The Partner Experience Weekly: Building a Partnership App in Salesforce CRM

This was going to be an article highlighting several quick Salesforce wins for new PartnerOps professionals. A nice segue between heavier use cases while I keep mapping out a content strategy and look at some new tools I hope to share in the coming weeks.

Then I started writing.

I'm not sure if it's a by-product of ADHD or just a natural occurrence for writers (as I'm relatively new to the discipline of consistently producing content), but as I work though ideas more tend to spill out and fill up the page. The challenge shifts to determining where to draw the line.

So this week we go from a few quick wins to a more in-depth look at how to leverage Salesforce App building for an improved Partner Experience for your internal teams.

I'm a nice guy, though, so here's a list of quick wins we'll get into over the next few weeks.

Quick Wins for Partner Ops in Salesforce
1. Schedule time with your team to ask what's working, what's not, and where they need immediate relief. Ask about key data and what matters most. You'll need all of this for the rest.
2. Build out a dedicated space in the CRM - in Salesforce this would be a Partnerships App. Focus on the data, reports, and actions from #1.
3. Take on ownership for reporting or become central to the management process - figure out how you can make it easier and actionable. Drive what you can in Salesforce.
4. Build list-views driven around process for Lead, Opportunity, and Account management.
5. Teach your team about App navigation and the use of 'Favorites' to improve use and adoption - many teams never get even basic introductions to using CRM. Be the expert and offer support. 

Building Space for Partnerships in Salesforce

You'll hear me consistently discuss the lack of native Partnership architecture in CRMs. The day one of these platforms provides it will likely be the day I sign up for a CRM affiliate program (unless of course, there's a sponsor out there looking for a niche voice to support in this arena - I do like what my friend Brandon calls 'Magic Money Day' as much as the rest of us).

To that end, check for a 'Partnerships' App as soon as you land. If there is one, you've got some groundwork for your initial discovery conversation and will likely hear about it from the team. If there's not, you've got a great opportunity to enhance the internal user experience and make an impact and demonstrate the value of dedicated ops.

Why This Matters

It's still common for Partnership teams to have an uphill struggle getting buy-in, support, and funding to expand. For a variety of reasons, it's easy for Partnership (and/or Channel) teams to feel isolated and cut off. One of those reasons is specifically tied to a lack of dedicated support in their day-to-day experience. This invariably includes the CRM.

It's just like the song says - sometimes you want to go where everybody knows your name. Creating a Partnership App is a low-effort, high-impact way to give your team that space. It tells them they matter, they are seen, and that you've got their back.

Ready to get started?

First Principles

One of my new friends, James Haefele, recently asked me about 'First Principles' about what I really care about from a Partner Ops perspective. The idea is a useful framework for design principles when it comes to setting up a successful experience. I try to keep the following in mind when designing systems.

  • Design the systems as though they are a single platform experience.
  • Remember that stakeholders want less clicks to the goal.
  • Drive stakeholders toward action instead of information.
  • Strive toward user-proof experiences (as a goal, not a reality).

Getting Started with Discovery.

Going 1-1, by teams, or with the group as a whole, open the door for understanding by asking what sucks about the current CRM. Odds are it's quite a lot and they will have lots of great ideas to help you prioritize work and look like a superstar. This effort alone will potentially be a significant win for you and the team, more so if you're the first or currently the only member of the Partner Ops team. It's also critical for building a foundation for your efforts.

Use this list of grievances to build out your quick-win roadmap for the App experience. Some key questions to consider:

  1. What data does the team work with most?
    Those are key objects to include that will likely center around Accounts, Contacts, Lead, Opportunities, Campaigns, Reporting, and Dashboards.
  2. Which reports, if any, drive activity in the CRM?
    These are key for home-page updates and helping drive the team towards action in the CRM.
  3. What activities or workflows drive their use of the CRM?
    This is great content for in-system guidance and rich-text areas within object page layouts.
  4. What would you like them to be able to do in the CRM?
    Encourage boldness and a focus on the ideal state over limitations. This is where you get your roadmap for improvement and internal conversations going forward.

Building the Partnership App

An 'app' in Salesforce is basically just a collection of specific objects. You have control over who sees this app and thus can manage the user experience specifically for that group, including a custom home page, utilizing the console experience, and controlling tab order and customization.

This section is straightforward you can find a lot of guidance online through search and Salesforce help articles if you need more help. Here's the basic step-by-step process for building out the 'app' in Salesforce.

  1. Go to 'Setup' and search on 'App'
  2. Open the 'App Manager'
Salesforce Setup search results for 'App Ma'
Searching the menu does a quick-return on results to get you where you need to be.

3. Click on 'New Lightning App' in the upper right corner.

New Lightning App selection button in Salesforce lightning app creation.
Upper right for the menu screen, not the far upper right user profile options.

4. Complete the details for the initial setup.

Salesforce Lightning App Setup - App Details and Branding options
If you've got a Partnership logo or access to design resources (or Canva) you can punch this up with custom iconography. 

5. Choose your app options - the big choice here is really 'Standard' v. 'Console' Navigation. Read up on the differences here.

Salesforce lightning app setup - App Options menu
These options, outside of Navigation Style, can be updated later.
Important Notes on Console Apps
- This is the only setting that can not be changed once you save.
- Consoles require additional work setting up Navigation rules for each object, but the default setting 'Workspace Tabs' is most common.
- Many users end up really liking Console but will likely need training to support the experience. 

6. Add a few Utility Items, if desired. If you've got Partner specific Lead views, for example, you can add high-priority views here for easier navigation and checking. I also like having the 'To-Dos' for activities if they want and, for Console-based apps, the 'History' utility for quick reference.

Image of Salesforce Utility Item menu from Lightning setup.
Utility items offer users quick access to different elements without leaving their current work. As repeated here - drive users toward needed actions.

7. Choose your data - start easy and evolve over time: Accounts, Contacts, Leads, Opportunities, Campaigns, Reports, and Dashboards.

Salesforce Navigation Items from the Lightning app setup menu.
Items are moved from left to right with all objects available. Choose what matters most and organize in a pattern that helps users move through the system logically.

8. Choose User Profiles for those who can access the app. You'll need to know if the 'Partnership' team has a unique profile or not AND make sure to include your own designated profile (i.e. System Admin or whatever you have been assigned). Another small win if you can get one setup, but not strictly necessary for utilizing a new App if everyone is 'Standard.'

Salesforce User Profiles selection page during Lightning app setup process.
Include YOUR profile to make sure if doesn't disappear when you hit save! You can adjust this if you forget during the setup process.

Building a Partnership Home Page

New Apps that include a 'Home' page will default to the currently available page, typically what you see when you go to the 'Sales' app. You can add a new 'Home' page while editing the Partnership app through Setup after it's been created.

This is where your Discovery effort will start to pay off - the customization you do here will help set your team up for greater success.

There are a few ways you can help the home page stand out.

  • Include a Rich-Text welcome area with guidance and links on what to do next.
Screenshot of Salesforce home page with embedded links to reports and views.
Embed links to Views, Reports, or Content - always attempt to drive users to take action.
  • Include a Dashboard and/or Reports critical to taking action, much like the links in the rich text area.
Image of Salesforce dashboard with reports for performance, today's events, and today's tasks.
Performance is a good reminder but upcoming Events and Tasks are action-oriented - win!
  • Add other elements based on what you're users need from the CRM. This could be Activities, Chatter Feeds, Tasks, Events, Visualforce elements, or custom items available in your org. It's your world, so make it count!
A view of the components available when editing pages in Salesforce lightning apps.
This is a preview of some of the items available - check your org for more details!

Consider Custom Pages

Home pages are a great starting point but you can also add other custom pages just for your app to continue enhancing your user experience. Here's a quick example of a 'Partner Analytics' page that could highlight key reports for each program.

Example of Salesforce custom page for Partner Analytics.
This is where your previous leg work really helps fill the gap on value-added effort.


We'll continue to look at design and experience principles over the next few weeks, hopefully sprinkling in a few new systems and tools as we go. If you've got any ideas, questions, general interests, or feedback please feel free to let me know by sending an email to You won't find a website yet but I promise the email works and I'd be thrilled to hear from you.

What are you waiting for.... time to build something!

Prefer to listen? Check out the podcast version of this post:

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