At the end of August, shortly before its Dreamforce extravaganza, Salesforce debuted Lightning, a framework and application builder.
It's stage of choice? Google Hangouts.
How that choice came to be was the topic of a recent Google For Work blog post by guest writer Sarah Franklin, VP of Administration Marketing at Salesforce.
She wrote: "The Salesforce marketing team put our heads together to decide how to announce Salesforce Lightning — a metadata-driven platform that is highly customizable and empowers people to work faster and smarter — differently than previous product releases."
Salesforce eventually opted for Google Hangouts to introduce Lightning, she said, "so we could share this exciting announcement with our community of developers and users in 20 countries via live video."
The Only Option?
Now, Salesforce, being that it is Salesforce, surely had its choice of venues for its launch. I would argue, though, that it quickly concluded Hangouts was the best, and perhaps only, launching pad for Lightning. Or to be specific, it was the best for the prospective users of Lightning that would count the most — the developers.
A platform like Hangouts was necessary for this group to appreciate the breath and depth of the platform.
It was also an excellent stage to emphasis what is Lightning's least-noticed feature. Like its predecessor — Salesforce had released an earlier version of Lightning -- this iteration was extensively based on open source, specifically the Aura Framework, which can be found on GitHub.
Aura, briefly, is for developing dynamic web apps for mobile and desktop devices. The genius of building Lightning on Aura is that it allows developers to build apps completely independent of the data in Salesforce. Or as Salesforce explained at the time: "Lightning allows business users to create user experiences without code. Using prebuilt, reusable building blocks users can create their own interaction experiences."
Show and Tell
With its latest creation ready to go live, all Salesforce needed a giant stage for show and tell.
But this is not just Salesforce's story.
At the same time Google Hangouts needed a star opener like Salesforce to revive new life into its platform and give it a much-needed edge over Skype. Above all, it needed to remind users that it was enterprise-ready and not just for connecting with colleagues in different offices and hosting webinars with an admin community -- both of which Salesforce staff routinely does with Hangouts.
Hangouts needed to show it was ready for a prime time product launch by a major corporate star like Salesforce.
And so the twain met on Aug. 25.
An Earlier Iteration
In many ways, the watching developers knew exactly what Lightning was about.
Salesforce had used this same code base in the Salesforce1 mobile app, Will Moxley, SVP of Product Management, Sales Cloud, told CMSWire this summer when Lightning was announced.
"What we did in this release was take these components and put them on the desktop," he explained. "The developers had liked them so much for the mobile app that they asked for a desktop version too."
There was more to this version than just the code components though. The overarching focus in Lightning was to improve core sales features. In the end, Salesforce had built -- and was itching to display -- 55 re-imagined Sales Cloud pages and 25 new features for Lightning users.
Or as Franklin wrote: "We chose Hangouts because we wanted to show our community that we’re committed to using innovative tools."
A Sense of Camaraderie
Salesforce was also hoping to evoke a sense of camaraderie among the developers. In this respect, Franklin wrote, Hangouts knocked it out of the park.
"Whether it was 7 a.m. or midnight in their local time zone, people gathered at universities, community centers and local pubs to join the product launch. The day after our announcement, we also hosted a second private Hangout with over 200 people across Europe, the Middle East and Africa in case they missed the launch due to timing."
The launch wasn't just a-flip-the-switch-and-go event, but then what corporate launch is? As Franklin explained, Salesforce shipped tripods and other equipment to the various groups around the world and had translators stationed there as well for the question-and-answer period.
"We created a personal connection with customers who spoke different languages and brought together engineers, users, executives and the marketing team who have a common passion for our customers' success," Franklin wrote.
Changes to Hangouts
Two months later, presumably developers' use of Lightning is in full swing.
But what of Hangouts? At this point it is hard to tell how much of a nudge, or even whether, the Salesforce launch gave the platform.
In the meantime Google continues to enhance the platform. In August around the same time as the Salesforce Lightning debut, Google introduced a new Web interface for Hangouts. More recently, last week, Google Hangouts 5.1 app was released with updates to the interface and new accessibility.
For some users these and other incremental changes Google has made to Hangouts are what count. The platform has become a creditable competitor to Skype.
For companies with more ambitious plans, there is the sweeping language Franklin uses as she describes Lightning's launch. "By focusing on forward-looking technology, we hosted an event that made more than 19,000 people feel like they were in the same room."