Ask the Experts: What is Your AppExchange Strategy?

January 14, 2016 Jiordan Castle

app exchangestrategy

The AppExchange is celebrating an important milestone this month: its 10th birthday! That means 10 years of apps for every role and industry imaginable. CRM consultants often have their work cut out for them, and the right app can make all the difference to expectant clients. We asked 2 of our seasoned Solution Architects to tell us about some of their favorite apps on the AppExchange and share their insights on the tough decision clients sometimes face — whether to buy or build.

Jking Jarrod Kingston is a Solution Architect at Appirio, working with clients to figure out where they are with technology deployments and where they need to be. He is a Salesforce MVP, with 5 Salesforce certifications and 6+ years of experience in the support, training, and advancement of Salesforce. Jarrod lives in Kansas City, home of the 2016 World Champion Royals.

MM Mike Martin is a Salesforce Solution Architect and has been with Appirio for 5 years. He has been in the Salesforce space since 2008 as a Business Analyst, Consultant, and Architect. Mike has 6 Salesforce certifications, has completed the Salesforce Wave Analytics Cloud Brown Belt Accreditation, and is a Salesforce MVP. He lives and works in Indianapolis, and is a founding member of the Appirio Indianapolis office.

  1. What are some things on the AppExchange you’d recommend to clients?

MM: AppExchange has been around for 10 years now. And in that time, thousands of apps have been posted. It’s important to weigh the benefits of utility against the cost of the app. Both are important considerations. Usually it comes down to price. However, there are many free options available for most problems that will get you 80-90 percent of the way to a viable solution.

I am a big fan of DemandTools and DupeCatcher for data quality. One of my favorite providers is Salesforce Labs. They publish solutions that they’ve come up with, though they are not typically going to become part of the core product. They have great sample reports and dashboards, as well as great apps like Milestones PM. Most Salesforce Labs apps are free too!

JK: As Mike mentioned, there are so many apps on the AppExchange now, and it can be hard to find the right one. When I am looking for apps, I look for apps with lots of reviews, a high average rating (especially if they’re paid), and whether they are managed or unmanaged. For free unmanaged apps, the thing I also consider is the footprint it would leave on your org (e.g., number of objects, code, etc.). You don’t want to get an app that causes more headaches than help. Unmanaged apps are a one-time install that cannot be upgraded, though you can change anything you want. Managed apps can be upgraded and allow for only some modifications (mostly additions).

As for some apps I’d recommend, I will split them into paid and free. These are a few of my favorite paid apps: Conga Composer, Geopointe, DocuSign, TaskRay, and DemandTools. And a few of my favorite free apps are Field Trip, S1 Ignition Pack, High Five!, The Permissioner, Salesforce Adoption Dashboards, Rollup Helper, and

  1. How should a client decide whether to buy something on the AppExchange or build it from scratch?

MM: When working with a client to understand their requirement, we take an AppExchange-first approach. If there’s a requirement not met by standard Salesforce functionality, we search the AppExchange to see if we can find any potential solutions. Nine times out of 10, the problem has already been solved. Over half of the apps on the AppExchange are free, so oftentimes we find a great solution for no additional cost. If we can’t find a great fit on the AppExchange, we will then turn to our internal asset library, as well as potential custom development.

JK: Completely agree with Mike. I’d also say that clients should take 3 things into account if they are looking at buying versus building: cost, scalability, and functionality. Starting with the last one, obviously you want to make sure the app’s functionality meets your core need or has enough flexibility within the app to meet your need (especially if you’re paying for it). There’s really no point in downloading a free app that you are just going to gut and start over. Next would be scalability, which is important to consider in 2 parts: your team and the app itself. For your team, you need to determine if you have the capacity to build and support a custom app. If you don’t have capacity, a managed paid app would probably be the way to go (outside of hiring someone like Appirio to help out). For the app, is it built to scale with the business? This may not matter as much for free unmanaged apps, since you can change as much as you want, but for paid apps you want to see regular updates coming from the vendor.

Lastly, you should compare the cost of building and maintaining the app over the long haul to the cost of paying for an app that’s already built and maintained for you. One last thing about paid apps — give them a shot regardless of what you think of the price. I know several app owners and they all work very hard to create excellent products.


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