Getting Your Data Into the (Work)Flow

In a fascinating move this week, Salesforce announced a new plug-in offering tight integration with Microsoft Outlook. This new capability, still in beta release, is offered free to Salesforce customers with its Enterprise plan or higher.

Why is this fascinating? First of all, Salesforce compete head-to-head with Microsoft in the CRM space, so this is arguably a shot across Microsoft’s bow on that front. But more importantly, it’s showing the growing importance of both applications and tight integration to data publishers.

One of the great weak spots of most CRMs has long been email integration. Getting email from one’s email client to the CRM has tended to be clunky and far from automatic. Getting salespeople to send email from the CRM tended not to be practical, and nobody wanted email messages spread across two systems.

This new integration from Salesforce doesn’t magically solve all these issues, but it’s a big step forward to making the user’s preferred systems and processes more powerful. And that’s exactly the mantra we’ve been preaching to the data industry for many years now. Get into the user’s work environment and get in deep. This is a great example of this principle at work. And even better, the many data publishers already leveraging the Salesforce platform can leverage it immediately and for free.

This brings up a larger discussion about data publishers becoming dependent on third-party platforms. Sometimes it makes sense and sometimes it doesn’t. And part of that decision process involves an honest assessment about whether or not you can reasonably achieve deep embedment like this yourself.

Another useful point this new plug-in highlights: for all its issues and flaws, email isn’t going away anytime soon. And because it is arguably the most core workflow tool at most companies, it is arguably the most important place to seek to embed your data … provided your data makes sense in this context.