Cloudy with a laptop standing next to text that says, "Introduction to Integration."

Introduction to Integration


Editor’s note: This post was updated on June 1, 2023, with the latest information and resources. 

When you implement Salesforce (or take over an existing implementation), you often need to integrate Salesforce with other systems. In this blog, we’ll discuss what integration means, why customers choose to use integration tools, and how you can get started with integration. Keep reading for our introductory guide to the tools available as well as an overview to help you explore the right integration solution for you.

What does integration mean?

When we talk about integration, it means to create a connection between a specific Salesforce instance and another database or system. The connection can be inbound, outbound, or bi-directional, and you may be connecting to another database, another Salesforce instance, or another cloud-based data source. Integrations might focus on sharing data between systems or continuing a business process automation from one system to another.

Why do customers integrate Salesforce?

Salesforce is a very powerful tool because it helps companies create a 360-degree view of their customers and their business. Integrations with additional databases can bring even more value and information to your Salesforce environment. As Salesforce Admins, we can make important data accessible to our end users, and we’re often in the position to make decisions about which integrations would benefit our company. Here are some of the most common use cases for integration.

Bring External Data Into Salesforce

A very common integration use case is exposing data from an external system inside of your Salesforce environment. This approach can help establish Salesforce as the single source of truth for your company data.

Reference external data inside of Salesforce

Although this use case sounds similar to the one above, it’s slightly different. You may want to centralize your user experience on Salesforce, but not import and manage that data inside of Salesforce. In this use case, your users can be informed and act on records from other systems, without the data management overhead of importing and managing potential data replication issues.

Transform and enrich Salesforce data

In this use case, you’re developing and executing complex queries on Salesforce data. With the power and flexibility of the Salesforce Platform, many customers are able to accomplish data transformation with fewer resource demands.

Extract insights from Salesforce and external data

Consolidate your data from Salesforce and external systems for comprehensive analytics. In this use case, you may want to centralize all of your data onto Salesforce and use Salesforce tools to augment and manage your data.

Salesforce multi-org consolidation

Some of our customers have many Salesforce environments and want to consolidate the data for consistency across channels—and build custom apps and experiences that leverage all of their Salesforce data.

Data integration/sync data across non-Salesforce systems

This use case is applicable if you have a collection of disconnected cloud and/or on-premise systems that need to share data with one another. There are data integration use cases across systems that do not include Salesforce; however, the tools we highlight below focus on solutions for Salesforce integrations.

Publish/subscribe integration model

For scalable integration patterns that will grow with your data structure, some customers leverage an event-driven architecture to integrate across their systems. When events in one system take place, other relevant systems should be able to immediately recognize those events and carry out subsequent actions, such as updating a case or restocking inventory.

Third-party application needs to integrate with Salesforce environment

In this scenario, there’s a business need to make your Salesforce data or processes available to external or third-party systems.

What tools does Salesforce have for integration?

Now that we’ve identified some of the business use cases for integration, and what integration means, let’s identify the tools you can choose from. There are several alternatives and choices available—this list is meant to provide some initial guidance on which tools to explore for your use case.

Many of these tools can be used together to design a complete integration solution for your business use case. Some integration solutions do require programmatic development initially; however, they can often be extended within Salesforce with declarative tools, like Flow.

Admin/no-code low-code tools

  • MuleSoft Composer: With this app in Lightning App Launcher, you use clicks to compose connected integration flows between Salesforce and external systems like Workday, NetSuite, Slack, and more.
  • Private Connect: This tool directly connects Salesforce first-party data centers and Amazon Web Services (AWS) regions. It allows for secure, private communication across clouds. After you create a private connection between your Salesforce org and your data hosted within AWS, you can easily route HTTP/s traffic through, shielding it from public internet threats.
  • External Objects: If the data source you want to connect to supports the OData standard, you can define an external object which can be treated like a custom object even while living in a different system.
  • Flow and External Services: Connect Salesforce to external business actions and build process integrations without custom code. External Services can be invoked directly from Flow for easy no-code integrations.

Mixed build (code required, but low/no-code management)

  • Platform Events: Integrate in real time across any business process with an event-driven architecture. Use event-driven workflows to augment your data.
  • Change Data Capture: Replicates data without custom code so you can keep external systems in sync when Salesforce data changes.
  • Salesforce Flow: Connect your flow to an external database with Platform Events, external objects, Lightning components, Enhanced External Services, or Apex.
  • Salesforce Connect: Offers low-code data integration without data import. The data never leaves source systems, but you can create and change the external data right in Salesforce.

Developer tools

  • Apex: Apex is capable of making custom callouts or leveraging existing external services to handle integrations. Apex methods can also be made available to flows for more powerful automations.
  • Platform APIs: For integrating back to Salesforce, the platform offers a robust set of application programming interfaces (APIs) for developers to access. Customize and control the Salesforce experience by augmenting interfaces, workflows, and metadata for your business use case. Every part of Salesforce, from data to metadata, is accessible programmatically through APIs.
  • Pub Sub API: This is a publish/subscribe gRPC-based API from Salesforce that allows developers to work with Salesforce data using an event-based model. Offers a performance increase over the standard REST APIs, HTTP2 support, and bidirectional data.
  • MuleSoft Anypoint Platform: MuleSoft Anypoint Platform is an integration and API platform that lets customers connect their data, devices, and customers, and abstract away the complexity of backend systems and processes, front-ending them with scalable, governable, and reusable APIs.
  • Heroku Connect: Heroku is a managed platform built on AWS that’s ideal for app development in any language, is highly available, and has push-button connectivity with Salesforce. Heroku Postgres is a highly-scalable database that can be deployed easily and managed without significant overhead, allowing for data sync and transformations but without the integration/API management capabilities and prebuilt connectors found on MuleSoft.

Get started with integration

Salesforce Admins are at the heart of the user experience. You build pages, apps, data structures, automation, analytics, and more to bring your users the business processes and data they need to be successful. Integration design follows many of the same principles you’ve mastered as an admin: Discovery, Documentation, Innovation, and Collaboration. Take the first step by learning more about Salesforce integration solutions and how they help you build immersive experiences for your users.

Watch the Trailhead LIVE Episode for more information on how to get started.



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