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Spring '14 Feature Review: Embed Report Charts in Visualforce Pages

A topic that I'vee seen come on Salesforce discussion lists is how to give public, or at least non-Salesforce-user, access to data visualizations created in Salesforce. An organization may want to share fundraising results, customer satisfaction metrics, program success rates, or product popularity graphs.

A few years ago, the Indianapolis Museum of Art blazed a new trail for nonprofit organizational transparency with their online dashboard. Because of the openness of the Salesforce API, this has been possible for quite some time, but there's a new feature coming in the Spring '14 release that makes it a lot easier.

The first time I remember reading a discussion of this topic, the solution was to query Salesforce for the data, aggregate it in your client code, and then use something like Google Charts or D3 to render the visualizations. More recently, we've gotten Visualforce charting and the Analytics API, which are great tools for developers to develop graphic representations of your Salesforce data for display elsewhere.

There's even a great new pilot feature in Spring '14 that gives access to Dashboards through the Analytics API. But APIs are for programmers, and require managing authentication. And, as great as the names of these APIs sound, they return data, not pictures - you can get the values of summarized columns and rows from your reports and dashboards, but you still have to re-render the graphics yourself.

For the button-click admin who's not afraid of copy-and-pasting a little code and making straightforward modifications, there hasn't been a great solution.

The Spring '14 release's Embed Report Charts in Visualforce Pages gets us a lot closer to a button-click solution. Finally, we can take the exact visualizations that we create using Salesforce's Reporting and display them elsewhere. There's still some Visualforce code involved, but no Apex or Javascript, and the Visualforce is pretty simple.

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