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Build vs. Buy, Clicks vs. Code: What’s the Magic Answer?

By Salesforce.org | June 6, 2016 | Education Data Architecture (EDA), Higher Education

By: Joanna Iturbe, Sr. Software Applications & Project Manager, Leeds Technology Services, University of Colorado Boulder

Build vs BuyBuild vs. Buy

Clicks vs. Code

You’ll hear it referred to different ways, but what it ultimately comes down to is how any new software is implemented, especially when it comes to Salesforce. Whether this decision is arrived at consciously (please tell me it’s decided consciously!) or by accident, it is critical to the sustainability and success of your project(s). Salesforce was created for the “accidental admin” with the intent not to be on custom development but customizing and configuring out-of-the-box functionality with clicks, not code (that’s where that came from…)

So, why do people build if they can just buy?

That’s a complicated question that’s not easily answered and is certainly different by use-case and institution. There are several things to consider when planning your implementation:

  1. Is your problem well-defined?
  2. Do you have a problem unique to you that doesn’t affect any other area of the school?
  3. Does your school invest in a talented, dedicated IT department?

If you answered ‘yes’ to all three of these questions then you may consider at least a partial build to your implementation. Typically speaking, there are advantages to building, such as: complete control and the solution being highly customized to business processes.

On the flip side, you’ll likely need to staff-up to support the code (and developers don’t come cheap). Implementation also generally takes longer (which can mean a longer time to reach the Peak of Productivity for users) and Salesforce does three major releases per year, which requires the administrators and developers to stay up-to-date on how these releases relate to their code and school-specific needs.

On the other hand:
Very few issues are truly unique, and Salesforce’s AppExchange is an amazing resource chock-full of partners and managed packages provided by outside vendors who provide expertise in solving common business needs because best-in-class business processes are included. Additionally, you get the added bonus of maintenance, training and technical support.

However, going strictly out-of-the-box means that the vendor retains the rights to the code and the product enhancements and functionality are determined by the vendor with potentially little input from the school nor the ability to customize. Additionally, the customer is reliant on the vendor’s technical support instead of internal IT support and/or Salesforce support to resolve issues.

Which brings me to the point of my jabbering:

This is the magic of Salesforce: The fact that you have the ability to assess your specific situation and ultimately determine what percentage of your implementation will be custom-built versus off-of-the-shelf, whether that percentage is 0%, 100%, 50%, 7% or 89% – you have the flexibility to do you!

As someone who’s implemented a 100-user Salesforce org serving 24 functional areas with zero code, I can tell you, it’s not only possible to do it with clicks as opposed to code, it can be fun to get creative in your architecture and solutions.

The administrative tools Salesforce provides like Process Builder, Workflow Rules, Triggers, Validation Rules, Data Loader and much more easily affect data, keep it clean and automate processes. Not to mention the new Higher Education Data Architecture (HEDA) that give you a great jumping off point to get started with the platform. And, we’ve got Trailhead to keep the newest of users to the most advanced developers up-to-date on all of the out-of-the-box technology and capabilities of the native platform.

However, a zero-code solution isn’t meant for everyone. I highly recommend utilizing the Power of Us Hub Higher Education group to find other schools with similar issues and/or business processes as yours and see what they’ve done. What’s worked? What hasn’t? What lessons have they learned?

The higher education community is highly collaborative. And the Salesforce higher education community is even more collaborative. So, never be afraid to ask questions – you’ll likely find you won’t just get answers, you’ll make long-lasting connections.

Join the Higher Ed Community

About the Author
Joanna IturbeSince 2011, Joanna Iturbe has served as the Senior Software Applications and Project Manager for Leeds Technology Services where she is the senior technical expert and manager in leading the development, configuration, installation, upgrade, delivery and day-to-day management and maintenance of a suite of 15 applications at the Leeds School of Business on the University of Colorado Boulder campus. She supervises a team responsible for deploying and supporting Salesforce which is central to the key functions of student success and retention, communication and outreach. Her certifications include Salesforce Administrator, Salesforce Developer, Database Management and Project Management.

Before coming to CU, Joanna received her bachelors degree from Baylor University in public relations and business administration and worked in marketing and recruitment in the private sector and at Baylor.

Joanna serves on the Salesforce Higher Education Advisory Council and on the Girlforce leadership team. Additionally, she is co-leader of the Salesforce Denver user group. At CU, she serves as Co-Chair on the Boulder Campus Staff Council (BCSC) and is a representative on the University of Colorado (System) Staff Council (UCSC).