Land & Expand - Interview with Tableau
Tableau (NYSE: DATA) helps people see and understand their own data, transforming it into actionable insights. Customers can build dashboards and perform ad-hoc analyses in just a few clicks. They can share their work with anyone and make an impact on their business. From global enterprises to early-stage startups and small businesses, more than 65,000 customer accounts around the world use Tableau, and more than 300,000 people use Tableau Public - a free data sharing platform - to create, publish and share interactive visualisations online.
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How did you find your GM opportunity? What was your hiring story?Prior to Tableau I had a varied background, accumulating a range of skills that helped form and develop my career. I started in technical consulting, then marketing, then sales and direct field sales, and then into the world of partnering. I found myself working for a number of early stage US companies. I had often set up indirect channels alongside direct routes to market. In my experience, I found it was often more important for US companies to set up partnerships in Europe compared to their home market.
Despite all this experience and networking, funnily enough I found the opportunity at Tableau via LinkedIn, and went through a hiring process. I have been active in the world of data and analytics for many years, and having worked at a number of early stage companies in EMEA, I felt I could help scale the business.
What was Tableau’s approach to opening up in London?At the point I joined the business, the foundations of the European business had been laid. There were a few people in London, Dublin, and France. In all, there were about 25 people in serviced offices. My challenge was to drive growth.
Why did the company choose London?There was a degree of due diligence, but there was never a great deal of doubt that London would be the hub. The tech market is more mature here than in other parts of Europe, so we wanted to be close to early adopters. There are also obvious cultural similarities with the US, but the access to talent and language skills really stood out as crucial in our choice. London offers a large amount of smart, energetic, ambitious, multilingual people - which makes it the perfect hub location.
A lot of our inside sales is over the phone & web, so having the teams co-located together just makes sense for better business. It’s only when we decide to expand our field sales footprint in a region that we then look into opening a local office.
How have you imported the company culture into Europe. Have you tweaked it at all?The Tableau culture is a real strength of the business. Our genesis began with three founders - a brilliant computer scientist, an Academy-Award winning professor and a savvy business leader with a passion for data - who uncovered a clear need for analysing information. They achieved a breakthrough innovation as part of a Stanford project. Based on a mission to help people see and understand their data, Tableau has stayed true to this ethos since our creation, and it continues to drive the company today.
I think it can be easy for Europeans to focus on all the things that are different in a trans-Atlantic company, but I have never been a fan of that. I have always thought it is much easier to focus on the the stuff that is the same, there usually 80% plus that is pretty much identical. When I joined Tableau, it was already one of the most successful software companies of all time, so why wouldn’t I just try to replicate those parts that made it successful, and minimise the changes?
There are now over 400 people in EMEA, and 3,400 people worldwide, but we still bring everyone together in Seattle for a global company meeting and sales kick-off each year. It’s a big investment but I feel it’s really necessary and positive for team building and the culture. I run a similar all-EMEA meeting in region as well to maintain a strong sense of team and identity as our business grows.
What was Tableau's approach to opening up in London?We initially brought over a couple of salespeople from the US who knew how to get stuff done, who knew the Tableau way of selling, and knew the company culture. Putting them alongside our local team gave us a fast start, and it’s a model I have repeated as we have deployed resources in other countries.
About a year later, the company sent over a VP who acted as local mentor for me for a couple of years. This really ramped up our ability to get stuff done. He was a right hand man, and helped us avoid pitfalls. After that, one of the founders actually moved to London for a year.
That’s really interesting. Tableau is the first example where a founding team member has moved to Europe to support the expansion personallyYes, there was a desire to get to know the global business better, and I believe this was really instrumental in forming the local culture. He ran Tableau worldwide from London, but wasn’t seeking to run the European business, so it allowed me the space to perform my role. It was such a positive experience - he absorbed so much about the challenges of running the business in international markets and we all learnt a huge amount from him. This level of commitment from a founder is unique in my experience. We were really spoilt!
Many companies have different structures for the regional teams, how are you organised?I’m based in the Sales organisation. This is wide reaching, including technical pre-sales, post sales consultancy and support. I report into the EVP of Worldwide Sales. We also have finance, legal and marketing in region, all with their own Directors and senior leaders. I chair the overall cross functional European leadership team.
Did your organization have a European strategy mapped out for you to execute or did you have to create one?The business has evolved in the past year due to the shift in the market - companies now realise they need to empower their employees with data. A few years ago it was exclusively a land and expand strategy - back then every business had a business intelligence tool, but it was built and run by IT who were pushing out reports, but there was a long lead time for any customisation. For small companies, their solution for data analysis was by manually crunching data using Excel.
Our early approach was finding individuals with specific pain points, then focusing on resolving those pain points and then helping to develop them into champions who would identify other people in their organisations who we could help. This approach developed a highly enthusiastic customer base because it was such a huge productivity boost when they switched to Tableau.
Today, we are seeing organisations use Tableau throughout the business and are now looking to us to help them deliver it as an enterprise-wide platform, so that comes with a top-down sales approach. The advantage we have is that we are already embedded due to the historical approach, but are conducting more C-level conversations and helping customers to address increasingly strategic challenges.
We hear a lot about the ‘tech community’ in London - what has your experience been?It’s another selling point for London. Historically lots of people have been attracted to London, and London continues to be an attractive place. We do lots of hiring via referrals. We get a constant stream from London’s business schools which are a great feeder system. I’m excited in our investment in apprenticeships - in the early years we couldn’t take people straight from uni - we weren’t big enough to absorb them, but changing that has been a focus and I’m reasonably pleased with our progress.
Our customer base is extremely vibrant and we run a UK customer conference each year, which hosts over 1,000 people for 3 days. Our next conference will take place July 3-5, 2018 at the Excel Centre: https://tc-europe18.tableau.com/. The energy is amazing - really buzzy.
Tableau is also helping develop the next generation of data workers with its Tableau Academic programs: https://www.tableau.com/academic From April 2016 - September 2017, more than 250,000 students and instructors have used Tableau in the classroom through Tableau's Academic Programs. Universities using Tableau to teach academics in the London area include: Oxford University, Imperial College, UCL, LSE.
We also offer out the use of our office space as much as we can to host user groups and meetups like the data + women group.
What has been the hardest challenge to solve?That possibly lies ahead. What does it mean for London when Brexit eventually happens? Will we still have access to the skills we need? This is a concern, as it is for many businesses here in the UK.
What one or two things really moved the needle for you?As I mentioned, having our founder based in London, and the investment by Tableau in parachuting in people at all levels to work from the London office for a period of time early on. I don’t think we would have accelerated as fast as we did without that.
I felt like I really learnt from that and followed the same approach when we opened up in Germany. I looked at who were our best cultural ambassadors in London and sent them to help set up our German operations.
We are very proud about the success of our customer conferences. Our last global conference welcomed 15,000 people attend in Las Vegas - we always run one in London as well. Its a real coming together of evangelists and champions who are using data to move their businesses forward. It was created by a really strong community that is passionate about our technology - the support and enthusiasm we have from our community has been a real driver for us.
Our Land and Expand interview series is produced by James Parton, the former Director of Twilio Europe. If you would like to participate in a future interview, please get in touch.