Best In Class(es): Bringing Salesforce and Office 365 Together

Salesforce is, by far, the leader for customer relationship management (CRM) platforms. It provides powerful contact and account management capabilities that businesses have been relying on for years. But it’s not perfect. Salesforce does not provide the modern, rich document collaboration and management your users want or need to get their jobs done. Files are managed about as effectively as emailing attachments.

SharePoint Online, part of Office 365, brings the advanced, modern document management capabilities Salesforce desperately needs.

Document management is minimal in Salesforce. Your users can upload files easy enough, but they can’t live-edit the files. The files have to be downloaded, edited, and then re-uploaded again. Much like sending files in emails, files can become out of sync, overwritten by others’ versions, and cause more work than it’s worth.

Office 365 fills in these gaps really well:

  • SharePoint Online offers real document management with version control, native sharing capabilities, online editing, and mobile editing.
  • SharePoint also boasts real-time coauthoring: Users can edit the same file, at the exact same time.
  • SharePoint brings offline file access with OneDrive sync, large file support over the 2GB Salesforce limit, and a centralized search experience.
  • Enterprise search can provide a single search experience across multiple search sources like SharePoint and Salesforce

But, SharePoint is not the final answer, either.

SharePoint is NOT a good CRM platform. There are 3rd party apps available to make a light weight CRM tool out of SharePoint. That might suffice for the small business, but for enterprises, SharePoint won’t cut it. Nor should it! It’s not meant to, so why force it? SharePoint tends to get a bad rap because we force it to do things it shouldn’t. Being an enterprise CRM platform is one of those things. Just don’t do it.

Microsoft does offer an enterprise CRM solution under Office 365, called Dynamics 365. This offering competes directly with Salesforce and offers native integrations with SharePoint Online.

Best in class; just recognize they’re in different classes

Instead of forcing one platform to do it all, aim to leverage the best of both platforms: Salesforce and Office 365. Keep this in mind as you consider forcing SharePoint Online into doing anything more than document management, team collaboration, and basic communications and intranet pages. (Even then, understand its limitations for the intranet) Many platforms, including SharePoint, have rich APIs for our purpose. They are being built with integrations in mind!

How to integrate SharePoint Online and Salesforce

I’ll walk through a few scenarios to show how we, at Slalom, have integrated these two platforms for our customers. Our goal and direction has been to leverage the best of both Salesforce and SharePoint, while giving the users a smooth experience across the two.

Each scenario represents different requirements, which in turn creates different capabilities. There is always more than one way to accomplish a goal. We worked with our customers in each scenario to find the most cost effective and user friendly solution.

Below are few of the ways we integrated the two platforms:

Case management in Salesforce, documents in SharePoint. We created a folder creation process to store case files in SharePoint and giving users the full breadth of document capabilities of SharePoint.

Uploading files to SharePoint tightly coupled to Salesforce metadata. We created a custom upload form to associate specific metadata from Salesforce to the file in SharePoint, along with providing Salesforce the references to the files.

Salesforce Files Connect using a SharePoint Library. A basic approach to displaying files from SharePoint in Salesforce.

Enterprise search across Salesforce and SharePoint. Search and discovery across both platforms is essential for users, in this approach we created a hybrid search center to allow users to perform searches across both Salesforce and SharePoint.