Salesforce Integration: A Complete Guide

Salesforce Integration: A Complete Guide

Salesforce Integration: A Complete Guide

February 08, 2024 0 Comments

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Salesforce is a robust platform that allows you to make engaging customer and employee experiences with third-party data integrations. However, integrating Salesforce with diverse systems can be challenging and complicated, as there are many factors to consider, like integration architecture, capabilities, patterns, levels, and scenarios. This blog will provide you with an overview of Salesforce integration and some of the best practices and tools that can be useful to achieve it.

What is Salesforce Integration?

What is Salesforce Integration

Salesforce integration is connecting two or more applications or systems that can share and exchange data and functionality. For example, if you want to integrate Salesforce with an ERP system, such as SAP, to synchronize account information and order status or with a payment gateway, such as Stripe, to process credit card payments. By integrating Salesforce with various platforms. You can streamline your business processes, enhance data quality and accuracy, improve user experience, and boost productivity and efficiency.

Why Salesforce Integration?

There are many benefits of integrating Salesforce with other systems, such as:

  • Data consistency: You can ensure that the data in Salesforce and other systems are always in sync and up to date, avoiding data duplication, inconsistency, and errors.
  • Process automation: You can automate and optimize your business processes across multiple systems, reducing manual work and human intervention and increasing speed and accuracy.
  • User satisfaction: You can provide a seamless and unified user experience to your customers and employees by enabling them to access and interact with data and functionality from different systems in one place, such as Salesforce.
  • Business intelligence: You can leverage the data and insights from different systems to make better and faster decisions by using Salesforce analytics and reporting tools, such as dashboards and reports.

Types of Salesforce Integration Architectures

Salesforce Integration Architectures

There are many ways to design and implement Salesforce, depending on the number, complications, and system’s needs. The most common types of Salesforce integration architectures are:

Point-to-point integration: Point-to-point integration is the simplest and most direct form of integration, where each system has a one-to-one link to a different system through a one-to-one relationship. For example, if you have three systems, A, B, and C, you will need three integrations: A-B, A-C, and B-C. This type of integration is easy to implement with only a few systems, but it becomes costly and difficult to maintain and scale with more systems as it creates a complex and rigid network of connections.

Some of the benefits of point-to-point integration are:

  • It is fast and easy to set up
  • It does not need any additional tools or platforms
  • It allows direct communication between the systems

Some of the drawbacks of point-to-point integration are:

  • It is not scalable or flexible to changes
  • It creates a high coupling and dependency between the systems
  • It increases the risk of errors and failures

Hub-and-spoke integration: A more centralized and organized type of integration known as “hub-and-spoke” involves a hub system that serves as a mediator and facilitator for communication between the other systems, or “spokes,” in the system. For example, if you have three systems, A, B, and C, you will require only one hub system, H, and three integrations: A-H, B-H, and C-H. The hub system is responsible for routing and transforming the data and messages between the spokes.

Some of the benefits of hub-and-spoke integration are:

  • It reduces the number and complexity of connections
  • It allows a modular and reusable design
  • It improves the performance and reliability of the integration

Some of the drawbacks of hub-and-spoke integration are:

  • It introduces a single point of failure and dependency on the hub system
  • It requires a specialized and dedicated hub system
  • It may create a bottleneck and latency in the integration

Enterprise Service Bus (ESB) integration: ESB integration is the most advanced and flexible form of integration, where there is a middleware layer that acts as a bridge and broker for communication between the systems, which are loosely coupled and independent. For example, if you have three systems, A, B, and C, you will need only one ESB layer, E, and three adapters: A-E, B-E, and C-E. The ESB layer offers various services and features, like routing, orchestration, transformation, security, and monitoring.

Some of the benefits of ESB integration are:

  • It enables high scalability, reliability, and adaptability
  • It allows a decoupled and distributed architecture
  • It supports multiple protocols, formats, and standards
  • Some of the drawbacks of ESB integration are:
  • It requires more expertise and resources to implement and manage
  • It adds a layer of complexity and overhead
  • It may create compatibility and interoperability issues

Routing, Transformation, and Security

Routing, transformation, and security are some of the significant functions of the integration architectures, depending on the needs and conditions of the integration. Here is a brief explanation of each function:

  • Routing: Routing is the process of determining the destination and path of the data and messages that are exchanged across the systems. Routing can depend on various criteria, like content, priority, or availability. Routing can also involve filtering, aggregating, or splitting the data and messages, depending on the logic and rules of the integration.
  • Transformation: Transformation is the process of converting the data and messages from one format or structure to another for the systems to understand and process them. Transformation can involve many operations, like mapping, parsing, validating, or upgrading the data and messages,  depending on the schema and standards of the integration.
  • Security: The process of protecting the data and messages from unauthorized access, modification, or disclosure during the integration is called security. Security can involve numerous mechanisms, like encryption, decryption, authentication, authorization, or auditing, depending on the policies and rules of the integration.

Salesforce Integration Capabilities

Salesforce Integration Capabilities

There are many ways to perform Salesforce integration, depending on the data type, format, frequency, and messages that are required to be exchanged between the systems. The most common Salesforce integration capabilities are:

  • Synchronous: With this type of integration, the sender system requests the receiver’s system and looks for a prompt reply. For example, when a user updates an account’s address field in Salesforce, Salesforce requests an address verification service and waits for a confirmation or correction. This type of integration guarantees data accuracy and timeliness. It also increases network traffic and latency and may cause performance errors or timeouts if the receiver system is slow or unavailable.
  • Asynchronous: Asynchronous integration is non-interactive and delayed; a message is deployed by the sender system to the receiver system without any waiting period. For example, when a user creates a new order in Salesforce, Salesforce sends a message to an ERP system and does not wait for an acknowledgment or status update. Asynchronous integration reduces the network traffic and latency and allows the sender system to continue its operation without interruption. It may cause data inconsistency or loss if the recipient system does not receive or process the message. 
  • REST API: This kind of incorporation is web-based and stateless, in which the sender system queries and modifies resources on the internet that are identified by URIs using HTTP methods like GET, POST, PUT, and DELETE. For example, when a user wants to retrieve a list of contacts from Salesforce, the sender system sends a GET request to a URI, such as https://example.com/services/data/v52.0/query?q=SELECT+Name+FROM+Contact, and receives a JSON response with the data. This type of integration is simple, lightweight, and widely supported, but it also has a few limitations, like payload size, security, and error handling.
  • SOAP API: In this stateful, web-based integration scenario, the sender system can utilize the SOAP protocol,  dependent on XML, to exchange structured and standardized messages with the receiver system. For example, when a user wants to create a new account in Salesforce, the sender system sends a SOAP message with the account details to a URI, such as https://example.com/services/Soap/u/52.0, and receives a SOAP response with the result. This integration is robust, secure, and reliable but has a few disadvantages, like complexity, verbosity, and overhead.
  • Bulk API: A web-based and asynchronous integration is another kind of integration in which the sender system uses the REST or SOAP API to upload or download large batches of data to or from Salesforce. For example, when a user wants to import or export millions of records from Salesforce, the sender system sends a request with the batch details to a URI, such as https://example.com/services/async/52.0/job, and receives a response with the job ID to check the status and result of the job. The bulk API integration is up to date for high performance and scalability, but it also has some restrictions, like concurrency, polling, and order.
  • Streaming API: The integration method used here is asynchronous and web-based, where the sender system uses the Bayeux protocol, which is dependent on Comet, to subscribe to and receive real-time notifications of data changes or events from Salesforce. For example, when a user wants to monitor the changes of accounts in Salesforce, the sender system sends a request with the subscription details to a URI, such as https://example.com/cometd/52.0, and receives a stream of messages with the data or event details. This type of integration is ideal for reactive and event-driven applications, but it also has some challenges, such as connection, replay, and durability. It is perfect for reactive and event-driven applications. Streaming API integration comes with challenges like connection, replay, and durability.
  • Outbound Message:  This type of asynchronous integration is unique to Salesforce and involves sending a SOAP message to a designated endpoint URL with the information from a record that satisfies a workflow rule or procedure. For example, when a user updates the status of an opportunity to Closed Won in Salesforce, Salesforce sends a SOAP message with the opportunity details to a URL, such as https://example.com/notify. It expects an acknowledgment from the receiver system. This type of integration is easy to configure and use, but it has some limitations, such as customization, security, and retry. It is simple to set up and operate, but this integration method comes with certain constraints, including challenges related to customization, security, and retry functionality.
  • Web Service Callout: The synchronous integration is unique to Salesforce and involves calling an external web service, REST or SOAP, via Salesforce and waiting for a response. For example, when a user clicks a button in Salesforce, Salesforce calls a web service that performs some logic or calculation and returns a result. This integration approach is convenient and adaptable but has limitations, like governor limits, error handling, and testing.
  • Zapier: Through this third-party, cloud-based integration, Zapier acts as an automation tool and connector between Salesforce and other platforms. For example, when a user creates a new lead in Salesforce, Zapier triggers an action that creates a new contact in Gmail. This form of integration is characterized by its user-friendly interface and cost-effectiveness, but it is contingent upon factors such as availability, security, and support.
  • Make.com:  A third-party, cloud-based integration, Make.com provides a platform and builder tool for developing unique integrations between Salesforce and other systems. For example, when a user wants to integrate Salesforce with Shopify, Make.com provides a ready-made template and a drag-and-drop interface to configure and deploy the integration. This type of integration is powerful and intuitive, but it has some trade-offs, such as pricing, compatibility, and maintenance. 
  • Heroku Connect:  In this type of integration, utilizing third-party and cloud-based services, Heroku Connect functions as a tool for bidirectional data synchronization, connecting Salesforce with Heroku Postgres databases. For example, when a user wants to build a custom web or mobile app that uses Salesforce data, Heroku Connect provides a seamless and secure way to sync the data between the app and Salesforce. This approach offers speed and scalability, but it has some requirements, like schema, mapping, and polling mechanisms.

Salesforce Integration Patterns

Salesforce Integration Patterns

There are diverse ways to design and implement Salesforce integration, depending on the business logic, data flow, and user interface that need to be attained among the systems. The most common Salesforce integration patterns are:

  • Data integration:  This describes a framework in which information is moved and changed between systems, whether in groups or real-time, to guarantee the consistency and quality of data. For example, when a user wants to migrate or back up data from Salesforce to another system, or vice versa, data integration serves as a means to execute the movement and transformation of data. This pattern is ideal for scenarios where the data is the primary focus and the business logic and user interface are minimal or irrelevant.
  • Process integration:  A procedure where the coordination and automation of business processes happens between systems, either in a real-time or delayed manner, to improve the efficiency and optimization of processes. For example, when a user wants to trigger a workflow or a process in another system based on a data change or an event in Salesforce, or vice versa, applying process integration allows for the invocation and execution of processes. This pattern is perfect for scenarios where the business logic is the primary focus, and the data and user interface are secondary or dependent.
  • Virtual integration: This pattern provides data accessibility and transparency by allowing data to be retrieved and shown between the systems, either on-demand or in real-time. For example, when a user wants to view or edit data from another system in Salesforce or vice versa, leveraging virtual integration enables the execution of data queries and presentations. This pattern is the best for scenarios where the user interface is the primary focus and the data and business logic are dynamic or independent.

Salesforce Integration Levels

Different levels of abstraction and granularity can be used to perform Salesforce integration, depending on the type and complexity of the integration. The most common Salesforce integration levels are:

  • User Interface: This denotes the utmost and most apparent level of integration, wherein the user interface of one system is incorporated or revealed within another system, either in its entirety or as a component. For example, when a user wants to see a dashboard or a report from another system in Salesforce. User interface integration involves incorporating or revealing user interface elements in different systems. This integration level is easy and speedy to deploy, but it has certain drawbacks, including user experience, security, and ongoing maintenance.
  • Application Logic: An intermediate and highly adaptable level of integration, where an application logic or functionality of one system is invoked or utilized by another system, either as a service or through a method. For example, when a user wants to perform a calculation or a validation from another system in Salesforce. Application logic integration allows for the invocation or utilization of application logic or functionality in another framework. It is robust and flexible and creates challenges in areas like performance, reliability, and testing.
  • Data: This represents the most fundamental level of integration, where one system’s data is either transferred or accessed by another system, either in the form of a file or a record. For example, when a user wants to import or export data from Salesforce to another system. The data integration is used for transferring or accessing the data in the different platforms. This level is simple, but it has some limitations, including data quality, consistency, and transformation.

Salesforce Integration Problems & Solutions

Salesforce Integration Problems & Solutions

Many real-world problems and scenarios can be solved or addressed by using Salesforce integration, depending on the business needs and goals. Here are some examples of Salesforce integration problems and solutions:

  • Synchronizing Accounts from Salesforce to SAP: To guarantee that account details are reliable and accurate, it’s necessary to synchronize the account information between Salesforce and SAP. It assists in maintaining reliability in data across both platforms. A possible solution is to use the Bulk API to upload the account data from Salesforce to SAP in batches and use the Streaming API to subscribe to the account changes in Salesforce and update the account data in SAP in real time.
  • Credit Card payments via an API: In this scenario, processing credit card payments within Salesforce requires utilizing an external payment gateway, like Stripe, through an API. It ensures both payment functionality and security. A possible solution is to use the Web Service Callout to call the REST or SOAP API of the payment gateway from Salesforce, pass the credit card details and amount, and receive the payment status and confirmation.
  • Passport Check via a Background Service: To verify a customer’s passport details in Salesforce, we need to check their passport with a background service, like a government agency. It assists in confirming the customer’s identity and ensures compliance. A possible solution is to use the Outbound Message to send the passport details from Salesforce to the background service when a customer record is created or updated and use the Web Service Callout to receive the verification status and result from the background service.
  • Multiple Real-Time Fitness Devices: It is necessary to integrate fitness data from numerous real-time fitness devices, for example, Fitbit, Apple Watch, and Garmin, into Salesforce to enable fitness tracking and analysis. A possible solution is to use Zapier to connect the fitness devices with Salesforce and trigger actions based on the fitness data, such as creating or updating records, sending notifications, or generating reports.
  • Querying Bulk Data from Salesforce: This is another system, like a Business Intelligence tool, that needs to query and analyze large amounts of Salesforce data, like millions of records, to allow data analysis and reporting. A possible solution is to use Heroku Connect to sync the data from Salesforce to a Heroku Postgres database and use the BI tool to query and analyze the data from the database.
  • Image / Document upload into Salesforce: This issue arises when content management and sharing require the uploading and storing of documents or photos from another system, like a web or mobile app, in Salesforce. A possible solution is to use the REST API to upload the images or documents from the app to Salesforce as attachments or files and use the SOAP API to retrieve the pictures or documents from Salesforce as attachments or files.

Summary

Salesforce integration involves establishing connections between Salesforce and other systems to exchange data and functionality, create engaging customers, and increase employee experiences. The integration with Salesforce can take various forms, influenced by factors like integration architecture, capability, pattern, level, and scenario. Salesforce integration can also solve many real-world problems and scenarios, depending on the business needs and objectives. Salesforce integration services can help you achieve Salesforce integration, such as APIs, Outbound Messages, Web Service Callouts, Zapier, Make.com, and Heroku Connect. Salesforce integration is a robust and flexible way to use the potential of Salesforce and other platforms and to upgrade your business productivity and value.

Salesforce integration services can help you achieve all these benefits and more, depending on your specific needs and goals. Whether you want to integrate Salesforce with QuickBooks, AMS, or any other system, we have the expertise and experience to make it happen. Contact us today to find out how we can help you with your Salesforce integration project.

Thiago T

Full-Stack Salesforce Developer

Thiago is a highly skilled full-stack Salesforce developer with over 10 years of experience. He has successfully implemented Salesforce solutions for clients from various walks of life. His expertise extends across different sectors, including government, non-profit organizations, large and small companies, as well as universities. Thiago's diverse experience allows him to tailor Salesforce solutions to meet the unique needs and challenges of clients in different industries. Currently, he leads a team of 10x certified Salesforce developers across the US, Europe, and South Asia.

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