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Tags: Reports

This is a little off-topic, but I think that my audience of readers may actually know a lot about this topic!

My company is searching for a Business Intelligence (Reporting) system, and I’d love to get suggestions of systems to investigate!

Our requirements are:

  • Web-based reporting tool
  • Concurrent or ‘unlimited user’ licensing — one of the core values of our company is “Open Company, No Bullshit”, so we want to give reporting access to everyone. I don’t mind if there are tiers of users (eg only some can create reports), as long as I can give access to 200+ people.
  • Give users (or at least a subset of users) the ability to play with crosstabs / Pivot Tables of data, so they can slice & dice the data themselves. They should be able to select rows, columns and filters so that they can do self-service reporting.
  • Give users (or at least a subset of users) the ability to create their own private reports, and the ability to publish reports to the rest of the company. There should be some form of security in place so that people can’t overwrite ‘official’ reports (eg ones created by the IT department).
  • Saas or runs under RedHat (no Microsoft technologies, please!)
  • Users can access on the Mac (eg Firefox, Safari as browsers)
  • No need for ETL capabilities — we’ve done all that!
  • Our preferred database is PostgreSQL, but we could be flexible on that

The system will report on data in our corporate databases, so I’m not looking for any particular Salesforce functionality.

Saas solutions we know about:

Non-SaaS solutions we know about:

We also ruled out some vendors due to the need for a Microsoft platform:

So, do you know of a kick-arse web-based BI tool that empowers users to create their own reports?

If so, I’d love to hear from you either via ask@theenforcer.net or as a comment on this blog. Thanks!

The Bottom Line

  • I’m looking for a kick-arse web-based reporting tool
  • We’ve looked at many and haven’t been perfectly satisfied
  • Do you know of any others?
Tags: Reports

A while ago, I mentioned a survey from Salesforce regarding improved Analytics capabilities.

It appears that some form of Report enhancement is definitely on its way, because I logged a UI bug with the current Report Builder, and got this response:

The issue that you brought forward is, indeed, a bug, however it is being treated with a low priority right now as our developers are planning on replacing the current report builder with a new version – making this bug irrelevant.

So, guess what’s probably coming in the next release!

The Bottom Line

  • A new Reporting system is on its way
Tags: Reports

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?

I had a strange one today. My users were complaining that they couldn’t drill-down from a Dashboard to a Report. They were getting Insufficient Privileges errors.

I had never known this to be the case, since the drill-down always worked for me (as an Administrator).

The reports were of the type “Campaign with Member Status”, but weren’t actually using Member Status. When I recreated the report as type “Campaign”, it worked! However, I didn’t want to recreate all the reports, so I investigated further.

I discovered that the users were getting these options when Creating Reports:

On the other hand, as an Administrator, I was getting these options:

Campaign Members are are stored as separate objects within Salesforce.com, and can be linked to Campaigns, Leads and Contacts. They basically store a Status string (eg Attended) and a HasResponded flag (to measure the success of Campaigns).

Unfortunately, there are no permission settings for Campaign Member objects. So what was preventing them from appearing to my users?

I stumbled across a Salesforce blog article about Best Practices in Campaign Management: Tips & Tricks that referenced a Custom Link that gives a “hidden report”. It didn’t help me, but it reminded me of a similar link on Campaigns that give a list of members:

Well, that report didn’t run for those users, either! (I made heavy use of the Login as Another User functionality to test this, plus a spare account that I use for testing purposes.) It’s a very useful report, so I actually want them to be able to use it.

The Discovery

Well, I eventually discovered that the users had to have Read permission on the Lead object. We don’t use Leads, so I had never assigned permission. Merely giving them Read permission fixed the problem and they can now run all of those reports.

It wasn’t obvious, but the fact that Campaign Member objects contain a pointer to Leads probably explains it. If they aren’t allowed to know about Leads, they shouldn’t be able to view an object that mentions Leads (or something like that). Case closed.

The Bottom Line

  • Many Campaign Reports require Read permission on Leads to enable access
  • Don’t assume that users have access to functionality — Test it by using the Login as Another User functionality