Main content

Dreamforce 2019 - Tableau at Dreamforce: an inside look at a CX and analytics convergence

Jon Reed Profile picture for user jreed November 19, 2019
Care for some Tableau with your Dreamforce? Here's the lowdown on how to get Tableau content at Dreamforce - and what I learned from the first on-the-record conversations about this acquisition at Tableau Conference last week.

Francois Agenstat and Bret Taylor at Tableau 2019
Salesforce CPO Taylor and Tableau CPO Ajenstat

For those who crave the scuttlebutt on Salesforce's shiny new toy big analytics acquisition, it didn't look good two weeks ago.

At that time, all parties were locked down, unable to meet across the two companies, much less speak to media.

But as I wrote in my Tableau Conference 2019 review, last Tuesday, November 5, the biggest barrier to forward conversations, the UK CMA review, was lifted:

That meant Tableau and Salesforce executives could begin formal conversations with each other on their hopes, dreams - and roadmaps.

And that's how a last minute keynote guest got added to the Tableau Conference 2019 agenda, sporting a memorable look:

Benioff Salesforce and Selipsky Tableau

When Tableau CEO Adam Selipsky asked Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff, pictured right, about the acquisition, Benioff said:

I don't think for Salesforce. there's very many companies in the industry that are so much like us, that feel like us, that act like us, that have customers who are our customers, where there are so many similarities and common values.

When I can't get meaty details for readers, they give me a hard time - and understandably so. But in this case, everyone was scrambling:

That's because after the CMA lift, the main focus of the two vendors was cross-pollinating each other's shows with executives.

Tableau at Dreamforce - content and locations

That much was accomplished, with Salesforce leaders at Tableau Conference last week, and now, Tableau has an official "data village" presence at Dreamforce, known as the Tableau Lodge (you can find it on the third floor of the Elan Venue, right across the street from Moscone West).

For those looking for Tableau info at Dreamforce, their communications team sent me these tips:

  • Tableau will be featured within Dreamforce's 'Analytics Falls', and on the mainstage in Tuesday's opening keynote with Marc Benioff.
  • Tableau-related sessions will include dives into new AI-powered features like Tableau's Ask Data and Explain Data (I covered these products a bit in my review, but watch for our diginomica piece on Ask Data and Explain Data shortly).
  • Tableau also plans "deep-dives on how attendees can better leverage Tableau for their sales, marketing and IT organizations," including product demos of existing integrations with Salesforce.
  • Tableau will host their own party on Tuesday evening. They are also doing a yoga program on Friday morning (don't ask me why data geeks know so much about yoga). For details on all of these, drop by the Lodge or check the Tableau Dreamforce info for session details, etc.
  • Ajenstat said the big focus this week is to "introduce Trailblazers to the Tableau value proposition." That means sharing what can be done in the here and now, rather than roadmap futures.

Even though we weren't able to dive into the nitty-gritty of roadmaps, I did get some on-the-ground reactions, such as a combined presentation to analysts from Francois Ajenstat, CPO Tableau, and Bret Taylor, CPO Salesforce. Here's what Ajenstat said to me in our traditional "state of Tableau" sit down:

There's a tremendous culture match. And, having been a long-time Tableau person, just engaging with my Salesforce counterparts has just felt natural. We have the same kind of mindset of customer focus, and innovation, and really innovating rapidly.

Tableau and Salesforce - how much analytics overlap?

Analysts debated just how much overlap there is between Einstein, Salesforce's AI/analytics platform, and Tableau. One analyst claimed a 90 percent overlap. I don't see that.  Einstein is focused on customer analytics; Tableau has broader aims.

On the AI front, Salesforce's AI investments are likely to bolster Tableau's efforts. Tableau has also invested in AI, but as I described in my Tableau review piece, some heavy lifting in AI is being done by Tableau partners. It's not hard to see how Tableau could benefit from Salesforce's AI infusion, and conversely, how Salesforce can pull from Tableau's deeper visualization expertise.

In our 1:1 interview, Ajenstat didn't try to sugarcoat the overlap aspect, particularly on the CX analytics side:

There is some overlap, and it's okay. But what you have to step back is to think: there's lots of use cases that are out there. What they've done really well with Einstein Analytics is solved a really, really nice use case around embedded analytics in CRM. And, for that, they do really well. They've been very focused on CRM, obviously, for obvious reasons. But they don't do the other. And, this is what we do really, really well.

In any deal like this, there is so-called "low hanging fruit" to jump-start collaboration. During an analyst Q/A with Tableau CEO Adam Selipsky, he pointed to one example: Salesforce's Datorama marketing analytics acquisition:

We're going to be meeting with those folks... We're really good at taking external technologies and the patient and you know, not just slap them on but integrate them deep in our staff.

Selipsky echoed the AI point:

It's hard to hire data scientists. It's hard to hire people who are really good at AI - and now [with Salesforce], we get access to their teams.

Bret Taylor says that Salesforce's view of digital transformation starts with the customer - but their own customers say that integration across heterogeneous/hybrid cloud landscapes is a huge challenge to that transformation. He sees Tableau as giving Salesforce a better answer around the convergence of data, integration, and customer focus. He also brought up Salesforce's investments in "vision and voice" as areas Tableau could gain from.

Francois Ajenstat added that while Tableau can't talk roadmap specifics yet, their planned roadmap will not be "diverted" at all, as in "0 percent." It's about adding more innovation to that roadmap in the years to come, via Salesforce. He said there would be no distractions from their current roadmap - an assertion subsequently challenged by an analyst in the room, who wanted to hear about what the distractions might potentially be.

I appreciated that point; there is no enterprise software acquisition that doesn't cause a hard choice to be made (and relayed). But as the Tableau team reminded us, it's too early to go there.

My take - what to look for at Dreamforce

At Tableau Conference, a narrative on how Salesforce can impact Tableau began to take shape. At Dreamforce, we should be tuned in for the opposite. How much can Tableau help Salesforce? What is the benefit for Salesforce customers?

Expect to hear that question answered across keynotes and sessions. We can expect Tableau to build on their Dashboard Starters for Salesforce, but what lies behind the obvious?

For customers, this is an ideal chance to weigh in before roadmaps are formulated. Those customers running both Salesforce and Tableau have a key role to play, weighing in on integrations and visualization needs. 

It takes years to fully assess an acquisition's success; we won't get far this week. Salesforce and Tableau emphasize the impact of upsell and cross-sell across their sales forces. Tableau remaining an independently-run business unit is another mantra you'll hear - that means on-prem, hybrid and cloud Tableau, a different model than Salesforce. But those are the obvious ones. What we always want to know is:

  • How will Tableau customers benefit from the acquisition? What are the potential downsides? Same for Salesforce customers.
  • Where are the opportunities with complementary products, and where are the redundancies?

Most will focus on Tableau and Einstein. One under-addressed area I'm intrigued by is: can MuleSoft be an asset to Tableau in its push for data prep, quality, and integration?

In my last piece, I said I'm not as grouchy about this acquisition as I am most enterprise M/A plays. Why? These are two of the most passionate communities of business users you'll find in the enterprise. Bret Taylor called attention to the massive learning communities each has built, Tableau Online and Salesforce Trailhead.

I also think Tableau is big enough to advocate for its direction. That culture match is more important to me personally than the functional overlap (or not).

That said, you don't win acquisitions, you prove them - so we'll see. During the Tableau Conference keynote, Benioff commented on Tableau's shared values around equality and diversity. He alluded to Tableau being able to help Salesforce measure the results of its commitment to pay equality through its analytics. To be fair, Salesforce can probably do that without Tableau, but you can see how releasing public dashboards on topics like these could be an early win.

Benioff said his stroll through Tableau Conference was instructive:

I met many of our customers and talked to them. I asked them, "What would you like to see?"   Salesforce is only about one word, customer, just like Tableau has only been about one word, analytics.... Now if we can bring those two ideas together... next Tuesday, we're going to talk about that.

Well, that day has arrived.

A grey colored placeholder image