Salesforce Platform admin license is and how to get one?

    1. Hi Jon. You still need to have a full license (e.g. Sales or Service Cloud) in order to Administer flows. Your Platform users can benefit from flows, but you one full license is need to set them up in the first place.

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