Tableau and Spotfire are two very similar business intelligence solutions. Both target users with the same goal: to quickly visualize data from various sources.
While both solutions have the same end-goal, they approach their target users differently.
The skill level needed to make the most of each solution varies. Spotfire allows advanced users to make predictions with their data, while Tableau allows a less-expert user to drill down into data without any statistical analysis.
Here, we’ll compare both products to highlight these differences and take a look at what should be considered for a buying decision.
Tableau: Tableau provides users with intuitive 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.
Spotfire: Companies that require self-service discovery and fast answers to important questions may want to consider Tibco Spotfire.
Spotfire allows users to perform both simple and complicated analyses in real time, without having to rely on IT. Spotfire also lets users drill down to figure out the “why” or root causes of business issues – and can even find patterns or trends within the data that spot hidden opportunities or issues.
Two Key Differences
While the main objective of both solutions is the same, the way they approach this goal differs in two ways:
When other BI products are compared to Tableau, visualizations are always a significant consideration because Tableau is known as the best in this regard.
Tableau: This solution is able to import and visualize large data sets with many customizable options. It allows the users who know their data best to drill down into their data and make queries. The ease of use allows many users who are not explicitly data experts to explore data.
Spotfire: Visualizations are possible through Spotfire, but it has fewer customizations than Tableau. Spotfire has a more dated interface, but the same general visual capabilities as Tableau. Users can customize fonts and colors in Spotfire, but the style of graphics is less diverse than in Tableau.
Bottom Line: Tableau provides superior visualizations for graphs, dashboards and reports, but Spotfire also provides fine visuals compared to most BI tools. One detail that shouldn’t be overlooked with both solutions is that they can each visually display outliers in a dataset. Many BI solutions for visualizations can accurately interpret trends, but not outliers. When a solution can’t spot anomalies that skew trends, users make inaccurate assumptions. Tableau and Spotfire do not have this flaw.
2. Data Analysis
Each solution is fundamentally different when it comes to data analysis.
Tableau: Tableau doesn’t include any data cleansing or analytical capabilities, aside from being able to visualize and manipulate large data sets. Tableau does have an advantage by connecting with over 40 data sources so that users can create a variety of reports. Tableau can visualize forecasts by repeating patterns in the data set, however there are limitations and this is considered visualizing a trend instead of making a prediction.
Spotfire: Spotfire allows statistical analysis within the solution for drilling down into data relations. Users have the ability to perform R, S+, SAS, or MATLAB functions directly from the software, allowing them to base predictions on their data. The solution connects to over 25 data sources, and the vendor also provides services for integrating data across sources.
Bottom Line: Spotfire allows statistical analysis within the solution, while Tableau does not. Both solutions can connect to a range of outside data sources, although Tableau connects to more. But Spotfire allows users to integrate data while connecting to different sources, and Tableau can’t do that. As a workaround, some Tableau users have used third-party solutions with self-service data preparation and the option to output to Tableau’s native TDE (Tableau data extract) format. Spotfire doesn’t require this workaround and allows analysis directly in the solution.
Comparing Services and Offerings
The following is a comparison of other key details about both Tableau and Spotfire, including price, customer service and shortcomings.
Tableau: Tableau offers three products. Desktop is required to author content and the other two are for sharing and distributing content:
- Tableau Desktop:
- Personal: $999/user/year, connects with up to 6 data sources.
- Professional: $1,999/user/year, connects with up to 44 data sources.
- Tableau Server:
- $10,000 for 10 users, then an additional 25% of the total cost per year for support
- Tableau Online:
- Public: Free
- Online: $500/user/year
Spotfire: This solution can be purchased two ways:
- Spotfire Platform: This is an on-premise solution with a custom-made subscription plan from the sales team. Prices are based on customer’s needs.
- Spotfire Cloud: For $200/month or $2,000/year, one user has authoring abilities with 250 GB of storage on the Public Cloud.
Implementation and Customer Service
Each solution offers a variety of services so clients can make the most of their investment.
Tableau: Tableau provides four levels of support services to its customers: complimentary, technical support, Elite program and OEM program. Complimentary covers non-critical issues such as defects with the software; installation, activation and downloading assistance; basic questions about configuration, and access to major and minor releases. Technical support is automatically included with a one-year license purchase for handling critical issues. The Elite program assigns a technical account manager to ensure your support cases will be prioritized appropriately. The OEM program is for customers who have integrated Tableau into their current software suites. They’re assigned a Partner Support Engineer to help with critical issues related to integration.
Spotfire: Tibco Spotfire offers a variety of implementation services, such as analytics implementation; architecture services; the Center of Analytics Excellence; domain expertise; learning, enablement, and adoption programs; migration services; predictive analytics implementation and upgrade services. Through the Tibco Support Central portal users can access a knowledge base of troubleshooting issues and submit requests to fix issues for product enhancement. Users can also access the Spotfire Community forum to communicate with other Spotfire users. In addition, Tibco offers discounts on training packages in the form of Educational Passports. Example: For onsite training, companies can purchase up to eight units per day for up to 12 students
All solutions have strengths and weaknesses. Here, we’ve summarized what to look for with Tableau and Spotfire:
Spotfire: Visualizations aren’t very sophisticated in Spotfire. In addition, when there are multiple visuals displayed on the screen, they can’t be easily printed as a PDF or in a readable format. Although Spotfire does include drill-down features, some users have had trouble trying to drill down to details of certain data, particularly in the subtotals section. Technical difficulties may not be easily resolved.
Tableau: Although the solution can connect to many different data sources, Tableau’s ability to integrate combinations of these sources for analysis is still weak. Third party solutions are needed for any statistical analysis as well.
Tableau and Spotfire serve similar needs, but choosing one over the other depends on the end user. Tableau has great visualizations, but users who require statistical analysis will prefer a solution such as Spotfire.
If these solutions don’t meet your needs, other options are available.
Those new to business intelligence solutions and looking for a place to start can 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.