Demystifying Your CRM Options: Homegrown vs Turnkey vs Salesforce

July 21, 2021 Simha Baker


It’s July. We’re already in the second half of the year, which means a lot of businesses are already reevaluating their current CRM software and starting to vet solutions to help drive their businesses in 2022. 

One of the most difficult decisions in this process is deciding what approach to take to begin with. On the one hand, you could hire a team of developers to build out your own custom system. You might even have the team in house. On the other hand, you could buy a solution ready made for your industry and targeted specifically at your type of business. On yet another hand, you could also buy a larger, customizable solution like Salesforce. In this post, I will demystify these options, and give you some of the pros and cons to consider!
 

Let’s build it!

Building your own business software is best suited to large teams with a strong, dedicated group of IT professionals and developers, and with it comes the promise of near infinite flexibility. A homegrown system can be built leveraging any programming languages, servers, and technologies your team has access to, meaning you have complete control over the entire application on every level.

But that flexibility doesn’t come free. Every new feature, from a simple new field to a whole new technical capability, will require custom development. Development cycles tend to be slow. In addition, homegrown systems still need to meet security expectations — doing it right can be costly, but doing it wrong can cost your business even more. 


Pros:

  • Infinite flexibility
  • Complete control
  • $0 licensing fees
  • 100% internally supported


Cons: 

  • Slow development lifecycle
  • Requires significant time investment
  • Security can be a particular challenge


Conclusion:

Only build your own system if you have the internal team to support it. 

 

Turnkey’s the way for me!

Turnkey, industry-based solutions can be a real godsend for your business! They come ready-to-deploy (or nearly), are designed with businesses just like yours in mind, and typically have loads of bells and whistles that will get your team excited to start using them right away. Most of these systems are on some form of upgrade lifecycle, and enhancements delivered to other businesses will find their way to your team on a somewhat regular basis. On top of all of that, licensing costs tend to be relatively low, meaning there’s a very low entrance barrier. 

The problem with turnkey solutions is that you’re at the mercy of the software provider. Most of these tools have minimal customizability, what you see is what you get, and if one part doesn’t meet your needs, either you need to make a convincing argument to your software provider that all of their customers would benefit from an enhancement you need, or you’re going to just have to make their process work. 


Pros:

  • Bespoke feel at an affordable price
  • Ready to use
  • Lots of bells and whistles targeted at your business
  • Security is managed by the provider


Cons:

  • Limited-to-no flexibility
  • What you see is what you get
  • At the mercy of your software provider


Conclusion:

Turnkey solutions are fantastic for small businesses, new businesses, and businesses in need of quick solutions. You’ll get the most bang for your buck at a low cost of entry, but as your needs change and grow, you’ll eventually outgrow them. Look for solutions made to scale with extensive integration capabilities so you can plug them in to your future state architecture, and be prepared to need to do a little rework when you do finally outgrow your tool. 
 

We’re ready for Salesforce! 

Salesforce is very much a best-of-both-worlds solution, bringing together some of the best things about both homegrown and turnkey solutions while bringing its own special capabilities. Like turnkey solutions, Salesforce comes out of the box with extensive, prebuilt tools —  many of them industry specific (such as Health Cloud, Financial Services Cloud, Field Service Lightning, etc.). Salesforce is on a 3x annual upgrade lifecycle, meaning you get enhancements to your platform at least 3 times every year. And when the platform doesn’t meet your needs, you have near complete control over it, with the ability to connect it to any integratable system and to be extended with custom code. With Salesforce, the sky is the limit! 

While I love Salesforce, no solution is a perfect fit for every business. Salesforce is relatively expensive software and will probably be cost prohibitive for smaller, or more budget conscious companies. While it comes out of the box with a bunch of valuable tools, it is not a turnkey solution and it will take some time to get it implemented to meet your team’s needs, so if you need it right now, you may need a more short term solution. And while the platform is nearly eternally extensible, adding new features can come with hefty costs for implementation. 

But with Salesforce, there’s one more aspect we need to talk about: the AppExchange! Once you have Salesforce in your toolbox, you can make use of the Salesforce AppExchange, a marketplace for prebuilt applications by 3rd party developers designed for (and often on) the Salesforce platform. When your team needs a new feature in Salesforce, you can custom build it (with many of the pros and cons of a homegrown platform, but for a more limited, point solution), or you can buy a prebuilt tool from the AppExchange (similar to turnkey solutions). These extensions range from free applications made to simplify common development tasks in Salesforce — like rolling up numbers from related records, all the way to extremely strategic solutions that enable document generation, contract management, computer telephony integration (CTI), and much, much more. 


Pros:

  • Infinite flexibility
  • Near complete control
  • Regular upgrades
  • Lots of bells and whistles
  • Industry specific solutions
  • AppExchange marketplace with lots of valuable, often low-cost solutions
  • Security is managed by the provider


Cons:

  • Higher cost licenses
  • Requires extra time and budget for implementation
  • New capabilities may come at additional cost


Conclusion:

Salesforce is a best-in-class solution made to grow and scale with your business. You get what you pay for, meaning it isn’t cheap, but it’s definitely powerful. If your business is mature, maybe even has outgrown a smaller tool, and is looking to take things to the next level, Salesforce is for you. If the problems you’re trying to solve don’t fit any of the prebuilt solutions on the market or you know you need special, custom features, Salesforce can be a great fit. If your budget or timeline are tight, or if you just really want to own the system internally 100%, you might find a better solution going custom or turnkey. 

 

Need help deciding whether Salesforce is right for you? Contact Lev, we can help.  

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