Tools to Enhance Analytics Capability on Salesforce

By December 15, 2015Sales
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Very often organisations face reporting issues that are beyond standard Salesforce functionality. Salesforce has been doing well with providing new additions to reporting functionality. However, the table, summary, matrix and joint reports formats also do meet limitations very often. Joined reports have bridged a huge gap that previously existed in Salesforce reporting by allowing unrelated objects reports to be presented jointly as long as a connector object exists, for example: reporting on accounts, against opportunities against cases.

But when it comes to creating multi-step reporting (a list of opportunities by region, by territory and by sales rep), Salesforce.com starts to show its limitation. Furthermore, there are instances when organisations demand reporting across 2 or more different systems outside of Salesforce. It may be Microsoft Excel sheets for processes (and users) outside of Salesforce in simple form or ERP system and Salesforce. If the organisation chooses to not deploy integration of two systems, then it must choose from a range of advanced reporting tool (a.k.a BI tools for the more advanced ones). This post summarizes our findings across evaluating various options that existed.

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As one moves up the layers, the solutions compete as FULL Stack BI tools.

  1. The solutions lower in the layer satisfy need to keep cost low, while giving incrementally higher functionality than Salesforce standard reporting can offer.
  2. The solutions higher up in the layers provide business value and address other set of drivers that emphasize on data for insight based and predictive decision making.
  3. The lower level solutions can be implemented by business users, with minimal implementation help from solution provider or external SI.
  4. The middle level solutions require involvement of Analyst as the owner for solution implementation and execution, with minimal implementation support.
  5. The top layer solutions require consolidated effort from IT, Analyst and deeper user requirements gathering/ involvement, as deserving of an enterprise grade solutions.
  6. All solutions considered above are AppExchange partner, either with native application, embedded interface OR connectors built with an external interface.

Continue reading or Download our quick comparison sheet here.

Apsona

Apsona for Salesforce is an add-on application for Salesforce.com available through AppExchange. It soon became our ‘find of the month”.  This along with multi-step reporting add-on makes reporting a self-service functionality.

Multi-step reporting is targeted at easy report creation and data extraction, and is meant for routine data processing tasks. It is a good fit for operational data processing needs, where you need a quick report that you wish to export to a spreadsheet program (such as Excel) where you can perform further analysis, manipulation and perhaps import back into Salesforce.

“It is similar to joined reports but allows multiple steps with larger limit than standard reporting.”

Contact Us for personal Apsona demo.

Other Entry Level Solutions on AppExchange

IQ2020.com & Spreadsheet Space

These are other viable options listed on AppExchange. These solutions also claim to support the excel-template based integration. Upon first level of research, the user reviews of Apsona are much more comforting. On next level of contact with the teams at IQ2020.com and Spreadsheet Space we received sluggish (or no) responses. In general, the support and response time available from Apsona has encouraged a deeper evaluation of Apsona. The transparency and feedback available on websites + app exchange has put Apsona clearly in forefront.

Tableau or Qlik

These are data discovery and visualization tools, designed for data analysts and more technical business users. The focus of these tools is not primarily reporting and monitoring, but rather ad-hoc analysis of multiple data sources. It is a best fit for individual business users who need to blend the data with no required IT assistance and produce visually compelling images to understand the data and tell a story.

In this post, we will not dive into differences between these tools, but focus only on similarities and general use cases.

Both can be used in both desktop and web-based configurations, downloaded and installed in a few minutes. These enables analysts to create charts quickly and easily – adding data, modifying calculations and changing scenarios on the fly. Creating dashboards by assembling relevant information in one place drives focus, smart decision. Particularly for reporting on regional data, a greater level of understanding can be achieved by seeing data on geographical Maps. Mapping this data reveals patterns – from product profitability to customer penetration and everything in between – to make informed decisions and guide next steps.

This category of tool blends Salesforce standard data with other custom data – e.g. Salesforce, product data, profitability, territory planning, marketing data from ExactTarget, as well as customer demographics data against opportunities.

Contact Us for more information about Qlik and Tableau.

Birst

Birst becomes the tool of choice when Predictive Analysis becomes critical. For example: Sophisticated sensitivity analysis is needed for driving accuracy in forecasted opportunity numbers against actuals. Pre-requisite for just deployment is also a successful usage of any standard CRM tool that provides warehouse of historical data. Secondly, when multiple sources of data exists, ETL of raw data is critical and enterprise wide solution rather than distributed solution is needed.

Birst, with a deployment time of over 4 weeks, is a full blown Business Intelligence solution that requires upfront investments in infrastructure too. Organisations looking to limit deployment at regional offices level or without involvement of IT may find their bandwidths choked with even pilot for full scale BI tool like Birst.

Anaplan

Anaplan is cloud based Corporate Performance (and Planning) Management platform used beyond requirements of business intelligence. It specifically focuses on building mechanisms for planning, controlling or managing towards business objectives or KPIs. CPM is all about leveraging the data provided by BI to guide the organization towards its objectives. Anaplan executes process oriented set of tasks that involve financial activities like budgeting, planning and forecasting.  The real-time modeling and calculation engine of Anaplan is especially good for

  1. Territory and Quota planning
  2. Incentive Compensation planning and monetization
  3. Sales Forecasting

Similarly, Salesforce Analytics the company’s one of the newest forays in product expansion. Deep functionality around business reporting and intelligence is available for trial. Again, this is a much bigger deployment, a separate project on its own that needs a pocket as deep as USD 150K starting. We will cover this solution a lot more detail in another post.

Summary

Many times, unique reporting requirements for organisations, driving data from multiple sources (especially as varied as MS Excel and Salesforce), do not necessarily require a full blown BI tool. Tools like Apsona, natively built on Salesforce has bridged the gap very well. Even taking a step back, for unique requirements around visualization of Salesforce data, look at VisualForce pages to start with. If you are looking for a moderate and incremental advantage over what standard Salesforce reporting provides, Apsona is definitely worth a look.

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