Being able to easily report on Salesforce data with out-of-the-box Reports & Dashboards is one of the biggest benefits any company using Salesforce can imagine! There’s real value there, both for end-users and management alike! Suddenly all kinds of Key Performance Indicators (or KPI’s for short) become measurable and trackable in a heartbeat. We’re talking about real business value here!
However, as many enthusiastic Salesforce users might already have experienced, there are some limitations in play when it comes to Salesforce’s Reports & Dashboards functionality. The main one being, if the data isn’t in Salesforce, you can’t report on it. But not to worry, Salesforce has got you covered with their own amazing Business Intelligence (BI) tool called Einstein Analytics.
In this series of blog posts, I’m going to guide you through all the various aspects of Einstein Analytics. My main goal is to enable both functional and technical Salesforce users to start playing around with the tool, fall in love with it as I have and ultimately discover all of its possibilities and potential. Strap in, because it’s going to be a long and interesting read!
In this blog post we’ll talk about the basics of Einstein Analytics, its main differentiators from Reports & Dashboards and when it might be time to consider adding it to your company’s toolbelt. Keep in mind that Einstein Analytics is only available to Salesforce users. If you need your dashboards to be available to non-Salesforce users, you might want to look into Tableau.
In future blog posts we’ll cover some more advanced topics such as:
- How to build dashboards: the visuals and the story behind them
- Beginner’s Guide to the Data Manager (for data preparation and transformation
- How to set-up a Proof of Concept to gain internal buy-in
- How to bring the value back to the end-users with embedded dashboards in Salesforce
- Advanced topics: dataset customizations, dashboard pages, geoJSON, custom queries & SAQL queries
- Einstein Analytics vs. Tableau: which tool is the right one for you?
- Give access to advanced analytics on your Salesforce Community
Since there is so much to talk about and the tool itself is always improving, I’ll surely forget to include some neat features, so keep in mind that there’s always more to find out on your own! Some great places to continue your discovery of Einstein Analytics are both Trailhead, Salesforce’s free online training platform and other blog posts from Analytics enthusiasts from the Salesforce Community!
After reading this blog you should be able to answer the following three questions:
- When should we consider using Einstein Analytics?
- What is Einstein Analytics?
- Why should we consider adopting Einstein Analytics?
Are you as excited as I am to get into it? Here we go!
1. When should we consider using Einstein Analytics?
Before you spend your precious next 15 minutes getting familiar with the ins and outs of Einstein Analytics I want to help you figure out if it’s worth your time. The big, old famous ‘when’ question? Since the answer to this question will be different for everyone, I’m sorry to say I don’t have a straightforward answer for you. I’d say if you recognize yourself or your company in any of the points below, get in contact with us and we’ll answer this together!
- Are you running into limitations with standard Salesforce Reports & Dashboards?
- Do you want to focus more on data exploration instead of data reporting?
- Do you have a need to report on combined data from Salesforce and third-party applications?
- Do you need advanced analytics on your Customer Community?
- Do you want to up your reporting game for management meetings?
- Have you read through this entire blog post and are you still interested to know more?
If any of these points resonate with you, I’m more than happy to guide you through the next two questions! It’s going to be a mix of high-level concepts with a little bit of technical information here and there that are important to grasp the potential of this tool. Here we go!
2. What is Einstein Analytics?
Before we start with the amazing features Einstein Analytics has to offer, we need to take a step back and take a look at a definition of Business Intelligence.
Business intelligence (BI) combines business analytics, data mining, data visualization, data tools and infrastructure, and best practices to help organizations to make more data-driven decisions.
Tableau has this nice overview that digs a bit deeper into BI and why it matters. An interesting read for sure if you can spare the time!
The key takeaway from this definition is that a good BI tool allows companies to make data-driven decisions. Or in short, as the Einstein Analytics product page states: Discover, Identify, Visualize, Know. And seriously, this tool makes it easy to do all of this! You really don’t have to be a data scientist or a technical expert to get results.
The two main components of Einstein Analytics are the Analytics Studio, where you can build your Dashboards and explore datasets via Lenses, and the Data Manager, where you can load, prepare and transform your data from both Salesforce and external applications to eventually register everything in reusable datasets.
In short, you can say that Analytics Studio is the front-end of Einstein Analytics. It’s where all the dashboards, lenses and datasets are grouped together in apps. You can read up on the definitions of these assets via the Einstein Analytics Basics module over on Trailhead.
Besides a lot of other cool features, the main attraction of Analytics Studio is without a doubt the Dashboard Builder. Within this builder, you have access to various widget types to visualise data from all your available datasets. You can use charts, tables, numbers, toggles, text blocks, global filters, list filters, date filters and even images to start building your data-driven storytelling.
Most of these options are also available in standard Salesforce Dashboards, but here it’s taken to a whole other level of detail. There are a ton more visualisation options for your charts ranging from the classic bar charts and line charts to more compelling date & time charts, gauges, scatterplots, grid charts, regional maps and even pipelines and flow charts. All of which have extensive formatting options of their own, which makes it very easy to convey the right message in the right way. It’s a lot of fun having all of these options available when working on a dashboard.
As you can see from the screenshots in this blog post, all of these customization options are available through the User Interface. Absolutely no coding required. But even for the skilled developers among you, the Dashboard builder allows you access to the underlying code so you can have a go at building some seriously complex data queries and dashboards, should there be a need. Einstein Analytics truly is a tool for everyone!
So you’ve built a dashboard, now it’s time to make it work for you. A well-built dashboard can be used to convey important information and insights, both for end-users during their daily routine in Sales, Service, Marketing and so on, but also for managers during board meetings and such. What’s more, you can set notification on certain KPI’s within a dashboard to alert you when a critical threshold has been reached so you can act upon it before it’s too late. Talk about bringing the ‘pro’ to proactivity! To top it off, since we live in a mobile world where you need access to data on the go, the Dashboard builder allows you to build custom layouts for a dashboard, depending on the device being used to view the dashboard. So no matter if you’re viewing via your desktop, a tablet or a mobile device, you’ll be able to get insight fast and easy.
The other side of Einstein Analytics is the Data Manager, which you could roughly refer to as the back-end of the tool. This is the control center where you get to play with your data and get it ready for use in Analytics Studio.
First we’ll discuss which data sources can be used in Einstein Analytics, after which we’ll have a look at the options for preparing and transforming that data.
In contrast to standard Salesforce Reports & Dashboards, where you can only use data that exists within Salesforce, with Einstein Analytics it is possible to not only connect with Salesforce data, but also to upload your own CSV files and even connect with third-party applications with one of the many out-of-the-box connectors or custom integrations. This opens up a lot of new possibilities for insights and KPI’s that were previously not available. Like combining Account data (from Salesforce) with the actual Order data (from your ERP), or even Campaign budget data (from Salesforce) with actual Time Spent (from Harvest Time Tracker).
Although these custom integrations might require some technical know-how, the Salesforce data connector and the CSV upload can be configured completely via the User Interface. Again, no coding required! Having all this data from various sources available in one place really is a game changer.
Now that we’ve established the possibility of accessing multiple data sources within Einstein Analytics, let’s have a look at the handy tools provided for data preparation and transformation. Meet Dataflow and Recipes.
Dataflow is the tool that does the heavy lifting for data transformations. Here you have the possibility to load the data you want to work with. You can choose from Salesforce local data, external data or already existing datasets from Analytics Studio. Once the data is loaded in, you can go ahead and transform it using the various transformation options, including appending data (add rows to a datatable), augmenting data (add columns to a datatable), compute expressions (create custom formula fields), compute relatives (calculate deltas between ordered rows), converting dimensions to measures, flatten hierarchies, filtering data, slicing datasets and updating datasets. The last step that remains is registering the dataset to be used for dashboard building! All of the above sounds quite complex, but take it from me that with a lot of enthusiasm and eagerness to learn, anyone can master Dataflows! Obviously, if you’re a data scientist or a developer, you’ll have an easier time to get started. To review each transformation option, feel free to read this help article.
When you don’t require this much heavy-lifting for your data transformations, then Recipes come to your rescue! Recipes start from a registered dataset and give you the tools to clean up your data and perform some basic transformations. Creating bucket fields, automatically fill in missing values, augment datasets via lookups, filter data, etc. Really powerful stuff to clean up your data and make it easier to work with! To get started with Recipes, go have a look at the Prepare Your Data module on Trailhead.
Since not all data is created equally, the Data Managers offers you the tools to easily prepare your data to be actually useful for dashboarding. In order to make sure you’re always working with current data, the Data Monitor allows you to schedule all of the data integrations and transformations (e.g. sync data from the ERP each night at 00:00 and run the Orders Dataflow and Recipes an hour later at 01:00. When an error has occurred, a notification mail will be sent to the Einstein Analytics admin. Even with this, Einstein Analytics has got you covered!
Since Einstein Analytics is part of the Salesforce Ecosystem, it follows the same three-times-a-year release schedule which makes it one of the most innovative BI tools out there constantly giving you new features to play with and vastly improving the existing ones.
Einstein Analytics is a BI tool to make data-driven decisions that is easy to work with, has fantastic out-of-the-box visualization capabilities, yet has the possibility to go advanced and custom and is highly innovative through its three releases per year.
3. Why should we consider adopting Einstein Analytics?
Now that we know the ‘what’, let’s take a closer look at the ‘why’. This is a very valid question indeed, since Salesforce already offers out-of-the-box Report & Dashboard builders.
For a lot of companies adopting Salesforce, the standard Report & Dashboard functionality opens up the road to KPIs that were previously impossible to track or at the very least took a lot of time and effort to calculate! Initially this functionality is invaluable on its own, but after a couple of months creating Reports & Dashboards, you’ll start to run into some of the limitations and considerations that need to be taken into account. This is a normal evolution and if anything signals your organization is reaching a certain maturity that exceeds the possibilities of Salesforce Reports & Dashboard, since these aren’t a full-blown Business Intelligence solution.
Feel free to read up on some of frequently asked questions we receive about Reports in this blog post: FAQ's about Salesforce Reports
Time for Einstein Analytics to enter the stage! When you strip the tool down to its essence, you’ll find that it all revolves around data. Not just the visualization of it, but so much more. I could spend hours discussing each detail of all the benefits, but I’ll try and keep it short and relevant. Nevertheless, feel free to contact us if you would like to discuss in more detail, though!
Before you can start thinking about building out your Business Intelligence solution, you have to analyse where your data is coming from. Most companies use multiple systems for their day-to-day business. Depending on the digital maturity of a business, the data sources vary from plain old Excel spreadsheets to on-site ERP systems and perhaps already a few cloud-based solutions. Having a uniform use of those systems across the entire organisation is most likely also a utopian situation. More likely, each department will use their own systems and processes. Your Sales team works in a different way than your Marketing team or Service team. As you can imagine, combining all of those data sources for use in a company-wide Business Intelligence solution can be quite a big challenge!
Please understand that Einstein Analytics will not single-handedly resolve this challenge on its own. That requires a thorough reform and uniformization of your organization, regardless of the chosen BI tool. However, Einstein Analytics does have some tricks up its sleeves to help you along the way.
The first step would be to connect all your data sources to Einstein Analytics and gather all the data in one place. For this, Salesforce has a native connection to Salesforce get access to all your Salesforce data, both standard objects and custom objects (e.g. Accounts, Contacts, Opportunities, Campaigns, Cases, etc.). In addition there is an ever-expanding list of out-of-the-box connectors for data sources like AWS, Microsoft Azure, SAP, Google Analytics, etc. Last but not least, it’s also possible to upload CSV files manually and import data that way. Depending on the source, there are various options available to schedule the data sync/import to intervals that match your business requirements (e.g. sync each hour, each day, each week, each month, etc.).
Data preparation and clean-up
The next step on the road to Business Intelligence success is data quality. Here, quality refers both to the actual data quality, things like missing values and data correctness, and quality related to the BI purpose: what story/insights do you want to extract from this data?
To help clean up the data and prepare it for the intended use, Einstein Analytics offers data preparation tools like the Dataflows and Recipes we highlighted earlier when introducing the Data Manager. But wait, there’s more! Pretty soon, or already available depending on when you’re reading this blog, Einstein Analytics will introduce the powerful Data Prep 3.0 functionality that promises to make the life of a Einstein Analytics user a whole lot easier. Be sure to read this ‘Welcome to the new data platform’ blog post from salesforceblogger.com to get more information about this exciting new functionality!
To get you started quickly, Einstein Analytics even has quite a lot of pre-configured dashboards at the ready that plug into the standards Salesforce objects for various departments like Sales, Service, Marketing and many more. Within the day you can have access to advanced analytics.
Security & Permission-based access
As we all know, Salesforce’s security functionalities, both for data access and user permissions, are second to none.
Good news, Einstein Analytics has the option to inherit the already existing security setup from Salesforce. No more worrying about loopholes and security breaches. Even when you want to set up a more custom security model, you can use different Security Predicates for each dataset to make sure sensitive information is kept secure at all times.
As a Salesforce Administrator you can control which users get access to Einstein Analytics and which features are available to them via Permission Sets. Some users will only have read-only access to dashboards, while others might also have edit right and yet another group gets access to the Data Manager to transform data and create datasets. Pretty cool, right?
Discover, Identify, Visualize, Know, ACT
Last but not least, Einstein Analytics not only gives you insights into your data by showing some flashy graphs in pretty colors (and believe me, the dashboards can be very visually appealing), the best part is it makes your data actionable. If we’re talking about Salesforce data, Einstein Analytics allows you to directly open the record detail page of any object that has been identified as being crucial to act upon through your data exploration. You can even set notifications on your Einstein Analytics dashboards that warns you if a certain threshold has been reached, so you can investigate immediately and act appropriately.
As if all of the above isn’t nearly enough to get you excited, there is the option to embed Einstein Analytics Dashboards straight into your Salesforce record detail pages and home page! This brings all of these advanced insights right into the hands of your Salesforce users. Imagine your Sales team to have access to an Account’s entire purchasing history from the ERP system in order to prepare for a new Opportunity.
Einstein Analytics makes BI a whole lot easier with time-saving solutions for connecting data, preparing and cleaning up data, setting up security, acting upon data via notifications and embedded dashboards. All of these aspects make a really strong case for Einstein Analytics if you compare them to other BI solutions out there.
It’s been a long read up until this point. Rest assured that we’ve only scratched the surface of all the possibilities Einstein Analytics has on offer.
We’d also love to hear your thoughts on this topic. What was relevant to you?
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To be continued!