Jan Brass Takes a Hard Look at the Cloud

Cloud Analytics from SalesForce – A New Frontier?

Cloud Analytics from SalesForce - A New Frontier?Cloud computing has enabled enterprises to collect and store more data than ever before – whether it is about customers, suppliers or anything else that affects businesses. But all those petabytes of data don’t mean anything if they are just sitting on servers. What many organizations need is analytics (software or otherwise) which can go through voluminous data to create actionable insight.

To that end, Salesforce launched a new cloud analytics offering called Wave which is aimed at enterprise clients, most of whom already use the company’s other products. Wave is the result of intensive efforts by Salesforce to create a service that is comprehensible and usable by business users, with no specific training in data analytics. The user interface aims to go beyond the same old boring rows and columns, the only staple in analytical software thus far.

In fact, the product demo – shown off at the company’s recent Dreamforce conference – sports an interface that appears to be inspired by consumer-centric apps and to an extent, even video games. The goal is to bring data visualizations to front-line employees in intuitive ways. Very few front-line employees understand how to use analytical software, as it exists currently, and the bulk of enterprise data is accessible only to specialists and experts. Salesforce wants to change that with Wave.

Data stored by enterprise clients in Salesforce’s cloud can be sliced and diced in a number of ways with just a few clicks. Of course Wave can do the same to external data which can be imported from other sources but it is evident that the ideal scenario would be for companies to already use Salesforce resources. At this point Wave is not actually predictive intelligence or true business intelligence (BI). The company announced that it is partnering with several firms in the predictive analytics industry to provide those features to their clients.

Cloud analytics will help Salesforce capture more wallet share from their existing clients while also serving as a lead-in to new clients. Wave may very well be the enterprise equivalent of Apple’s iPhone/iPod, enticing customers to sign up for other services after getting a taste. Analytics is also a way for the company to break out of its existing sales, CRM and marketing oriented approach, a necessary move for Salesforce’s dreams of becoming a competitor on the scale of Oracle and others.

Wave will be available to clients on a per user subscription basis, although the mobile app will be free. Salesforce has a unique advantage compared to other startups who offer enterprise analytics software. It already has a healthy customer base and a large enough scale to convince large organizations to come on board. The product may be a little generic compared to existing business intelligence products but the company will definitely have time to improve on their first version.

Salesforce appears to have taken to heart the general consensus that user experience and good design matters (even in the enterprise space), even if it is something as serious and boring as data visualization. By all indications, Wave is just the starting point and the company seems determined to expand its footprint in the highly competitive enterprise market.

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