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Salesforce and Tableau have announced that the latter will be acquired by the former, with an expected closure date at the end of October. Logi Analytics has also announced its acquisition of Zoomdata. For both acquirees this makes sense. And for the shareholders of those acquired too. However, Logi and Zoomdata just make a bigger, and potentially better, BI/analytics company – no sweat for users there – but Salesforce and Tableau is a different kettle of fish.
Always, in such situations, the big question – for Tableau users – is what implications this has going forward. The press release announcing the acquisition states that Tableau will continue to operate as an independent company. Further, in the FAQs put out by the companies, in response to the question “Will Tableau continue to support non-Salesforce CRM products?” the answer is “Yes. Tableau remains committed to customer choice and flexibility.”
Which is all well and good. But there is no time limit on the answer. Over my quarter century as an analyst I have heard countless companies give comparable answers to similar questions. But I have never seen that answer fulfilled in the long term. To begin with, the “independent company” thing does not usually work unless it is genuinely a holding company or a company that is branching out into a completely new area (for example, Broadcom and CA). But more importantly, the “continue to sell to the competition” doesn’t work.
This is what happens: everybody starts off with good intentions but as Salesforce exploits the capabilities of Tableau more and more (good for existing joint customers), its competitors lose out so they partner with or acquire rivals to Tableau so that they can keep up. This results in it being more and more difficult for Tableau salespeople to sell to non-Salesforce customers and easier and easier to sell into the installed base. Once this starts to happen and non-Salesforce sales start to drop off the Salesforce management start to wonder why Tableau is run as an independent company and then they bring it in-house and it ceases to exist as an independent entity.
My experience suggests that statements such as those made by Tableau and Salesforce are in good faith. They genuinely believe that they can make this work. All history suggests that they can’t.