Analytics Cloud: Riding the Wave of Big Data

salesforce-waveDreamforce is almost over and all the main announcements are now out of the bag. Chris has just dropped his blog about the new “Lightning Process Builder” which we both think is set to change the game further in terms of declarative platform development, giving admins, dare I say it, awesome super powers.

Sorry I have digressed a bit here! Let’s start this again by giving a big ‘Wave’ to an entirely new cloud, the “Analytics Cloud”. This new cloud brings together technology from a number of recent acquisitions and some new responsive technology to provide us with a grease-lightning mobile-first experience. If you have already downloaded the app and had even the smallest of plays you will appreciate that!

So why does it get its own cloud? Well this is not an update for the existing reports engine, which perhaps some people were expecting, but instead an entirely new analytics platform which is set to disrupt and turn the business intelligence market on its head. In the past I have been involved with many Salesforce implementations which have tested some of the best Salesforce reporting ninjas around, leaving many saying that standard reporting will simply not cut it, you need to get a dedicated BI tool. As you can imagine, this normally generates a lot of moans from the stakeholders who believe Salesforce alone will solve all their problems. With the Analytics Cloud, or Project Wave, Salesforce fills this gap and addresses the long standing gripe with their offering.

What’s the rationale for going and thinking this big and more than just a reports upgrade? As always I think it comes back to early trend spotting like they have done with pretty much everything, predicting where things are heading. I know you are probably saying BI is nothing new. This time though it’s more than just a trend, it’s a Customer Data Revolution, to quote Salesforce’s own words. This represents the shift from a largely unconnected world, to a world where everything has the potential to be connected, often referred to as the Internet of Things (IoT). This data revolution is taking place at lightning speed and for Salesforce to be that Customer Platform it inspires to be it has be smarter and faster at pulling vast amounts of data together and putting it all literally at people’s fingertips which is where the analytics cloud is heading!

That’s enough of the why; what is it actually like hands on?

An update by Mr Benioff on Facebook tagged “Catch a Wave – available on the app store now” let the cat out of the bag way before the keynote; thanks Marc! So naturally I jumped on the app store and downloaded it.  My first reaction here was why am I downloading a standalone app instead of accessing the functionality within the existing Salesforce1 mobile app – the only reason I can see at this moment in time is it is to showcase the functionality at its best and within the context it was intended, mobile first. This is so apparent the moment you tap the new app and it opens.

The new app comes preloaded with an incredibly large data set called Playground, so plenty of data to play with instantly. Now for the cool bit and albeit this could be smoke and mirrors, but turn your phone to airplane mode then fire the app up again, you will find that you can still fully play around with the full dataset. 2014-10-16 23.35.38Could this explain why it’s so fast as the entire dataset is stored offline on the device keeping the experience consistently fast and responsive. So here is what I’m thinking and those who are familiar with data warehouse concepts will get and understand this, did Salesforce just invent the first mobile data warehouse here. I’ll leave that one out there for comments!

So we have a new app and a ton of data to play with. The Playground dataset comes grouped into four apps which in BI terms would translate to data marts I’m guessing. Datasets and related analytics are grouped together and easily toggled between, behaving very similar to apps in Salesforce. You will notice the term reports is completely absent, in fact you cannot find the word report anywhere in the app which is completely intentional by Salesforce. The word report conjures up the concept of something which is largely a fixed and static experience. Wave is the complete polar opposite of this which as soon as you start touching charts – and there are a lot of them – you totally get why they are describing the analytics experience as a journey.

Touch any of the charts like Sales Performance, as an example, and you are immediately presented with a single page titled “Will I hit my target?” which is always a good question. The headline stats are present just below followed by some mobile filters for the different regions in the US, Midwest, Northwest etc, then just below that is the main chart and finally below that the record details.

2014-10-16 22.50.35

It’s difficult to describe just how pleasing on the eye it is, this isn’t something squashed down to fit a mobile device, it’s perfectly mobile in every way. The real magic starts when you start touching the different aspects of the page. Touch the region filters and you will see lightning changes in the result set with some tight aminations and almost zero delay. By removing all the friction from data changes you start to see why the experience is a journey, touch anywhere on the chart you get visual indicator and a refresh of all the data points present on the page. Double-tap takes you deeper in where you can access a set of buttons to perform actions like drill-in, group, filter and measure, all which feel natural and intuitive. Try out the view action and switch between H-bar and V-bar to be rewarded again with some super cool animations. Sharing analytics moments is made effortless and rounds out the whole experience.

Of course this is only a broad brush overview of the functionality and what the potential looks like for Analytics Cloud, we will know more once it gets out there properly, but until then I’m left incredibly frustrated as I just want more.

As always we would love to hear people’s thoughts and initial reaction to the new Analytics Cloud, don’t be shy now!


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