Google Apps and Salesforce – Finally! A first look

There were rumors for weeks that this was coming. And here it is. Salesforce has finally rolled out its integration with Google Apps. Not just a simple “add email to Salesforce” from Google or “write document from Google Docs,” this is a whole suite of tools and settings to integrate every corner of Google Apps with Salesforce.

The obligatory demo video is below.

Here’s a first look at what it all really means, from the point-of-view of a nonprofit organization that uses Google Apps for email, chat and some documents and Salesforce for the main constituent database, calendar and inter-office task delegation.

If you already have Google Apps, a Salesforce administrator only has to activate a single setting to enable the integration for the organization’s domain.

From there, you need to turn on each option one-by-one. Some are just admin settings, some are custom apps to install. Some features sit out of the way until used, and some do change the user experience a bit so they require more careful testing and caution. Some are implemented through partners that may charge for “premium” features.

As you can see I haven’t implemented everything. More on why/why not later.

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Add Google Docs to Salesforce: Lets you add Google Documents (docs, spreadsheets and presentations) to records. For the private sector that is focused on closing opportunities, this is a big thing. However, for us, the documents we attach to records tend to be PDF files we were sent, not documents we created. This does not work for attaching files to emails we send out, so not quite as useful as it could be. Still, didn’t hurt/change anything major to implement, so I turned it on.

Google Docs Tab: I’m learning that I can get our folks to use any tool if I make it work from within Salesforce. So this tab is handy. No difference whether they click this tab or they click the link that appears in the upper left hand corner of their Gmail session.

Important thing to remember here is that Google hasn’t changed anything about Google Apps for Salesforce users. This is all Salesforce changing to fold in Google. So if you’re currently using Microsoft Word to create templates in Salesforce as we do, nothing announced today will make a difference because Google Docs doesn’t have the necessary functionality. In that respect, this isn’t quite the Microsoft killer advertised.

Gmail to Salesforce: This is huge. But, not as rosy as it may appear.

There are two ways of getting email from Gmail to Salesforce.

The first is through a feature that is available now to all Salesforce users: Email to Salesforce.

Like many services with a “email to…” feature, each user gets a unique email address that will add the email directly to a Salesforce record. Once deployed by the administrator, they can go to their own personal email settings in Salesforce to find the address. The administrator won’t be able to tell them that address. They have to go find it for themselves.

If you send an email with this address in the BCC, the email is added to the record of the person in the “to:” field.

A few problems here:

  • If your constituent sends you an email from an address that is not attached to their record, you are out of luck if you want your reply attached to their record. The Outlook integration pops up a window which allows you to search for the correct record. This has no such interface. It either works or it doesn’t.
  • You can only attach the email to leads and contacts. You cannot attach an email directly to an opportunity. The workaround is to attach to the contact record, then attach to the opportunity record from within the activity record that’s created. If you only want to attach an email to an opportunity, say you have a delivery confirmation on an e-commerce order and you don’t want to associate it with a contact at all, you are out of luck.
  • Salesforce attempts to make the address more secure by giving administrators the option of utilizing SPF and other domain checking tools. If the option is checked, the sending domain is checked with those tools to make sure it complies with at least one protocol. If any test fails, the email is ignored. So this means that the administrator has to be sure that a SPF text record is on the domain (beyond the scope of this post) and that the domain isn’t failing the other checks. Even if all this is done, there’s always the chance that the email address could be compromised. There is no way to reset the email address that will send to Salesforce. It’s all or nothing. If spam starts getting in the database, you can only turn off the email feature. I can see this being a problem, but we’ll see what happens.

A second method of adding a Gmail message to Salesforce is through the browser itself. This is where the interface trips over itself a bit. In order to implement this feature, the administrator has to install an application through the appexchange. Login, accept the terms, deploy to profiles, the whole bit. Then you can select the “Gmail to Salesforce Browser Button” from the appexchange drop-down menu all so you can drag a link to a browser toolbar. A bit ridiculous. And this is only available for Firefox and Safari right now. Kind of nice to have first dibs for a change.

Once installed, here’s what you see when you click the link without a composed message open in Gmail:

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“When composing, replying, or forwarding a Gmail message, you can click the browser button to log an email activity to all relevant records in Salesforce.” Notice the problem yet?

Okay…let’s say that you were in a rush and you replied to your constituent without clicking the browser button while the message was open. There is no way to go to the sent message and add it after-the-fact (besides the old copy/paste method we’re already used to). The Outlook integration lets you add any email to a Salesforce record at any point. The Gmail integration is only possible those moments before you hit “send.” After that, you are out of luck. It’s not like you’re going to send that constituent a second email just so you can correct your mistake.

The only workaround I can think of is to send the email to yourself, then change the attached contact on the activity record afterwards. Yeah, I can see our users doing that. Not.

Update: Rasmus, a Salesforce employee, explained how to add an after-the-fact email in the comments below:

You don’t have to send another email to the contact.

For example, you send an email from gmail to contact@acme.com and forget to bcc email-to-salesforce. You can go to your sent box and forward the email you send to the email-to-salesforce address. It will look at that To: and CC: list in the original email you send and match those addresses to contacts.

Also; if someone sends you an email, and you only want to store it in the activity history, but not send an email back, you can also just forward the email you received to the email-to-salesforce address.

It works! However, that doesn’t negate the issue I raised regarding adding email to an opportunity or if the contact is writing from a different email address. But it’s certainly better than I originally thought. Thanks, Rasmus!

Gmail button and links: Nice. But not much different than if you clicked on a “Send an Email” button and composed the email from within Salesforce. Automatically attaches the special email address to the BCC field. Didn’t hurt to turn on.

Google Talk Sidebar component: I turned it on briefly, and then turned it off because I thought our users would find it annoying. We already use Google Talk for all our IM needs, so having it in Salesforce didn’t seem to add anything worthwhile and it would get in the way. Sidebar is crowded enough.

Sync for Google Calendar: Huge. Another feature that must be added through the appexchange. Very easy to turn on and set for sync (minimum sync is every 2 hours). Either one way or bi-directional. I only enabled this for my own profile so far, and I’m now glad I had some restraint. It works beautifully to link the Google Calendar to the Salesforce one for one-person events. But I have found a bug that I have to track down.

Every Monday, we have a Staff Meeting at 11 am. I scheduled the meeting in Salesforce and invited the users (note the little people icon).

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This is how it looks in Google Calendar. The sync duplicated each invite I sent as a separate meeting in Google Calendar. Ooops. I deleted the extra meetings in Google Calendar which ended up canceling the meeting for the users. Ooops again. So I have to live with the duplication until I can research why it happened. Maybe there’s a reason the sync thinks I want a separate record for each invite I sent? Doubtful, as the details in Google Calendar don’t show the users I invited. Looks like a bug.

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And that’s all for now. The other tools appear to be more appropriate for the private sector, or weren’t of particular interest to us at this moment.

Looking forward to reading how this is going over for the rest of the community.

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13 thoughts on “Google Apps and Salesforce – Finally! A first look

  1. Judi,

    This is SUCH a great post – thanks for pointing out the details and where the interface works well and not so well. I’ll kick the tires and install this on a developer account and post my thoughts on nonprofitcrm.org.

  2. Great post!

    In regards to the Gmail to salesforce part, you can forward emails you receive to your email-to-salesforce address and they will be attached the matching leads/contacts.

    The matching will be done on both To and Cc’ed email addresses.

  3. Judi Sohn says:

    Rasmus, but that means I have to send another message to the contact in order to have their address in the To or CC fields. That’s what doesn’t work in practice. In Outlook, you could add an email to Salesforce without actually sending an email.

  4. You don’t have to send another email to the contact.

    For example, you send an email from gmail to contact@acme.com and forget to bcc email-to-salesforce. You can go to your sent box and forward the email you send to the email-to-salesforce address. It will look at that To: and CC: list in the original email you send and match those addresses to contacts.

    Also; if someone sends you an email, and you only want to store it in the activity history, but not send an email back, you can also just forward the email you received to the email-to-salesforce address.

    Let me know if this helps?

  5. Judi Sohn says:

    Post has been updated to correct the information about adding an email without writing to the contact again.

  6. Great post. I would definitely suggest the campaigns sync to googleit actually works like syncing a seperate event or communications calendar to Google cal. It grabs any subset of campaigns in salesforce and places them on any google cal that you own and can then share with your domain. It is a great way to 1) see an events/communications cal laid over your other Google cals, 2) enforce the creation and update of campaigns through the carrott of great visibility to the entire org. It also allows you to bring over any fields from the campaign in to the details of the event in google.

  7. Raphy M says:

    This is such a great article. I am trying to determine how to send e-mails from Salesforce and not have them show up to my client as “myname@mydomain.com via ############.##############.salesforce.com” Does that happen to anybody else?

  8. Hi Judi,

    For more advanced Gmail to Salesforce features, take a look at our new app, Cirrus Insight. You can immediately see everything about your Salesforce Leads and Contacts right in Gmail. You can also save emails from Gmail to Salesforce, and relate them to specific Cases or Opportunities.  I’d love to get your feedback.

    http://www.cirrusinsight.com

    And nonprofits get 50% off 🙂

  9. What an in-depth post Judy! I am proud to report, a lot has changed in this domain since 2008! Our latest product, The Scoop Composer (http://www.cloudgizmos.com/salesforce-gmail-integration) is a Gmail Salesforce Contextual Gadget that allows you to see relevant Salesforce data at the bottom of every email, customized to your business needs (any fields, any object). This can also be customized per user profile (allowing for profile specific views). Creating a Lead, Contact (even a custom record) from gmail and logging your emails in Salesforce from within gmail can now all be done instantly! There are many more features, but those are some highlights. Feel free to install it and try it on for size. Hope this helps! Regards, Rachel

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