Salesforce is making good on its promise to more closely tie together its platform-as-a-service offerings with today's availability of the Salesforce1 Connected Customer App Package, a bundle that makes it easier to build mobile-friendly web applications on its Heroku platform that tie into a customer's existing enterprise data -- provided that enterprise data is also stored with Salesforce.
The linchpin of this offering is the new Heroku Connect plugin, which we first reported on back in February as part of the Heroku1 initiative, which is the company's marketing term for its unified efforts to tie Heroku more closely to the core product.
Heroku Connect is the connector that keeps databases for apps created in the Heroku platform synced with Salesforce customer databases, using the Force.com platform as the middleman for business process automation. This allows customer-facing apps built on Heroko to stay in lock-step with an enterprise backend.
This is critical, says Heroku VP of Product Adam Gross, because it's very difficult to build apps that engage customers across mobile platforms at large scale while also meeting the enterprise's needs around maintaining customer data and visibility into workflows. Startups like Lyft can do it because they're designed for this kind of modern approach from the start, while huge entities like Bank of America can do it because they can throw money and consultants at the problem.
"It's hard to build something that looks good on the front-end and connects on the back," Gross says.
But in the middle, Gross says, it's very hard to build an application that's both customer-friendly and enterprise-friendly, even as it's more critical than ever than any company with customers -- which is to say, all of them -- builds out their mobile app strategy.
"If they don't, their competitors will," Gross says.
Which brings us back to Heroku Connect and the Connected Customer App Package. Billed in a capacity model (exact pricing depends on the size of the customer and use cases), the Package lets customers buy developer plug-ins that connect various Heroku app components to to Force.com business processes and the Salesforce platform.
Among the marquee customers for the announcement are burger chain Red Robin, which is using the Connected Customer App Package to tie its CRM with a customer-facing loyalty app, and New England Biolabs, which is using it to power its so-called "talking freezer" initiative, which ties its connected freezers to its inventory system.
In short, Silicon Valley is really great at building enterprise apps that look good. Heroku and Salesforce are looking to make it easier for that approach to spread.