MAY THE SALESFORCE BE WITH YOU
Updated: Feb 4
What are the benefits and costs of using Salesforce? Why do businesses need decent corporate cloud software? Volodymyr Babin, Delivery Manager, certified Salesforce specialist with almost 2 decades of experience from Lviv, Ukraine answers these and other Salesforce-related questions.
Hi Volodymyr, thanks for joining us for the interview. Wow, you look quite formal for an online chat. This is quite rare these days, very neat!
Thanks, Marta. I was wearing a suit for my first job, just because I loved the way I looked.
What was your first job?
I’ve been working in IT for almost 2 decades. First major job at a company providing software for big institutional investors like banks, investment banks, pension funds and other large institutions which could afford expensive software. We were building a wall-to-wall investment management software for the stock market, involving all investment activities for big institutional investors and banks. I was working as a software developer in the accounting department using APL (this was useful for financial matrix calculations in investments, but was quite an ancient technology). Later on, I switched to Java development, as we had some work on a tax calculation model for an Australian stock investment company for about another year.
What inspired you to learn how to build and use Salesforce products?
Salesforce was a nascent technology and the time to market was unparalleled by other tech. Eight years ago I was one of the very few people in Europe to work in this environment. My friends had no idea what Salesforce was back then. But I saw lots of potential with the platform and in no time Salesforce became the #1 СRM provider not only in the USA but globally. Currently, I am a Delivery Manager at TechMagic and help my company expand the Salesforce unit and manage talents. Also as of 2021, it’s on the list of Top corporate cloud vendors.
What are the benefits and drawbacks of Salesforce?
Here are the main benefits:
Customisation and flexibility
Let me clarify the last point. Salesforce was the pioneer who introduced the concept of a well-known aggregator of apps (e.g. Google store, Apple store). The platform’s AppExchange expands its possibilities and you can easily find the exact solution you need based on the used-case you are facing. No need to build a function from scratch, everything is represented in the Salesforce AppExchange. This brings customisation and flexibility to the next level.
“The key advantage of Salesforce is that your time to market shortens 3-5 times.”
Back in 2014, I saw that Salesforce meets the client's quest for efficiency and delivered results within a relatively quick timeframe. No need to spend years spinning up the environment, no large DevOps adjustments, researching which technology is better, and thinking about how to store data. It is mostly pre-defined in Salesforce. We talk about composability in software, with Salesforce you have all the building blocks to make your product work fast and generate significant added value to the client. One of the greatest advantages is that security is inherent in the Salesforce cloud architecture. The developer does not have to think about this at every step of their build.
As for imperfections, it makes sense to give a little bit of explanation:
High costs. Licenses are not cheap and if you are not taking the maximum out of the subscription, it is not effective. Sometimes when developing a solution you might need to use different cloud systems that can increase costs. Salesforce is universal but to a certain extent.
UX/UI. The platform’s UI used to be quite undeveloped for some time. But they’ve recently rolled out lightning web components that make a big UX difference. The platform is becoming more user-friendly and interactive.
Data calculation limitations. Some of the business needs should be addressed by creating some Heroku app or using an external service. The platform has a multi-tenant architecture that blocks calculation capacities. So you have to be aware of how much calculation you use (CPU time, heap size etc). For example, Salesforce doesn't work with the FTP protocol. So to interact with the FTP we write an external service using a Heroku app that transcribes and parses the data into the format the Salesforce can receive. Recently we worked on a file that would represent a passing ticket for a product similar to iWallet. It had to be signed and Salesforce does not have algorithms to do that. So we created a Heroku app that would use Java to sign it. Salesforce functions should be taking care of this issue soon though, however that is not generally accessible right now.
If the licenses are not cheap, is it cost-effective for a small or midsize business to work on Salesforce?
Let’s look from the hiring perspective. If a company decides to go with Salesforce to build the customised software it primarily hires developers and QAs. No tech admins and minimal DevOps specialists are needed. So it is easier to manage and lead this ‘leaner’ team. Because of that more and more big enterprises are switching to Salesforce. Licenses are tied per user per month. If your company is say 10 000 people and 100 of them are using Salesforce licenses, it’s very cost-effective. If your team is 10 000 people and all of them need a license, it doesn't look so cheap. Again, there are different license types. For instance, if you need access only to the Community Cloud only, the cost is small compared to the benefit. If you are using a full-fledged Sales or Service Cloud for a large number of users, it might be better to go with your solution. However, then you must consider the time-to-market will be longer with custom. So company leaders better start with evaluating their business needs.
As for smaller companies, they don't have economies of scale in their organisation. When hiring people to manage a data center, the company must recruit multi-role teams that can handle machinery/physical equipment and security support. Sustaining and maintaining the system costs money. By contrast, Salesforce provides access to servers and sophisticated infrastructure with no need to spend rescues on keeping the system running. This saves HR/recruitment budgets drastically.
What would be your key advice to teams in South Africa and abroad looking to implement Salesforce?
The demand for Salesforce is high globally, including in South Africa. At this moment the supply of developers is lower than the needs of businesses. For a large Enterprise looking to implement Salesforce long-term, in an environment where your competitors are doing the same, then time-to-market is key. So I suggest companies offshore candidates from the countries that lie within the same time zone, Ukraine in particular for African countries. There are cultural differences, but I believe they are easy to manage with regular and transparent communication. Communication is the backbone of any cooperation.
You should start with finding the consultant that will walk you through all the pros and cons of Salesforce for your business. It's impossible to grasp all the complexities that are happening within Salesforce without structured guidance. For instance, if you are looking to implement a difficult pricing model for goods you are selling, sometimes it is better to go with CPQ only and there are specific cases when this solution is not effective. The Salesforce ecosystem is full of subtleties, so you need advice from a practical point of view.
What types of industries do you see Salesforce being most useful for?
Customer acquisition is key in financial services, and salesforce helps you to get there first. Salesforce is especially useful for financial services companies looking to build new products and services all the time. Scale and time-to-market is key, and often Salesforce has the solutions in Financial Cloud, pre-built.
Whenever you need a good CRM system, Salesforce can bring value. Especially if your industry is dealing with sales and supplier management. Let’s look at financial enterprises as an example. Companies from this industry usually cover their internal operations, work with clients, accounting calculations, investments with the help of advanced cloud CRM.
How easy is it for an enterprise to scale up their internal team and get people certified?
Salesforce did a great job of creating a knowledge center. You can find everything you need to start building on the Salesforce platform or learn about it using Trailhead resources. So it’s quite easy to get around Salesforce if you are already a technical specialist or a software engineer. Salesforce is using the APEX language that is very similar to Java. It’s even less complicated than Java since you have only one realisation of a list (no array lists and linked lists) with only one data structure.
For a person with three to four years of software development experience, it will take around one year to get two main Salesforce certifications, e.g.: platform Developer I and the Appbuilder. Of course, there is a lot to grasp and the passing scores are quite high.
Does the high passing score mean that the Salesforce people are limiting the number of licenses?
When I was preparing to take the test I didn’t have problems with booking a time slot - it was available two months before the passing date. I don't think the Salesforce team makes it harder for us to get certified. On the contrary, their knowledge base is filled with useful articles to help them get ready for the exam. It’s in their interest to have more certified specialists.
Does Salesforce have a future in the top CRM enterprise of the 2020s and beyond?
The Salesforce ecosystem is constantly upgraded and developed. There are three major upgrades of the platform per year. You don't have to check whether you are up to date with the software you are working on. Saves a lot of effort.
We talked about data calculation limitations and that aspect is also changing. Salesforce developers have introduced Salesforce functions that mimic AWS lambda functions, so that one can run specific calculations in any language: Java, Node JS, Python, etc. And all works within the platform.
Another update is a new cloud for better handling of the CPQ functionality, which is being introduced.
And last, but not least, Salesforce keeps acquiring new companies and thus expands its capabilities. In 2021 Salesforce bought Slack for quite a big chunk of money… Among my mates, we had thought that Slack licenses would cost less for Salesforce users, but bummer...nothing changed. I think Salesforce people might create a connectivity cloud on top of Slack, though currently, I noticed no changes in that field. From the perspective of their presence in the service business strategy, the acquisition makes sense. Pandemic and work-from-home lifestyles intensified competition in the enterprise software market.
We can see that Salesforce is only getting started in Europe. There is massive demand on Ukrainian resources and software devs are switching to Salesforce rapidly. This is a key indicator for us that Salesforce is only growing.
Thank you, Volodymyr for your time and lots of insider’s insights about Salesforce advantages, future, and areas of development.