thinkaholics_salesforce_snapshots_excel_trend_analysisSalesforce has an amazing marketing and sales team. Naturally, the company looks to target specific users groups, the decision makers, to garner buy-in then adoption. An oft repeated strategy is to focus on what makes upper management foam at the mouth, data. Let’s face it, features, bugs, implementation, it ends up as background noise once reports start flowing and RoI can be determined. The basic Reports feature of the platform is just that, basic. Excel junkies, like myself, scoff at its limited visualizations capabilities and options. Sure, it’s awesome that it automates how many calls came in last week or the total conversions for Q1, but single data points are largely useless.

Salesforce introduced Wave to the Analytics Cloud at Dreamforce 2014. At $125/user/m (billed annually) for the most basic access and $250/user/m (billed annually) for any true data junkie, the platform is out of reach for most companies. That leaves many wondering how they can use their amazing cloud platform to do week over week trend analysis. That’s where the semi-new Reporting Snapshots enters the fray (formerly known at Salesforce Analytic Snapshot) and barely passes the muster.

If you’re new to Reporting Snapshots, here are links to two relevant Salesforce explanations, basic details and how to define a snapshot. Unfortunately, the information is somewhat useless regardless of your status as a BA or system admin. Head over to ebsta for a far more instructional breakdown.

If you’re coming from an Excel mindset the setup procedure of a Reporting Snapshots will appear cumbersome. Effectively, the design team hacked a way for the current Reports structure to (finally) support trend analysis. An example is in order.

You’re an analyst at Loud Used Car Dealership and are investigating sales performance for the year on a weekly basis. Seeing how salespeople do weekly is crucial to predicting revenue, aiding lagging workers and rewarding success. You’ve access to the weekly sales figures of each salesperson. In Excel, you’d simply set the X-axis as time and Y-axis as # of cars sold. Each line would represent the rise and fall of an individual’s sales over the year. Once the data is available such a graph would take moment to throw together.

Let’s assume you already have a weekly report on these numbers called ‘Weekly Sales Figures by Salesperson’. To turn this into a weekly trend analysis you need to create:

  • A new Custom Object as a container
  • New Custom Fields for the object to capture weekly data for long-term storage/usage
  • A new Reporting Snapshot
  • Map the ‘Weekly Sales Figures by Salesperson’ fields to the new Custom Fields

That’s a fair amount of steps and may freak out many a business analysis and admin. The need for the additional structures is due to the Salesforce Reports architecture pulling data in real-time. Data is not maintained in a historical context. Yes, data through the whole year exists (Q1-Q4), but it won’t be reported comparatively (Q1 vs. Q2 vs. Q3 vs. Q4) unless a Reporting Snapshot is created!

Key facts to Reporting Snapshots:

  • Snapshots are based upon normal reports
  • A custom object and custom fields store the data for snapshots
  • You must map the fields from the normal report to the new object and fields
  • Troubleshooting Reporting Snapshot errors

Even if they’re scary (at first) and (always) cumbersome Reporting Snapshots do offer value. Single data points are nice for an in-the-moment look, but don’t offer insight to the effectiveness of long-term strategies. Have them created for crucial trend analysis or anything that would roll up to the next level. For BAs looking for insights into business development the power of Wave showcases the shortcomings of Reporting Snapshots. Often a new stream or opportunity comes not from knowing what you’re looking for but from playing with data and stumbling across a new insight. Doing so from Reporting Snapshots would take ages. Better off to dump your information into another platform (like Excel) and play in there. Likely far, far away from your PaaS.