Creating an AppExchange Strategy

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Editor’s note: This is one of our most popular posts, so we’ve updated it with the latest information and resources.

A big portion of a Salesforce Admin’s job is listening and learning. Listening to your users and learning what they need will not only help you drive adoption but also help shape your feature roadmap. In fact, I talk about that in this post: Using SABWA to Drive Salesforce Adoption.

With the power of the Salesforce Platform, admins have a lot of tools at their disposal to create the apps and functionality that users need to be productive. We can either build it ourselves or get a ready-made solution from the AppExchange. But with so many apps to choose from, how do we get the right apps to the right users? And, more importantly, how do we choose those apps? It all starts with an AppExchange Strategy.

What’s an AppExchange Strategy?

An AppExchange Strategy helps us get the right apps for the right users while making sure we are being strategic about our choices. Let me give you an example. Grab your phone and check to see how many different photo editing apps you have right now. I just checked mine and I have 10 apps, which is crazy! Scrolling through those apps, I realize many of them do the same thing, like make a picture black and white or sepia. But let’s be honest — how many sepia pictures do you need?

Now imagine this scenario at an enterprise level, but with Human Resource or Conference management apps. It would be chaos — who knows where to log what and in which app? This is what can happen if you don’t think about an AppExchange Strategy first. It’s easy for an admin to simply get the apps as fast as they can to solve the problem. If you ever had a department come to you and wonder if “Salesforce could do that”, your immediate response was likely to solve it as fast as possible. However, losing track of the big picture and having apps with basically the same functionality can easily paint yourself into a corner, which is why creating an AppExchange Strategy early on is key.

Let’s build an AppExchange Strategy

1. Start off by identifying the major departments within an organization that either use Salesforce or could in the future. So in this case, when you meet with stakeholders, be sure to cover the long-term plans of Salesforce. Outside of Service and Sales, what else will you track to get that full 360-view of the customer?

2. Identify the AppExchange apps that the organization could benefit from or apps that have been requested. Let’s go back to the example of the photo editing apps. Had I outlined what I needed in a photo editing app early on, I could have evaluated each app to see if it met the requirements or only had a few necessary features. This would have dramatically reduced the number of apps I needed. This step also includes identifying when the solution would be needed.

3. Find relevant apps to install into a Sandbox. Remember to not only look at the app that you need but also make sure it doesn’t interfere with any other apps that are already installed. Most don’t, but it’s always good to check. It’s also important to look for duplicate functionality at this step.

4. Evaluate your choices. You want to look at the apps from an Organizational perspective. So one criterion will obviously be cost; for example, is it per license, site-wide, free, discounted, etc. Next, look at the app in terms of functionality: Does it have all you want? In my opinion, it should have a lot more than what you want. I say this because you can always hide fields, objects, or permissions to features you don’t need. But if an app is lacking, then it will be up to you to rebuild the functionality.

5. Execute and document. Remember: Before you roll out a new app, get your users ready. To do that, you will want to message out the change that is coming to the relevant users and when it will come. If you are replacing an existing application — like an Access database with a project management app — be sure to have a plan to move the data before you give the users access.

What do you do next?

If you don’t already practice SABWA, be sure to read that post and schedule time to meet with users and key stakeholders. Check out this post, Building Your Army of Internal Advocates, so you can understand what types of users to meet with. Then, start documenting user needs and requests. Remember: Sandboxes are your friends! Use them to try out applications and demo them before you install into production. Finally, be sure to read the reviews and contact the AppExchange partner with any questions. The goal here is to find the right app for your users — and not have 10 photo editing apps that all give you a sepia photo.

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