• March 12, 2013
  • This post is part of an occasional series on the AppExchange as celebrates the seventh anniversary of its launch.  The series will focus on some of the most interesting AppExchange applications of the last year.

    The arc of nCino’s brief existence provides a good description of the power of application development on the platform.  nCino (“Encino” roughly translates from Spanish as “live oak”),  supports commercial loan origination, including CRM functionality to manage the sales process and document management to handle all of the details.  The product was originally developed within a conventional bank, Live Oak Bank in Wilmington, NC.

    To say that Live Oak Bank is conventional is not to imply that it is ordinary.  It is the third largest originator of business loans in the U.S. despite being significantly smaller than its competitors.  With the banking industry in a slump Live Oak could not compete as a low cost provider because borrowing activity was slack and interest rates were at low points.  So the bank decided to innovate and  to compete on business execution.

    Anyone who has paid attention to banking issues during the recession has probably realized that banks had not been keeping up with managing documentation for example, in home mortgages.  But the same has been true of documentation management in commercial loans and it was the content management part of the process that the bank decided to attend to first.

    Live Oak used to build a commercial loan origination system that could take better care of loan documentation and better attend to the customer relationship issues that attend any loan sale.  But the story doesn’t stop there.

    When Live Oak showed off its new system at Dreamforce 2011 the bank discovered significant demand from other banks at the show.  But not wanting to go into the software business, Live Oak spun off its software to a new company —nCino that is the subject of this piece.

    By taking care of all loan origination documents within its Salesforce CRM instance, nCino has developed an origination process that is streamlined and effective.  The company’s initial data shows that it can cut twenty five percent of the loan origination cycle time and put money into the hands of the business borrower faster than its competition thus providing a unique form of competitive differentiation.

    But operational efficiencies are not the only thing that many bankers are seeking out these days.  The financial crisis exposed the document handling capabilities of many banks as unreliable costing many of them lost time, revenues and legal fees.  Industry data shows that as much as thirty percent of loan documents are inaccurate.  These deficiencies have consequently driven many banks into the market for better document handling software and loan origination systems.

    According to Pierre Naudé CEO of the company, has enabled his team of 27 people to innovate much faster than other technologies.  After about a year, the company has nine installed customers with five more in process and several more in the pipeline.  The AppExchange continues to be a good source of leads, which might surprise some people because nCino is an enterprise solution.  But Beagle research shows that enterprises shop on the AppExchange just as smaller companies do.

    Perhaps another surprise for some people familiar with banking is the nature of the solution.  nCino is a cloud offering like all Salesforce solutions and the banking industry, according to Naudé has accepted it without fanfare.  Naudé says it is because “many banks and credit unions have been using hosted solutions for some time, and there’s no difference between running a hosted solution in some remote data center and running a SaaS solution.”  It helps that Salesforce already has all of the certifications that bankers look for including SOC Types 1, 2, and 3 and that it is PCI (private card issuer) compliant.  nCino relies on these certifications as cornerstones of its business and they simply come along with the Salesforce service.

    nCino was started with a loan from Live Oak Bank and it has since raised an A round of funding worth $7.5 million, which Naudé says was oversubscribed.  The company’s roadmap includes delivering a mortgage origination system and retail loan facility later this year but the company does not release information about its roadmap beyond that.

    nCino is a great story about what’s possible given the power of the platform and the AppExchange.  More than this it provides a useful model for the future of enterprise software.

    Published: 10 years ago

    Could we have a moment of sustained loud noise for all of the companies that form the various ecosystems around major product lines?  I mean it.  The ecosystem, and maybe not even social, is the story of the last five years.  While many of us have been running around like Chicken Little talking up the advantages that social will bring us, the ecosystems and the companies that make them up have been growing and adding immeasurably to the customer experience. Consider some of these points.

    Ecosystems have made possible the promise of long tail applications.  In case you’ve forgotten, a few years ago we all couldn’t talk enough about the “long tail.”  It was the place on the Bell Curve where markets are thin and though there might be considerable need, there are few solutions.

    ¿Por que?

    Well, the long tails represent areas where there might be demand but markets are thin.  A company might buy a hundred seats of SFA but relatively few seats for things like document signing management (exemplified by DocuSign, just to pick one).  But if a company only buys few seats then a vendor has to work harder to bring in revenue or the vendor has to raise prices to a level that makes the numbers fall apart.

    For document signing the alternative was to use overnight letters to send contracts back and forth for signatures or fax machines and email for edits.  That all has a cost in efficiency and opportunity but those costs are hidden and as long as the overnight letter is the state of the art that’s what we do.  The alternative of paying big bucks for automation just doesn’t work out even if you can demonstrate an ROI after a couple of years.

    But along comes the on-line store and suddenly all kinds of apps that were un-economical but needed, have a different framework.  Customers can buy document signing services at an acceptable price with the result that a new application niche arises, the ecosystem becomes a little more robust and the primary vendor (e.g. in this case, Salesforce) becomes a little more valuable to its customers because, hey, look at all the apps that just plug and play.

    So in my mind ecosystem services have done yeoman’s service in bringing about the rise of the subscription economy.  They are mostly subscriptions and they make subscription operations easier by a lot.  Today there are services for all kinds of niche areas where just the right app has changed the dynamic, the business model and even the profitability of a department or an enterprise.

    What’s even more interesting, as I alluded in the beginning, is that many of the ecosystem services we see have very little to do with social.  It’s as if vendors and their customers looked at social and said, that’s nice, but we need to get today’s work done today and we have a gizmo that solves easily identifiable pain.  Let’s take it to market.

    I am not saying that social is not important (I am crazy, just not that crazy) but it’s far from the only game in town that we sometimes make it out to be and if present conditions are any indicator, then the world of add-on apps that don’t use social is at least as important as the part that does.

    I have spent a decent amount of time recently examining some of the best apps in the Salesforce ecosystem and the company also recently announced its Customer Choice Awards for 2012 for AppExchange applications.  What I saw in examining both groups was a broad array of clever apps that make many business processes better.  There are things not more than widgets and there are whole applications that can stand alone.

    Most significantly, the capital markets are paying attention to ecosystems.  Several of the companies I’ve written about recently have received significant venture capital inflows and I expect them to have IPOs in the not too distant future.  Certainly there’s risk in backing an ecosystem company.  What if the ecosystem’s primary producer decides to change and hide the API for instance?  But at this stage things like that are doubtful because the primary producer is just as dependent on the ecosystem as each of its members.

    Some people might lament the multiple standards that ecosystems represent.  If you are a Salesforce customer, your choices of ecosystem partners are somewhat limited to the universe of the AppExchange, for instance.  But that risk is easily mitigated by integration services available, where else, but in the ecosystem.  So maybe that’s not such a concern either.

    Any way you slice it, the various ecosystems deployed over the last seven years have greatly enriched the customer experience by providing solutions that make enterprise software more agile via tailoring it to the circumstances at hand.

    Very often we mark progress by the arrival of a shiny new object like social, but time and time again, we see progress is insidious; it comes in through the bathroom window (apologies to John and Paul) and it changes us at least as much as the arrival of the shiny new object.  That’s why I am so impressed with the ecosystem providers and why I think we should all be making noise about them.

    Published: 10 years ago

    This post is part of an occasional series on the AppExchange as celebrates the seventh anniversary of its launch.  The series will focus on some of the most interesting AppExchange applications of the last year.

    If Zapier didn’t exist someone would have had to invent it because the service it provides is that critical to many small businesses.  The easiest way to think about Zapier is as an integration company for Web services, kind of a mashup on demand.  This small company of fewer than ten full time employees, doing business on the AppExchange, acts as part of the glue that brings together AppExchange apps with other web services.  Working with the AppExchange API set, Zapier produces integrations — that they call “Zaps” — for more than 160 web services.

    Zapier has produced more than 25,000 integrations and though not all of these integrations involve Salesforce, many do.  The company boasts more than 1,500 Salesforce customers — many with multiple Zaps — as users with more than two hundred using Zapier to integrate web seervices with, Salesforce’s help desk solution for the small business market.

    Zaps or mashups couldn’t be easier to make using Zapier.  There is no coding to deal with and a user can create a Zap in a browser screen by simply dragging and dropping the relevant product icons and choosing pre-built actions.  And just to make sure the result is what you really want, an English version of the mashup is displayed right on the screen.  For instance, “When a New Subscriber in Campaign Monitor occurs, Zapier will automatically Create a Lead in Salesforce.”  That’s it and there’s no limit to the number of Zaps a user can make between products.

    The SMB space is where Zapier does its best work.  In addition to Salesforce CRM, the company has integrations ready to go with a variety of services that small businesses (and some large ones) can readily take advantage of such as ecommerce, email marketing, billing, accounting and invoicing and sentiment analysis and more — 23 categories and growing.  The actions and their triggers are coded by Zapier and delivered as standard components.

    Not long ago a company needed to have significant resources to enable it to coordinate activities between so many diverse applications and web services but that’s changed.  Zapier, like all services on the AppExchange is a SaaS solution and the company has four pricing plans starting with a freemium and topping out at $99 per month for a company.  Zapier has so far grown more or less organically deciding which products it integrates with through customer requests.  Zapier is happy to take customer suggestions and offers a place on its site to make this possible.

    Many enterprises using Salesforce CRM will have more traditional integrations with other applications.  But Zapier serves a growing market of small companies that need to bring together best of breed solutions through simple integrations at very low cost.  The Zapier model works well in this area and serves to breakdown barriers between important web services and potential customers.  It’s a great example of a long tail solution — something that may not have huge market appeal but which is a perfect fit for many customers.  The AppExchange provides a niche for Zapier by providing a ready clientele and a streamlined sales and marketing process.

    Published: 10 years ago

    This post is part of an occasional series on the AppExchange as celebrates the seventh anniversary of its launch.  The series will focus on some of the most interesting AppExchange applications of the last year.

    TOA Technologies is an AppExchange partner focusing on mobile workforce management, which provides an important extension to the Salesforce CRM solution set.  In the early days of CRM the category went by a different name — field service automation or FSA — which better reflected the fact that until then, most of the work we now associate with deploying and directing field service personnel was manual.

    While the initial automation efforts delivered many benefits, including reduced costs and greater productivity, those benefits have been largely absorbed and companies today are seeking greater refinement in a new set of benefits.  That’s where TOA Technologies comes in.

    From automation to management

    TOA has taken field service the next logical step from automation to management, which requires greater use of information.  The information that TOA leverages comes from collecting copious amounts of time related data and then analyzing it to derive performance metrics.  These metrics enable TOA to render accurate predictions for a business focused on dispatching people and equipment to customer sites as well as internal business sites that may require services or deliverables.  The result is better customer experience from better knowing when to expect the service call and how long it will take.

    TOA has a two-step approach to analyzing and predicting mobile workforce activity.  For each company it has helped since its founding in 2003, TOA uses predictive analytics based individual profile patterns to optimize each unique workforce.

    First, TOA collects time-based measurements about each member of a mobile workforce and the way that each completes different types of work.  Then, TOA’s ETAdirect software uses this learned information to make predictions about when appointments will occur and how long they will take. Because these predictions are based on actual, real-time information, organizations can effectively communicate appointment information to customers, with the confidence the field workforce will deliver on the service promise.  Because the system learns based on information unique to the individual and organization, it takes five days, on average, to learn the patterns of a given workforce in a way that generates results. , on average, to learn the patten waesu yding next steps with John/Yuvalconsumption)of day Thursday. ability However, the solution still achieves incredible efficiencies and results on day one, because TOA can input previously collected industry data (from its expertise in the industry) or apply basic patterns or knowledge provided by the organization. Therefore, the technology can optimize schedules for a good starting point even before it collects data from the field.

    The customer’s time is money

    The focus on time and efficiency is more important now than ever before because in today’s more competitive markets, customer satisfaction, and not cost, has become a focal point.  Customers have choices in who they do business with and if a product fails to measure up a customer might go elsewhere.  But in today’s more competitive marketplace the service experience goes under the same microscope and if a service experience fails to measure up it can also be reason for customer attrition.  TOA’s secret sauce is its understanding that a focus on time efficient processes results in both cost containment for the vendor and greater reliability and a better customer experience.

    So, by capturing data that enables the system to accurately predict how long it takes to perform a repair or move a truck from one customer location to another at a particular time of day, a service vendor can more accurately predict a service window and detect any slippage in the schedule.  Predictive scheduling enables the vendor to promise a smaller service window for the customer, freeing up the customer’s time in the process.  This is one reason that TOA has been selected by several cable providers, telcos and pay TV providers including Dish Network, Cablevision, Cox Communications and Virgin Media.

    Salesforce connection

    TOA Technologies has more than ninety enterprise class customers and more than 66,000 users of its solutions.  At any time there are more than seventy thousand mobile assets actively tracked by the system.  ETAworkforce, TOA’s integration suite, which went live on the AppExchange in mid-2012, brings together Salesforce CRM and field service management powered by TOA.  ETAworkforce also enables customer service representatives (CSRs) in the call center to book appointments the way a traveler might book a flight, as well as create work orders — all within the Salesforce ecosystem.  This was impossible before ETAworkforce was available.


    ETAdirect predicts how the unpredictable events that occur daily in any field service delivery will impact the rest of the day, thus empowering the organization to see and manage problems before they occur.  According to Vice President Of Channels and Alliances, Jeff Wartgow, “TOA’s ETAdirect solution manages 75 million appointments per year.  Also, “Any industry that requires having a service person arrive on site, and on time,” is a candidate for the TOA system including furniture delivery, retail and home healthcare to name a few.

    Tracking time is a great way to improve customer satisfaction and save money. Because TOA tracks data rigorously, it’s easy to come up with its own performance averages a representative sample includes:

    • Reduction of service wait window to one hour
    • 30 percent improvement in on-time performance and 98 percent customer satisfaction rate
    • 70 percent reduction in “Where’s My Service/Delivery?” calls to the call center
    • 47 percent increase in the rate of jobs completed each day
    • 40 percent decrease in miles driven per appointment
    • 20 percent reduction in time to complete jobs
    • 20 percent reduction in unnecessary visits to a customer home
    • 75 percent reduction in overtime


    As long as there are reasons to bring products and services to customers there will be a need to manage costs and expectations to deliver optimal customer service experiences.  TOA Technologies has shown an understanding of what’s critically important in servicing customers at their locations.  It’s understanding what happens in the field, down to the individual employee, and using that information to predict when things will happen and how long they will take. Managing time has enabled TOA to elevate the discussion from service automation to real service management.

    Published: 10 years ago

    It’s always nice to receive email from people who agree with you.  Who doesn’t like that?  I get my share, as well as a few not-so glowing reviews of my work and in the grand scheme of things it’s all deserved — the good and the not so good.  I am not always right though I am certainly always verbose!  That makes it extra nice to receive an email like the one reprinted below.

    But this isn’t about me, it’s about the business movement and phenomenon we know as the AppExchange.  As you’ll read from Mr. Fernando Israel of Uruguay, the AppExchange opened up a new way of doing business for him, one that simply didn’t exist before.  The story Israel recounts here is exactly what I was describing in 2004 in “The New Garage” and it’s wonderful to see it in action.

    I think Salesforce deserves a lot of credit for what it’s done with the AppExchange.  I has developed a new business paradigm for technology vendors and if you believe what’s being written about the subscription economy, it goes well beyond the tech sector.  Only Amazon and Apple have done more to establish the on-line sales paradigm and I’d say that Salesforce has carried the most water for subscriptions to date.  After you read the letter below, you’ll know more about what I mean.

     Oooo!  Know what?  This could be fun.  If you have an AppExchange story like Mr. Israel’s please send it along.  I can’t promise to post all of them but you never know where this will lead.


    Dear Denis,

    First of all thank you for your blog post :“The AppExchange Seven Years On”, a very refreshing piece on a subject that is close to my heart.

    I am writing to you because you touched on a point that has been crucial for me, and I could not stress it hard enough. On your second bullet point you say: “The AppExchange created the opportunity for a very long tail of credible business solutions”. Here to me lays the magic and the power of what Salesforce is all about, and of course the AppExchange is a vital part of it.

    I started a company 8 years ago when I had to come back for personal reasons to my native Uruguay. This is a very small country, with about 3M people, and located in a part of the world normally known as “third world”. When I grew up, it was inconceivable to be able to launch a global business from here. Still today at the fast pace of globalization, it is not easy. And this is where the AppExchange and Salesforce get into the picture.

    The AppExchange has completely changed that. It was the last piece (or perhaps the first one, depends on how one sees it) that made it possible to bring down all the barriers so, basically anybody in the world with an internet connection and a computer, can launch a new and successful global business. When I was a kid you had to be called IBM to do that, or you had to be born in the US or Europe. Not anymore.

    I have launched Invoices for Salesforce a year ago in the AppExchange, and this has completely changed my life. It has picked up a lot of attention during this last year, we have customers as far as Japan, Iceland, Russia and India (far from us), and the momentum does not seem to stop. Of course I am ecstatic about it, but perhaps more important, I can’t stop thinking at the more fundamental issue here: the world has changed for the better! Today, thanks to the AppExchange, the field has been leveled, and anybody can add value to the enterprise, globally, and create a new business and new opportunities.

    I noticed you mentioned some of the outstanding apps this last year in your post, all well deserved, and I wanted to put Invoices for Salesforce in the radar too. I have a story to tell, one that embodies what Salesforce and the AppExchange have done for this world. Here is a link to a blog post that Mr Reid Carlberg wrote just before Christmas about it

    If you think it is appropriate,  I would love for Invoices for Salesforce to be include in the list of future blogs.


    Kind Regards,

    Fernando Israel

    Phone:     +598 2900 0159

    Cell:         +598 9927 5928


    Twitter:    @invoicesforce


    Ok, Fernando, will do!

    Published: 10 years ago