Salesforce, BI, analytics and Birst

This is the third and final blog in my series about last week’s Salesforce1 event in Philadelphia.

I’ve discussed the growth of the Salesforce ecosystem and how the company is bringing back the integration because SFA, CRM and help desks to ensure customer facing systems work together. They also have partners with applications such as accounting, quoting and other add-ons to the full process. The final big issue is how that needs to change reporting.

It’s easy to create charts and desktops for single applications focused on a department or function. That’s not why business intelligence exists. Upper management needs to better understand how their organizations are performing, and that means analyzing information that comes from multiple systems. BI’s goal is to provide actionable information about the business. That’s why it grew alongside data warehouses that gathered information from disparate systems. Now that Salesforce is clearly creating an integrated environment, are their analytics growing apace? Sadly, no.

“Analytics Unleashed” was the key session that interested me above all others. However, to paraphrase Gertrude Stein, there wasn’t much there there. It looked like simple reports slapped into basic dashboards with no real drill down or data discovery capability. Admittedly, the major part of their demonstration didn’t work and it might have been in that, but I didn’t see anything on in the exhibit hall to make me think there was.

Well, not from Salesforce directly, but don’t be without hope. I’ve talked about the ecosystem they’ve clearly built with Salesforce1, and that comes with advantages. One of those advantages is Birst, a business intelligence firm.

Birst is a Salesforce partner who, unlike a number of other partners at the road show, isn’t exclusively focused on Salesforce. They are in the new generation of BI firms who are working to modernize the market. They work to eliminate the need to have separate ETL and BI vendors, providing a platform to integrate that then directly supports leading edge analytics capabilities.

That ability combines with a SaaS architecture to allow Birst to work well with Salesforce1. I talked with them at their stand and the integration seemed clean from a UI standpoint. I’d have to dig deeper to understand how well Birst helps Salesforce integrate with other systems, but things look hopeful.

Salesforce seems to be viewing BI the same way as the other large companies. Even with their more modern history, advanced SaaS architecture and appropriately Web nimble interfaces, Salesforce still thinks of analytics as reporting. If “we” get all applications under our control, we just extend our reporting. That’s not BI. Analytics is a more advanced way of providing better information for decision making.

At some point, I’m sure Salesforce will come to that understanding, and then who knows what will happen. Until then, Salesforce customers can still access the next generation of BI and analytics through the ecosystem that allows Salesforce and Birst to work in concert.

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