The evening was opened by co-organiser Anup Jadhav to a packed out room at the dotmailer offices. He then passed over to the three presenters, Keir Bowden (overviewing Lightning), Chris Edwards (covering the Lightning Process Builder) and Matt Morris (covering Lightning Connect).
It was noted that 116 Salesforce user groups were meeting up over a two week period to really highlight Lightning, and if the interest elsewhere is anything like that in London then Salesforce.com are succeeding in getting the message out that they are serious about Lightning and that developers and admins need to get on board.
Keir started by giving us an overview of the why this is (something I have written about here):
- 68% Businesses believe Mobile is crucial
- Less than half have deployed an app
- This is an ‘App Gap’ that needs to be filled
- Today it is slow/difficult/costly to build and manage enterprise apps
- From a devs perspective debugging is hard
- Mobile is a brutal environment for applications
To start the overviews we then passed to Matt Morris (of Desynit) who gave an overview of Lightning Connect.
The idea here is to be able to connect data sources outside of Salesforce with minimal work and then be able to work with these records just as you would with Salesforce data. A note to make at the moment is this data is read only but even with this limitation the demo that Matt gave showing ‘external’ records being related to ‘internal’ records with close to zero coding is pretty impressive. Just being able to see the data in a single UI will be a big boon for lots of use cases (you can read more about Lightning Connect here)
I had not heard nor read much about this but I had heard it was to be quite a costly decision for organisations. This was echoed by comments in the room but on balance the work this technology can remove and the speed to which it can be deployed (at least from an initial demo) could still make this an attractive proposition.
Matt made a great point that the majority of organisations that use Salesforce.com have data residing elsewhere (on premise, other cloud providers) and that if they nail this then this will be a sure fire winner. I agree with this but as Matt pointed out there is still a lot of work to do and some features that will need to be added.
Lightning Process Builder
Next Chris took the mic and gave us a good walkthrough of Lightning Process Builder. Nowadays I very rarely spec workflow but still build the odd piece to solve my own use cases so I was very interested to see how easy it will now be take fairly complex processes and get these built and working with no code.
The process we went through involved adding a new record which by the magic of the process builder created a new ‘Event’ record, a Chatter post and also pushed the record through a pre-existing approval flow.
After these talks there was some hands on tutorials, initially I was going to do the Lightning Components track but having gone through the Trailhead module I decided to change and do the Process Builder Tutorial which built out the process Chris ran through here.
I was using my trusty ChromeBook and there were a couple of UI glitches but I finished the tutorial and also ‘versioned up’ the process a couple of times to add a couple of extra steps. Super easy and being so visual meant it was so much easier to follow – and as Chris mentioned it makes talking through the process with your users/process owners a much more pleasant experience. The verdict here is another winner for Salesforce.com.
Lightning Component Framework
Keir then took us through the Lightning Component Framework. I’ve had a bit of experience here and the MobileCaddy team had also attended the Lightning talk with Skip and Doug earlier in the year (Todd blogged about that meetup here).
The Lightning App Builder was also covered and although this is still fairly limited when viewed in context to all the other technologies mentioned as well as the power and simplicity of the Platform itself if it continues to be developed it could provide at least a jump start to app building (if not to full apps).
It was a great evening. The mix of admins and devs (and a whole host of other roles) gave the night a real buzz. Lightning has some hurdles to overcome, not least a fairly decent re-skilling on the dev side, but with initiatives like Trailhead these are definitely overcomeable.