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Interact with the external data using External Objects in Salesforce

Imagine your company just implemented Salesforce and uses data from multiple external sources to power the CRM. In such a case, employees often switch from Salesforce to other external sources, due to which their productivity takes a severe hit.
This can be a story for many Salesforce users who face a horrid time switching between Salesforce and external applications. So, the question here is how you can resolve this problem.
That’s exactly where External Objects and Salesforce Connect shine.

Using external objects through Salesforce Connect helps users access external data from within Salesforce, thus saving them from switching between multiple applications. As a Salesforce consulting firm, we’ve helped many clients save work hours by accessing their external data within Salesforce.

Let’s better understand how exactly you can access your external applications within Salesforce, starting with learning about Salesforce Connect and external objects.

What is Salesforce Connect?

Salesforce Connect is a highly reliable and robust App Cloud integration service. It enables Salesforce users to seamlessly access and manage data stored in external data sources without leaving the Salesforce native environment.
Salesforce Connect helps you to fetch data from on-premise applications and cloud-based sources. It enables all users of a Salesforce org to connect with an external data source through one login account or create a separate login account for each user.

What are External Objects?

External data sources have respective external objects used by the Lightning platform for interacting with the external data.
External objects are like the custom objects in Salesforce. But the difference here is that the external object record data is stored outside your Org. The data could be stored in external systems like SAP, Oracle, Heroku Postgres, etc.
Each external object is related to an external data source definition in your Salesforce org. An external data source specifies how Salesforce users access an external system. It is important to note that each Org can have up to 100 external objects.

Ways to Link Salesforce Connect with External Applications

We’ve mentioned here different data adapters that you can use to establish a connection between an external data source and Salesforce Connect:
1.
Open Data Protocol (OData): OData is a highly used REST-based protocol for integrating data. You can link data sources to Salesforce Connect, exposed by OData 2.0 or 4.0 producers.
2.
Custom-developed adapters: Salesforce users can also consider easy-to-use adapters in Apex to link APIs that are not in the OData format. These are tailor-made adapters that can easily connect with any web API. You can use these adapters to link to thousands of publicly available APIs.
3.
Salesforce Connector: This adapter is ideal for using multiple Salesforce instances. Salesforce Connector is very user-friendly and can connect external applications without coding anything.

Relationships between data objects in the external source and Salesforce

There are three types of relationships that you can establish between the external data objects and their counterparts in your Salesforce data system:
Lookup
External Lookup
Internal Lookup
The possible parent-child data object relationships are shown in the image below.

Steps to Set Up Salesforce Connect

Now, let’s dive into the steps you should follow to set up Salesforce Connect to access external data.

Step 1: Configure an External Data Source

Configure external data sources to connect Salesforce to external applications or systems. These could include off-the-shelf solutions like Jitterbit, SAP, or SharePoint or integration with the help of an OData library such as odata4j.
1.
Login to your Salesforce Developer Edition.
2.
Click Setup.
3.
Click Develop > External Data Sources.
4.
Click New External Data Source.
5.
Enter OrderDB as the Label. As you click the label field, the Name field should automatically default to OrderDB.
6.
Select Type as Lightning Connect: OData 2.0.
8.
Leave the remaining with their respective default values. Click Save.
With this, you’ve configured an external data source. Now you can select the tables you wish to integrate into your Salesforce org.

Step 2: Create External Objects

1.
Click Develop > External Data Sources and then click the OrderDB external data source if you are not already on the OrderDB external data source page after you’ve completed the previous steps.
2.
Click Validate and Sync
3.
You must select both checkboxes for Order and OrderDetails.
4.
Click Sync.

Step 3: Inspect the External Object Configuration

1.
Click Develop > External Data Sources and then click the OrderDB external data source if you are not already on the OrderDB external data source page from the previous step.
2.
Scroll down to find External Objects. Click Orders.
3.
Lightning Connect created this external object from the metadata of the order database. Lightning Connect created a set of custom fields just as you would create for a custom object.
The key differences between an external object and a custom object are:
The API names of an external object have the suffix __x instead of __c.
External objects have different standard fields
External objects have a reference to their external data source along with a table within that source.

Step 4: Access Order Records by Creating Custom Tabs

1.
Click Setup.
2.
Click Create > Tabs.
3.
Click New, which is next to Custom Object Tabs.
4.
Select Orders as the Object.
5.
Click the selector next to Tab Style. It allows you to choose whichever style you like.
6.
Click Next.
7.
Click Next. This will allow you to accept the default tab visibility settings.
8.
Click the checkbox Include Tab to deselect all the apps.
9.
Select the checkbox External Orders.
10.
Click Save.

Step 5: View the External Order Data

1.
If the app menu is not showing External Orders already, click the app menu and select it.

2.

Click Orders.

3.

Click Go.
Lightning Connect retrieved order IDs from the sample order database for the first 25 order records.

4.

Click any one of the order external ID values.
Lightning Connect retrieved the fields for selected orders
You can directly go to the steps to set up Salesforce Connect using this PDF on
How to Set Up Salesforce Connect. → 

Summary

Creating external objects and working with Salesforce Connect is a very convenient way for users to access and handle data from external sources in the native Salesforce environment without any hassle.

The steps in the given PDF will help to supercharge your user’s productivity by eliminating the struggle of switching between multiple systems. But if you need any help with that, our Salesforce consultants will always be there to assist you.

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