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Salesforce Lightning - What is it?


Here at Sonoma, we frequently get the question from existing customers and prospects “What is Lightning and what does it mean for me?” Unfortunately, the answer to that question is both complicated and nebulous due to the fact that Salesforce itself continues to change what ‘Lightning’ is, what it includes, and how its underlying components work.

While Salesforce does have a few pages dedicated to the question ‘What is Lightning?’ they don’t provide a satisfactory answer, leaving out at least 1 component of Lightning (Lightning Processes, discussed previously: part 1, part 2, part 3) and targeted more at developers than end users or administrators.

In this series we’ll attempt to provide a clearer picture on what Lightning is, and why it matters for you and your organization.

So what is lightning?

Ultimately, Lightning is an umbrella marketing term used to refer to all of the new features and technologies being released by Salesforce. It represents a shift in Salesforce’s strategy, both technologically and in terms of focus.

Salesforce, like many companies, has realized that mobile devices are increasingly the norm for users who are more frequently on the go, and is investing heavily in mobile friendly technologies like the Lightning Design System, Lightning Components, and the Lighting App Builder. These complement their existing Salesforce1 mobile application, and enhance it with additional features, continuing to improve its attractiveness for end users and administrators.

Salesforce is also continuing to invest in its integration capabilities with Lightning Connect, a way to seamlessly integrate data in to Salesforce and interact with it as though it lived in Salesforce itself.

Third, Salesforce is reworking some parts of the configuration process with things like Lighting Processes, Lightning App Builder, and Lightning Components. These new features give administrators and developers a new range of options to choose from when configuring their organization, which are sorely needed now that users are not always at a computer to do their work.

Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, Salesforce is finally overhauling their user interface with Lighting Experience, bringing it in to the modern era.

Lightning on its own means nothing, as it’s just a term to refer to a collection of platform and technology updates. But what it represents is important and will have impact on you and your business, so read on to learn more about the various pieces and why they will matter to you.

Why Should I Care?

Depending on your role when interacting with Salesforce, your reasons for caring about Lightning will vary. Broadly speaking, users of the platform can be broken down in to 3 groups: Developers/Integrators, Administrators, Users. Some features are definitely targeted at developers and integrators, while others have a decidedly administrator feel to them.

The one feature that everyone cares about, however, is Lightning Experience (the UI overhaul). With such a big change, it’s hard for people to not notice, and this is generally what people are thinking of when they ask us about ‘Lightning’. We’ll cover it and its implications in a future post, but for now let’s briefly look at the other features.


As an end user, you’re likely going to care about Lightning Connect the most (ignoring Lightning Experience). While the fact that you’re using Lightning Connect should be mostly invisible to you, if it is configured correctly you will notice the ability to view and interact with data that you previously needed to log in to another system for. This has powerful ramifications in improving your productivity and reducing the ‘swivel chair’ effect of logging in to multiple systems throughout the day.


As an administrator, Lightning Processes, the Lightning App Builder, and the AppExchange for Components are the features most relevant to you. Lightning Processes give you an alternative and complement to Workflows for configuring ITTT (If This Then That) logic. They introduce some features not available in workflows, while retaining most of the functionality of workflows as well. The AppExchange for Components is a new section of the AppExchange that lets you purchase and install Lightning Components written by vendors in a similar manner to managed packages you’re already used to, while the Lightning App Builder lets you compose those components in to a single page through a point and click interface. This gives you the ability to create new pages for your users without the need to involve a developer.


As a developer or systems integrator, all of Lightning should be of interest to you. While Lightning Components, the Lightning Design System, and Lightning Connect are the features you will be interacting with the most, all have the potential to impact what you are building and your design decisions.

What now?

Hopefully we’ve cleared up some confusing on what exactly ‘Lightning’ is and why it should be important to you. In the following posts we’ll dive in to the various pieces of it in more detail. If you have any questions or comments, please leave us a note below or contact us and we’ll be happy to walk through your specific circumstances.

Topics: Salesforce