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Outlook Integration with Salesforce.com (Updated!)

Written by Brent Mellow.

Connect for Microsoft OutlookAs a salesforce partner, one of the most common pieces of functionality we get asked to deploy or assist with is integration between Microsoft Outlook® and salesforce.com. This can take a variety of forms. This article discusses the considerations and steps in configuring your Outlook application to work with Salesforce CRM. Most people think of "email" when talk out Outlook, but the Salesforce for Outlook and the Connect for Microsoft Outlook desktop applications provided free to all Salesforce CRM customers using a PC can also synchronize calendar appointments ("events" in salesforce speak) and To-Do items ("tasks" in salesforce speak - only with the Connect product). Similar functionality is provided for LotusNotes users with a separate tool provided by Salesforce and to Apple Mac users running Mac Mail, Microsoft Entourage 2008 or Microsoft Outlook 2011, through the free Maildrop and SF3 applications from PocketSoap. Apple Mac users: Here are Your instructions! The considerations in this article are relevant to both PC and Apple Mac users, but the configuration discussion focuses on Connect for Microsoft Outlook.

Why Integrate Mail, Calendar and Tasks with Salesforce?

The key reason to create integrations between Outlook (or Mac Mail or Entourage or LotusNotes) and your CRM system is to ensure that Account, Contact, Lead and Opportunity specific data that is in Outlook (and pretty much visible only to the owner of the Outlook account) is reflected in the company CRM system so that (i) you have a single view of the relationship, (ii) other people on your team can have access to the information, and (iii) to assist in activity tracking. Additionally, by installing the applications discussed herein, creating Lead, Contacts and Cases on-the-fly from in-bound emails has never been easier. With Connect for Microsoft Outlook, you can chose to integrate each or all of Contacts, Calendar Appointments and To-Do items.

Salesforce for Outlook Overview

With the Winter '11 release, salesforce.com introduced the Salesforce for Outlook integration application ("S4O").  akaCRM recommends the use of the new S4O product when your users have Outlook 2007 or Outlook 2010. See Demo for overview of S4O and user installation instructions. Here are some key differences between S4O and Connect

  • With S4O, syncing happens automatically in the background.  No more clicking a "Sync" button.
  • S4O attempts to automatically associate records in Salesforce CRM. Items not associated are added to your "My Unresolved Items" page where you can easily associate.  With the Connect product, you have to manually associate records.
  • With S4O, administration settings are set by your salesforce.com administrator in the cloud. Administrators can create multiple profiles for direction of sync and what items are synced.  With the Connect product, each user had to configure the settings which can lead to improper configurations. The S4O solution is wonderful for administrators wanting better control.
  • With S4O, recurring events don't sync.
  • Also note that with S4O you cannot sync tasks, only Contacts and Calendar folders can be synced.
  • S4O does not support IMAP and POP3 email servers.
  • Finally, S4O supports both Outlook 2007 and Outlook 2010. There is no support for Outlook 2002 or 2003 (use the Connect product if you are on these older versions).

Connect for Microsoft Outlook Overview

Connect for Microsoft Outlook ("Connect") is a free desktop application provided by salesforce.com. The application provides the following functionality: 

  • Synchronization of Contacts between Salesforce CRM and Outlook
  • Synchronization of Events between Salesforce CRM and Outlook
  • Synchronization of Tasks between Salesforce CRM and Outlook
  • Attaching in-bound emails received in Outlook to their associated Contact in Salesforce CRM
  • Sending out-bound emails from Outlook and associating to the correct Salesforce CRM Contact
  • Creating Cases in Salesforce CRM from in-bound emails
  • And more...
For each of these areas of content, you have a choice of how the synchronization can be configured: (1) one-way: Salesforce to Outlook; (2) one-way: Salesforce to Outlook with Overwrites; (3) one-way: Outlook to Salesforce; and (4) two-way: bi-directional synchronization. The considerations for each of these are discussed below.

Task Synchronization with Salesforce

Ok - the easy one first. Our experience shows us that very people use To-Do items actively in Outlook. Consequently for many people, choosing to not enable synchronization with Outlook is a common decision. Alternatively, the same people may also choose for bi-directional synchronization so that when they do have tasks assigned in Salesforce CRM or Outlook, they can easily be reflected and updated in the other program. We seldom have issues with clients configuring bi-directional synchronization with Tasks and in fact, recommend doing so or turning it off all together. Reminder, the S4O product does not sync tasks. Use the Connect product if you need to sync tasks.

Event Synchronization with Salesforce

The primary issue with Calendar synchronization is that most of us like to maintain a single calendar so we have one place to go to look at all of our appointments, both business and personal. If you only maintain business appoints in Outlook, then set-up your synchronization as a bi-directional sync and check the "Always mark for sync" box. If however, you are like most of us, and keep your personal items in Outlook (e.g, doctor appoints, the kid's soccer game, etc.) then do NOT check the "always mark for sync" box. You can still set up the synchronization as bi-directional, but as you add appointments in Outlook, you will need to click the "Mark for Sync" button for each item that is a business item and for which you want to go into Salesforce.  A simple way around this is enter business items in Salesforce CRM directly as all of these are considered business and all of them will be written back to Outlook, while only the Outlook items "marked for sync" will come back to Salesforce.com.  What this also means is that when you run your fist sync, you must "mark for sync" one at a time all Outlook items to come into Salesforce.

Contact Synchronization with Salesforce

Synchronization of Contacts is a a task that requires a bit more thought and strategy depending on your particular situation.

Scenario 1 (one salesforce user; fresh deployment): In the simplest of scenarios, you would be the only user in your Salesforce deployment and you would be starting with no contacts in Salesforce (or alternatively no contacts in Outlook). In this case, a bi-directional sync would make sense. The result of this scenario would be perfect mirroring of your Contacts between Outlook and Salesforce and changes or additions to records on either application would result in continued mirroring to the other application. Unfortunately, this is seldom the scenario.

Scenario 2 (one salesforce user; existing contacts in both Salesforce and Outlook): In this scenario, the user has Contact records existing in both Salesforce and Outlook. Some records may be identical, some similar and some existing on only one side or the other. The result of a synchronization in this scenario is likely to yield duplicate records. Salesforce makes an attempt to de-duplicate based on its internal rules (we are guessing unique email address and some formula around name and company). However, its ability to de-duplie is imperfect at best and we can pretty much assure you that duplicates will exist if you have similar records on each side. In this scenario, you will need to manually de-duplicate the records in either Salesforce or Outlook and re-sync. This probably means you must consider which record has better data or cut and paste between records or use the Salesforce Contact merge function.

Scenario 3 (multiple salesforce users): This is the most common scenario. We provide the above scenarios primarily as a build-up to the issues associated with duplicate records. This big issue with multiple salesforce users (and it is a big issue), is that if user 1 has John Doe in Outlook and user 2 has John Doe in Outlook, it will not only create duplicates, but unless the users are all cleaning up their data at the same time, duplicates will re-appear AFTER one user has gone to the trouble of cleaning up their contacts, when the next user syncs. Additionally, unless Account Teams or custom Sync Profiles is set-up and configured, only one user will have the resulting Contact in Outlook. Consequently, we STRONGLY recommend that when syncing Contacts, it should be a one-way sync from Salesforce to Outlook. Users will still have to deal with duplicates created in Outlook, but the Salesforce database can be cleaned and kept clean.

Salesforce Mobile LiteScenario 4 (using the Salesforce Mobile Lite client): Another consideration is this: When you are at your desktop or laptop, you have access to Salesforce and therefore, you don't really need your Contacts in Outlook. The reason we find most users want their Salesforce Contacts in Outlook is because Outlook syncs to their mobile devices (Blackberrys, iPhones and other Windows Mobile devices). HOWEVER, since salesforce.com recently began providing its Mobile Lite client to all users running most Salesforce Editions, if you wanted to have your Contacts with you on your mobile, just install the Mobile Lite application and then you won't have to worry about duplicates. In this scenario, you can keep your personal contacts in Outlook and your business contacts on the Mobile Lite application.

Connect for Microsoft Outlook Set-up

Pre-requisites: Connect for Microsoft Outlook requires Microsoft Windows 2000, XP or Vista. Also, it requires Microsoft Outlook XP (2002), 2003 or 2007.  Additionally, you must have admin rights for your local computer in order to install the application.  If you do not have these rights, see your IT administrator at your company. To set-up Connect for Microsoft Outlook, follow these steps:

  1. Download Connect for Microsoft OutlookDownload the Connect for Microsoft Outlook Application.  This first step is very easy and straight forward. Each user will need to do this for themselves unless your system administrator is doing a network-based application deployment (not covered in this article). To download the application, login to salesforce.com and click the "Setup" link in the top of your salesforce.com screen, then click on "Desktop Integration" under the "Personal Setup" category, the click on "Connect for Microsoft Outlook". Once on the page, there is the choice of clicking the "Install Now" button or downloading the installer to your desktop. We recommend the latter. You will find a "click here" link on the same page to allow you to do so. The file was 11.1MB at the time of the writing of this article and takes less than a minute to download (depending on the speed of your Internet connection). At the completion of this set, the "Setup.exe" file should exist on your desktop as an icon.

  2. Install the Connect for Microsoft Outlook Application. Go to your desktop and run the Setup.exe file saved from the prior step. This is also a good point to close all open applications other than the installer. We suggest doing so to prevent any conflicts with the installer program. Follow-the on-screen prompts provided by the Setup.exe installer program which include selecting your default language, accepting the license agreement and selecting the installation folder (suggest leaving the defaults). When it has completed, click the "Finish" button. This step 2 process should go very quickly (less than 1 minute) and most uses will not need to make any changes to the default changes.

  3. Optionally, set your Sync-Profile. By default, you can synchronize contacts you own and contacts to which you have read/write access that are related to your accounts or accounts where you are on the account team. Consequently, most users will not need to configure profiles as the defaults are adequate. If there are Contacts owned by other users that you want to synchronize, you can click on the "Set your Sync Profile" link at the bottom of the salesforce.com screen in step 1. Note: you cannot choose to select individual contacts or accounts to synchronize through this step. You will have to add ALL contacts of a user or groups of users. To add individual contacts, you must have Account Teams enabled in your org. You can change these settings at any time.

  4. Configure the Connect for Microsoft Outlook Application. The application is now installed, but you must configure it one time:
    1. Open Microsoft Outlook. From the Microsoft Outlook menu, go to “Tools | Options.  Click the “Mail Format” tab.  If you are using a version of Outlook earlier than 2007, be sure that you are NOT using MS Word as your email editor. You may have checkboxes on the “Mail Format” tab that say “Use MS Word as your Editor”.  Make sure these are unchecked.  If you are using Outlook 2007 or later, disregard this step.

    2. Salesforce.com Menu in OutlookFrom the Outlook menu, go to Tools | Salesforce.com Options.  This is a new menu installed in Step 2. Enter your salesforce.com username in the Username field. Enter your salesforce.com password + your security token in the Password field. See your system administrator or contact akaCRM if you need help finding your security token. Click the “Verity” button to confirm your username and password+security token credentials have been entered correctly. After about 30 seconds you should receive a confirmation that the credentials have been verified.

    3. You will now need to go to each of the Contacts, Events, and Tasks tabs and set three options: (a) check or uncheck the box titled "Synchronize Data with Salesforce.com", (b) Data Movement (determines the direction and type of sync), and (c) check or uncheck the box titled "Always mark for sync". If you have questions about the setting appropriate for you or your company after reviewing this article, check with your system administrator or contact akaCRM

This article is intended to provide the reader with an overview of the Connect for Microsoft Outlook application, considerations and high-level set-up steps. If you need help or have more more detailed questions about the appropriate solution for you or your company, contact akaCRM.