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Salesforce Winter 2018 Reporting Enhancements

It’s a funny thing about Salesforce developers. Many of us really dislike change, even when we know very well it’s necessary and worthwhile.

Why? Too often, changing an application is like re-routing plumbing after the house is built: making a change that looks small can take a whole lot of effort with a whole lot of risk for collateral damage.

Even in Salesforce development, where best practices for code testing are pretty much built in and change management is so well orchestrated, change can be painful.

But wait, you say, I’m only updating some user interface elements. There’s no custom Salesforce development work here. I’m leveraging their existing components. Surely that’s low risk and high reward, right?

Well, yes, most of the time. As long as your application uses mostly prefabricated building blocks from your platform provider. As long as you haven’t tinkered under the hood too much or installed too many after-market customizations. (Mixed metaphors? No problem!)

Salesforce administrators and developers take heart, though: there are substantial tools available to ease the transition. Sure, it might take some effort to adapt your customizations, but that effort has meaningful support from the vendor.

Why should I adopt some new thing just because Salesforce wants me to? I like to code what I want.

Why should you waste the rich set of tools you already have? If you’re using a platform, use it as fully as possible.

In Salesforce development, the best approach is “Clicks before code.” Leverage the configurable features at your disposal and use custom code only where you must. This strategy:

  • maximizes efficiency
  • maximizes value for your licensing and  development dollar, and
  • streamlines life-cycle management of the application.

What if I don’t want to switch to Lightning Experience? I love Salesforce Classic!

Salesforce has been reminding us for a couple of years now that Lightning Experience is the focus for their innovations and enhancements. Classic is still supported, but don’t look for new features. Lightning is the future of Salesforce development.

So what?, you say. My application is just right! It’s been customized and refined to meet my needs perfectly. Why should I invest non-trivial effort into a conversion I don’t particularly need?

First of all, if your business needs aren’t evolving, you may need to take a hard look at your growth or lack thereof. The marketplace changes; technology changes; the whole environment in which you operate changes. Your perfectly tuned application is not likely to remain perfect.

Second of all, have you SEEN the Lightning Experience? Pages are more dynamic, more focused on the important information, and much richer. These enhanced pages are easier to build without custom coding.

Finally, Salesforce sweetens the pot by heeding user feedback and adding new features with every release.

Winter ’18 is a huge update – the release notes are over 600 pages long! For now, I’m focused on its exciting enhancements to reporting. There are things you just can’t do with Classic reports and dashboards that are standard in Lightning Experience. While there are still a handful of features in Salesforce Classic that aren’t yet available in Lightning, each step toward parity includes enhancements to the basic feature.

In other words, every time a feature is added that was missing from Lightning Experience, it comes with a little bit (or a lot!) of lagniappe.

What do you mean by parity and enhancements for Lightning vs. Salesforce Classic?

Classic has dashboards with up to 3 columns and limited ability to adjust column widths. Lightning Experience Winter ’18 has dashboards with flexible numbers of columns and flexible widths.

Classic lets users click on a dashboard component to see its detail report. Lightning Experience Winter ’18 does that, AND it lets users click on a segment of a dashboard report chart and see the detail report filtered to include just the data in that segment.

Classic has a pretty flexible report builder with drag and drop column grids. Lightning Experience has a shiny new report builder (beta in Winter ’18) with drag and drop grids AND a new Outline Panel, giving two different ways to manage your report structure.

Some of my favorite features of the Lightning Experience Winter ’18 report builder:

  • The outline panel, which allows easier manipulation of report columns and their placement
  • Automatic report type changes: adding grouping levels to a tabular report automatically converts the report type to summary or matrix as appropriate; removing grouping levels automatically converts it back to tabular
  • The ability to run a report from the builder without first saving it, while ‘remembering’ your customizations
  • The ability to use either Classic or Lightning Report Builder to edit any saved report, so the handful of Classic features that aren’t available yet in Lightning are easily available as needed

The visualizations in Lightning Experience are so much richer in this latest release. I’m ready to make the transition!


Changing a software application can be painful, but the enhanced Lightning Experience features in the Salesforce Winter ’18 release can make it worth the effort.

What’s your favorite reporting feature? Is it available in Lightning? Let us know in the Comments below.

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