If Salesforce didn't invent delivering apps as managed cloud services, they certainly popularized the concept. Salesforce has enjoyed huge success over the past several years by delivering a portfolio of end-to-end sales tools delivered as managed cloud services, and spanning tasks ranging from customer relationship management (CRM) to help- and service- desk solutions and, most recently, advanced business analytics.
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As National Small Business Week draws to a close, the Salesforce announcement represents a significant opportunity for smaller companies to ally with the CRM behemoth to drive growth and revenue. The Salesforce AppExchange is among the world's biggest and most-used business app marketplaces, something that's helped the company attract a large ecosystem of partners comprised largely of value-add consultancies and ISVs delivering their own software solutions on top of the Salesforce software framework. This system has helped build what the company calls a "$389 billion Salesforce economy," and, to keep it driving forward, Salesforce announced a series of changes to its partner program this week.
To get a handle on the changes, we sat down with Leslie Tom, Vice President of AppExchange Marketing & Programs at Salesforce, at the Salesforce NY World Tour event in NYC this week. She broke down the AppExchange changes into three basic buckets:
- A new business model
- A new onboarding process, and
- New technology for developers
Image courtesy: US Small Business Administration
A New Business Model
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Perhaps the most attractive news to both existing Salesforce partners and newcomers is the company's announcement that it's lowering its baseline percent-net-revenue (PNR) model by 10 percent. "Effectively," said Tom, "this drops our cut from 25 percent to 15 percent." The company thinks that's noticeable and should serve to attract new partners who may be considering competing app frameworks.
The company has also revamped how it calculates a partner's "Trailblazer Score." This is how Salesforce ranks its partners' standing; it's similar to how many other companies tier their partners as gold, silver, and bronze. Tom thinks the Trailblazer system is better because, as she puts it, "it's a points-based system that offers more information about partner competency than just a gold or silver badge."
In the new model, Salesforce divides a partner's overall Trailblazer score into four basic categories, beginning with customer success. Tom says this is an empirical score based on customer reviews gleaned from the AppExchange, and that Salesforce has taken steps to ensure partners can't game the system with non-genuine reviews. Next, the company also scores product success via a rigorous testing process that partners must pass before their solutions will be made available on AppExchange. Tom says Salesforce pays special attention to both security and functional testing during this process to make sure customers will be safely using the latest underlying Salesforce technology. Even with such a testing process in place, Tom still estimates that Salesforce is adding an average of two new, fully tested partner apps to the AppExchange every day. The new model will also rate partners based on "team readiness," which Salesforce defines as "being calculated via Trailhead trails completed and certifications gained."
Trailhead is Salesforce's partner education resource and, while it's been around for a long time, Tom says the program is constantly being bolstered and fleshed out with new resources, especially as Salesforce is adding new technologies, such as its recent Einstein AI. Trailhead trails are free, so it's really up to the partner regarding how many points they score in this category. Finally, the new business model will also rank partners based on giving back, and that will be scored via the Pledge 1% program. Broken down, the Pledge 1% program challenges participants to donate one percent of their organization's equity, time, product, or a combination of all three to nonprofit organizations in need. The more successful they become in the program, the higher their Trailblazer score.
A New Onboarding Experience
According to Tom, going forward, the AppExchange Partner program will also feature a new onboarding experience for partners. The idea isn't just to grab more partners, she says, but to help partners move from concept to marketable product as quickly as possible. To do that, AppExchange now features a new onboarding wizard that gets new partners registered more quickly, with automated guides and checklist-style information gathering.
The company is also offering new payment tools on top of the basic payment tool package it already supports. The new tools include support for Single Euro Payment as well as Automatic Clearing House (ACH) transactions. There's also a new application programming interface (API) that enables partners to access the Salesforce Channel Order App, which allows partners to connect their own payment systems directly to Salesforce for better automation and fulfillment.
Lastly, the new onboarding experience includes a new AppExchange Partner Program dashboard. According to Tom, this is designed to let partners see exactly how they're doing on AppExchange, including in-progress onboarding requirements and their burgeoning Trailblazer score.
Some New Tech
Salesforce is focusing on developers with this leg of its new AppExchange stool. The new technology mainly revolves around a new Salesforce DX environment for programmers that, Tom says, will be available later this year. The new DX will add features around collaboration and control, a new IDE environment, and streamlined GitHub integration.
The other technology announcement is regarding Salesforce's Heroku platform, which lets developers streamline their app development process. It even lets them build their apps using the tools and language platforms they prefer, including support for Java, Node, PHP, Ruby, and more. This has been available for some time, but with the new AppExchange, partners will now get access to Heroku for free.
Finally, in the tradition of putting your money where your marketing is, Salesforce is doing just that with its Salesforce Ventures corporate investment group. As part of the revamped AppExchange, Salesforce Ventures is announcing a Salesforce Platform Fund that, Tom says, has allocated $100 million in new tech venture funding. The company is focused exclusively on investing in enterprise-oriented cloud companies; it has invested in more than 200 of these companies since 2009.
Tom didn't have much to say on exactly how young enterprise cloud companies can get the attention of Salesforce Ventures, other than to say they need to be part of the AppExchange program. She added that making philanthropy part of their core business model would be looked upon favorably by Salesforce.