So You Built an App: What’s Next?

Building an app is only half the battle. A significant amount of work includes defining the use case for your product and taking it to market. We caught up with PencilData's CSO at Dreamforce for some insight.


September 25, 2018

4 Min Read
Salesforce Dreamforce 2018

DREAMFORCE ’18 — Channel partners increasingly are turning to intellectual-property development to boost their sales and differentiate their organizations. A growing number such as CrushBank have developed their own apps.

But building an app is only half the battle. A significant amount of work includes defining the use case for your product and taking it to market.

For insights on that process, look no further than Scott Sanchez, co-founder and chief strategy officer at PencilData, which has developed an “Integrity Verification Platform” for files, data and systems. Powered by blockchain, the technology can be used for digital provenance for audit, compliance, risk, security and more.

At the 2018 Dreamforce conference in San Francisco on Tuesday, Sanchez shared tips and insights on his company’s journey with fellow developers.

Before the company hooked up with Salesforce, PencilData started with a very simple use case: Build APIs that others could use to leverage blockchain. What Twilio did for phones, PencilDATA wants to do for blockchain, Sanchez says. His vision was to help others register and verify any data without having to be blockchain exerts.

The company’s first thought was to sell the technology directly to customers. At the time, it wasn’t even thinking in terms of building an app. Why? it wondered. It already had downloadable code on GitHub. But no one wanted it unless it was in the AppExchange. That led the company to Salesforce. The decision to pursue the AppExchange put PencilData on a path it didn’t expect to follow. It learned plenty of lessons along the way — insights Sanchez is only too happy to share.

Sanchez soon learned that he needed a “managed package,” which is essentially a bundle of technology and processes that constitute the guts of an app. The coding, it turned out, came easy. What was a little more difficult was honing the use case and then getting past some basic technology considerations. Certain things, he learned, were not documented in a way that made sense to PencilData. How to store data, for example, was a tricky challenge. Salesforce Trailblazer training helped, he notes. But the company realized it needed deeper insights. So he turned to what Salesforce calls PDOs, or “partner development outsourcers.” PDOs, which help novice developers finish their products, range in size from small code shops to companies such as CodeScience.


Scott Sanchez

Scott Sanchez

When it put out a request for help, PencilData received quotes ranging between $5,000 and $250,000.

“Having a partner that had been through this countless times was a big accelerator,” Sanchez says.

In addition to PDOs, partners can also leverage Salesforce Business Development Reps (BDRs). They help app developers take products to market. Before connecting with them, Sanchez advises, make sure that you get all of your basic “Trailhead” badges first.

After getting the help it needed, PencilData built its installation process, and then completed four to five other processes. When it was done, it submitted its app to the AppExchange.

As it turned out, building the app was easy part. Getting approved was tougher. Then there was the mysterious security review, which leaves some developers scratching their heads. Sanchez described it as “a very odd black box.”

“We had no idea how long it would take, or what would come out of it afterward,” Sanchez says.

But when PencilData could tell customers that it had completed the process, it was ready for the next step: sales.

“When you get out of [the review] you have a magic checkbox,” Sanchez says. “But there’s more work to do.”

What’s next? He now is looking to leverage the partner readiness support that Salesforce provides, including help with everything from SEO optimization to developing marketing collateral and campaigns. One thing he is still lacking that has propelled other companies: a killer case study.

His best advice for future code developers and app builders?

  • Hone your use case.

  • Avail yourself of help that seasoned veterans can provide.

  • Be patient, trust in the system.

  • Pay attention to design considerations.

The last item, for example, can have a big impact. The better you design the product to keep everything in a Salesforce environment, Sanchez notes, the more likely you are to receive from the company’s thousands of account executives.

Ultimately, PencilData learned that the AppExchange isn’t like baseball. If you merely build something, they – customers, in this instance – will not necessarily come. Avail yourself of all the AppExchange ecosystem and Salesforce itself have to offer, he says.

“The reason we went with building for the AppExchange wasn’t so much the access to the millions of customers,” Sanchez says, “but the support offered by Salesforce and its other partners.”

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