Boyden Executive Search

Major acquisitions by Google, and most recently Salesforce, signal that the race to give companies the tools to understand their data is in high gear.

It is widely understood that there is immense value in data, but this value can only be unlocked by analyzing it, deriving insights, and putting the information to use strategically. Large tech companies are rushing to fill the big data void. On June 10, Salesforce announced a $15.7 billion deal to acquire Tableau Software, a firm specializing in interactive data visualization tools. Only a week earlier, Google announced a $2.6 billion deal to buy Looker, another firm that helps companies visualize and analyze their data.

“Business analytics and intelligence is on fire,” said Howard Dresner, Chief Research Adviser at Dresner Advisory Services, which focuses on the data analytics industry. There is a sense of urgency in the market, driven by the perception of opportunities being missed. If a company is not able to make sense of all of its data quickly, says Dresner, “you are at a competitive disadvantage.”

Salesforce and Microsoft are battling for their share of the business analytics market, and with the Tableau deal, Salesforce is proving its mettle. “The deal is transformative for the software industry, the most dramatic move yet by a cloud major to boost its analytics offerings,” said Steve Koenig, an analyst with Wedbush Securities.

The trend is re-shaping the software industry, with companies falling into “a few major camps, generally clustered around a major vendor bent on adding more weapons to counter other big rivals,” as the New York Times describes. The smaller companies are under pressure to pick a side. “I think we’ll see very few of them standing alone by the end of the year,” said Rebecca Wettemann, VP, Research at Nucleus Research.

As Amazon and Microsoft expand their cloud-based data services, Google could use Looker’s capabilities to differentiate its cloud computing service. From Salesforce’s perspective, the most immediate threat is Microsoft, which directly competes with its core business and has a data analytics offering comparable to Tableau.

Salesforce now has an advantage, as it is adding Tableau to Mulesoft, a company it purchased last year for $6.5 billion. Mulesoft’s integration software connects different applications to data, which Tableau’s data visualization tools can then turn into charts, graphs and maps. Salesforce Chairman and Co-Chief Executive Marc Benioff said that many customers are already avid Tableau users. With the combination of the two, Salesforce can offer a more complete picture of enterprise data.

The deal with Tableau is expected to close in the third quarter. Tableau will operate independently, led by Chief Executive Officer Adam Selipsky and the firm’s current leadership team.

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