As a standalone platform, Salesforce is amazing. It has countless features, with new ones always being developed and released regularly. But these new and existing features are designed to work for all businesses in any sector. Because of this, many companies using Salesforce tend to find that they need something a little more tailored to their specific business needs. And this is where Salesforce Apps and Integrations come in.
Salesforce Apps vs. Salesforce Integrations
So what’s the difference between getting a Salesforce app and an integration?
Salesforce apps are built using native Salesforce tools. Whether these tools use configuration or apex code, the apps are still all built within Salesforce itself. This gives apps a variety of advantages over integrations, as some of the features that have been used to create the app will actually improve naturally as Salesforce updates these features. However, this can also be a negative, as it means Salesforce will still have an element of control over the app, thus restricting what the app can achieve within Salesforce.
Salesforce apps are downloaded and installed straight into your Salesforce instance and are usually then accessed via the app menu. Some apps can be free, like a lot of the apps created by Salesforce labs (Salesforce’s own app developers). But a vast majority do require payment, usually in the form of a subscription.
Integrations, on the other hand, are developed externally to Salesforce, giving the company that created them the freedom to use whatever tools, platform, or programming language it likes. So in most cases, this frees the company up from the restrictions that a Salesforce app might have. However, this also means that if any updates or fixes are needed, it is up to the company to support any requests, which sometimes can be a lengthy process.
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How Do They Work?
When it comes to integrations, they tend to work independently of Salesforce and usually by receiving and/or passing data through an API connection with Salesforce. The range of information that can be extracted from Salesforce is huge, meaning very unique and powerful tools can be built externally and then integrated into Salesforce. With the API connection, most integrations are set up to sync automatically, and the sync timing usually isn’t longer than a minute or two. But this really depends on the amount of data that is being synced across the systems.
Due to the adaptability and sheer scope of Salesforce, there are integrations and apps that do almost anything! Panaya’s Release Dynamix for Salesforce, for example, is a Salesforce integration with a huge number of features that can really help your Salesforce instance, especially when it comes to development and configuration.
Apps are built using Salesforce features. So they essentially use everything that is available to you already, but they are modified and set up for you to use for a specific purpose straight away.
There are two main types of Salesforce app: the Managed Package and Unmanaged Package. The features in a managed package cannot be changed or adapted but can be updated, whereas an unmanaged package is like an open source app allowing you to do whatever you like! However, since unmanaged packages cannot be updated, you’ve got to stick with what you have. And if there is an updated version, you’ll need to uninstall your current one and then install the new one.
Where Can I Find Them?
The Salesforce appexchange is where you can find a vast array of apps that you can install. It works much like the iPhone or Android stores, where you have different sections for different uses, the most popular apps, and a rating/review system. It’s really worth having a look around and checking out the reviews of the apps you’re looking to install, as there are usually a few options for each type of app out there.
With integrations, they can be a little more difficult to find, as you will need to know roughly what kind of integration you are looking for. For example, if you’re looking for impact analysis tools, Panaya’s RDx can be found via Google, and you can find out all you need to know about it on Panaya’s own website. But if you are looking at integrating a system you already use, like a marketing or project management system, you will find most of these systems have created their own integration with Salesforce, which are usually advertised on their website. If there is no existing integration in place, you still have other options, such as using a third-party integration tool like Zapier, which works by basically taking data from one system and mapping it to Salesforce.
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The great thing about these integration systems is that they tend to be very simple to set up and use. However, they can also be an expensive solution. This is due to pricing being dependent on the amount of data that is passed across Salesforce and the integrated system. And, as time goes on, the amount of data and the amount you need to pay can really add up. Another option is to create the integration yourself (if you have the resources) or hire a Salesforce development partner to create it for you. This way will typically cost more initially but cost a lot less in the long run.
Things to Consider
So now you’ve found and installed a whole bunch of amazing apps and have some other great systems integrated into your Salesforce org. What can go wrong?
Well, each time you add a Salesforce integration or Salesforce app, you add another process that is viewing and potentially manipulating data, whether that be externally or within Salesforce itself. This can cause a number of issues if you have installed too many, such as slow system response, due to the sheer amount of data being processed. So getting rid of a couple apps or integrations that don’t really get used will probably improve overall efficiency.
You may also find data that is out of date and in some serious cases corrupted. This tends to be because you have information entered in one system and different information in the corresponding fields in Salesforce. Most integrations have a setting as to which system is the master, so this would be the best place to look if you are experiencing these kinds of problems.
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Salesforce integrations and Salesforce apps can be really helpful, allowing your system to be taken to the next level, whether it be for functionality, security, or analysis. However, it is always worth assessing whether the integration or app is key to your business, especially if you are looking to embed multiple ones into Salesforce. This way, you can avoid running into any of the troubles we mentioned earlier.
Keeping a clean and efficient system should be paramount when considering whether or not you need a specific integration or app. We even have a post dedicated to this very concern in our “How to Clean Your Salesforce Org” series, which will help you decide if an integration/app is vital or simply clogging up your system!