Salesforce Labs – Inspiration, Launch Pad, Problem Solvers on the AppExchange
Happy #AppNovember! Be sure to check out that tweet & share to get a cool Salesforce Labs Beaker!
As a Salesforce Admin you likely heard about the AppExchange, if you haven’t the AppExchange Marketing team is going to be very sad.
For those who have been hiding under a rock the last few years, the Salesforce AppExchange is Salesforce’s app store. It’s filled with free and paid apps developed by organizations everywhere. AppExchange apps should be one of your first steps when planning on a solution for a problem. There may be a free app out there which boom instant success! There may be a paid app which will require your organization to weight the pros and cons between buying vs building.
In addition to free and paid apps, there are two flavors of Apps on the AppExchange. These are Managed and Unmanaged apps. An Unmanaged app you’re able to see how the app is put together including apex code, visualforce pages, custom objects and so forth. However, with an Unmanaged package you’re responsible for handling any Apex errors. You’re also responsible for doing your own updates as the app versions change.
A Managed app is the opposite. Updates can be automatically pushed from the vendor. Any issues with their Apex code and tests don’t impact your capability to deploy changes. The flip side is that you’re unable to see any Apex code.
Now that you’ve had your AppExchange primer, let’s talk about a class of Apps from Salesforce Labs.
What is Salesforce Labs on the AppExchange?
So just what is Salesforce Labs on the AppExchange? Well to quote from one of their apps: “Salesforce Labs is a program that lets salesforce.com engineers, professional services staff and other employees share AppExchange apps they’ve created with the customer community. Inspired by employees’ work with customers of all sizes and industries, these apps range from simple utilities to entire vertical solutions. Salesforce Labs apps are free to use, but are not official salesforce.com products, and should be considered community projects – these apps are not officially tested or documented.”
Well that’s accurate and insanely wordy. Basically, Salesforce Labs are apps designed and developed by Salesforce employees as side-projects. They’re not officially support as Salesforce products. It’s more community open source.
Just like regular apps, Salesforce Labs can be Managed or Unmanaged. The grand majority of Salesforce Labs Apps are unmanaged, which means we get to see everything about how it’s built! Some apps are Managed. The most common scenario are for Lightning Component apps which requires the app to be managed. In many of these managed app circumstances, a public repository like GitHub is created so you can still see how the app is made.
“So that’s great Brian. There’s more apps on the AppEchange. So what Brian?” I hear you say. Salesforce Labs are the perfect apps for every Admin. They can inspire you. They can give you a launch pad foundation. The can instantly solve a problem. Because these are designed by Salesforce employees, I have a strong confidence they were developed with best practices and good design in mind.
Next I’m going to give you an example just how a Salesforce Labs App can inspire you, be your foundation, or solve your immediate problem.
Be Inspired with Salesforce Labs
One of the great things about Salesforce Labs Apps is that you can be inspired. I often use these apps as learning resources. I’m not actually installing the app to solve a problem I have now, but I can see how that app was built and learn from it.
ListView Plus is an example app in this category. It is a Lightning Component which is something I have no had a chance to really learn how to build myself. Having examples of what you can do with a Lightning Component is extremely beneficial. I could look at this app and think “Oh, I didn’t know you could do something like that with a Lightning Component. I bet I could use something similar for project x.”
Just by looking at the app can be inspirational. In my circumstance I needed more. I needed a learning example. Because ListView Plus is a Lightning Component, it is a managed app. This means if I installed it, I wouldn’t see how the Lightning Component is put together. Very disappointing. But wait, under the customization guides section there’s a link to “Open source GitHub location!” For those folks who are not familiar with GitHub or BitBucket, these are places where you can post your code and configuration. You can make your posting public and you can keep tracks of version. So despite the fact ListView Plus is a managed package, I could go to its GitHub Project and see just how the Lightning Component is made.
Now I have both example of the code and a functional app to use. Perfect!
Next, how Salesforce Labs can be your Launch Pad.
Let Salesforce Labs Be Your Launch Pad
Many Salesforce Labs Apps are Unmanaged apps. Everything built is visible to you. Sometimes, you may find an app that is simply fantastic, but doesn’t quite get you where you need to go. No worries! Your Unmanaged Salesforce Labs App, will be your launch pad for your rocket to success. Okay, terrible metaphor. What I mean is you can start with the Salesforce Labs App and make changes. This can include new objects, custom fields, and even automation like Process Builder, Flow, or Apex Code.
An example of this kind of App is Survey Force. This is a pretty nifty app that let’s you build and send surveys from your salesforce org. It uses a public site for people to use to answer a survey. It’s a pretty great app – especially when you’re on the budget. It got me most of the way there, but not completely.
This app didn’t instantly solve my problem perfectly. I needed to make my own page for the surveys responses. An Unmanaged app let’s you see the configuration, so I just blatantly copied the setup and made my changes on a new page. I used a new page to prevent my changes from getting overwritten when the app receives an update. Next, I needed some automation to send out the surveys, some custom formula fields to support some reports & dashboard I needed… before you know it I had an App that completely solved my problem without having to build from scratch.
That’s pretty darn awesome if you ask me. Sometimes though, you need an app that solves a problem right now!
Salesforce Labs Solves Immediate Problems
Sometimes you have a problem that you just need to solve RIGHT NOW. Salesforce Labs apps are there for you too!
One example is the Clean Your Room! App. This is a set of Salesforce Dashboards and Reports. It’s also one of my favorite concepts for data consistency. The concept is simply. You want to make sure your data is correct. Things like an open Opportunity with a close date in the past is just a no no. It’s plaguing your world. It’s causing havoc in your forecasting. With Clean Your Room you display each Opportunity Owner with a total count of how many open Opportunities with a past close date they have. Orgs who are using Chatter can display the Opportunity Owner’s photo in the dashboard. Next, we schedule the Dashboard to go to everyone in Sales including management and executive management. Good sales managers will have this dashboard open at the start of their team meetings. Soon, you’ll find your data is simply cleaner.
I simply love the concept behind this app. I wrote a blog about this concept over at Better Partners. This app has both been an immediately problem solver as well as an inspiration. What better way to get users to have accurate data than peer pressure. I had one VP of Sales call this their “Dashboard of Shame.” It worked wonders. There’s been many orgs where I simply used the App as-is. It created all the reports and the dashboard. I just had to do some minor tweaking. Hours of work done in a few minutes. That’s awesome.
There are a number of other report and dashboard apps out there. Even if they don’t fit your need 100% if it gets you most of the way there it’s already saving your time.
Salesforce Labs Recap & Conclusion
There’s an example for how Salesforce Labs can be your inspiration, your launch pad, and an immediate problem solver. They’re worth checking out.
Want to learn more? Watch this AppExchange presentation from Dreamforce 2018. I was one of the panelists. The session is named: How #AppyAdmins Solve Problems: AppExchange Solutions They Can’t Live Without
Make sure you follow Salesforce Labs on Twitter to get updates on new apps and news.
Do you have a great use for Salesforce Labs App? Contact me and tell me about it or add a comment below!
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