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When Salesforce acquired Tableau for $15.7 billion in 2019, CEO Marc Benioff spoke on the value of better integration across CRM and analytics capabilities. The acquisition followed the deal to buy of API-integration powerhouse MuleSoft a few years prior.

The partnerships looked great on paper. But, as with many acquisitions, a lot of hard work is required to integrate multiple stacks to work well together in practice. The new Tableau CRM Spring ’22 is finally starting to deliver on some of this promise, say industry analysts. Key elements of the Tableau ’22 release include better integration into a consolidated customer data platform (CDP), new revenue intelligence tools, and support for Salesforce’s new Net Zero Cloud service.

Analysts, however,  believe the real innovation may lie in simplifying the data infrastructure required to power next-generation capabilities like predictive analytics, AI, and machine learning capabilities at scale – and by front-line users. “The differentiation may not lie in technical capabilities of the new offering but the deeper integration with Salesforce,” Yugal Joshi, partner with Everest Group, told VentureBeat. This could strengthen Salesforce positions as a best-of-breed platform for all things CRM.

Joshi says the new release is trying to address a well-known but often neglected problem of data in motion. The new release will help teams process more data nearer its source of generation or consumption with less data engineering.

The new update could also buoy Salesforce’s image to shareholders. “Salesforce, despite its growth and aspirations, is witnessing challenges in the stock market and will witness increased scrutiny from shareholders to drive the next level of growth,” Yugal said. “These offerings fit into that narrative where it needs to build a broad-based Salesforce developer community ecosystem it owns.”

Evolution of Einstein

The current Tableau CRM offering represents the culmination of years of acquisition and development. Previously, Salesforce bought and integrated another AI and analytics tool into its Salesforce Einstein platform. After the Tableau acquisition, the offering was renamed Tableau CRM to reflect innovations from both sides. But progress has proceeded slowly, at least in terms of better data integration.

“While the Tableau CRM product team now resides within Tableau organizationally, the slow pace of technical integration with the two offerings has been hindering efforts in terms of data consolidation for customers,”  Jason Wong, distinguished research VP at Gartner, told VentureBeat.

Data consolidation

CRM systems and customer data platforms (CDP) are related but different technologies for keeping track of customers. CRM started life as a system of record for sales efforts. However, CDP was optimized to help analyze customer behavior and optimize marketing and campaigns. One challenge is that CDP data can proliferate across different best-of-breed tools.

A new service called Salesforce CDP provides a unified view of data across applications. Bill Huber, global partner of digital platforms & solutions with ISG, told VentureBeat that the improved connectivity between Tableau-driven analytics and CDP, “feels like a significant step forward in the ability to more effectively target messaging to existing and prospective customers.”

In a world where everyone is bombarded with scattershot messages, organizations that can provide relevant and timely, personalized messaging have the highest potential to engage the customer and consequently close a sale. The added benefit of eliminating the effort of reconciling redundant and conflicting records should further drive efficiency and provide some cost savings to the user company. Huber said, “I’d love to kick the tires on the CDP improvements, but if they live up to their promise, this could be a game-changer for Salesforce and its users.”

Another benefit is that it’s built natively on Salesforce’s new Hyperforce platform to provide more flexibility in meeting data security, compliance, and regulatory requirements. “The integration of CDP with Tableau CRM makes it easier for customers using Salesforce as a platform to achieve a holistic view of customer data,” said Wong. 

Revenue Intelligence

Salesforce also introduced Revenue Intelligence, which helps business users develop and use new business-specific analytics capabilities directly within their workflows. This could help enterprises take advantage of citizen developers who want answers but lack analytics expertise.

Boris Evelson, VP and principal analyst at Forrester, told VentureBeat that many enterprises lack the analytics talent to build domain-specific analytics. Even if they have a BI tool like Tableau, they lack the experts required to build applications for sales analytics, marketing analytics, or in this case, revenue analytics.

Evelson said the big differentiator is against other analytics providers like Google Looker, MicroStrategy, and Qlik. However, other business application vendors such as Oracle, Microsoft, and SAP are similarly developing their own domain-specific analytics tools to work with their CRM and ERP apps.

Huber said Revenue Intelligence might be a cool selling point for less mature organizations. Still, each organization’s ability to achieve full value from the integration will be more of a behavioral rather than technical issue, and it will require a significant level of change management. And it is not clear how many companies will replace their existing revenue analytics applications with a new platform. 

Planning for Net Zero

Another new feature is tools for powering dashboards, surfacing insights, and facilitating scenario planning on top of Salesforce’s Net Zero Cloud service. The new integration could help enterprises reach their environmental, sustainability, and governance (ESG) goals, such as reducing carbon footprint or facilitating circular product lifecycles.

Huber said the NetZero cloud integration is a significant step forward in the development of a new category of functionality at a time when ESG is top of mind for customers and regulators. Undoubtedly, the category will continue to mature quickly. Still, if Salesforce can become the go-to standard for ESG, this could become a big win and potentially drive a functional expansion for Salesforce into other areas, including supply chain management. “I’ll be watching this one closely,” Huber said.

Analysis where we live

Forrester’s Evelson says the most significant impact of the new updates is the progress it presents toward augmented analytics that allow users to distill insights in the tools where they live. BI dashboards are actively used by only 20% of decision makers, even though they have been around for over twenty years. The rest rely on data and analytics professionals, which adds friction.

“If I am a sales exec and spend my entire day in Salesforce putting in my client contacts, I want to get my analytics there. I don’t want to click out of Salesforce and look at another dashboard. Embedding analytics right into Salesforce is what the industry needs,” Evelson said, 

Data-driven world domination

Torsten Volk, managing research director at Enterprise Management Associates, said, “Each one of these new capabilities [is] meticulously aligned with Salesforce’s master plan of positioning its platform as the unified hub for data-driven decision-making across the overall enterprise,” said Torsten Volk, managing research director at Enterprise Management Associates.

He does not believe that Salesforce is interested in beating Microsoft, SAP, or Oracle in direct feature comparisons in data analytics. However, they do want to be the ones to enable customers to roll out data-driven decision-making across their respective organizations.

The new features support:

  • Ease-of-data onboarding
  • Enhanced platform integration
  • Actionable analytics

These three themes balance the goal of quickly expanding the Salesforce footprint within the organization and providing immediate value that enables non-technical business staff to move the needle.

“Tableau users would have loved a modernized and intuitive UI experience, but that’s not what these new releases are all about. Each one of them is a very deliberate step by Salesforce toward ‘world domination,’” said Volk.

Salesforce can learn from Tableau’s massive user base regarding where these individual existing customers are in their digital transformation journey and what they need to select the Salesforce platform over the competition. “This customer footprint and these insights alone were worth the $15.7 billion acquisition of Tableau back in 2019. Renewals of Tableau Desktop or Tableau Cloud contracts are just the cherry on top,” Volk said.

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