Just about every CRM On Demand customer I work with today has implemented some level of integration. Getting the right information (wherever it lives) to the right people at the right time is now a business imperative. Today Robert and I begin to take a look at the various ways On Demand can enable this vision – in many cases quickly and cheaply!

In the early days, most small and mid size implementations used CRM stand-alone. This was largely due to the high cost of integration, the need for specialized resources, or timing (need it fast, no time to wire things together).

What we’ve learned over the years is that CRM is most effective when the right information is in the right place at the right time for the right person. Right? Right!

Does that mean you should budget for thousands of dollars in middleware, systems integrator resources, and support / maintenance costs? Not necessarily!

Today we’re going to do an “Integration Introduction”. We’ll talk about techniques you can use to realize the “right place, right time” goal. And most of them don’t require an SI to implement.

Data – where are you?
When we talk about integration, we’re really talking about information or data being in one place or another. Think about orders. CRM doesn’t natively do order management, but past order history may be important for a sales rep to see.

So the first question to ask is, where is the data? Where does it need to be? While much of integration, historically, has meant moving or copying data from place to place, it’s often not necessary.

We like to boil this down to two main types of integration: User Interface integration and Data integration. We’re going to spend the rest of the podcast on UI integration. Data integration is essentially Data Import/ Export and web services, which we’ll cover in another podcast.

Link It!
So let’s start with the simplest kind of integration – linking. Your customer data is scattered about in multiple systems. Any system that is web-enabled (or can be) is a candidate for a weblink.

Weblinks have been around since the early days of CRMOD and allow you to construct a “smart” link to an external or intranet web resource. The smart part refers to the URL parameters you can set. What’s really interesting is that while the basics of weblinks haven’t changed, the systems in many customer’s back offices have. More and more applications are natively web-enabled and accept parameterized URLs. This has made weblinks a whole lot more useful.

Syndicate It!
RSS support in CRMOD allows you to push content out or pull it in. RSS feeds are very widespread and come from a variety of providers – this podcast and associated blog is available via RSS, for example.

You can embed an RSS feed in a home page, a detail page or even the action bar. So you can “stream” corporate news and info to users. Many RSS providers also accept parameters so you can customize the stream for a particular Account record. Pretty cool.

RSS also powers outbound “gadget” integration. Bits and pieces of CRMOD – favorite lists and reports – can be embedded in your Google page or NetVibes, or any of a number of aggregator services.

Embed It!
Web tabs are very useful for extending CRM On Demand beyond just a CRM destination and turning it into a corporate portal. Many companies use a tab as a container for their intranet home page and other internal web resources. Web tabs don’t offer quite as much context as other links – they can be associated with the user (which may be useful for single-sign services). So think of a web tab as a window to another system or another place, putting tools and information close to the user.

Web applets are one of my favorite features in On Demand. Someday we’ll devote a whole podcast to them. These can be placed directly on any record detail screen, so they can be “in context” with the record you are currently viewing. In essence, you can “roll your own” related information applet and fully control the content that appears within it.

So let’s say I have a web-enabled Order Management system. I can embed information from that system into an Account detail screen – so now I have an inline list of orders, say, for the Account I’m viewing.

Applets, in my opinion, are the definition of “right time, right place.” I’m looking at an Account or Opportunity. I’m considering taking some action – a sales call, responding to a support request. As an administrator, I want to give the user easy access to the information that can inform those actions. Applets are awesome for that.

Web App It
The web today is awash in useful utilities and min-apps. Think about Google Maps – this is a full featured application with its own API. Put an account location on an embedded Google map via a simple URL. A little more work could embed an entire call route in a web tab or home page. With a little effort, you can give your users a whole lot more than a place to keep their Account and Contact data!

Wrap-up
We’d be irresponsible if we didn’t advise some caution. We’ve seen customers embrace the web applet concept and end up with 15+ applets on an Account detail page. Yikes!

Hold to the keep it simple mantra. Lots of applets can confuse users and impact page load times, which may drive down adoption. Give users just what they need to be productive.

Today we only hit on one area of integration, but it’s by far the easiest and fastest to implement. And the results can be dramatic! If you haven’t yet explored these UI integration tools, go do it now. Right now, you go.

Have fun!

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  1. david on 18 Mar 10 11:05 am

    fyi: I just publicized this website to the CRMOD Linkedin Group (900 WW members)

  2. Louis Peters on 31 Mar 10 7:28 pm

    Thanks for the publicity!

  3. Andy on 03 Mar 11 3:03 am

    I want to send Leads data to an external process via SOA/BPEL. Also, I want to receive data into CRMOD as well via SOA/BPEL. I searched around and I couldn’t find any documentation on how to do this. I’m clueless and really need some guidance. Can you help me please?

    Thanks

    PS: I’m using release 18 and my language of choice is Java.