Are you a Tableau developer or tableau artist?


A browse on LinkedIn presents post after post of artistic, very well designed and highly complex Tableau dashboards. Many of the dashboards shared on LinkedIn often are more works of art than dashboards you would see in the corporate environment. The producers of this artwork are clearly highly skilled in the Tableau product. Producing this complex art must take a significant amount of time and effort.

I’m appreciative of their efforts to push the boundaries of the product. Doubtless the sharing of the techniques helps improve the knowledge of all willing to seek it out.

Tableau in the business world

Which brings me to the main point of this article. Is the technical expertise to produce Tableau artwork necessary to succeed in the Tableau development world? The purpose of Tableau developers is to provide useful and informative business information. Tableau is a tool to enable this. However the real skill, and what I have found to be a very rare skill, is interacting with the business and understanding what information would add value to them. Some of the Tableau artists I have had the pleasure to work with don’t have this skill. They may be technically outstanding but, to succeed in the corporate world, more is required .

These business interactions should enable the skilled Tableau developer to form a strong understanding of what the business wants. It is normal for business users to struggle to articulate what information they would like. The reason for this is often quite simple; they generally aren’t clear in their own minds what information would be useful!

Embedding Tableau developers within the business is optimal. Sitting within the business, close to the users, opens up the communication channels.

On one project I was sitting very close to a sales team. During early discussions about data and what business information would be useful they were quite apathetic and disengaged. This made it difficult to get an idea about what we could provide that would be useful for them. However being physically sat alongside the business users did mean I sometimes heard them complaining about things. This helped me understand their issues. Once we understood their pain points after a while we were able to ease some of them. In the end that sales team converted to become some of our biggest evangelists.

Is Tableau similar to a paintbrush?

Can we compare Tableau with a paintbrush? What does the Mona Lisa and your living room wall have in common? A paintbrush was a key tool to add some colour to the canvas.

Similarly Tableau is a tool to create artwork and standard business dashboards. Just like art galleries don’t display living room walls, it is rare to find standard business dashboards on LinkedIn.

Just like the skills required to paint the Mona Lisa differ to the skills to paint a living room; the skills required to create Tableau art differ to the skills to create business Tableau dashboards.

I suppose the point I’m getting to is there is no need to be a Tableau artist to succeed in corporate Tableau development. Being able to listen and understand what the business wants with the ability to translate that into a simple and informative Tableau dashboard is the most important thing.

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