Salesforce on Tuesday will launch Wave, its analytics cloud, in a move that broadens its platform for other business use cases and applications designed to make data fun and intuitive for the masses.
Wave, the Salesforce Analytics Cloud, is aimed at the broader subset of business users beyond sales and marketing professionals. Salesforce’s analytics efforts are designed to be mobile first with the ability to pluck data from any source.
The rollout will be outlined out at Dreamforce 2014 by CEO Marc Benioff on Tuesday. Strategically, the two-year engineering effort to create Wave is driven by Salesforce’s desire to become an enterprise player that spans most functions. For instance, Wave could be an analytics front-end to human resources, supply chain and manufacturing data. Analytics will give Salesforce the ability to boost its customer wallet share, but the real win may be increasing the company’s total addressable market.
Benioff will note that Wave will democratize data. The sales pitch is that Wave will be able to get to legacy data in an enterprise and make it digestible for the regular business user. Salesforce has advertised numerous big data and analytics openings ahead of the launch.
Meanwhile, Salesforce has the partnerships at launch that lend the analytics cloud a good bit of credibility. Salesforce has 30 partners at launch including big systems integrators such as Accenture and Deloitte and software vendors such as Informatica and Mulesoft that glue data together. Executives at Salesforce say that Wave can ingest structured and unstructured data from any source, including applications that aren’t partners such as Oracle and SAP and Tableau and Splunk.
The analytics halo
Salesforce has five clouds and Wave represents the sixth. In the years to come, Wave could be the most important of the bunch. Why?
The best way for Salesforce to touch every employee at an enterprise will be through analytics. Salesforce has grown at a rapid clip, but if it’s going to be as big as a company like Oracle it will need to break out beyond CRM, sales and marketing and customer service.
If all goes well for Salesforce, analytics will make the company’s platform the front end of critical corporate data and relegate other players to plumbing infrastructure.
Not surprisingly, Wave runs native on the Salesforce platform. While can perform well by ingesting data from other applications, things like role permissions and security copy the Salesforce approach with other applications. Social integration with Chatter will also be available to share data.
Salesforce didn’t detail pricing specifics, but there will be a subscription to the platform as well as one per user. There will be an "explorer" subscription for business users and a "builder" version for data scientists and business analysts.
UI is everything
What Salesforce gets with its launch of its analytics cloud is that the user experience will be the only way to get the masses of business users interested in data analysis. Multiple startups have been trying to use a mobile first user experience and flashy graphics to drive analytics adoption, but Salesforce has the scale and penetration across line of business leaders to make it happen.
In a demo, Salesforce’s interface to Wave was fluid and in some places cheeky with Easter eggs sprinkled around the analytics. Stephanie Buscemi, senior vice president of marketing for the Wave effort, said Wave was inspired in part by video games and the instant gratification nature of them. Charts dissolve and reform as a user selects a different visual representation.
Search is the primary navigation and there are drilldowns to the individual account level. Merging data sets has an easy graphical approach. In many enterprises, combining data sets requires technology help as well as a wait ranging from days to weeks and even months.
The Wave app for Apple iOS will be available Tuesday in the App Store and prepopulated with data. The aim is to get business folks playing with the UI. You could say that Salesforce is initially trying to spark a bring your own analytics movement.Anna Rosenman, director of the Salesforce Analytics Cloud, noted that the company was looking for "addictive and intuitive experiences." "It can’t be about rows and columns. We wanted everyone to feel good using product and interact with it," Rosenman.
In an enterprise market where business intelligence has been under fire by everyone ranging from users to startups, the experience can make or break a product. There’s a good reason that Gartner was telling CIOs last week to focus a nice chunk of their technology budgets on user experience talent. Design will influence everything from applications to making the Internet of things more human. That fact isn’t lost on Salesforce’s rivals either. Oracle recently outlined a new user interface that will tie together its various applications together. SAP has a similar effort.
Meanwhile, analytics has become a free-for-all. Customers are bored with traditional business intelligence and technology leaders are looking at multiple ways to visualize data. Even application performance monitoring companies could have a better route to business users when it comes to design.
Salesforce’s bet is that it can join the analytics fray and notch some wins.