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Analysis: Tableau Shakes Things Up with New Leadership

Data visualization and discovery specialist Tableau Software announced that cofounder Christian Chabot would be relinquishing his position as CEO. Analysts see plenty to like in Tableau’s incoming CEO, Adam Selipsky.

Data visualization and discovery specialist Tableau Software shook things up this week.

On Monday, Tableau announced that cofounders Christian Chabot and Chris Stolte would be relinquishing their current positions within the company.

Leadership Reorganization Leading to New Phase

Chabot, Tableau’s longtime president and CEO, will step down from both roles as of September 16. Chabot will retain his position as chairman of Tableau’s board. To replace him, Tableau tapped Adam Selipsky, former vice president of marketing, sales, and support for Amazon Web Services.

“I will continue to serve as chairman and cofounder and in this role I’ll continue working with Adam and our executive team on long-term planning and customer evangelism and other impact areas,” Chabot said during a conference call. “With this change, I will focus on areas where I can have the biggest impact while Tableau also brings in the additional executive talent it needs to scale.”

Selipsky is the sole external hire in Tableau’s shake-up. Stolte, Tableau’s current chief development officer, will transition to the role of “technical adviser.” Andrew Beers, currently Tableau’s vice president of product development, will replace him. Tableau also promoted Francois Ajenstat, currently vice president of product management, to a new role as chief product officer.

Chabot said the reorg positions Tableau for the next phase in its growth: becoming “the new standard” in business analytics. “We found the leader who will lead us through that next phase in Adam Selipsky. Adam has spent the past decade building Amazon Web Services, one of the most successful business technology platforms in the world,” he said.

Recent Earnings Disappointing

Tableau’s shake-up comes on the heels of a rough 2016 for the onetime highflier. Tableau’s stock has lost almost half of its value this year, plummeting from $94 a share in early January to a low of $37 in February -- coinciding with the release of Tableau’s disappointing Q4 2015 earnings.

Tableau’s earnings continued to disappoint: it posted a big loss ($45.6 million) for Q1 of this year, followed by an even bigger loss ($47.5 million) for Q2. In Q1, license revenue grew by 14 percent year-over-year; in Q2, that number was a more promising 20 percent.

With the losses compounding and Tableau’s license growth slowing to less spectacular -- but still impressive -- levels, the consensus among market watchers was that the leadership that had taken Tableau from $0 to $800 million in annual revenues wasn’t able to take it to $1 billion and beyond. By the same token, analysts see plenty to like in Tableau’s incoming CEO, Adam Selipsky.

New CEO Brings Focus on Cloud and Enterprise

“We are impressed that both Tableau founders were willing to pass the baton, that Tableau was willing to think big enough to secure someone at Selipsky's level, and that Selipsky was this confident in Tableau's future,” wrote Deutsche Bank research analyst Karl Keirstead in a research bulletin.

“Selipsky revamped the AWS sales effort to make it more enterprise grade, which is exactly what Tableau needs. The upside in our view outweighs the risks ... that leadership and operational changes could come and that Selipsky doesn't have a direct CEO or data analytics background.”

Chabot specifically cited cloud as one of two major focal areas for Tableau under Selipsky. The other, he said, will be selling to (and supporting) enterprise IT buyers. “Our belief is that this industry ... like CRM ... will go predominantly to the cloud over the next 10 years,” he said.

“From conversations so far and getting to know Adam in the recruiting process, I know there are at least two areas that are top of mind for him, one of which is cloud, but also enterprise .... If we get those two big pushes right over the coming years, Tableau is going to flourish.”

Deutsche Bank’s Keirstead cited Tableau’s ostensible strength in the cloud as both a potential draw for Selipsky and a vote of long-term confidence for Tableau.

“If AWS was likely to disrupt Tableau with its own QuickSight [BI service] product, we doubt that Selipsky would have been this confident in Tableau's future,” he noted.

About the Author

Stephen Swoyer is a technology writer with 20 years of experience. His writing has focused on business intelligence, data warehousing, and analytics for almost 15 years. Swoyer has an abiding interest in tech, but he’s particularly intrigued by the thorny people and process problems technology vendors never, ever want to talk about. You can contact him at [email protected].

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