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The Ultimate Guide to Choosing the Right Salesforce Reporting Tool

The Ultimate Guide to Choosing the Right Salesforce Reporting Tool

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We get it. With all the reporting tools out there it is hard to know which one is correct (or what a tool is named this week). In this blog, we will guide you with four questions to help you decide which Salesforce reporting tool fits best with your goals. 

 4 Things to help you choose which Salesforce reporting tool to go with

To help you figure out what Salesforce reporting tool fits your situation, we are comparing these tools:

  • CRM Analytics (Formerly Tableau CRM, Einstein CRM, and Wave)
  • Salesforce Marketing Cloud Intelligence (Formerly Datorama)
  • Tableau
  • Salesforce Reports
CRM Analytics (Formerly Tableau CRM, Einstein CRM, and Wave)Salesforce Marketing Cloud Intelligence (Formerly Datorama)TableauSalesforce Reports
Data InputSalesforce, Data Warehouses, Data Lakes, CSV150+ APIs out of the box and numerous flat file optionsOver 50 standard data connectors If it’s a field in Salesforce, it is available to report on
Audience: Where does it live, and who needs to see it?Lives in Analytics Studio or native in the app under the Analytics Tab. You can also embed it on Salesforce Lightning pages. Most users will access via You can embed dashboards for anyone you want to view. Tableau has desktop and cloud-based versions, and you can buy licenses that include full data control or just view accessNatively in the Salesforce Org
Staffing considerations: Who will build it?This can be done by someone who has an intimate knowledge of salesforce schema and object relations. If you can create a custom report type, you can be proficient in CRMAMarketers can take Trailhead training and try to self-implement, or marketing agencies and consultants can also implementTableau is a widely adopted tool with knowledgeable users in many organizations, and there is a consultant marketplace on Tableau’s websiteWhoever has a permission set that gives access in Salesforce
Licensing CostsAdditional Cost by how many seats and licenses you purchase. Licensing is mainly determined by data row usage, with user licensing costs as wellLicensing is heavily user and enablement subscription-centric, with a pricing calculator found hereComes out of the box with your Salesforce Edition. Wouldn’t count toward data storage, but they do have configuration limits

Data input

“Where is my data coming from, and how should I harmonize it?”

CRM Analytics

When it comes to CRM Analytics… it is all about Salesforce data. Think of it like Salesforce reports on steroids. If it is in Salesforce, you can easily pull it into CRM Analytics. That doesn’t mean there aren’t connectors for additional insight, (Hello Data Cloud!), but generally are limited to data lakes and warehouses. 

Unlike Salesforce reporting, which imposes significant restrictions on the data sources (objects) you can include in a single report, CRM Analytics overcomes this limitation and lets you get pretty creative with joins. The downside is that you have to know your data really well so when you are joining you are confident what you report on is accurate.

Marketing Cloud Intelligence

When it comes to Marketing Cloud Intelligence… this is where Marketing Cloud Intelligence shines. If you have numerous marketing sources you need to report on — for instance, site data from Google Analytics, CRM data from Salesforce, and engagement data from Google AdWords — this is a marketer’s delight in terms of tools to work with.

You can see the breadth of out-of-the-box marketing-centric connectors below — from Facebook, Adobe Analytics, or any other tool you have credentials to as simply as logging in, or simply uploading any data file you can imagine using the TotalConnect function. Intelligence also has a set of recommended data models for each type of connector with variation allowed upon ingestion and after the fact as well.


When it comes to Tableau… you can find a holistic source list here (including numerous Salesforce connectors, among them Marketing Cloud Intelligence). Like Intelligence, you can upload raw files to Tableau and visualize the data accordingly with flexibility.

There are no standard data models, however, so you will need to set these up upon ingestion for your data sources (they will often mirror source data models).

Salesforce Reports

When it comes to Salesforce Reports… The adage “if it’s not in Salesforce it doesn’t count” is a phrase in the ecosystem for a reason!

Whatever data is physically available in Salesforce, generally a standard or custom Salesforce report can see it. This one is pretty easy and probably the piece you are most comfortable with, but don’t count it out.

Sometimes you need something quick and visible to a multitude of people. Let’s just say… if it was a horse, its name would be Ole Faithful. There is no limitation on company size per se, but be cognizant of data storage limits, data fatigue, and how clean that data is in your Salesforce org.

Final Thoughts 

  • If you are an Enterprise customer, really think through different departments that need analytics and if there are data row limits for your products. Processing power can mean all the world when trying to load a report that takes 20 minutes. 
  • What are you already paying for? There might be a way to reach your goal without purchasing an additional tool- this can help guide you to what your pain points are and to decide on a new tool if necessary.


Where does this report/dashboard live, and who needs to see it?

CRM Analytics

When it comes to CRMA… there are two answers. Most people view this in Analytics Studio,  which opens a new browser window when you click on it from the app launcher in Salesforce. However, you can have a tab right in your Salesforce app that points to Analytics or embed the dashboard on objects in Salesforce. The caveat is that to view those reports you would need a license and permission set.

A great silver lining is that you can give the correct permissions to users even where they cannot edit or mess with anything just like you can in Salesforce. Based on the cost, that it requires licenses could limit who in your organization can engage with those dashboards. Another silver lining is that you can always download the dashboard as an image and include it in presentations or post in chatter.

Marketing Cloud Intelligence

When it comes to Marketing Cloud Intelligence… You need credentials to get into the Intelligence platform, and that can come in the form of admins (who can see everything and upload new data sets), power users (who can do reports and dashboard maintenance but not update data sources), and viewers who can, to certainly much surprise, view dashboards. You can also freely send out embedded versions of dashboard pages or activate reports to send to tools like Google Drive, Slack, or email regardless of platform access.


When it comes to Tableau… Tableau has numerous views and versions of the tool. There is a desktop version of the tool as well as web versions that allow users to freely access data views as they would like. Recently, Salesforce has allowed users to embed Tableau dashboards into Salesforce Lightning pages as a simple way to broaden their viewer base. Otherwise, you will be paying for different types of licenses in the form of Creators, Explorers, and Viewers.

Salesforce Reports

When it comes to Salesforce Reports…Locking down sensitive data is really easy in Salesforce and a great way to make sure you are being cognizant of data security internally. On the opposite end, Salesforce reports also let you be very open and transparent across your organization leading to the breaking down of silos.  Whether you need to get super granular for one individual or macro for company reporting, Salesforce reports can get the job done for your internal teams. 

Final Thoughts

  • Some tools can host an online dashboard through a URL that your customers can see and engage with. (Great for certain industries like the public sector). 
  • A lot of these tools are integrating or have integrated with Slack. Be aware of any gotchas or limitations if that is a priority.
  • Breaking down of silos can really be achieved with most of these tools. Just try and meet your audience where they live day to day. Make it easily accessible for them.

Staffing considerations 

Who will build it? What do people on your team know how to use?

CRM Analytics

When it comes to CRMA… This is easy to learn if you have Salesforce experience. The interface is very user-friendly and once you get over the initial learning curve you can move pretty quickly. 

But being transparent, if you haven’t really had experience with building report types on Salesforce or how objects interact in Salesforce it might be a challenge. There are also coding with SAQL and JSON that add an additional layer of flexibility and creativity that isn’t required, but really helpful. 

Generally, you want someone who has a few years of Salesforce Report building experience or SQL/ JSON experience/ data modeling. To gain experience, there are great Trailhead Resources as well as getting your Salesforce Admin Certification to help get you started.

Marketing Cloud Intelligence

When it comes to Marketing Cloud Intelligence… There was previously a set of free certifications, but those have transitioned into Trailhead learning modules, found here. The tool is based on a very user-friendly UI for modeling and building out views of your data is relatively easy to learn, and is made even easier by the access to standard API connections. 

This tool is also used heavily in marketing agencies and well known for marketing data. Some Salesforce Marketing Cloud users may also be familiar with Intelligence Reports for Engagement, which has some light versions of the full-fledged Intelligence platform’s features.


When it comes to Tableau… Tableau is one of the most widely adopted visualization tools on the market right now. While the back-end processes may be a bit of a deep dive for newer users, familiarity with data mapping and formula creation in other tools will go a long way.  You can also get certified or find Tableau knowledgeable on Tableau’s certification page at

Salesforce Reports

When it comes to Salesforce Reports… Salesforce reporting and who has access to build is dependent on permission sets. This means you can give the ability to users as you, the admin, see fit. The ability to create custom report types is also customizable through a permission set but should be thought of as to who would best serve to manage because that can get out of hand. (Too many cooks in the kitchen if you catch our drift).

Final Thoughts:

  • Who is going to build it might not be who is going to use it. Can you imagine your manager trying to piece together a Tableau report? Let’s let them spend time on other things :] 

Licensing costs for users and data 

CRM Analytics

When it comes to CRMA… CRM Analytics is generally an additional cost for licensing. However, some clouds have app templates in Analytics Studio that give you a degree of access. Be on the lookout for tools that have app templates (B2B Marketing Analytics) or can be added on at an additional cost (Sales Cloud Analytics). 

Another thing to note, you aren’t charged for creating dashboards, transformations, or filtering, but your org has a limit on how much data is being processed called a data row limit (basically how much data you bring in). Just something to keep an eye on home data you are bringing in.

Get the pricing list here

Marketing Cloud Intelligence

When it comes to Marketing Cloud Intelligence… You can read the full pricing breakdown here-the main difference between these options is best captured in row usage (though users also scale according to package), which is best determined by the breadth and depth of the data you are pulling (for instance, keyword level data across ten sources will be more row-heavy than campaign and media buy data across four or five sources). 


When it comes to Tableau… You can find the pricing here, which breaks down on a user-by-user basis depending on the type of user license, all of which come with different features and permissions (ranging from viewer-level permissions to interact with already built dashboards to Tableau Creators, who have the full tableau suite of features available to them). There is even a pricing calculator on Tableau’s website if you want to get a clear sense of what it would look like for your organization.

Salesforce Reports

When it comes to Salesforce Reports… Thankfully this is fairly easy! Reports and dashboards are considered metadata and are native out of the box with your Salesforce edition and wouldn’t count toward data storage. They do have configuration limits that you might want to consider when looking at your Salesforce Licensing and Cost. 

No wrong answers for Salesforce reporting tools 

In conclusion, there isn’t a wrong answer when it comes to which reporting tool to use. Many of them overlap and have similar functionality. But to make heads or tails of which reporting tool fits your goals best, you can start with these 4 simple questions:

  1. Data input. “Where is my data coming from and how should I harmonize it?”
  2. Audience. Where does this report/dashboard live, and who needs to see it?
  3. Staffing considerations. Who will build it? What do people on your team know how to use?
  4. Cost of use. What are Licensing costs for users and data?

We hope that the tidbits we’ve given in service of these questions are helpful, and welcome you to reach out to our team if you have any further questions on these topics or other reporting tool questions.  

Keep it going

Here are a few resources to get you started as you figure out which reporting tool works best for you and what it takes to manage those tools.

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  • Cara is the CRM Analytics program manager at Sercante, with a focus on B2B Marketing Analytics and CRM Analytics. Cara is a 5x Pardot and Salesforce-certified data nerd who is passionate about all things Analytics and Einstein. Prior to Sercante, Cara worked at Salesforce as a Pardot Success Architect delivering cross cloud engagements and creating customized solutions and positive outcomes for her customers. Cara is passionate about making B2B data analysis easy for any marketer. When she isn't delivering the world's worst dad jokes, you can find her reading or crocheting with a nice glass of red wine, binging the latest Netflix show or spending time with her husband and two cats. Cara loves helping companies become obsessed with their marketing data and growing into their own data nerds.

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