August 16th, 2016

Strange Bedfellows

As companies and organizations make the shift cloud-based infrastructure, the ability to integrate different platforms for maximum value and utility has become a critical factor in the deciding which technologies to invest in.  But as you might imagine, to be effective in today’s user-driven interactive business environment, such integrations require more than just making sure that platforms can talk to one another - they need to meld as readily as possible into day-to-day workstreams, habits, and tools.

For Microsoft and Salesforce, long term competitors in the CRM space, the need to provide daily Microsoft users (e.g. Office, Outlook, Sharepoint, etc.) with ways to seamlessly leverage the power of Salesforce has (at least for now) kept pace with competitive steps such as Salesforce’s purchase of online word processing upstart Quip.


User First

LookThink has worked with several organizations who have been attempting to make SharePoint and Salesforce sing in harmony. In that time, we’ve noticed that as the possibilities (and complexities) of integration increase, real care needs to be taken to ensure the quality of the end-user’s overall experience across both systems is addressed.  Solutions need to be focused on immediate returns to the end user, rather than long-term enterprise platform savings, due to the volatility of the Salesforce/Microsoft relationship and the massive evolutions going on in the CRM and enterprise management software spaces.
Solutions need to be focused on immediate returns to the end user, rather than long-term enterprise platform savings

User-Focused Approach

Instead of looking at each platform as a separate experience and then plotting out how to best Frankenstein them together, we set out to define, configure, and extend the positives of both platforms into a real life workflow that truly reflects and augments an organization’s operational culture. To be able to do this, you obviously need to have a good handle on platform strengths and limitations in order to ensure that the designed experience is achievable, upgradeable and maintainable.

In previous years, the interface differences between Salesforce and SharePoint were a source of enormous frustration. SharePoint’s list and library-centric architecture did not correspond well to Salesforce’s object and activity-based interaction model. While sharing files between the two systems was technically achievable, the experience of trying to use them both in tandem was so different that users rarely bothered with both. Most end-users wound up in the position of being ‘primarily SharePoint’ or ‘primarily Salesforce.’ As a result, while files were shared -  Notes, Chatter or Yammer activity, Email, and other interactions relating to contacts or files ended up remaining siloed within each platform.

That was then.

This is now:

We are able to leverage newly available integrations to provide a user experience which better supports an overall business process, such as:

  • Salesforce App for Outlook
  • Lync (Skype for Business integration)
  • OneNote Integration
  • IQ Inbox for Outlook
  • CloudHQ SharePoint integration


As a sales rep receives email in Outlook on their desktop, they can directly add it to a contact in Salesforce, right from the inbox. Then out on the road, another rep can use their phone to pull up that contact on Salesforce1 and access the interaction record. As that rep works with the client and gets a signature for a contract, they can directly snap a shot of the printed piece, add it to the contact record in Salesforce from which a Cloud HQ sync will move it automatically to the signed contracts folder in SharePoint.

At any point during these shared system interactions approval workflows, task creation, and activity tracking can be done in either system. While seamless integration of all key platform features is still a long way away, we’ve been helping people work with what’s available today, so that you’re getting the best possible user experience, without sinking enormous efforts into custom development in what seems to be a fluid and evolving situation.

In the face of current market realities we’ve found that getting solutions in place that take into account the reality of using two systems can provide an experience that allows end users to really gain value from using Outlook, SharePoint, and the Office 365 platform in conjunction with Salesforce. Whether you’re looking to put a fully-customized look and feel and taxonomy in place that carries across both platforms, or just trying to get a baseline integration in place that doesn’t confuse or frustrate your end users or break the bank, we can help get you underway.