SaaS Sales Analytics For Salesforce
The software-as-a-service (SaaS) model is disrupting traditional approaches to business analytics. The long deployment cycles, high costs, complicated upgrade processes and IT infrastructure required of traditional on-premise business intelligence solutions are no longer acceptable in the era of on demand.
Instead a new breed of analytic solutions has emerged that are simple to set-up and simple to use and deliver immediate business value. The difficulty for salesforce.com customers is in knowing where to start. With well over 50 analytic applications to choose from on the Force.com AppExchange and native transactional reporting features constantly improving in the CRM application itself, it can sometime seem like the status quo of “Excel Hell” is the easiest and safest choice.
Unless you’re happy managing and maintaining those unwieldy spreadsheets, pivot tables, disconnected Access databases, and numbers that often don’t even add up, here is primer to help you move from sales force automation to salesforce.com acceleration with on-demand business analytics:
Understand Your Sales Analytics Requirements
If you’re a Salesforce administrator, you already know how important it is to become proficient with the built-in reporting and dashboard capabilities of the application. If you’re not already up to speed, be sure to sign up for a training course, watch a Dreamforce presentation on the success.salesforce.com community website, and try downloading a few of the free dashboard applications on the AppExchange.
But this is only the beginning. Inevitably with Salesforce, as is typical of transactional reporting, you’re always 4 or 5 reports away from answering the question you really want to answer.
To understand your sales analytics requirements, you need to consider the following:
- What information do sales managers, the CFO and the CEO need today to be successful?
- What business questions are the most difficult to answer today? Who is asking these questions? When and why? Would people prefer to answer their own business questions or are they content relying upon the sales operations, business analysts, and/or IT function for information?
- How do managers prefer to access and analyze business information–dynamic dashboards, spreadsheets, pdf, PowerPoint, email, mobile device, etc.?
- What other sources of information do people need to access and analyze in order to achieve sales success?
These are tools designed for advanced report developers to create virtually any report on transactional data. Also known as “enterprise reporting”, these tools typically provide built-in scheduling of pre-authored, highly formatted, “pixel perfect” reports that may include prebuilt prompts or filters to make them seem interactive.
For salesforce.com customers can look at these tools, can create virtually any join, but the data size must be small. Attempting to replicate all of your transactional data in a desktop reporting tool in order to get the queries you need will not work. If people want to be able to ask spontaneous, iterative, or trend-based questions of their business data, these tools are not a good fit.
If you have someone in house who understands SQL (and SOQL), and you just need a couple of static reports delivered, start here. Just be sure to find out about customization, support, and advanced report-writing costs up front and keep an eye on the enhancements coming in the native salesforce.com transactional reporting features. Also keep in mind what Neil Raden noted in his salesforce.com paper called, Accelerating Analytics Success with On Demand:
Native Dashboard Applications
There are many interactive, real-time charting and Adobe Flex-based analytic dashboard components on the AppExchange today. Some are easier to set up and use than others. Most are eye catching. The native dashboard applications often impress executives and non-analyst roles in the company, but because they are built on the underlying transactional Force.com platform, they typically do little for the people struggling with disparate Excel spreadsheets and historical reporting and analysis requirements.
Keep in mind that a nice-looking, mashed-up dashboard widget may have “demo sizzle” and may even make sense for your business process, but all dashboard-focused applications on the AppExchange are not alike.