Will Salesforce avoid the mistakes of history and let Tableau stay independent?

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I have just returned from Tableau’s European user conference and have some further thoughts about Salesforce’s acquisition of the company. I also have quite a lot of (positive) thoughts about the various product and directional announcements that the company made, though comments on these will have to wait for a further post.

In my previous blog I suggested that I thought it unlikely that Tableau would remain independent in the long run. I remain of that opinion, simply because the whole history of the IT vendor community is that this is what happens. The question, therefore, is whether Salesforce can learn its lessons from history or whether it is doomed to repeat the mistakes of others. The Tableau team did point to the fact that it is growing at a rate that was not the case with Business Objects, Hyperion and Cognos when they were acquired back in the day, but the history of acquisitions losing their independence doesn’t just apply to BI companies: consider SAS and its acquisition of Dataflux, for example.

There are, however, three possible reasons for optimism. To begin with, as Tableau executives pointed out, MuleSoft is still operating as an independent company. However, that acquisition was only just over a year ago, so it is too early to draw any conclusions from that. It does mean that Tableau will be able to more easily leverage MuleSoft’s connectivity options, which is good news from a technical perspective, but if it really wanted to do that it could have partnered with MuleSoft: it didn’t need to get acquired.

Secondly, the opportunities opened up directly with Salesforce’s technology are also worth mentioning. Firstly, there is the aspect of leveraging Salesforce’s expertise in CRM analytics; and Tableau is starting to introduce a more vertical industry focus, so this would play into that strategy. In addition, there is scope for expanding Tableau’s capabilities through leveraging functionality from Salesforce Einstein. So there are technical reasons why the acquisition should be good for Tableau users, though this doesn’t say anything about the longevity of Tableau as an independent entity within the Salesforce umbrella.

Finally, in terms of reasons to be cheerful (part 3) there is the fact that all three of these companies have a strong focus on community. If you’ve never been to a Tableau conference, for example, then you really should: the buzz is infectious. Indeed, it is not an unreasonable thought that this strong sense of community is one of the reasons why Salesforce chose Tableau (and MuleSoft previously) as an acquisition target. Of course, the question remains: do the communities merge or do they remain independent?

So, I return to my original thoughts. I hope that Tableau will genuinely remain independent. But the proof will be in the pudding.