Salesforce leans heavily on Lightning platform to lead charge for connected apps

Aside from a live performance by Metallica, Salesforce's 2017 will be headlined by its Lightning experience for managing connected apps.
Written by Rachel King, Contributor

SAN FRANCISCO---As Super Bowl 50 marketing blankets advertising spaces outside of San Francisco's St. Regis Hotel on Monday, Salesforce.com CEO Marc Benioff outlined the CRM giant's game plan for the next year.

Headlining the launch of fiscal year 2017 -- aside from the brief live performance of the U.S. national anthem by local band Metallica in the hotel ballroom -- will be metadata platform Lightning.

Lightning serves as one of the brand's launchpads (and key strategies) for serving connected apps and the Internet of Things, which for its purposes, Salesforce refers to as the "Internet of Customers." Elements of the developer-focused user experience has since been infused into some of the company's cornerstone products, such as Sales Cloud and Service Cloud.

Salesforce tied these threads together are a trio of new apps introduced on Tuesday. Leading the charge is Sales Cloud Lightning -- essentially a new version of Sales Cloud that can be configured to the customer's needs and preferences with an app builder and component framework for developers.

Also introduced was the Sales Wave App, turning Salesforce data into APIs alongside a new feature dubbed "Pipelines" for funneling analysis, and SalesforceIQ Inbox, an attempt to combine CRM data to email in one integrated spot.

Salesforce is also building off both Lightning and its recent $360 million acquisition of quote-to-cash app startup SteelBrick with the debut of a refashioned service known as Salesforce SteelBrick CPQ.

Within Service Cloud, Salesforce has used Lightning to build a new service: Field Service Lightning, which is being pitched to mobile employees such as dispatchers and delivery agents for managing assignments, location details, work orders and other status messages in real-time.

As more than 300 other updates coming with the Salesforce spring and summer releases later this year, the new Lightning-enhanced editions of Sales and Service Clouds are scheduled to come online by the end of July. Existing customers should start seeing new features and apps starting during the second quarter of fiscal 2017.

Salesforce is having a big Groundhog Day, which Benioff also noted marks the beginning of Salesforce's new fiscal year. Earlier on Tuesday, the Bay Area-based corporation named Oracle veteran Keith Block as its chief operating officer, replacing George Hu, who left Salesforce to found the startup behind workplace feedback app Peer.

"You've really made the shift," Benioff joked to Block about not wearing a neck tie to the luncheon.

Screenshot via Salesforce

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