Salesforce.com is currently rolling out its latest platform release - Winter '12. This is a big release, with 150 new features, and a lot of hefty ones at that. Here are some of the highlights that Xactium's customers may find useful as a part of our GRC solutions:
Analytics Enhancements - Starting with this release, there is a terrific roadmap of new features for reports and dashboards, which is going to be a big win for customers. Just to name a few of the new ones in Winter '12:
Dashboard Filters - Dashboard filters allow you to add a filter to the dashboard, that when changed, applies the filter to all the dashboard components. A small, but really useful feature. For now, it can only be a picklist, lookup or text field. (let's hope date fields are close behind)
New Reports Tab - A slick re-design of the Reports tab. The image shows it nicely, but essentially it combines Reports and Dashboards into one place to find and run them. An enhanced search has also been added for those customers with lots of reports or dashboards. A few other additions helps admins manage the folders and creation a bit better, although an obvious missing feature is the ability to sort folders - given the uproar this is causing on the discussion boards, we're hopeful it will be fixed soon!
Salesforce reports and dashboards Visualforce Charting - This is a pilot, but salesforce.com showed it at Dreamforce and it looked very slick. Essentially, visualforce reports will make it much easier to build more sophisticated reports. We're already testing these out at Xactium to see how they look!
Finally, reports are also shown in the recent items list, which will make them easier to re-run.
Chatter Enhancements - As expected, there are a quite few new Chatter enhancements. Chatter is now no longer just a feed, but also provides a messaging sevice.
Chatter Messages - Messaging and Presence now built directly into the platform. This is a big collaboration enhancement, as now users can see if someone is logged in, and send them a private message. So, if a private discussion needs to be had around a particular risk or control for example, users can have the conversation within the application, rather than using email with all its weaknesses as an audit trail.
Customers in Private Chatter Groups - Customers (or Partners) can now be invited into private and secure Chatter groups so they can collaborate with users. Share files, posts, messages, etc. just like you would with a normal user. Best of all, it's free. At Xactium we're looking forward to using this feature over the coming months to communicate with our customers and partners.
Chatter Approvals - Approvals can now be managed through the Chatter feed.
Salesforce for Outlook now supports Outlook 2010, including 64 bit.
Force.com Flow - this is now generally available within the platform. It provides a rapidly maturing tool for creating business process workflows and then executing them in the platform. We see this as being a very powerful solution in the future for driving critical business processes as part of a well-controlled business environment.
For all you admins, this enhancement is a great time saver. When viewing records on the right hand side, you can find a button for showing (and hiding) a quick access menu for editing the properties of a record. For example, editing and adding new fields, or workflows and approvals take one click instead of 5-6 clicks you normally take to navigate all the way through the setup menus!
Winter '12 looks like a well rounded release with a few big enhancements and a lot of smaller enhancements to really fill it out. After the somewhat light Summer '11 release, Winter '12 provides some nice features that can be leveraged without Apps.
To sum up in a single sentence: Winter '12 offers a combination of functionality and efficiency for greater usability, with a real emphasis on collaboration as part of salesforce.com's vision of the social enterprise.
Keep your eyes peeled, we'll be reporting back on the Chatter updates in the coming weeks.