Straight Talk: Review of Salesforce Wave, the Pros and Cons

Straight Talk BI ReviewsStaying on top of recent developments and new products in the business intelligence (BI) industry is an important part of our Customer Success approach to doing business. After all, although we hope Yurbi is a good fit for your organization, we understand it’s not the right solution for everyone. When it isn’t, we want to speak knowledgeably with you about other products on the market.

So when Cloud computing giant Salesforce recently launched Wave, the Salesforce Analytics Cloud, we were intrigued. Because it’s a new entry into the business intelligence space we haven’t had our hands on Wave, and much of what we know is based on information Salesforce is pitching and our own industry experience. After sorting through it all, here’s what we’ve learned so far about the pros and cons of Salesforce Wave.

Salesforce Wave Pros

Wave is the product of a strong company noted for innovation
Boasting more than 100,000 customers and more than 20 million users, Salesforce has grown significantly since it was founded in 1999 and went public in 2004. Although Salesforce is best known for its powerful customer relationship management (CRM) product, it has expanded into other niches over the years. Last month, Salesforce broke into the business intelligence sector. At Dreamforce 2014, Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff rolled-out Salesforce Wave, the company’s first effort at Cloud-based analytics.

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Cloud-based BI hasn’t taken off like some industry analysts predicted it would, however, we believe Wave has potential. Given Salesforce’s track record for innovation and huge resources, if anyone can design an effective Cloud-based BI tool, it’s Salesforce.

Wave is built on the Salesforce.com platform
Wave is built on the Salesforce.com platform, and that offers a number of benefits:

  • Native integration with other Salesforce solutions
    Teams and organizations already using a Salesforce product will enjoy native integration with Wave.
  • Secure, strong platform
    Wave’s security and access controls are picked up from the Salesforce platform. As the company’s sixth Cloud offering, many of the kinks and security weakness typically associated with new product platforms have previously been worked out.
  • High-speed searching
    Because Wave is founded on the robust Salesforce platform, it offers high-speed searching that can accommodate big data.
  • Incredible scalability
    Built on the Salesforce platform, Wave users enjoy nearly endless scalability. Virtually no data sets are too big for Wave to handle.
  • Salesforce Wave is Cloud-based
    Salesforce has proven it knows how to make first-class Cloud-based solutions, so Wave may be a good choice for organizations looking for Cloud-based BI. Likewise, organizations that already pay for BI in the Cloud now have another option.
  • Wave is mobile and tablet ready
    Salesforce Wave’s mobile-first emphasis is a big plus- especially when compared to traditional BI products. It’s also smartly geared to support sales professionals, customer support and marketing teams who rely heavily on their mobile devices.

Salesforce Wave Cons

Difficulty getting data into the Cloud
One hurdle with any Cloud-based BI solutions like Wave, GoodData and Domo is getting data to the Cloud to begin with. If you’re already using Salesforce technology, of course, there’s no problem, and you won’t have difficulty importing data from Excel or CSV files- but if you’re not using Salesforce (or you are, but you have on-premise legacy data that has to be imported into the Cloud) a developer has to build a system to get data to the Cloud and keep it updated. Salesforce says it’s developing a Wave API to make this happen, but regardless it’s a time consuming, labor costly process.

Cost prohibitive for most Small to Medium Businesses (SMBs)
Wave offers a number of benefits, but cost isn’t one of them. Initial pricing listed on the Salesforce website states the standalone Wave service costs $250 per month for each person who imports datasets (named “builders” in Salesforce lingo) and $125 per month for each person working with available data (which Salesforce names as “explorers”). The Wave mobile app comes “free of charge.” That’s the front-end expense, but sources on the Web say to get set up on Salesforce customers will also pay $40,000 per month for back-end infrastructure. Based on our experience, we believe the cost of Wave may reduce as the products matures- but as the price stands today, Wave is targeting big organizations with deep pockets.

Requires developer learn a new database language
Salesforce’s home-grown database, Salesforce Analytic Query Language (SAQL) means developers and administrators have to learn a new language. Organizations that want to use Wave will have to hire someone who is already trained in SAQL or pay to train a current developer/s. Either way, the cost of learning a new language adds to Wave’s already hefty totally cost of ownership.

The Pros and Cons of Salesforce Wave: Our Bottom Line

For large organizations already using the Salesforce platform, Wave’s native integration is a big plus. The fact that Salesforce Wave was designed to facilitate smartphone and tablet interaction means it offers a huge advantage for mobile users over products from veteran BI vendors like SAP, IBM, and Oracle. For organizations that need near infinite scalability, want a Cloud-based solution and can afford it, Wave may be a smart choice.

On the other hand, Wave is undeniably cost prohibitive for small and medium-sized business- whether they currently leverage a Salesforce product or not. Although Wave is pitched to the masses, Wave is currently priced to target enterprise and large companies with hearty financial resources. From initial set up costs to developer labor, Wave isn’t going to be a realistic BI solution for SMB in the near future. Wave will be metamorphosing for quite a while, and SMBs won’t have any influence on the product development cycle. Just as with traditional BI vendors like SAP and Microsoft, SMBs will be a small fish in a big pond with Salesforce Wave.

It’s worth mentioning that Salesforce has traditionally stayed out of BI, choosing to rely on partners to integrate with their platform and supply their users with analytics. In fact, some companies, such as BIME and Birst have built a majority of their business around reporting in Salesforce. Wave could threaten the health of these companies.

We hope you found this review of Salesforce Wave’s pros and cons valuable. If you’d like to learn more about your BI options, we encourage you to read other straight talk reviews.

At this early stage, it’s difficult to judge how Wave might shake up the BI industry, but there’s no doubt it’s generating a lot of buzz. What are your thoughts about the pros and cons of Salesforce Wave as we’ve outlined them above? Leave your comments and let’s generate discussion about the potential advantages and drawbacks of Wave.

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