With Salesforce buying Tableau, there’s a whole new world of opportunities for the software.
Who doesn’t love Tableau? In the world of data visualization, Tableau was always ahead of its time. The software brought simple drag-and-drop data visualization to the business world. Even better, it enabled non-technical users to bypass IT, allowing them to go directly to their data.
But since its inception, Tableau has picked up a few challengers in the marketplace. Microsoft’s Power BI is just as easy to use as Tableau. And, Google just made a serious move by purchasing Looker, a dedicated big data visualization product.
In fact, competing products with equivalent (or better) features – and a lower price point – have flooded the market. As a result, Tableau has seen their market share erode for several years.
That doesn’t take away from the fact that Tableau’s visualizations are gorgeous – and its user experiences are seamless. Salesforce clearly agreed, which is why the software company decided to purchase the software.
Now is a great time to ask, “What could Salesforce do to revolutionize Tableau?” We have five ideas:
1. Price Tableau for the SMB Market
Let’s face it, Tableau is the most expensive player in the data visualization field. Arguably, they’re worth it! Tableau can create stunning visualizations and set the bar for communicating complex ideas in the boardroom.
Quality comes at a price though, and Tableau prices itself for clients that can drop large coin on enterprise reporting.
We have seen our SMB clients purchase individual desktop licenses for Tableau because they love the product so much. Yet, when they realize what it costs to share Tableau visualizations with their colleagues through a BI platform, they get a case of sticker shock. Love for the product simply hasn’t been enough to push Tableau over the hill of enterprise adoption (and budget).
Salesforce could revise the pricing model for Tableau to make it more competitive. Reduced pricing as an extension of the Salesforce ecosystem could also be an interesting bi-directional play that encourages customers to adopt Salesforce.
2. Open the Product to the Developer Community
While the visualizations in Tableau are beautiful, they are limited to about 24 chart types. Try creating a contour plot or Sankey chart in Tableau. Hardcore Tableau developers will say, “of course we can do this!”
Tableau has all the raw ingredients for pretty much any type of chart. But, it can take a lot of work: sometimes complex data prep, sometimes complex coding, sometimes complex Tableau layouts. Non-standard visualizations don’t “just work” out of the box.
Tableau has mitigated this by allowing extensions using D3.JS and R, both open source visualization libraries. Developer consensus is these extensions are still complicated to use and well beyond the capability of non-programmers.
By comparison, Microsoft has seen the merits of opening their Power BI product to the developer community and demonstrated a possible path for Tableau. Developers can build and deploy custom visualizations that work out-of-the-box in Power BI. Microsoft even went a step further and created a marketplace where developers can post their custom visualizations for public use.
Salesforce already has the marketplace. All they need to do is take one more step: Open custom Tableau visualization to the developer community.
3. Price the Software for White Labeling
Data visualization is turning up everywhere. You can see it in mobile applications that track your health. You can see it on credit card websites that understand your purchasing patterns. You can even see it on your child’s grade school website. All of these are examples of white labeling.
Recently, we had an insurance client ask about sharing data visualizations through an agent portal, i.e. white labeling. Insurance companies deal with thousands of agents, so this is not a small licensing discussion. This client shared the pricing they received from Tableau. It dwarfed the next lowest competitor’s pricing.
The white labeling market is potentially larger than the enterprise reporting market, and it could raise Tableau to dominance. Salesforce should revisit Tableau’s licensing model for white labeling to make it more attractive. Tableau already supports white labeling, so this requires no added functionality.
4. Make The Desktop Tool More Accessible
Licensing models vary widely in the arena of data visualization. Tableau has long made their desktop tool available for a two-week demo period, after which it is impossible to save visualizations. This feature effectively cripples the desktop tool, which users can only remedy by purchasing a desktop license.
Contrast this with major competitors that make their fully functional desktop product available to everyone – indefinitely and at no cost! Other vendors recognize the desktop and developer market pales in comparison to the enterprise reporting market. By yielding profits from the desktop market, competitors quite effectively have chipped away at Tableau’s iron grip.
We would not ordinarily advocate Tableau give away their desktop product for free, but continuing to charge a premium price is no longer tenable. Salesforce should insist on lowering the price for full-featured Tableau desktop versions, or at least not completely cripple desktop users who don’t purchase a license.
5. Build The Software’s Partner Ecosystem
Tableau’s partner program has been in flux for several years. Leadership within their partner division churned and the backlog of partner applications hasn’t cleared. As a result, many mid-sized consulting firms and technology vendors aren’t a part of Tableau’s partner ecosystem.
Aspiring vendors treat their partners well through co-marketing, internal-use software licenses, training, and close collaboration to penetrate accounts. While Tableau offers all of these benefits to their partners, the degree of partnership is generally less than that of other visualization vendors.
Salesforce should enrich Tableau’s partner program. Internal-use licenses and training are low-cost giveaways that encourage both partner investment and engagement.
Tableau was an early disrupter, bringing data visualization to the masses. They made an outstanding product and aggressively protected their brand, features, and pricing.
But, times have changed, and now the field runs rampant with visualization competitors that play nicely with others and cost less than Tableau.
“It’s worth paying more because it looks prettier,” said no CIO, ever.
With Tableau ripe for acquisition due to its eroding market position and market share, Salesforce got a great buy. Now it’s up to Salesforce to help Tableau once again rise to the top by embracing developers, partners, and SMBs.
We hope Salesforce will revolutionize Tableau (again) because we love you, Tableau. And we think others should, too.