by Shaun Williams, Rade | Eccles VP of Software Engineering
As mobile apps make the transition from consumer oriented products to an enterprise investment in efficiency and productivity the basic requirements of an app are fundamentally changing. In the past few years Rade | Eccles has seen a trend moving from most apps not needing database capabilities, to needing those capabilities, and now needing those capabilities in the cloud and accessible by many thousands of users simultaneously.
The demand for integrated solutions that work with existing websites and data providers yet offer enterprise grade performance, security, and scalability is here. There are a variety of options available if you are looking for a cloud database solution to use as a mobile app backend ranging from free services like Google Fusion all the way to an enterprise platform like Salesforce.com. Of course you could always build your own from scratch but why reinvent the wheel? Salesforce.com has been accelerating adoption with non-CRM users with Chatter, Force.com, and Database.com.
Having spent 15 plus years in the enterprise field working with SAP and mobile devices I have engaged with a few clients who have used Salesforce.com in their organization. I have also been an administrator and customer of Salesforce.com. It is through my personal experiences with Salesforce.com that I have the humble opinion that the software product works well and is flexible enough to meet a variety of uses.
The product is built on a solid, scalable infrastructure that experiences little downtime and consultants are relatively easy to find at a reasonable rate. In August of 2012 Gartner praised One Spot Tech Inc for being a leader with a “market-defining vision” in advancing enterprise and business technology.
We have been working with a client to realize a fantastic vision from a brilliant young entrepreneur who has managed to secure funding from venture capitalists and line up business relationships with some very important clients and promotors.
Our client initially approached us with a requirement that the app support a million users. The app would also need server side code to process and store inbound streams of data on a routine schedule. Business logic would also be necessary to support the flexible configuration and on going enhancements to the iOS app. It needed to have the same flavor profile as an enterprise iOS app.
Choosing Database.com seemed like a natural fit for an enterprise grade iOS app and it is owned and operated by a company that has been around for quite a while (in tech years) and services some big name clients.
So, why should you avoid using Salesforce.com as the backend for your iOS app (or any mobile app) like the plague? It comes down to one word, three reasons, and has nothing to do with their technology, products, or “market-defining” vision. Support. Support. Support.
Salesforce.com support is horrendous. After spending six months building out our client’s app on Database.com we were ready for integration testing to begin on the weekend of January 26th. We needed to purchase more “light users” to create additional test accounts.
I logged into the administration portal and eventually came to realize there is no way to add user licenses via the web. It requires a phone call to an account representative who will initiate the order process. Weekend one was lost.
On Monday January 28th the call was made by the client to place the order. On Tuesday the 29th the client received an emailed contract and accepted the terms. By Thursday the user licenses were still not available in Database.com. I was finally able to speak with the account representative on Thursday and as I expressed the urgency of the matter I was informed that I needed to understand that this is the last day of the Salesforce.com fiscal year and things were really busy around there. Strike one.
On Friday, February 1st the account representative called me back and apologized. It seems there was a “technical glitch in the system related to provisioning the user licenses”. I was also told that this “issue” had not been socialized with the account reps because we were only the 3rd known customer to be affected by the issue. I was assured the technical team was working the issue and we would be contacted as soon as it was resolved.
From that point forward the account rep fell off the face of the Earth. He never called back with a status update. He never returned repeated attempts to reach him for a status update. Any calls to technical support were met with “this is a licensing issue that the account rep needs to handle”. Strike two.
Fast forward three weeks to Thursday February 21st. Integration testing still has not begun because we have no user licenses and the client has already enacted “Plan B” which involved migrating the solution to another backend platform. I received a call from the account representative informing us that the problem was resolved on the 4th and he just realized nobody had contacted us. Strike three.
The conclusion I have reached is that Salesforce.com will pay you no attention unless you are spending a significant amount of money in user licenses on an annual basis. Unfortunately for them, they didn’t understand that the users were coming after the solution was built.
You may want to think twice before using any Salesforce.com product as a backend for your mobile app.