How GM Supports Tableau Server Across 6 Continents

GM: two letters that represent 212,000 employees in 50 languages across 23 time zones. Though General Motors is synonymous with trucks and automobiles, they were not at Tableau Conference to talk cars. Instead, over 200 people attended Senior Platform Engineer Jeffrey Rodgers' presentation to learn how GM manages Tableau Server as a core business intelligence platform across the globe.

For several years, various business units within GM used Tableau Desktop for data analysis independently of one another. In 2011, with the help of internal champions, GM upgraded and standardized on Tableau Server. With their enterprise deployment live across the globe supporting multiple organizations within the company, a more robust governance system was required. Combining industry best practices with existing internal norms (along with a little trial and error), GM was able to create a powerful new system. Jeff's presentation focused on insights discovered while architecting the system, summarized here in three key takeaways.

  • Usage and Access Policies

    Jeff and his team have documentation for any person who touches Tableau at GM, including themselves. Documents cover everything: appropriate use guidelines, data security, registration policy, institutional best practices, education and certifications, etc. This ensures all information being shared and processes used are consistent throughout the organization. Creating this documentation took years, but it was time well spent. For almost any situation, Jeff, his team, and any other Tableau users at GM have the information they need to address it. These documents also help answer questions and concerns on the use of new technology or management processes.

  • Administration and Management Processes

    While usage and access policies apply to users and IT alike, these administration and management processes are only for the IT group (though documentation specific to IT is equally in-depth). Beyond just documentation, Jeff and his team have come to rely on plain old checklists. Whether its a maintenance release or simple troubleshooting, Jeff and GM benefit greatly by being methodical with their checklists.

  • Communication Plan

    One of the most critical components to making Server support and governance successful is communication. GM's first Tableau users made communication a priority early on. By evangelizing Tableau internally, they made others curious, more easily engaging and supporting early adopters. From those early days of only a few dozen people talking internally about Tableau, GM now has weekly internal meet ups that can have attendance in the hundreds!

It's tough to find a better global example than GM when talking about deploying Tableau Server at scale. Jeff did an excellent job laying out key insights learned over the past several years, while also digging deep into the details. The round of applause he received from his enterprise peers where much deserved.

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