• Emily Malone

Salesforce apps: buy vs. build

A dilemma: to buy a purpose-built app that already exists on the market, or to build a custom solution? Salesforce themselves absolutely rave about the AppExchange, where you can find a whole host of features that can be seamlessly integrated into your CRM. But what if you’ve been toying with the idea of building something a little more tailored instead of buying? Here are some things to think about before deciding what’s best for your business.


Is there a strict timeline you need to have certain features available by? And will there be consequences if these deadlines are missed?

Buying ready-made, out-of-the-box apps from the AppExchange means a faster implementation speed, less hassle, and less time. So if you’re in a rush to get these features rolled out into your business, buying might be your best bet. If it has to be built for you, it’s not going to be immediately ready so will take a little longer to implement. However, this might be okay with you if you’re willing to wait for something more complex and tailored to your business.


How complex are your requirements? And how skilled are your users? Are they used to Salesforce Classic or have they switched to Lighnting? Are you out-of-the-box? Do you have other apps installed? Are you new to Salesforce?

All these questions need to be answered to figure out the best route to go down. Talk to your users, evaluate your Admin skills, and consider how complex you really need your app to be when deciding whether to build or buy. 


One of the biggest differences between a custom build and an out-of-the-box third party solution is the initial cost. So which option is going to be cheapest?

Well, buying something ready-made means you’re not spending more time — and therefore, money — on building a tailored solution. Remember, building and maintaining a product is a lot of man hours. Developing a solution requires investing developer hours into the unique project before it can start to really bring value to your business. Things like designing the solution, building the architecture, creating documentation, testing to make sure it works the way you wanted it to, and finally deploying it. And on top of the initial development cost, you also need to think about maintenance costs. But again, this might all be worth it for a more tailored solution.


Imagine not having the appropriate technical support when something gets buggy or your team struggle to use the app. Not a great situation to be in, is it? This is a huge thing to think about when rolling out a new app for your business.

When buying a ready-made app, support should hopefully be available from the vendor and community. I mean it should, but I’d recommend always checking what support they offer before making a decision. It’s also important to note that buying a ready-made app won’t be tailor-made for you, so you might not receive the personalised touch you need due to little to no relationship with vendor. For many organisations, simply knowing they have someone to call should there be an issue, is peace-of-mind and worth the price of hiring a team to build for them.

Something more tailor made might be better for more complex, personalised needs. It means you’ll have closer relationship and better support from the team who are building the solution for you. 


What initial functionality is needed right now? And what will you need later down the line? How will the solution grow?

When looking to buy an app, you want to see a solution with 75-80% of features you need for it to work in the way you currently want. And you also need to have a think about future updates. App vendors are typically responsible for updating as new Salesforce features roll out, but you should always check. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: if an app hasn’t released any updates in more than two years, it might have unresolved bugs and won’t be keeping up-to-date with new tech. 

If there are specific and immediate pain points to address, it’s best to start with a solution that’s tailored directly to those needs. Custom-built apps help organisations hone in on specific and pressing issues. Plus, if you want your solution to scale, you’ll need a more flexible solution — pre-made solutions typically have limited flexibility in meeting your unique business needs, and may not be able to scale as your business grows.


When you buy something ready-made, the cost of each line of code is actually shared between customers, so the vendor can invest more in things like security and updates. Plus, the software should have been tested by users before you; before apps get uploaded to the AppExchange, they usually get reviewed and security-checked by Salesforce. Have a read of the reviews and what security is advertised on the AppExchange if you’re unsure. 

Key takeaways

Go through each of these points and put them against what your business has the capacity for. For example, if the issue is that you only have a small budget, it might seem to make sense to build something instead of buying. But then you need to take into account the man hours and maintenance that will cost you in the long run. And if you’re big on security, you might want something from the AppExchange that’s been checked by Salesforce. But if there’s something a bit more complex you need tailoring to your specific business, you might want to opt for building. In the end, only you can decide what’s best for your business. 

Also, remember that there are loads of apps out there that already exist for what you need! Always check first to see if there’s a ready-made app on the AppExchange that gets you most of the way there — say, at least 75/80% of what you need — because if you really need more, you can always build on top of it.