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Integration with Salesforce by AppExchange Package

A headshot for Jay Mehta, Prolocity's PROserve Essential lead

Jay Mehta
PROserve Essentials Lead

One of the most common integration strategies for getting data into Salesforce is using a managed package from the Salesforce AppExchange. Many software vendors develop and distribute these packages–some at no additional cost–because they know their users want to integrate their data into Salesforce. For example, getting donation data or event registrations linked to Contacts, sending Salesforce Contacts to marketing tools in order to email them, or integrating project data for planning purposes.

In this article, we'll run through some of the most popular use cases we're asked about, installing tools native to Salesforce, integrating external tools via a package offered by the vendor, and using a dedicated third-party package.

A quick note on packages

There are two types of Salesforce packages; Managed and Unmanaged. It's helpful to know a few of the differences before we go any further:

  1. Unmanaged Packages are available from various sources on the internet. They are not vetted by Salesforce for safety or security. If you install an unmanaged package, it will not be automatically updated when new features are added or security updates are made by the developer; you'll have to manually update the package to the latest version. While they're not vetted by Salesforce, there are many very popular and safe unmanaged packages. Many are free and open-source, like Mass Action Scheduler.
  2. Managed Packages are available via the Salesforce AppExchange. They are vetted for safety and security before being made available for installation. After installing, updates to add features and to fix security issues are automatically installed in your org. Managed packages are often released by vendors to accompany their software, or sold independently.

There's another major difference between managed and unmanaged packages; in a managed package, the components like Apex code, Flow definitions, and other configuration items are not visible or editable. Field and object definitions are also limited in the changes that can be made. For instance, you can change the help text, but not the data type of a field. Unmanaged packages do not have these restrictions; all of the components are fully viewable and editable.

Installing Salesforce-Integrated Packages

Out of the box, Salesforce handles CRM functions like managing Accounts and Contacts and sales or customer service tasks like managing Opportunities or Cases. But if your business has more detailed processes like project management or delivery of services to clients, you may not find the functionality you need in the core platform. That's where packages can help out by providing additional features in Salesforce.

Integrating functionality directly into Salesforce is a method of obviating the need for an integration. Rather than using, for example, a project management tool that's separate from Salesforce and integrating it, you can use a Salesforce-based tool instead.

Project Management is one of the most common requests we get from clients. In most cases, once a client makes a sale, they have a standard onboarding or implementation process that should happen after an Opportunity is won. Packages like Inspire Planner and Milestones PM+ add this kind of functionality without requiring the user to leave Salesforce.

For non-profits who serve clients, it's very common to want to track programs, the services they offer, and the actual services delivered to each client. Additional packages like Salesforce's Program Management Module and Nonprofit Cloud Case Management can add support for these needs.

 

Strengths: can add rich functionality with no additional custom development
Weaknesses: likely come at additional cost
Bottom line: usually the fastest way to add significant functionality that is vendor-supported

Integrating Tools that Provide their Own Package

Many third-party tools can integrate to Salesforce by using a managed package that the vendor develops and supports. Common examples include fundraising platforms like Classy. Marketing tools like MailChimp, and e-signature packages like DocuSign all provide AppExchange packages that can integrate their data and functionality into Salesforce.

One thing to keep in mind about integrating in this manner is that it may change your evaluation process when picking new software tools. When evaluating two tools, you might give an edge to one if it has an AppExchange package.

The ease of installing a standard package may also expose one of their biggest drawbacks: many packages have limited functionality or configurability that you may be forced to accept unless you look for more sophisticated options.

Strengths: often comes at no additional cost and provides a fully-supported pathway to integration that only requires some configuration.
Weaknesses: integration options are often limited and may not offer full customization to your needs
Bottom line: start here if you're working with a software you want to integrate with Salesforce.

Using a Dedicated, Third-Party Package

Some tools don't offer an integration supported by their developers, but a third-party developer has stepped up to bridge that gap. For example, we're often asked about integrating EventBrite 's event registration platform in order to link event registrations to Contacts in Salesforce. While EventBrite doesn't offer its own method for linking to Salesforce, they do offer an Application Programming Interface (API) that enables other developers to create their own integration. Beaufort12 is one of those vendors, offering connector packages for Emma, and EventBrite.

There are also times when a native integration package isn't fully-featured to meet all of your needs. Third-party packages may offer additional features and configuration options, like the Beaufort12 connectors for Campaign Monitor and MailChimp.

The good news about these integrations is that they give you the ability to automatically pull data into Salesforce. The bad news often is that they often come at an additional cost on top of the pricing of the tool itself. That cost may make it worth considering whether you need an automated integration at all, or whether you might be able to get the information you need into Salesforce using a manual import process. You can also consider whether a tool like Zapier or emerging Salesforce features like HTTP Callout in Flow can meet your needs.

Strengths: links systems that don't have a native integration package, or that have a package that doesn't support all your needs
Weaknesses: usually comes at additional cost on top of the tool's standard pricing.
Bottom Line: using a third-party package may open otherwise closed pathways, but at additional cost that should be weight against other options

Next Steps

If you've looked at your options for manual import and using AppExchange packages but still haven't found the right solution, there are more options. Check out our next article to come on using Zapier and similar point-and-click admin tools to build more custom integrations.