The 4 Biggest Lies On the AppExchange

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Look across the enterprise software provider landscape in 2016, and you’ll see one particular platform that reigns supreme: Salesforce.

In the last 10 years, Marc Benioff and co. have built Salesforce into a bona fide empire, on the strength of amazing marketing (namely, the annual Dreamforce conference) and a peerless app store, the Salesforce AppExchange.

Today, the AppExchange hosts 2,800+ partner apps. For its 10 year anniversary earlier this year, Salesforce released the following figures about AppExchange popularity:

– 3.5 million total App installs, including
– 85% of the Fortune 100
– 79% of all Salesforce clients

The AppExchange is more popular than ever. And yet, if you poll the average Salesforce App user, you’ll hear mixed reviews about the apps they’ve downloaded to enhance their Salesforce experience.

So as a caveat emptor to potential app purchasers, here’s a rundown of the 4 most prevalent falsehoods you’ll hear when considering an AppExchange vendor.

1. Native Apps are always the best option.
2. Your Salesforce Data is not secure outside of Salesforce.
3. Salesforce is an investor – which makes us the best.
4. We have the most/best reviews – which makes us the best.

If you poke around Google/AppExchange vendor websites, you’ll see a lot of the above – and it looks very compelling, on the surface level.

The problem: All of these statements are either massively flawed or downright misleading. Let’s break down what makes these 4 statements the biggest lies on the AppExchange in 2016.

1. Native Apps are always the best option

By far the most common falsehood you’ll hear on the AppExchange is that Native Apps are the only ones you can trust, as a user.

Not so say actual Salesforce users, who, as Salesforce Ben himself noted to us via email, have made non-native app Conga Composer the most popular app of all-time (with great reviews, no less).

What is a native app? It’s one that lives entirely within Salesforce. Or, to put it more bluntly, an App that can only be used by Salesforce clients.

While these Apps do have their benefits, they comprise only half of the top 30 highest rated, most popular Apps on the AppExchange. And the client reviews of non-native Salesforce partners like Xactly, Box and DocuSign speaks to the illegitimacy of any vendor that tries to strike higher ground on the basis of being native.

2. Salesforce Data is not secure outside of Salesforce

Building off the last point, the favorite way native Salesforce App vendors like to fear monger prospects is by asserting that they can’t trust their data with a non-native App.

Tell that to the likes of Dropbox,, Gainsight, the companies mentioned above and other licensed Salesforce partners who have thousands of Salesforce integrations and zero issues with client data.

Of all the lies you’ll hear about the AppExchange, this one is perhaps the most egregious. Sure, you shouldn’t trust your data with just anyone. But to think that Salesforce is the only enterprise software platform you can trust your precious data on is laughable. The fact is, any successful enterprise software platform is going to have airtight security – one client data leak equates to millions of dollars in potential litigation.

To enterprise software companies, every data breach is potentially fatal. And data security is not hard to get. My company, Ambition, uses Amazon Web Services, storing our client data in the same place that Apple, the CIA and Heroku (a Salesforce-owned company) choose to store theirs. In other words, our clients’ data is not only secure, it’s arguably more secure than it would be in the Salesforce database.

Ed. Sure enough, six weeks after this article was published, Salesforce announced an official partnership with Amazon, designating AWS as the preferred cloud provider for Salesforce data hosting. So the next time a native app vendor says your Salesforce data can’t be trusted with anyone but Salesforce, tell them Salesforce disagrees.

3. Salesforce is an investor, so you can trust us

“Salesforce loves our app so much, they became an investor” is a common thread you’ll hear amongst native vendors.

That line, impressive as it may seem, gets abused time and again. The intonation is: Salesforce chose to invest in our company, not our competitors. There’s your proof that we’re the better product.

Of the 2,650 AppExchange vendors, Salesforce has invested in roughly 150 apps, about 4 percent. Impressive, until you realize that many of the highest-ranking, most popular vendors on the AppExchange aren’t part of their portfolio. And, when you remember that many of these companies aren’t in the Salesforce portfolio because they neither wanted nor needed their investment.

A few examples of AppExchange Vendors who are neither Salesforce Native nor a portfolio company:

4. We’re a Top-Reviewed/Most Popular App on the AppExchange

God knows how Salesforce defines the criteria for “Most Popular” status, because if user review volume is any indication, it’s not actual popularity.

How else to explain Gainsight having 90+ reviews yet falling outside the top 20 most popular customer service platforms? Or ClearSlide, with nearly 200 5-star reviews, getting buried in the back pages of the “Most Popular” sales productivity app listing?

Oh, right. These products cost a lot of money, unlike the free and uber-cheap apps that you’ll find ranked highly in the “Most Popular” sections.

The point being: Being a “Most Popular” Salesforce App doesn’t equate to high quality. Just look at the (sometimes very low) user reviews amongst the most popular apps in these listings.

And even having a great review score, for that matter, doesn’t equate to high user experience. Check the reviews themselves and make sure they’re a) recent and b) coming from a wide range of companies and industries.

Sorting Truth from Falsehood on the AppExchange

Being native, having great reviews and having SFDC as an investor are not bad things, of course. They’re all highly positive. But lately, I’ve seen more and more companies trying to spin these into trump cards – which they absolutely, 100% are not.

When reviewing a Salesforce App, avoid judgment based on any of the above criteria, and look for more classic methods of evaluation, such as case studies, testimonials and referrals. The more on point the latter look with regard to your organization, the better the chances of a good experience with that particular app.

We hope this article helps you on your next vendor search. Feel free to leave comments and questions below, or, submit them to [email protected].

5 thoughts on “The 4 Biggest Lies On the AppExchange

  1. Don’t forget about the AppExchange Vendors who false advertise their app as ‘Free’, when in actuality it’s mostly a trial based period. So it is definitely NOT a free app! Plus it’s harder to filter those ones out unless you have someone from their sales team contact you – and then your stuck in their endless follow-up calling list.

  2. As a user of the SalesForce Pro Edition, we don’t have access to a Sandbox to test and deploy these apps. Setting them up in a live environment runs the risk of destroying data. I’d like to see a list of useful apps that can be implemented safely with the SalesForce Pro Edition.

  3. “Native apps are ALWAYS the best” – “Native Apps are the ONLY ones you can trust”
    I capitalized on the two key words that make your statements technically correct, but I don’t agree with how many might interpret your comments on first read. “You never listen to me” – Only a few would interpret that literally, most would accept this as an exaggeration.

    Native is ALMOST always better. From a security standpoint, most large organizations required salesforce to go through a security vetting process. Once your data leaves the platform – that same process should be re-engaged to determine how your data is handled. This process adds cost and time. I agree that there are many other places where data can safely be stored – but there are also apps that run web services on PC located under someones cube (or worse). At least with a Native app, you know where it’s running. Second, there is (or at least should be) a lower cost for using native apps because you are running software on the platform that is already baked into your salesforce license cost. When you add your users to off-platform solutions, you will need to pay for that computing overhead. As you point out, it is true that native apps are only built for salesforce – but this should be an advantage. Native apps (should) have tighter integration and a more seamless user experience with salesforce than an App that works with 10 other cloud solutions and needs to morph multiple UXs. Lastly, native apps should be faster as data transfers do not require round trips to external servers.

    Without a doubt, there are exceptions to this. The biggest is that not all things can be built natively on the platform. Therefore there is not a comparison. Another would be that the Native app is not as feature rich – and this is certainly valid. But where a Native solution exists along side an off-platform solution, I would certainly list “Native?” in the top section of my comparison grid.

  4. To John Edward,
    There are a couple of points you might need to consider. There are some non native apps that are hybrid in that they work inside the Salesforce UI but are not native SFDC apps. Tighter integration is not necessarily a product of being a native application. These applications have a very simple and productized integration much like a native application where it is simply mapping fields and have a robust and secure method of data transfer between the applications. Salesforce requires some if not all of these new applications developed by their ISV partners to pass a rigorous Salesforce Security Certification as well. Finally, you mention it is less expensive to run these native applications. Some of these applications that process highly complex and large sets of data utilize their own secure and certified data storage solutions. This eliminates the cost of data overage charges from SFDC which in my experience can be quite large. Also, there are many instances where channel partners and resellers require access to the application but the cost of acquiring SFDC licenses or Community licenses for them would be prohibitively expensive. Thus in many cases, the cost of offering the non native application to their channel partners saves the client money as well….

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