Getting full value for your investment in Tableau requires much more than completing a PO, getting a new server spun up, and installing the software. While Tableau’s mission is “to help people see and understand their data”, all too often, implementation efforts fail to fully account for the “people” side of the equation.
The fact is that any change in technology requires a change in behavior – if you want to get the full intended value for your investment. As anyone with a dusty exercise bike in the garage can tell you, even the most top-of-the-line technology is worthless unless people actually use it.
In our experience, when an organization is disappointed by lackluster Tableau utilization, the source of the issue is rarely technical. Instead, it’s usually the human aspects of implementation that contribute to less-than-optimal results. We need to apply the same discipline and rigor to managing the human elements of a Tableau deployment as we do to the technical objectives for the project. Below we discuss 5 common barriers to Tableau success that we’ve experienced, as well as a few tips on how to avoid them.
1. Poorly Defined Objectives & KPIs
One of the most common mistakes we see in Tableau adoption efforts is lack of alignment on the objectives of implementing a new analytics platform. While it’s necessary to define any installation project in terms of schedule, budget, and technical specifications, completing a Tableau installation on time and within budget doesn’t mean that the business value of your analytics investment has been realized. It’s vital to ensure that everyone on the project team is aligned around the business objectives that should be achieved as a result of the purchase, down to a granular outline of who will impacted by a new analytics platform, and how you expect each of them to interact with Tableau to support their workflow. As the saying goes, what gets measured, gets managed – but you can’t measure what you haven’t defined.
2. No Sustained Leadership Support
You may have one or more project sponsors who sign the check to pay for Tableau or show up at launch meetings, but the most effective model of sponsorship is much more active. As leaders, sponsors hold the key to accelerating Tableau adoption. Have you secured leadership buy-in to the strategic value of modern BI to your organization? Do they clearly understand both why and how they should model and reinforce the importance of data-driven decision making? It’s essential to partner with leaders at all levels – managers, directors, VPs, etc – to drive the human behaviors required to realize the value of any new technology.
3. Weak Motivation to Change
Contrary to popular belief, resistance to new technology is not a matter of liking or disliking a particular tool, or even change in general. It’s a function of disruption – to an existing process, team structure, workflow, etc. It’s very common for IT teams to pilot a replication of existing reports in Tableau as a way of easing the transition to a new tool. Unfortunately, this often ends up backfiring, as stakeholders resist learning to navigate an entirely new platform to just get the same old reports they’ve always gotten via the legacy platform. New users are more likely to be motivated by dashboards that generate new insights, and/or answer questions that were either impossible or very tedious to answer previously. Using positive and negative reinforcement strategies will also have a powerful effect on motivation. Work with both your end users and sponsors to identify what reinforcements will entice people to try out Tableau and integrate it into their workflow to achieve new performance expectations.
4. Ineffective Training
Training is a huge part of the adoption of any new technology, but not all training is effective. The content, delivery mechanisms, and even the timing of training are all factors in a successful training strategy. Ineffective training wastes time and money by delivering irrelevant content to a given group of users, or delivering information too soon in the implementation process for it to be put to use and practiced before it’s forgotten. And woe betide any users who joins the company after training is “completed”! An effective training strategy is thoughtfully designed and timed to onboard users of all levels – Creators, Explorers, and Viewers – giving them the skills and confidence required to start using Tableau to ask questions and generate new insights from their data right away.
5. Ineffective Communications
Anyone who works in marketing can tell you that it takes more than one message to get a consumer to change their behavior. So it’s no surprise that a single launch email typically fails to bring flocks of users to your shiny new analytics platform. Top-down, one-way communications are generally not enough to motivate people to adopt a new technology. An effective communication campaign focuses on building – and growing – a community of diverse users, by targeting the right message to the right audience at the right time. Including a feedback mechanism in all communications gives you valuable insight into your users’ reactions and thoughts, helping you surface and manage resistance as it crops up. For every user who comes to you with a concern or a question, there are likely several others who just quietly gave up, so be proactive about soliciting your users’ input.
Installing Tableau is the easy part. Building, maintaining, and growing a thriving culture of analytics is where many organizations fall short. But by planning for – and overcoming – these 5 barriers, you’ll be on the right track for adoption success!