By Tal Frankfurt
In a previous post, we shared the exciting announcement made at Dreamforce 2019 that Salesforce.org was releasing a Case Management product. This application will allow your Case Managers to manage their caseloads while leveraging the strong Salesforce platform and its security and privacy settings.
With this exciting new offering from Salesforce, many organizations have already reached out to us inquiring about the difference between this application and the legacy managed packages, previously used to support human services organizations, specifically around case management work. In this post, I am going to guide you through some of the advantages and disadvantages of each solution.
First, what is a managed package?
A managed package is a collection of application components that are posted as a unit on the Salesforce AppExchange and are associated with a namespace and a vendor that manages them. Managed packages have some locked components that will restrict end-users from accessing the code or modifying it to accommodate their business processes and workflows.
Typically when we think about managed packages, we think about solutions that were developed by third-party vendors, designed to help solve common issues that customers are facing. However, Salesforce also offers managed packages that our customers know and love in the education and nonprofit space. Some examples of these include the Nonprofit Success Pack (NPSP), the Education Data Architecture (EDA), Salesforce Advisor Link (SAL) and Gift Entry Manager (GEM). These packages, while managed, are still coordinated with the Salesforce roadmap, have large investments in development and support (including robust trailhead modules).
The AppExchange is often considered as one of the most valuable assets Salesforce has to offer. From my experience, vendor managed packages are great to address very specific, small needs that your organization may have and are not fully addressed by Salesforce. Examples may include form data gathering tools, online giving applications, text messaging, mail merge solutions, etc. But the decision to choose end-to-end packages developed by vendors should be carefully considered, especially when native functionality is available in Salesforce or as a managed packaged managed by Salesforce.
Top 5 Considerations for Managed Packages and Your Case Management:
1. Is the functionality Offered by Salesforce?
When available, choosing to utilize Salesforce’s native functionality or one of the packages offered by Salesforce.org (i.e. NPSP, EDA, SAL) makes sense. They have the power and resources to continue research and development (more on that later), but what happens when the features you’re looking for don’t exist?
That’s when you need to take a step back and understand how imperative the functionality is to you doing business. Are there other solutions that you could use to get similar results? If you don’t feel like any of Salesforce’s native functionality can help you achieve your goals and don’t see the feature you’re looking for on Salesforce’s roadmap, then you may want to consider a vendor managed package.
Working with an implementation partner who has ‘been there, done that’ could come in very handy in this situation. Cloud for Good, for example, has been working with nonprofit organizations for over 10 years. We bring the experience of thousands of migrations (including many from Efforts to Outcomes) and the creativity to help you find the right solution for your organization and specific business needs.
2. Does the Managed Package Vendor Have a Commitment to Research and Development?
Innovation is a core value at Salesforce and the organization invested $1.8B (that’s right – BILLION) in R&D in 2018. With the acquisition of Salesforce.org by Salesforce.com, the nonprofit product teams, who support packages such as the Nonprofit Success Pack and the Education Data Architecture, gained access to more of that innovation budget and an opportunity to be further aligned with the greater product teams. This means that they have more insight into how the Salesforce platform is evolving and can make informed decisions about the data model that they adopt for their applications.
When Salesforce is putting their entire weight behind an application, we often see managed packages that offer a similar solution slowly disappear and eventually their users end up migrating away from the managed packages in favor of the Salesforce created functionality. As a nonprofit, you want to make sure that your time and money are spent in a way that allows you to grow your programs. Selecting a managed package that was created by an independent small vendor for your human services organization’s case management could mean that you will need to invest your dollars and spend your resources again to migrate from that solution in the near future.
3. Does the Solution Allow You to be Flexible?
While Managed Packages are built on top of the Salesforce platform, vendors have the freedom to design their own data model and do not have additional insight into how the platform is evolving. Because Salesforce uses community feedback to help shape their roadmap, often these features that managed packages are addressing could be soon added to Salesforce’s native functionality or to one of the solutions that they support. If you’re locked into those managed packages, you may not be able to utilize the new functionality without a costly migration.
Additionally, due to how managed packages are architected (the code and some features are locked and hidden) we find that often when they try to address many use cases, they end up limiting the flexibility of the platform that Salesforce offers its customer. The ability to customize the platform to meet very complex business processes and requirements ensures that the system was working for us and not against us.
4. Is the Package Compatible With Your Other Salesforce Business Processes?
The Case Management product was built with a more comprehensive Program Management data model in mind and it is designed to be compatible with the Nonprofit Success Pack which is already supported by hundreds of applications. You’re able to enjoy the enhanced functionality of the applications, while still utilizing your favorite AppExchange solutions. Small manage package providers, however, do not have the resources and often the interest in opening their application to other vendors who could improve your operations.
The biggest impact Salesforce has on their customers is the ability to manage overlap between accounts and contacts (a volunteer could be a donor and a vendor could also be a client) and the flexibility to support simple and complex business processes. The end-to-end managed product approach is limiting the flexibility our clients desire. Organizations don’t want to change their business process to accommodate architectural decisions that a vendor made when it built an all-inclusive product.
5. Does the Vendor Have a Robust Support System?
Salesforce has a vibrant community of users, implementation consultants and applications. If you need to expand your usage of the platform, you could always consult with another user and/or consultant or download an existing application from the AppExchange to enhance the standard/core functionality that Salesforce offers out of the box. Salesforce also continually invests back into the platform. Three times a year, Salesforce releases brand new updates and enhancements to their existing products. Many times, these releases are led by community feedback.
With managed packages, many times what you see is what you get. In most cases, the support of the product is handled by a small team, with little to no updates throughout the year.
It’s Your Choice
In today’s world, no one has a phone with only one installed application, and neither should your Case Management. Our clients have realized the need for options, flexibility and finding the best fit for their organization. We, as vendors, should not shy away from selling flexibility.
There are so many options for managing your cases and programs. If you are currently evaluating a case management solution for your human services organization or if you are using an existing managed package to facilitate it, reach out to us to discuss your options. We’ve completed hundreds of implementations in the human services space and have the knowledge of both native functionality and managed packages to help you make an informed decision.
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