A Forrester recommendation in a recent report is coming to fruition. In our Augmented BI Holds New Promises, But It’s Still Early Days report, we recommended to “find the right balance between customization and automation in NLG.” We also described two forms of natural language generation (NLG) for analytics: short-form NLG — automated but limited to short narratives/explanations and not customizable — and long-form NLG — mostly rules- and templates-based, which requires authoring and updates, but is highly customizable and can be used to generate complex content of any length. We also mentioned that “finding a perfect middle ground is hard. You may even end up with two NLG solutions: a template-based one to automate data storytelling and presentations (aka long-form NLG) and a machine-learning-based one with shorter narratives (aka short-form NLG) but that also is more adaptive and learns and improves automatically based on new data and user feedback.”

Confirming this trend, this week, Salesforce and Narrative Science (one of the leading NLG vendors) announced an agreement for Salesforce to acquire Narrative Science and to incorporate additional NLG functionality into Tableau. Tableau already has its own short-form NLG capability, which Salesforce has been steadily improving over the last two years, based on its Tableau CRM platform (recently rebranded to Einstein Discovery, partially based on the BeyondCore platform that Salesforce acquired in 2016).

Now, Tableau customers will be able to take advantage of both short-form and long-form NLG depending on their use case. There’s also icing on the cake — long-form NLG platforms can play an important role in enterprise business intelligence (BI) fabric, and indeed, Forrester sees an increasing number of enterprises using multiple BI platforms but standardizing on a single long-form NLG solution (other known vendors in the space include Arria NLG, Automated Insights, AX Semantics, and Yseop).

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