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Tableau Launches Partner Program 2.0 Initiative Emphasizing Vertical Industry Expertise, Full-Cycle Customer Support

The business analytics vendor, at its annual conference this week, details plans for expanded partner training and certification, additional marketing resources and priority technical support.

Tableau Software is in the midst of a significant expansion of its channel partner program as the business analytics software developer calls on the channel to provide more complete customer solutions around the company's products and to develop deeper expertise in vertical industries and lines of business.

The Partner Program 2.0 initiative comes as demand for next-generation business analytics software is rapidly growing and many businesses that have long used legacy reporting and business intelligence tools are looking to migrate to newer technologies like Tableau.

"I think it's no secret to anybody in this room that demand, overall, for analytics and the need to work with data just continues to explode," said Tableau President and CEO Adam Selipsky (pictured), addressing some 750 partners Monday in a Partner Summit session preceding the start of the full conference. "And that, at the end of the day, is driving opportunity for all of us collectively to be building solutions and to be innovating on behalf of our customers."

[Related: Tableau Offers Development Partners A New API For Its Business Analytics Platform ]‚Äč

Tableau executives and channel partner executives attending this week's Tableau Conference customer and partner event in New Orleans said the expanded services and incentives for partners is a recognition that Tableau needs the channel if it is to take full advantage of those trends.

"We place a big focus on innovation," Selipsky continued. But we are well aware that we could never do this alone and the many, many partners of all different stripes represented in this room here today are absolutely vital to our customers' success," he said.

"It's a game-changer. I thought there was a real understanding that Tableau's success is based on partner success," said Martin McGarry, partner and chief data scientist at Bronson Consulting, an Ottawa-based analytics consultant that partners with Tableau, speaking after the morning's presentations. While he said that Tableau's partner efforts had felt more "ad hoc' until now, he said with the partner program upgrades, "It feels like a real partnership. This has a real partner program architecture built around partner success."

Rob Wellen, who heads up the data analytics business for SWC Technology Partners, an Oak Brook, Ill.-based solution provider that has worked with Tableau since 2015, said the Tableau executives' presentations this year were more substantive than in 2017, offering more details on what the vendor plans to offer partners.

"I can definitely see the benefits," he said of Tableau's stepped-up initiatives, adding that he planned to return to his company with a recommendation it continue investing in its Tableau business.

Seattle-based Tableau works with VARs, global and regional systems integrators, business analytics consultants, technology OEMs and other partner types. Stan de Boisset, who leads the company's Americas partner operations, said in a presentation that in the first half of 2018 sales through partners were up 39 percent year over year.

Many of the improvements are already in place. In the past year Tableau has increased the size of its partner team by 50 percent, hiring additional partner managers and sales consultants to work with partners and other people to work in partner operations, de Boisset said. The vendor also tripled its marketing funding for partners, boosted its demand generation efforts and increased the number of marketing campaigns targeting vertical industries and lines of business.

The company also launched a new, more functional partner portal with additional sales tools, training resources, deal registration, marketing campaign materials and customer license management capabilities. Also available is a new online partner demand center for planning and launching digital marketing campaigns.

Before the end of the year Tableau also will provide a partner conversion calculator to aid partners in developing sales quotes.

"I want to build the best partner ecosystem in the industry," said Dan Miller, Tableau executive vice president of worldwide sales, service and support, in a keynote speech.

Miller and other Tableau executives said the company is counting on partners to "go beyond license transaction" sales and increase their efforts in two areas: providing more capabilities for specific domains, meaning vertical industries and lines of business; and providing more complete solutions, including services and technical support, that focus on helping customers deploy Tableau software and develop long-term strategies to realize the full value of Tableau's technology. The latter also means an increased focus on boosting customer subscription renewals.

To that end, Tableau is adding new training and certification programs for partners and creating new support tier levels, Extended and Premium, that make technical account managers available to partners 24 hours a day.

"I'm signaling to you that our incentives, our messaging, our marketing [and] our training are going to be oriented to domain expertise and customer solutions," Miller said. He also cited the need to support customers who are embedding Tableau software within the services they provide to their customers.

SWC Technology Partners’ Wellen concurred with Tableau's emphasis on the partner role in ensuring customer success. Many businesses are struggling with "data literacy" and getting full value out of data analytics, he said, noting that change management services are in high demand right now. And he agreed with Tableau's position that vertical industry expertise will be increasingly important.

Bronson Consulting’s Martin was especially appreciative of the move to give partners direct access to technical support resources, rather than having to go through customer support. "So we'll have a direct channel and not have to wait," he said.

Many of the changes to the partner program are based on partner feedback that called for additional marketing and demand generation resources, making it easier for partners to manage their Tableau business, provide more access to technical resources, and better support for partners who operate with a hybrid partner business model, said Ed Dolman, who manages Tableau's EMEA partner operations, in a presentation to partners.

Through 2019 Tableau plans to triple the size of its professional services training staff and share more Tableau tools for developing bundled solutions and services, said Scott Kubicki, who manages Tableau's customer solutions operations. "Partners are essential to ensuring that our customers realize the full value of Tableau," he said, also in a presentation.

Kubicki added that while Tableau does have a consulting services business, it will focus on a couple of specific areas such as data governance and security, leaving most opportunities to the channel. "We do not want to compete with partners. That's not our intent at all."

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