Active Endpoints’ Cloud Extend Brings BPM, Cloud integration to Salesforce
Active Endpoints is bringing Salesforce.com SaaS customers a new level of customization capabilities with Cloud Extend, which lets users easily share across many Salesforce users – as well as access, integrate and mashup data and processes that live outside Salesforce. IDN spoke with Active Endpoints CTO Michael Rowley about the idea, architecture and use cases for Cloud Extend.
Active Endpoints is bringing Salesforce.com SaaS customers a new level of customization capabilities with Cloud Extend, which lets users easily share across many Salesforce users – as well as access, integrate and mashup data and processes that live outside Salesforce.
IDN spoke with Active Endpoints CTO Michael Rowley about the idea, architecture and use cases for Cloud Extend.
The impetus for Cloud Extend arose from ActiveVOS BPM customers who wanted a bit more punch and ROI from their Salesforce SaaS investments, Rowley said. One answer, he added, was to explore how to help users better share data and knowledge among all Salesforce users, as well as between Salesforce and outside web and legacy systems.
“While Salesforce.com is certainly the world’s most successful SaaS application today, one limitation we heard from [Salesforce] customers was that it was difficult for them to customize it to support their unique sales process or methodology,” Rowley said. “The difficulty was that non-technical users couldn’t make changes on their own. They needed outside help – either from their IT departments or expensive outside integrators.”
With that mission, Rowley and his team set out design Cloud Extend to optimize the company’s marquis ActiveVOS BPM platform for a cloud solution that could support process and data sharing with Salesforce -- and even among Salesforce users. Even more, Rowley emphasized. “Cloud Extend wasn’t simply about adding more cloud-based tools for Salesforce. Our goal was to provide well-engineered solutions that non-technical users could work with on their own,” he said.
“For many users, Salesforce is pretty much a siloed application, and this can limit what users can do,” he added. “Because Cloud Extend lets users integrate and pull data and rules from all sorts of other systems into a single view, customers we show it to have all sorts of ideas.”
Cloud Extend Architected To Provide ‘Drop Dead Simple’
Integration, Tools & Guides to Salesforce.com Users
Under the covers, Cloud Extend offers a set of automated widgets and functionality expressly designed to let non-technical business users visualize, create and modify business workflows, screenflows and even guidance trees (for “what if” guides that follow a sales activity step-by-step).
Importantly, these Cloud Extend tools are “drop dead simple” to use. “From design-to-deploy, users can do this in one click,” Rowley said. The magic there comes from the core under-the-covers technologies, which are based on core components of the company’s ActiveVOS BPM platform.
“A business user can easily create a process using a very easy-to-use visual designer tool, complete with drag and drops and simple widgets, Rowley told IDN. “And, we make sure that the user designs is what actually gets deployed, by generating all the required coding and technical features, such as WSDLs, XML Schema and BPEL – which are directly from the design. “There is Visio diagram or hand-off between the business and IT, so no there are no errors between the design phase and implementation. In short, what the business users design comes out completely executable.”
Cloud Extend’s integration capabilities between Salesforce and non-Salesforce sites are powered by its support for a variety of transformation and standards Xquery, XML, BPMN, and so on. Cloud Extend also works with APIs from external applications and cloud-based SaaS services. In one example, Cloud Extend allows integration with LinkedIN datastores, via the LinkedIN API, to allow users to embed LinkedIN data directly into their Salesforce entries.
ActiveVOS uses a services interface to connect Salesforce to external service interfaces, such as those used by LinkedIn. This approach means integration developers will be able to reach out to any other system. Cloud Extend can also use security and authentication [such as OAuth] as part of the sharing or integration process, Rowley added.
While this capability doesn’t come out of the box with Cloud Extend it’s easy to add-in, and it’s supported by use of the company’s core ActiveVOS on-premise and/or cloud based platform, he said. The company is also making Cloud Extend available to other ISVs so they can create other new ways to integrate with and share data with Salesforce.
“We’re finding that many customers like the idea of being able to present their Salesforce users a single integrated view from within Salesforce, let users control and manage end-to-end processes – and have all that technology basically hidden under-the-covers,” Rowley said. “Our data integration capabilities especially are proving valuable for making sure customer records stay in synch with a company’s non-Salesforce systems and databases.”
Cloud Extend can ensure that sales data is consistent across multiple systems, and even update Salesforce.com files that are out of date or left unfilled out, he added.
Cloud Extend also offers templates for shareable and updateable “Sales Guides” that provide tools directly from within Salesforce, and provide guided scripts and Q&As to take sales reps through a call step-by-step, even suggesting follow-up questions based on responses. Cloud Extend can also create a Salesforce Chatter message automatically.
PSA Insurance & Financial Services is using Cloud Extend to improve internal and external Salesforce sharing.
So far, PSA is using Cloud Extend for several key functions, including:
- Publish and share Sales Guides across sales team members;
- Promote more automation of the lead-to-close sales cycle;
- Enforce data consistency across Salesforce and outside datastores and applications;
- Provide sales reps a “tickler” or automated reminder for a call back and to create guidance trees (step-by-step flow maps to remind them of their next actions), so they don’t have to always remember them.
“This ability to pull data from external systems right onto a Salesforce screen was one of the things PSA was most excited about. After we implemented the first solution, they felt this was just the tip of the iceberg of what they could do,” Rowley told IDN.
Meanwhile, integration-enabled Salesforce is attracting attention from Salesforce execs themselves, Rowley told IDN. “They have been very cooperative in supporting us and getting our application into their AppExchange. As you know, it can be a substantial process to go through their quality control to make sure apps are up to snuff. It’s nice to know that they cared,” he said.
In a larger context, Rowley said he feels that Salesforce execs are “really committed to their idea of a strong ecosystem for Salesforce, and that will include ways to extend and integrate the ecosystem, such as integration.”