How Do Salesforce Administrators Choose The Right Customization Tool?

It’s an ongoing debate! Making use of Salesforce’s declarative tool set or add an app from the AppExchange or get the whole thing coded? Each has their own advantages. This article will explain how you can make a dignified decision.

Author: Peggy Schael | Salesforce Trainer | WeLearnSalesforce

Have you ever struggled with the decision whether your Salesforce customization should be done with the declarative tools Salesforce gives you out-of-the-box? Or whether there could be a better solution with an app from the AppExchange or even by coding from scratch?

There is no easy answer! First and foremost you should have a pretty good understanding of the Salesforce platform’s capabilities and limitations. And once you get started to learn all about Salesforce, you will quickly realize that it’s no small feast. And on top of that, Salesforce brings out three releases per year with even more awesome out-of-the-box functionalities. It may leave you scratching your head…

At WeLearnSalesforce we care deeply about the success of our Salesforce Trainees and want to help them make educated decisions for what works best for their business’ Salesforce implementation as well as future updates and maintenance. But not only System Administrators are involved in the decision making process. If you are a Product Manager, Business Analyst, Consultant or otherwise involved, this is relevant for you too.

In this article I will walk you through the three customization options, their benefits and challenges and how to choose the best possible solution.

Best Practice Considerations

Before we dive deeper into each, as a rule of thumb, always consider declarative customization first. If you don’t seem to get anywhere with this, have a look at the AppExchange and only, only if you still don’t find what you are looking for, consider programmatic development.

If you are a Developer reading this, you may be thinking “What the f&$!#%”. I totally get that. Coding gives you a lot of flexibility and often a very reasonable solution, but we want to look at the greater picture and the sanity of Salesforce configurations.

Use a Questionnaire

Of course it’s not always as simple as yay or nay. There are a number of factors to take into consideration before deciding how to go about a planned Salesforce configuration, no matter if it’s an entire implementation project or a change request of an existing setup. I’ve been part of many Salesforce implementations and have seen the struggles first hand. It’s impossible to cover every single scenario, but you can avoid a lot of issues early in the process by asking the right questions from the start or even before that.

So I’ve put together a list of questions you should think about before deciding what you want to do:

  • What business problem are you looking to solve? What would be the benefit for the business?
  • What specific outcome are you trying to achieve?
  • Are you imposing your business processes onto Salesforce or could it benefit from the way Salesforce is already set up?
  • What is your Salesforce Support package (called “Success Plan“)? What type of support is already included?
  • What is your budget for the configuration and future maintenance?
  • What is your timeframe? How urgent is the implementation or change request?
  • Do you want to develop in-house or externally?
  • How do you maintain any related or unrelated changes in the future?

These are just high-level questions. We won’t go into detailed project management related questions, we save that for another article. However, these questions already give you an idea of how complex your decision may become.

Do your Homework

Depending on what your answers to these questions look like, they will either have a small or big impact on your business’ success. Because Salesforce is being implemented to make your business processes better, right? And who is using Salesforce? Your business users! Hence, user adoption plays a huge role. Which means setting up, maintaining and supporting your Salesforce org depends on the way it is being managed behind the scenes.

So here is a table for you to help you compare and understand the differences between each of the three customization options you have available:

 Declarative DevelopmentExtend with Apps from the AppExchangeProgrammatic Development
What is itSalesforce Configurations without using code.

Using tools such as Process Builder, Flow Builder,  Lightning App Builder, Einstein Automation etc.
Salesforce owned or Partner Apps.

Integrate seamlessly with a Salesforce Org.
Using code-based tools to set up functionalities beyond declarative capabilities.
When to useWhen the business follows a common business scenario.

When business processes are less complex.
When a declarative feature is not available and cannot be replicated with declarative tools.When the business follows complex processes.

When a declarative feature is not available and cannot be replicated with declarative tools and a suitable solution cannot be found on the AppExchange.
What are the BenefitsOut-of-the-Box.

No additional fees.

Point-and-Click (Relatively) easy to maintain.
Managed Packages (incl. automatic upgrades).

Unmanages Packages at your own disposal.

Click-and-Install

Only small configurations required (in most cases).
Code and automate anything you want.

The sky is the limit.
What are the ChallengesLimited capabilities as per Salesforce Edition.

Documenting business processes and how they are implemented.

Changes may require more complex updates of Processes and Flows.  
Compare with Salesforce Products and potential Partner Apps.

Most come at an additional fee.

Time and patience to research and test potential app solutions.
Can become very convoluted.

Keeping control over what is declarative versus what has been coded.

Documenting business processes and how they are implemented.

Changes require manual code updates.
What Skills are requiredSolid understanding of fundamental Salesforce features and limitations.

A certification like Salesforce Admin, Advanced Admin, Platform App Builder can be beneficial.

No coding required.
Solid understanding of fundamental Salesforce features and limitations.

A certification like Salesforce Admin, Advanced Admin, Platform App Builder can be beneficial.

Good understanding of other Salesforce Products and how Partner Apps work with Salesforce.
Experience with object-oriented languages like Apex, Java, as well as with Lightning Components and Visualforce.

A certification like Platform Developer I or JavaScript Developer I can be beneficial.

Understanding of fundamental Salesforce features and limitations is beneficial.
Declarative vs. AppExchange Extensions vs. Programmatic Tools

Make an educated Decision

As you can see, each has their advantages and requires thorough investigation. It all starts with a solid understanding of the Salesforce fundamental features that we teach in our Complete Salesforce Certification Courses. We have a Free Salesforce Administrator Introduction Course to give you a taster.

I truly hope you are finding the information in this article useful. There are certainly other factors to be considered in a Salesforce implementation or enhancement that I haven’t mentioned. Let me know in the comments below what else you would add to the list.

What you didn’t know about the AppExchange

Did you know you can find a job on the AppExchange? Salesforce is not just a place to search for Salesforce Partner Apps that integrate with your Salesforce Org. It is so much more!

Author: Peggy Schael | Salesforce Trainer | WeLearnSalesforce

Did you know you can find a job on the AppExchange? No? Me neither, up until a little while back. When I thought the AppExchange is merely a place to look for Salesforce Partner Apps that integrate with your Salesforce Org.

There is so much more! Salesforce is truly making sure their eco system extends to any of their platforms, whether it’s Trailhead, Salesforce Help, AppExchange and others. So, how about we take a closer look at what the AppExchange really has in store for you. Shall we?

Initially, the AppExchange was born as a marketplace for Salesforce Partner Apps. As Salesforce is evolving not only their amazing products but also their entire community, so is the AppExchange.

You will essentially find three main sections on the AppExchange:

1 – Solutions to extend Salesforce to your business’ needs

2 – Experts to work with, including a Job Marketplace

3 – Community to learn from and support each other

1 – SOLUTIONS TO EXTEND SALESFORCE

This is still the largest section on the AppExchange and typically the main reason you will end up taking a look at the AppExchange. It’s Salesforce’s own app store where you will find authorized extensions such as Apps, Flow Solutions, Components and more. These solutions are either owned by Salesforce or by a Salesforce Partner and may be free of charge or come at a fee.

You can browse for solutions by Type (e.g. App, Flows, Components), by Product (e.g. Sales Cloud, Marketing Cloud) or by Industry (e.g. Healthcare, Real Estate, Media). Browsing is a great way to get inspired and explore potential options.

WeLearnSalesforce Blog - AppExchange - Solutions to Extend Salesforce
Source: appexchange.salesforce.com

If you already know more about what exactly you are looking for, you can use the search feature. I personally use this most of the time, since you can search for a specific company or product name, or you use search terms such as departments or roles, you name them. And to make the most of your search, you can apply filters to narrow down your search results.

WeLearnSalesforce Blog - AppExchange - Search for a specific Solution to Extend Salesforce
Source: appexchange.salesforce.com

The list of search results doesn’t reveal too much about the solution, so you either hover over the hyperlink or better click on the hyperlink to open the full page.

Here is a great example of a Project Management App by Inspire Planner. It’s a very intuitive and 100% Salesforce-native solution that is used by companies ranging from small businesses to Fortune 500 in order to manage projects of any shape and size. 

You will find an overview with plenty of details about the product as well as customers reviews. And if you like what you are seeing, you can even watch a demo or take it for a test drive before making the decision.

WeLearnSalesforce Blog - AppExchange - Example for a specific Solution to Extend Salesforce
Source: appexchange.salesforce.com

When you are logging in with your existing Trailblazer or other Salesforce login, you will even get recommendations and it also remembers your recent search results.

WeLearnSalesforce Blog - AppExchange - Recent Search Results for Solutions to Extend Salesforce
Source: appexchange.salesforce.com

2 – EXPERTS TO WORK WITH AND JOB MARKETPLACE

This is one of the sections you may not have explored yet. Do you require the help of Salesforce Experts such as Consulting Partners or individual Developers? Then jump into the Consultants tab. You can search for suitable Consultants or Developers using the provided filter options to specify your search by expertise, language, country and other options.

WeLearnSalesforce Blog - AppExchange - Experts to work with and Job Marketplace
Source: appexchange.salesforce.com

And the most exiting category in here is the Job Marketplace. You can even post a job offering or search for a job yourself. How cool is that?

Source: appexchange.salesforce.com

3 – COMMUNITY TO LEARN AND COLLABORATE

And this one is where the true Salesforce Ohana comes together. All in one place. The Learn tab is your go-to place to access great articles, learning contents on Trailhead, connections to your peers through the Trailblazer Community Groups and so much more. Do me a favor and make sure to check out these resources. I’m sure there is something in there for you too. Let me know in the comments which one is your favorite.

WeLearnSalesforce Blog - AppExchange - Community to Learn and Collaborate
Source: appexchange.salesforce.com

Now go explore the AppExchange. Found something else that I haven’t mentioned in this article? Please share with me in the comments.