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In the past year, we’ve seen the rise of the Agile BI movement, as end users wanted control over the data and the analytics on it, and to get answers faster. screenshot

When we were looking at the enhancements that were requested on IdeaExchange, we knew that meant that the Analytics features had to be

  • self-service, by any user, not requiring dedicated report builders
  • collaborative, so that any user can work with any other to build a report, and use it
  • and real-time, because you need the data there right now if you are looking at the deals closed on the last day of the quarter, or the current case workload.

These are already the core values, and the themes that drive all the analytic features already at the heart of our system, but we needed more expressive power, to make reports richer, without making them more complicated.

Today, if you want to create a richer report than you can in salesforce.com, you have to go to a single-purpose BI tool – but these often come with drawbacks. Either the license to create reports is very expensive, and so few people can use it, or it’s hard to use, and few people use it. Also, these other solutions are usually expensive, and typically come with a minimum price, even for 3 users, so smaller companies can’t even get started. Then you’ll probably end up with a set of compromises – different sharing model, different data model, different field names, not real time, more logins, not collaborative, no easy link back to the source data, etc, etc, etc.

Even if you get started, the odds are against you - Analytics and BI are known for failure – 70-80% of BI projects fail.

If you were are cloudforce NY, you’d have heard about the introduction of a new analytics product from us.

The salesforce.com Analytics Edition

We’ve decided to take a set of features that would be in a typical BI tool, and make them part of an add-on to a normal salesforce user license. There are two things different about this:

  • the features are seamlessly integrated into the tools you use today – for instance, the report builder would just include the ability to do filtering across objects – even those not in the report
  • every user has to be licensed, but every user gets all the power. Many of the studies of BI failures showed that adoption was a problem. Why would you adopt something you can never change as a user? As you learned watching Ratatouille, although not anybody can find insight in the data, a great piece of analysis can come from anywhere.

We wanted to make sure we didn’t fall prey to the usual BI problems, so we’ve tried to design the product, the licensing, and the experience to avoid the problems.

Analytics Edition features

There are four parts to the Analytics Edition in Spring’12

  • bucketing, a feature which lets you group data and place them in categories – buckets. For numeric data, you can say that deals under $1000 are small, and over that are large
  • cross-filtering, that allows you to filter on related objects, for instance, in a report on accounts and contacts, to show all contacts in accounts that don’t have a closed opportunity.
  • a new report format - joined reports – where you can join reports together, to report on multiple children of the same parent, for instance, meaning you can have a report showing the products, and team members on each opportunity in your team.
  • higher limits on snapshots, scheduled reports and dashboards, and dynamic dashboards.

Is every new analytics feature going to be in the Analytics Edition?

No, we’re going to keep enhancing the features included with Sales Cloud, Service Cloud, or Force.com licensses. For instance, increasing the numbers of report folders, the filters on dashboards. The iPad app is going to get more enhancements. We are also working on more performance improvements. In general, features that you’d find in a BI tool would go into Analytics Edition, other features would be included with the other licenses.

But I saw you at Dreamforce’11, and you didn’t say anything about it being extra.

Packaging and pricing are always decided later. And building these features is hard, and has taken a big investment from salesforce.com. Without the investment, we’d have never been able to deliver the features, and not every customer needs them. Maybe you’ve already spend millions on BI project, and maybe you are part of the 20% of success stories, so you won’t want this from us.

But if you aren’t, you need more power to help you make better decisions, integrated in salesforce, real-time, and using the tools you are used to, you might be interested in talking to us.