Salesforce® offers two major advantages to companies when they deploy custom applications. The first is that they can build on the Force.com platform and leverage its development tools and cloud infrastructure. The second advantage is that Salesforce has the AppExchange®, the greatest 3rd party network of Independent Software Vendors (ISVs) in the enterprise software market where a number of prebuilt solutions exist. How do you decide whether to have IT make your own app solution on Force.com or to go with a great solution from a certified Salesforce ISV?
Don't reinvent the wheel
How many times do we waste time trying to develop products or systems that we think are innovative when in fact they have already been done before? The opportunity cost of building and maintaining an original application for your Salesforce org must be considered against the search process for an existing AppExchange app and the work necessary on your part to implement it. How many technical dev hours will it take to define, design, develop and maintain the functionality of a custom solution? What work will your technical staff be forgoing to render this possible solution? Often, the answer isn't calculated adequately and therefore this cost isn't accounted for.
Is there an AppExchange vendor whose expertise you can leverage?
Fortunately, Salesforce AppExchange is easy to search, has good developer information, and includes user reviews. Searching for a solution is as easy as hitting up the iTunes Appstore. Often, the amount of time one would spend wire framing an original app solution takes longer than finding an app, installing a demo, and evaluating it. Reaching out to a couple existing users who have written reviews will give you the perspective from a company that has fully implemented, and seen results.
Does the ISV have good support?
ISVs are individuals or businesses that build, develop and sell software solutions. In the case of the Salesforce AppExchange, all ISVs are required to meet the high standards that Salesforce sets for itself and its 100,000+ customers. Every AppExchange app is required to go through a mandatory, enterprise-grade security review. As you scroll through the vendor's reviews look for customers that praise both the app's effectiveness and the quality of the vendor's customer service. App support is tremendously important for those moments when you need help implementing and customizing, and in cases where you run into technical trouble or just need help figuring out how to use the app.
Your time is better spent specializing in what you do best
What industry does your company serve? Is it healthcare, financial, or retail? Do you serve a specific vertical market? It is likely you've implemented Salesforce to formalize and aid your sales, customer service or financial reporting processes and not to become software developers. The tremendous value in Salesforce's partner ecosystem is that there are folks who have made it their specialization to develop applications so you don't have to. All of the hundreds of hours of application development, revision, and design advancement is available to any company at the click of a button on the Salesforce AppExchange.
Want to go deeper to evaluate the costs of buy versus build and what factors to consider before committing to custom development or an AppExchange app? Check out Part 2 of this topic.