If you’re a smart technology provider, you give your customers a vast selection of tools to get their jobs done. Forward-thinking vendors do this through partnerships and integrations with best-in-class providers — and, often, through acquisition of best-in-class providers themselves.
As a case in point, consider Salesforce's acquisition of San Mateo, Calif.-based analytics provider BeyondCore this week, which Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff confirmed via a tweet. The terms of the sale were not disclosed.
The Role of Analytics in the Enterprise
Several forces have come together to radically impact the power of analytics in the enterprise, namely big data and consumerized IT. So much so, that Gartner even changed the criteria for its Magic Quadrant (MQ) for Business Intelligence and Analytics 2016.
BeyondCore made its Gartner debut as a Visionary this year. Gartner analysts applauded it for both its ease of use and complexity of analysis, noting,:
"Its strength in these areas is driven by the combination of automated advanced analytics and smart pattern detection with an auto-generated narrative explaining the key insights in each graph and the relationships between graphs. It ensures users are warned about potential hidden factors that might better explain a visually exciting pattern and protects users from taking statistically unsound decisions."
They also noted that BeyondCore provides line-of-business workers with a wide range of analytics capabilities and native integration with Microsoft Office. For data professionals, including data analysts and data scientists, the descriptive and predictive analytics tools that are provided are open and transparent, in contrast to the black boxes of yesteryear.
It's worth noting that Salesforce, in that same MQ, was recognized as a Niche player for its Wave Analytics product. Salesforce's vision was seen as limited because of its initial focus on its existing customer base (which some may argue is large enough).
What BeyondCore Brings to Salesforce
Back in 2014, CMSWire spoke to BeyondCore CEO Arjit Sengupta about Salesforce's entry into the analytics market. He told us Salesforce's Wave Analytics product was solving the wrong problem, explaining:
"(Salesforce is) talking about making data analysis fun. It's like making a PC from scratch by painting the memory chip red and the processor chip purple. People wanted a PC so that they could use it to make their lives easier. They would not have cared about making the act of assembling the PC 'fun'."
Wave was marketed around sales and marketing workers being able to ask questions of it. But Sengupta noted that there are thousands or millions of potential questions you could ask of it — as well as many visually attractive patterns that are not statistically sound and "even many different ways of interpreting the exact same graph. Today business users want software that finds the right questions for them, does the hard statistical analysis for them, creates the presentations for them, and explains the results to them — all in just minutes without any training."
Salesforce Is Playing Catch Up
Constellation Research analyst Holger Mueller told CMSWire that Salesforce is lagging behind other large vendors when it comes to machine learning and overall analytics. Now it's attempting to catch up.
"It's not too late to make this strategy work, but not owning your own (Infrastructure-as-a-Service) IaaS platform doesn't make this easier. On the flip side no one else has been more successful in enterprise software on other vendors," said Mueller.
Artificial Intelligence Is Key
Constellation Research analyst R. Ray Wang told CMSWIre that Salesforce is going big on artificial intelligence (AI) this year, even predicting that it will be a key focus of the company's mega-user conference, Dreamforce.
"Every year Marc (Benioff) likes to raise his Total Addressable Market size (TAM) before Dreamforce. Last year was (the Internet of Things) IoT, the year before it was big data and analytics. The year before, customer experience and customer success. This year, it's AI for him. These series of acquisitions are to have him catch up on AI."
For AI to be successful, Wang said, you need four things: "lots of data, massive processing power, tons of time and awesome math."
BeyondCore brings the math and the talent pool.
Small Acquisition, Important Win for Salesforce
At the end of the day, there seems to be little downside to this deal. BeyondCore gains capital and access to Salesforce's enthused customer base. "At Salesforce, BeyondCore will be uniquely positioned to further magnify our impact on the world of analytics as part of the Analytics Cloud, extending smart data discovery and advanced analytics capabilities across the entire Salesforce Customer Success Platform," BeyondCore noted in a statement.
Salesforce gains more tools for its customers.
Additionally, the crowded business intelligence and analytics vendor market will likely slim down as a matter of course. Just last month, Workday acquired analytics startup Platfora (whose management team once told CMSWire that Salesforce was "faking big data"), another MQ dweller.