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Many Happy Returns

Salesforce’s AppExchange is 10 today. When you consider the reach and power of the platform, you have to concede it’s quite the precocious little scamp, don’t you? Many (including Kimble) have compared it to the Apple App Store of the B2B world, but come to think of it that’s quite unfair. Given it predates Apple’s distribution platform by a couple of years, it would be more accurate to call the App Store the AppExchange of B2C.

With the ubiquity of such platforms as Apple’s App Store and Google’s Play Store on mobile meaning they touch every facet of the lives of more than three-quarters of the population of the entire planet, it’s easy to forget that this conceptually simple idea has literally rewritten all the rules with respect to software – for businesses as well as consumers.

Salesforce’s launch of the AppExchange created a platform that encouraged independent software vendors to build complementary B2B apps that would complement and enhance its own offering quickly – far more quickly, in fact, then Saleforce (or any other company) could possibly hope to do on its own. This has resulted in an ecosystem where Salesforce’s growth is not limited by the speed at which its own development teams can build out further CRM functionality. Where companies like Kimble can bring in vertical functionality for specific market segments and use cases with their own specialized domain knowledge.

Kimble entered the AppExchange around six months after we were founded, and it’s possible we wouldn’t exist today – or at least not at the size and with the growth rate we’re enjoying now – if we hadn’t. That would be disappointing for us, but we think also for our nearly 200 customers around the world; those professional services organizations (PSOs) would be without the 1-5 percent improvements in EBIT that Kimble has helped them to achieve. It’s fair to say that the vast majority of our customers over the years have come to us after visiting the AppExchange.

There are many benefits to be had for companies on it, but the one that’s meant the most to us is the way that the AppExchange has leveled the playing field in terms of brand awareness. It’s difficult to even estimate how much more quickly this has allowed Kimble – and others like us – to get our products to a worldwide market, and to continue to expand and improve upon them, with our customers instantly getting the benefit. Similarly, PSOs that use Sales Cloud as their CRM get access to market-leading software to support and fuel their growth without the hefty price tag: those who need specific software capabilities can browse just the options they need today, and add more from multiple vendors as and when they need it, safe in the knowledge everything will work together. That’s a far more cost effective and agile way to support growth than being locked into a single vendor’s one-size-fits-none software suite.

Customer ratings, combined with conscientious curating on the part of Salesforce AppExchange team, means browsing customers can have confidence the cream will rise to the top. Case in point: the AppExchange has helped Kimble punch above its weight to the point that in 2015 we were placed at number 13 in the Deloitte Technology Fast 500 EMEA.

I can’t think of any similar platform in the B2B software world that’s caught the market’s collective imagination in anything like the same way, and I don’t think anyone currently in the ecosystem could convince even themselves that it’s not been a massive catalyst for their growth.

Is it possible even to imagine a world of business software without the AppExchange? Well, yes: it’s called single vendor ERP suites, and I think we can all be glad we don’t have to go back to that!

So happy birthday, AppExchange, and many happy returns – for everyone, not just Salesforce.