Look for history lessons in BI mergers
Business Intelligence

Look for history lessons in BI mergers

When Salesforce.com, the world's dominant CRM vendor, bought data preparation and visualisation company Tableau for $15.7 billion last week, seasoned IT leaders and industry commentators could be forgiven for a sense of déjà vu. The story of ‘big enterprise application company buys popular business intelligence firm' has played out before. It did so in the 2000s, when SAP bought Business Objects, when Oracle bought Hyperion and when IBM bought Cognos.

But the history of acquisitions in the market raises the question: if the BI mergers in the noughties were so successful, how did an independent player such as Tableau end up becoming so popular?

Drag-and-drop usability for BI

The answer lies in Tableau's fresh approach to usability and data visualisation, says Eva Murray, a Tableau community ‘Zen Master' and head of BI at Exasol, an in-memory database company.

"Tableau, compared with a lot of software on the market, is a very visual analytics tool. Business people can pick it up and start to see results very quickly. It's drag and drop in the way you question your data and [it] lets you visualise the results," she says.

The ease of use helps business people without data science skills examine a range of data sets: from Excel spreadsheets; from the enterprise data warehouse; from application databases; and from ‘big data' technologies including Hadoop and NoSQL databases. 

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Lindsay Clark

Lindsay Clark is a freelance journalist specialising in business IT, supply chain management, procurement and business transformation. He has worked as news editor at Computer Weekly and several other leading trade magazines. He has also written for The Guardian, The Financial Times and supplements to The Times. 

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