Outlook Integration with Salesforce.com

By Ben Hendershot, Altvia

Integration between Salesforce and Outlook is a common request from our clients.  Syncing emails, contacts, and other information between the two databases can be an important part of getting valuable information into and out of your Salesforce org.  Unfortunately, the Salesforce Outlook connector has some shortcomings, making integration quite a bit more complicated than it would seem.

Much of the trouble between Salesforce and Outlook is due to the fact that there are two widely used versions of Outlook–the pre-2007 version and the post-2007 version–and the Salesforce connector behaves differently for each.  Since many offices often have the pre-2007 version running on some machines while the post-2007 version runs on others, some users will have access to functionality that is not available to other users.  For example, the pre-2007 version syncs attachments and the post-2007 version does not.

Additionally, since the Salesforce connector is a piece of desktop software it often runs into trouble with security restrictions like firewalls and administrative permissions depending on the organization’s IT setup.

Other problems with the connector include:

  • Outlook must be open and running in order to sync with Salesforce; it does not sync to the exchange server.
  • Bi-direction syncing between Outlook to Salesforce and Salesforce to Outlook can be problematic–multiple users are likely to produce conflicting data. 
  • There also appears to be a bug that causes the connector to occasionally disable itself without warning or explanation.
  • Users cannot sync a shared calendar from Salesforce to everyone’s Outlook, which is a very common request.
  • The connector will only sync 5,000 contacts so users who rely on syncing with Outlook to get their Salesforce contacts on their mobile device don’t get all of the contacts in their Salesforce org if they have more than 5,000 contacts
  • Commonly used Outlook functionality (Categories) does not sync.

Make the Outlook Connector More Effective

Fortunately, there are some ways to make the Outlook connector more effective.  We recommend clients only sync from Salesforce to Outlook and not the other way around.  This seems to be more stable and prevents user’s personal contacts within Outlook (like friends and family) from getting entered in Salesforce. 

We have also developed proprietary software we call E2SF (email to Salesforce), which allows users to send emails into their Salesforce database and provide instructions for which objects the email will be related to.  This way, an email can be associated with a contact, an account, or an opportunity.

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