Often large organisations struggle with where Tableau developers should sit. This could also apply to any other reporting software, the likes of Power BI, Qlik, etc. As some technology is involved (i.e. Tableau) there is often a strong argument to lump it in with IT.

However I believe this is incorrect. The optimal place for Tableau Developers within an organisation is to be embedded within the team of dashboard users. Therefore the only time when Tableau Developers would fit within IT would be when the audience of the dashboards is IT.

Tableau development is a business role.  The better Tableau developers I have come across are business people with technical knowledge. Tableau development teams generally work in partnership with an accompanying IT team but not as part of that IT team.

Obviously strong technical knowledge is required to be a top Tableau developer, both to know how to use Tableau software and generally good database / ETL skills are useful.

However to really excel in the role the key is what information is provided to the business. In other words the quality of the reports; the information they provide.

  • Do the reports add value?
  • Do they fully support decision making?
  • Are they simple to understand?

To produce top class reporting it’s essential to understand what information the business users need (which isn’t necessarily what they think they want), why they need it and how they use it. This level of business understanding is harder to acquire sat away from the business in an IT function.

Communication with users is critical to success. Sitting alongside the users simplify this significantly. At the best of times communication between business people and technical people is often challenging, introducing physical distance complicates this even further.

Perhaps the organisational decision makers should also picture Tableau slightly differently. I believe Tableau, as a company, would like to see themselves viewed similarly to Excel, with everyone in an organisation having Tableau Desktop on their machines, as Excel is today. Would it make sense for everyone who builds models in Excel to sit within IT?