How to Build Apps on Salesforce: App Cloud Overview

Customer Relationship Management can be tricky to get right because every business is different. The whole point of implementing a CRM system is to get your entire business operating as one cohesive unit, so a one-size-fits-all CRM is not likely to get very far. A platform like Salesforce is designed with this understanding. There are different solutions for different challenges – marketing activities, different sales functions, online commerce, your service operations, and IT department needs. These solutions can be chopped and changed, used in different combinations, and complement your current set-up  to meet the needs of your enterprise. 

If this still does not meet your requirements, Salesforce offers tools to build your own solution. In this article, we explore the Salesforce app platform, what it features, how to use it, what’s great about it, and what’s not.

Salesforce App Cloud Overview

Salesforce App Cloud is designed to enable you to quickly and easily develop and deploy your own business apps that will work on the Salesforce platform. It provides tools for everything from building websites, apps to data visualization tools, IoT solutions, and data encryption tools. You can use these to build custom functionality to help you connect better with your customers, automate processes within your operations, and integrate your data sources using APIs. 

The Tools Provided by Salesforce App Cloud Platform

AppExchange

Think of AppExchange as you would the Google Playstore or Apple’s app store. Salesforce started this public marketplace of Salesforce-compatible apps way back in 2005, making it a trailblazer for such public directories of apps. 

Force.com

This tool enables the development of complete websites, web apps, and other applications using a Force.com programming language that is similar to Java and Visualforce, a language based on XML that you can use to create HTML pages.

Heroku Enterprise

This is a cloud-based platform meant to support application development. Your programmers can collaborate on the platform, run apps on it, and manage resources and users. Heroku supports several programming languages, including Ruby on Rails, Java, and Python.

Lightning

Lightning makes app development for businesses easy. It features tools for building apps and pages by dragging and dropping elements, tools for integrating data from your Content Management System, and more. 

Lightning Process Builder

The Process Builder gives you the flexibility to bring automation to business processes without using code. It provides a library of drag-and-drop elements that you can configure and use to model your workflows. 

Lightning Connect

This is meant to make your data siloed in different places visible to your users by giving you integration options that make it accessible to your entire organization. Lightning Connect uses tools to fetch and visualize this information in real time.

Lightning Schema Builder

This gives you the ability to see the data model underlying your Salesforce implementation in real time. Seeing the links between the data without such a solution may require complicated solutions with complex code.

Thunder

Thunder is a big data processing solution which provides high-volume processing and response capabilities to billions of events per day. This enables your business to support operations in real time. Data can come from different sources, including websites, apps, or smart machines and devices. So the tool enables you to handle things like IoT applications, and use cases involving data streaming. 

Shield

Shield provides additional security by encrypting data while maintaining the data’s usability. This means you can still search and use the data in your workflows while it is encrypted. Shield helps your business meet compliance requirements regarding the protection and handling of data.

Trailhead

This is simply a set of guides and tutorials to help you get familiar with the tools that are used for app development on Salesforce. The tutorials and guides are organized in modules that, when completed, you can receive badges for. 

Benefits of Using Salesforce App Cloud

Improved Customer Experience

After the initial setup of your CRM system, your business needs may evolve. Or your newfound CRM capabilities might reveal additional needs that require some changes. Whatever the case, having the ability to build your own custom functionality means you will always be able to serve your customers more efficiently. This versatility translates to the customer experience and ensures your business operations are always in tune with their needs.

Take Advantage of Mobile Applications

Having mobile apps does more than just make life more convenient for your clients. It gives you a crucial source of data that can help you improve your relationship with clients, and give you the ability to meet their needs better. 

Business Process Automation

With the tools you get from Salesforce App Cloud, you can dramatically improve efficiency, save on time and costs, and get results much faster, using a lot less effort. This relieves the cognitive load on your staff and enables them to focus more on activities which yield higher value and require human input.

Deeper Integration

With the data integration capabilities available, you can make data easy to visualize and increase access across your whole organization. This results in smoother interdepartmental coordination, faster response times, and better overall productivity. You can also hook up your applications to databases and cloud services using the APIs available. 

Salesforce App Cloud Pricing and Plans

Salesforce App Cloud has a tiered pricing structure. You get a $25 per user monthly subscription for the Starter plan, and $100 for each user for the Plus alternative. The Unlimited version requires the vendor to provide a quote. The Starter and Plus plans are both billed on an annual basis. 

How to Create an Application in Salesforce

Set your aims

Define the goal you want to achieve very early on in the process. Simplicity is a valuable characteristic in apps. Your users will not want an app cluttered with confusing functionality. Setting a clear goal will help you stay on the path as you build your app.

Research and mock up a concept

Once you have set out what you want to achieve, whether it is visualizing certain information for your users or solving some troublesome task, you can research how others have approached the issue, look at what works and what doesn’t, and, with those lessons, sketch a mock-up of your concept. Tweak it until you are satisfied, bounce ideas off others and get their feedback if possible. 

Pick your tools

Once your concept is ready, you can now start building your app. For that, you need tools. What toolset you choose will depend on your skillset. You can use low-code solutions if you are not a programmer, like Salesforce Platform Mobile. You can simply drag and drop elements and watch your app take shape. Choose the tools that match your skill set. 

Build out your concept

You’ve done your research, developed your mock-up, and selected your development environment. The next step is implementation. Some elements may not be easy to create using low or no-code solutions. In this case, you can hand off those bits to developers and create the rest using your solution, and then integrate them. 

Test

Before you release your new app, make sure it undergoes rigorous testing. Fix any bugs, and ensure the solution is working the way you intended before you launch it. A buggy app will only make your users lose trust, get frustrated, and leave your app. So ensure you’ve done your due diligence before letting your users try it. 

Release

Once you are satisfied with your testing, and you’ve worked out any issues the app might have had, you can now go on to publish it. Salesforce Platform Mobile has a Publisher that will enable you to release your app on the Apple App Store, or the Google Play Store.

Get feedback and update

At the end of the day, it is your users’ opinions that will tell you how well the app is doing. Pay close attention to their feedback, be proactive and request it, and be open to their suggestions. Make any changes you feel will improve the app. Your users will appreciate it and your solution will only get better. 

Salesforce App Cloud Pros & Cons

PROS CONS
AppExchange provides plenty of ready-made paid and free apps and solutions. With the number of Salesforce apps available, it can be difficult to identify exactly whether one might fit your needs before you build your own
Lightning App Builder cuts development time by providing reusable objects and elements With the number of features offered, navigation can sometimes be difficult
Drag-and-drop app development capabilities for non-developers Trailhead guides and tutorials may sometimes not show you exactly what you have on your interface
Easy to collaborate on development projects Sheer number of features can be overwhelming and feel cluttered
Support for multiple open source languages like  Node, Ruby, Java, Python, PHP, and others.
Out-of-the-box security and encryption features
Easy automation of business processes and workflows
Scalability

Conclusion

For your CRM implementation to really work, you need a perfect fit between your business needs and the solution. For more common tasks, an out-of-the-box set-up might be sufficient for your needs. Simply get your staff up to speed on the new system, and, as long as there is little or no disruption to your operations, you can quickly start to enjoy the benefits. The real value of a CRM system, however, comes from its ability to transform your organization into one cohesive unit. The reality is that this implementation may require customizations to get the functionality you require. Salesforce App Cloud provides for these scenarios, with app development tools for everyone from experienced programmers to those with no development experience.