Organizations that use Sitecore and Salesforce may want to share information with their customers, partners, staff, students or any other group of users. There are several ways to achieve this - we will look at two.

Salesforce Community Cloud

"Communities" is a ready-made portal that organizations use to disseminate information like knowledge bases, FAQs, forums, messaging, and activity notifications. A community is like an extension of a Salesforce org that allows external users to access different functionality based on the chosen license.

For customers, communities is a self-service model lets users edit their own profile, search knowledge bases, collaborate to solve problems and make service requests. Community experts can respond to individual requests adding knowledge to a shared resource which promotes customer loyalty.

For partners, the portal makes knowledge resources and experts available. Partners can connect to sales teams in real time, collaborate directly on sales records and monitor the sales pipeline.

Communities can be more or less than you need! On the positive side, it is fast to get started. It even supports Sitecore with CMS Connect so Community Cloud can be styled to look like the company website. Two aspects may cause you to look for other options, price and Salesforce object accessibility.

Sitecore with S4S

An alternative to accessing Salesforce records and assets is using a Sitecore portal with S4S. A Sitecore portal is one or more web pages that are only visible after a visitor logs in using a login control on the company website. The login control is typically located at the top of the home page and not the Sitecore login used to access the Sitecore launchpad.

Sitecore login

When a visitor logs in to the portal (authenticates), S4S checks their username and password match entries in their Salesforce contact record - see below.

Sitecore credentials in Salesforce

If there is a match, the visitor is presented with the portal landing page. This is where a Sitecore portal has advantages over communities since organizations can create any functionality in these pages they want..

An organization's internal staff can log in to a Sitecore portal to access Salesforce data without requiring Salesforce licenses. It is possible to create, view, update or delete any Salesforce record of any record type. Typical uses cases are:

  • Create new Salesforce leads or contacts
  • View a list of opportunities
  • Access the knowledge base
  • Edit record statuses 

Different portal pages could be used for customers who would log in to view or update their own Salesforce contact record (like Community Cloud) or much more e.g.

  • See privileged content based on their Sitecore role - set in their Salesforce contact record
  • Be landed on a page set in Salesforce
  • Share Salesforce documents
  • Update their email campaign preferences

Sitecore portal pages can also be used for partner relationship management. Common use cases are sharing Salesforce data to drive channel sales and marketing. This may be leads, reseller price lists, extended product detail or knowledge articles. Deal registration can be easily facilitated in a Sitecore portal.

Sitecore portals using S4S has some powerful advantages over communities.

  • Access to all Salesforce objects
  • Potential to optimize Salesforce licensing
  • Out-of-the-box authentication
  • More control over what you can do 
  • Portal look and feel inherits the website design
  • Multiple Sitecore portals can be created on the same website

Some disadvantages also need to be considered:

  • Some development effort is required to construct the Sitecore pages
  • Because interactions with Salesforce are via a single API user, the Salesforce audit trail will not reveal who created/edited/deleted a changed record. A workaround is populating a Salesforce custom field with the Sitecore portal username.
  • Salesforce limits the number of API calls per day - related to the number of licenses (or seats). If an organization has few seats but many portal users, it is possible to exceed the API count. There are a number of easy mitigation options.

Conclusion

No two organizations are the same so you should choose a path that meets your unique business needs. If you need help or need to learn more about how to add value to your business in this way please contact us for more information.