Tableau raises augmented analytics game with Salesforce Einstein Discovery integration

In a BI market where augmented analytics is ever-more important, bringing Einstein Discovery into Tableau is a key move. It's also infinitely wiser than subjugating Tableau's team and tech to the Salesforce mothership.
Written by Andrew Brust, Contributor

Two weeks ago, Microsoft announced the public preview of its smart narratives feature for Power BI. In about the same timeframe, 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 expansion of its Insight Advisor feature. All of these announcements show how important augmented analytics -- which adds natural language processing and other AI technologies -- has become in a BI market stoked by pandemic-accelerated digital transformation initiatives.

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Discovering Einstein

At its "Tableau Conferenceish" online event, Tableau announced that the entire Salesforce Einstein Analytics team has been merged into the Tableau organization, and that Tableau and Einstein technology will fully integrate over the long term. Larry Dignan has full coverage of that broad announcement, including the rebranding of Einstein Analytics as Tableau CRM.

Also: Tableau integrates Einstein Analytics, becomes the analytics bridge in Salesforce ecosystem

The first deliverable of the Einstein Analytics integration will be the embedding of Einstein Discovery into Tableau. Einstein Discovery uses an array of AI technologies to find patterns in data, articulate those observations in plain English and provide predictions and recommendations based upon them. Such embedded AI technology both adds value to the conventional analytics and visualization capabilities that are Tableau's bread and butter, and is accessible to customers who may lack data science chops, but have strong analytics skills.

Humble beginnings

As technology embedded in Salesforce's cloud-based customer relationship management (CRM) suite, Einstein Discovery has worked well in a domain specific capacity, for example in making specific recommendations around improving 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.

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Once Salesforce acquired BeyondCore and rebranded it, it became a more captive technology, which unfortunately eroded its value somewhat. I would argue the same thing happened with when another SaaS powerhouse, Workday, acquired big data analytics provider Platfora, also in 2016. And for that matter, when Salesforce acquired Tableau last year, there was worry that a similar subjugation might come to pass. But clearly, Salesforce decided to go the other way around, emancipating 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.

Also: Workday acquisition of Platfora leaves questions

Augmented acquisitions

When BeyondCore was still independent, I did some work with its founder and CEO, Arijit Sengupta (who after a post-acquisition stint at Salesforce, has gone on to found and lead AI startup Aible). At that time, Sengupta felt strongly -- and with some alarm -- that Tableau's visualizations, while compelling, could make statistically unimportant correlations look, misleadingly, like authoritative analyses. He felt that augmented analytics was the missing link to help BI users truly understand their data, rather than just visualize it. As if to underscore his point, Sengupta's technology will now be baked right into Tableau, despite his departure from Salesforce.

Tableau also mentioned during its keynote that it will further integrate with technology from Mulesoft and Datorama, two other companies acquired by Salesforce. Here again, some cool technology, that's added value to the mainstream Salesforce suite, will be given more mainstream exposure and adoption at Tableau's behest.

Tableau, of course, will need to execute now, and continue to assure that even as its own profile rises within the Salesforce universe, it doesn't get typecast as the Salesforce analytics house brand and thus get sidelined in the broader BI market. I have a strong feeling that CEO Adam Selipsky and Chief Product Officer Francois Ajenstat have Tableau's continued autonomy and broad BI market appeal as top priorities, though. And since Salesforce's analytics stack is coming under them, rather than vice-versa, they've got good chances of maintaining those priorities successfully.

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