Salesforce's AppExchange Updates Technology Partner Program To Promote Cutting Edge Capabilities

Salesforce's AppExchange marketplace has updated its AppExchange Partner Program to fuel an ecosystem of ISVs building apps that use the Salesforce platform's latest features, such as machine learning and advanced analytics.

In addition to a new methodology for evaluating and rewarding partner success, the program introduces onboarding tools, training courses, and the inclusion of the Heroku development platform. It has also been invigorated by a $100 million fund from the company's venture arm designated for investment in startup partners.

[Related: AppExchange Turns 10: The Most Popular Salesforce Partner Apps]

Salesforce launched AppExchange almost 11 years ago—the first major vendor to introduce an online marketplace for selling the wares of third-party technology developers, said Leyla Seka, executive vice president for AppExchange.

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Seka spent her first six years at Salesforce building that business from the ground up, then the next three taking on other duties for the CRM vendor. Six months ago, Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff tapped her to return to AppExchange and start crafting a vision for the marketplace's second decade.

AppExchange is critical in driving the larger Salesforce ecosystem, Seka told CRN. The thousands of applications available augment the practices of Salesforce's channel partners, helping them boost the number of services they bring to market and deliver unique solutions to a variety of customers across industries.

"Large customers rely on the Salesforce AppExchange to round out a complete solution set with the Salesforce platform at the center. We frequently recommend AppExchange ISVs as part of our proposals," said Glenn Weinstein, senior vice president of Salesforce channel partner Appirio, a systems integrator headquartered in Indianapolis, that was recently acquired by global consulting giant Wipro.

Appirio fosters internal skills across a number of AppExchange products, he told CRN, and rewards consultants for buildings skills across solutions available on the marketplace.

"We are more comfortable implementing and maintaining ISVs that embrace the AppExchange, because we know their products and their integrations with Salesforce will be robust and supportable," Weinstein said.

Salesforce won't place a dollar amount on the current size of that AppExchange ecosystem, but is looking to grow it to $70 billion in revenue by 2020, Seka told CRN.

To achieve that goal, the program is implementing a new methodology for evaluating partners.

By using its new AppExchange Trailblazer Score, Salesforce will look beyond gross sales in assessing partner success and rewarding them with greater support and enablement.

"We want to keep our eye on revenue, but also take other things into consideration that are critical to us as a company," Seka said.

Those additional criteria include customer satisfaction – based on reviews and ratings – and partner relationships, as well as how much ISVs are leveraging Salesforce's latest-and-greatest capabilities and platforms.

Looking at multiple metrics prevents overlooking smaller vendors developing innovative products, she said.

Based on partner feedback, Salesforce is also lowering its percent-net-revenue baseline for joining the program back down from 25 percent to 15 percent.

Salesforce has also upgraded the AppExchange onboarding experience, releasing new tools to partners designed to accelerate their time to market. Those include and onboarding wizard, payment processing tools and a new dashboard.

"We're helping partners run their entire business on the AppExchange if that's how they want to do it," Seka said. "We're always looking for how we can bring new technology to our ISVs."

The program will also be made agnostic to different development platforms offered by Salesforce.

"Whether you choose to build on Force.Com or Heroku, doesn't matter to us," she said. That includes Salesforce DX, a lightweight development environment that delivers a simple interface to leverage both of those platforms.

Previously the ISV partner program only applied to

To pour fuel on ecosystem expansion, Salesforce Ventures has introduced a $100 million Platform Fund through Salesforce Ventures, looking to fund vendors building "innovative apps that are extending the power of Salesforce for our customers," she said.