Sunday, May 22, 2016

App Launch - Your ISV Business Plan

Presently, I am in the midst of another app launch to the Salesforce App Exchange.  As usually the case, experience has been a good teacher in the dos and don'ts of building out both the business and technical side at an ISV.

With the latest launch of new Trailhead content, there are additional tools to help you chart your way to success.  I have gone through the ISV Business Planning trail and it covers a lot of key points that can help you out on your journey.  Here's my review of the new content.

Identifying Your Customer 

The first two modules cover key preparation steps to being successful.  Defining who your customer is and the size of your market can ensure you are building the right app and be profitable.  While it is fun to jump right into coding, laying the ground work is a good idea.  Here is the example output from the Identifying Your Customer module.

Business and Go-To Market Plans

The Business Plan and Go-To Market Plan are elements that are good for your app and typically used when planning for Salesforce.  Being able answer key questions about reaching your vision will help ensure organizational alignment.
  • Goals - What must you accomplish to reach your vision?
  • Methods—What are the steps for reaching those goals?
  • Measurements—How do you determine when you’ve met your goals?
  • Obstacles—What can get in your way as you try to reach those goals?

Success is a Team Support

I want to focus most of my attention on this unit.  The unit did a good job of covering the high-level roles needed to cover the sales, marketing, technical and operational aspects of ISV development.  There are quite a few roles described, which can seem overwhelming when you first get started.  Typically, the same person can fill multiple roles when you get started.

I do think it is worth drilling into a few areas in a little more detail, as there are additional sub-roles that could have been discussed.  My first time through launching an ISV, I drew inspiration from the Pragmatic Marketing Framework.  I augmented it with Technology and Success categories, which I found lacking.  Here are some additional roles to consider when launching an ISV.

Product Management & Product Development
  • Product Manager - this role is all about what to build and when to build it.  Researching what the market needs and producing a product roadmap are key tasks. 
  • Project Manager - delivering an app can require a lot of coordination and moving parts.  a good project manager keeps all the trains running on the right tracks at the right time.
  • Architect - designs the solution.  Keep in mind that for an app to be successful, you need to focus on the needs of the market rather than just one customer.  This includes the need to mass customization and configurability, which adds design complexity.
  • Developer - those building the app via customizations and code
  • Quality Assurance - having a different set of eyes to look at the app is very helpful.  QA is about test planning, scripting/automation, regression testing both of your app and during a Salesforce release
  • Release Manager - packaging up you app can take quite a bit of work.  You have packaging and patch orgs to keep track of as well as pushing upgrades out to customers.  You may even need to move metadata from development orgs as well.
  • Technical Writer - as part of your app, you will find the need to have help manuals, API documentation, customization/implementation guides, etc.  Having someone focused on this area can ensure documentation is available at the same time as the app.

  • Legal - reviews and advises on the contract with Salesforce as well as the agreement and service levels you provide to customers.  This is relatively easy one to outsource, although the costs can seem high when starting out.  Be sure outside counsel has experience with software and subscription licensing.
  • Finance/Accounting - customers need to be invoiced and Salesforce paid.  This role is all about keeping tabs on cash in and cash out
  • Operations Lead - this is closely tied to sales, customer success and finance/accounting teams.  When a sale is made, someone needs to place the order in the Channel Orders App (COA) ad well set enable licenses in the License Management App (LMA).  Hopefully, you then repeat each year for a long time
  • Customer Support Lead - as soon as you sign your first customer, you will need to support them.  It will be important to have support mechanisms (email, phone, social, etc.) in place. This can include logging into customer orgs through the subscriber console to troubleshoot or pull logs
  • Internal CRM Admin/Partner Community Admin - as a partner, you have two Salesforce licenses, which means your very own org to administer.  In addition, you will need to administer your company's account on the Salesforce Partner Community.


If you have been thinking about becoming an ISV or have ever wondered what it takes, be sure to check out the new module and let me know what you think.

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