SFDC Penguin - Tips for Selecting an App

AppExchange: tips for selecting an app

This is part 2 of a mini-series on the AppExchange. Part 1, covered what the AppExchange is and how it can help businesses and professionals (click here). This post will help you with navigating the AppExchange to select the app which is right for you.  

Looking for an App

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If you are new to the AppExchange, you may be surprised how much choice there is. There are over 3000 apps available. In fact, it can sometimes be more challenging to choose between apps than finding them!

As with any search, have a strategy in mind. You may need to do some detective work to find the one for you. Don’t worry, you do not need to be a world famous sleuth. What you do need is a clear goal in mind and if comparing apps, an objective way to compare them. 

Whilst every search for an app has its own specifics, here are some general guidelines I’ve found helpful. 

Understand your goal

You may be passively looking for ideas. This is fine. In fact, it can be very helpful! Odds are it will help you identify ways to gain more value from Salesforce. However, if you are actively looking, you have a specific goal in mind. For example, “I need to automate document generation for my business”. 

When actively looking, some preparation can help. For example:

  • Do you know precisely what you need? Have requirements been defined? Going back to our document generation example:
    • What type of documents are you wanting to automate? (e.g. invoices, contracts, letters, presentations)
    • What output formats do you need? (e.g. PDF, Excel, Word, Powerpoint, email, e-sign)
  • Do you know your budget? 
  • Are there any compliance considerations (e.g. GDPR)?
  • Have your stakeholders been engaged? Is there (or is there likely to be) buy-in from decision makers? 
This is far from exhaustive. Such considerations will help inform your initial search. However, as you explore the ‘art of the possible’, you may identify new ways of looking at your challenge. This is fine, but ensure you are solving the right challenges. 

Use the AppExchange to help

The AppExchange has many tools to help you search. The newsletter (click here for more info), recommendations, solutions and collections help you understand what is available. Additionally, use search and filters to pinpoint your research. If you need help, don’t forget the AppExchange lists consultancies and resources to help you learn more. 

Do your Homework

Once you have identified potential apps, you need to select the right one. The process of selecting an app can vary considerably. It will normally be influenced by factors such as:
  • What will the app be used for?
  • How important will the app be to your business’s operations? Will it perform a critical function?
  • How complex are your requirements?
  • Your own Salesforce org’s edition and setup
  • Governance structures and sign-off processes
  • Cost
  • Compliance
Every search will be different. You need to ‘right-size’, so it suits the needs of your business.  Whilst not exhaustive, here are some ideas to help.

Read the 'Overview'

When you go into an AppExchange app listing, you will see ‘Overview’ and ‘Reviews’ tabs. The Overview tab provides information such as:

  • Product highlights, descriptions and resources (e.g. admin guides and case studies)
  • Features: native (built on the platform), Aloha (does not count against app, tab and object limits), compatible with Lightning Experience, mobile, multi-currency, etc
  • System Requirements: Salesforce Edition, browser and operating system compatibility (if appropriate), etc
  • Initial release date and latest release date. Very helpful for telling if an app is still being updated
  • Overview of package contents
  • Support offerings (if included)
  • Supported languages

This can help you gauge the suitability of the app for your org and business.

Read Ratings and Reviews

Now for the ‘Reviews’ tab. This allows you to see a rating (out of 5) and reviews from Salesforce customers. This can be invaluable. Learn from the lessons of others. What worked well, and what did not. Where appropriate, asking for references from the vendor may also help. 

Licensing and other Costs

The AppExchange will give you an idea of licensing costs. However, contact the vendor for more information. For example, if you work in a non-profit, there may be discounted licensing. Conversely, if you work for a large business, there may be bulk discounts. 

When considering licensing, identify any additional costs too (e.g. setup, support, storage, excess usage, etc). This can require careful consideration. It also helps you weigh-up the cost of a bespoke solution vs an AppExchange product. 

Support, upgrades, uptime & documentation

Depending on the app, this can be key. You may wish to consider:

  • Reliability. Is there a ‘trust’ site? 
  • How easy is it to contact support? What hours do they operate? What is the service level agreement (SLA), if any?
  • Do you need to pay extra for ‘enhanced’ support?  
  • What is the quality of documentation and training materials?
  • How are updates managed? Is the app managed or unmanaged? Are updates ‘pushed’, or do you need to install them?
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Security and Compliance

Dependent on the use case, you may need to consider security and compliance. For example, is data stored outside of Salesforce? If so, where and is it secure? You may need to cater for specific compliance obligations (e.g. GDPR, PCI-DSS, or industry specific rules). Engage relevant teams in your business to ensure the app ticks all the right boxes. 

Be objective

When comparing apps, it can be hard to be objective. Consider creating a scorecard. List the factors which matter to your business and score them. Where appropriate, involve multiple people in your team. It is usually a good idea to have a wider set of opinions.

Using this approach can help ensure the selection process is fair. By focusing on facts and specific requirements, the chosen solution is likely to be a better fit for your needs.

Test the app

If possible, try before you buy. Consider installing the app into a sandbox and have a play. This will allow you to identify any issues first hand, in your own org. Engage users and stakeholders in this process. Selecting an app should be a team sport. 

How close is the App to your 'to-be' state

Are your requirements simple or complex? How closely are they met by the ‘out-the-box’ solution? Bear these in mind as you test. Ensure you have a clear understanding of your desired ‘to-be’ state. It will help pre-empt challenges and increase the likelihood of success. 

Summary

With so many apps on the AppExchange, having a strategy to select the ‘right one’ is key. Be sure to do your homework and understand your needs. Benchmark these needs objectively against the capabilities of apps you review. This will help ensure you choose an app which is the best fit for your business. 

Bonus Penguin Fact

Did you know the 20th of January was Penguin Awareness day? Next time you visit a local zoo, or read another SFDCPenguin post, be sure to learn more about our favourite black and white feathered friends! 🐧

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