Thursday, December 24, 2009

Salesforce’s Customer Portal Tip#1: incorporating HTML

I thought I would start a post on some tips on using the Customer Portal. Up until recently there was not too much in the way of information regarding the Customer Portal. In fact when our company rolled out the Portal to our Customers in March of this year all I was able to find was a couple of implementation guides and a short video demo. Recently I stumbled across quite by chance. I was doing a search for “Customer Portal” in Developerforce and came across it. Not sure how long it has been around but it certainly was not a resource back in March and to think you have to be thinking “Consultant” to even find it.

Anyhow, I wrote a Developerforce Discussion Board post back in July with a tip for incorporating HTML in the header/footer sections of your Customer Portal which has received quite a few views and I have been told by Salesforce’s very own Partner Enablement team that it is going to be an article in the “Configure” section of the Consultant Resource Center Customer Portal sometime in the New Year.

In a nutshell the tip is for incorporating an HTML header section that is a full width image. The issue was dynamic resizing of an image based on a web browsers screen resolution settings. Below is the issue presented and the proposed fixed. Hopefully it helps someone out there!

Through trial and error I discovered that placing a graphic on the Customer Portal via Setup>Customize>Customer Portal>Settings [Your Portal] Edit>Look and Feel(section)>Lookup for a HTML Document to include in your Header or Footer you have to do some trickery to display it properly.

The major issue is that a graphic will not dynamically resize to the end users screen resolution settings. So, as in my case, I wanted to display a graphic to fill the entire Header section of the Customer Portal.
I created my graphic, which happened to be 1440px in width and 100px in height, and uploaded it to SF Documents as a .jpg image. I then created my HTML doc with a simple <> tag referencing the unique path of the image with will be something like,[an id]&oid=[another id]&lastMod=1247154430000.

(In order to get the image path you have to go to Documents and locate the image you want, click on the file to see its details, and then right click over the image and do a “Copy Image Location.”)

I then uploaded that to SF Documents. I then referenced that HTML document in the Customer Portal Setup as my Header.

All looked great, until I changed my browser to display on a screen with a 1024x768 resolution. The graphic displayed so long here that I had to scroll horizontally to see the entire graphic. I tested this with other resolutions and well much dismay.

So the Solution: Your either have to use JavaScript in your HTML document to handle the image resizing based on the end users screen resolution or you can use a <> tag. I chose the latter. Here is the code:

A caveat on this though. You must create your image to be the width of the largest screen resolution you may encounter. That maybe 1280 or 1440 or even bigger. The above code will allow that image to display correctly on all resolutions settings, dynamically.

I have since discovered that the resizing to display on the appropriate end users screen res settings for even HTML components used on the Customer Portal Homepage layout you will have to use the above code somewhere as well. If you do not your may see your square HTML component change size.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

A philisophical adjustment to SF releases!

Argh! So to revisit the Quotes Pilot for a moment. Today I was trying to set up some Workflow rules so that via a field update we could adjust the Subtotal or TotalPrice of the Quote. Alas no! Subtotal and TotalPrice is not available via the merge fields in the Formula Engine.

This got me thinking about the underlying philosophical persuasion of the SF product team when it comes to releases. It seems that on several occasions they have released a product without holistically looking at all the ramifications of a product without the basic core functionality including critical fields being exposed to the Formula Engine, for example.

This leaves me wondering whether the Senior Product Managements attitude is a little cavalier towards product releases with a “Just get it out there!” mentality.

Ok maybe I am being unfair, granted, but come on product team you wet our appetite with new products/features/functionality but you cut appendages off so we are using the product in a less the optimal and efficient way.

Oh no! Another thought struck me. I so hope that there is not a persuasive attitude of give 75% functionality and allow them to develop the further 25%. That would suck, especially for us non-developers.
What is your experience?

Monday, December 21, 2009


Salesforce Chatter!

What are your thoughts and feeling about the next iteration of Salesforce with an integrated Social Platform? Does it make sense for all business sizes or another SFDC Product offering geared for the Large Business?

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Answers Pilot and the future of SF Communities

So we are seeing the next evolution of Salesforce with its Service Cloud 2 offerings and now the Sales Cloud 2 offerings and many of you have notice the seeming corporate jump on the proverbial Social Networking Bandwagon. What are you thoughts about this?

Also Dreamforce unveiled the new Chatter Application which will be among us soon. So Social Networking and collaboration seem to be the general dance being danced.

One may think my tone shows some skepticism but in truth not so. I am seeing the great possibilities that then move into the Social Networking arena SF can have. From a Support point the more “Channels” available for your Knowledge to be seen the happier your Customers, or something like that.

Anyway, the move forward SF is taking in the nature of Communities, first with Ideas and soon to be Answers, gives our own SF Users something to use to interact with one another but has even greater benefits for our Customers. Ideas was a start and was ideal for granting your Customers the ability to suggest Product enhancements etc. Answers will hopefully fill the other gab.

SF Cases helps solve issues your Customers may have in traditional sense but is it not more satisfying when those forums that do work have Product Team members, Sales folk and Support Techies chiming in a dialog of sorts to bring a satisfactory conclusion to that frustrating bug or question you have had?

Answers helps here, or at least it will do. Right now Answers is in its Pilot phase and yes I have access to it. At first I was like what the heck is this as it does not have the interface that Ideas has. In fact at this time the Answers tab in my org takes me to an Enhanced List view. I was intially confused and wondered what I could possibly do to give it more of an Ideas or forum interface. I started getting all hot under the collar with the thoughts of more Visualforce and Apex development.

Fortunately a quick email to the Answers Product Management team gave me an Answer, excuse the pun. The next release (February time) will see something similar to the below, with the caveat that it might look slightly different. The sreenshot shows the SF Dev teams Dev edition as of today.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Quotes Pilot and the future of

So for those of you who have access to the Quotes Pilot what are your thoughts thus far? For those of you who don’t have access as yet here is what you can look forward to.

Quotes is a SF Object in itself but obviously has tight dependency upon Opportunities. Right now the Pilot Quotes does not even have a Tab, so the only way you can access it is via Opportunities and that via a Related List.

The idea is you select your Products on your Opportunity and then Create a Quote. The Quote then displays standard field info like Quote Name, Number, Expiration Date, Status, Discount, Sub-Total, Total, Grand Total and Address information.

Once you save the initial data you can then add new Quote Line Items similar to Product Line Items on the Opportunity and you can apply individual Line item Discounts, qty etc if need be and you can edit the existing Line Items that were populated upon the converting the Opp Line Items into the Quote.

You now have the ability to Create a PDF version of the Quote (of which the Visualforce page can be customized with your companies logo) and you can email the Quote directly from the Details page.
So to the limitations. You can check out the IdeaExchange Idea for the Quotes Pilot here.

First thing one notices once you have played around with the Quote, adding Discounts etc you have a different Grand Total from the Amount shown on your Opportunity. Could be a problem I hear you say! Yes exactly! Not sure about the rest of you but in our Company our Quote needs to reflect the Opportunity. What this has meant until now is a plethora of Custom Fields on the Opportunity to handle Discounts etc.

I queried this with the Product Manager for Quotes and thankfully they are building a syncing mechanism into the next iteration/release with a possible February slot.

Great News!

The second limitation is that you can only grant Discounts to individual Line Items and not a overall discount after the individual Line Item Discounts have been applied. News has it that this may be a feature in the Summer Release.

So some thoughts about the new Quotes Object. About time! One does find himself wondering how this is viewed by all those Application Partners of Salesforce. Is this considered competition by them? Anyway all I can say is that I am patient enough to watch and ride the evolution of Quotes and hopefully reap the benefits of this being taken care of Salesforce and not some third party App.

Just our of interest for those who require further functionality such as invoicing etc take a look at Financialforce

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Update 2 to the SF Knowledge App Post

My call with a marvelously friendly and knowledgeable Frenchmen who is one of the Senior Product Managers has just ended. He graciously answered all of my questions and I feel I have some good information to move forward with our own implementation of Knowledge and some helpful information to share.

One of the biggest concerns surrounding the newly released Knowledge was the costing factor of which I included the link to my Idea in my original post. The understanding here is that this initial release of Knowledge came with a price for many different reasons. The primary one that made sense to me is kind of backward thinking but still makes sense. Eventually SF will replace Solutions, which answers why they are not investing in further development in regards to it. What they will be replacing Solutions with is a slightly scaled down free version of Knowledge. It seems based on our conversation that the strategic vision for Knowledge is much larger than what Solutions presents for us today and therefore SF feel justified in associating a cost with the Knowledge Application out of the gate and then following up with a free version sometime in the not too distant future. Stay tuned for a possible Winter 2011 release or at least somewhere within the 2011 release windows. Did I say Winter 2011? Ok that could float over to 2012 or what the heck maybe even 2013.

The second concern, that I had at least, was the seeming targeted focus that SF Knoweldge scalability to the large public facing SF Customer that channels like web searchable Knowledge Article and access to Article via Social Networks have a big contributing factor. Apologies, a mouthful of a sentance I know! I was thinking “what about us SF Customers who cannot serve our Customers Knowledge in a public fashion but have to serve them something that should be worthwhile and usable none the less!” Here I am concerned about the self-service angle. Where is the Suggested Article for the Portal User to encourage self-closure of their Cases and where is the Create an Article on Case Closure functionality that maybe I have come to be secure in because let’s be honest it’s all we have had to serve up Knowledge to our Customers to date. Thankfully functionality that has not been forgotten and enhanced upon. These capabilities will be available, hopefully, in the Summer 2010 release along with some API functionality and a probable migration tool/wizard to handle the gap between all those Solutions and how the heck to turn them into Knowledge Articles.

So what else do we have to look forward to in SF Knowledge? Obviously these are raw and not promised and by no means comprehensive a list but the Spring 2010 release we can look forward to Analytics surrounding Knowledge and also User Permissions and Security. There is a big play to position the underlying Dimensions engine in other aspects of Salesforce with the inclusion of that engine and the availability of Articles in the Answers Object/Arena. Answers is a sort of Ideas sort of Forum capability still in the process of being released by SF but it will be a solution to those of us with Portals and the desire to build private communities as well as the public sphere.

Anyhoo that kind of sums up my conversation with the SF Knowledge Product Manager and hopefully helps anyone reading this who is interested that Knowledge is going to be a very interesting and worthwhile ride.

P.S. I forgot to mention yes Knowledge will become available for Salesforce 2 Salesforce sometime after the API work is done, probably not until 2011 and there is a package of sorts that SFDC Professional Services have put together to handle your migration from Solutions to Knowledge. I am sure a call to Professional Services will unearth it, albeit with a cost.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Update 1 to the SF Knowledge App Post

I had an email reply from a Salesforce Senior Product Manager late yesterday saying that SF Knowledge “will not replace Solutions in the short term” and that he will send my email to him onto the Senior Product Manager for SF Knowledge.

…And how about that I just start writing this and I get an email from the Product Manager arranging a time to call. I will post what I can after my call. I am looking forward to hear the news about SK Knowledge.
Stay Tuned!

Thursday, December 3, 2009

The NEW SF Knowledge App (Thoughts, Confusion & Questions)

This is a post I made today on both the Community Forum and the New Answers Community.

Lots more thoughts and questions surrounding the SF Knowledge App, like Why no more development on Solutions? Will Knowledge replace Solutions? And most importantly why the added cost? I created an Idea surrounding the costing of the Knowledge App that I would welcome some feedback on titled: “Please consider the upcoming Knowledge app to have a no fee association!”

So to my Community post today.
We are trialling the new SF Knowledge App and are trying to gage the benefits of it over the use of SF Solutions as our Customer Self-Service model.

Has anyone implemented Knowledge? If so, what have you done with Solutions? Did you export your Solutions and then re-import them as Articles? What are some best practices for this?

One would assume that if you have exposed Solutions in the past to your Customers either via the Customer Portal or via the Self-Service Portal you would want to create Articles for them.

The only benefits I see at this point in time is a better organized way of Managing the creation and distribution of the Articles, a better search mechanism for those Articles (over Solutions) but no facility to self close a Case with the help of a “Suggested Article” feature like there is for Solutions within Cases and a richer UI experience. For sure there is the whole avenue of Article distribution via the likes of the Social Networking communities that make the new SF Knowledge App a nice feature but I am at a real loss as to how this either compliments, enhances or replaces Solutions.

It would be a real plus if SFDC communicated some vision surrounding SF Knowledge in the form of where this fits into the existing Service & Support model with Solutions, Cases and Content(sorry the Video Clip of an Article being presented to a Twit(what does one call a Twitter Member anyway?) and also being found as a Web Article via Google does not really cut it).

Also, some serious answers need to be given with respect to the confusing placement alongside Solutions. Is this going to replace Solutions? Will there be the facility to provide Case self-closure with Articles? Why is Articles not available via Workflow or something simpler like a “Create an Article” checkbox within the Solution Edit Mode(no easy way to continue our existing business process surrounding Solution creation and turning them into Articles)? Why is there no “Create Article screen upon Case closure?

One is left scratching his head as to SF Knowledge’s placement alongside Solutions and how one can either use both or just the one. Solutions seems redundant but with Articles not meeting the same functionality as Solutions why would one want to use Articles apart from it being nice to look at?