The Microsoft-Salesforce partnership continues to bear fruit with the release of a beta version of the Salesforce App for Outlook.
"This exciting integration gives you a brand new way to experience Salesforce, right from Outlook and Office 365. Even better, it's 100 percent cloud based with nothing to install," said Ryan Aytay, senior vice president of product management at Salesforce, in a March 18 announcement.
Last May, early into Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella's tenure as head of the software giant, the companies announced that they had entered into a strategic partnership. The aim was to link Microsoft's market-leading Office productivity ecosystem with Salesforce's popular customer relationship management (CRM) cloud platform.
"The simple truth is that we wanted to bring more value to our mutual customers, and be each other's customers in relevant areas," said Nadella during a conference call announcing the deal. "We're bringing the leading CRM application to Windows devices, both phones and PCs," he pledged.
Shared customers "want this partnership badly," said Marc Benioff, CEO of Salesforce, during the call. "They want to be able to work with Office 365, they want to be able to work with Excel, with Outlook, they want to work with all of Microsoft's apps, and they want to be able to work with Salesforce."
Weeks later, Microsoft published sample code that allows Salesforce users to message one another using Yammer directly within the Salesforce user interface, eliminating the need to alt-tab between apps. Then in November, Microsoft announced that it added a Salesforce connector to its Power Query business intelligence offering for Excel, and last month it welcomed the cloud CRM specialist, along with Citrix and Box, to its new Cloud Storage Partner Program, allowing cloud application and storage providers to integrate Office Online (Word, Excel and PowerPoint Web apps) into their solutions.
Today, the Outlook part of that vision is fulfilled.
"We built the app with the goal of making you more successful by enabling you to view Salesforce contacts, leads, accounts, opportunities, cases and users in context of email—seamlessly inside of Outlook," stated Aytay. "Now you can leverage Salesforce right within Outlook to determine the best next steps in a deal and stay on top of open support issues."
On-screen, the integration appears as an expandable, Salesforce-branded panel within the email preview pane, just under the sender, recipient(s) and subject line. If an email is from a contact with no matches in Salesforce, the app enables users to quickly import the contact into Salesforce.
The Salesforce App for Outlook requires a Salesforce Enterprise Edition plan or higher. Currently, it is compatible with the Windows and Mac versions of Outlook 2013 and the browser-based Outlook Web App.
"We are working closely with Microsoft to make the app work with new Outlook products in future releases," assured Aytay. Salesforce also plans on supporting the Salesforce for Outlook plug-in for users with older software, he said.