Salesforce.com continues focus on mobility with new reports, dashboards

New APIs (application programming interfaces) also allow users to embed reports in any app

Salesforce.com is rollling out enhancements to its Salesforce1 mobile application, with new reporting and dashboard capabilities that give users a way to dig deeper and more broadly into CRM data.

While the mobile app had already provided a way to view custom reports and dashboards, now a user can tap their way down into the system to look at and update underlying information.

The update is part of a "major investment" over the past couple of years by Salesforce.com, said Todd Enders, senior director of analytics. "Our customers are really passionate about reporting."

"We have customers saying, I'm never going to go into a restaurant without checking the Yelp reviews first," he added. By the same token, those customers don't want to make a business decision without getting their hands on relevant information, Enders said.

Enders demonstrated how a vice president of sales whose boss wants additional "pipeline," or sales leads, could look at a list of prospective deals on a smartphone, filter them to find the largest one, and drill into the record to find more specific information about the customer before calling them.

Salesforce.com is also providing a new set of reporting and dashboard APIs (application programming interfaces) for building reports that can be embedded into any application, whether on Salesforce.com's platform or a third party's, the company said.

The APIs will be compatible with open-source charting libraries, including Google Charts and Charts.js.

Most of the capabilities will be generally available this month. A feature giving users the ability to share snapshots of dashboards through Salesforce.com's Chatter collaboration tool is set for arrival by the end of this year.

"I think the drill-through capability is, for me, most important because it enables users to get even more fine-grained information that they could get from a summary report," said Denis Pombriant, managing principal of Beagle Research. "The API and integration story is important too because, as a platform, Salesforce1 is something businesses will continue to build upon for new applications. Having access to information for these new apps is critical to the apps and Salesforce1's success."

"The theme of embedding into mobile apps is something of increasing importance at Salesforce," Pombriant added. "They're trying to put a lot of functionality onto mobile devices because I think they see the device as the future of business computing. Hard to disagree."

Customers won't be charged additional money for the update.

That decision could be an after effect of a controversy that sparked in late 2011, after Salesforce announced that a new Analytics Edition would cost customers more money, rather than the features being rolled into current subscriptions.

Some customers were outraged, having been less than impressed with the core CRM (customer relationship management) application's reporting capabilities to that date. The company ultimately relented, saying that Analytics Edition would be included with some CRM editions at no charge.

Chris Kanaracus covers enterprise software and general technology breaking news for The IDG News Service. Chris' email address is Chris_Kanaracus@idg.com

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