Filling in boxes on a PowerPoint slide - is that what IBM is trying to do?

You’ve no doubt heard the news – IBM is buying SPSS for $1.2 billion. Industry pundits say IBM is rounding out its “Information On Demand” (IOD) portfolio. Meanwhile, did you read that IBM also announced an initiative called “Smart Analytics” Systems? This new series of BI (business intelligence) products combines software, hardware, storage and professional services.

But I have to wonder if these moves by IBM aren’t just attempts to glom together a bunch of software, hardware and services into some strategic vision that in practice turns out to be hard-to-use and holds virtually no advantage for customers.

I think it was last week at Tableau’s annual customer conference that I heard a customer say about this kind of situation, “It’s like these companies have a PowerPoint slide segmenting the market into little boxes. They then go buy companies so that every box is filled in. And therefore because every box is filled in, executive management can say to their Boards and shareholders, ‘we are the market leader because we have the #1 or #2 player in every segment.’” (BTW, brilliant customer who said that, please stand up and be noted.) How does that add up to a strategic vision designed to serve customers?

Tableau has always been focused on a strategic vision that serves customers. It’s really quite simple. It’s the vision CEO Christian Chabot related to me in our first conversation – “Tableau helps people answer questions with their data.” Director of Visual Analysis Jock Mackinlay puts it this way: “We help people see and understand their data.”

Last week in our second annual customer conference, we saw story after story from customers talking about how they can now easily and quickly answer questions with their data using Tableau. And this came from some very large customers with complicated BI systems (much like IBM’s products) already in-house. Customers like Apple, Experian, Barnes Jewish Hospital, and AOL. For example:

  • Experian Automotive developed and launched a major initiative using Tableau Server to provide data to their customers. Experian customers use vehicle statistics to help them make better fact-based decisions about their business directives. Using Tableau Server, Experian took 2 days to develop the first demo-ready prototype, and had a production-ready version in 2 weeks - just in time for the national auto parts convention.
  • AOL slices and dices through human capital metrics using Tableau Desktop to help them understand their employees better. AOL showed incredible insights – and their director of global workforce analytics said “Tableau let us live out the ideas we dreamt of doing.”
  • Barnes Jewish hospital now manages labor hours more effectively than ever before with Tableau Server based dashboards. Previously, it was difficult to make the connection between budget overruns and staff who were clocking in early and clocking out late. With just 4 IT resources and in just 70 days using Tableau Server, their team was able to integrate data from disparate sources and create something they call a staffing board. Now, the chief nursing executive and her teams can adjust staffing levels in real-time using data throughout the day. They’ve cut in half the amount of overtime paid. In fact, they’ve never gone over budget with staffing since implementing Tableau.

The common thread? Fast, easy and driven by the business users. Our customers are getting the benefits of rapid-fire business intelligence.

Filling out more boxes about segments covered and markets served by some mega-vendor is hardly a win for customers. In the end, what matters about strategic decisions is what customers can make of it.

Subscribe to our blog