Last updated on: January 11, 2021
You heard about companies that use both Salesforce and SharePoint. It made you wonder if there is any benefit, any real synergy to be had by using both applications. Can there be advantages to a Salesforce SharePoint integration, or does it simply not make sense? In this article, we will have a look at the benefits and pitfalls and let you make up your mind.
Why should you consider doing a Salesforce and SharePoint integration?
The fact is that Salesforce, also known as SFDC (Salesforce Dot Com), is one of the most expensive CRM tools. Which does not mean customers are not happy. In June 2020, Gartner named Salesforce a Leader in the CRM Customer Engagement Center Magic Quadrant for the 12th consecutive year. In September 2019, Salesforce won the 2019 CRM Market Leader Awards across the board. Analyzing these awards, Kate Leggett, principal analyst at Forrester Research, said the Salesforce’s strength lies in “its broad end-to-end portfolio that caters to both B2C and B2B organizations (…) and its ability to deliver a platform that eases integration, automation, prediction, and prescription”.
Speaking of integration, among the integrations with Salesforce, the Salesforce SharePoint integration stands out as a popular choice. One of the main reasons for that is that it is a money saver: you can save a lot in Salesforce’s storage costs. The standard SharePoint storage is 1 TB plus 10 GB per license purchased (exact limits depend on your plan). If that is not enough, you can buy extra storage at the very reasonable price of $0.20/month per GB extra. This is the first reason to integrate Salesforce and SharePoint.
The second reason is that SharePoint is better at storing loads of files than Salesforce. Yes, Salesforce has the functionality of attaching documents and notes to accounts – as an option. But if you do it, all the invoices, contracts, statements of work and other similar documents can really pile up. They end up stealing valuable operating capacity, making Salesforce run slower.
Moving the files to a document management system is a smarter option. A system designed for document management and that provides you with more features, such as:
- you can collaborate on documents with your colleagues,
- you can see the complete version history,
- you can share files to external users.
What are the pitfalls of the Salesforce integration with SharePoint?
If you try to integrate Salesforce with SharePoint using only the tools you get with Salesforce, you normally use Salesforce's Files Connect (also known as SFDC Files Connect).
The first thing to notice is that this will only allow for connecting to SharePoint Online. It used to work for SharePoint 2013 / 2010 on-premises versions, but the most current documentation no longer mentions any of this, including the licensing options (the paid license "Files Connect for on-premises external data sources" no longer seems to be available).
Then note that with this integration, users will be able to access and share SharePoint files via the Files tab and feed, and search for them the same way they search their Salesforce content. But the file needs to be already in SharePoint to begin with. That might not be very intuitive to users, especially if they are already used to Salesforce but not so much so to SharePoint.
Next, you may not want to store financial and client-related files in the cloud. If you try to comply with data protection regulations like GDPR, you might need to store this type of document on-premises.
And then there is the problem of getting the Files Connect integration to work. Just for starters, you have to work your way through the 137 pages of the official documentation (links at the end of this section), which is mostly outdated… it was written when Files Connect was launched back in 2015 and the updates to it have been scarce (most of them were last updated in 2016). As SharePoint online was significantly overhauled in 2018, some terms are not the same and some actions need to be performed in a different order.
Many users follow the integration instructions only to end with an ugly error such as:
- “Can’t access external source – External data source is unavailable because of an error”
- “You are not authorized to perform that operation”
- “An unknown error occurred while accessing Files Connect”.
It really can’t get much worse than running into an unknown error while trying to do an integration project. When you see this, you know it is time to look for an alternative.
Is there a better way to integrate Salesforce with SharePoint?
The alternative to Files Connect is to use a third-party integration tool. There are plenty of Salesforce integration tools in the Salesforce ecosystem.
Document Extractor Built for Salesforce platform™ is such an integration tool, in the case to do a SharePoint Salesforce integration. It automatically transfers documents saved in Salesforce to SharePoint and replaces the original documents with links pointing to them at SharePoint.
The general idea is that the users still reach the files where they originally saved them – in Salesforce under the respective accounts.
In the background, Document Extractor automatically detects the files, moves them to the corresponding libraries in SharePoint and leaves a link in Salesforce in its place.
The user sees a link in the exact same location he expected the file to be in Salesforce, so for them it is the same - the user experience doesn’t change.
Document Extractor also transfers the information about the Salesforce document creator, editor and owner to SharePoint for easier tracking of the documents. The name and extension of the original files are also transferred, so users can still search for those files by both name and extension in Salesforce. The version history is also kept.
Moreover, when the service finds two documents with the same name at the same location on Salesforce, it creates two documents on SharePoint, and it adds a suffix that allows both files to exist on SharePoint.
Whenever you add a document to a new object in Salesforce, Document Extractor will automatically create the correct folder to store it on SharePoint. This works for a Standard object like an Account, Contact, Lead, or Opportunity or a Custom object. Furthermore, Document Extractor will keep the same structure as well and all documents related to that new object.
In 2020, several new features were added to Document Extractor. The list of new features is very long, but I would highlight:
- Full sync with SharePoint - even when users upload files directly to SharePoint, or when you have file moves, renames and deletes in SharePoint
- Getting documents from SharePoint without the need for users to have SharePoint license
- File previews in Salesforce for all file types supported by SharePoint.
These new features were added to accommodate the feedback we got from the growing base of Document Extractor customers. You can read a review of Document Extractor by one of these customers - "With Document Extractor, the process is seamless to my end users. They don’t even know it is there, which is what we wanted", Andrea Getty - Dorman Products Inc..
To sum up, Document Extractor brings you plenty of benefits, is fully automated and helps reduce storage costs dramatically.
What if I already have my documents in SharePoint and want to link to them in Salesforce?
Initially, if you are already a SharePoint user and all your files are in SharePoint, you naturally would like your Salesforce objects to have links to those existing documents when you start using Salesforce.
If you have some underlying rule in the filename or the folder structure, you can use our Connect Bridge integration platform to create URLs in Salesforce that point to those documents in SharePoint. Those URLs could be created under all standard objects and also on custom objects in Salesforce.
What else can I integrate with Salesforce?
You can actually integrate any kind of existing dataset with Salesforce in a similar way. You can connect to Salesforce from any local database management system (DBMS) such as ORACLE, SAP HANA, MySQL, MariaDB or Microsoft SQL server. You get the data from Salesforce and put it into the local database or get data from the database and put it into Salesforce.
This means you can create all kind of flexible solutions and perfectly adjust them to your data integration needs, as you can connect to any type of database that already exists. It is a great way of maximizing what you can take out of a Salesforce integration.
This is done with the Database to Salesforce Sync solution. This solution is based on the Connect Bridge integration platform. Much more flexibility, without the normal hassle and problems of a custom solution.
Document Extractor is the trustworthy Salesforce third-party integration tool that can better handle SharePoint and Salesforce's integration.
This tool is available in AppExchange. You can study the product description and features, try it for free or buy the SaaS version.
Another option for SaaS deployment is ordering the product on Connecting software's website. Yet another option, in case you run a larger organization and prefer to be in full control of the product, is the self-hosted version. Go for a SaaS free trial or a self-hosted free trial today!
Last updated on: January 11, 2021
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Technical advisor at Connecting Software
I have been a software engineer since 1997, with a more recent love for writing and public speaking. Do you have any questions or comments about this post or about Connect Bridge? I would love to have your feedback!