Growth in mobile business intelligence has been steady but slow, according to many experts. But 120 days after the introduction of its Wave analytics platform, Salesforce is "doubling down" on mobile analytics at the request of its customers, said Stephanie Buscemi, SVP of Marketing for the Salesforce Analytics Cloud.
Noting that "customers cannot always imagine the possibilities until they have been given the functionality," Buscemi said Salesforce is discovering a high interest in mobile analytics. More than 50 percent of the activity on the Analytics Cloud, which was introduced in October at the company’s Dreamforce event, has occurred via mobile devices, she said.
Three Mobile Analytics Tools
Given this, Salesforce today announced three new mobile tools on the Wave platform, all of which will become widely available next month. The tools will be offered on the iOS platform, with Salesforce planning versions for Android and Windows Mobile in the coming months.
The first, Wave Mobile Connector, will allow users to directly import raw data files such as Excel spreadsheets or CSV files into the Analytics Cloud mobile app and convert it into graphs and charts that are easier to view and understand on mobile devices.
Another tool, Wave Mobile Dashboard Designer, will enable users to create dashboards on their mobile devices. The third tool, Wave Links, makes it possible for users to move easily between the Analytics Cloud and any Salesforce app or partner application built on the company's Saleforce1 development platform.
In an example offered by Salesforce, a service rep could click a link in the Salesforce Service Cloud mobile app that would take him directly to a product usage dashboard in the Analytics Cloud mobile app. The rep can then determine whether a customer problem is a common case or an anomaly and toggle back to the service case to identify an appropriate escalation path.
Working within the Salesforce environment helps IT organizations deal with concerns associated with employees that purchase and use mobile apps with no input from IT, Buscemi said. "Permissions and security policies for the Salesforce environment are already established through IT, so our customers tell us there is a sense of security and trust. It is something business users want, but it is not 'rogue.' IT knows how the data is being shared."
Analytics for Everyone
The new tools are part of Salesforce's effort to make analytics available to everyone, an idea that is widely discussed but rarely put into action, Buscemi said.
"I think 'everyone' is the most overused term in marketing for BI and analytics," she said. "But I feel like most BI software out there still requires an analyst. We are trying to get to the outer ring of end users."
Salesforce has deployed the new analytics tools to all of its own sales people, and many managers have used them as well, she said, adding, "If [a tool] can't be that simple, it really isn't for everyone."
While analysts and other experts have long insisted most users want to simply view analytics data on their mobile devices rather than manipulate it, Buscemi said Salesforce and its customers are discovering multiple use cases for exploration of mobile data.
For example, some customers find that equipping sales people with customer-facing dashboards enables them to have more meaningful discussions with their clients, she said. Sales reps are using presentation apps like AirPlay to project the dashboards from their devices onto a screen, "a more innovate way to engage the customer" than a PowerPoint presentation.
Sales reps can also "co-browse" data with their customers, saving everything they do as customers ask questions during "freeform exploration" so they can share a customized sequence with the customers at the conclusion of a browsing session, Buscemi noted.
To introduce users to the Analytics Cloud, Salesforce is offering a free playground version that allows users to import their own data from a CSV file and explore it instantly, or experiment with a variety of pre-loaded data sets. The playground is available for desktops as well as mobile devices, and the desktop version includes tutorials to help visitors learn how to create queries and explore dashboard mashups of multiple data sources.
Buscemi said analytics enhancements already in the works include more collaboration capabilities through integration with Chatter, more direct integration into workflows in the Salesforce Service and Marketing Clouds, and pre-packaged analytics apps that should appeal to smaller companies.
Ann All is the editor of Enterprise Apps Today and eSecurity Planet. She has covered business and technology for more than a decade, writing about everything from business intelligence to virtualization.