Build or buy Salesforce Apps
POSTED : November 30, 2018
BY : Matt Dillon

The team of Salesforce experts at PK had an interesting conversation over lunch today. The debate centered on one, key question: Should you build or buy Salesforce Apps? The Salesforce platform is very robust and can be customized to meet the needs of any user, whether that’s through customization or applications available through the Salesforce AppExchange. The Salesforce AppExchange has thousands of different applications built for a large range of business needs. When weighing the options of either building your own application or purchasing one, there are key decisions to consider.

Key considerations in the build or buy Salesforce Apps debate

Cost. It’s important to consider all of the costs associated with either purchasing an application or building your own. Take into consideration that the AppExchange already has applications, but these carry costs, which vary. Some apps are charged monthly per user; others are charged annually and available org-wide.

These applications can usually be deployed quickly, allowing you to have a quick return on investment. They also are more likely to have regular maintenance and release cycles, which minimizes the unpredictable costs associated with building your own app.

Building a custom app will have different costs to account for than purchasing one, and custom development can create variables in your total cost of ownership. Using agile development techniques to get quick wins will help accelerate your development schedule. Building a Total Cost of Ownership model to evaluate your decision is key in the justification of your approach. You’ll need more in-house or third-party development resources to support your custom Salesforce app.

Functionality. With thousands of apps on the AppExchange, there’s an app for almost any business requirement. You’ll find a host of solutions for accounting, project management, campaign planning, scheduling, and more. Each app offers its own unique features so it’s important to make a wish list ahead of time of “need to have” and “like to have” features, then match the app with the most features that fit your needs. Complex functionality and automation are often already built-in, which saves you a ton of time and money. However, it’s possible your business need is so unique that a pre-built app just won’t cut it, and that’s when custom development can be so critical. You can also consider Salesforce unmanaged apps that provide a starting framework for you to customize.

People. Do you have the resources and time to allocate to implementing a new application or to build one? There is a considerable amount of time that needs to be dedicated to each, especially if you’re not outsourcing your customized app development. Take a minute and consider where the time and talents of your team members will be best utilized. Building a customized application can be a lengthy process, but in the end, you’ll get a perfectly-tailored solution to your business if you have the right people working on it.

Timeline. Businesses never stop, so it’s important to consider how soon you need an application and what the timeline looks like. Usually buying a configurable app on the AppExchange will allow you to move faster.  However, if you need a customized solution, you should consider how outsourcing the build will speed up your process and not overextend your employees.

Support and Maintenance. Every year, Salesforce delivers 3 releases that impact custom code. AppExchange apps are tested and updated in advance of these releases in order to avoid disruption. It’s important to consider these updates, the people that built them, and what ongoing maintenance looks like. If you’re not ready to allocate the time needed to continually update a  custom application with releases, you should look for a solution in the AppExchange.

Regardless of which you choose, you’re going to need a team of experts to help you navigate through the process of developing a solution. Being an app developer comes with a whole new level of risk and responsibility. Developing an application and supporting it for your organization will require a strong team and a long-term commitment.

Hopefully, these questions will help you assess your organization’s needs, your project budget, and your team’s skill set. Doing this now, before you’re invested in the project, will help you better plan your staffing needs, set appropriate expectations, and build a better timeline to ensure the success of your project.

See how we built a custom app for a major cruise line.

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