Inside our Slack Channel: A Conversation on Salesforce acquiring Tableau

As you may know, analysts typically only have the time to share a small fraction of the information that they have on any topic at any given time, with the majority of our time spent speaking with clients, technologists, and each other.

When Salesforce announced their acquisition of Tableau Monday morning, we at Amalgam Insights obviously started talking to each other about what this meant. Below is a edited excerpt of some of the topics we were going through as I was preparing for PTC LiveWorx in Boston, Data Science analyst Lynne Baer was in Nashville for Alteryx, and DevOps Research Fellow Tom Petrocelli was holding down the fort in Buffalo after several weeks of travel. Hope you enjoy a quick look behind the scenes of how we started informally thinking about this in the first hour or so after the announcement.

When the Salesforce-Tableau topic came up, Tom Petrocelli kicked it off.

Tom Petrocelli:
Now, I’m thinking about this from a developer POV. It throws a grenade into the data analytics market. Tableau has partnerships with many of Salesforce competitors and they are now in question. My guess is that, like Heroku, the developer ecosystem will be more and more Salesforce-oriented until that’s pretty much all there is.
@hyoun and @lynne am I being dramatic?

hyoun:
Now that Salesforce is a 15 billion dollar annual revenue company, they need big new revenue sources to help continue growth. And this is an area where they can still add cloud revenue while having a product that doesn’t really compete with their current products other than some overlap with Einstein Analytics.

lynne:
I was on the call, and somebody asked a similar question about walling off (in terms of data sources); Benioff was quick to point to their Mulesoft acquisition last year and emphasize how well Tableau and MuleSoft will play together

hyoun:
Salesforce already had a high-quality analytics solution in Einstein analytics, but that solution was specifically tailored to Salesforce data sources. Salesforce had not put significant effort into creating an analytics solution that supported non Salesforce data sources

hyoun:
But this is another grenade thrown into the data analytics market after Google’s 2.6 billion dollar acquisition offer for Looker. And it brings into question the future of Qlik and Tibco, which are currently private equity-owned.

lynne:
So obviously others have common concerns about whether this interferes with the way they currently use tableau, but you’d have a better insight into the dev community than I do (Tom)

Tom Petrocelli:
I think the goal is to expand the developer/partner pool but Salesforce rarely executes that strategy well. They have a tendency to draw inward and focus on, say, sales data instead of more broadly. Quip is a great example of that. They were trying to be an Evernote/Microsoft Office competitor. They had some traction but have not faded into the background as the development resources went toward deeper integration with Salesforce. They keep putting Quip out there as a general collaboration tool but it’s now best used as part of sales and marketing collaboration.

hyoun:
Good point. Salesforce is making another attempt at purchasing a multi-cloud and data-neutral product to expand its ecosystem and revenue. And it may be thinking of taking on Amazon and Microsoft more head-on in the cloud space in PaaS as they start running out of room for growth in SaaS.

hyoun:
This acquisition also took Tableau off the table for Amazon to buy. Amazon, as Tableau’s next door neighbor, seemed like a potential acquirer. And Tableau CEO Adam Selipsky was previously from Amazon, which led to a lot of speculation. This acquisition takes away that possibility. And it also shows that Salesforce is also one of many companies ganging up against Amazon in the cloud platform space

Tom Petrocelli:
But they never do that, no matter how much they talk about it. They had the opportunity to be THE PaaS cloud 9 years ago when they acquired Heroku. Mulesoft had the opportunity to give them a chunk of the API management world. The latter was actually a major miss for them as the API “economy” is disappearing in favor of container-based microservices that don’t have big APIs. In both cases (and Quip) they diverted their attention from the wider market in favor of Salesforce-centric development. I’m betting the same is going to happen with Tableau.

hyoun:
This position also allows Salesforce and Tableau to partner in an area where they were starting to increasingly compete against each other: providing Salesforce analytics. Rather than compete against each other, Tableau can now be the analytic discovery cloud well Einstein Analytics continues to provide basic dashboards and reports based on Salesforce data and Einstein AI services.

On the Tableau side, Tableau established itself as a market leader in the analytics space and had driven a new generation of BI product development. Tableau has started to work more deeply on in memory data and data prep capabilities and will continue to develop more data and analytics capabilities over time. Working with Salesforce will accelerate Tableau’s AI capabilities, as Salesforce has already invested deeply in AI talent. And Salesforce gains Tableau’s extremely loyal and fanatic client base which is unparalleled in the enterprise analytics community.

Tom Petrocelli:
I do think (especially now) that this makes sense for Salesforce and Tableau. I’m not as convinced that it is good for the market. Mulesoft has faded a lot from developer discussions outside Salesforce developers and Heruko went from being a cloud PaaS contender to being mostly a Salesforce community. Both Heroku and Mulesoft benefited from the “Mobile First” push that has mostly failed in favor of responsive design.

Tom Petrocelli:
Boy, I sound negative but I’m not. It’s a good capability for Salesforce that will help them continue to compete as the CRM world and BI world become intertwined. I just don’t see it as a jumping off point into dominating another market. They dominate the CRM market and that is actually a bit of an anchor for Salesforce.

hyoun:
As the most important Cloud application provider in the world, Salesforce needs to make big bets to continue its massive growth as seen in its recent earnings announcement. The purchase of Tableau demonstrates Salesforce’s willingness to purchase in an area (analytics) where it is traditionally partnered and for Salesforce to continue investing in leading Cloud solutions

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