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Inside Tech: Building Purpose-Built Internal Tools for Business Processes

As Kapow grows, the technology team continuously works to improve our technical infrastructure. A big part of that work is to reduce our dependence on third-party tools and services that helped us scale initially with a small tech team. For example, I wrote previously about our migration from Magento to a Ruby on Rails app developed in-house.

Another tool that became embedded in our technical architecture and that we relied upon extensively in the early days of Kapow is Salesforce. It remains a useful tool for our sales team, but it began to cause a lot of headaches for the tech team as it became very tightly coupled with our apps. We relied on it far too much as the source of truth for purposes ranging from authentication to financial calculations. It was used for so many things because of its familiarity to the business and the ease with which it can be extended. When technical resources were scarce, it made sense to lean on Salesforce to support business processes instead of moving those processes into our own apps.

As we grew as a tech team, it became obvious that we had to start the process of pulling back from Salesforce. Our apps would lose major functionality in the event of a Salesforce outage, and we were continuously incurring the costs of working with Salesforce’s APIs. We couldn’t afford to continue relying on it to such a large degree, and we knew we could give the business a better user experience for many of their Salesforce-dependent tasks with purpose-built internal tools.

Our first major initiative in this area was to take the management of contacts and permissioning for an event from Salesforce into our client-facing app. Previously, the source of truth for A.) who could see details related to an event, and B.) who would receive email notifications about the event was Salesforce. There was a mechanism for updating it from our app, but it still looked to Salesforce as the source of truth. Every request for an event had to authenticate with a call to verify that the given user’s Salesforce contact was associated with the Salesforce opportunity for that event.

To replace it, we created a similar concept and built it into our data model. We migrated the data in Salesforce to the new data model for every pre-existing event, built a UI from scratch to give customers the power to edit it, and set up an integration that keeps the Salesforce side in sync. We were then able to cut the cord and eliminate the majority of the Salesforce API calls in the app, as we had already transferred responsibility for managing most of the other data housed in Salesforce to our apps.

In addition to permissioning and contact management, we’ve replaced a survey built with a combination of Salesforce and SurveyGizmo with an in-house tool, and we’re in the process of moving some processes related to account management into our apps. As the needs of our internal users and customers grow, we begin to outgrow the tools and processes that we used to bootstrap our platform early on. We are always on the lookout for opportunities to modernize our infrastructure. Initiatives like this help us continue to deliver a great product to customers as we scale.

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