Tableau vs MicroStrategy: Comparing Core Features and Support

If you want to stay ahead of your competitors, you need the right information to make quick, smart and thorough business decisions. Two business intelligence (BI) solutions that make the whole process easier are Tableau and MicroStrategy.

Here, we’ll give you an overview of each and let you know how they stack up against each other.

Product Overview

Tableau: Since 2003, Tableau has helped people see and understand their business data. The solution offers drag-and-drop features and a range of robust BI tools that allow users to “drill down” into their data and discover underlying information.

Tableau has three main products:

  • Desktop – Desktop connects and analyzes diverse data and allows users to create visualizations and reports.
  • Server – Server allows users to collaborate over data and share highly customizable dashboards.
  • Online – Tableau Online is a cloud version of Tableau Server, with no upfront setup costs and easy mobile access.

One drawback to Tableau is that users have mentioned a steep learning curve for executives.

Overall, Tableau offers intuitive BI tools that enhance data discovery and understanding.

MicroStrategy: MicroStrategy was founded in 1989 and provides direct access to large, complex data sets through integrated frameworks like Hadoop. It uses a drag-and-drop interface and simplifies data transfers from any source.

Like Tableau, MicroStrategy can be deployed either on-premise or in the cloud. It offers a range of built-in widgets that make integration, analysis and visualization quick and easy. MicroStrategy also has a fully-featured mobile application with access to data visualizations and dashboards and offers offline capabilities, scheduled downloads of large datasets and the ability to take actions from within the app.

MicroStrategy’s biggest shortcoming is its price, $600 per user for access to either the desktop, server or online applications. Some customers have mentioned that users will often need specialized training. It uses rigid data structures, which can make data extraction and manipulation difficult, and it lacks predictive or prescriptive analytics tools.

In general, MicroStrategy allows users to make quick, actionable decisions based on data.

How They Stack Up

Connecting to Data Sources

Tableau: Tableau integrates with multiple data sources, including Amazon Redshift, AWS, Excel, Google Analytics, Google Cloud Platform, HP Vertica, Hadoop, Informatica, Microsoft Azure, R, SAP, SQL Server, Salesforce, Splunk, Teradata and Web Data Sources via application programming interfaces (APIs).

MicroStrategy: MicroStrategy works best with Hadoop and has native integrations to quickly collect and analyze data. It connects directly to Hadoop distributors like Cloudera, Hortonworks, MapR, IBM BigInsights and Pivotal. MicroStrategy is also very strong when it comes to using SQL on Hadoop technologies, including Cloudera Impala, MapR Drill, Apache Spark, Pivotal HAWQ and Facebook.

Bottom Line: If you’re using Hadoop, MicroStrategy’s out-of-the-box integrations make it easy to get up and running with its software. Tableau shines with a more diverse range of data sources. It doesn’t support Hadoop as well as MicroStrategy but does make it easier to connect to a broad range of data sources.

Data Access

Tableau: Tableau’s desktop app has a clean and simple interface. A drag-and-drop chart and report builder allows users to easily customize dashboards and reports. Tableau Server extends Tableau’s functionality across an organization, allowing users to collaborate.

Businesses can also use Tableau’s cloud platform, Tableau Online, which combines the convenience of the desktop and server platforms. Tableau also has a mobile app, although it has fewer features than the MicroStrategy app.

MicroStrategy: MicroStrategy also offers its products across a wide variety of platforms, including desktop (Mac and Windows), mobile apps, MS Office integrations, web browsing, a client software development kit (SDK) and cloud-based services.

MicroStrategy has a centralized metadata repository that any of its applications can pull data from. MicroStrategy’s mobile app provides a responsive mobile experience with real-time data updates, offline access, touch-enabled visualizations and productivity apps.

Bottom Line: Tableau provides users with all the BI and data access most businesses need with easy-to-use applications, a robust cloud platform and a decent mobile app.

For businesses with more demanding BI needs, MicroStrategy provides a wider range of platforms, integrations and customization options. Its mobile app also has several useful features that Tableau doesn’t, like offline caching.

Forecasting and Predictions

Tableau: Tableau offers built-in forecasting and predictive analysis. The solution uses smart algorithms to find and predict patterns. It can incorporate seasonality, historic trends, different data models and predictions.

MicroStrategy: MicroStrategy doesn’t have built-in forecasting capabilities. Users must build their own forecasting and prediction models in the application, which can be very difficult and time-consuming.

Bottom Line: If you want easy-to-use forecasting that can be updated across multiple models and use cases, Tableau has that functionality built in. MicroStrategy doesn’t have any forecasting or predictive capabilities.

Training and Support

Tableau: Tableau has a wide range of learning programs and support materials, including free training videos, elearning, classroom training, live online training, white papers, webinars, product demos, complete support guides and an active community forum.

MicroStrategy: MicroStrategy offers “jump start” courses, classroom training, instructor-led online training, private training sessions and a learning portal. It doesn’t have an online support forum.

Bottom Line: Both Tableau and MicroStrategy have online learning, support guides and optional classroom training to get people up and running quickly.

Takeaways

Both Tableau and MicroStrategy are excellent solutions for data analysis. Tableau is built around an easy-to-use drag-and-drop interface, customized dashboards, and insight into all the key metrics of a business.

MicroStrategy is designed as an enterprise-strength solution for BI. With its strong focus on Hadoop data sets and a much more expensive pricing structure, it may be more suitable for larger businesses, though each solution is scalable.

If you need more information on BI software in general, our BI Definitive Guide can help. It includes expert advice and provides a detailed overview of all the considerations for purchasing BI software.

If you’re searching for alternatives, download our BI Comparison Guide for a breakdown of shortcomings, core features and pricing plans of the leading BI solutions in a comprehensive spreadsheet.

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