< Back to Main

How to Build and Launch an App on the Salesforce AppExchange

Why Build an App for the Salesforce AppExchange

Barry:  Tell me about when the app was published on the Salesforce AppExchange, and what the app does, and why Otonomo needed an app on the AppExchange. 

Omri: The Otonomo App for Salesforce is an out-of-the-box integration between Salesforce, the CRM leader, and Otonomo, the data hub for mobility. Together, they unleash the potential of vehicle data. In more direct terms, that means that the organization of all sales can merge vehicle data with customer data, to optimize the activity, and provide personalized services. With the Otonomo App for Salesforce among other things, you can get real-time vehicle status, as well monitor the location and status for entire fleets. The app works with multiple data sources, enabling the fleet manager of other operation orders to enroll vehicles easily, reduce cost, create new opportunities, and manage drivers and vehicles in one place, in Salesforce.

Barry: Before this app, were people doing this outside of Salesforce? Was there a lot of importing and exporting? What was the business case before the app was available for your users?

Omri: As a data company, we enable data for businesses. So most of our customers use and consume the data through an API or through the Otonomo platform, but now they can inject the data directly to the CRM.

Barry: So I guess the process beforehand would’ve been that they would use an API and it would go into a Google Excel, or maybe they would configure the API into Salesforce. The developers would have to work extra time on making sure that it would go into Salesforce properly, but now just with a few clicks of a button they have the app, which is in the AppExchange, makes it easier for people to start working, to even avoid using an API, I guess. Is that correct? Is this replacing the API?

Omri: Yes, exactly as you described it.

Barry: The use case sounds pretty simple. The goal is to make your customers’ lives easier, and now you also can use the AppExchange for people to find this data. So it’s not just for your customers, but for potential new customers to use as a distribution channel, if you will, for them to understand what your app is and the data you guys sell. Is this the first CRM integration your team has done?

Omri: Yes. This is the first integration that we have.

Launching an App on the AppExchange

Barry: Let’s talk about why you launched the app. We had talked about the importance of the ISV (independent software vendor). Was this something that you brought to the table? Is this something that when you were hired, you knew was going to be part of your initiative? Tell me about your story and launching this app on the AppExchange.

Omri: Good question. When they hired me, we didn’t think we were going to list it on the AppExchange, but a few weeks after I was hired, I got an invitation from the vehicle product and the CEO. And then they told me about the fleet going between Salesforce and Otonomo. I joined in and tried to understand using them together, how we can engage and create a partnership from this conversation. I really believe that the best home for data is a great information system. So a system without data won’t get you the insights that you’re looking for and data needs a home, a place that it can be played with and converted into insights. So it was a really quick understanding that the combination of the two, the data and flexible information system, will create a significant value for the businesses.

Barry: That’s super interesting. What did you think your role was going to be before you moved to this position? Did you think you were going to be more mostly working internally with your own customers, with your own employees?

Omri: So I was hired to manage the information system in Otonomo and focused on Salesforce internally. So I joined this conversation as a Salesforce expert and to bring value from this perspective, but in this process, I became the product manager of this (app) product, and got support from our VP of Product, Matan, that gave me the opportunity to take this to the next step.

Barry: I’ll be honest Omri, I wanted to focus on the app and the AppExchange, but just hearing your story is super interesting. And I think what would be interesting to our listeners. You can come in as a Salesforce expert and do so much more for your company. Not to take away from being a Salesforce expert and doing all the complicated things internally, but that you can also be working for external facing customers. Did your team need to hire another person to take on your workload because you became the product manager for this, or is this something that could complement your current workload of being the Salesforce expert and managing Salesforce internally?

Omri: As a startup, it’s really common that one employee can do both. In Otonomo and other companies that are similar to us, people get more responsibility and it’s very common.

Barry: So less hiring, but maybe more working more at night. So the teams that you worked with were the CEO and the product manager, and the VP of Product, Matan. Who else on your team or internally were you working with to launch this? 

Omri: It was a great collaboration between all the teams. We have a fleet and data expert in the sales department that helps us to understand the need from the customer point of view. I worked with a lot of directors of personal data products to understand what will be the best way to use our APIs, which features are most important, and how we can make it scalable. Since we needed a Salesforce developer for R and D, we used an official partner of Salesforce specializing in AppExchange development. I have to say that the work with the marketing team on the marketing material was the most fun for me, especially to work on the video.

Barry: Yeah, team marketing.

Omri: But we cannot do it without the full support of Ben, our founder and CEO who pushed it all the way in all channels.

Barry: As with a lot of digital transformation, you need the CEO’s support, but it was really cross channel. Who did you need to work with on the Salesforce team to launch this?

Omri: So basically Salesforce has a complete organization servicing its partners. They have built a comprehensive and data journey with many opportunities to promote your app, of course, the Salesforce ecosystem. It’s up to you to define how much time, energy and other resources you want to apply to this process. We work with the local and global teams, ranging from strategic advisor, IT partner, and industry leaders, which helped me to navigate the Salesforce hallways. Out of this scope, we got really great support from the product and the industry team at the global Salesforce, that shared with us the market understanding, the roadmap, thoughts, and more. We really created a relationship with those great people in the past year.

How to Add an App to Salesforce AppExchange 

Barry: Now we can go through the main steps to become part of the AppExchange, and a successful launch on the AppExchange.

Omri: We started with putting an effort into three parallel lines. The first one is from a need to product. We had to understand exactly the problems we are trying to solve with this app, who will want to use this, which personas, and what is the unique value. After understanding this part, we moved forward to translate the need into technical requirements and decided which features to focus on. The second was to initial the registration, to the partner portal of Salesforce, and to learn the Salesforce resources for this process, and there is a lot. So the last one is to kick off the process with the marketing and the legal teams, engage them with the relevant resources, the marketing guidelines and the partner agreements. 

Omri: My tips for this kind of project is before taking ownership of any task, make sure that you are the right person to do it in the company. And if not, let the best one do it. Everyone likes to do what they’re doing the best and the outcomes are better for sure.

What is the Salesforce AppExchange Security Review?

Barry: What was the timeline on that? Was this a 10-day project, a 10-month project, a 10-year project, give us a ballpark for that. 

Omri: So the process took a year, including the investigation and the design, development, security review, and marketing effort. I can give you a clue Barry that the security review is the longest part.

Barry: Good to know. And that security review, who’s managing that, meaning that Salesforce security on your product, or that’s your team doing a security protocol on Salesforce?

Omri: So actually it’s related to Salesforce and used to submit your application for security review and Salesforce. There is a group that I think from my understanding, it’s an outsource of Salesforce that reviews your application. And once they find something that fails, you fail, but they don’t give you the all fails at once. You correct them and come back. So next time you can submit an application after you correct everything from your perspective, but they find a new thing. So you want to be aware of that.

Barry: So that’s a long process… Submit it and wait 10 days, then you get back the response, submit it and wait 10 days, then you have to start all over, kind of that back and forth.

Omri: Yeah, I suggest when you manage this project, to put a buffer for six months at least, for the security review.

Barry: So if someone wants to launch something quickly, then they either need to submit a really simple product, or just not launch very quickly because it sounds impossible to do on AppExchange. It’s also good for the users of the AppExchange, that they know that they can trust it.

Omri: Exactly.

Barry Miller: So then what would be considered a success for your company? When did you guys launch on the AppExchange, or when did marketing at least launch the product?

Omri: So we’re excited on many levels regarding the potential benefits for our partnership with Salesforce, already from the wide adoption of the application and strong marketing and sales partnership. And of course the future technical development and a large satisfied customer base. 

Barry: So regular KPIs, just the further success of the company and did marketing also market this product to current customers? Was there anything there that you were aware of?

Omri: We notify all our current customers that they’re able to use and consume the data also in Salesforce, if they want to, and with all the relevant content, and we got great feedback on that.

Barry: I’ve learned a lot, specifically the six-month security thing. Tell me what else could you tell yourself if you started this initiative, let’s say tomorrow at a different company or even another app for the exchange, what do you wish you could tell yourself before you started this?

Omri: So before submitting the app for the security review, make sure that I checked many times that I didn’t forget any comments in the code lines, remove everything and then submit it like it’s ready without failing.

Who Should Put an App on the AppExchange?

Barry: So who should consider putting an app on the AppExchange?

Omri: I think every business that can bring value to other businesses and bring that value directly to the customer CRM should create an app for Salesforce.

Barry: So Salesforce definitely loves that also. Well Omri, this was awesome, I learned a lot about you, I learned a lot about the company and the AppExchange. I think hopefully other people that are interested in the AppExchange will get access to this podcast. If you’re listening to this and you have a friend that is maybe thinking about launching the AppExchange, you have to send this to them, so that they are prepared for the security review and so that they understand what they’re getting themselves into, but also to give them the confidence that it’s worth it in the end. So Omri thanks again, looking forward to staying in touch and congratulations on launching on the AppExchange.

Omri: Thank you, Barry, thank you so much. You are awesome. Thank you for having me here.