Ah, the good old email and calendar integration discussion continues! Salesforce has had integration tools for years, but none of them have been particularly good. With “buggy” software options which have been prone to too many #WhySFDCAdminsDrink posts, these included tools haven’t been at the favorite of many Admins.

However, the newer tools offered by Salesforce to integration email and calendar are actually pretty good. Lightning Sync has been around for a few years, and Einstein Activity Capture (EAC) is a relatively new addition to the integration lineup (and Salesforce AEs have been pushing it hard). But, this brings up a great question. Which is right for your organization?

Let’s break down the options.

Integration Options

Salesforce for Outlook has officially been retired (thank you!) in favor of the newer products. And, like most tech companies, we have seen a bit of an unbundling of apps in this space. There is no longer a single tool to do both email and calendar integration. We now have choices and can mix and match solutions for a better fit.

While this post isn’t about email integration options specifically, I do want to discuss them briefly because there is overlap. And keep in mind, I’m focusing just on Salesforce solutions – not 3rd party applications.

Lightning for Outlook/Gmail

Lightning for Outlook/Gmail is included with your Salesforce subscription, and allows users to manually link emails to records in Salesforce. These updated applications are meant to be lightweight and minimal on features (which is a nice entry point for email integration). Styled in the Lightning Design Language, they are easy to use and navigate

Lightning for Gmail

What I love about Lighting for Outlook/Gmail is that it’s customizable. As a System Admin, I can customize the panes, add or remove record information, and have an impact on how the user engages with the application all through the Lightning App Builder!

Lightning for Outlook/Gmail is a great introduction to email and Salesforce integration.

Inbox

Inbox Compose Options

Inbox is a paid email integration tool from Salesforce and is a product that was actually a result of the RelatedIQ acquisition. Salesforce has had many integrations of the product, and it is now folded into the Lightning for Outlook/Gmail architecture. Once you’ve purchased and awarded Inbox licenses, users have enhanced capabilities including:

  • Email tracking (who opened the email and how many times)
  • Scheduled sends
  • Meeting scheduler and calendar booking tools
  • Email templates
  • Dedicated mobile application

These are all really great features for sales reps and several of my clients love having these features at their fingertips.

But neither Lightning for Outlook/Gmail or Inbox allow user to sync their calendars to Salesforce. Enter Lightning Sync and Einstein Activity Capture (EAC).

Lightning Sync

Similar to Lightning for Outlook/Gmail, Lightning Sync is a toolset already included with your Salesforce licenses. This tool does one thing – it syncs your calendar from Exchange or G Suite to Salesforce. If configured, Lightning Sync will also sync Contacts between Salesforce and Exchange or G Suite.

There is no user interface for this tool which is actually really awesome User calendars sync automatically in the background every 15 minutes. This eliminates the software component (ahem, Salesforce for Outlook) which caused so many issues.

But, the setup of Lightning Sync will require help from IT because Exchange or G Suite needs to be properly configured in order for this integration to work. Make sure you read the Lightning Sync Implementation Guide (Exchange version) before getting started.

It’s also important to read through the considerations for Lightning Sync so that you can properly configure the settings, and communicate to users. These limitations may also help make your decision. For example, recurring events are not currently supported in Lightning Sync for Google.

Lightning Sync does attempt to relate the Events to records in Salesforce, but can only do so when an attendee’s email address matches that of a Lead or Contact in Salesforce.

Einstein Activity Capture

Einstein Activity Capture (EAC) is a pretty interesting product that has surfaced in the last few releases, and Salesforce is pushing it hard. I can see the merits of the toolset (which we’ll get to in a moment), but it has one critical flaw (in my opinion) which makes it a really hard sell.

To start, here’s a quick overview of Einstein Activity Capture (EAC).

In the Salesforce Help article on Einstein Activity Capture, it states that: “With Einstein Activity Capture, emails and events that you send and receive are automatically added to the activity timeline of related account, contact, contract, lead, opportunity, and quote records. Plus, contacts and events are synced between the connected accounts and Salesforce.”

Well, this sounds a lot like Lightning Sync, with the main difference here being that Einstein Activity Capture is automatically logging emails (incoming and outgoing) in addition to events.

In addition, Einstein Activity Capture also works in the background. Users don’t have to push any buttons to log emails or associate events to Salesforce records. In fact, you can use Lightning for Outlook/Gmail or Inbox with Einstein Activity capture – just like Lightning Sync. But wait, there is more!

Benefits of Einstein Activity Capture

Aside from working in the background like Lightning Sync, there are a few other cool tricks up its sleeve.

Email Insights

Because the email data is being processed by the Einstein AI layer when it’s being passed through Einstein Activity Capture, Salesforce is able to offer users useful information about the email they have logged including a suggested next action based on the email content, or helping them to craft a more tailored response to a client.

Image from Winter ’19 Release Notes

Send Email through Connect Email Account

When sending emails out of Salesforce, they are typically sent through Salesforce’s email servers which ends up with a funky “on behalf of” text in the From field. This can have an impact on deliverability. Einstein Activity Capture allows emails sent from Salesforce to be sent through the connected email account.

Recommended Connections

The Winter ’19 release brought an interesting Einstein functionality called Recommended Actions which shows important connections within their networks (aka fellow Salesforce users). Einstein will show how many interactions another user has had with a Lead or Contact so that you can determine if working with this person would make sense to manage the relationship or close the deal.

Image from Winter ’19 Release Notes

Activity Metrics

Perhaps one of the cooler benefits to Einstein Activity Capture is the use of calculated activity metrics. Because Salesforce analyzes the activity data using Einstein AI, Salesforce calculates some interesting metrics including Last Activity Date, Inactive Days, and Last Call Date. Here’s a demo.

Activities Dashboard

Last is the addition of the Activity Dashboard which shows a summary of sales activities that were added to Salesforce manually, and by Einstein Activity Capture. These metrics are available through the Analytics app in Setup.


Charts are organized by tabs (1). Use filters (2) to view information about specific activity owners, activity types, and dates. Quickly view which of the selected users are most active (3). The Details tab includes charts that break down activities by accounts and opportunities (4).

The Overview tab lets you see how each activity type is trending over the past month, week, or day (5). Licensed Einstein Activity Capture users see up to 180 days of activity data. Einstein Activity Capture Standard users see up to 90 days of activity data.

It’s important to note that these dashboards are not customizable right now, so you can only view metrics already setup by Salesforce.

Okay! So, this is a lot of really cool stuff and I think at this point, Einstein Activity Capture has a strong position ahead of Lightning Sync. But before we get too far down that path, let’s take a look at the “considerations.”

Considerations of Einstein Activity Capture

There is always a drawback to consider, and Einstein Activity Capture has a few that you’re really going to need to ponder before pulling the trigger.

Activities Stored Outside of Salesforce

Activities captured by Einstein Activity Capture are not stored in Salesforce. They are housed in a secure server outside of Salesforce which presents a whole host of issues. Here are a few:

  • Activities cannot be reported on by standard Salesforce reports (hence the Activities Dashboard & Metrics).
  • Users cannot delete emails from Einstein Activity Capture. This must be performed by a System Administrator.
  • If you migrate away from Einstein Activity Capture at some point in the future and deactivate the service, all of the activities captured by Einstein Activity Capture are no longer displayed in Salesforce on record timelines! Ouch!

This is HUGE and can cause some real issues and challenges for clients.

Additional Limitations

As if that wasn’t enough, there are a few additional limitations that are important to note:

  • Potentially additional licensing cost (100 Einstein Activity Capture licenses are included with Sales Cloud).
  • Only 24 months of captured activity data is stored and displayed.
  • Orgs must use the Activity Timeline with Einstein Activity Capture. You cannot use the Related List view for activities.
  • Emails exchanged between a user’s internal domain aren’t associated with Salesforce records, regardless of the Excluded Addresses settings.
  • Platform Encryption is not supported so emails and events added to Salesforce by EAC are not encrypted at rest (but are encrypted in transit).
  • Recurring events are not synced with Einstein Activity Capture.

I know this is all very shocking. I’ll give you a moment to catch your breath.

The Verdict

Hopefully this helped you decipher the options, and determine the best way to integrate emails and calendars in your org.

Personally, I would choose to use Lightning Sync over Einstein Activity Capture regardless of the benefits, but I would love to hear from you and know what you would choose (or have chosen) and why.

Leave a comment below!

10 thoughts on “ Lightning Sync vs Einstein Activity Capture: Battle of the Salesforce Calendar Integration Tools ”

  1. Good summary, Brett. Is the “considerations” section relevant to Lightning Sync or Einstein Activity Capture? The title and intro sentences refer to Lightning Sync, and the bullets below refer to Einstein Activity Capture. Just want to make sure I’m understanding correctly.

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    1. Oh yeah, that’s confusing! My brain wires seem to have gotten crossed. I just updated the post with the correct reference to Einstein Activity Capture. Thanks for pointing that out!

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  2. You said you personally would choose Lightning Sync over EAC despite the benefits of EAC, but you don’t say why. What leads you to lean towards Lightning Sync at this point in time?

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    1. Hi Chris! The limitations of EAC are extreme for most of my clients. The inability to build custom reports on activity content, and the fact that they are stored outside of Salesforce make it difficult for most clients to swallow. It also presents a challenge if or when you decide to turn off EAC because all of that activity “dissapears” from the activity timeline as a result.

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    1. You are correct in that Lightning Sync does not pull emails into Salesforce (that would be done via Inbox or Lightning for Outlook/Gmail. EAC does both as well, but none of the information pulled in by EAC is stored in Salesforce – it’s all stored externally.

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  3. Hey Brent,

    Wonderful post! Well written.

    I’m about to pull the trigger with my company for EAC, and one of your comments made me hesitant. If we were to ever move away from EAC, we’d lose all the email data.

    Wouldn’t the data technically still be there, you just wouldn’t be “adding” to it? So, say, we did EAC for a year, and then we got rid of it and went back to manually adding emails to Salesforce. We still couldn’t pull reports on the EAC emails, but the emails would still be on the timeline–wouldn’t it?…

    Thanks!
    Nick

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    1. Hey Nick! They would NOT still be in the timeline! That’s the hard part with this product. There isn’t a great middle ground. The emails are still stored but in an outside database. When you turn off EAC, the activities stored outside of Salesforce do NOT show up in the timeline. I tested this with a client when they were thinking about enabling the application and saw the results first hand.

      Hopefully this gets addressed. It would be far better to still display the emails if EAC had been previously turned on then to lose access to them in the timeline all together.

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