Two weeks ago, Microsoft announced the public preview of its smart stories function to Power BI. In about the same time frame, ThoughtSpot, which focuses on search and AI-driven analytics, announced its cloud / SaaS offering, ThoughtSpot Cloud. Earlier in September Qlik announced major AI enhancements to Qlik Sense, including the extension of its Insight Advisor function. All of these announcements show how important augmented analytics – which adds natural language processing and other AI technologies – have become in a BI market driven by pandemic-accelerated digital transformation initiatives.
On his “Tableau Conferenceish“online event, Table announced that the whole Salesforce Einstein Analytics team has been merged into the Tableau organization and that Tableau and Einstein technology will be fully integrated in the long term. Larry Dignan has full coverage of the broad announcement, including the rebranding of Einstein Analytics as Tableau CRM.
The first delivery of the Einstein Analytics integration is embedding Einstein Discovery into Tableau. Einstein Discovery uses a variety of AI technologies to find patterns in data, formulate these observations in plain English, and make predictions and recommendations based on them. Such embedded AI technology adds value to both the conventional analysis and visualization features that are Tableau’s bread and butter, and is available to customers who may lack computer science chops but have strong analytical skills.
As technology is embedded in Salesforce’s cloud-based Customer Relationship Management (CRM) suite, Einstein Discovery has worked well in a domain-specific capacity, such as making specific recommendations to improve customer satisfaction scores. But the technology was originally designed for broader analytics scenarios: it was available as a standalone eponymous offering from BeyondCore, which Salesforce acquired in 2016. BeyondCore offered its own interface and even integrated with Microsoft Office.
When Salesforce first bought BeyondCore and renamed it, it became a more captivating technology, which unfortunately eroded its value somewhat. I would argue that the same thing happened when another SaaS power plant, Working day, acquired Big Data Analytics provider Platfora, also in 2016. And for that matter, when Salesforce acquired Tableau last year, there was concern that a similar submission could happen. But clearly Salesforce decided to go the other way and unleash Einstein Discovery’s latent value by merging it into a general BI tool and protecting Tableau’s value by maintaining it as a leader in the general BI market.
While BeyondCore was still independent, I worked with its founder and CEO, Arijit sengupta (which, after a period of acquisition at Salesforce, has moved on to finding and managing AI startups Aible). At the time, Sengupta felt strongly – and with some alarm – that Tableau’s visualizations, while convincing, could make statistically unrelated contexts look misleading as authoritative analyzes. He felt that augmented analytics was the missing link to help BI users understand their data instead of just visualizing it. As if to emphasize his point, Sengupta’s technology is now being baked right into Tableau, despite his departure from Salesforce.
Tableau also mentioned during its keynote that it will integrate further with technology from Mulesoft and Computer, two other companies acquired by Salesforce. Here, too, some cool technologies that add value to the mainstream Salesforce package get more mainstream exposure and adoption at Tableau’s command.
Tableau, of course, will have to perform now and continue to assure that even though its own profile is rising within the Salesforce universe, it will not get typecast as a Salesforce analytics house brand, thus becoming the sideline in the broader BI market. I have a strong feeling that CEO Adam Selipsky and Chief Product Officer Francois Ajenstat however, Tableau’s continued autonomy and broad BI market appeal are top priorities. And as Salesforce’s analytics stack comes under them instead of the other way around, they have a good chance of maintaining those priorities successfully.