5 Things To Know About The Monster Salesforce-Tableau Deal

Salesforce partners are eager to learn which Tableau components will be integrated into existing products, which might spawn new products, and which will continue to standalone.

Salesforce Partners Weigh In On Tableau Deal

Salesforce's all-stock deal for Tableau Software—far-and-away the largest in its history— surprised the industry when announced on Monday.

Since then, much has been made of the financial metrics, from the multiple paid on Tableau revenue to a drop in Salesforce's stock price to whether the initially reported $15.7 billion price for Tableau was even accurate.

But partners care less about the prospect that Salesforce overpaid, and more about the benefits to their practices that could come from uniting an industry-leading analytics platform with the existing Salesforce portfolio.

Business intelligence capabilities—whether native or through third-party integrations—have become paramount in influencing enterprise buying decisions, they say, and Salesforce's Einstein Analytics platform has yet to substantially differentiate the CRM leader in that regard.

Partners who spoke to CRN are eager to learn which Tableau components will be integrated into existing Salesforce products, which might spawn new Salesforce products, and which will continue to standalone.

New Company, New Cloud?

So far, Salesforce has been mum about what kind of products and integrations it sees stemming from what will be far-and-away the largest acquisition in its history. The CRM leader has only said Tableau will continue to operate as an independent division, run out of its current Seattle headquarters by current CEO Alec Selipsky.

In the past, prominent acquisitions have yielded new Salesforce clouds—the company's parlance for its Software-as-a-Service products.

ExactTarget, purchased in 2013 for $2.5 billion, became Marketing Cloud; the $2.8 billion Demandware deal in 2016 yielded Commerce Cloud; and more recently, MuleSoft, bought last year for $6.5 billion, became the centerpiece of Integration Cloud. Those acquisitions were all the biggest in Salesforce history when executed.

But Tableau poses a more-complicated fit, as Salesforce already has an Analytics Cloud platform in Einstein Analytics with both redundant and complementary capabilities to Tableau's portfolio. And as a much larger business than any Salesforce has bought before, Tableau presents a broader set of entangling alliances with Salesforce competitors.

"It will be interesting to see how Salesforce eventually integrates Tableau into their core cloud platforms and connects it to other sales, marketing, and customer success tools," said Dustin Grosse, chief marketing and strategy officer at Nintex, a Salesforce technology partner.

"I’m also curious to see how Salesforce provides licensing options for business leaders and operators that want access to analytics and insights," Grosse added.

Analyzing The Analytics

In 2013, Salesforce acquired EdgeSpring, a business intelligence startup that had only recently come out of stealth.

That deal provided the technological foundation for what became Salesforce Wave Analytics, a data visualization and business intelligence platform that later evolved into Einstein Analytics.

That latest iteration upgraded Wave with more algorithmic data analysis and advanced machine learning capabilities pulled from the Einstein AI platform.

But "the general consensus is that Einstein Analytics, while providing some reporting lift, has not met lofty expectations," said Phil Weinmeister, vice president of product management at 7 Summits, a Salesforce integrator based in Milwaukee, Wis.

At the same time, it's not entirely clear how important native analytics capabilities are in driving enterprise buying decisions.

"Like with many platform providers, it was unusual for our clients to come to us talking about acquiring Salesforce specifically for their analytics, although the package was decent," said Darren Stordahl, vice president of sales and marketing at FMT Consultants, a Salesforce partner based in Carlsbad, Calif.

Many Salesforce customers are happy to use third-party solutions, including Tableau, Stordahl told CRN.

Integration Picture

Tableau is already deeply integrated with Salesforce, having started building connectors to the leading CRM portfolio back in 2013.

Tableau's data visualization solutions now natively connect to Salesforce's Software-as-a-Service products, as well as platforms like force.com and database.com.

The analytics company also offers "Dashboard Starters" that quickly put more Salesforce data in view of the customer for analysis.

Rounding out the integration picture is MuleSoft, which has become the lynchpin of Salesforce's Customer 360 approach to connecting data sources from within its own portfolio and from outside vendors like Tableau.

"Salesforce is making good on its promise of Customer 360 through the intersection of MuleSoft, Einstein, and now Tableau," said Jill Harrison, vice president of Silverline, a New York City-headquartered Salesforce partner.

Synergies and Redundancies

Tableau can enhance Salesforce in several important ways.

The business intelligence vendor's capabilities around desktop publishing and embedding BI directly into consumer-facing apps nicely augment Einstein Analytics "to make self-service analytics a reality," said Jill Harrison, vice president of Silverline, a New York City-headquartered Salesforce partner.

Especially in highly regulated industries like health care and financial services, that greater degree of data agility will give Salesforce partners a competitive edge, she said.

But there's also a good deal of product overlap that Salesforce will need to work through.

As an example, last year, Tableau introduced Ask Data, a natural language processing tool stemming from its ClearGraph acquisition in August of 2017.

A month earlier, Salesforce showcased Einstein Voice—its new speech interface tool.

Channel Synergy

Both Salesforce and Tableau do much of their business through the channel. But they also take very different approaches to incentivizing their partner ecosystems.

Tableau has a more-traditional network of resellers, whereas Salesforce has eschewed the notion of paying partners with margins on licensing.

"I’d be curious whether Salesforce intends to offer margin for those partners selling Tableau, and whether, as a Salesforce partner, we could begin selling the licensing with a decent competitive margin," said Darren Stordahl, vice president of sales and marketing at FMT Consultants, a Salesforce partner based in Carlsbad, Calif.

While there are notable differences between the channel compensation structures, there are also ways in which the two companies' channel strategies nicely align.

At Tableau's Partner Summit last year, Dan Miller, executive vice president of worldwide sales, service and support, told partners Tableau wants them to "go beyond license transaction" sales.

Miller and other Tableau execs asked partners to ramp efforts in two areas: providing more capabilities for specific vertical industries and lines of business and providing more complete solutions, including services and technical support.

Calls to focus on comprehensive solutions and targeting specific verticals will be familiar to any Salesforce partner as well.