Salesforce Outlook Plugin : Is It Best of Breed Technology?

Salesforce Outlook Plugin

Salesforce.com’s email integration strategy centers around its Salesforce for Outlook Plugin. This plugin only works with Outlook on Windows connected to a Microsoft Exchange server. Salesforce has discontinued its Gmail plugin.

Concentrating on the Microsoft Exchange market probably makes sense for Salesforce, Microsoft controls 72% of the enterprise email server market as measured by revenue according to the Radicati consulting firm. Salesforce needs to excel in the enterprise market with its huge seat counts in order to meet Wall Street’s growth expectations.

But for the small and medium business segment, the original heart of the Salesforce ecosystem, this email integration strategy makes no sense. Google Apps is the market leader for small businesses with a 27% global share followed by Office 365 with 15% [even Office 365 doesn’t work well with the Salesforce Outlook plugin]. The remainder of the market is made up of hundreds of Internet Service Providers and web site hosters who offer business email apps or hosted Exchange servers like GoDaddy, Hostgator, Intermedia, Rackspace and Yahoo!, to name a few of the largest.

Unfortunately, the Salesforce Outlook Plugin puts Salesforce users in a technical straight jacket – either use Microsoft on Windows or you are on your own.

Luckily, Salesforce also has the AppExchange. On the AppExchange under Sales >> Email and Calendar Sync, there is a long list of email integration tools provided by qualified vendors. Every app on the AppExchange has to go through an extensive Security Review before it can be listed. In other words, Salesforce has certified that these apps are safe, i.e., you won’t have your data hacked.

The email apps on the AppExchange can be divided into different categories: manual plugins, semi-automated plugins and fully automated, cross platform cloud apps. In the first category, you will find software plugins that do a better job of integrating Outlook on Windows connected to Exchange than the Salesforce Outlook Plugin. The oldest and most established of these email client plugins is called Linkpoint360. Then there are the Chrome extension apps that plugin into Gmail or Google Apps and provide similar functionality as the Salesforce for Outlook plugins for Google users. The leading Gmail plugin is Cirrus Insight. Then the semi-automated plugins like iHance that offer partial automation of the email syncing and logging process for Outlook on Windows and other specific platforms.

It is important to note that all of these plugins are either fully manual tools or semi-automated apps. That means that the user is still responsible for doing the daily work of adding emails to Salesforce by clicking a button or taking some action. The problem with manual plugins is that their usage declines over time because the end users don’t get rewarded for using them. If a user forgets to log an email to Salesforce, there is no way of knowing that the email was skipped and the value of the Salesforce deployment is diminished by the value of the missing email.

The ultimate solution to email integration for Salesforce is an app that is:

  1. platform independent, i.e., it works with everything
  2. in the cloud, i.e., it is always on, 24/7/365
  3. fully automated, i.e., the machines do all the work of syncing and logging emails to Saleforce.com.

The leading app in this second generation category is Match My Email. Based on Open Source and Open Standards, it works with every device, operating system and email application at once. Hosted in the cloud at Amazon Web Services, it is always on, working in background. Match My Email is a fully automated cloud technology that syncs and logs emails to all relevant records in Salesforce – Leads, Contacts, multiple Contacts, Accounts, Person Accounts, Organizations, Donations, Opportunities and Cases – a technology called MultMatch. The app includes a scripting language that makes it easy to sync and upload emails into custom objects and fields. It has a ‘third generation’ feature that enables it to match emails to Salesforce based on ‘tags’ embedded in the body of an email thread – what Salesforce calls a WhatID.

So Salesforce users need not despair about the shortcoming of the Salesforce Outlook Plugin. The vendor community on the AppExchange offers alternatives that work well with Outlook and other email platforms like Gmail and IMAP. With second generation apps like Match My Email coming on stream, users can look forward to a future where the cloud does all work of email syncing and logging across different devices and email platforms.

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