Tableau vs IBM Cognos Analytics: Compare Core BI Capabilities and More

IBM Cognos Analytics and Tableau are both well-known in the business intelligence (BI) software market. Tableau’s main offering is its visualization features with a modern interface and drag-and-drop abilities. IBM Cognos Analytics incorporates visualizations, but those features aren’t the software’s core focus. Rather, it has vast number of tools for an enterprise’s data experts.

In this post, we’ll compare Tableau and IBM Cognos Analytics on a few factors.

What are the Differences Between Tableau and IBM Cognos Analytics?

  • Tableau users can export reports into Excel via a third-party integration, while IBM Cognos Analytics users can do so directly into the software.
  • Tableau’s Explore Data feature provides a detailed explanation on a data point; IBM Cognos Analytics doesn’t offer this.
  • Tableau only has a 14-day free trial. Prospects can try IBM Cognos Analytics for 30 days.
  • Although both vendors provide a community forum and ticketing system for support, Tableau offers premium support, but IBM Cognos Analytics doesn’t.

Product Overviews

For a look at the basics, we’ve provided highlights from our own reviews of Tableau and IBM Cognos Analytics.

Tableau

Tableau provides all types of users with intuitive business intelligence (BI) tools to enhance data discovery and understanding. With simple drag-and-drop features, a user is able to easily access and analyze key data, create innovative reports and visualizations, and share critical insights across the company.

Tableau has three main products for robust data discovery:

  1. Tableau Desktop – Tableau Desktop is used to connect and analyze disparate data, and create highly innovative reports in just a few clicks.
  2. Tableau Server – Tableau Server allows users to securely collaborate and share critical insights and information through comprehensive dashboards created in Tableau Desktop or directly in Tableau Server.
  3. Tableau Cloud – Tableau Cloud is a cloud-hosted version of Tableau Server. It not only saves time and money by skipping hardware setup, Tableau Cloud also supports mobile access.

Tableau serves a variety of industries, including major corporations and banks, educational institutions and healthcare providers.

IBM Cognos Analytics

IBM Cognos Analytics is a cloud and on-premise-based business intelligence solution that offers users access to a wide range of business analytics functionality to help them make well-informed decisions, faster. It offers a full complement of essential analytics functions, including advanced dashboarding, data integration, reporting, exploration and data modeling.

Features Comparisons

Data Preparation

Tableau

Tableau offers support for hundreds of data connectors including online analytical processing (OLAP) and big data options (such as NoSQL, Hadoop) as well as cloud options. When users add data from multiple sources the relationships are determined by Tableau automatically. In addition, Tableau gives users the ability to modify data links or create them manually based on their company’s preferences.

Its Tableau Data Prep software allows users to prepare data for analysis, and it’s broken down into two modules: Tableau Prep Builder and Tableau Prep Conductor. With Tableau Prep Builder, users can connect their data from any source, and they can perform data-cleaning functions (e.g., changing the data value) via a visual interface. Tableau Prep also has smart features that automate typical data prep changes, such as grouping data. Note that Tableau Prep Builder is part of the Tableau Creator subscription.

IBM Cognos Analytics

IBM Cognos Analytics connects with multiple cloud and on-premise data sources, such as SQL databases, Google BigQuery and Amazon Redshift. In addition, users can import data via a spreadsheet or CSV file. Cognos Analytics has a feature, AI Assistant, with data cleaning and preparation, such as joining data, adding calculated fields and creating new tables.

Bottom Line

Both software solutions have similarly robust data connection and preparation features.

Data Visualizations and Dashboards

Tableau

Users can create a dashboard in a few clicks, including combining data sources and adding filters, and they can also share their dashboard with their colleagues.

Tableau has advanced dashboarding features, such as the Story Points (users arrange their data in a narrative style) and the Device Designer (dashboards are optimized for phones or tablets). In addition, Tableau Cloud’s Dashboard Starters feature allows users to develop dashboards by pulling in data from specific software (e.g., Salesforce, LinkedIn Sales Navigator, Oracle Eloqua, Marketo and ServiceNow) directly within Tableau. After a dashboard is created, users can set up thresholds in the data that trigger alerts, and they can specify who the alerts are sent to, as well as the type of notification (e.g., email notification).

IBM Cognos Analytics

With Cognos Analytics, users can set up dashboards and reports via a drag-and-drop interface, and they can share them with others via email or Slack. They can also set up reports with branded colors, fonts and logos, set up a delivery schedule and send the reports in Excel or PDF.

Bottom Line

Tableau and IBM Cognos Analytics lets users create dashboards easily and quickly. The main difference would be in report exporting capabilities: Tableau requires a third-party integration for exporting reports into Excel or Google Sheets, while downloading reports into Excel is available in IBM Cognos Analytics.

Natural Language Query (NLQ)

Tableau

Tableau’s Ask Data feature lets users type in a question and get an answer in the form of a visualization. As users are typing in a question, Ask Data provides guided search suggestions. This feature is also available in Salesforce as it give those users answers based on their CRM data. Tableau has another feature called Explain Data that deploys artificial intelligence to provide users a detailed explanation of a data point.

IBM Cognos Analytics

The AI Assistant allows users to ask a question and uses natural language to find those answers and then show them in a visualization. As users try to uncover any patterns or trends, the AI Assistant recommends new data joins and visualizations. There’s also the time series modeling feature to help users predict seasonal trends in the data.

Bottom Line

While both solutions have similar NLQ functionality, Tableau can provide more details of a particular data point, while IBM Cognos Analytics doesn’t.

Mobile Functionality

Tableau

The Tableau Mobile app lets users access any dashboards or reports that are published on Tableau Server or in Tableau Cloud. Each dashboard is mobile optimized, so users can search, filter or drill down into their data. They can also track their personalized key performance indicators (KPIs) with the Metrics feature. Tableau Mobile supports offline functionality, as well as a variety of authentication methods (e.g., SAML, OpenID Connect).

IBM Cognos Analytics

With the Cognos Analytics mobile app, users can quickly access their frequently used insights on one screen with the pinboard feature. They can then interact with the visualization, such as drilling down into the data and sharing those insights with their team. The app also has natural language features, where users can ask questions about their data with their voice. Users can also receive notifications about key metrics, and their team members can get notifications about data changes, too.

Bottom Line

The Ask Data feature isn’t available in Tableau Mobile, whereas IBM Cognos Analytics users can ask questions via voice.

Pricing

Tableau

Instead of basing the prices on its products, Tableau’s subscription strategy focuses on individual users and their data needs. Each subscription includes maintenance, product upgrades and support at one cost, so there are no surprise fees. Note that the pricing is based on annual billing.

  • Tableau Creator – Tableau Creator is designed for individual analysts and power users, and costs $70 per user, per month. It includes access to Tableau Desktop and Tableau Prep, and companies can purchase a single Creator license for either Tableau Server or Tableau Cloud. Note that Tableau offers the same price for Tableau Creator whether the software is deployed in the cloud or on premise.
  • Tableau Explorer – Tableau Explorer is designed for users that prefer governed self-service analytics instead of relying on data from others. It costs $35 per user, per month for on-premise deployment, and it includes one license for Tableau Server. If deployed in the cloud, this plan costs $42 per user, per month, and it includes one license for Tableau Cloud.
  • Tableau Viewer – Tableau Viewer is designed for users that just want to access dashboards and visualizations. When deployed on-premise, it costs $12 per user, per month, and it includes one Viewer license of Tableau Server. When deployed in the cloud, it costs $15 per user, per month, and it includes one Viewer license of Tableau Cloud. Note that Tableau requires a minimum of 100 Viewers for this plan.

Companies can also purchase add-on features, such as Tableau Data Management and Einstein Discovery. Tableau has a 14-day free trial.

IBM Cognos Analytics

IBM Cognos has a free trial where users get the full product capacity for 30 days. Then, there are three deployment options: On Demand (cloud deployment for up to 200 users), On Cloud Hosted (up to 10,000 users) and Client Hosted (on-premise solution).

The On Demand deployment has two pricing plans: Standard and Premium.

  • Standard – This plan costs $10 per user, per month and includes dashboards, storytelling, collaboration, up to 10 on-premise and cloud data connections and the Cognos mobile app.
  • Premium – The Premium plan costs $40 per user, per month, and it includes the features of the Standard plan, plus AI Assistant and Watson Insights, data exploration, smart data discovery and AI exploration and enterprise reporting and managed report distribution.

The On Cloud Hosted option has three pricing plans: Mobile, Viewer and User.

  • Mobile – The Mobile plan costs $5 per user, per month for access to the Cognos mobile app (e.g., dashboards and explorations, the ability to create pinboards, AI Assistant and get proactive alerts).
  • Viewer – The Viewer plan costs $40 per user, per month for viewer-only features (e.g., viewing and interacting with reports).
  • User – The User plan costs $80 per user, per month and includes all of the features of the Viewer and Mobile plans, plus data prep and connection, smart data discovery and AI exploration, managed report distribution and integration with IBM Watson Studio.

The Client Hosted (or hybrid) deployment has five pricing plans: Mobile, Viewer, User, Explorer and Admin.

  • Mobile – The Mobile plan costs $5 per user, per month for access to the Cognos mobile app (e.g., dashboards and explorations, the ability to create pinboards, AI Assistant and get proactive alerts).
  • Viewer – The Viewer plan costs $12 per user, per month, and it includes the ability to view and interact with reports and dashboards.
  • User – The User plan costs $40 per user, per month and includes all of the features of the Viewer plan, plus Cognos Mobile app, data connection, smart data discovery and AI exploration, the ability to create promoted reports and managed report distribution.
  • Explorer – The Explorer plan costs $75 per user, per month and includes all of the features of the User plan, plus the ability to work with Jupyter Notebooks and Python applications.
  • Admin – The Admin plan costs $450 per user, per month and includes all of the features of the Explorer plan, plus security and user management and Cognos SDK.

Bottom Line

Both vendor relies on user roles as their pricing strategy for both cloud and on-premise deployments. The main difference here is that Tableau Mobile is free for all users, whereas IBM Cognos Analytics is a separate pricing plan. Also, Tableau has a 14-day free trial, whereas prospects can try IBM Cognos Analytics for 30 days.

Customer Support

Tableau

Tableau offers complimentary online access to all users that includes:

  • A knowledge base
  • On-demand training videos
  • Live online training
  • Product documentation
  • Tableau Community forums

In addition, it has a Technical Support Program with three tiers:

Standard – Standard support is included in the subscription purchase or in the first year of the perpetual license. Coverage is during Tableau’s regular business hours (6 a.m. to 6 p.m. PST Mondays to Fridays). In addition to online access, the Standard tier has:

  • Priority 1 (Critical) issue response time within eight hours
  • Priority 2 (High) issue response time within 24 hours
  • Three named contacts

Extended – The Extended Support tier includes all of the features of the Standard tier, plus:

  • 24/7 coverage for Priority 1 (Critical) issues
  • Priority 1 (Critical) issue response time within two hours
  • Priority 2 (High) issue response time within eight hours
  • Five named contacts

Premium – The Premium Support tier includes all of the features of the Extended tier, plus:

  • Phone support
  • 24/7 coverage for Priority 1 (Critical) and Priority 2 (High) issues
  • Priority 1 (Critical) issue response time within 30 minutes
  • Priority 2 (High) issue response time within two hours
  • A technical account manager
  • Service level agreement for Tableau Cloud users only
  • Deployment reviews for Tableau Server users only
  • Recurring status calls and service reports
  • Online update guidance
  • Upgrade assistance for Tableau Server users only
  • Strategic planning
  • Access to the Senior Support team
  • Case escalation and oversight
  • Product roadmap participation
  • Prioritized feature request reviews
  • Root cause analysis
  • Sandbox site for Tableau Cloud users only

IBM Cognos Analytics

IBM Cognos Analytics has a Community support portal where users can:

  • Discuss troubleshooting and other issues with fellow users and IBM Support
  • Access product documentation
  • Submit a ticket request, and
  • Communicate with IBM Support via live chat

Bottom Line

While both vendors provide a community forum and a ticketing systems (although Tableau doesn’t have live chat), Tableau offers premium support options, whereas IBM doesn’t.

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