I received a survey from Salesforce.com asking about interest in improved Analytical capabilities. This is interesting because there’s always a trade-off between ‘ease of use’ and ‘capability’. It’ll be interesting to see what they can achieve within the user-friendly interface that Salesforce.com currently offers.
For me, an interesting capability would be the ability to ‘suck in’ data from outside Salesforce for offer reporting services on top, sort of like a Business Intelligence tool. My company has its own systems and databases for storing customer and transaction data. Our Salesforce instance is a destination for such data, rather than being a source. All of our reporting comes out our databases via our wiki. (Believe it or not, using a wiki for reporting is an utterly incredibly, fantastic thing!)
Therefore, we only use reporting in Salesforce for information that originates within Salesforce, which is typically the status of Opportunities. It’s of interest only to those who maintain such data within Salesforce.
The other data, however, is what keeps several people in my IT team continuously busy, writing complex SQL (see my other, young blog with SQL tips) and combining information into data warehouses to satisfy the demands of sales and marketing staff. If Salesforce was to include the ability to consume external data, it would make an interesting reporting platform. I fear, however, that it would lack the extreme power of SQL — there’s only so much you can do in a drag & drop environment.
I have previously investigated reporting systems for my company, looking at behemoths such as Crystal Reports (no thanks!) through to BIRT (a bit immature) and Zoho Reports (too hard to automatically upload data, but I now see that they’ve got a behind-the-firewall tool so this might no longer be a problem). Let’s just say that there is space in the market for a good, web-based reporting tool that would offer drill-down, security levels, embedding (especially in a wiki!) and drag & drop customisation.
Mind you, a ‘cloud’ reporting solution would involve uploading and storing an awful lot of data. Salesforce is pretty stingy on data storage quantities, so this would be a problem if you’ve only got a small number of users. I guess we’ll have to wait and see.
The Bottom Lines
- Salesforce might improve Analytics
- It would be neat if it could access external data
- Would they go after the likes of Crystal?