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Kevin, I'm not sure if anyone answered your questions, but I'm happy to add my 2 cents.
I normally would suggest having your single point of truth within your database, that way you can connect multiple tools to one point within your organization. Even though you might build something in Excel and something in Tableau, having data staged in a database will allow you a place to pull the exact same raw data for either of the tools. If you do that you can avoid having published data sources and have a data connection directly to your backend. You can still do published sources and have them refresh on an automatic schedule. Granted if you use multiple tools you still have the issue of building things incorrectly and having mismatching numbers.
If you refresh a published data source it will refresh the data source on the server, if multiple workbooks connect to that published data source, you are correct that multiple workbooks will be updated.
You can do one production server with a folder for development. Most development should happen within the desktop product, once a workbook has been put together it can be pushed to the server for final testing. If you don't want to manage multiple environments, having a folder for development might provide the least amount of maintenance. If you have a large team and critical reports, then having two separate server environments and only a select few members to do the publishing to the production server might provide you with the most control (you can also do this separation using sites).
The hierarchy of Tableau is: Server -> Sites -> Projects -> Workbooks -> Worksheets/dashboards. Sites are separated on the server (however users can access different sites on the same server), projects are like folders (only 1 level deep), and workbooks and worksheets/dashboards are what you see when using the developer product.
I hope that helps!
Russell, I greatly appreciate your thorough response. I was leaning toward your point of view over the past month, but getting feedback from the community is comforting and my thinking coming from left field.
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Also the newer versions of Tableau have a basic version control, version control might provide a little more comfort with having some development happening on a production environment.
Say Hello to Versioning in Tableau 9.3 | Tableau Software
When you purchase server you are able to install your licenses on a development server, so development server is more of additional maintenance and the cost of the system.
Also check out this site on Tableau, you can probably find some good documentation on rolling out Tableau server for an organization. http://www.tableau.com/drive
Best of luck!
I have seen the version control information, thanks. Also, we did use the Drive document and had a 'Rapid' install of the server with direct Tableau assistance.
I was looking for a sense of how best to manage day to day development / QA / promotion (SOP) for a team of Tableau Desktop licensed users. Your response has been a great help in pointing us on the right path to be sure we arrive at a solution that works for development teams throughout our enterprise.