Power BI and Tableau are two business intelligence (BI) solutions with different purposes.
Power BI is a Microsoft product that was designed as an Excel upgrade. For those already using Excel, this program is a natural fit. This solution is also relatively new, so some features are still being added.
Tableau presently has the largest user base. When businesses are looking for a BI solution, it’s often their first choice. However, in response to market disruption such as the release of Power BI, Tableau is currently spending more on research and development in the next two years than in the last 10 combined.
While both are popular options, each solution has different features.
Tableau: Tableau provides intuitive business intelligence (BI) tools to enhance data discovery and understanding for all types of companies and business users.
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.
Power BI: Microsoft Power BI is a cloud-based business intelligence and analytics service that provides a full overview of your most critical data.
Connecting to all of your data sources, Power BI simplifies data evaluation and sharing with scalable dashboards, interactive reports, embedded visuals and more.
Two Core Feature Differences
There are two main differences between Power BI and Tableau when it comes down to their tools and abilities.
When it comes to presenting data visually, both solutions take a different approach. Tableau has always had a strong focus on visuals, while Power BI has developed its data manipulation features first, but provides access to simple visualizations as well:
Power BI: The solution makes it easy to upload data sets. Users can select various visualizations as blueprints, then drag and drop the data from a sidebar into the visualization.
Tableau: Tableau connects to many different data sources and can visualize larger data sets than Power BI can. Once in Tableau, a dashboard shows the basics of the users’ data. The user can then drill down into data sets by downloading a worksheet. From there, they can apply various visualizations to the data.
The bottom line: Both solutions provide visualizations. With Power BI you choose the visualization first, then drag the data into it. In Tableau, you select the data and switch between visualizations on the fly. It’s easier to jump between visualizations in Tableau.
2. Depth of discovery
Each solution analyzes data differently. Tableau focuses more on the front end, while Power BI has more back-end depth.
Power BI: With Power BI, users can generate more analyses than they could with Excel. The purpose is to provide fast analyses of a familiar data set. Users can do more with data through Power BI’s deep functionality, such as creating relationships between data sources.
Tableau: The features of Tableau gives users ways to answer questions as they investigate data visualizations. The solution can show basic trends as predictions, use “what if” queries to adjust data hypothetically, and visualize components of data dynamically for comparisons.
The bottom line: Power BI is best suited for investigating sets of data when businesses outgrow Excel. Tableau, on the other hand, is more flexible for visualizations, but can’t be used to manipulate data as well as Power BI.
Comparing Services and Offerings:
The following is a comparison of key details about both Power BI and Tableau including Price, Implementation and Shortcomings.
These solutions are priced very differently. The following are summaries of each one’s pricing structure.
Power BI: As an entirely cloud-based solution, Power BI has a very simple pricing structure:
- Power BI: This option is free to any single user and comes with 1 GB of storage. Data can be streamed from Power BI at 10k rows/hour.
- Power BI Pro: For $9.99/user/month, businesses have access to private cloud storage and each individual user has access to all standard Power BI features. Each user receives 10 GB of storage, and data can be streamed at 1 million rows/hour.
Tableau: Tableau categorizes its products differently than Power BI does. Desktop is for individuals, Online is for the group’s private cloud storage (and is the counterpart to Power BI Pro), and Server is the on-premise option for businesses that don’t want to host data in the cloud. Tableau also offers a Public option which allows users to publish dashboards and reports to the whole Tableau community for free. The most similar ability Power BI has to this is for users to publish to the web through a blog, for example.
- Tableau Desktop: There are two options depending on whether the solution is for an enterprise business purpose or for an individual’s use:
- Professional: $1,999 /user/year, connects with up to 44 data sources
- Personal: $999 /user/year, connects with up to 6 data sources.
- Tableau Online: A free alternative is Tableau Public, but for businesses that need a private cloud server the cost is $500/user/year.
- Tableau Server: $10,000 for 10 users, then an additional 25% of the total cost per year for support
Implementation often depends on company size and the number of users. Here are descriptions of how each vendor handles this for their customers:
Tableau: Tableau provides a variety of implementation and consulting services. For enterprise-level deployment, there’s a four-step process spanning weeks, and for smaller-scale deployments, there are quick-start options that can complete setup in a matter of hours.
Power BI: Microsoft Power BI is a cloud-based service that’s simple to implement. The only requirement is to sign up and download the technology to start correlating and evaluating critical business data.
No product is perfect. Here, we’ve outline what to lookout for:
Tableau: Although it has a large range of data-source connectivity, Tableau’s ability to integrate combinations of these sources for analysis is still weak. As a workaround, some customers have used other solutions with self-service data preparation and the option to output to Tableau’s native TDE (Tableau data extract) format.
Power BI: Customers have said Power BI doesn’t have the ability to publish reports with all associated data. This means some information can be left out of visualizations. Because Power BI is still in development, some customers have said necessary features critical to BI initiatives are insufficient, and the sharing function is subpar.
Tableau and Power BI have differing strengths and weaknesses that are common when comparing BI solutions.
If you’re new to business intelligence solutions and are looking for a place to start, check out The Definitive Guide to Business Intelligence. It features over 50 experts and offers an impartial overview of all the need-to-know details of buying this software.
You can also download our BI Comparison Guide where we’ve broken down all the core features and shortcomings for all the top BI solutions in an easily comparable spreadsheet.