By Aiden Martin
Salesforce.com made two big announcements at Dreamforce 14 this week that will garner much attention: the Analytics Cloud and the Lightning Builder. While these are obviously huge advancements for the Salesforce platform, I am intrigued by an almost overlooked development that could really improve the user experience for both users and admins. There was an explicit admission that the majority of salesforce.com users still use Microsoft products and salesforce.com is doing their best to improve the functionality between these two systems. The new spirit of cooperation between salesforce.com and Microsoft is beginning to produce results.
During several sessions, it was repeated that we can look forward to the following:
- Salesforce1 support for Windows Phone.
- Salesforce for Outlook support for OWA (Outlook Web App) and Outlook on the desktop.
- The Excel Power BI data connector for Salesforce.
- Sharepoint integration with Salesforce.
- Mail Merge and Salesforce Reports for Excel support for latest Office versions.
Individually, each of these items is a huge win. Combined, this is fantastic if you work at an organization that uses Microsoft products.
Salesforce users have always wanted to move their Outlook data (emails, tasks, events, contacts) to Salesforce as efficiently as possible. Salesforce for Outlook has seen steady improvement over the last year and in Winter 15, there will be a new Side Panel for Tasks and the ability to selectively add Attachments. The Product Roadmap now includes support for OWA and a new product called Salesforce for Exchange. Synchronizing Salesforce with Outlook directly at the Exchange server level will be much more efficient for the end user and reduce the need for a desktop client that can take time, effort and money to install and maintain.
The Excel Power BI data connector seems like it could be a replacement for Ron Hess’ Excel Connector, one of the original data loader tools. Being able to mass create, edit or even delete records directly from MS Excel is a great time saver for nonprofit administrators and will definitely help you more efficiently maintain your data.
And finally there will be a replacement for the Connect for Office add-on that will support the latest versions of MS Word and MS Excel (official support ended with Office 2007). In case you don’t know, the MS Word add-on allows admins to create Mail Merge templates that can be launched and populated directly from a Salesforce record. I am a HUGE fan of the original Connect for Office Excel add-on and feel that too many administrators don’t know it even exists. If you are an administrator or user who needs to export multiple reports from Salesforce to Excel, the Connect for Office Excel add-on is for you. With this hidden jewel (read about other hidden gems here), you can add reports to an Excel workbook directly from Excel. Even better, once the reports have been added to the workbook they can be refreshed directly from Excel. Manually exporting multiple reports and adding them to a single workbook is time consuming and frustrating when specific formatting, charting and summaries are required. The Office add-on can reduce hours of work to mere minutes.
Even though we have to wait for some of these products to be released, it is great to know that, for those of us who use Microsoft products, salesforce.com is going to help us be more productive in the workplace.
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