Article last updated on: July 15, 2020
You heard about companies that use both Salesforce and SharePoint. It made you wonder if there is any synergy in 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 advantages and pitfalls and let you decide.
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. At the 2019 CRM Market Leader Awards, Salesforce won across the board: “Enterprise CRM Suite”, “Midmarket CRM Suite”, and “Small-Business CRM Suite”. They also won “Marketing Automation”. Tableau won “Business Intelligence”… and then Salesforce bought it!
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”.
Among popular integrations with Salesforce, the Salesforce SharePoint integration stans out. One of the reasons it is popular 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 all the invoices, contracts, statements of work and such can really pile up. They end up stealing valuable operating capacity, making Salesforce run slower.
It is just smarter to move the files to a document management system. A system designed for document management and that provides you with more features, such as:
- you can work on documents together with your colleagues,
- you can share files to external users,
- you can see the complete version history.
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: the Salesforce Files Connect Implementation Guide, the Files Connect Setup Guide and the Files Connect User Guide.
And then you’ll realize the real problem is that this documentation is 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.
Salesforce even launched a Common errors with Files Connect Office 365 page to try and help users. Still, many users follow the integration instructions only to end with an ugly error “Can’t access external source – External data source is unavailable because of an error” or even more appalling “An unknown error occurred while accessing Files Connect”. If you are trying to get an integration to work, it does not get any worse than getting an unknown error!… 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 the Files Connect integration 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. How? 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. Running in the background, Document Extractor detects files, moves them to the corresponding libraries in SharePoint and leaves a link in Salesforce instead. The user sees a link in the exact same place in Salesforce, so the user experience does not 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 2 documents on SharePoint, and it adds a suffix that allows both files to exist on SharePoint. The suffix is always based on a number, but the exact location of this number within the file name can be configured.
Whenever you add a new object in Salesforce, Document Extractor will automatically add a new folder on SharePoint for it. 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.
To sum up, Document Extractor brings you plenty of benefits 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?
It is actually possible to integrate any kind of existing dataset with Salesforce as well. 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 data from Salesforce into the local database or put data that is coming from the database into Salesforce.
This means all kind of flexible solutions can be created, perfectly adjusted to your data integration needs, as you can connect to any kind of already existing database. It is a great way of maximizing what you can take out of a Salesforce integration.
This is done with the CB On-prem Database to Salesforce Sync solution. This solution is based on the Connect Bridge platform. This is why you get all this flexibility in an out-of-the-box and tested 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!
Article last updated on: July 15, 2020
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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!
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