Author: Jeff Challis, Director, Principal Consultant at AAKonsult
Whether starting out with your Salesforce CRM Implementation or if you are in a business as usual mode, there is always times where you will need to do more than what comes as standard from the core Salesforce CRM. To do this, you’ll need to make the decision of building your own or one from the AppExchange.
Before starting a build, always check to see if there is an offering on the AppExchange. All too often, organisations rush into build mode before even checking. Even if you still decide to build your own, then checking what’s available might give you inspiration in areas that you had not thought of or make you think of other pertinent questions that you should check back with your users.
If your business requirement does not have something on the AppExchange, or something that does not comes close to it, then the power of the Force.com platform will allow you to create something that will meet your needs. If you are feeling entrepreneurial or community minded then perhaps you could consider listing your app on the AppExchange.
When comparing apps on the AppExchange that might meet your needs, don’t just include the free apps as these will come with much limited support and sometimes you may find that you need to subscribe to their service which in fact is not free and can be more than the paid alternatives.
My strong recommendation is to always go with an AppExchange offering if available. The primary reasons for this are:
It’s often just a case of pressing the “Get it now” button and following the wizard. There may be some post install instructions and notes make sure you follow those.
Many apps, in particular the paid ones are continually being improved. If you create your own then you will often end up on the version that was first released. For AppExchange apps, the vendor would be doing these enhancements free and you can easily take advantage of these
With the vendor having installed in many accounts, those organisations would have uncovered any hidden bugs or glitches. Also, the vendor knows that the software needs to be of industrial strength and would have more rigorous testing procedures in place before releasing.
It’s more secure
Anyone listing an App on the AppExchange needs to go through a security scan and has their code hand inspected by Salesforce.com security experts.
The piece that often gets missed with custom built apps is the documentations. AppExchange Apps come with documentation.
You get the benefit of the support from the AppExchange Vendor and don’t have to rely on your developer being around for ever. Check the listing details as different vendors offer different levels of support.
An AppExchange vendor designs their products to work with large datasets. When you create or have an app created for you, it might work well when you first start out, but as your usage increases you may go across an Apex limit and then it might stop working.
Free custom objects and tab limits
If the application vendor has gone through the proper AppExchange listing processes, then the installation of their App will NOT count against your limits of custom objects and tabs. This leaves more tabs and objects for you to use for your custom apps when you really do need a custom app.
It includes best practices
The AppExchange vendor would set their App up to make sure it works the best way for the most number of organisations in its target market and in doing so would do this in a way that follows best practice. They may include workflows and pre-built reports and dashboards to facilitate the use of these best practices.
It’s still yours
For native apps (built with the Force.com toolset), you can still use the standard salesforce Force.com platform features such as workflows, validation rules, reports, dashboards, apex triggers, custom fields, custom labels, fieldsets etc. to fine tune the app to work in your business own unique way.
I hope the above will provide you with some useful insights and that you’ll look a little more closely at utilising pre-built apps from the AppExchange before building.
About Jeff Challis: Jeff has been working with the Salesforce CRM product since 2005. He holds six Salesforce certifications and is the founder of AAkonsult Pty Ltd and their product AAkonsult Payments. Jeff is passionate about the NFP sector and when he was at Salesforce proudly received the APAC volunteer of the year award.