CRM Analytics (CRMA), formerly known as Einstein Analytics, is the business insights and data analytics platform that Salesforce launched in 2014. With a powerful framework to action insights directly in CRM and a variety of native connectors to ingest data from external sources, CRMA is a unique offering in the world of Business Intelligence (BI).
As you can infer from the title, this chapter will introduce you to CRMA – what it is, how it works, and what it can do. We will begin by discussing data analytics from the perspective of CRMA and investigate what makes this platform different. As there are a great many BI platforms out in the digital world, you need to understand the unique place of CRMA in the data landscape and the Salesforce ecosystem.
Once you have completed this chapter, regardless of your current understanding of CRMA, you should have a good initial grasp of the platform. Whether you are a business analyst, a Salesforce administrator, or an advanced business user, this chapter will help you succinctly communicate the essentials of CRMA to your colleagues.
In this chapter, we are going to cover the following topics:
- The importance of data analytics
- What is CRMA?
- What is CRMA used for?
- How can you excel at data analytics with CRMA?
The importance of data analytics
"From crisis to opportunity, the role of data and analytics is expanding and becoming more strategic and mission-critical…Massive disruption, crisis, and the ensuing economic downturn are forcing companies to respond to previously unimaginable demands to resource optimize, reinvent processes and rethink products, business models, and even their very purpose. Only resilient, nimble, and creative organizations will survive and thrive."
Read that again:
"…the role of data and analytics is expanding and becoming more strategic and mission-critical…"
Businesses and organizations must become excellent at data analytics. They must excel at gathering, understanding, sharing, and actioning data. The current global pandemic has caused widespread uncertainty and unrest and has left many organizations in a precarious state. Misgivings about the global economy and fear of ongoing illness, as well as the closure of international and domestic borders, have all contributed to fragile mindsets and anxious cultures. The economic downturn, digital disruption, and growing competition have created an environment where businesses and organizations cannot ignore or minimize the value of data and insights. Data analytics has become imperative.
However, in my experience, very few organizations excel at gathering, understanding, sharing, and actioning data. Even in those organizations that create and maintain functional data analytics, it is estimated that as many as 75% of users do not use them regularly. Leaders and team members, as one of our clients once put it, are "flying blind." We certainly are not lacking information today. I think that most people will agree, though, that we are suffering from information overload – we are drowning in data! Data can be both a blessing and a curse – a help and a hindrance. After years of working in the data analytics industry and speaking with many businesses and organizations, it has become apparent to me that the subject of data insights is a frustrating one for many. What should be a great boon for the organization is, in fact, a burden.
CRMA has the power to change all this – if it's well understood, correctly implemented, and rightly used.
One such example is that of our client. 18 months ago, they were drowning in data but starving for insights. UA had terabytes of information spread across multiple systems and clouds, and actionable insights were very difficult to obtain. For a data-driven organization such as UNICEF, this was a source of great frustration. However, with the expertise of their internal team, the power of CRMA, and the help of our analytics experts and Visioneer360, the situation was drastically turned around. It can be done!
The key to going from data to insight to action is data analytics.
Data, in its raw, unprocessed form, contains the ingredients of a story – ingredients that are not of much use if they're not combined into a data "recipe" to create a story.
What do I mean by a data story? A data story is when information is processed and presented in such a way that it recites a narrative about a situation and draws meaningful conclusions for the reader. There are a plethora of diverse mediums and tools by which data stories can be presented, but the result of a story is actionable insight. I often express this in my three-word mantra:
Organizations do not lack data – they lack insights into that data, and they are largely unable to obtain the true value for their data.
Every organization has data. Some organizations have insights into their data. Very few organizations action data insights.
The challenge, then, is data analytics. This is where CRMA comes in – it has the potential to transform data, visualize insights, and enable action.
Perhaps my story will provide some context and insight here. As a self-taught Salesforce business analyst, responsible for implementing and customizing Financial Services Cloud at a financial planning business, I was fortunate to work with a data-driven team and leadership. One of the primary drivers for implementing Salesforce was the vision for actionable business insights. This journey involved data remediation, cultural change, and analytics builds, among other things. Once the Salesforce Reports and Dashboards were up and running and were being used by the team members and leadership, the power of data insights began to be realized. However, the CEO wanted to take this to the next level and run their weekly management meetings only from Salesforce reports – no more slides and spreadsheets!
This ambitious goal required extending my skills into more advanced reporting tools, so we settled on purchasing CRMA licenses. It took some time to learn the tool and build useful dashboards, but the result was impressive. The CRMA dashboards were shared during the weekly management meetings, and the attendees were able to drill into the data and make business decisions based on live information. It was a game-changer, and I was personally hooked on the power, versatility, and actionability of CRMA.
What, then, do you need to gain value from your data, to obtain actionable business insights? Broadly speaking, there are five requirements:
- The right data, of a sufficient quality
- Clearly defined business goals
- A capable data analytics tool
- Skilled individuals to create the data stories
- Organizational commitment to consume, action, and improve the insights
As a brief aside, no one has perfect data, of course, and one advantage of data analytics is its ability to evaluate data quality and plan remediation. However, there is a point where poor data quality and completeness will hinder the usefulness of analytics dashboards to the point where time is better spent on remediation rather than analysis.
Now that we have an understanding of the importance of data analytics, we are going to dive into the subject of this book – CRMA. Why, then, was CRMA formerly known as Einstein Analytics?
What is CRMA and what is it used for?
The questions what is CRMA? and what is it is used for? will be answered in the following sub-sections.
What is CRMA?
CRMA is not a Salesforce app – CRMA is a data analysis and business insights platform with integrated machine learning insights from Einstein Discovery.
- Native, two-way integration with the Salesforce CRM platform.
- On-platform data extraction, combination, and transformation in the data manager.
- External connectivity to a variety of other platforms and cloud storage providers.
- Data visualization, analysis, and exploration.
- A data action framework to enable decision-making based on insights.
- Embedded intelligence from the Salesforce Einstein platform, such as Einstein Sentiment analysis.
- Insights can be shared in various ways, such as Salesforce Chatter, URL generation, and downloads.
- On-dashboard notifications to alert users when certain criteria are met.
- A mobile TRCM Analytics App.
- CRMA/Einstein Analytics APIs and SDKs.
- Various data security tools to mask incoming data and restrict/filter outgoing insights as required.
- In CRMA, data is searched for using an inverted index that enables fast query results – datasets containing up to a billion rows can be queried in seconds.
- CRMA data is loaded into a non-relational store via a dynamic, horizontally scalable key-value pair approach.
- The CRMA workflow engine is a software application that is designed to help users enforce a series of recurring tasks that make up a "business process" or "workflow." It applies limited transformations upon data ingestion but largely stores information in its original form.
- Data is consumed and stored in a non-relational inverted index as key-value pairs. These key-value pairs only store non-null data values, which improves efficiency and speed.
- CRMA's query engine employs techniques such as vector encoding, differential encoding, and incremental encoding to compress data and perform efficient and faster queries on compressed data.
- Quantitative data is queried in a columnar store in RAM across Salesforce's cloud.
- CRMA provides Einstein Analytics Actions, which allow you to seamlessly go from question to answer to action without logging into a separate solution – such as creating a task, updating a record, creating a case, posting to Chatter, and more!
- Heavy compression, optimization algorithms, and parallel processing fast and efficient queries on very large datasets.
- Mobile-first design – CRMA enables data creation, analysis, and action directly from mobile devices.
- Einstein Analytics is an open, scalable, and extensible platform. Being built on the secure infrastructure of Salesforce, the world's top CRM, CRMA provides easy-to-use APIs that enable deep relationships with other tools and platforms.
- Salesforce has worked with Informatica, MuleSoft, Snowflake, and other vendors to build interfaces with BI and data solutions out of the box.
- CRMA delivers fast-rendering graphics that connect the relationships between views of data by drawing SVG graphics within the browser and using an animation engine faceting and filtering. This demands fewer resources from the user's device or the server.
- The CRMA platform is built upon Salesforce's trusted, multilayered approach to data availability, privacy, and security.
Here is a visual representation of Salesforce and the CRMA architecture:
What is CRMA used for?
For example, I created the following CRMA dashboard for a business in the property development space with dummy data:
- I loaded the raw data tables into CRMA.
- I combined these tables into one dataset using CRMA.
- I transformed the data to prepare it for visualization in CRMA.
- I used TRCM to design, build, and share the analytics dashboard.
- I was able to "slice and dice" the data, diving into the information to make sense of it and tell a story, with CRMA.
- Salesforce Reports and Dashboards
- Einstein Analytics
- Pardot analytics
- Marketing analytics
Which analytics tool should you use for which business use case?
Here are some questions to consider (see https://marktossell.com/2020/06/20/tableau-or-einstein-analytics-which-is-best-for-you/ and https://marktossell.com/2020/10/31/are-you-confused-about-einstein-tableau-and-tableaucrm-read-this/ for more detailed information):
- Who is going to use the business insights?
- Where are they going to view and action the insights?
- How will they share those insights with others?
- How much of the data for the dashboards is stored in Salesforce?
- Where is the external data stored?
- How will external data be connected to the BI tool?
- What in-house resources will work on the analytics tool?
- What platforms are users accustomed to using?
- How many of the data consumers are Salesforce CRM users?
- What BI platform license structure suits the business best?
- You need to incorporate external data.
- You want contextual record actions to action insights in CRM.
- You want to use embedded analytics.
- You require greater customizability.
- You wish to use the Analytics mobile app.
- You need predictive insights and augmented analytics.
- You want to take advantage of CRMA pages.
- You need advanced trending and waterfall charts.
- You require flexible and powerful data modeling in the data flow editor and data recipes.
- You want superior performance for up to 10 billion rows.
Real-life examples of how to use CRMA
- Out-of-the-box sales analytics
- Student success insights for higher education
- Property development insights
- Marketing attribution analytics
Out-of-the-box sales analytics
A very common and highly effective use case for CRMA is the suite of sales analytics standards that are available as a standard template. With some simple configuration, you can have powerful insights into your Sales Cloud data within minutes. These insights include the following dashboards:
- Sales Analytics Home: Provides an overview of high-level key performance indicators (KPIs).
- Leaderboard: Gives leaders a summary of the team's and individuals' performance, including quota attainment, pipe coverage, bookings, pipe generation, closed-won business, average sales cycle time, and sales activities.
- Trending: Analyze pipeline changes over time, including the beginning and end values of the pipe, as well as what's moved in and out.
- Sales Stage Analysis: Visualizes how deals have moved through stages of the sales process, revealing bottlenecks and at-risk opportunities.
- Whitespace Analysis: Identifies resell and upsell opportunities.
- Executive Overview: Sales executives can review the pipeline's status, the projected closing, and top deals by lead source, plus high-level views of sales and service performance.
You will learn more about this app in Chapter 3, Connecting Your Data Sources.
Student success insights for higher education
It was exciting for my team and me to collaborate with over 20 higher education institutions in the United States, including Harvard and Cornell universities, to employ the power of Einstein and CRMA to address some of their most pressing challenges. While there are many exciting opportunities to consider in the higher education space, we initially focused on the area of student success and persistence:
- If schools could identify warning signs for students before they failed to meet the criteria for persistence, the school could act proactively to assist the student.
- If schools could predictively identify students at high risk of not persisting, based on certain key characteristics of those students, then those students could be afforded an extra level of support right from the start.
- If smart systems could suggest what actions might help a student to persist, the school would be much more effective and efficient in enabling student success.
No one has been able to solve this problem, though many have tried. However, with the power of Einstein and CRMA, we have developed a successful MVP prototype for student success, and we are engaging several colleges to build this intelligent solution for them. Here are some screenshots of the Student Success Persistence tab:
The following is the Student Success At Risk tab:
For a video of this solution, see https://vimeo.com/329929308.
Property development insights
In this use case, the client was a Sydney apartment developer. They had a growing, thriving business, they were using Salesforce extensively, and they had bucket-loads of data, but they were unable to do the following:
- Quickly drill down into sales data using various variables.
- Perform actions from the analytics dashboard.
- Prioritize clients by the available equity and loan to value ratio (LVR).
- See the total area and $ value of purchases versus target.
- See the trending total area and $ value of purchases.
- Project growth in 5 to 10 years for amounts reinvested.
- Present analytics to a client on a tablet that showed the current and projected state.
The CRMA platform, combined with their vision and our expertise, enabled us to build a solution that provided the client with insights that they had never seen before. They were finally able to go from data to insight to action.
Here are some screenshots from our property insights solution.
Here is the home page for the Property Development insights dashboard:
Marketing attribution analytics
We were asked by a marketing business in the health care space to build advanced analytics around marketing attribution, with the end goal of delivering a closed-loop attribution analytics solution. This was quite the challenge!
- Our client was unable to show actual and projected return on marketing investment for their clients. The strategy was very hit-and-miss.
- The client's customers had large amounts of data but were unable to utilize this data to make informed decisions around marketing channels.
- Limited data analytics information was being manually extracted by the client on behalf of customers. These analytics did not drive intelligent business decisions.
- Analytics was diagnostic and descriptive, but not predictive and prescriptive.
Using CRMA and Einstein, we built an innovative Analytics App that provides the following:
- Cutting-edge data analytics with integrated AI insights and predictions
- Intelligent recommendations from Einstein Discovery AI
The result enabled the client to drive channel efficiency and marketing optimization. The benefits included increased ROI on marketing investment and increased patient loyalty and enhanced patient experience. Let's check out some of the screenshots from this solution.
The following is the home page view:
The following is the ROI insights page view:
- Sales performance, such as actuals and forecast versus target.
- Lead conversion by lead source, region, and team member.
- ROI on marketing campaigns.
- Case management and service team performance.
- Global sales breakdown by region, territory, and country.
- Forecast sales by region and team.
- Customer attrition.
- Customer acquisition.
- Customer satisfaction.
- Supply chain performance, identifying bottlenecks, and opportunities.
- Financial services compliance with forward-looking analytics to identify clients at risk of breach.
- Higher education performance and student success.
- Opportunities for educational institutions to cross-sell and up-sell.
- White space analysis for sales organizations.
- Fundraising performance for not-for-profit (NFP) institutions.
- Donor segmentation for NFP appeals.
- Project management risks and issues.
- Resource assignment and optimization in professional services businesses.
- Geospatial data.
- Revenue, expenses, and profit, and many more!
Hopefully, this section has helped you understand how we can use CRMA to solve problems and grasp opportunities. Remember, it is all about Data -> Insight -> Action, as shown in Figure 1.1.
In the next section, we are going to examine your organization and evaluate how you are making use of data and analytics.
How can you excel at data analytics with CRMA?
As you consider what you have learned so far in this chapter, it is time to reflect on the state of data and analytics in your organization. Your data is an extremely valuable resource, one that should empower smart decision-making and guide organizational strategy. What value does your company data provide?
Ask yourself these questions and evaluate if your organization has any room for improvement:
- Do your leaders have accurate, current information at their fingertips to make informed decisions?
- Do you have one reliable source of information that you and your colleagues can access and depend upon? Or is information spread across multiple systems and platforms, and analyzed using a variety of tools?
- Is your team empowered and enabled by simple, actionable data analytics?
- Do you and your colleagues find yourselves gathering information from various places – such as cloud storage, CRM, spreadsheets, email, ERP, and so on – to bring it together in a spreadsheet and create the report you need to do your job?
- How do you share valuable insights and then action those insights? Is this simple and easy, or complex and difficult?
- What are your current strengths in the areas of data and analytics?
- What are your current weaknesses in the areas of data and analytics?
- What are your current opportunities in the areas of data and analytics?
- What are your current challenges in the areas of data and analytics?
- If platforms, people, and processes were not a barrier, where do you see your organization being in 12 months, in the context of using information to create actionable business insights? How likely is it that you will reach that ideal state?
I think I could summarize all of this into one simple question:
Does your organization excel at data analytics?
Honestly, in my experience across many industries and segments, most organizations do not excel. Many would not even be given a passing grade! Data analytics is a serious pain point for a typical business, whatever the size or vertical, and it is never solved by throwing money at it.
The good news is that CRMA is a powerful, comprehensive tool that can help your organization gain tremendous value from its information. How, exactly? Here are a few examples of what CRMA can do; think through these and see which ones most align with your goals and needs:
- Combine Salesforce and external data to create one trustworthy source of truth.
- Embed insights into the business process in Salesforce, empowering users to make faster, better decisions.
- Replace multiple, disconnected Salesforce reports with one cohesive and dynamic dashboard.
- Minimize or eliminate the ability to export reports from Salesforce into a tool such as Excel for aggregation, transformation, and visualization.
- Greatly simplify cross-object reporting.
- Inject real intelligence into the mix by way of the Einstein platform.
- Deliver great mobile analytics via the CRMA mobile app for iOS and Android.
- Outperform Salesforce Reports and Dashboards for large datasets.
- Enable the user to go from insight to action in just a few clicks, all on-platform and without leaving the CRMA dashboard.
- Model complex processes, combine multiple datasets, and incorporate complicated logic to create one comprehensive data source that drives real insight.
As we now move into the main content of this book, join me as we learn how CRMA can help transform your organization with the power of actionable business insights!
By now, you should have a clear understanding of the importance of data analytics and business insights in a pandemic-affected society. You have seen how CRMA, a powerful data analytics platform, integrates with Salesforce to facilitate actionable insights in any organization. You have also had the opportunity to evaluate the data analytics in your organization and see where CRMA can make a difference.
In the next chapter, we will get hands-on with CRMA and build our very first CRMA Analytics app.
Here are some questions to test your knowledge of this chapter:
- Define data analytics and what value it offers.
- Our goal is to go from data to insight to _______________.
- Name five features of CRMA.
- How does CRMA differ from Tableau?
- What are five practical use cases for CRMA?
- How does CRMA provide value to your organization or clients?
- Does your organization excel at data analytics? If not, what is preventing it from doing so?