NI transforms revenue operations with insights from CRM Analytics and Tableau

Learn how a hybrid analytics approach increased productivity by 10% and saved sales reps 45mins per day.

Time to read: 5 minutes

NI, formerly known as National Instruments, is a test and measurement company based in Austin, Texas that has served the technology sector for nearly 50 years with scientific and engineering software, hardware, systems, and services for industries like semiconductor, automotive, aerospace, among many others. 

“Our mission, in part, is equipping scientists and engineers to have the best tools for solving the worst problems,” says Miriam Lainez, Global Analytics Manager for Revenue Operations at NI. “To achieve this mission, it’s essential to have access to insights that will make us successful.”

Lainez’ team focuses specifically on revenue operations, the part of a company that drives growth through operational efficiency and revenue accountability across sales, marketing, and customer success groups. To achieve this at scale, Lainez needed ways to enable insights for these groups at a quick enough pace to run the business effectively.

For Lainez and NI, these requirements led to choosing CRM Analytics, the Salesforce-native analytics solution, to supplement its existing Tableau Server investment. Using these platforms in tandem empowered teams with clear and actionable insights, ensuring nimble collaboration across the sales teams. Here are four ways they accomplished this in the course of their data analytics journey.


1. Putting insights in the context of daily activities

“One of our team’s goals is data democratization—getting data insights to the right people at the right time,” said Monica Obermier, who works with Lainez on revenue operations as a senior analytics manager for the Americas region. “So our job is thinking about where we can inject relevant insights for users of the CRM system, and turn it into a ‘smart CRM’ that will work more intelligently to really help drive our business.”

To achieve this mission, NI selected CRM Analytics, which embeds native, context-specific analytics into the workflows for every Salesforce user. “Empowering people with insights requires giving them clear, effortless visibility into those insights, wherever they happen to be,” said Lainez. “So for us, that’s really about embedding the insights into our CRM workflows.”

To get started with CRM Analytics, NI assembled a 100-person pilot for direct sales users of the CRM in February 2021, and worked with IT to evaluate technical aspects such as permission sets, storage, performance, and data security. Following that, they used templates and wizards to rapidly build out the CRM Analytics features within existing CRM workflows. Users then tried out the new experience and found that it improved their productivity and directly supported their business needs for timely information.

"We know we can’t take the human gut out of forecasting, but what if we can help it along? With our forecasting now in Salesforce, we’re seeking to identify signals in that data that will help predict key outcomes."
Monica Obermier, Sr. Analytics Manager for Americas Operations
Monica Obermier Headshot

2. Achieving “hybrid analytics” with two complementary platforms

Following three months of pilot evaluation, Lainez and Obermier used agile methods to iterate several improvements to the CRM Analytics experience based on the sales users’ feedback. They continued building out new dashboards and expanding the adoption scope to more than 1,000 users to date within sales. At the same time, NI continued reading data assets from its enterprise data lake into Tableau Server for additional sales and revenue insight capabilities.

“For revenue operations, Tableau and CRM Analytics are ideal complements to one another,” said Lainez. “As long as you’ve got them both pointed to the same data source of truth, Tableau can provide the deep analysis needed for performance measurement, and CRM Analytics can use that analysis to help people do their jobs even better.”

The data lake, built on Sales Cloud and Service Cloud, serves as a single source of truth for all Tableau and CRM Analytics workbooks and dashboards. NI is continuously transitioning customer data from its CRM platform into this underlying data lake, ensuring that the same data is used for all analytics in both platforms, enabling executives to make consistent and confident decisions based on sales performance and other factors.

"CRM Analytics allows our sellers to look beyond opportunity data to identify key trends and behaviors for insights that support higher customer intimacy," said Tom Vonderach, Senior Vice President of Global Sales and Support at NI. "These insights help drive additional pipeline opportunities to achieve their growth targets."

increase in productivity

3. Breaking down silos to enable innovation

Prior to using CRM Analytics alongside Tableau Server, NI sales teams lacked an easy way to holistically view an account, including the customer’s case history, product and service health, and open opportunities for additional sales. Viewing this information for top accounts required manually pulling and compiling the relevant data from various systems. With CRM Analytics and Tableau, information sharing is now more fluid and timely.

Recently, for example, NI added a feature to the sales rep and sales leader workflows that embeds account-level planning insights, enabling sales reps to better plan next steps for each account while allowing sales leaders to better drive account strategy with the business units. This holistic approach has yielded efficiency and productivity improvements by sharing the right data at the right time with the right people. Since implementing this feature, NI has seen a 33% and an associated 92% increase in documented three year account potential for Account Plans using these embedded insights.

By breaking down data silos in this way, NI is creating an interconnected experience for sales and customers alike, as the customer interacting with NI likewise benefits from drawing current data from a single source of truth. Lainez’ team has also created training paths that serve as self-based guides. With the guides, any person in the sales organization or elsewhere at NI can learn ways of enriching their use of CRM capabilities by using the dashboards and workbooks enabled by the company’s hybrid analytics platform.

"For revenue operations, Tableau and CRM Analytics are ideal complements to one another. Tableau provides the deep analysis needed for performance measurement, and CRM Analytics uses that analysis to help people do their jobs even better."
Miriam Lainez, Global Analytics Manager for Revenue Operations

4. Growing a robust data analytics ecosystem for the future

Since launching its use of CRM Analytics to supplement Tableau in 2021, NI has grown its user base by 10x and expanded the value of embedded analytics from the original base of direct sales users to now supporting all of revenue operations at the company. By building a hybrid analytics ecosystem using CRM Analytics with Tableau, NI improved the employee and customer experience in ways that increased performance and efficiency for sales, including both inside sales and field team operations. Sales reps at NI estimate they save 40-45 minutes per day due to improved collaboration, and teams have seen a 10% gain in productivity.

Looking to the future, Lainez says NI is currently experimenting with ways to drive enhanced forecasting with assistance from AI and ML. “We know we can’t take the human gut out of forecasting, but what if we can help it along?” said Obermier. “With our forecasting now also moved into Salesforce, we have new data to look at and consume. We’re seeking to identify signals in that data that will help predict key outcomes.”

saved per day by sales rep

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