The Salesforce ecosystem is an absolute behemoth. Salesforce employs around 70,000 people and is the biggest employer in Silicon Valley. They also have a market cap of a quarter of a trillion – pretty impressive, right?
However, when you look at the Salesforce ecosystem, there are 15M people involved in Salesforce’s community who work as end users, in consultancies, and for app companies. The Salesforce economy is also predicted to generate revenues of six times that of Salesforce by 2026.
What Is the Salesforce Ecosystem?
So, what exactly is the Salesforce ecosystem? And why does it exist?
Well, Salesforce is often affectionately referred to as the “Mothership”, as they are at the center of everything to do with this ecosystem they have created. Salesforce sells SaaS software, starting with CRM back in 1999, and has since developed and acquired its way to owning a huge catalog of software – everything from CRM to chatbots to marketing automation, and with its latest acquisition, commission calculation software for sales reps.
Salesforce has always had one focus: to support its customers in growing their businesses by providing software that can increase customer revenues and productivity and make their customers happier. To properly focus on its mission, Salesforce has created a community, or ecosystem, around its products to help support its customers.
Three main types of companies exist outside of Salesforce. You have consultancies that help implement Salesforce products and support their customers with ongoing maintenance. You have AppExchange partners who created apps. Whilst Salesforce has many products to support its customers, AppExchange partners create niche tools to help Salesforce users even further. This is the same model as Apple and the App Store or Google and the Play Store.
Finally, you have the individuals who work for Salesforce’s direct customers. These are internal Salesforce resources to help support the implementation. Ensuring that users are supported, the system is maintained, and new requirements are implemented.
Overarching all of this, you have a community that exists both online and in person: official and nonofficial Salesforce events, community meetups, Slack communities, and an active LinkedIn community. And this is what ties the whole Salesforce ecosystem together – it’s the people.
Before diving into ways you can maximize your career growth by navigating the Salesforce ecosystem, let’s take a closer look at each type of company and what part they play in the ecosystem.
As B2B software, such as Salesforce, AWS, or any other complex platforms, isn’t exactly plug and play like buying a consumer product such as Spotify, it needs to be implemented inside of businesses.
Big projects need to be spun up, requirements gathered, and developers hired to implement Salesforce into a business whose requirements will drastically change from one company to another. As Salesforce’s core focus isn’t to run professional service projects, Salesforce outsources this work to their network of partners, often referred to as Salesforce Consultancies or Solution Integrators (SIs).
Consultancies vary in size, from small teams of under five to large multinationals such as IBM, Deloitte, and Accenture. They also have varying focuses; some will exclusively focus on Marketing Cloud projects, whilst others will stick to core Sales and Service Cloud, and others will choose to focus on a range of different but complementing products.
At the end of 2022, there were just over 2,000 official Salesforce consultancies listed on the Salesforce AppExchange, with many other freelancers and non-official consultancies beyond this.
Salesforce End Users
But once a project has been completed and Salesforce has been successfully implemented into a business, the job isn’t over…
Depending on the size of your implementation and whether it’s 10 or 10,000 users, you will need individuals inside the organization to maintain the system, support users, and implement new requirements, features, or products. This is probably the biggest subset of the Salesforce ecosystem, as Salesforce has 150,000 customers, and there will be individuals throughout these organizations running the systems.
The size of the teams and the roles required will vary from company to company and will generally depend on the size and the complexity of the org. For example, a small Salesforce org with 50 licenses and not much custom code could sustain itself with one Salesforce Administrator. Whilst an org with 200 users, custom code, integrations, and multiple Salesforce clouds may require an architect, developer, and admin.
Finally, we have Salesforce AppExchange companies, which I like to refer to as a hive of innovation within the Salesforce ecosystem. Salesforce ISVs are often founded by entrepreneurial individuals within the ecosystem who spot a gap in Salesforce’s products and seek to fill this with their creations.
A perfect example of this is Conga, one of the original apps on the AppExchange, which pioneered the documentation generation space and was founded by two individuals who spotted a gap in the market. Conga was later merged with Apttus in a deal worth $715M.
Salesforce ISVs are big business, and you will find many of Salesforce’s dedicated solutions that have hundreds of employees supporting the product from behind the scenes. These companies often have more classic SaaS roles than dedicated Salesforce roles, such as Account Executives, Alliances Managers, Solution Engineers, and customer support roles, which are very similar to Salesforce themselves.
Have a quick search on the AppExchange, and you will find a variety of products from eSignature, backup solutions, form tools, and everything in between.
But overarching all of these types of companies, and something that has become almost synonymous with the Salesforce ecosystem, is the community of people surrounding Salesforce.
It’s quite hard to define exactly what the Salesforce community is. However, my interpretation is the natural network that exists between these companies and the individuals working at them.
Through various physical and online communities – such as the Trailblazer Community, monthly user groups worldwide, connections formed on LinkedIn, Salesforce community events, and official Salesforce events, such as Dreamforce – Salesforce has facilitated a huge community around its products.
These initiatives were mainly set up for people to meet each other, talk about Salesforce, and learn from one another. Although these events still serve their purpose (and serve it very well), the Salesforce community has almost taken on a life of its own. Facilitating real relationships outside of just Salesforce and making this technology not only about your day-to-day job but also helping others switch careers and ensuring others feel supported in their journey.
A great example of this is Salesforce Saturdays, founded by Stephanie Herrera, who set up a weekly meetup which quickly caught on all around the world for those interested in Salesforce to meet up and learn from one another on a Saturday. Stephanie’s story was showcased at Dreamforce ‘17, where she was brought on stage with Marc Benioff, CEO & Co-Founder of Salesforce.
Maximize Your Career Growth With Salesforce
The fact that a tight-knit community exists within Salesforce means that it can massively help with your career growth. The community is made up of people from all types of backgrounds who are ready to assist you and potentially find you your next role. So here are my top five tips to ensure you get the most out of the Salesforce ecosystem…
1. Make Sure You Understand It
Although this article has given you some insight into the different companies, roles, and how everything works together, we are just scratching the surface. Each company serves a purpose and often partners with other companies in the ecosystem. This means that no matter your role, there is a good chance you will be interacting with other types of ecosystem companies.
Make sure to learn from other individuals, ask questions, be inquisitive and learn as much as you can about the ecosystem from others.
2. Join Physical and Online Communities
Monthly Salesforce user groups are the best way to get engaged with your local Salesforce community. These Salesforce-sponsored events are hosted in over 1,000 locations around the globe, so make sure to check out your nearest one on the Trailblazer website.
You can also join many online communities on Slack or Discord, or by connecting with others on LinkedIn or Twitter.
3. Start Giving Back to the Community
Whether this is by presenting at a local user ground, helping people online on the Trailblazer Community, or simply answering questions on a Slack channel, this kind of generosity does not go unnoticed in the Salesforce ecosystem and can help build your brand and increase your network exponentially.
4. Plan Your Careers in Advance
I would always advise those ambitious individuals in the ecosystem to plan their careers years in advance. If you are looking to become a superstar Solution Architect or perhaps move into solution engineering for Salesforce themselves, there will be certain career paths you can take which will make your dream job more achievable.
For example, it is often recognized that to become a Salesforce Certified Technical Architect, which is the hardest Salesforce certification on offer, you need to work for a Salesforce consultancy to be exposed to very complex Salesforce implementations.
5. Enjoy Yourself
Finally, make sure to enjoy yourself and not take Salesforce too seriously! Whilst we all need to ensure we are operating to the best of our abilities in our roles and not forget that we are working on systems that cost huge sums of money, the Salesforce ecosystem is quite a casual place, and people like to have fun!
The Salesforce ecosystem is a crazy place, from the Foo Fighters dancing around at events with Salesforce mascots to the sometimes obsessive nature of Salesforce professionals collecting stickers and plushies.
But it’s also an amazing career opportunity that has helped many level up their lives. Hopefully, this post has given you some insight into the vast world of the Salesforce ecosystem and has also shown you how to navigate it.