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  • Writer's pictureMichael Kolodner

These Are Not The Components You're Looking For

In my introduction to the new clouds I mentioned that one of the potential benefits is the access to Lego-piece components (objects and functionality as well as page components) from other Industries solutions. I think it’s time to look at some of these and consider their benefits and pitfalls.


Freebie in a homemade R2D2 costume next to a golden dog android.

Interaction Summaries

Interaction summaries are an object created for Financial Services Cloud and subsequently used by several Industries products, including Health Cloud, Public Sector, and Nonprofit and Education Clouds. They were originally created, as I understand it, to allow for sensitive notes that could be shared and hidden based on a lot more criteria than Tasks can. Many consultants have spent many hours over the years either building special automation to handle privacy around tasks or building custom objects with their own sharing settings to hold sensitive notes. While this kind of privacy concern hasn’t come up for me very much in my client base, I can certainly understand the need for privacy around sensitive wealth management, therapy, and case management use cases. 


So score one for functionality that someone else built that the new clouds can take advantage of!


But I’m actually not sure how to integrate interaction summaries into the rest of the platform, because of Tasks. (Which, to make things as clear as mud, are actually a record type of Activities. Tasks and Events are both Activities. But I'm only going to refer to Tasks.)


Tasks have been around so long that it’s hard to move away from them. I have conversations all the time about how Tasks are incredibly frustrating for various reasons. (First culprit: the polymorphic fields: WhoId that could be either a contact or a lead and WhatId that could be just about any object. Second on the list: Task auto-archiving.) So often I want to just build a custom object and hide Tasks and Events! But we pretty much always come back around to how useful tasks are, and how integrated. If you send an email and want to log it, that’s going to be a Task (of a special EmailMessage type). Tasks show chronologically in the Activity Feed really nicely. And you can put Mopsy on the homepage so people see their open To Do items. You can check off tasks with one click. And so much more. 


So when I saw Interaction Summaries, my first question was "how do you decide what is a task and what is an interaction summary?" Of course you could try to draw the line around the sensitivity of the conversation. That has challenges around user training and adherence to business processes, but it could work. You could use Tasks only for future-date To Do items, checking it off but creating an interaction summary of what actually happened. I see challenges around making that work, but some could be solved with automation. I actually tried (and failed) to spark some discussion on the Partner Community around this question. No matter where you draw the line, though, I think you’re still going to come down on the side of having to use both objects.


But then you end up with two objects holding notes from conversations, meetings, and discussions that don’t display together in a single list or activity feed. How frustrating is that?


Enter an Industries component that it would appear someone thought solves this problem. (Spoiler alert: Nope.)


Timeline

I believe the Timeline component also originated with Financial Services Cloud, based on where I could find it in documentation. (Perhaps it was actually developed to deal with the challenge I just mentioned?) When I first saw this, I thought it was pretty exciting. As its name implies, it allows you to display records in a timeline view, similar to the Activity Feed of tasks, events, and emails. What’s cool about Timeline is you can create your own configuration and include multiple objects in the view. You can use it to get a time-based look at records related to the record you’re viewing. In the Health Cloud example, you’d see visits to the doctor, surgeries, screenings, prescription refills, etc, even if these were all different objects. (I’ve never looked into Health Cloud, so I have no idea. I just wanted to think about an example that wasn’t nonprofit-centric.) But I think you could find use cases on other objects, like showing records related to an opportunity, including customer support cases, sales calls, etc. 


It looks like something very similar to this component is available on the AppExchange, from Salesforce Labs. I’ve also used Time Warp, also from Salesforce Labs, which has a similar functionality but on the horizontal axis. So you don’t even have to be on the new clouds to get access to this kind of feature.


But I saw this component in the Nonprofit Cloud trial org and I immediately could tell that whoever created that trial org template had not actually tried using it. The first thing I did on the component was click New and select Gift Transaction. That’s when I saw that the Timeline component doesn’t display the currency symbol next to a currency field! 


The component shows the Gift Transaction name "Gift in honor of Spike." Below that it just shows "50".

At first I thought maybe the trial org had a mistake in the Timeline configuration. But no amount of fiddling could fix it. I’ve since confirmed with the product engineers that it isn’t supported.


Though the trial layout has an Email button in the Activity Launcher (upper middle of the page in the image two down), I also tried selecting New>Email Message on the Timeline component when I saw that.

The Fundraising Timeline with an email, a pledge, and a gift showing.

I was particularly curious how the Timeline would function as a total replacement for the Activity Feed. You see, the NPC trial does not have the activity feed anywhere on the page layout! 


The account page layout in an NPC trial org. No activity feed on the page.

Here’s where things get truly weird. When you click New Email in the Timeline, up pops—not the email composer widget we’re used to from the Activity Feed, but—this modal window:

A "New Email Message" window. It looks like a record edit screen, not an email composser.

Umm, that’s not right.


First of all, it didn’t pull in the email address of the person account I was on, nor does it have my email in the From line. And what’s with fields for HTML Body and Text Body? This feels…off. Oh, and there's no Send button, it says Save. Are you thinking this is not going to work?


You’re correct, it’s not.


The EmailMessage record you create with that modal is never going to send. That’s not how you create and send emails in Salesforce. But if you want to show emails in the Timeline component (which you set in the timeline configuration) you can’t turn off having New>Email Message. 


I’ve also noticed that Timeline is not as responsive as the Activity Feed. If you use its New button to create a record, it does not refresh automatically when you are done. I also don’t like that when you create a record from the Timeline the new record is created in a modal that covers most of the screen. This seems less functional than the way things work in the Activity Feed. What I really found inferior to the Activity Feed, though, is that you can’t see who a task is assigned to and you can’t just complete it by checking the box. There are ways you could improve what displays (such as a formula field that concatenates the assigned user and the subject) but this is yet one more thing that isn’t great out of the box. 


Am I nitpicking? I suppose a little bit. But this was developed for Financial Services Cloud. That’s an offering for which banks and wealth managers are paying through the nose. And Salesforce.org has included this in their new product for which they charge a significant premium. I expect a little more attention to detail for the price.


Related Record Detail Display (R2D2)

This is the one of two components that I know were actually built by Salesforce.org specifically for the new clouds. I so want to love a component that gets abbreviated R2D2.


Let me start with what this thing does. As its name kinda’ implies, it’s used to display details (fields) from a related record to the one you’re viewing. It was specifically built to overcome the challenge that Salesforce.org has tied its own hands by eschewing a managed package and only building “on core.” As I explained before, since they can’t put fields on standard objects (like Account), the donation rollups that are so critical to fundraising analytics go on an "extension object" named Donor Gift Summary that’s child to Account. But if the fields aren't on Account, you can't put them on the account page layout. And you can't show them by a formula field or a dynamic form cross-object field either, because those require a lookup relationship. Donor Gift Summary is child to account, not looked up to from it.


So the Related Record Detail Display was built by Salesforce.org in order to tell the page layout "I know they’re child records. But there will only ever be a single DGS for any account, so show fields from that one, please." It’s actually a clever engineering solution to the problem. Hat tip to the software engineers at Salesforce.org


It’s just… R2D2 is malfunctioning


First of all, the existence of R2D2 only solves the problem of displaying the rollup fields on an account page. It lets gift officers go to Joyce’s page and see that she’s given $250 this year. But seeing rollups for one person at a time doesn't scale. You need those fields in a report or as a list view filter or so many other places.


I also find it strange that the R2D2 component gets its own layout. You have to build it painfully slowly in the Lightning App Builder, rather than taking any cues from the page layout of the Donor Gift Summary object or a configurable metadata item in Setup, like the Timeline component. And I found that a Lightning Record Page with an R2D2 on it won't deploy from sandbox to production, so after building the layout in the sandbox, I had to hand-build it again in production. That was fun.


But even for the problem R2D2 was actually built for it's just…not good. Above, you can see them in the context of the whole page. Here’s a closer view:

The related record detail display component.

Do you notice how it doesn't look like the rest of Salesforce pages? 

-The section headers aren’t on grey backgrounds and aren’t collapsable. The fields are in boxes with the labels above, different from a Record Detail component. The inconsistencies are jarring. 

-Only three fields can show in a section, the rest are hidden behind Show More. (Users love extra clicks!)

-If you click one of those Show More buttons and it shows additional fields, you can’t get the rest of the fields back without refreshing the whole page.

-If there’s no Donor Gift Summary record, the component shows “No Data” in every field instead of blanks or something more elegant.


The Donor Giving Summary layout from a Nonprofit Cloud trial.

-And sometimes this happens when you click Show More!

The field labels are so narrow that only two letters fit on a row. They become several inches high!

These are all problems I noticed in the first few minutes I was in a trial org. R2D2 did not get a sufficient quality assurance check before it was published. Considering how quickly I saw these problems, I wonder what kind of QA happened at all.


Again: Premium product at a price to match. We should demand better.

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