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Extending Salesforce with Mendix, an Alternative to Force.com

on October 30, 2014

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I recently spoke with a software engineer who really knows the ins and outs of developing applications on top of Salesforce. Not just configuring AppExchange components, but big, complex projects like building whole AppExchange apps and integrating decade-old systems of record. As I listened to him describe the projects he’s worked on, I got to thinking about all the companies that need to build more than what Salesforce provides. It’s something all companies are confronted with, and it’s often difficult especially given the existing tools and limitations of a boxed-in app environment. Thousands of people are spending a lot of time and effort making Salesforce fit the unique needs of its users.

Rewind a few years and think about how this unfolded…

A surge of demand for squeezing more functionality out of the CRM erupted; thousands of companies needed more custom apps to differentiate themselves in their market. The way this series of events unfolded, you have to wonder: Was the path of least resistance to bolt-on extensions to Salesforce? Is using a platform developed for CRM extensions good for anything but?

Software vendors have to balance doing one thing really well and doing a lot of things just so-so. There’s no denying that Salesforce hit a bull’s-eye in the CRM space, and by focusing in on making the best CRM system on the planet, they created huge demand for customizations.

It’s a common issue with enterprise software: Do you configure your business to the software it runs on, or do you configure your software to the business in runs in?  In a perfect world, every off-the-shelf software would align with my exact need for it, but as long as we have competitors, we’ll need to figure out how to differentiate ourselves. There’s no truly ‘turn-key’ solution, not when it comes to software that differentiates a company.

There is always some configuration to be done either within the software, or within your organization, in the name of generating value. This is true of Salesforce as well, particularly as users come up with needs outside its core CRM functionality. The way Salesforce erupted onto the scene and became a cloud computing icon afforded its users an army of consultants who are happy to make the CRM system do theoretically anything, as long as their pockets are deep enough.

Fast-forward back to Boston.

We started thinking about our users who have built Mendix apps on top of Salesforce. In most cases, they were building pretty extensive applications; for example an app that gives sales reps the ability to configure custom medical device kits for patients while they’re in the field, combining a JDE product catalogue and their Salesforce CRM for doctors and patients.

Recognizing that building complex apps that connect with SFDC is a common need, we created Salesforce Connect for the Mendix App Store, so that it only takes a few seconds to start building on top of Salesforce. The module pulls your Salesforce data structure into your Mendix domain model (ie. data model) as a non-persistent object, so you get instant integration without the limitations that come with a development platform made for extending a CRM system with CRM functionality. This gives you a great alternative to Force.com.

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