While the importance of data analytics in the grand scheme of things is now recognized across the board, what has eluded businesses all this while is an easy way to derive actionable analytics and execute them. This, however, is about to change, thanks to Salesforce Wave Analytics.
What is Salesforce Wave?
Salesforce Wave is the “Salesforce Analytical Cloud,” which aims to make analytics easy for the non-technical user. It enables sales teams to realize data-driven sales.
Using Wave, users may:
- Pull together data from multiple facets of the business
- Explore the results using quick searches and dynamic visualizations. These visualizations come optimized for mobile devices.
Decision makers usually rely on static stand-alone reports generated by the analytic team for such tasks. Salesforce Wave makes it possible to generate dynamic real-time reports, with the flexibility to change the parameters and variables as required. It comes with an extremely user-friendly interface and mobile optimization, meaning that the decision makers may glean insights on the fly by themselves, without analytics being another distinct task by itself.
Wave completes the “missing link” in Salesforce’s SMAC stack (Social, Analytics, Mobile and Cloud). It integrates seamlessly with Salesforce Chatter—the social part and Salesforce1—the mobile part, to offer a truly seamless and integrated offering for the customer. It becomes possible for a sales executive, for instance, to generate an analytic report on the fly using a mobile device and send it across instantly to colleagues using Salesforce Chatter.
What are the Possibilities?
Wave ranks as the biggest functionality addition that Salesforce has effected to its platform for quite some time now. The ultimate lodestone of computer related sales and marketing analytics is to ask the computer any question, for the computer to reply with an answer in the form of easy to consume charts, graphs, tables or other illustrations. Wave offers the infrastructure to do that, but more is required to make this truly happen.
Wave already offers unmatched ease and convenience for data analytics, better dashboards and better reports, all adding tremendous value to the existing platform. Salesforce, however, seems to be positioning this product as a separate entity, distinct from its Service Cloud and Sales Cloud, and as such, much more functionality is on the anvil. Though Salesforce itself is tight-lipped on an exact roadmap for Wave, it would be safe to assume that Wave would have many enhancements soon, so that it becomes an effective replacement for whatever Business Intelligence tool the business uses.
Infusing Dynamism to the User Interface
One of the key USPs of Wave is an easy user-friendly interface. However, the possibilities are much more. The following are a few enhancements that would make Wave an even more powerful analytical tool, while offering the ultimate in convenience at the same time:
- A more dynamic dashboard, with the dashboards linked to some interactive elements such as sliders and parameters, maps, bubble charts and more
- The capability to generate well formatted reports that are ready for presentation, formal distribution and even for printing, as an extension of the easy search and visualization capabilities
- Drilled-down reporting, with the option to drill down into the details and navigate up and down the reports, without leaving reports entirely
- Capability to interact with the data, to adjust numbers, tweak various visualizations such as trends, comparisons, and rankings, make changes to distribution, correlation, geographical and other data, manipulate chart images, etc.
The next big “wave” is adding predictive analytics to the mix, quite distinct from the data crunching that the platform offers now. Here, Salesforce is approaching the issue in its unique way. Rather than develop in-house tools that would equip Wave with predicative analytic capabilities, Salesforce is teaming up with third-party vendors for the task. Salesforce’s historic strength has been the ecosystem of myriad vendors who crunch data from Salesforce to deliver value added service to end customers, and Salesforce clearly plans to retain this core competence even as it takes a big step towards proposing a comprehensive offering.
Wave already makes it possible to crunch data at speeds not possible before, but Salesforce is working to amplify the speed at which users can acquire results.
Added to the velocity is the depth or range of coverage. Wave is built with a NoSQL data type, and as such has the capability to analyze data across disparate databases and objects not joined in the data model. At present Salesforce Wave allows easy access to data already present in the Salesforce Force.com platform. However, for Wave to become a big player in the analytical space, it would need to leverage its NoSQL capabilities to the hilt, to source, join, and analyze other data from both internal and external sources. The ability to connect to “Big” data sources, especially columnar and array-based sources, such as MapReduce and other NoSQL databases, would propel Wave to another league altogether.
Wave would also do well to enhance the depth of its features, by adding cutting-edge functionality, such as:
- Geolocation intelligence—combining information from disparate sources such as demographic data to aerial maps and from distance calculations to traditional databases, all integrated in easy-to-understand visual maps of choice
- Highly configurable alerts incorporating Chatter, Mobile, and reminders, offering an integrated place for all these different facets
- Making the analytic search queries more powerful by infusing it with a set of pre-defined questions, facility to tag new analytics elements with keywords, and more
Another big area of development would probably relate to integrating social and analytics. It is given that Salesforce would leverage the Chatter platform to allow users to share the results of their analytics discoveries, and also create or pursue threads related to the same. However, integrating social and analytics in a big way could mean analyzing social data gleaned through listening, and joining all data and its elements in Salesforce such as Custom objects, Chatter, Solutions, and Cases.
The expectations from Wave are huge, and so are the possibilities. How Salesforce equips this tool going forward, in terms of feature enhancements, whether it would be able to handle Big Data, whether it can contend with its prime competitor’s acclaimed query capabilities, and more, would decide its fate as the next big thing—a viable business intelligence tool in its own right, or just a convenient add on to the existing staple of products.
As of now, Wave is available only as a per-user licensing system. The administrative version costs $250 per month, while the Explorer version, for businesses that only want to explore the data, costs $125 per month. This is in addition to the basic license of $40,000. As usual, discounts would likely to be on offer for big buyers.