How to choose the right solution — a Salesforce example

In my recent article on how to improve collaboration with Fastcall CTI I summarized a number of requirements that need to be fulfilled by a solution. A good vendor needs to fulfil at least this set of requirements.

· First and foremost: The software needs to do the job of making life for the employees easier

· It needs to be embedded into the host software, and not run side by side

· Ideally, the vendor is specialized on the software stack that your employees use and the software uses the same UI as the host software

· The software needs to share information and data with the host software and write into the same database

· The vendor needs to offer good support and regular, frequent updates to the software

The article was deliberately abstract and not dealing with any platform, as I wanted to make a general point. The way to do this is to keep it independent of any major (or minor) platform.

But what does it mean, specifically, to work with these criteria?

Let’s get our hands dirty

Imagine that you are a Salesforce customer and are looking for a matching CTI app to extend the footprint of your implementation with the goal of better and more efficient availability.

Then Salesforce AppExchange is your first point to start the search, as this is just the kind of use case that it has been built for. Still, there are some pitfalls to observe. Not whatever is on top of the list, is best for you. Salesforce AppExchange ranks and lists by popularity.

Popularity is calculated by how users interact with a listing i.e., whether they interact with the information available on a listing. AppExchange weighs the user activity according to a level of importance as indications of interest. It also tries to filter out attempts to abuse the system.

When looking at the criteria catalog above, what you want is a native Salesforce app. A Salesforce app is called native when it resides completely within the Salesforce platform, including all data, metadata, security, authentication, custom code etc. This essentially means that it is specifically built for the Salesforce platform and therefore does not need an API-based integration into Salesforce.

Why a native app? Because this is an app that is built by a Salesforce specialist and uses the Salesforce UI. This avoids a break in the user experience and avoids or at least reduces the amount of training necessary. Native also means that the data resides in the Salesforce database and does not need to be replicated anywhere else. On top of this, the customization effort goes down and is done in an environment that Salesforce admins are used to.

So, let us have a look at Salesforce AppExchange to find one or more apps that do the job. Salesforce AppExchange, at the time of this writing, hosts and offers around 3,800 free and paid apps that extend the Salesforce capabilities. Roughly one third of this are paid apps with a five-star rating and 216 of them are native to Salesforce.

Limiting this to CTI software the AppExchange search comes up with a selection of a little more than thirty apps, with five of them being native to Salesforce and three of them having a five-star rating. With Fastcall and Intercall, two of these three are implemented by Fastcall. The other five-star app has not been updated since 2011, while Fastcall supplies regular and frequent updates to its software.

Interestingly, with MaxCredible one of the five apps that are presented to the user, is not even a CTI app but a credit management app.

Figure 1: Salesforce Native CTI apps

Another interesting observation is that the two five-star apps by Fastcall are not the ones that appear topmost amongst the thirty-plus five-star CTI apps

Still, looking for CTI apps that are tightly integrated into, native to, Salesforce, leaves you with one single viable vendor, Fastcall, which is dedicated to both, the Salesforce infrastructure, and CTI solutions.

What does this mean?

First of all, this exercise shows that the rankings that are provided by app marketplaces can be very intransparent. Although Salesforce gives an explanation of what goes into a ranking, the ranking itself is created within a black box and does not utilize crucial information. Users need to remember that marketplaces often are not curated, and the algorithm is probably opened to be gamed, in spite of measures to avoid this.

This does not only hurt important marketplace members, but in the long run also Salesforce as the owner of the marketplace. Software vendors, participants in the marketplace are likely to expect some better support. And from a customer point of view, it is not obvious that an app that has not been updated in nearly a decade ranks high.

The people that are responsible for the Salesforce AppExchange might want to have a look at this issue.

Second, it is really important to use your own set of criteria instead of blindly trusting a rating. Even in this simple example it becomes obvious that using your own criteria helps to significantly narrow down the list of possible candidates.

What do you think?

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Thomas Wieberneit

Helping businesses to improve in Digital Transformation, Customer Engagement, Customer Experience, CRM, Innovation