Blockchain is a revolutionary technology constantly referenced in the news as a source of secure, reliable data transmission across multiple data sources and networks, and many large companies are currently scrambling to incorporate the technology into their systems to protect and ensure the integrity of the data in their connected networks. 

Salesforce, the world’s top customer relationship management (CRM) software database, recently launched its own Blockchain solution to help Salesforce users engage with this new form of technology.

First, a Little Background

The emergence of the Internet of Things (IoT) is an astounding technological breakthrough that powers modern commerce and society, allowing people, devices and Customer Relationship Management (CRM) networks to connect and integrate in ways never previously imagined. 

Cars, cell phones, smart light bulbs and health trackers are all examples of the billions of devices that can now connect to a seemingly infinite number of networks and databases. But with the wonders of IoT come a huge host of security issues, as weakness in a connection or network can potentially expose and compromise billions of devices to hackers. The impending vulnerabilities of interconnection, especially to critical enterprise solutions such as Salesforce CRM software, require new methods of secure data transfer.

Enter Salesforce Blockchain. 

We’ll explore what blockchain is, how Salesforce Blockchain functions and how you can leverage it for your organization.

A Crash Course in Blockchain

For being an extremely popular buzzword since its origination in 2008, very few people outside of the technology field have a comprehensive understanding of how blockchain actually works. 

A blockchain is a distributed, decentralized ledger that creates a secure link between records using cryptography. It is most commonly known for its use in the distribution and exchange of Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies. In less technical language, it’s a secure, traceable record of transactions that multiple copies of a database share and validate, making the records nearly impossible to tamper with or falsify. 

Blockchain relies on a network of participants to validate new entries in the system, ensuring that entries into the system are authenticated and that there is an immutable audit record of changes to entries as they move through the chain.

To understand how to best set up and use Salesforce Blockchain for your CRM, it’s crucial to understand the following essential components of blockchain and its overall security implications.

While ledgers were designed to keep track of transactions and their overall costs, they can be easily tampered with and difficult to verify.

The Ledger

The earliest ledgers date back to about 3200 B.C. and are a type of record that contains information about a transaction, such as the people involved, the item transferred in the transaction, the cost and the date. 

While ledgers were designed to keep track of transactions and their overall costs, they can be easily tampered with and difficult to verify or keep current as their complexity expands. In blockchain, the ledgers are distributed and encrypted across multiple participants, helping to fortify the transaction history and maintain a permanent record of all changes to a transaction. 

Blockchain Blocks

Blocks are the groups of records that are exchanged through blockchain. Blocks are indicated by unique identifiers created by a hash, which is a function that turns an input into an encrypted string of letters and numbers. The hash value prevents third parties from tampering with the data as it’s sent over. When a hash is initiated, the data it encrypts can no longer be modified or removed.

Blockchain Nodes

In blockchain, a node is considered a participant in the blockchain network. All nodes in the blockchain are running the transaction while connected to each other and are constantly communicating distributed data back and forth so each node has a current version of the database. Note: with Salesforce Blockchain, nodes do not necessarily have to be from other participants in Salesforce organizations.

Blockchain Chains

A chain is the order and connection in which blocks can reference each other. There is no central owner of the data, but data is synchronized and verified across the nodes on the chain using consensus algorithms. 

Blockchain Security 

Blockchain has 2 basic security models: public and private. 

Public blockchains are visible, transparent blockchains that will allow any computer connected to the internet to become a node on the blockchain, and transactions are verified by all participants on the chain. 

Private blockchains, however, only permit known entities to join as participants, and authentication has to be run through a process called selective endorsement, which allows certain participants in the blockchain to approve or deny entries to the ledger. 

Salesforce Blockchain is a private, enterprise blockchain service, allowing a central Salesforce administrator to create and oversee their own transactions, permission levels and network setup.

How Salesforce Blockchain Works

One of the downsides to blockchain is that setting up the types of point-to-point Salesforce CRM integrations required to connect nodes and blocks into a blockchain can be development heavy, making it prohibitively expensive and extremely resource-intensive for most businesses to integrate blockchain with their CRM, internal and external partner systems. 

Salesforce has revolutionized the creation and integration of blockchain by releasing Salesforce Blockchain, which lets users set up blockchain networks that integrate with your CRM using point-and-click tools instead of code. 

Salesforce has a history of breaking down internal and external silos to help organizations more effectively communicate data as one source of truth and avoid reconciliation across multiple sources — and Salesforce Blockchain is the latest iteration on building trust and reliability into Salesforce clouds. 

Built on Hyperledger Sawtooth Protocol, a ledger software that allows applications to run on top of it without directly needing to understand the architecture of the central system, Salesforce Blockchain allows an administrator to configure blockchain with existing Salesforce tools and a few new additions found in the Salesforce Blockchain Builder

While It’s important to note Salesforce Blockchain is still a beta feature and that it won’t be covered by a conventional master service agreement, you can still get started with Salesforce Blockchain today. 

All Salesforce Blockchain setups begin through the Salesforce Blockchain Builder, which allows you to build and update your blockchain by defining the following elements:

All Salesforce Blockchain setups begin through the Salesforce Blockchain Builder.

Details

This controls the name, description and publication status of your new Salesforce Blockchain App.

Partners

This allows the configuration of participant nodes through an Application Programing Interface (API). As mentioned, your partner network can extend beyond your own enterprise. You can invite your participants through the Partner Section to connect via Salesforce or any app of their choice, even some found on the Salesforce App Exchange marketplace, such as the Ethereum Ropsten Network App, Dappsuite Ethereum BPaaS.

Data 

This is the center for defining your metadata. In this section, you can establish your objects and entities, ensuring that your data types match up with each other while controlling which data types you want to share.

Map

The map section is where you connect your blockchain data to what you have inside Salesforce. All the underlying connections are automatically handled by the Salesforce Platform without requiring manual matching. Additionally, the data layer automatically respects Salesforce sharing rules, protecting your organization’s security model and restricting who can open up secure ledgers.

Permissions

As mentioned, Salesforce Blockchain is considered a private blockchain, giving the blockchain administrator the ability to customize distribution logic and ledger visibility. The Permissions section involves access levels for partners in your chain, defining who can see and submit records. 

Rules

The rules allow the administrator to define who can approve what and which processes within the blockchain need to be kicked off. If your organization has custom security requirements over how consensus must be managed, they can be determined here. This is the section where selective endorsements can be applied to control third parties and the overall verification process.

Salesforce Customer 360

Arguably the most robust component of Salesforce Blockchain is its direct integration into Salesforce Customer 360, allowing administrators to leverage data collected from the blockchain within Salesforce itself. Through Customer 360, you can set collected blockchain data to flow through many of the declarative automation tools that come with Salesforce. 

For example, you can connect Salesforce Blockchain to Process Builder to kick off a set of cross-object record changes when a final contract comes in, or you can use Salesforce Flow to prompt users to enter new information or adjust a record based on changes from the ledger. Salesforce Blockchain can be configured to kick off workflows and send notifications to users and contacts, too.

Artificial Intelligence

Salesforce Blockchain also plays very nicely with some of the artificial intelligence Salesforce products, including Salesforce Einstein, which can be used for query insights not only into the Blockchain ledgers themselves, but for data that has been passed from your blockchain into the CRM. 

Other Components

Additionally, Salesforce Blockchain allows direct integrations into chatbots, permitting you to create a secure and seamless on-demand customer experience.

Salesforce Blockchain also comes with a smart contracts component, which allows for customization of your agreements between nodes on the blockchain. While this component utilizes fewer of the point-and-click tools, smart contracts allow for heavy customization using Salesforce Apex, and can be queried using Salesforce’s query language, Salesforce Object Query Language (SOQL). 

How to Leverage Salesforce Blockchain

Connecting your Salesforce CRM to Salesforce blockchain opens the door for a wide variety of blockchain CRM use cases, allowing you to marry your customer data with external systems and transactions. 

Indeed, implementing Salesforce Blockchain can be an excellent solution If you are looking to:

  • Remove single points of failure
  • Scale your multi-network communication solutions with Salesforce more easily
  • Reduce transaction costs for higher operational efficiency
  • Create trusted transactions without intermediate actors
  • Reduce contractual or performance disputes
  • Navigate compliance and governance regulations

Salesforce Blockchain can help you accomplish these tasks while avoiding significant coding.

The applications of blockchain are infinite, but the most canonical examples of using blockchain for security and distribution tend to come from the financial services and manufacturing industries. 

Financial Services

While cryptocurrency and monetary transactions may be the first examples that come to mind as blockchain CRM use cases, validating the source of funds and a payer’s identity are often highly critical in a large financial, contractual transactions to avoid potential fraud, because having a clear ledger trail of parties involved in transactions can be extremely helpful to auditors.

If you have a large financial services component to your organization, connecting financial service blockchain with your Salesforce Contact data can not only allow you to better house their information, but also proactively communicate with them on its progress and changes.

Manufacturing

Manufacturing and logistics verticals are also widely referenced as CRM use cases for Salesforce Blockchain. For safety and quality control purposes, industrial IoT can often require a concrete audit log for when a manufactured item moves from one area of production to another, so integrating blockchain into the movement of your physical products can establish that trail. 

If client-facing quality control in your logistics setup is essential to your business, creating a blockchain record and connecting it to your Opportunity or Contract objects inside Salesforce can help establish the authenticity of your logistics or manufacturing process, allowing you to seamlessly notify your clients of that audit log.

Share Your Data Securely

Salesforce Blockchain enables businesses to share secure, trustworthy data across many different sources, allowing the transparent, safe transmission of a ledger that may be required to follow several different rules to ensure data integrity. From validating the provenance of a painting to managing a rewards system to checking the validity of a contract, Blockchain can be used to integrate and communicate data to create a coherent and safe history of a transaction.

Salesforce Blockchain has continued the evolution of blockchain applications, allowing your CRM blockchain set up to originate from and integrate with your Salesforce CRM, with minimal coding involved. Consider using Salesforce Blockchain to harness the power of blockchain within your own CRM, giving your customers and partners an integrated, reliable experience and empowering your employees to synthesize information and provide excellent service.

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