If you’ve ever run into a challenge writing an app on the Force.com platform, chances are Scott Hemmeter, founder and CEO of Arrowpointe, has been there and knows how to solve it. Hemmeter is a frequent technical speaker, blogger, contributor on the developer boards and the Salesforce StackExchange, a Spring 12 Salesforce MVP and a highly capable developer. I asked him to share his experience developing and selling apps on the AppExchange.
Let’s start off by talking about the app you’re most excited about today. What is it? Who’s it for? Why should the average Salesforce customer care?
Our Geopointe app, of course. Geopointe helps you understand the “where” aspects to your business information. These answers are available in the web UI of Salesforce, our mobile apps and on our geo-analytics platform. Whether you are trying to locate prospects near you, planning a local event or trying to analyze your quarterly forecast geographically, getting an understanding as to where your business is occurring is critical. It’s equally as important as who is selling a deal, what they are selling and when it’s expected to close. Geopointe answers the “where” questions.
Outside of our apps, I love Cirrus Insight. Arrowpointe’s business runs on Google Apps and Salesforce. I am in Google Mail and Salesforce all day. Cirrus Insight is such a smooth integration that it’s probably added 1-2 hours of productivity to each work day. That’s a pretty significant change in my productivity! It’s updated super often and “just works.” I love it and highly recommend it.
Why did you decide to publish on the AppExchange?
The AppExchange has offered a relatively level playing field that allows companies big and small to offer their wares in a common way. I always wanted to run my own business. I dabbled in the AppExchange a bit starting in 2007 and moved my company, Arrowpointe, to focus 100% on the AppExchange in 2010. I took a risk and dropped the comfort of consulting completely and focused on apps. It turned out to be a very smooth transition and that decision has made all the difference in the world.
Do you offer both free and paid apps?
Yes, Arrowpointe offers both free and paid apps. We got our start with free apps (User Adoption Dashboard, Info Center) and have moved into commercial apps since (Geopointe, Spam Check and Auto vCard). I am a big believer in free apps and plan to roll out some new ones in 2013, helping fill some of the gaps in Salesforce.
How large is your company today?
There are two full-timers at Arrowpointe with an extended team of five. Sales, a mobile developer and marketing contractors makes up the rest. 2013 should double the size of Arrowpointe’s full-time staff, most likely on the technology side of things.
How often do you rev your apps?
Arrowpointe focuses on our Geopointe app almost completely. Updates are pushed in cycles where basic updates are sent out every three weeks or so and bigger updates go out on every other time. The schedule changes throughout the year, but that’s what we try to stick to. We utilize the Push Upgrades feature of the AppExchange and it has worked brilliantly. We are now getting going with the Push Major functionality that went GA with Winter 13.
Do you do more than publish apps?
Arrowpointe started with consulting but always had an eye to being an app-based company. That’s what we are now. 99% of what we do is license focused. We offer app-related consulting service as needed. However, we’ve designed Geopointe in such a way that a lot of the “I want it to do x” needs are taken care of with configuration options our customers and partner consulting firms can handle. Down the road, we may offer more in Services. If/when we do, it will be app-related offerings.
At what point in the development process should you start looking for a customer?
I think this largely depends upon what you are building. Many apps actually start with a customer first, being based upon a customer implementation and the concept is taken to a more general level as an app. That’s how our mapping business started.
Do you code yourself or do you outsource it? What are the advantages and disadvantages of both?
With the exception of the mobile apps, I have done all the coding myself. In 2013, that’s going to change by bringing on someone to lead development, but I believe in in-house development or, at least, in-house leadership of development. Outsourcing can be fine and lots of companies use it wisely, but it has it’s risks. I personally love the technology and would just rather do it myself or with someone I trust that’s part of my team.
When you’re developing and run into a problem that you can’t solve on your own, how do you figure it out?
My issues tend to be more technical in nature, so my main sources are to search Forums, StackExchange and Google to see if it’s been solved before. Then I’ll instant message developer friends or hit the Salesforce Developer IRC. Twitter comes next. Among all those, I usually figure it out. What usually happens is that I ask the question publicly and end up figuring it out myself five minutes later. So I usually respond to myself on those sites just to document the answer. There’s something about putting a question out there that makes me figure things out.
What was your first exposure to salesforce.com? How many years total experience do you have?
I have been working with Salesforce since 2004. When I was first introduced to Salesforce, Custom Objects had just rolled out and a typical implementation project lasted about 1 week. Workflow was as automated as it got and it only had emails and tasks. The platform sure has come a long way! Implementations were fun and it was a big relief to leave behind large-scale CRM projects with other “software” to the joys of the cloud. From 2004 to about 2010, my focus was in implementation/consulting work.
Do you have any certifications, or have you won any awards?
I have the Developer and Advanced Developer certifications, but I am more excited about the community recognition I have received over the years. At Dreamforce 2007, I was given a “Developer Hero” award for my blogging and contributions to the developer community and in 2012, I was made a Salesforce MVP!
Do you go to Dreamforce? Do you have a local user group you call home?
I’ve been going to Dreamforce since 2006. I participated as a presenter in a breakout session every year until this past Dreamforce where my focus was on the booth Arrowpointe had in the Expo. The Orange County user group is my home user group and has good participation. I attend as often as I am able. I have also attended both the Los Angeles and San Diego user groups, both of which are quite good.