I lead an analytics department within a healthcare provider in England and I was recently having a Tableau catch up with one of my peers from another organisation and we got onto the subject of staff development. I spoke of my passion about developing a local Tableau Centre of Excellence and how one of the ways we were doing this within my organisation was through allowing all of my Tableau analysts to complete the Desktop Qualified Associate Exam. I was completely shocked and surprised when the person responded by asking "why would you want to do that?! Surely you are just increasing the likelihood they will leave to be paid more working with Tableau in another organisation."

 

It got me thinking, if he is thinking like that, how many other people do not appreciate the benefits of supporting their staff to participate in Tableau qualifications? So, having both sponsored my staff to complete a Tableau qualification and also having recently completed the Desktop Qualified Associate (DQA) exam myself, here are my top five reasons as to why completing a Tableau qualification is a good idea:

 

1. Expanding your knowledge

Let's face it, if you use Tableau within your workplace the chances are you will have a common way of doing things and as such there may be elements of Tableau that you use less than others or are even completely unaware of. Having completed the DQA exam I can personally vouch for the benefit of having to learn a common syllabus; for example within my organisation 99% of our data sources come either direct from our SQL Data Warehouse or from published Tableau Extracts. There is little need in my day to day workload to cleanse Excel files for use with Tableau, this means I was unaware of the Data Interpreter functionality; well not any more having completed the DQA exam! It is fair to say the DQA exam could never cover every single aspect of Tableau Desktop and nor does it pretend to, but what it does do is cover the core Tableau Desktop functionality, challenging you to expand your base knowledge of Tableau and through this process you will no doubt learn one or two new things or, at very least, brush up on knowledge that you may not use every day.

 

2. Continuous improvement

Tableau as a brand isn't just about a product, it is also about a sense of continuous improvement and helping people connect with their data, whether this be the amazing content available through Tableau Public, the issuing of free licenses to students or the work done to support social positive impacts, as recently recognised by Fortune.Com (https://t.co/89MZJpFJr7). A Tableau Exam is a great way of encouraging personal continuous improvement; allowing individuals to have a tangible asset at the end of their learning that they can benefit from for many years after taking their exam. What I have found is that the exam has helped ignite something inside many of my analysts so that their learning isn't just restricted to the process of preparing for their exam. Many of them have actively chosen to carry on participating in learning after their exam; meaning my organisation continues to reap benefits that far exceed the cost of the relatively small financial investment required to fund each of the exams.

 

3. Staff reward and recognition

As a Head of Department working within a publicly funded organisation there isn't much flexibility in giving my staff financial reward to recognise their excellent performance and what they have all achieved in our first two years of using Tableau Desktop and Server; however reward and recognition doesn't have to be all about money. Yes of course completing a Tableau exam costs money, but this is a small, one off investment, compared to salary increases that can be annually recurring.

 

When implementing Tableau we didn't employ any additional staff; all of our 260+ Server Workbooks have been developed by our substantive Analysts and all of them have put in many additional worked hours to learn new Tableau skills and participate in community events such as user groups or webinars. One of the small ways I could recognise this commitment and ever expanding expertise was to offer them the opportunity to complete a formal Tableau Qualification. After a year of using Tableau, every one of my Analysts spoke of their pride and enjoyment in using a market leading Business Intelligence Tool (previously they had to put up with Microsoft Excel and SQL); if they enjoy using the product so much, to me, it was the natural next step to allow them all to achieve some formal recognition of their new found skills.

 

4. A sense of pride and achievement

As individuals we all want to be the best we can be; I see my analysts turning up to work and doing an amazing job, day in day out. Yet sometimes individuals can get 'bogged down' in the pressures of day to day work and forget to celebrate the day to day achievements that are achieved, no matter how large or small they may be. By allowing my analysts to complete the DQA exam I saw them actively taking pride in the skills they were learning and there was a tangible sense of achievement when they passed their exam, something that quickly spread as more and more of the team completed their exam. This positive atmosphere is something I am determined not to waste; it has to become the 'norm', where by my analysts can continuously celebrate the positive impact they make to the delivery of patient care and the contribution they make to help the organisation be the best it possibly can be.

 

5. Making the most of the community

I refer to the community in two ways;

 

- Internal team community I was overwhelmed by the way having ten of my analysts complete the DQA exam created a real sense of teamwork and an internal support network for each of the individuals taking the exam. The analysts would hold open drop in sessions during which any one of them could pop into a room during lunch and ask each other questions ahead of their exam, or review many of the online exam preparation blogs and guides. Following each one of the team completing their exam, there was a desire for that person to actively help the next person; sharing their experience of the exam and adding to an internal top tips document that had been created. Of course there was a small element of competition, with everyone wanting to get the best possible exam score, but what was far stronger was a desire to celebrate each others achievement and to share the good news every time one of the team passed their exam.

 

- The Tableau community The team have always made the most of the amazing content available through the Tableau community, whether that be Tableau.Com, blogs, YouTube, webinars or Twitter; however completing the DQA exam really encouraged the Team to not only watch and read content available through the Community but also actively learn from it and put it into practice. For example just a week before five of my analysts were due to take their DQA exam, The Information Lab Data School published an online video sharing some top tips on what to expect from the exam and how best to prepare for it (Tips for Preparing for the Tableau QA Exam - YouTube ).

 

So in summary my advice to any individual or organisation considering completing a Tableau Exam would be to do it! The benefits are not just a formal Tableau qualification but also, and more importantly, the reinforcement of what makes Tableau great; continuous improvement and sharing your knowledge and expertise with others. Individuals do not leave organisations due to gaining an exam qualification, they leave due to personal choices and personal ambitions; indeed through investing in Tableau Server and funding DQA qualifications my organisation has seen Analyst turnover decrease by two thirds over the last two years.