Salesforce Wave, the data analysis platform that Salesforce.com released last Fall, was originally conceived to visualize Salesforce data, but the company is always tinkering with its products. Today it announced a series of connectors that link Wave with popular big data tools with the idea of bringing external data sources to the platform. Partners include Cloudera, Google, New Relic, Hortonworks, Trifacta and Informatica. Salesforce is providing connectors to these platforms and Salesforce Wave administrators can work with IT to get the desired data into Wave where business users can access it. Prior to having these connectors, it was possible to pull this type of data into Wave, but it was a lot of work. The connectors provide an easier way and build a bridge between lines of business using Salesforce tools and IT working with these various big data platforms. Salesforce was hearing from customers that they wanted to bring other types of data into Wave besides what was available on the Salesforce platform. "The first thing is that we are solving [a problem] for the business user," explained Anna Rosenman, senior director of product marketing for the Salesforce Analytics Cloud. Users from marketing, sales and service aren't about to start mucking about in these other platforms, which tend to be the realm of data scientists and developers. What the end user can do is ask the right questions. Wouldn't it be great if we had access to x information? The Wave administrator can then work with IT and find out if it's possible to answer the question and give those business users access to the data they want. If they can, the connector gets them there faster. The problem is that end users need to have the wherewithal to ask the right questions, and that could be a problem. They might not know what types of information exist within a big company or what tools IT is even using. If Salesforce's goal is to bridge this gap, it's taking a huge leap of faith that this communication is going on -- or that sales, marketing and service personnel will serendipitously ask the right questions Rosenman offered data from RFID tags as an example. Suppose the sales team wanted to see this data and combine it with data in the Salesforce CRM database. Before these connectors, it would have been a project. Once they get this data into Wave, salespeople can query it to gain new insights using the Wave platform -- or at least that's the theory. The partners are certainly happy to connect with Salesforce's customer base, which gives these vendors access to a whole new set of potential clients (or the very least, a way to make their platforms more useful to the business). IT clearly can't live in a silo with data scientists and developers working with data. The data only has value as it gets processed and delivered to the rest of the organization. Theses connectors and partnerships provide a possible avenue to make use of this data. It remains to be seen, however, if IT and the lines of business will talk to one another and begin to take advantage of this data. It's one thing to have the data scientists provide meaningful data. It's another for them to communicate that to the rest of the company. And that's going to be the tricky part, I suspect. But Salesforce is certainly on the right track by providing a way to connect to these platforms and help its customers make more data-driven decisions from a variety of data sources. It's up to the customers to do the rest. Product image courtesy of Salesforce.com.
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