Salesforce and Tableau: Shaking up the software space

This week, an earthquake rattled Cleveland, Ohio. Around the same time, Salesforce announced that it was buying Tableau Software. The earthquake was short-lived with minimal aftershocks, but the impact of the latest big acquisition by Salesforce will be felt for quite some time.

A bit over a year ago, Salesforce acquired Mulesoft, and I called it a turning point for enterprise software. I still stand by that claim today, and this latest news is a natural extension of that deal.

At the time of the Mulesoft deal, Salesforce Chairman and co-CEO Mark Benioff was quoted as saying, “Together, Salesforce and MuleSoft will enable customers to connect all of the information throughout their enterprise across all public and private clouds and data sources—radically enhancing innovation.”

In the press release announcing this week’s deal, Benioff said, in part, that “Tableau helps people see and understand data…”

The simplicity of this strategy is what makes it so compelling. Figure out how to get access to the data of the enterprise, then make it accessible to the people of the enterprise.

The promise of radically enhanced innovation will be enabled, in large part, by the combination and analysis of data across multiple sources, potentially in real time, and presented in a visual manner that is easy to consume.

The promise of big data has and continues to be in the utilization of the data to drive better business results. The challenge of big data is that it continually grows in variety, volume, and velocity, outstripping the capabilities of traditional reporting tools and conventional consumption practices.

With more and more data being generated, collected, and curated every day, the challenge is how to find the important data quickly so you can make the best use of it. How will you find the signal in the noise when the volumes of data make it akin to a needle in a haystack? Will you be able to identify an unwanted trend before it is too late?

The impact of data visualization

The visualization of data changes how the data is consumed. In place of a standard report with rows and columns, subtotals, and totals, you can have a well-constructed graphic that draws the reader’s eye to the outlying datapoints.

In the commercial real estate industry, there’s great value in placing data in the context of physical space with what I call spatial intelligence:

  • Imagine taking the floor plan from your local mall and having the ability to see how people move through the space, where they stop, and for how long. Using data to describe the flow of shoppers across the physical space of the shopping center is substantially more powerful than traditional methods that basically amount to turnstiles, counting entrances and exists.
  • Take the site plan of your apartment community. What if you could literally see a correlation between vacancy and physical location, a trend in maintenance requests and a specific area of the property? Placing data in the context of physical space provides different insights than any list or chart, by bringing to light what is happening in and around a physical space.

In the real estate industry, spatial intelligence can be done at a property level (expiry heat maps, retail health heat maps, work order heat maps, energy consumption, etc.) or at a geographical level (apartment interest by originating zip code, proximity to public transport, portfolio-level views of energy consumption, vacancy, and other metrics etc.).

Leveraging well-constructed and interactive data visualizations gives the consumers of data the best chance to quickly find what they need to find. Instead of spending time searching for the data that needs attention, they can spend more time thinking about what to do based on what the data is telling them. The reader does not have to scan through a “wall of numbers” to find data that needs attention, action and inquiry. Instead, the data that needs attention almost jumps off the page like it was shaken loose in an earthquake.

Brian Zrimsek is a well-known subject matter expert, industry panelist, and trusted advisor in the real estate tech market. He is Industry Principal at MRI Software, where he leverages his experiences as a former client, IT leader, and Technology Analyst to help shape product strategy and direction.

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