Mid-afternoon my time yesterday, I recorded a conversation with Mico Yuk and Clive Boulton to discuss the implications of Salesforce's acquisition of Tableau.
I wanted these folk on the call because Ms. Yuk is a BI specialist across a range of technologies including SAP BOBJ, Tableau and Microsoft PowerBI. Her focus is on driving customer value with an emphasis on data as the bedrock of modern storytelling. Boulton brings a different perspective, focusing on Google, machine learning and related topics from the developer viewpoint.
From the get-go, Ms. Yuk was clear - Salesforce paid too much but then we've heard that before. If truth be known, in many cases, it is almost impossible to know whether a price is appropriate without also understanding that the acquisition market is frothy at best.
During the conversation, Ms. Yuk also made clear that in her view, the Tableau acquisition helps Salesforce in its goal to beat out SAP as the top independent enterprise software provider.
Tableau is horizontal, it can go anywhere in the organization so when I think about SAP and BOBJ, they're just losing relevance.
Having said that, Ms. Yuk isn't advocating for customers to simply ditch what they already have in favor of Tableau or PowerBI. Rather she believes that customers who are largely on-premises and plan to remain that way for the foreseeable future should continue to use existing tools but also consider where alternatives might be best suited. Here, Tableau could represent a good fit since around half of its customer base are on-premises.
For his part, Boulton is of the view that Tableau's location - little more than a good stone's throw from Google's Seattle operation, provides Salesforce with potential access to some seriously good talent.
I've been deep into Google's machine learning. It's very impressive, clean and well documented. If I was thinking about Tableau then I want to see sample code for getting it embedded because that's where I think this goes.
But Tableau is not without problems. As Ms. Yuk points out, getting it to scale for cloud operations is 'very painful.' Perhaps Salesforce engineering can help there?
For me, the most important point was the acknowledgment by both speakers that this acquisition opens up a fresh era of competition, which is always good for customers. What we don't know is if this acquisition signals the start of a new round of BI consolidation similar to what we saw 10 years ago when BOBJ, Cognos, Brio, and others were swept up.
After the call, Ms. Yuk got in touch to say that one thing Salesforce needs to consider is Tableau's pricing which she considers to be too high relative to other offerings in the market. In her words:
Salesforce needs to stagnate or lower the pricing to avoid bleeding to Microsoft Power BI