As I mentioned in my first post in this series, integrating Sitecore and Salesforce can be broken down into three main options: Custom build your integrations, use the Sitecore Connect connectors to either Salesforce CRM or Marketing Cloud (additional licensing costs), or pay for and implement the robust FuseIT S4S connector (discussed here). Understanding which connectors do what, and when they should be used, versus building something from scratch via the Salesforce and Sitecore APIs, is important to understand so you can choose the option best suited for you.
FuseIT S4S Connector
"The S4S connector integrates Sitecore CMS with Salesforce allowing the seamless exchange of information. With real-time bi-directional communication, almost any object in either system can be made visible to the other."
FuseIT's license-based connector is a fantastic option for any organization that intends to take advantage of their investment within the Sitecore and Salesforce platforms. Although there is a cost to using this connector, in my humble opinion it is well worth the cost and will recommend it over the Sitecore Connect option every time. We've used it for several of our clients already. Additionally, it appears that Sitecore is also now licensing their Sitecore Connect connectors for an additional cost, which makes more of a case for S4S.
Important to note is that the S4S Connector can co-exist with Sitecore Connect. To clarify, Sitecore Connect for Marketing Cloud addresses a totally different purpose in that it pushes Sitecore media items to Salesforce Marketing Cloud. At this time, I don't think S4S has a component for that explicitly, although I'm sure it could do something similar since any data can be mapped.
Instead, S4S is an alternative to Sitecore Connect for Salesforce CRM, although to compare the two is like comparing apples to, hmm, I don't know, maybe an apple orchard? FuseIT has broken it down for you here in this super detailed comparison: https://www.fuseit.com/products/sitecore-salesforce-integration/s4s-vs-sitecore-connect/
Before I get into the details of all that it has to offer, the obvious benefits are that with a licensed product, you get a support team that not only will answer questions and troubleshoot with you, but I've found will even provide quick enhancements and patches when requested. They care about the quality of their product and it is evident in how they work with both Sitecore partners as well as customers. Additionally, you get a battle and time-tested product that has gotten to this point after many years of figuring out what works best.
So what exactly DOES the S4S connector do?
it is a simple single package to install and configure into Sitecore. It leverages Data Exchange Framework as well and that will need to be installed.
Efficient $$-Saving Communication
It is super smart about how it communicates with Salesforce, to make sure it isn't unnecessarily hitting the API, saving you money around licensing costs and ensuring application performance. As you may know, Salesforce restricts how much the API can be used. Per Salesforce:
"The calculation of the API request amounts based on user licenses is designed to allow sufficient capacity for your org based on your number of users. If you need a higher amount and you don’t want to purchase extra user licenses or upgrade to Performance Edition, you can purchase extra API calls."
It accomplishes this by doing the following:
- Uses a single SF User for all connections to SF, limits SF costs around licensing
- Manage/Batch API calls to SF to avoid hitting limits around API Requests
Identity Authentication via Salesforce
Out-of-the-box, the Security Connector Module allows Salesforce to be the master system of record for Identity and Profile of your application's end users. Usernames, Password, and any custom Profile data can be stored in Salesforce on the Contact record.
Share Data and Analytics
Out-of-the-box, it can be configured to push form data to Salesforce to create leads or contacts as well as push the Sitecore user's browsing analytics including the pages they visited, duration on pages, date of visit, visitor IP, and the goals they have reached. The objects in Salesforce it can connect to are virtually anything including Leads, Contacts, Opportunities, Documents, Accounts, Products, Campaigns, Cases and Custom objects.
Personalize Sitecore with Salesforce Data
S4S extends the xDB schema with additional facets to support Salesforce data. You can then personalize the users experience based on this data. What Salesforce data might you want to do this with? Potentially a Lead's Campaign, Industry, Lead Status, Rating, Lead Source, etc. This can affect Profile Key Values and Matching Pattern Card.
Create/Update Salesforce Marketing Cloud Subscribers
S4MC is included with S4S (or can be licensed separately) and it allows for marketers to map existing Sitecore form fields (now including Experience Forms as well!) to Salesforce Data extensions, which can results in creating and updating the subscribers in the Salesforce Marketing Cloud with information they have submitted on a form in Sitecore.
Create Sitecore Contact Lists from Salesforce Campaigns
Included with the primary S4S product is S4S List Builder (S4SLB). It lets marketers select and import Salesforce campaigns and reports to create Sitecore contact lists which can then be used with Sitecore's Email Experience Manager (EXM). This results in the ability to send bulk personalized emails to your Salesforce leads and contacts.
EXM Results Pushed back to Salesforce
This optional (additional costs) S4S EXM module extends S4SLB to push resulting responses and analytics from the emails sent by EXM back to Salesforce as long as the list originated from a Salesforce campaign.
Salesforce Data made available Offline
The optional (additional costs) M4S module will instantiate selected Salesforce objects to a local xDB/Mongo database. This allows access to your CRM's data even if Salesforce is offline, as well as additionally reduces API calls.
As you can see, the FuseIT S4S suite of products is the enterprise connector solution for organizations who have decidedly selected Sitecore and Salesforce as their enterprise platforms for CMS/Experience and CRM. When speaking with Sitecore, they have also acknowledged that this connector is superior to the other options. To attempt to rebuild what it already does well would take far more hours than what it would cost to pay for several years of the license.
There are still reasons to do Custom Integration work (for other Salesforce products this doesn't address) and to use Sitecore Connect (for syncing Media into Marketing Cloud for example). But if you are looking to authenticate with Salesforce, or share data between these systems, or personalize on Salesforce data, you should seriously consider FuseIT S4S.
I've compartmentalized each Salesforce integration option into its own post for easier consumption. To read more about Custom Integrations to Salesforce, click here. To read more about Sitecore Connect for Salesforce, click here. For a summary or cheat sheet of what connector option might be right for you, click here.