Salesforce is like the swiss army knife of cloud-based solutions, but more versatile and without that pesky toothpick-piece that always gets lost.
But with an array of offerings, covering everything from Sales, Service, Marketing, Analytics, Development, and more — it can sometimes be hard for organizations to figure out exactly which piece of the Salesforce pie is right for them.
And while most of Salesforce’s products’ names do a pretty good job of describing their function, the one that seems to consistently generate the most curiosity and questions is the Lightning Platform.
In today’s blog, we’ll take a high-level look what the Lightning Platform offers and the differences between it and Sales Cloud, Service Cloud, etc.
Let’s jump in!
Platform vs. Software
To begin, we’ll define a couple key terms in the “understanding Salesforce” universe: SaaS and PaaS.
SaaS, as you probably know, stands for Software-as-a-Service. Remember the old days when you bought software and it came in a box, and in the box were one or more CDs or disks that you’d have to insert in sequence to get everything installed to your computer? No? It was pretty terrible.
It was slow, required constant supervision, and had to be repeated on every computer where you wanted the software. There were no regular updates, no new functionality, and if they did release a new version, you had to go back to the store to buy it (and then repeat the whole installation process again).
Software-as-a-Service changed all that. These are the software solutions you license, instead of purchase, giving you access to the latest release, the newest functionality, and eliminating the need for trips down to the computer store and a filing cabinet full of installation disks. With SaaS, the software lives in the cloud (on someone else’s servers) and you simply access your instance online — things like GSuite, Netflix Streaming, and Salesforce Sales Cloud/Marketing Cloud/Etc. They’re all ready-to-go, right out of the box once you log-in. Customization and configuration are possible, but not required, and that’s the primary difference between software and a platform.
Platforms, on the other hand, are frameworks, architectures, or applications that allow you to build your own software, but they aren’t anything “finished” right off the bat. They’re simply a starting point along with a set of rules, models, and conventions designed to help you build your own solution more easily.
Where software is a finished product, imagine a plastic dollhouse you buy from the toy store, the platform equivalent would be a box of Legos and some documentation on the best ways to build secure and stable walls, floors, ceilings, etc. In both cases you’ll be able to end up with a complete dollhouse, but only one is ready to play with as soon as you open it up, the other requires planning, development, and building.
Platforms-as-a-Service then, are that same box of Lego bricks and building guides but stored in the cloud.
The Lightning Platform then is right what it says on the box, it’s Salesforce’s platform for building your own apps and solutions. You won’t be able to do anything right out of the box, but you can develop it into whatever system your business needs!
Compare that to Sales Cloud where you can get right to work with Accounts, Opportunities, Contacts, etc. And because Salesforce’s software solutions are built on the Lightning Platform, the SaaS licenses give you the same tools for development and customization, right on top of the existing product.
Theoretically with just the Lightning Platform you could build your own versions of Sales Cloud, Service Cloud, etc. from scratch — but for the most part you’d be better off buying the product license and customizing it from there.
How to Decide
So how do you decide which solution is right for you and your organization? It’s pretty simple: do you want to use any of the existing Salesforce functionality (leads, opportunities, accounts, etc.)? If so, grab the SaaS solution that’s got the pre-built tools for you to start from!
And if you’re planning on something novel (an AppExchange app to integrate your service with your clients’ Salesforce orgs or digitizing a unique, existing, internal workflow) then all you’ll need is the Lightning Platform!
If you’re still having a tough time deciding or want a little more insight into what’s possible development-wise, you can reach us from our website! We can customize and configure your needs on the existing offerings, and we’ll be happy to walk you through product selection, planning, and ultimately execution with you.