foundationConnect Application Designer

by Julia Cannon

This month, the foundationConnect team marks the end of more than a year of new development while also embarking on the beginning of an exciting new program. Since May of last year, we have been working relentlessly toward this moment – the culmination of development of new functionality that has challenged our old ways of creating, collaborating, and communicating. With a lot of celebration and anticipation, we launch the next generation of the foundationConnect Application Designer.

In the beginning, there was Visualforce

When we started this journey, we had no idea where the path was headed. It started, as most new development does, with a popular feature request. From interviews with current users, prospects, and our Ideas Exchange, one enhancement kept resurfacing over and over. It was dynamic application layouts.

On the Ideas Exchange alone, it received 100 votes (most Ideas get 20-50)! The benefits were obvious. Decreased administrative burden on foundation staff, increased usability for applicants, and decreased data usage for the system, to name a few. Clear that this was a top priority, we defined criteria around dynamic applications and sent it to the Engineering team. But soon, they came back to us with challenges that couldn’t be ignored. For example, building into our current version of the Application Designer would make it more complex and code-heavy. Ultimately, there was a risk that we would end up with a potentially buggy product. It occurred to us that we would spend the next five years seeking out and squashing bugs arising from this development alone.

Or we could start from scratch…

The notion was simultaneously liberating and terrifying. We decided to do it. Of course, we wouldn’t start from scratch completely. The underlying data model would remain the same, and we knew the design needed to match the Salesforce Lightning Design System to ensure seamless visual integration with Salesforce Communities. Still, we saw enough risk and quickly decided we needed frequent check-ins with the experts, our customers.

And so began a new way of developing. We shared our first wireframes with customers for validation, and from their feedback, created a proof of concept, a working prototype that went straight back to our customers. Once we received enough feedback, we were ready for the next stage of development: the pilot. Each step of the way, we gathered input and the thumbs up from customers to ensure that we build a tool that they could use; that they wanted to use; that they were excited to use. Taking this route, we also managed to include 4 other ideas from the Ideas Exchange to increase the overall stability of the product.

With each ending, a beginning

As we step across the finish line, we find we are also crossing a starting line. Now that the pilot build is complete, we begin our pilot program. For the remainder of 2018, customers get to use the Advanced Application Designer in their systems and let it interact with their data. With a slew of one-on-one meetings, group discussions of observations and issues, and data collection on first impressions, ease of use, and performance, we will gather valuable feedback to ensure the Advanced Application Designer is built for users.

We are grateful to all the customers that have guided us so far, and those that will continue to give us the next round of feedback. By working more collaboratively than ever before, we have supreme confidence in the success of our users when this is made generally available, and the leaps and bounds they will make in fulfilling their missions.

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