Blog post

Two Acquisitions in Two Weeks!

By Rita Sallam | August 17, 2016 | 4 Comments

BI and Analytics

It’s been an exciting two weeks in the world of BI! Just yesterday, Saleforce announced its intention to buy smart data discovery vendor, BeyondCore, a new Visionary entrant to this year’s BI and Analytics Magic Quadrant! At the end of July, Workday announced its intention to acquire Platfora, one of the original Hadoop-based data discovery vendors and new to the Niche quadrant of the MQ. This closed on August 5th. Here’s a quick look at how both will impact the market and customers. Also, see Cindi Howson’s blog for her take.

Salesforce Acquires BeyondCore

Let’s start with the Salesforce acquisition of BeyondCore as it is likely to be the more transformative of the two.   For the past couple of years, Gartner has been describing the next wave of BI market disruption, smart data discovery, which Beyondcore has pioneered (along with IBM Watson Analytics, SparkBeyond and DataRPM).

In our Hype Cycle for Data Science and our Smart Data Discovery Will Enable a New Class of Citizen Data Scientists research, we define Smart Data Discovery as a next-generation data discovery capability that automatically finds and explains insights from advanced analytics to business users or citizen data scientists.

A BeyondCore business person or citizen data scientist would ingest data into the platform and define an outcome variable. The platform then automatically finds, visualizes and narrates important findings or the story in the data such as correlations, exceptions, clusters, links and predictions that are relevant to them without requiring them to build models, or write algorithms. The user explores data via visualizations and natural language generated narration.

The power of smart data discovery – and the challenges with the current visual-based data discovery approach, as great as it is and as transformative as it has been – became crystal clear to me during Cindi Howson’s amazing BI Bake-Off at our BI Summit in Dallas this past March.

Why BeyondCore is Disruptive

Cindi gave visual-based data discovery participants Tableau, Qlik, Microsoft Power BI and MicroStrategy college student demographic data and payroll data and a demo script. In addition to showcasing their functional differences across critical capabilities, they were tasked with combining the data sets and finding insights about which university grads are expected to have the highest earning power 10 years post-graduation. Given the number of potential variables and combinations to explore manually, the vendors on the panel did what expert analysts always do… They explored their own hypotheses first. In this case, it was the usual suspects of leading universities, because going to Harvard means you bank big time, right? They also showed how great Rice University graduates are. Why? Because Cindi went to Rice and she is amazing, absolutely. A bit of sucking up? Probably a bit of that too. But what they all missed, however, is that the biggest indicator of a student’s future earning power in the data was not their university. It was the student’s parent’s income!

We gave all the vendors on the show floor the data set and that is exactly the key finding BeyondCore was able to uncover after a few seconds of ingesting the data, automatically analyzing it and generating a narrative about the results.. Here is a video of their analysis. Geez, why didn’t I know this before I sent my kids to private universities?  How many times do all of us explore what we think are the key drivers or attributes of an outcome variable and stop when we confirm our hypotheses? How many times might there be other more important factors affecting the outcome variable that we may not have thought to explore? Here in lies the root of the challenges with the current paradigm that will drive what will be the next wave of market disruption: Automation of all aspects of the analytics workflow to improve the accuracy and timeliness of advanced analysis, remove bias and make all users citizen data scientists.

While the acquisition hasn’t closed yet and details are light, here is what Gartner believes will happen:

  • Salesforce will continue to sell BeyondCore as a standalone product. That’s good news for existing BeyondCore customers who will benefit from Salesforce’s increased investment in the platform. In addition, Salesforce’s focus, both in terms of product and market, could accelerate the adoption of smart data discovery and its competitive impact on the market and force other players to respond with similar investments.
  • Salesforce plans to integrate BeyondCore into the Analytics Wave platform and thus Wave analytic applications for Sales, Service and Marketing to come. If they execute on this vision, this has the potential to leapfrog Wave into a next generation BIA platform with clear differentiators in the market.
  • The potentially bigger and most impactful plans are to embed BeyondCore pervasively into the Salesforce Sales, Service and Marketing Cloud applications themselves making every Salesforce user a citizen data scientist. So, for example, a sales person logging into to the Salesforce Sales Cloud application would automatically see which actions will have the biggest impact to close a prospect; a marketing analyst would see which promotions are most effective at every step of the customer journey, etc. without leaving the applications workflow.

Workday’s Acquisition of Platfora

Now to the Workday acquisition of Platfora, which was announced at the end of July and closed quickly on August 5th.  Platfora’s platform has often been referred to as the “Tableau for Hadoop” by its customers. The standalone product natively connects to an organization’s data lake, either residing in on-premises Hadoop deployments or cloud-based data stores; ingests the raw data into an in-memory engine called a “lens”; performs various transformations to prepare the data for analysis; and provides an interactive visualization layer for business analysts.

Here is what we know about Workday’s plans for Platfora:

  • Workday will no longer sell Platfora as a standalone offering. Workday has stated they will continue to support existing Platfora customers through the end of their contracts.
  • Workday plans to embed Platfora technology into its technology foundation to complement existing operational reporting, dashboarding and scorecarding capabilities with Platfora’s ad hoc exploration features targeted specifically for Workday’s HR and Finance application customers.
  • Workday expects to share a demo of its Version 1 integrated product at Workday’s major user conference, Workday Rising, at the end of September, with a target of ‘some time in 2017’ for general availability.
  • About 1/3rd of Platfora’s existing (relatively small) customer base is also a Workday customer. These customers will have to option to upgrade to the integrated capabilities when available based on a to-be-determined business model.
  • The 2/3rds of Platfora customers that are not Workday customers will be supported until the end of their contracts.
  • Customers that purchased Workday’s OEM offering of Datameer will continue to be supported and will have the option to move to the new integrated Platfora offering when available.

Well, that’s it for now. Can’t wait for the next exciting market event!! Have a great rest of summer!



Rita Sallam

The Gartner Blog Network provides an opportunity for Gartner analysts to test ideas and move research forward. Because the content posted by Gartner analysts on this site does not undergo our standard editorial review, all comments or opinions expressed hereunder are those of the individual contributors and do not represent the views of Gartner, Inc. or its management.

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  • Good stuff, but Analytics Wave won’t be a truly viable solution for enterprise SFDC customers until it can be much more readily integrated with other enterprise data that really does NOT belong inside the SFDC data model. At least as of last year’s dream force, I would recommend clients adopt a strategy to integrate SFDC data into an enterprise data repository/warehouse external to Salesforce, then employ best-of-breed BI delivery solutions which can effectively leverage ALL enterprise data assets…

  • Bruno Aziza says:

    Great post Rita. Two very different acquisitions indeed. Although both analytical products got acquired by two platform vendors that seemingly compete at some level, the strategies are quite different. BeyondCore seems to be key to Salesforce Analytics strategy, it looks like the acquisition will be felt across the entire platform. Salesforce has been a buying spree this year – I think this is their 7th acquisition since the beginning of the year, as many as last year if memory serves.

    There is another question I think we should ask. What does this mean to the Business Intelligence market as a whole? The story of these acquisitions is not about the embed BI story in my opinion. It’s about the fact that, increasingly, customers value analytics because of the power of the engine that put data into the ends of users, however they wish to consume it. It’s the middleware, the connection between data and the business users that matters here. Not so much another visualization layer or a full-stack and closed approach to the analytical process.

    Just as Gartner adapted its MQ work to the the bi-modal buying motion, I look forward to seeing how you will assess BI platforms in your evolving research work.

  • swaroop kumar says:

    This post is really awesome.Content is very clear and crisp.