How the Tableau Partner Network leader empowers global partners with data and analytics

One of the most important and foundational parts of the Tableau ecosystem is the Tableau Partner Network, a program for resellers, services and technology partners (ISVs) worldwide. It’s what helps Tableau expand our footprint, serve customers and is an incredibly important part of our mission to help everyone see and understand their data.

In 2019, Julie Bennani joined Tableau to lead the design and launch of the Tableau Partner Network to drive consistency of focus and performance across our global partner ecosystem. With an impressive background around partner go-to-market strategy, design and operationalization from Accenture, Microsoft and SAP, Julie was looking for the next partner leadership opportunity and was interested in learning more about data and analytics. 

A Pacific Northwest resident who loves sports, hiking and reading, Julie spent the past two years with the WW Partner organization landing the Tableau Partner Network. She was recently recognized for the third year in a row by CRN on its 2022 Channel Chiefs list, an award for executives who excel in crafting and growing their company’s partner ecosystems. Here, Julie tells us more about her plans for Tableau partners, especially growing our synergy with Salesforce, and our mission to make data more accessible for everyone.

Tableau Partner Network leader
Tableau Partner Network leader Julie Bennani

Why are partners so important to Tableau?

Julie: A strong partner ecosystem helps accelerate and expand demand generation, sales, implementation and customer success impact overall. We wouldn’t be able to afford or hire enough direct sales people who can cover all segments and have all the vertical/domain expertise and customer relationships. Partner ecosystems are an extension of our Sales, Service and Customer Success teams and are significant force multipliers. 

For example, we have over 1,200 partners in the Tableau Partner Network, many of which are large organizations like Accenture, Slalom and CDW. On the very low end, if we have just two accredited sellers in each partner, that’s 2,600 additional sellers talking to customers for Tableau, almost matching our current sales team we’ve built up over decades, and we know our managed partners have many more Tableau sellers than just two. We’re pushing for much broader activation than that and combined with our growing “Partner With” culture, can be a huge multiplier for Tableau.

Secondly, as Tableau continues to broaden our offerings as a platform and given the space in which we operate, which ranges from the user application/interface layer all the way to infrastructure storage and processing, we need a broad set of partner capabilities. Also with Tableau Prep and Tableau Data Management and our Embedded capabilities, we can become a platform where other software solutions are created from. In the embedded business, over 50% of the solutions being shaped are a lot of OEM software business models, some managed service business models, and some ISV [independent software vendors] business models, similar to partnership models in the Salesforce AppExchange, with nuance. This also creates a multiplier effect of “innovation on our software innovation” to provide specific use case solutions to our customers and profitable monetization options for our partners. 

You were charged with shaping Tableau’s existing partner ecosystem into a more cohesive approach via a global program. The Tableau Partner Network was announced at TC 2019, but the first version landed in summer 2021. Why the multiyear approach?

Julie: We did it in phases to ensure we could both successfully execute what was a significant business and operational change for Tableau and the business changes it created for our partners. When I joined, I was the first dedicated global partner leader in many years. There had not been a focus for a while at a consistent global level on this. 

We realized the best way to scale and focus was to structure the program by major future-relevant partner business models and aligning performance metrics partners needed to achieve (“gives”) with complementary benefits (“gets”) to build a healthy, win-win partnership structure. We also needed much more precise alignment on what geographies a partner was truly investing resources and focus into, so we required partners to contract with us on a geo-based level versus the historic practice of giving global contracts for all partners. All of that is massive change for Tableau and our partners.

We work hard to balance relevance to Tableau’s sales and customer success needs with appropriate pacing of change and early telegraphing of any disruptive strategy to partners so we minimize disruption to their business models and provide the right window for them to adjust. This pace of change also needs to factor in what we can deliver well, whether it's sales and operational policies, marketing components, field coverage, to the systems to support scaled partner engagement. There’s a lot that went into those changes, and that’s why we took it in stages. 

How do you see us working with Salesforce?

Julie: We're ramping up the capacity and capability of our Services partners within Tableau, which is important for enterprise joint-selling and complex implementations. That has been the core of the Salesforce partner ecosystem over the last decade. There's a lot we're learning from that team and just like they are leveraging a lot from Tableau on resell, we are looking to leverage a lot in this area from those learnings as we can. 

The upcoming year will be one of significant internal integration with Salesforce to drive toward a more cohesive go-to-market approach in enterprise. As I mentioned previously, we're co-building Salesforce’s global resell approach (referred to as indirect).  Reselling with partners requires a lot of different policies, processes, system capabilities, and in general, an alternative operating model. You have to factor it into your pricing/monetization strategy upfront. There are a lot of different expectations on what the partner does pre- and post-sale, including renewals. So it is very important that we work together to build this up.

What are some other ways we're looking to grow the Tableau Partner Network?

Julie: The team and I are interested in where we're taking the Tableau Exchange because it could be a critical asset and monetization enabler for our partner ecosystem.  With the launch at Tableau Conference 2022, we can now start showcasing not just technology partner extensions and connectors, but solution partner repeatable offerings that differentiate individual partners, highlight their customer and use case focus, and help them generate demand for their targeted offerings. We're spending quite a bit of time with the development team that's spearheading Tableau Exchange to understand what the capabilities and target solution offering focus is so we can align our 1,200-plus partners behind it to scale faster and more broadly across the addressable customer space. 

Finally, a major area of critical focus is how we’re driving adoption of best practices and insights from our professional services and support engagements into Tableau Blueprint, our methodology for building the capabilities to create a successful, data-driven organization. All our partners, especially our top managed partners, need to stay current on Tableau’s latest technology and positioning so we are aligned in the market and ensure customers get the latest technology for their business needs. 

You are a CRN 2022 Channel Chief, part of an exclusive group of executives who excel at building partner programs. What does this mean to you?

Julie: It's an honor. This will be my third year representing Tableau on this list and an external signal on the importance of this role in our company. I’ve had many roles within the industry, but this is my first Channel Chief role and was a large reason I took it! 

I love working on go-to-market strategy, operational design and landing scale approaches for execution. This is an ever-evolving space that requires strong, complex decision-making, which I love. It’s really fun, plus I’ve met so many great leaders from partner organizations who are deeply passionate about Tableau’s technology, our Tableau Community, and driving impact with data for positive change. This true passion and evangelism by our partners is a rare thing in the industry. It is also why I don’t like using the word “channel” when referring to our partners—it sounds mechanical and tactical. These are truly partnerships that we both mutually, deeply care about. 

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