The general idea is that attaching files to things, in general, is way harder than it has to be: Salesforce Senior Vice President of Marketing for Community Cloud Michael Stone cited a recent IDC study that found 61% of employees have to find files from four different data sources in the course of their day to get the job done. Salesforce wants to pull all of those data sources into one place -- specifically, Salesforce.
Salesforce Files already lets you add and index files -- but you had to do it yourself, by hand, with files copied and pasted manually.
The way Salesforce Files Connect works is simple: Set up Salesforce Files Connect with your Microsoft SharePoint 2010, SharePoint 2013 or SharePoint Online account, and everything is indexed and made searchable within your Salesforce environment. That makes it easy to attach, say, a sales report or a slide deck to an item in your CRM system and make it viewable to your team, group or organization. And as a nice side-benefit, the files can be searched and viewed from the Salesforce1 mobile app just as easily as on a desktop.
"This solves a lot of logistical problems," said Stone.
It's important to note that while all of those files are indexed, they're not copied. Even though they're accessible from the cloud, they still live in your Microsoft environment, wherever that happens to be. That also means that the viewing/editing rights and protections of each file stay intact: Nobody can use Salesforce Files Connect to add or view a file they shouldn't have access to without any administrator intervention. Users can also add topics, like metadata tags, to quickly view all files that have to do with, for example, a product launch.
Also important: If you're using it with on-premise SharePoint, the agent carries a $7 per user, per month fee. It's free with the core Salesforce to connect it to SharePoint Online. In February -- when it gets Microsoft OneDrive for Business integration -- it'll remain free. And when the promised Google Drive integration arrives sometime later, it'll still be free. It's the legacy system connectors that will require monthly payments. The focus on Microsoft just reaffirms that in a lot of ways the world still runs on what Microsoft makes.
Salesforce Files Connect also comes with a new API that lets customers bake integration into their own custom apps, meaning users can build in that file indexing and sharing into whatever they make.
Just as with legacy-CRM-to-cloud offering Salesforce Lightning Connect before it, Salesforce foresees a deeper investment in its ecosystem -- if it can make life easier for those bringing their existing data stores into their platform.