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Integrating Outlook and Salesforce: Things to Consider

By Thomas Lentz 05.20.21
Reading time: 3 minutes

Odds are that if you use both Microsoft Outlook and Salesforce, some of your task management processes are being duplicated. You may find yourself saying “There’s got to be a better way!” And you’d be right. It’s just a matter of what works best for you. And what protects your data.

Healthcare and financial service companies are both highly regulated, with elevated standards for information security. Our clients often address the need for security early on in project discovery sessions.

The Evolution of Outlook Integrations

Over time, there have been many iterations of Outlook and Salesforce integrations. Here are just a few of the tools you may have heard of to share information between the two platforms:

  • Salesforce for Outlook
  • Email to Salesforce
  • Outlook integration
  • Inbox
  • Lightning Sync
  • Einstein Activity Capture

Finding an Outlook and Salesforce integration for your needs

As capabilities have evolved and with several options available, which option might be right for your team? We’re frequently asked during implementations to describe the functionality and how it connects Salesforce and Outlook. Many organizations have security questions about the connection and want to have a level of comfort about the integration. 

With the exception of Email to Salesforce, all the Salesforce Outlook integration products require an Exchange Administrator to set up Exchange Web Services (EWS) to allow Exchange data to pass directly to Salesforce. 

EWS is the protocol that Microsoft makes available for third parties to connect with its Outlook services. While only accessible through proper authentication, EWS opens the FI’s Exchange data, including email and attachments, to being accessed via the web, which may be a concern for banks and financial institutions.

Let’s dig a little deeper into some of the currently available integration tools.

Email to Salesforce

Email to Salesforce allows a user to BCC an email to a unique Salesforce email address for it to be ingested into Salesforce as an activity against the recipient in the To: line. This basic functionality is still used at some organizations, though less at Financial Institutions. 

Things to look out for:

There are some limitations on the number of addresses in the To: and CC: that Salesforce will process. Additionally, Salesforce will truncate large sized emails.

Salesforce for Outlook

The Salesforce for Outlook Integration is deployed as a plug-in from the Microsoft Store within Outlook. It appears as a right sidebar tool within Outlook and provides Salesforce context into the Microsoft program. 

For example, if an email is being viewed, the sidebar will display Contact information, related Opportunities, and Cases associated with the email sender. Users can view related Salesforce data, create new Salesforce records, and associate emails and tasks all from within Outlook.

Things to look out for:

The Salesforce for Outlook integration is entering a phased retirement and will be sunset in 2023.

Inbox

Inbox is a paid add-on to the Outlook Integration. In addition to the Outlook Integration functionality, users also receive automated meeting scheduling, email tracking, and additional productivity and analytics features.

Things to look out for:

There is a good mobile app capability; make sure you review with your current mobile toolset.

Lightning Sync

Lightning Sync helps keep calendar and contact information aligned between Outlook and Salesforce. The tool uses a client installed onto the user’s desktop and runs in the background while the desktop is on and connected. Administrators can choose whether to sync events and contacts and which direction the data should flow.

Outlook Integration and Lightning Sync can be used together or independently. 

Silverline typically sees the Outlook Integration and Lightning Sync capabilities deployed if an Outlook Integration is needed. The Inbox features are nice to have, but aren’t typically considered until a later phase.

Things to look out for:

This solution is no longer available to customers who signed up after the Winter ’21 Salesforce release.

Einstein Activity Capture

Einstein Activity Capture is a paid app that automatically syncs your emails, events, and contacts between Outlook and SFDC. 

Things to look out for:

This solution is a newer feature on Salesforce and has multiple authentication methods that may provide more flexibility to organizations.

Other things to consider

With any Outlook connection, Salesforce recommends referring to Microsoft for best practices around Exchange administration, especially as it relates to securing endpoints. In large part, Salesforce is subject to the methods in which Microsoft grants access to Exchange data and your security administration of both platforms affects how secure your data is, so we definitely recommend keeping good security hygiene within your enterprise. 

Silverline has clients that have chosen to integrate with Outlook, clients that have included additional security such as endpoints restrictions, and clients that have chosen to leverage a third-party integration tool. During your implementation, consider the following: 

  1. What are the business reasons and benefits to integrating Salesforce and Outlook? 
  2. Are there additional security considerations for securing your Exchange or other tools?
  3. Do you have any requirements for removing or masking potentially sensitive data? 
  4. Have a clear understanding of your connection and security requirements, and involve the appropriate members of your security and compliance teams.
  5. If you have requirements about hosting or additional security controls could another integration solution, such as Riva, be better suited to your needs?

Silverline can help you make the right decision when it comes to your Salesforce and Outlook Integration. Let’s get started.

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