Salesforce buying Tableau – Quick thoughts

I am on vacation and woke up late and the first thing I saw on my phone is this news that Salesforce is buying Tableau . I – and many others – have predicted for a long time that Tableau would get acquired but several years passed by without that happening . And now that it has happened – I would like to share my initial thoughts . As always – these are strictly my personal opinions !

I think it’s a REALLY good move for both companies – so congrats to both sides . Well done !

Is the price fair ?

The most recent acquisition to consider as a rough compare is SAP buying Qualtrics for $8B . Considering Tableau makes a lot more $ every year than Qualtrics , the price SFDC is paying makes a lot of sense . The other one is Looker going to Google . I don’t think comparing what Google did is not the optimal way to look at this given Google already had a lot of functionality home grown and acquired , and just needed to close some small-ish gaps .

Tableau has always been considered over valued. Back in 2013, SAP publicly said so and many others said that privately over the years . I don’t know if SAP Lumira is still a thing – but I firmly believe it was best for SAP to buy Tableau at that time instead of trying to build a competitor product from scratch .

Who else could they have bought ? There are companies like Alteryx, Domo , GoodData etc that they could have bought and for cheaper too. But none of them are anywhere close to the kind of market leadership that tableau enjoys . It might even still be the case that alteryx might end up in Salesforce kitty for the right price .

But behind the scenes – a lot of big companies have had tableau as a target to buy for a long time . Benioff just proved to be the most decisive leader to pull the trigger – and bravo for that !

Is it good for tableau ?

I think tableau had kind of hit a plateau and needs fresh thinking on where to take the product next – perhaps also rethink licensing models for that matter . Microsoft Power BI is giving them a good run for their money in the market . I think this acquisition will be perfect for the team to get some fresh thinking – and maybe some fresh talent as well .

Is it good for Salesforce ?

Salesforce is the undisputed leader in CRM . And the key to customer facing tech is how great insights can be derived from the rich data and how those insights are surfaced to users to act on . Salesforce has been on that mission for a while – and with decent success – and having tableau in its fold will accelerate that mission . It should ideally reduce the custom work that their clients do today .

Cloud loves On-Prem !

It’s also worth noting that Salesforce – which is the poster child of cloud computing – is the most pragmatic enterprise software company . They bought MuleSoft not that long ago – which was a primarily on premise company . And now tableau too – also serving the on-Prem company . Tableau is leaps and bounds bigger/better than the cloud BI players . That pragmatism is one of the things that I love about this deal the most .

This time – with feeling

Salesforce has been dabbling with analytics and AI for a while but without great traction . Analytics – or more accurately visualization – is an ever green market . So it makes sense for Salesforce to get a significant market player into their portfolio . It doesn’t hurt that it helps with a significant revenue uplift too right off the bat . It also prevents tableau ending up with their big competitors .

Talent is already there

SFDC already has a lot of analytics talent – although a few good ones have left . For those that hung around and were reassigned to non data work – this is an excellent opportunity to get back to their roots and hit it out of the park . I may even venture a guess that some of the people who left SFDC might come back now given this acquisition

(Hi guys – will call you directly instead of calling out your names here. ) .

Integration is key

One of tableau’s strengths is its ability to connect to a variety of data sources – something that will come very handy once they are a part of Salesforce ecosystem . Next to simplicity for end users – ease of integration has always been the key to successful analytics !

New doors for Salesforce to knock on

On the go to market front – Salesforce has a great opening now to get close to the parts of enterprise they haven’t historically had direct access – like Finance and Controlling for example . That in itself should make the deal totally worthwhile in my opinion . I cannot think of a single large company I know of with significant Salesforce footprint that doesn’t also have Tableau deployed . I am tempted to wonder why they didn’t think of this sooner 🙂

Tableau is simple to use and solves a much needed visualization problem in an elegant way . It practically sold itself in a land and expand model in many companies I know of . They were brilliant in how they got to their current footprint in companies big and small . That trend will continue for some more time – and with a product refresh under new management it could pick up momentum – so even as a stand alone company, there is plenty of juice left for Salesforce to feel happy about .

Is it good for customers and partners ?

As with all large acquisitions, I expect customers to brace for impact on how the world looks like under new management for the products of the acquired company . I expect two different reactions from large and small companies ( of course as a generalization ).

I expect the larger companies to generally like this – because they can negotiate and rationalize and right size their licenses on both Salesforce and tableau , and hopefully reduce custom work on Salesforce over time . Of course we won’t know till joint roadmaps are fleshed out in detail .

For smaller companies – I expect a bit of grief in general as their first reaction . Smaller companies generally seem to like tableau more than they like Salesforce ( just from my limited view ). It’s not unusual – I have seen their general apprehension for all large vendors in the past too . I am sure Salesforce will gain their confidence quickly .

As for partners of all stripes – I expect a lot of cheering for this acquisition . Both companies have big partner ecosystems for their relative sizes and there is plenty of overlap . Generally that is a good thing when customers have lot more choice .


Published by Vijay Vijayasankar

Son/Husband/Dad/Dog Lover/Engineer. Follow me on twitter @vijayasankarv. These blogs are all my personal views - and not in way related to my employer or past employers

2 thoughts on “Salesforce buying Tableau – Quick thoughts

  1. I almost always thing companies pay too much Vijay, but then I almost always think the buyer is overvalued as well… so it is all relative. I was impressed with the Tableau effort early on but the technology just didn’t evolve like it should have, and could have. My main point in commenting is that I know the work of the Einstein folks pretty well, having followed their leaders since before they launched the company that was then acquired by Salesforce. Tableau will benefit from them, the resources and reach. They were compensated very well for their contributions — very well.


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