Documents from the Salesforce cloud
Companies are under pressure with the cost of IT and are outsourcing increasing numbers of classic business applications to the cloud. That is also affecting document generation.
The COVID-19 pandemic has significantly accelerated many areas of digitization. Most companies have looked upon new technologies as essential tools for overcoming the crisis.
In a very short time, thousands of employees’ home offices joined networks, new digital channels for marketing, sales, and support were established, and systems and data moved to the cloud. We learned that most companies can act much more pragmatically and innovatively than anyone had previously dared to hope.
But despite all the positives, IT still faces many challenges in 2021. In spite of the crisis, or perhaps because of it, IT budgets are not rapidly increasing. Many CIOs are actually under considerable pressure to reduce IT costs. At the same time, many corporate processes and structures are lagging in terms of rapidly changing requirements.
The biggest obstacles are silo structures and the core systems linked to them.
In June 2020, the market analyst Forrester surveyed about 170 IT decision-makers in Germany. Asked about their IT priorities for the next twelve months, they reported innovation, speed, and new capabilities as their highest priorities.
Forrester sees a strong trend toward the cloud in the coming months. Companies, public authorities, and organizations will move more classic business applications to the cloud.
Many standard solutions are already available in the cloud—such as ERP platforms, including SAP Cloud and Oracle Netsuite, to name just a couple, and CRM, which includes Salesforce, Freshworks, Microsoft Dynamics, and SugarCRM—and more companies are turning to them. The market has largely consolidated into a few players with profound knowledge who offer a broad spectrum of applications or processes and guarantee a high level of stability.
New technologies such as Docker, Kubernetes, and OpenShift have also reached a high level of market maturity and continue to develop rapidly. Microservice architectures, which can use these technologies, are increasingly finding their way into corporate IT. Therefore, the trend toward an increased shift of classic applications to the cloud will continue to intensify.
Printing from the Cloud - Is that Possible?
Software providers want to make it as convenient as possible for their users to connect to SaaS platforms. A typical approach is to provide various apps within the cloud environment with additional functions beyond their standard solutions, such as ERP, CRM, and more. These apps can be added as needed to supplement the primary SaaS product. Take customer communication, for example—it would be great to create, print, and send omnichannel-capable documents from a cloud platform.
Compart—the international manufacturer of customer communication software for companies and public authorities— offers an attractive architectural approach to this with its DocBridge® Impress. The solution allows easy document creation via SaaS platforms such as Salesforce.com (See Box 1). The basic principle of Compart’s architecture is that the cloud application at the front end is separate from the back end.
The connection between the front and back ends is made through DocBridge® Connect, a solution explicitly developed to integrate Compart applications in a cloud platform. It provides a standardized API that the front end can use for communication. The back end’s universal design makes the choice of cloud environment almost irrelevant.
WWF Switzerland: Document Creation in Salesforce
The World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) demonstrates how that works. When it switched to the CRM platform salesforce.com, the organization’s Swiss subsidiary needed a solution to generate postal documents—correspondence, welcome and thank you letters, slips accompanying goods, labels, and payment slips with QR codes—directly in the cloud. It needed to print them in the company's Zurich data center in German, French, and Italian. That’s typical for Swiss companies, where multilingualism is common.
The new system also needed:
- The ability to adapt document templates flexibly and efficiently via text modules.
- To correctly generate Swiss payment slips, which since June 2020 must have a Swiss QR code with information about the deposit, invoice, or transfer to make the transfer directly in Swiss eBanking.
- The ability to control the printer and sort items automatically; for instance, automatically selecting the printer tray with the correct paper size, and including or excluding a deposit slip as appropriate.
- The possibility of batch processing and correctly sorting multi-page documents by recipient and address.
- The ability to automatically start batch jobs at a specified time (perhaps during non-work hours).
- To allow previewing PDF documents in Salesforce before printing.
- To file newly created documents directly to the Salesforce object for which it was created (for example, to the contact) as a PDF.
Communication via API
WWF Switzerland chose DocBridge® Impress because of the variety of document formats and output channels the Compart solution can process and serve.
DocBridge® Impress consists of two central components:
1. A web-based editor, DocBridge® Impress Designer, for creating and maintaining document templates
2. A composition engine, DocBridge® Impress Engine, merges raw data into a template to create the finished document.
At WWF Switzerland, the interaction between Salesforce and DocBridge® Impress works like this: Customer data that’s needed to generate documents, such as information on private and corporate donors, is stored in Salesforce in the cloud.
The data transfers via a standard interface (REST API) to the DocBridge® Impress solution running on an on-premise server in WWF's Zurich data center to generate a document.
There, the information merges with an appropriate template, whether it’s for a note of welcome, thank you letter, donation receipt, or something else. That can happen for an individual document, or several data sets can be batched and merged at once. For instance, all correspondence created within a certain period can be “produced” on a specific date.
The finished document, now a PDF, is returned to Salesforce, displayed there as a preview, and saved in the respective customer contact. A clerk can, at any time, view the documents created and sent to any specific customer.
DocBridge® Impress transmits the data to the organization’s Zurich-based printer, and after the document is printed, feedback is sent to Salesforce.
Welcome and thank you letters are collected, processed, and printed automatically as batch jobs. Individual correspondence, goods receipt slips, and labels are triggered manually. When printing, the system automatically recognizes which paper or form to use from which printer tray.
The DocBridge® Impress Designer creates and adapts templates. You can define which templates are available for which type of business transaction, such as leads or opportunities. That means clerks only see the applicable template for the current business transaction, making their work easier.
DocBridge® Connect connects Salesforce (the front end) and DocBridge® Impress (the back end). That interface layer lets you create documents with templates stored in DocBridge® Impress.
Interaction between the front and back ends looks like this:
Digital-first Approach of DocBridge® Impress
DocBridge® Impress is a scalable, platform-independent, and cloud-capable software that lets you design documents page- and device-independently. It’s easy for users to use even without a lot of IT experience. Documents created with DocBridge® Impress are omnichannel-capable and barrier-free according to PDF/UA and WCAG guidelines. DocBridge® Impress provides users with fast access to all modern, digital communication channels.
With the Composition solution, documents can be created and sent to all relevant channels and displayed as different media types: a printed page, a PDF in an email attachment, a responsive HTML page in a web browser, smartphone, or tablet, or via Messenger services. Once a new document type generates, it’s available for all media and doesn’t need recreating.
DocBridge® Impress’ architecture keeps Impress Designer, the web-based editor, separate from Impress Engine, the composition engine. Depending on need, the two components can be used together, or Impress Engine can connect to existing applications directly via API web services.
DocBridge® Impress Designer:
A text administrator can use Impress Designer to design a document via a template with an intuitive interface and can, if needed, add layout details for digital channels or printing.
They can store business logic rules and determine whether the document should be generally accessible, as per the WCAG standard PDF/UA, and in which languages it should be designed.
DocBridge® Impress Engine:
The Impress Engine merges templates created in Designer, or already available elsewhere, with variable “raw” data from business applications. It creates finished documents using defined rules and provided resources, such as images and text modules.
DocBridge® Impress is a paradigm shift in document design. Document creation is based on open standards and is independent of any predefined page size.
Read more about DocBridge® Impress
DocBridge® Connect acts as a gateway to connect a SaaS system and a solution within the DocBridge® product range as its backend. It’s used to develop an app or corresponding front end for any SaaS platform, such as Salesforce, SAP, or Oracle. That manages the variable data and transfers it via DocBridge® Connect, for example, to DocBridge® Impress for document generation. It merges with stored templates to become a finished document, such as a PDF, and then is printed as required.
Compart developed DocBridge® Connect for Salesforce.com, a front end for the popular CRM platform Salesforce App. The app is used by the Swiss national organization of the World Wide Fund For Nature, among others. DocBridge® Connect for Salesforce.com will soon be available as a download application on the Salesforce AppExchange Marketplace.
Compart plans to develop additional front ends based on DocBridge® Connect and make them available as apps for popular SaaS platforms—an example is DocBridge® Connect for SAP.
API Management - What Matters?
- Design/build, execution/development, implementation, management, and security
- Its API-driven approach lets you invest more time in design
- Select the best approach early (best-of-breed)
- Documentation, usability, and testing are critical
- Versioning strategy—APIs are evolving, so determine how to version them and how often to make updates
- Pay attention to the latest versions of external API services early on, so you can upgrade them in a timely and secure manner
- Precisely define the procedure for transitioning from test to the productive environment. Deployment, staging, integration, and registration—what should the integration look like? Which registration mechanism should be established?
- Use API gateways as single entry points. Advantages: Decoupling clients from internal services, increased security, simplification of internal services, and more robust central monitoring, which is important for billing and identifying potential bottlenecks. Most cloud providers (including AWS, Azure, and Google Cloud) offer such API gateways.