Salesforce.com Unveils Lightning Bolt for Community Cloud

Salesforce.com today enhanced its Community Cloud with Lightning Bolt, a framework that helps companies launch customer-facing websites that address the particular needs of their industries and markets. According to Mike Micucci, general manager and senior vice president of Salesforce Community Cloud, the capabilities make the process of creating "next-generation communities" faster and more cost-effective than ever before.

Just over a year ago, Salesforce introduced Lightning capabilities to its Community Cloud, with the goal of giving customer service organizations the tools they need to launch online knowledge portals while reducing the number of technical hoops they had to jump through. Since then, more than 900 discussion resources have been launched with the technology. However, "our customers wanted more," Micucci says. "They wanted the power of what we introduced with Lightning, but they wanted it with more prebuilt solutions, best practices," and industry expertise. Among the tools requested were those that would help retailers figure out how to manage their franchisers, assist manufacturers with B2B e-commerce, and allow companies to address the concerns common to their verticals. For instance, "if I'm in healthcare, how do I do patient engagement?"

Lightning Bolt "really takes that Lightning piece a step farther," says Micucci. The framework allows partners and developers in the Salesforce ecosystem to build Bolt solutions, which then allow organizations to tap into data from their CRM systems, as well as any of their business logic and custom designs, workflows, and templates, to launch branded communities.

To start, Salesforce has added 11 prepackaged solutions to its AppExchange, from technology and consulting partners Appirio, CloudCraze, Cognizant, Magnet 360, and Deloitte, among others.

Micucci singles out offerings from Accenture and PwC. "Accenture built an awesome [solution] for insurance brokerage management," he says. "A very common use case is that a company will have 5,000 to 6,000 brokers, and they need a way for those brokers to interact not only back and forth with each other, but with the partner account managers and their customers." Accenture's Community for Insurance Agents solution gives users access to a data-populated dashboard, as well as self-service and sales productivity tools.

PWC's Bolt application is designed to help companies manage their suppliers, enabling tasks such as keeping track of order shipping times, Micucci says.

The Lightning Bolt capabilities assist in doing "things that our customers are already doing, but it took them a longer time to get to market, and this is where we said we can do better" by offering them out-of-the-box options, Micucci adds.

Mike Stone, senior vice president of product marketing at Salesforce Community Cloud, says that the number of premade solutions is expected to grow, and participating partners are developing additional apps to meet various customer use cases.

The Lightning Bolt update will be generally available to Community Cloud subscribers in October, as part of Salesforce's winter release, Micucci says.

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