What you need to understand about Heroku Connect

May 13, 2014 John Gorup


Today Heroku announced the general availability of Salesforce1 Heroku Connect. Basically, Heroku Connect makes it easier to synchronize data between Heroku and your Salesforce org.  This seems like a nice step, but what does it really mean to a business using Salesforce for their sales, service, and marketing activities?

Admittedly, the relationship between Heroku and and Salesforce has been confusing since Heroku was acquired back in 2010. It seems like Heroku people and Salesforce people speak different languages (and technically, they do). One of the things that has made Salesforce revolutionary is the simplifying of technology.  With Salesforce, businesses can focus on business processes and not worry about things like databases and code. Heroku, on the other hand, has always been for and about developers. The fact that Heroku supports supports Ruby, Node.js, Python, and Java is really great, but doesn’t mean much to a sales manager trying to increase sales, or a customer service manager trying to resolve cases faster.

But four years later, the strange marriage between Heroku and Salesforce is starting to make sense. There are two main things that business people need to understand now: first is the economics of Heroku and Salesforce, and second is the possibilities Heroku offers to super-charge their CRM system.

The Economics

Simply stated, Salesforce charges by user license and Heroku charges by the amount of computing power used (referred-to by the cute name: Dynos). By charging by user license, Salesforce administrators get the most value for their dollar by maximizing user adoption and by going deeper on functionality. This has proven to be a winning formula for many businesses. Where we have seen this model breakdown, however, is when a business wants to digitally connect with a large number of non-employees (like hundreds of thousands or millions of people). If these users need to have an authenticated user account it’s a challenge to get the amount of value needed from them to justify the licensing cost. Heroku solves this problem. Simply by being charged by computing power, businesses can create apps for huge groups of non-employee users.

The Possibilities

The easiest way to think of Salesforce and Heroku is to think of Salesforce as how you see your customers, and Heroku is how your customers see you. Once that is understood, the real fun begins: start imagining what Heroku can do. From getting a deeper connection to your sales channels and partners, to building a branded, interactive, location-aware support application for thousands of your customers, the possibilities are endless. Here are some other ideas:

  • Instead of just giving customers a web-to-case or email-to-case experience, give them a true, branded mobile support platform, along with information that makes your products easier to use.
  • Many companies have a big industry conference they use to gather leads and drive opportunities. Imagine an application that truly makes the conference experience easier for attendees. This digital connection can turn attendees into leads, and seamlessly pull potential customers into your CRM system.
  • For retail, franchised, or any public-facing company, creating a “check-in” app is now easier than ever, and can be completely integrated with your CRM system. A consumer app can be built on Heroku which rewards your product champions, and keeps them happy and engaged.
  • Finally, what about building a special mobile-ready website for your product or service on Heroku? Hosting sites has been something Heroku has done for a long time, one well-known example being Urban Dictionary.

Appirio is really excited about Heroku, especially what it can do for current Salesforce users.  We are using Heroku to power some of our own applications, including a mobile app for our 2014 Topcoder Open conference. We have also built game-changing applications for our customers, including one for ACT which is helping them transform their business. How can we help you transform your industry?

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