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How Tableau is riding on its Salesforce synergy

Tableau has bolstered its presence in Asia-Pacific following its acquisition by Salesforce and is combining its analytics capabilities with Einstein Analytics to deliver AI-powered insights

When Salesforce acquired Tableau in an all-stock deal worth $15.7bn in 2019, industry watchers wondered how the synergies between the two companies would play out.

Beyond boosting the analytics capabilities of the cloud-based CRM (customer relationship management) pioneer, the acquisition was expected to expand Tableau’s reach into a broader customer base, one that increasingly relies on data analytics to make sense of customer interactions and preferences.

Exactly a year since the deal was announced, Tableau’s senior vice-president of Asia-Pacific, JY Pook, offers insights on the company’s synergies with Salesforce in the region, where it recently launched new cloud regions in Japan and Australia, and talks up its priorities in emerging Southeast Asian markets.

How is Tableau’s business doing in the region?

Pook: In general, our business continues to march on with great momentum. Data continues to be very important and customers continue to need help in understanding data.

A big milestone for us has been establishing new partnerships with Salesforce, which helps us to expand our presence in the market. We already have a significant presence with our offices in Singapore, Australia, Japan, Hong Kong and India. If you multiply that with what Salesforce has, to the ratio of 10 to one, our presence in the market is now tremendous.

Could you talk about the synergy with Salesforce, particularly in this part of the world? Is there a common go-to-market strategy?

Pook: We focus on our customers so that they get the maximum benefit, and to do that, we need to get two things going. One is our culture, which is very similar. We both focus on the values of trust and customer-centricity.

Second is how our products come together. Tableau is an integral part of the Salesforce digital transformation strategy and focus. With the addition of Tableau, we are providing a leading analytics platform by complementing Salesforce’s portfolio, so there is great synergy there. We are able to help their customers tap powerful analytics anywhere, for any data.

At the same time, we also have customers who want to go further in their digitisation strategy, and we can bring Salesforce into the mix for customers with the Salesforce 360 platform. So, in a nutshell, it is going very well. We’re focused on bringing the combined value of Tableau and Salesforce to both our customer bases. I’ll give you some examples of how we are doing this.

Salesforce events are huge, so to be able to leverage that and bring the analytics message to customers is tremendous. We’re very excited with what we have experienced in our first full quarter of the acquisition and this bodes well for us
JK Pook, Tableau

In the current pandemic environment, for instance, we are both trying to figure out how to help our customers. Coming together, we have rolled out the Salesforce Care package, which is really helping customers through this difficult time. The package involves providing Tableau free licences for small businesses.

Another example is the initiative called Work.com, a solution from Salesforce to help businesses and communities reopen safely amid the Covid-19 situation. Tableau is an integral part of Work.com’s Command Centre, a digital hub for executives to access and accelerate their employees’ workforce readiness as they return to workplaces. This leverages our Covid-19 Global Tracker that is on our Covid-19 Data Hub.

Those are concrete examples of how we have come together for our customers. We also have joint customers who are exploring new ways in which Salesforce and Tableau can help them.

From what I understand, Tableau has always adopted a hybrid strategy with most of your customers running your software on-premise, whereas Salesforce is predominantly a software-as-a-service (SaaS) only solution. With growing cloud adoption and your new cloud regions in APAC, is Tableau moving towards offering cloud-only software or will the hybrid nature of your product remain?

Pook: At Tableau, we sail multiple sails – customers have the freedom to run our software on-premise, or they can get licences to put our software on any public cloud, such as AWS, Google or Azure. We also have Tableau Online, which is a full SaaS offering. All these options will continue because there will always be customers who want their data to be on-premise.

Having said that, Tableau Online will work well for Salesforce customers who want to manage data on the cloud. It’s been our fastest-growing business for years. We’ve been listening to our customers and they are telling us that we’ve got to have a cloud region here because they want the benefit of having a regional instance. Now, you may ask, why Australia and Japan? Those two countries account for a large part of our online customer base in the region.

Is that also the case for Salesforce?

Pook: Yes. Those markets are very cloud-ready and are where our online business is growing the fastest. We will spur our growth further now that we have regional instances in those markets. So, it’s not a reaction to the Salesforce acquisition, as we’ve always had Tableau Online. In the current environment, there’s a lot more push and shift towards cloud, and we have listened to our customers.

Are there any differences in the product roadmap of your on-premise and online offerings? For some companies, the innovation tends to happen at a faster cadence for online offerings than that of the on-premise version. Is this also the case for Tableau?

Pook: No, the on-premise and online versions of Tableau are the same. We do not have different versions. We do have customers that initially started on-premise or online, but for some reason may switch later on. Having the same functionality on-premise and online allows our customers to make that switch easily.

Apart from Australia and Japan, what are your priorities in the ASEAN region?

Pook: Our Southeast Asian market is doing well. One key thing I noticed is that emerging markets do not have the baggage of traditional analytics or business intelligence (BI), which helps to accelerate the adoption of modern BI platforms. Another thing is that some of them are adopting digitisation and embracing it more readily than others, which helps a lot.

Data is a common language among many Southeast Asia markets, where businesses may spread across a wide region. The need to see and understand data is very prominent for a lot of businesses. Some of these markets have a huge amount of data, such as Indonesia. Tableau can help to start making sense of the data. Emerging markets like Vietnam, which don’t have the legacy of traditional BI, also want to start understanding data.

In terms of the buyers that Tableau is engaged in, are you increasingly looking at line-of-business users, or is it still traditional IT? Does it depend on the market that you play in?

Pook: Some customers see data as an advantage and want to derive something from that, but don’t really have time or capital to make sense of data. In those cases, the line of business is driving the need. We also have cases where Tableau is used across different departments and business units.

Then, there are companies such as Grab or Gojek, where their business model is all about data. They need a platform that will help them run and scale their business, not only in one country, but across the region. Those are the companies that will bet on data analytics right from the beginning.

When I first started out at Tableau, we were just evangelising data analytics to small groups – the change-maker or thought leader in the organisation. Today, CEOs and CIOs have accepted that data analytics is key.

Read more about analytics in APAC

Increasingly, analytics software vendors are tapping AI and machine learning as well. One of the issues to surface in recent months has been the need to explain decisions made by AI algorithms. How do you help your customers to better understand some of the AI-powered insights from Tableau?

Pook: One of the things we’re excited about with the Salesforce integration is that Einstein Analytics is now part of Tableau’s analytics. Einstein Analytics offers customers a completely AI-powered analytics platform. We see that Tableau and Einstein Analytics combined can give organisations not only the ability to see and understand data, but to have completely AI-powered analytics.

As you know, we have invested in AI prior to the Salesforce acquisition, and this accelerates our thrust into this area. We have great customer successes where customers have adopted Tableau and Einstein Analytics together.

Could you provide examples of what Tableau could not have done without the acquisition by Salesforce?

Pook: One is that we married our portfolios, which is great for us. The other thing is coverage. On our own, we can only cover so much of the market. Salesforce is probably 10 times bigger than us, and so the ability to have relationships with customers and help them is really important. Of course, there’s the benefit to the partner ecosystem as well.

Another aspect is events. Salesforce events are huge, so to be able to leverage that and bring the analytics message to customers is tremendous. We’re very excited with what we have experienced in our first full quarter of the acquisition and this bodes well for us.

There have been some concerns from the market that large acquisitions typically benefit the bigger company, rather than the smaller acquired company. What are your thoughts on that?

Pook: It’s very clear that’s not the case for Tableau. Earlier, we talked about the benefits in terms of coverage, product portfolio, events, the scale and the size of the market. Both companies are very customer-focused, so there’s synergy there. There’s also a lot of synergy in the relationships we have with our respective customers.

A lot of it comes down to dealing with the CEO or the CIO, with Salesforce talking about digitisation from a C-suite angle. There’s synergy there because a lot of what Salesforce is doing with customers is about data and what you do with the data. We also don’t want to forget that there are other brands inside the company that work very well too.

At the employee level, there’s harmonisation of benefits, which is tremendous. Not forgetting our partner ecosystem as well. We have their partners who are thinking about analytics, and our customers who want to further their digitisation strategy.

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