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How to meet business needs with Salesforce AppExchange

For a CRM platform to serve business needs, it should be flexible. How does Microsoft stack up against Salesforce when it comes to building on top of the platform? One expert weighs in, here.

Our company recently migrated from Microsoft Dynamics to Salesforce CRM. The primary reason was the inability to customize the Dynamics platform to our sales model.

Microsoft Dynamics can be less costly than Salesforce and may make sense if you're a shop with a lot of installed Microsoft applications. However, other systems and tools, such as Salesforce AppExchange, may make more sense if you need to build new applications to enable a functionality that needs to be customized and is core to your business. Many companies, including ours, need to be able to flex and build new capabilities into our customer relationship management systems to accommodate our operations.

Making changes with our Microsoft system required some coding and system knowledge that proved cumbersome for our small sales support staff. Changes could be made only after researching for hours on the Internet, attempting trial and error in our sandbox environment or paying a third-party developer to implement the changes.

The Salesforce platform bridges the gap between sales knowledge and technical acumen.

This led to abysmal adoption rates and an ineffective CRM platform. The ineffectiveness bled into multiple departments -- for example, our marketing department was unable to identify leads to nurture. The sales team would regularly have to halt campaigns because the information was out of date. This, in turn, would make marketing campaigns appear misinformed or even intrusive. By the time we reached this point, the cost savings of Microsoft were offset by our inability to be flexible or to serve the needs of the business. With a platform like Salesforce, on the other hand, business users can make changes without extensive knowledge and can enlist tools like Salesforce AppExchange to build applications on top of the platform to suit specific business needs and processes.

Why Salesforce affords flexibility

Salesforce requires much less technical ability and is easier to administer when compared with Microsoft. The Salesforce platform bridges the gap between sales knowledge and technical acumen. This way, your primary administrator can have a deeper knowledge of your sales principles that enables building a better CRM experience. This is preferable to having someone technically savvy, but operationally ignorant. 

One way that Salesforce reduces technical knowledge necessity is the Salesforce AppExchange. This platform is similar to the app stores of Google and Apple. The AppExchange enables administrators to review, compare and change software add-ons to fit specific business needs.

One business need is for the marketing department to receive requests from internal business groups and apply a priority structure to them based on projected sales uplift. In the past, a campaign or project was requested by email and then had to be approved by the vice president. If the vice president decided it was worthy, the marketing department could continue with the project. If the vice president failed to see the value of the initiative, the department would push back and request the perceived reach and uplift. This would allow marketing to prioritize each project without showing partiality to specific business units.

To better handle these requests, we explored the Salesforce AppExchange for project management software. Our search returned three possible apps: Taskfeed, TaskRay and Milestones PM+.

Taskfeed

Taskfeed was created in 2012 by Tapply Ltd. and is based in the U.K. Its technology is the newest of three offerings and provides a fairly standard gamut of tools. Templates can be created for projects to reduce the time you spend updating -- always a plus. Templates can be mapped to items or teams to further automate the experience. In the end, Marketing couldn't quite justify spending $1,000-plus a year for our team, especially when its needs are basic.

TaskRay

At a slightly lower price tag of $23 per month per user, TaskRay came well reviewed and was similar to Taskfeed. The owner, Bracket Labs, is based in Louisville, Colo., and is native to Salesforce. It tracks projects and processes. The ability to clone a project is handy, and the collaboration via Chatter, Salesforce's enterprise social networking application, is fluid. The whole marketing team uses Chatter already to approve or deny changes while moving through the creative process. The interface has a modern feel and suited marketing's taste.

Milestone PM+

Our implementation specialist suggested Milestone PM+, which is supported by Passage Technology. The free, basic platform has the option to add "accelerators" to tweak your experience as necessary. Those accelerators generate revenue. This also means that not all implementations would need to leverage those abilities. This appealed to marketing because of the cost savings and how much they already do with the built-in Chatter feature.

In the end, cost may be the biggest deciding factor for marketing as to which application makes sense. Our CRM experience has been overshadowed by low adoption rates, so sinking more money into unproven software still worries our executive team. That said, even within the first week of implementation, we have noticed a higher adoption rate than our last platform ever received. Salesforce greatly benefits from ease of navigation and out-of-the-box approachability that is strongly desired by any workforce that favors nontechnical skill sets.

Next Steps

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This was last published in April 2016

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