Riding the Analytics Wave

I was stuck.

While building out Salesforce Financial Services Cloud for InFusion360, I was knee-deep in reports and dashboards. Talking about being a data-driven organisation is easy – becoming one is not so easy. We had developed some powerful data analytics using Salesforce reporting tools, and they were working well. However, when I attempted to build some rather complex and convoluted reports in order to drive businesses decisions, I hit a wall. I just couldn’t build what we needed.

Thinking the issue was my own lack of understanding, I reached out to our Salesforce Solution Engineer for help. His answer was surprising: “You can’t build this in Salesforce. Have you tried Wave? 

Eh? 

First of all, what you mean, “You can’t build this in Salesforce”? 

Second, what the heck is Wave? 

First, Salesforce reports are very powerful. Reports and dashboards can meet many, even most, reporting needs. However, there are limitations to the complexity of object relationships that can be modeled in reports, among other things. 

Second, Wave is the Salesforce BI (business intelligence) platform. It was purchased in 2014, and is now called Einstein Analytics. Einstein Analytics can build extremely complex and powerful analytics dashboards, even pulling in data from external (non-Salesforce) data sources. Way cool! 

Now, I had heard of Einstein Analytics, but had never touched it. It looked amazing, but I was completely ignorant of its capabilities, and I had no idea if it was like Salesforce in terms of configuration and customisation. It was amazing, but it was nothing like Salesforce. Hmmm. 

Once we arranged licenses, I began to look for a partner to implement Einstein, as it is very different to the core Salesforce platform. This wasn’t as easy as I expected. Finally, I found someone in Florida who was willing to help us – but, at USD60,000 for four dashboards, that didn’t pan out! 

Our CEO, Neil, and I agreed that I would take a week out of the office and focus entirely on learning Einstein Analytics. If I felt that I could build our dashboards, then I’d go ahead and dedicate the next few months to that end. If not, we’d make do with Salesforce reports.

That week changed my life. I instantly fell in love with the “data science alter ego” of Salesforce. As a platform, it is totally different from core Salesforce, and the learning curve isn’t the simplest, but it just fit me like a glove. People ask me how long it took to learn, but that’s hard to estimate, as I was learning while building. I suppose that it took, maybe, 500 hours to get to an intermediate level of competence, and 1,000 for expert. Best time I’d spent on a learning exercise for years!

Fast forward six months, and our Einstein Analytics business, Visioneer360, was born. We are now riding the analytics wave! 

What do I mean? What is so great about Einstein Analytics? 

The analytics capability built into Salesforce is powerful and flexible, easy to configure, and simple to learn. It can meet many organisational needs out of the box, and analysts can achieve a great business result with this tool. Salesforce reports and dashboards are always relevant and useful, and they are often the “go to” option for a quick win. This is especially true as Salesforce continues to develop and refine their native analytics. To quote Einstein Guru Rikke Hovgaard, “Use operational reporting for generating lists of data, preferably data or questions that don’t change too often. Dashboards are based on your reports and show a snapshot of data at the runtime. Everybody has access to reports and it’s easy to export your reports.”

However, Salesforce analytics is a tool – Einstein Analytics is a platform.

It’s all about a business result – technology is simply a tool. The key is to go from data, to insight, to action.

Every business has data. Some businesses have insights. Few businesses have data-driven actions. 

Einstein Analytics supports business decisions with meaningful insights. What is the point of spending hundreds of hours building beautiful analytics if they don’t result in smart decisions that build your business? No point at all.

When I was a business analyst at a wealth management business, we quadrupled our sales pipeline in 12 months. We were hiring new advisers and support staff to keep up with all the work. There were several reasons for this, but the power of Einstein Analytics was a key factor in our growth. It wasn’t easy – significant change never is – but is was transformative.

Everyone has data. Most businesses, however, do not understand and leverage their data. It is spread across multiple systems, owned / protected by various keepers, and interpreted in different ways. Data is the new oil – it is extraordinarily valuable and powerful. However, not many organisations harness this priceless resource, managing instead through confusing spreadsheets, endless emails, countless meetings, and plain old gut instinct. I’ll take the data, thanks – it works.

I won’t say that learning and building Einstein Analytics has been easy or simple. However, it has been a fun ride for this mechanical engineer turned entrepreneur.

I’m riding the Analytics Wave! 

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