Salesforce Analytics Cloud Overview

analytics-cloud

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-app

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-dashboard

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-lens

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.

wave-assets-dataset

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

wave-dataflow

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.

Architecture

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

wave-analytics-architecture

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.

References

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

Salesforce Marketing Cloud January 2017 Release

icon-cloud-marketing

This post marks the first Salesforce Marketing Cloud related post on this blog, an event reflective of the increasing number of Salesforce implementations that span both the Salesforce and Marketing Cloud platforms (or cross-cloud, a term I can’t seem to stop using). Architects working on such implementations require a solid understanding of Marketing processes and both the functional and technical composition of the Marketing Cloud platform – not to mention the various APIs, connectors and 3rd party solutions offered via the HubExchange. Such a grounding is necessary to allow business processes (that are incidentally cross-cloud) to be understood and optimally implemented. This point is key; in ideal terms marketing processes should be integral parts of wider/deeper business processes that touch upon multiple areas of the business in pursuit of better customer experience or engagement. This type of thinking is key to realising current industry trends such as “Continuous Experience” where classic organisational structures (sales, service and marketing operations) are abandoned, or diminished, in favour of delivering unified customer journeys across all touch-points. For architects tasked with delivery of such solutions, the challenge starts with marketing domain knowledge and Marketing Cloud practitioner insight. In my own recent experience both stated aspects can benefit greatly from the combination of website/blog trawling, Trailhead and certification (Salesforce Certified Marketing Cloud Consultant). I completed the two required exams for this certification recently and found the experience challenging and time consuming but ultimately rewarding and definitely something I’d recommend to all Salesforce architects.

And so, on to the actual topic for this post – a review of the key features within the first of five major releases for the Salesforce Marketing Cloud scheduled for 2017.

The release notes are available here. The release is due to occur on the 27th January – this of course is subject to change.

– features are GA if not indicated otherwise

Marketing Cloud Connect – Sales & Service Cloud Activities
The ability to create Salesforce Activity records within a Journey Builder definition is now more intuitive via a new Lightning UI that abstracts the complexity of the WhatID/Who Id model for relating Activity records to Leads, Contacts and related records. Salesforce record interactions from within Journey Builder are key to blending the power of the two cloud platforms.

Content Builder – Themed Templates
Email messages can now be created from Themed Templates that encapsulate best practice for content creation. The templates provided cover Financial Services, Retail, Restaurant and Newsletter scenarios. The Themed Templates options can be found in the Define Properties step of the content creation flow.

Journey Builder – History Tab
The Contacts tab in the main Journey Builder navigation has been replaced with a History tab that displays the status of running journeys along with failure reasons to aid troubleshooting.

Marketing Cloud Mobile App
The January release brings an Android version of the mobile app and a new home dashboard for the iOS version. The Android version exhibits the same Lightning Experience UI and can be downloaded from the Google Play Store. The new app version will be released 2 weeks approximately after the main release date subject to Google/Apple app review. The new home page for the iOS version of the mobile app supports daily or weekly reminders and the delivers key performance statistics plus the current status of marketing automations. Note, the reminders work as push notifications and appear as badges on the app icon (as per email, SMS messages etc.). The new version of the iOS app also supports SMS campaigns via the SMS button in the primary navigation.

Social Studio – Emoji Support
Emojis come to life in the January 2017 release. The Publish component now supports the use of social network specific emojis within social content creation via the Emoji Picker (Composer and Inspector). Emojis are also correctly rendered by Engage and can be used to infer sentiment within Analyze thereby increasing accuracy.

Social Studio – Facebook Reviews
Social Studio now provides features to manage the reputation for a local Facebook page. Facebook reviews can be organised to filter promoters from detractors, automated actions can also be triggered based on review score. For example low scores could invoke a Journey Builder journey or Service Cloud case. Powerful stuff.

Social Studio – Analyze Dashboards
The Analyze component of Social Studio receives significant enhancement in respect to dashboards. The new release supports mixed dashboards showing content across multiple social accounts or topic profiles and expanded real time date options. Advanced card configurations enable filters, custom names and custom dimensions to be applied to individual cards within a dashboard.

Web Studio – Smart Capture to Lists
Previously Smart Capture Blocks defined within Content Editor were limited to Data Extensions for data push, with the January release this is extended to Lists.

Salesforce Spring ’17 Platform Highlights

Accompanied by a huge (472-page) release notes document, the Spring ’17 release rolls out in early February. For perhaps the first time (to my recognition) a Lightning Experience (LEX) only theme is identifiable across the newly introduced set of features. This isn’t exhaustive but interesting nonetheless as historically any functional disparity typically favoured Salesforce Classic. Adoption rates for LEX will certainly be one-factor behind this approach, it’s also not surprising to see investment going into the future platform. What this does underscore is the growing status of Salesforce Classic as a legacy platform despite the high proportion of implementations yet to transition.

This post briefly outlines selected highlights related to the Force.com platform (in no order of significance).

The new release is generally available now for pre-release preview.

spring17logo

– features are GA if not indicated otherwise

External Services (Beta / LEX-only)
This new LEX-only feature provides a non-programmatic method for invoking external web service operations. The external service is registered (via JSON Schema) which generates proxy/wrapper Apex classes that can then be introduced into Flows which encapsulate the required business process automation. It will be interesting to see the code generated by the registration process, this could be a useful convenience irrespective of whether Flow is being. As a huge advocate of Flow (or Visual Workflow) it’s great to see investment that enables additional use cases. I’m slightly sceptical about non-technical treatment of API consumption scenarios, but that said anything that reduces the requirement for code should be a good thing.

external-service

Data Integration Rules
Data.com Clean Rules will be replaced with a generic framework for the definition of Data Integration Rules provided by external parties. Some rules will incur a cost, others such as the Data.com Geocode Address rules are free-of-charge. The term integration in this context relates to data enrichment i.e. a rule updates mapped fields on a given record from an external data source. The update can occur on-demand per-record or en-masse via data refresh (note, the Geocode address rule does not support data refresh). The ISV side of things isn’t clear at this stage in respect to publication of new Integration Rules.

External Data – Cross-org Adapter for Salesforce Connect
The REST API based Cross-org adapter for Salesforce Connect now supports write operations. Given the cost implications of this approach it will be interesting to see how much traction this gains – Salesforce-to-Salesforce whilst technically very different (data synchronisation etc.) does address the same set of use cases without the additional licence cost.

Lightning Console Apps (Beta)
Spring ’17 delivers a beta version of Lightning Console Apps. As one would expect Sales and Service standard console apps are provided plus the ability to define a custom console app. New Lightning Components (Related List, Related Record) and a Lightning Page Template (3 columns) are provided to enable implementation of console record detail pages comparable with Salesforce Classic. Given the beta status, lack of migration path and the number of omitted features it’s unlikely that customers will view this as a viable option right now, however now is the time to start thinking about a transition later in the year. Clearly compatibility with Omni-Channel, telephony solutions etc. will be fundamental to such planning.

lightning-console

Lightning App Builder
The Lightning App Builder gets a serious overhaul in Spring ’17 with a new UI structure, additional templates, page cloning and the ability to assign record pages by app, record type and profile being the feature highlights. The latter point being key to delivering a customised experience across users and business processes.

lightning-app-builder

Lightning API (Developer Preview)
The Lightning API is a REST API targeted at custom development use cases (mostly but not exclusively mobile) where the response payload can include data, metadata and layout information. Clearly the value-add here is efficiency – one API call to retrieve all the information that should be required to build the requisite UI/interaction. It should be noted that the API is rate-limited and will return a 503 if the limit is reached; careful client-side cache control logic should reduce the risk of this happening.

Lightning Experience – Filter Reports via URL
At long last it is now possible to set field filter values for reports via URL in LEX. This simple capability has historically played a significant role in most implementations; custom links on report detail pages, bookmarked reports etc. Good to see another LEX obstacle removed.

ISV – Subscriber Org Debugging
ISV partners now have access to the ISV Customer Debugger, meaning for each LMO a single Apex Debugger session can be run at a time against a customer sandbox. The Apex Debugger runs in the Force.com IDE (i.e. eclipse) and provides enhanced support for code debugging; breakpoints, step into/over, call stack inspection etc. This powerful tool is normally a paid-for service – providing a free license to ISV partners will be well appreciated.

ISV – List Lightning Bolt Solutions
At some point after the initial rollout it will be possible for Salesforce partners to distribute Bolt solutions as managed packages listed on the AppExchange. A Bolt solution is prefabricated Community template typically targeting a vertical solution or providing a foundation for horizontal solutions such as booking/event management, membership etc. It will be interesting to see the traction for listed Bolt solutions over the coming months, I think the opportunity here could be significant for both ISV and consulting partners. Anyway it’s great to see the AppExchange now supported low-level Lightning Components and high-level Bolt solutions in addition to the standards Apps and Consultancy services.

Skype for Salesforce (Beta)
Check online status, chat and make audio/video calls directly within Salesforce. Chat transcripts can be saved as Notes. All useful and convenient functionality. A “Skype for Business” component can be added to LEX Pages via the Lightning App Builder. The component provides the same functionality for records with at least one email address field.

Kanban Views
List views now support easy switching between the default grid layout and the Kanban style visual layout. Custom Kanban settings and record types are also supported, the latter appear as tabs above the board.

kanban-settings

AccountContactRelation Enhancements
The AccountContactRelation standard object which allows Contacts to be related to multiple Accounts receives further enhancement in Spring ’17. Relationships can now be defined between Person Accounts and Contacts, the object supports process automation (workflow, Process Builder etc.) and custom buttons, links and actions. I’m a big fan of this seemingly innocuous feature; great to see the additional capabilities being added each release.

Apex Stub API
The Apex Stub API provides a mocking framework for use in test code development. Typically mocks are used to isolate code for specific logical test cases or to allow streamlining of unit tests. Mocking frameworks are common to other programming languages, as such it’s great to have a standard approach for Apex.