My purpose in writing: to help admins at small nonprofit to hold P10 licenses to keep up with the best features, not waste time, and not feel behind the curve when it comes to updates.
I spent several hours going through the hundreds of pages of early release notes for Spring 2024. Here’s what I found that you may wish to be thinking about: The reason why you should know about it now is to avoid doing work that is better done after the release arrives, plan for any work that you may need to do, and then adopt features that have high value to your organization. The release arrives (like it or not) on Saturday morning, about 3 weeks from now for most. There are three waves (early, mid, and last) across four weekends. The SPRING 2024 release notes are here.
It’s worth noting that there’s been a lot said about technical debt in the last few years. And for large organizations, much of what has been said is 100% true. But for small organizations, technical debt can be a strategy but must be wisely managed. Technical debt is a little bit like losses on an investment that you haven’t sold yet. The cost or loss isn’t real in many ways until you make the wrong decisions. A wise administrator stays aware, knows where they can be a fast follower and the benefits, knows the areas where they can choose to be a late adopter, and is aware of areas that need overhaul, so they don’t walk into quagmires ungracefully.
Do note that I’m not covering NPC because so few organizations that are small are using it now, although I absolutely would use it if I were starting new. I don’t cover paid features, and I don’t cover Slack because of their tacky policy of not providing free licenses to people with religious nonprofits. I don’t know why they single this out, but it’s not in line with Salesforce values in the nonprofit space.
- Flow builder more stable and easier to work with: For a guy who loves flow, I had to say ugly things last release as I advised you to lay low on several new features of flow from Winter 24 due to some terrible incompatibility features with existing flows. Those got ironed out, although it took quite a while with several patches, I believe. Hopefully, it will be time to try out a couple of new things. The big deal is that you can record items open as panels on the side (and presumably this is the preferred future way for components to work), auto-save, and can be partially configured and still allow saving the flow (which does NOT autosave). Items that have configuration errors show up with a little “don’t” circle because of the component. I also want to point out that you really need to be using the “fields” capability of Salesforce screens these days. Gone are the days of creating a dozen input fields, naming them painstakingly, then assigning them to the object, and finally saving them. And heaven help you if you want to work with existing records with defaults. Now you simply get an object, tell the screen editor to work with it, and drag the fields you want to the screen. It’s like making a report, really. The existing values are the defaults, and the values are already in the object when the user hits next. And now we can do validation on all of them, including compound data like address fields.
- NPSP update for duplicates. NPSP folks updated something you will want to change in your contact lightning page! The Salesforce out-of-the-box potential duplicate components are not very helpful to NPSP users (in fact, they’re harmful in many cases) and can now be replaced by one that understands NPSP. It will open the right NPSP page for merging! As far as I could find, that’s the only NPSP update. Almost all attention remains on Industry Cloud NPC, even though there is no advice (or tools) to move or migrate. NPC is just a new customer thing right now. SF has not found the right recipe to make it a widespread tool for existing customers yet. And believe me, I want to use its richer features, which are being updated!
- Better editing of reports and dashboards. You can now easily change the field in a report filter. Before, you could change the operator and value, but not the field. If you’ve ever had to delete a filter that’s involved in custom filter logic, you know the pain this addresses! And I don’t know if it’s really a big deal, but a feature that was restricted to elite accounts in the last release is now available to all: rich text and images on dashboards. You can squeeze four onto a full dashboard. More on a smaller one. If you’ve run against filter count limits, all accounts also get more (now 5). You can also do more with the unified analytics tabs and app. This is two different things: a tab called “Analytics” for any app and a console app called “Analytics.” With either, you can clean up dashboards and reports faster using bulk actions like share, move, and delete. Note that I don’t recommend the tab for all users or a broad roll-up. I still have a lot of trouble with it. Report edits don’t always load fully (some parts of the edit dialogue are simply missing and never load), and navigating back isn’t very nice in the tab since the URL isn’t unique for each report you view. It’s better in the Analytics app. Your mileage may vary. I like the utility, but I get quite frustrated with the inconsistency and bugs.
- Better Page Design on Mobile: Dynamic field conditional visibility supports device type now. You can turn dynamic fields on and off on mobile to save space. Mobile dynamic action also supports the device type. So, you can really design mobile pages to work nicely.
- Better Experience Cloud features. Did you know that you can publish public sites (for free with P10) that show information from your organization, run flows, and more? What you cannot do for free is have a login experience. Guest experiences can do a lot, though, in the way of presenting your program data and results. Even collect data for you like volunteer sign-ups (just not personalized with login unless you add paid licenses). We now get a history panel as editors to check what has been done lately. And now we can customize the URL for end users when object names are exposed to make it friendlier. See connect. Symin.org for some ideas. We are using the heck out of this feature these days to overcome a lot of problems with V4SF and to deal with bringing more systems into SF. We’ve only just started!
- Better Setup Information: Setup continues to get some love (with more in the pipeline). We’re all doing so much with flows these days, including calling email alerts. Now, when we go to the email alert page, we’ll see which flows are using the alert. That’s smart! Keep it up!
- Data Cloud. I’m not yet fully covering Data Cloud, but did you know that every enterprise customer can get a free annual grant to use it? I have begun the process of synching all my contacts and leads to help identify duplicates. Our 10,000 people used up about 2% of our allocation. You don’t get MuleSoft with the free offer, so I’m planning to learn how to import static tables of various interactions (phone calls, texts) using the free methods. In this release, we get a couple of cool things that allow sending data for import into the data cloud using flow. I believe that the data cloud may be the ideal way to store permanent data about all sorts of interactions, even for small organizations. We’ll see. I’ll be blogging more about this over time. Two free Tableau licenses also come with Data Cloud. I haven’t even started there yet.
- Advanced Flows: ScreenFlow Repeater: This allows you to collect field information for a record but then allow the user to click “add another.” Imagine a drop-off form that collects contact information for a receipt and then collects units and quantities of a donated item. The user clicks “add another”to keep adding items on the single screen. When they click next, each item is processed. This is a common feature of pricey form apps (which have their place for sure) and was not available previously on-screen flows. I don’t think this first release will be useful for that many nonprofit records due to its limited support of field types, but this is one to watch. It’s a much better user experience! More components become responsive screen components this time as well (text templates in particular). The callout component is a wonderful way to integrate external systems into Salesforce. You build the login credentials in setup, add the callout component, configure the web address, and send over a request! In Spring 24, we get to receive a live sample in the flow editor, and the component maps all the data types. It promises to be very slick! The transform component gets significant fixes. It wasn’t that useful initially because it supported too few “connections”to be useful for most nonprofit objects. Now you can map multiple input objects to one target. And you can map a collection to an aggregation field to sum or count. The idea is to have a simple and easily documented way to take information, map it to an object, and then add it to a collection or push it to the database. We all do that using a multitude of assignment statements and formulas now, but with these components, we get to draw a map of what goes where and what formula is used to patch up the data if needed. I think if I were building a new flow, I would consider using the mapping component starting with Spring 25. However, I still think it’s not wise to try to convert any old flows because there are still too many times, you’ll end up stuck and unable to do 100% of the job with the transform component. There’s not that much obvious gain from doing some mapping and some assignments. It needs to be 100% to be helpful.
You may note that I didn’t talk about AI. Generative AI is real, albeit with very rudimentary applications. However, generative AI is not being rolled out to users except those in elite categories. So P10 users will see none of it for now (or ever?). As an MVP, P10 license holder, and Einstain for Nonprofits licensee, I don’t have access to even a single bit of the new stuff, but I am anticipating some good stuff coming down the pipeline. Do be aware that Salesforce is releasing their Generative AI. monthly, so the story is going to change fast for those with access.