Salesforce.com will not be left out of the big data boom, and it’s hitting it in a way that suits its mainstream customers, with less overt math and lots more pretty pictures.
The product’s official name is Wave, the Analytics Cloud, and Salesforce is introducing it at the start of Dreamforce, the company’s huge annual conference, currently tying up traffic in San Francisco. Two weeks ago, the company was projecting the event would attract more than 125,000 people.
The product is not unexpected, because of some overeager tweeting by Marc Benioff, a Salesforce co-founder and the company’s chief executive. True to form, the boss started tweeting about it again Sunday evening, breaking his own company’s blackout on the news.
Wave is intended to create sales, service and marketing analytics, either in packaged or custom forms, which can be read on desktop and mobile devices. It is meant to stress the data within Salesforce products, but it is also possible to import third-party information from companies like Microsoft, SAP and Informatica, as well as machine-generated data.
“We see this as a huge need for our base of customers,” said Alex Dayon, the president of products at Salesforce. “They’ve been going to third-party solutions, which are really designed for data analysts.”
Stressing the pictures may not be a bad thing. When so much data is around, the proper visualization of patterns and situations matters almost as much as the number-crunching itself, particularly to the somewhat under-math-endowed of the Salesforce customer base, sales and marketing professionals.
In a demonstration, the application was able to look at a national sales force, quickly sort it by people and regions, then figure out where there were big disconnects between budget targets and actual results. Bringing in information about related sales and servicing deals, the analysis showed levels of machine use and failure rates, and suggested ways of generating new pitches. It was also possible to switch among different ways of displaying the data, such as pie charts and bar graphs.
This may not be the most groundbreaking data product, but it seems easy to understand, practical, and useful on a number of devices. Right now, Tableau is one of the few notable companies making it easier to visualize data. Given the millions of customers using Salesforce, in other words, it is the kind of thing that could attract independent software developers to build products on it.
“It’s been quite a while since we announced a new market this big,” Mr. Dayon said. “Analytics is a $42 billion industry, and people need a new cloud-based platform for it.”
Mr. Dayon later adjusted his estimate of the market size to $38 billion. It would not be a Salesforce conference without a little hype, but he may have a point. Much of the industry is stuck in slower analytic methods, and a little glitz wouldn’t hurt.