Diving into Salesforce Wave

October 24, 2014 John Gorup


You have probably heard the announcement at Dreamforce that Salesforce was getting into the Analytics business. You may not yet have taken a good look at the product. Appirio consultant Dustin Weaver has created a demo where he navigates over 6-million rows of FAA flight data. The demo shows a lot of the features that makes Salesforce Wave an intriguing product.

A few observations I made about Wave from the demo:

Wave is easy to use. Dustin says that users can “slice and dice with ease of use of Microsoft Excel.” I don’t see that as a glowing compliment, but like many people, I’ve become jaded by software. What we forget, is what James Kwak writes that “Microsoft Excel is one of the greatest, most powerful, most important software applications of all time.” Now Wave is not the next Excel, but with minimal training, users can group data and get quick statistical facts that can help make conclusions about the data. In a sense, Wave “democratizes” data analysis by putting it in the hands of non-data analysts.

Salesforce Wave is fun and beautiful. Just seeing the images on the screen move around is fun to watch. The demo Dustin gives us is from his computer, but the application looks even better on a mobile device. We have seen a growing trend in consumer software influencing business software, and Wave is the next step in that.

Importing data is a different game than standard Salesforce. With standard Salesforce, an administrator has to create the underlying object and fields before importing the data. In Salesforce Wave, Dustin used an ETL tool (Extract, Transform, Load) to load the data and the “columns” became available. Maybe this is a subtle distinction, but it again makes it easier to dive into data.

It’s important to explore the data. Standard salesforce reports makes it necessary to know what questions you want to ask before hand. Wave makes navigating and querying the data much easier. In the demo Dustin asks questions like “What is the shortest commercial route in the United States?” or “What’s the average flight distance of Southwest compared to Virgin America?,” as well as looks at the average delay time at different airports. It’s not hard to imagine what this could do for customer sales data or customer service data.

Finally, Wave is a great tool for identifying problems with the data. In the video, we see Dustin find a carrier named “CARRIER”. He also used a calendar heat map to find a weird drop in data in January. The sorting and visualizations Wave provides offers a quick way to see problems in large datasets.

If you have not seen Wave, this demo will give you an idea of the power of the product. Now watch the demonstration and let us know what you think:

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