In a press release last month Salesforce dropped the news, that they were about to complete their largest acquisition to date, agreeing to buy Tableau for US$15.7bn. But what is Tableau? And why would Salesforce buy Tableau?
In this post we will take a look at the reaction to the acquisition and gaze into the crystal ball to understand what might be on the horizon.
What is Tableau?
First thing is first. Let’s get acquainted with Tableau, and get an understanding of what Tableau brings to the market.
In a nutshell, it is a data visualisation and reporting platform/software.
Salesforce has been investing in data visualisation now for years. And there is a very good reason for that. Particularly as more and more data is being collected, stored and needing analysis, it can become difficult to understand what is actually happening in business.
Historically Tableau has been used by business and enterprises globally to connect their data warehouses and data stored elsewhere, and bring it together in a meaningful and useable way.
Here is a quick overview of Tableau in action:
If you have been to a Salesforce event anytime over the last few years, elements of this will look a little familiar, with Salesforce Einstein Analytics (formerly known as Salesforce Wave).
Interestingly, looking at the Gartner peer comparison, most reviews are similar rating. However, looking at vendor considerations – of those who completed the review – tells an interesting story…
It would seem, that the biggest competitors to Salesforce Einstein Analytics during vendor selection, are typically Tableau or Qlik.
The flip side though, companies looking to use Tableau’s software – instead tended to look at Qlik or Microsoft…
So to me, that would suggest that the market reach for both tools is potentially quite different. But it doesn’t hurt to buy your competition 🙂 (though I think there is more to it then that…)
Why did Salesforce buy Tableau?
Historically, Salesforce hasn’t focussed on the data analytics/visualisation market. Though that started to change when Salesforce rolled out Salesforce Wave, and has taken a further leap forward with this acquisition.
Product wise, there is also potential synergy across a number of features. Embedding Einstein into Tableau, as an example. But personally I feel that there is a bigger plan…
“We are bringing together the world’s #1 CRM with the #1 analytics platform. Tableau helps people see and understand data, and Salesforce helps people engage and understand customers,”Marc Benioff, chairman and co-CEO of Salesforce, said in a press release.
Firstly, Tableau and a large slice of its existing client base would not be using Salesforce currently. Instead a number of enterprise clients would have their own data warehouses, such as SAP or Oracle, on-premise or in the cloud (e.g. AWS, Azure, etc). And then they would have Tableau installed alongside it to analyse and visualise the data.
Because of Tableau’s interoperability across various technology platforms. Salesforce now has a cross-sell opportunity, with a possibly avenue to chip away at rivals such as SAP and Oracle.
And even though Salesforce has been a leader in “digital transformation” era over the last 10-15yrs, we have to keep in mind that CRM isn’t used/required by a lot of companies, and as such it sometimes isn’t the driving force of the business’ transformation.
So, in much the same way Mulesoft allows organisations to integrate various data platforms, no matter where it is. Tableau allows organisations to interrogate and understand data no matter where it sits.
Ultimately, where a company might be doing a digital transformation project and moving into the cloud (as an example), these two acquisitions help ensure that Salesforce will still be involved. And then if CRM or marketing form part of the deal, then we all know Salesforce can also help out there too…
What does this mean from the Salesforce ‘side’?
Well to start with, probably not a lot.
As mentioned above, Salesforce has committed to continue to running Tableau independently, with their headquarters to remain in Seattle and the brand being preserved.
This will be different from most recent acquisitions from Salesforce. For a topical anecdote, when Salesforce acquired data visualisation upstart Edgespring in 2013, it quickly rebranded and embedded it into the Salesforce ecosystem. Launching a new product called Salesforce Wave Analytics… (You can read a great article about it here, and its transformation into Einstein Analytics).
Over time, we may see the Tableau offering and Salesforce Einstein Analytics starting to move closer together. But I really don’t think there will be much cross-over in the short term…
Why do I suggest this? Well, as mentioned above, Tableau has a huge number of clients with on-premises and cloud server installations via AWS/Microsoft.
Which means, a lot of the architecture and ‘behind the scenes’ stuff for Tableau will be relatively new territory for a company which proudly spruiks “No Software” as a motto.
If I was to predict where we might start to see the first changes. I would have to suggest that Customer 360 is a likely place to start. We might see the outputs from this acquisition used to build out the tool and platform further.