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July 10, 2015

Tableau VP hits back at SAP: We’re far from dead-end

CBR sat down with James Eiloart at Tableau's World Tour event, not long after SAP president Steve Lucas referred to the company's software as 'dead-end' and 'sh*t'.

By James Nunns

Last month I reported live from SAP’s BI event, where President Steve Lucas said some rather derrogatory things about competitors Tableau.

Despite Tableau wanting to maintain a ‘dignified silence’ and refusing to comment on the matter, I, of course, took the opportunity when speaking with Eilort to broach the subject.

Although Eiloart also didn’t want to dignify the comment with a response – he did. With PR’s nervously watching on, Eiloart, said: "I recognise that lots of competitors are spending large amounts of money trying to build what we have.

"Pick a competitor, they’re all trying to come up with some sort of simple end-user attractive paradigm that works against itself."

Eiloart noted that he hasn’t seen any particularly impressive uptake of other products, which he says is highlighted by the fact that the Tableau sales continue to grow.

Continuing to defend the software, he stressed the importance of listening to the customers’ opinion.

"I just left a meeting with a multi-national organisation that’s spent millions on first generation BI over the years. They’re saying to us that they have 5,000 currently using Tableau and want to move that to 30,000. Ask them whether they think it’s sh*t or if they think it’s dead-end technology."

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"It’s far from sh*t, it’s quite profound and it’s definitely not dead-end."

The company has a clear mission to help people see and understand data, one of the benefits of its simplicity is that it expands its reach by being usable by the business and individual.

This is perhaps where is trumps the likes of SAP, SAS or Salesforce which provide more enterprise focused solutions that can’t compete with the simplicity of Tableau.

Eiloart, said: "The size of the addressable market we work to is huge. It’s not just big multi-nationals, it goes all the way down to small companies, one man bands, individuals, research scientists, students."

While there may be people out there who are "Tableau Jedi’s" and "Zen masters" that can do imaginative things with the tool, is it just a way of creating pretty pictures without adding true business value?

The problem with visualisation software is that without supreme analytics power of something like the R language, you might as well just be using pen and paper to make pie charts.

This is the point that the SAP president was trying to make, beautiful visualisations are one thing but driving business value is another.

Eiloart is clearly confident in the product and the market share that is has shows that it is very popular, so they are clearly doing something right that, creating a piece of software that both businesses and consumers want.

Eiloart frequently used words like ’empowering’ and ‘unique’ and described the company as: "The spark that explodes the mixture, (data and business awareness) is the simplicity of Tableau that makes it accessible to everybody."

If you look past that, even Eiloart points out places where it isn’t the best tool to use: "If you’ve got very sophisticated back end requirements they (businesses) will use an Informatica, Alteryx or ETL layer.

"If you want to do deep sophisticated statistical modelling, which is business and mission critical, huge accuracy is essential and you have strong statisticians that want tremendous control on the statistical process. Then typically people won’t use Tableau for that, you’ll use R or something like that."

The company appears to be addressing these issues and its already strong adoption rates will almost certainly be boosted by continued developments.

Targeting continued improvements with further features that will bring in better predictive analytics and other features, the company wants to make it the best product in the market, but to remain simple and easy to use.

With this in mind, Eiloart, said: "We invest as a percentage of revenue, way more than most other companies in R&D. So we have a crystal clear view on what we are doing and where we want to go.

"We hope that this makes it very difficult for people to keep to the level of pace of innovation we can bring."

 

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