By Jonathan Vanian
June 10, 2019

Salesforce’s plan to buy data-analytics company Tableau for $15.3 billion would be its biggest acquisition ever.

The deal, announced Monday, would eclipse the size of the business software giant’s previous acquisitions, including the $6.5 billion it paid for enterprise software company Mulesoft in 2018, and $582 million for workplace software firm Quip in 2016.

Although relatively large, Tableau is not a hot young data startup. Founded in 2003, it has been trying to shift to charging subscriptions for its data visualization products instead of selling software licenses.

It’s a big business overhaul similar to what other enterprise companies like Cisco and Hewlett Packard Enterprise are attempting to do. These companies are trying to keep up with current IT-purchasing trends, in which companies are increasingly buying business technology via the cloud.

What customers do like about Tableau, however, is that its tools are “simple, easy-to-use” and geared towards business leaders, explained Forrester vice president and principal analyst Liz Herbert.

The deal expands Salesforce’s product portfolio to include data visualization tools alongside its core customer relationship management software and the word processing and spreadsheet tools. In this way, Salesforce is becoming more of a one-stop shop that directly competes against tech giants like Microsoft and Google that sell a variety of enterprise software and services.

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Google, for instance, said last week it plans to buy data analytics company Looker for $2.6 billion in a bid to sell services that let businesses merge and analyze corporate data that is stored in multiple databases or cloud services.

Constellation Research analyst Holger Mueller compared Salesforce and Google’s recent deals and claimed that Google “got the better deal” because the search giant paid far less for Looker. Furthermore, it doesn’t have to worry about continuing to shift Tableau’s business to a subscription model.

 

Salesforce shares fell 5.3% to $152.80 on Monday, implying that Wall Street investors were skeptical of the deal. As Wedbush Securities analyst Steve Koenig said, per Reuters, “Salesforce shares are trading down, may be out of fears that the company is buying growth because organic growth is slowing.”

Ultimately, Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff told analysts during a media briefing on Monday that by owning Tableau, Salesforce would be able to better court customers who are seeking a “completely strategic product line,” implying that companies are looking to buy enterprise software from companies that sell multiple products that work well together.

Benioff explained that Salesforce needed to “go even more deeply” into providing data visualization tools for its customers. The next step, he said, is to make a big sales push of Tableau’s products.

“I mean we’re going to plan to put that thing on overdrive,” Benioff said.

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