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Salesforce acquisition of Tableau finally getting real

With Salesforce and Tableau finally free to start integrating, Andrew Beers, Tableau's chief technology officer, talks about what the future might be for Tableau and its users.

LAS VEGAS -- It's been more than five months since the Salesforce acquisition of Tableau was first revealed, but it's been five months of waiting.

Even after the deal closed on Aug. 1, a regulatory review in the United Kingdom about how the Salesforce acquisition of Tableau might affect competition held up the integration of the two companies.

In fact, it wasn't until last week on Nov. 5 after the go-ahead from the U.K. Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) -- exactly a week before the start of Tableau Conference 2019, the vendor's annual user conference -- that Salesforce and Tableau were even allowed to start speaking with each other. Salesforce's big Dreamforce 2019 conference is Nov. 19-22.

Meanwhile, Tableau didn't just stop what it was doing. The analytics and business intelligence software vendor continued to introduce new products and update existing ones. Just before Tableau Conference 2019, it rolled out a series of new tools and product upgrades.

Perhaps most importantly, Tableau revealed an enhanced partnership agreement with Amazon Web Services entitled Modern Cloud Analytics that will help Tableau's many on-premises users migrate to the cloud.

Andrew Beers, Tableau's chief technology officer, discussed the recent swirl of events in a two-part Q&A.

In Part I, Beers reflected on Tableau's product news, much of it centered on new data management capabilities and enhanced augmented intelligence powers. In Part II, he discusses the Salesforce acquisition of Tableau and what the future might look like now that the $15.7 billion purchase is no longer on hold.

Will the Salesforce acquisition of Tableau change Tableau in any way?

Andrew Beers: It would be naïve to assume that it wouldn't. We are super excited about the acceleration that it's going to offer us, both in terms of the customers we're talking to and the technology that we have access to. There are a lot of opportunities for us to accelerate, and as [Salesforce CEO] Marc Benioff was saying [during the keynote speech] on Wednesday, the cultures of the two companies are really aligned, the vision about the future is really aligned, so I think overall it's going to mean analytics inside businesses is just going to move faster.

Technologically speaking, are there any specific ways the Salesforce acquisition of Tableau might accelerate Tableau's capabilities?

Andrew BeersAndrew Beers

Beers: It's hard to say right now. Just last week the CMA [order] was lifted. There was a big cheer, and then everyone said, 'But wait, we have two conferences to put on.'

Have you had any strategic conversations with Salesforce in just the week or so since regulatory restrictions were lifted, even though Tableau Conference 2019 is this week and Salesforce Dreamforce 2019 is next week?

Beers: Oh sure, and a lot of it has been about the conferences of course, but there's been some early planning on how to take some steps together. But it's still super early.

Users, of course, fear somewhat that what they love about Tableau might get lost as a result of the Salesforce acquisition of Tableau. What can you say to alleviate their worries?

Beers: The community that Tableau has built, and the community that Salesforce has built, they're both these really excited and empowered communities, and that goes back to the cultural alignment of the companies. As a member of the Tableau community, I would encourage people to be excited. To have two companies come together that have similar views on the importance of the community, the product line, the ecosystem that the company is trying to create, it's exciting.

Is the long-term plan -- the long-term expectation -- for Tableau to remain autonomous under Salesforce?

We've gone into this saying that Tableau is going to continue to operate as Tableau, but long-term, I can't answer that question. It's really hard for anyone to say.
Andrew BeersChief technology officer, Tableau

Beers: We've gone into this saying that Tableau is going to continue to operate as Tableau, but long-term, I can't answer that question. It's really hard for anyone to say.

From a technological perspective, as a technology officer, what about the Salesforce acquisition of Tableau excites you -- what are some things that Salesforce does that you can't wait to get access to?

Beers: Salesforce spent the past 10 or so years changing into a different company, and I'm not sure a lot of people noticed. They went from being a CRM company to being this digital-suite-for-the-enterprise company, so they've got a lot of interesting technology. Just thinking of analytics, they've built some cool stuff with Einstein. What does that mean when you bring it into the Tableau environment? I don't know, but I'm excited to find out. They've got some interesting tools that hold their hold ecosystem together, and I'm interested in what that means for analysts and for Tableau. I think there are a lot of exciting technology topics ahead of us.

What about conversations you might have with Salesforce technology officers, learning from one another. Is that exciting?

Beers: It's definitely exciting. They've been around -- a lot of that team has different experience than us. They're experienced technology leaders in this space and I'm definitely looking forward to learning from their wisdom. They have a whole research group that's dedicated to some of their longer term ideas, so I'm looking forward to learning from them.

You mentioned Einstein Analytics -- do Tableau and Einstein conflict? Are they at odds in any way, or do they meld in a good way?

Beers: It's still early days, but I think you're going to find that they're going to meld in a good way.

What else can you tell the Tableau community about what the future holds after the Salesforce acquisition of Tableau?

Beers: We're going to keep focused on what we've been focusing on for a long time. We're here to bring interesting innovations to market to help people work with their data, and that's something that's going to continue. You heard Marc Benioff and [Tableau CEO Adam Selipsky] talk about their excitement around that [during a conference keynote]. Our identity as a product and innovation company doesn't change, it just gets juiced by this. We're ready to go -- after the conferences are done.

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