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7/3/2014
10:16 AM
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Salesforce.com Bolsters Mobile Data Visualization

Salesforce1 Mobile app gains drillable dashboards, sharable snapshots, and links to third-party visualization tools including Google Charts.

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A chart, graph, or dashboard is worth a thousand words, but it's not nearly as valuable if it's a static, dated view of yesterday's data. And visualizations also might be useless if you can read but not write back to correct or update information.

Salesforce.com announced on Thursday that it has cured these data-visualization problems with Salesforce1 Mobile Reports & Dashboards. Highlights of the mobile app include drillable dashboards, write-back capabilities, APIs for third-party charting libraries, and coming capabilities to share chart snapshots via Salesforce Chatter.

Salesforce has long had the ability to share mobile charts and reports on sales, service, and marketing information from within its CRM system, and it's always the latest data from the cloud-based apps, according to Salesforce. With Mobile Reports & Dashboards, a new feature of the Salesforce1 Mobile app introduced last fall, you can drill down on information from within Salesforce, any Salesforce1 platform app, or any application that's integrated with the platform.

[Want more on Salesforce? Read Salesforce.com, Philips Launch Digital Healthcare Platform. ]

Say a report reveals declining sales within a particular region. With drill-through dashboards you could click on that stat to do root-cause analysis. It doesn't stop with CRM, however, as it could be that the supply chain managed by a connected ERP system might be the underlying cause of the problem. You also can embed charts and visualizations within custom and third-party apps and let users of those applications drill back into CRM data.

Now let's say you're a salesperson exploring a sales-pipeline report on your mobile device, but you notice that one of your opportunities is incorrectly listed at $10,000 when it should be $100,000. That would be a frustrating situation with some read-only business intelligence systems, but with Mobile Reports & Dashboards you can access, update, and correct any record for which you have user rights and access privileges.

With drillable charts and dashboards, you can go from a pipeline report (left) to insight on biggest deals (center) and on to more detailed account information.
With drillable charts and dashboards, you can go from a pipeline report (left) to insight on biggest deals (center) and on to more detailed account information.

If your shop is particular about its data-visualization tools, you can use Reports & Dashboards APIs to invoke popular charting libraries, including Google Charts, D3.js, CanvasJS, Chart.js, HighCharts JS, and RGraph. These libraries are invoked within Salesforce or anywhere the visualization is embedded, and the charts or dashboards are rendered with the latest information whenever they're accessed.

Sometimes it's hard to interpret just what the data is telling you. That's why collaboration is one of the emerging trends in business intelligence and it's why Salesforce is working on sharing of dashboard snapshots via Salesforce1 Chatter. As the name suggest, the feature will let users post images of charts and graphs through the mobile or desktop Chatter interface, but users will be able to click on the snaps to access the live version of the chart or dashboard with up-to-the-minute data.

The Salesforce1 Mobile app is available immediately in the Apple and Android app stores. Built-in Mobile Reports & Dashboards capabilities, including drill-through functionality and API-based embedding of reports into custom and third-party apps, are slated for availability later this month. Sharing of dashboard snapshots via Chatter is expected to be available in the second half of this year.

With its mobile and third-party integration capabilities, Salesforce is pushing, yet again, to be more than a cloud-based CRM app supporting marketing, sales, and service. The higher goal is to be a social, mobile, and agile cloud-based development platform that many companies can use to build front-office apps that make the most of all enterprise applications and information.

IT leaders who don't embrace public cloud concepts will find their business partners looking elsewhere for computing capabilities. Get the new Frictionless IT issue of InformationWeek Tech Digest today.

Doug Henschen is Executive Editor of InformationWeek, where he covers the intersection of enterprise applications with information management, business intelligence, big data and analytics. He previously served as editor in chief of Intelligent Enterprise, editor in chief of ... View Full Bio

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Doug Henschen
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Doug Henschen,
User Rank: Strategist
7/3/2014 | 12:45:56 PM
Re: Data viz push
There are generic connectors to any BI suite plus partner BI apps from vendors including BIRST, GoodData, Tableau and others. Check it out here on the AppExchange.
Shane M. O'Neill
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Shane M. O'Neill,
User Rank: Author
7/3/2014 | 11:54:41 AM
Re: Data viz push
Thanks for clarifying the difference, Doug. Do you think Salesforce will expand to have more interactive functionality or perhaps integrate with a Qliktech or Tableau?
D. Henschen
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D. Henschen,
User Rank: Author
7/3/2014 | 11:48:44 AM
Re: Data viz push
It's a fine point, but there's a difference between drillable and interactive. With drillable functionality you can go from a visualization to the underlying data. With interactive visualization, you can pick subsets of data from within a visualization and rerender the graphic, or you can change filters to visualize a larger, smaller or somehow different data set. Salesforce is supporting the former in this case, but not the latter (at least not that they've discussed).

Interactive data visualization on mobile devices is pretty advanced and something you would get from a dedicated data-viz/analysis platform like Qliktech, Tableau or one of the many imitative data-discovery modules from big business intelligence vendors.
Shane M. O'Neill
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Shane M. O'Neill,
User Rank: Author
7/3/2014 | 11:23:57 AM
Data viz push
Salesforce was wise to make this Mobile Reports & Dashboards feature drill-downable (for lack of a better word) because data viz tools get their power from being interactive. With this data viz push, along with Salesforce Wear (its new app dev platform for wearable devices) Salesforce is pushing hard to stay ahead of the curve in emerging tech.
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