Salesforce Analytics Cloud Overview


This post provides an overview of the features and functionality of the Salesforce Analytics Cloud.

The Analytics Cloud, or Wave Analytics as it is also referred to, is a cloud-based business intelligence platform that enables the connection of disparate data sources to form interactive data views (or visualisations) that can be distributed via dashboards. A key concept here is empowerment of business users to deliver their own insights, in fact usability is often described as the defining feature – perhaps in addition to mobile access.

From a history perspective, during 2013 Salesforce acquired a cutting edge BI platform via the EdgeSpring acquisition. The EdgeSpring platform included the EdgeMart data storage service plus the Lens dynamic visualisation engine; both of which (one could safely assume) feature strongly in the Analytics Cloud architecture.

The first release of the Salesforce branded Wave Analytics took place at Dreamforce 2014, where the dynamic visualisation capabilities drew significant attention. The offer at this stage was expensive and complex in terms of licensing (Explorer and Builder user licenses plus platform setup fee/license), platform-led and focused on enterprise deployments. The perceived complexity and cost aspects particularly impacted negatively upon adoption. A second generation of Wave Analytics was launched at Dreamforce 2015, this time with a simplified license model and a focus on prebuilt analytics apps for Sales, Service and ultimately Marketing. The introduction of prebuilt Wave Apps offers two clear benefits; template-based, simplified deployment and tighter, cross-cloud integration (with Sales and Service Cloud predominantly). This latter point is key; end-users shouldn’t have to navigate consciously between distinct analytic and transactional views the two services should be seamlessly blended – this is the key differentiator Salesforce will be targeting to drive adoption.

The current set of prebuilt Wave Apps are listed below. There are also a growing number of 3rd party Wave Apps being developed on the Wave Analytics Platform; Financialforce (ERP Wave Apps; Accounting and Supply Chain) and Apptus (Quote-to-Cash Intelligence App) are notable examples.

Sales Wave Analytics App: A 9-step wizard captures parameters relating to segmentation, lead funnel and opportunity pipeline fields plus additional Sales Cloud related dimensions and measures; on completion an App is created with datasets populated via a number of auto-launched dataflows.

Service Wave Analytics App: As above with Service Cloud related dimensions and measures (7-step wizard).

Event Monitoring Wave App: Event log and setup audit trail datasets enable analysis of org and user behaviour.

Wave for B2B Marketing App: Consolidation of Sales Cloud and Pardot data to enable analysis of marketing impact on sales etc.

Key Concepts

Wave Assets – App: Analogous to a Folder an App contains a logical grouping of dashboards, lenses, and datasets. Apps can be Shared or Private.


Wave Assets – Dashboard: A dashboard is a composition of charts, metrics, and tables based on the data provided by one or many lenses.


Wave Assets – Lens: A lens is a view on to the data provided by a dataset. The definition of a lens encapsulates both a query and visualisation for a specific analysis. A Lens can be clipped; this effect of this is to copy the Lens query to a Step within the most recently used dashboard.


Wave Assets – Dataset: A dataset provides the source analytical data in a representation optimised for interactive visualisation. Data Sources can be Salesforce objects, uploaded files or partner connectors (Informatica, Jitterbit etc.). Fields added to a dataset are defined as date, dimension (qualitative) or measure (quantitative) type. Predicates can be added, with filter logic, that define record-level permissions which reflect Salesforce record ownership, management visibility or team/account collaboration.


Dataflow: A dataflow is a set of instructions (in JSON format) that specifies the data to extract and transform from Salesforce objects or datasets.


Visualisation: A single analytical representation of data (chart, tabular etc.) underpinned by a query.

Dimension: A dimension is a qualitative value such as Product or Region. Data analytics are primarily comprised of measures projected over multiple dimensions.

Measure: A measure is a quantitative value such as Price or Quantity. Mathematical operations can be applied to measures to calculate aggregates.


The diagram below shows the main building blocks of a Wave Analytics App and the flow of data.


Key Features

Cross-Dataset Faceting: Faceting enables steps to auto-filter in response to filters applied to a related step. Steps that share the same dataset facet by default, cross-dataset faceting can be defined directly in the dashboard designer.

Trend Wave Dashboards: Trended Datasets can be created from Salesforce reports. A snapshot of the report data is created each time the dataset is updated by the trend schedule. Each snapshot is limited to 100K rows.

Bulk Actions (Spring ’17): Table widgets can invoke a custom bulk action where the underlying SAQL query is passed to a designated Visualforce page. Apex page controller code can then execute the SAQL query (via the Wave Analytics API) and apply custom logic to results. This provides a flexible integration point, where analytics can be used to drive action such as campaign creation, email sending and so on – powerful stuff.

Smart Data Discovery (Spring ’17 tbc): This feature relates to the integration of BeyondCore (another Salesforce acquisition) into the Analytics Cloud UI. BeyondCore adds statistically significant insights such as unbiased answers, explanations and recommendations.

Analytics Home (Spring ’17): The new Analytics home page allows commonly used apps to be pinned, notification tracking is displayed with convenient links directly to the related dashboards. In new Wave orgs the Analytics tab can be accessed directly within the Salesforce UI, older orgs require a custom tab plus Visualforce container page.

Dashboard Annotations: Widgets within a dashboard can be enabled for collaboration via Annotations. This feature is natively integrated with Chatter; annotations will appear as Chatter posts and vice-versa. @Mentions are also supported.

Smart Notifications: Number type dashboard widgets can be configured for smart notifications; criteria is added to define the notification logic and a query scheduled defined. The notifications appear in the app, mobile app and are also sent via email.

Salesforce Integration Points

Lightning Experience: The Wave Dashboard component enables dashboards to be added to Lightning Home Pages, Record Pages and App Home Pages defined within the Lightning App Builder.

Salesforce Classic: Wave Analytics Assets appear listed in the palette of the Enhanced Page Layout editor and can be added directly to page layouts with context supplied via field mapping. The Visualforce component enables dashboards to be embedded and integrated at any entry point available to Visualforce (Custom tabs, links/buttons etc.). The component supports filtering to enable context to be set.

Communities users (Customer Community Plus and Customer Partner Community licenses) can view Wave Analytics Dashboard embedded in a Visualforce page.


Analyze Your Data – 700+ page PDF
Wave Analytics Platform Setup Guide
Wave Analytics Data Integration