If you work on the revenue side of any kind of business or startup, there’s a high chance that you rely on your CRM for everything. And out of all CRMs you could be using, there’s a decently high chance that you’re using Salesforce, as one of the dominating CRMs on the market.
When I worked in sales in a past life, Salesforce was considered to be our “holy grail” and “single source of truth.” My teammates and I were constantly in Salesforce reviewing and updating information at both the lead stage, and the opportunity stage, to track our pipeline and deals.
When it came to analytics, our dedicated team dashboards were also in Salesforce, along with ad-hoc reports that our Revenue Operations Manager would provide to each of us on a need-basis. Whenever we needed a fresh report on specific accounts, partner deals, or filtered by specific criteria like industry or country, our Revenue Operations Manager would churn out a report within Salesforce. At the time, from a sales rep perspective, Salesforce was basically our de facto “analytics platform” — at least for all the metrics that concerned the revenue team. While I knew that Salesforce is a CRM and not an analytics platform, it was somehow sufficient enough for my needs — as long as my Revenue Operations Manager got back to me fast enough with my requested report.
As I began working more cross-functionally across different teams, and trying to understand the macro "big picture" of our revenue, I quickly realized the shortcomings of Salesforce analytics, and how there’s no way it could replace or serve as our company’s all-encompassing internal data analytics platform — even for the revenue-only use cases. In this article, let’s explore why Salesforce analytics falls short and why it can’t serve as your internal BI platform:
Why Salesforce analytics falls short:
To be clear, this is not a Salesforce-bashing post! Salesforce is a powerful CRM, and the analytics portion is an incredibly nice-to-have sub-offering of Salesforce. Salesforce's primary function and value proposition lies in the management of a company’s customer or prospect-related data, including interactions and conversations. With this in mind, there shouldn’t necessarily be the expectation that Salesforce would be your BI system anyway, but because it's where information lives at the lead, opportunity, and customer level, it is often misunderstood to double as an analytics platform. There's definitely some useful reporting that can be done on top of it, as well as some simple dashboarding and visualization capabilities.
If you're relying on Salesforce as your company's analytics platform, let me share some of the shortcomings and why you might want to reconsider:
- Limited Data Integration: Many key financial and business metrics require the combination of various different sources, such as from financial and operational systems, product usage analytics, third-party platforms. Not only is it does Salesforce not support the ingestion of data from different sources, but it would also struggle to accommodate diverse datasets. This leads to the inability to calculate certain metrics, or incomplete insights, which would hinder the decision-making process. MRR, for example, is a metric that can’t be computed solely from deal information that lives within Salesforce. Plus, there’s no way for Salesforce to include and display your product analytics data, which key for understanding user growth, stickiness, and customer success.
- Doesn’t Support Complex Data Modeling: Data modeling refers to the process of creating a conceptual representation of data objects and their relationships to one another. Business intelligence often involves complex data modeling to uncover meaningful relationships between different data points. Salesforce Analytics does not offer modeling capabilities, nor can it handle complex data structures. It reads only the data that lives within Salesforce already. This limitation could result in oversimplification of data analysis and block you from computing your key metrics properly.
- Scalability & Cost Challenges: As your business grows, so does the volume of data you need to process and analyze. Salesforce Analytics might struggle to scale seamlessly to accommodate increasing data loads. This can lead to performance bottlenecks, slow query processing, and ultimately hamper your ability to make real-time decisions. In addition, Salesforce is known for its premium pricing. While it might be justifiable for CRM purposes, using Salesforce Analytics solely as your internal BI system could lead to significant cost implications. Opting for specialized BI platforms that offer more comprehensive features might provide better value for your investment.
- Customization Constraints: Every business has unique analytics requirements that necessitate tailored solutions. Salesforce Analytics might fall short in terms of customization options, forcing you to adapt your analytics processes to fit within its predefined framework. This rigidity can limit your ability to address specific business needs effectively.
- Lack of Advanced Analytics and ML: To gain a competitive edge, businesses are increasingly turning to advanced analytics methods and machine learning models. While Salesforce Analytics offers some basic analytical features, it will lack the robust capabilities needed for complex predictive and prescriptive analytics, depriving you of deeper insights that can drive strategic decisions and action.
- Limited Data Visualization Options: Effective data visualization is crucial for conveying insights to various stakeholders. While Salesforce Analytics offers basic visualization capabilities, it won’t be as feature-rich or flexible as dedicated BI tools. This limitation could impact your ability to create compelling visual stories and narratives from your data. It’s important to match the appropriate chart type with the metrics themselves
What to do instead:
For your company to become truly data-driven, our recommendation is to set up a scalable foundation for tracking and learning from all your data (not just CRM data), and creating dashboards that display all metrics on an ongoing basis. To overcome the limitations of your CRM, the best way to go about this is:
- Get a cloud-based data warehouse, like Snowflake, Google Bigquery, or Redshift
- Ingest data from all your various sources into the data warehouse, which should serve as a central repository of data for your entire organization. Here are a few considerations when choosing the right ETL for data ingestion.
- Invest in a BI (business intelligence) platform, ideally one that is no-code or low-code like Whaly so that you don’t need to hire a full on data team to set one up.
- Replicate data from your data warehouse into your BI platform (through an ETL process). Certain platforms like Whaly have some connectors included, so you don’t have to worry about getting a separate ETL vendor.
- Once your data is in your BI platform, you can perform modeling, visualize your charts, create your dashboards, and explore your data. You can also customize your dashboards, ensuring that it’s easy to read and grasp for all teams.
In conclusion, while Salesforce is undoubtedly a powerful CRM platform, its analytics capabilities won’t cut it as the comprehensive internal BI system for your organization. The limitations in data integration, complex modeling, scalability, customization, advanced analytics, cost, user experience, and data visualization are factors that need careful consideration when evaluating Salesforce’s analytics for your BI needs. For a truly robust internal BI system that caters to your evolving business demands, exploring specialized BI solutions like Whaly would be more advantageous and save time and cost in the long run.