This past July, salesforce.com hosted the Summer of Hacks, a series of hackathons hosted in New York City, Los Angeles, Bangalore, and London. Unlike prior hackathons, the Summer of Hacks encouraged participation from Salesforce Administrators and Developers as well as Graphic Designers and End Users. Salesforce enthusiasts were challenged to combine their collective skills and expertise to build a mobile app leveraging the Salesforce1 Platform.
Submissions were judged on four criteria: innovation, business potential, user experience, and use of the Salesforce1 Platform. Internet Creations’ CEO, Chad Meyer, and Proximity Insight’s Co-Founder, Kris Moyse, were invited by salesforce.com to be judges at the sold out New York City hackathon. We recently sat down with Chad and Kris to get their insights and experiences as judges.
What’s your relationship to salesforce.com?
Chad: Internet Creations started as a Salesforce customer in 2004 and in 2006 became a salesforce.com partner.
Kris: I was a Salesforce consultant for a number of years before moving to developing products on the platform. Proximity Insight is our latest product, integrating the latest iBeacon proximity technology with your Salesforce environment to get you closer to your customers.
What’s your experience in app development?
Kris: I have been a coder for the last 13 years. After graduating with a Computer Science degree, I worked on VB.NET and MSSQL. I have been working on the Salesforce platform for roughly 6 years now.
Chad: We never intended to become an app development company, but when we developed Email to Case Premium for our own internal use, it quickly and unexpectedly became a coveted tool for world-class service organizations around the world.
What are some of the benefits of developing apps on the Salesforce1 Platform?
Chad: Time to value, and if you are a salesforce.com ISV, a huge market.
Kris: There are two main advantages; speed to build is at least half of any other platform because of the ability to point and click for the most part and the platform is very open with hundreds of APIs exposing almost every part of the system.
What was your overall reaction to the App ideas that were submitted?
Kris: I was so impressed by the App ideas and execution, it was amazing what the teams achieved in 3 days. The hackathon was a great testament to the Salesforce Platform and really demonstrated that it is by far the best Platform as a Service (PaaS) on the market.
Chad: I was amazed by the variety of use cases the teams came up with that were a perfect fit for the Salesforce1 platform. They proved that you can run virtually anything on the platform and turn out new solutions quickly.
Did you learn something new from the presentations you judged?
Chad: User Experience was 1 of 4 judging criteria and it’s incredibly important although often overlooked. In this hackathon, there was a role for the teams to include Designers, not just coders, and it made a big difference.
Kris: Technically, I learned a lot about the new video chat capabilities of the Salesforce ecosystem. On a business front, my experience judging this event reinforced how powerful the platform is when tied into external data sources like the Fitbit API.
What was the most difficult part of judging?
Kris: I didn’t find it difficult, I really enjoyed it. I think trying to get your head around the technology in such a short amount of time is the hardest.
Chad: Normalizing the submissions to be relative to the batch. I’d see something impressive, and then I’d see something better.
What would you say or recommend to future Hackathon judges?
Chad: Capture notes for each submission and then score them once you have seen them all.
Kris: Ask as many questions about the technology as possible so you can determine if the entry is smoke and mirrors or not. Also make sure you revisit your scores at the end to make sure they are relative to each other.
Where do you see app development in the next 5 years?
Kris: The mobile craze has only just begun. Connected people and devices is where it is going next, https://twitter.com/ValaAfshar/status/489916920817520640/photo/1.
Chad: I expect there to be a huge focus on user experience, and connected and wearable devices (Internet of Things) really enhances the user experience.
Do you have any final words of wisdom for those eager to build Salesforce Apps?
Chad: When setting out to build an app, be a subject matter expert in the area it serves. With deep knowledge about the subject, you will able to 1) assess business potential, 2) be innovative, and 3) create a user experience that is enjoyable and appropriate for your target audience. When developing on the Salesforce1 platform, it is imperative to follow the design principles because your target audience probably already uses Salesforce. Who doesn’t?
Kris: And most important, have fun!