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Understanding Salesforce App Cloud licensing

Salesforce App Cloud opens important doors to building new functionality into Salesforce. But it's important to read the fine print on licensing options.

When Salesforce launched AppExchange in 2005, the ethic was partnership.

The AppExchange is a storefront for third-party applications that can complement Salesforce functionality. Salesforce made it clear that it wasn't trying to build every application. Its core functionality is CRM, and it brought AppExchange to the portfolio to enable companies to integrate other, related functionality on top of Salesforce via third-party apps, including financials; workforce management; and configure, price, quote.

Today, the Salesforce AppExchange has blossomed beyond a startup project, with more than 3,000 listed applications. These applications integrate with Salesforce clouds and enable a variety of functionality.

But as the Salesforce platform develops, and particularly as the programming capabilities in Salesforce App Cloud expand, there is another way to build functionality into Salesforce: building apps on top of the platform. The Lightning framework, which encompasses other languages such as Force and Heroku, has enabled companies to use open code to build integrated functionality on top of Salesforce. This allows companies to accommodate particular business process requests, which can lead to greater efficiency and user productivity.

The SteelBrick configure, price, quote app is an example. This third-party app, which Salesforce then integrated fully into the platform in February, is designed to help salespeople develop sales contracts more efficiently by making the pricing quoting process more systematic and automated.

Salesforce edition pricing

But as with many technologies, features and capability can vary based on the price you're willing to pay. Salesforce App Cloud licensing editions vary in terms of capabilities.

With Employee Apps and Community Cloud, for example, functionality differs based on your purchased edition of Salesforce. With Unlimited Edition, you get a full-copy sandbox and premier support, but Enterprise Edition involves a fee. An application like this might involve crowdsourcing of sorts among employees, offering individual opinions for new products or design changes in current products and services based on real time options. The current list price is $25 per user per month.

Building apps on top of Salesforce enables companies to accommodate particular business process requests that improve efficiency and user productivity.

For applications to engage departments and improve process flow, Salesforce offers Apps Plus. This subscription pricing works similarly to Employee Apps and Community Cloud licensing, with the same differences between Enterprise and Unlimited Edition in terms of sandbox and Premier Support. The big difference between the two offerings is access to Objects, with Apps Plus offering 100 to only 10 for Employee Apps and Community Cloud licensing and cost at $75 per user per month. Useful applications here are multiple and might include managing human resource functions with approvals around paid time off, or project management functions with associated approvals and workflows. Any department seeking process automation with a mobile workforce could benefit here. It's a business process management tool at a fraction of the cost of more comprehensive tools.

Salesforce offers Heroku for building customer-facing applications. Pricing is listed at $4,000 per month per company. With Heroku, the possibilities are endless. Heroku apps collect customer data in real time, and the data can be made actionable within the business' Salesforce instance.

Applications that interact directly with customers enable an amazing amount of automation when connected directly to the company's Salesforce instance. A Heroku application that enables a customer to purchase a product or service directly can alert sales and marketing teams to buying trends in real time. This data collection might lead to product and service bundling. The same data can drive hiring and growth decisions and alert fulfillment that a product needs to be reordered. A service organization maintaining properties with a mobile workforce might benefit from a Heroku app that assigns work orders based on geolocation and the ability to log details of service-level agreement fulfillment. When connecting a Heroku application to Salesforce, the information can be routed and acted upon by anyone holding a Salesforce license within the business, a process automation engine from customer through to fulfillment and accounting.

Heroku promises scalability as the organization grows, but pricing might confuse the everyday business owner. Checking on the pricing as the scaling grows is a wise move for any business investing in deployment of cloud apps. The platform will be consistently maintained and upgraded, allowing for consistently ensured compliance as laws change, but that comes at a price.

The final offering is Salesforce App Cloud Unlimited. Essentially, the licensing structure is a bundled package for both internal and customer-facing applications. Pricing is available on demand from Salesforce. Developing an organization-wide strategy around this type of purchase is well advised as a precursor to buying. Salesforce applications can transform an organization, but shouldn't be thought to be a fix-all. As with any Salesforce undertaking, it's best to customize the technology to optimize business processes, not to purchase the product in the hope that it alone will transform the business.

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