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Power BI vs Tableau: how do they differ and which is right for your business?

recent McKinsey survey showed that during the Covid-19 pandemic, companies accelerated their digital transformation projects by 3 – 4 years. These advancements pave the way for cloud-based scalability, which in turn creates the need for contemporary data analytics solutions and BI (business intelligence) platforms to meet up to the increasingly complex demands of modern-day enterprises.

In the past, incumbents like Oracle reigned supreme. These days, there is increased demand for self-service BI tools that can adequately address the need for data-driven decisions by business users and data scientists alike. 

This has put Microsoft Power BI and tableau at the helm of the conversation around data analytics transformation. The rest of this article will explore the state of user-friendly analytics, highlighting key differences between Power BI and Tableau, to help you identify which tool best addresses your business needs.

Power BI vs Tableau: two similar, yet different BI solutions

DataClarity identifies the ideal BI solution as a secure one that is quick to implement, with self-serve reporting that allows non-technical users to generate and view specific reports without the need for a technical team. Both Power BI and Tableau fit these criteria.

Choosing the best business intelligence platform is dependent on a company’s objectives as well as data maturity, therefore each solution will be examined under the lens of cost, setup, and data integration.

Cost

With 3 product offerings and price points, Power BI offers a competitive pricing structure:  the first is a free version (Power BI Desktop), used for creating reports, next up is the all-inclusive AU$13.70/mo/per user Power BI Pro package, and finally, a premium version (Power BI Premium) for large-scale user bases.  – charged by the node, according to usage capacity.

Organisations already running certain versions of Microsoft Office 365 get complimentary access to the Power BI Pro package therefore this option favours large enterprises that are already committed to Microsoft’s ecosystem.

Tableau on the other hand, offers annual billing and subscription-based pricing, and just like Power BI, they have three main offerings: Tableau Explorer, which offers self-service analytics at $35/mo/per user, Tableau Online which offers embedded analytics and hardware-based licensing for $42/mo/per user, and Tableau Creator which offers a full suite of tools at $70/mo/per user. 

While Tableau’s pricing is less complex, its per-user costs are higher than that of Power BI.

Ease of deployment

Power BI offers a variety of deployment options:  Microsoft Azure public cloud through Power BI desktop, Pro and Premium (SaaS) and on-premise deployment via Power Bi Report server.

Tableau offers both on-premises deployment and public cloud deployment via Tableau Server on Azure, AWS and Google Cloud, or fully-managed SaaS via Tableau Online hosting. 

User experience

Users who are already familiar with the Microsoft ecosystem will find Power BI intuitive and easy to use, as Power BI’s interface in many ways resembles that of Microsoft Office 365’s suite of tools, especially Microsoft Excel. And as over 80% of organisations already use Office 365, it’s safe to assume that most first-time users will find the software easy to use.

In contrast, Tableau features a drag-and-drop interface that makes it possible to build visualisations quickly. Its prominent “Show Me” menu also provides clear comprehensive visuals of data and can serve as a learning tool. On the downside, most of Tableau’s advanced visualisations take significant effort to navigate through, and longer to get accustomed to. 

For this reason, business users who want better reporting and visualisation will probably find Power BI a more suitable option, especially when it comes to data exploration, reporting, and visualisation. Those who need to quickly process data from multiple sources – on-premises or in the cloud, will be better off with Tableau. 

Data Integration

Power BI’s primary advantage lies in the fact that it is a Microsoft SaaS product hosted in the cloud. As such, it seamlessly integrates with Office 365 applications, as well as other Microsoft Azure services. 

Power BI  supports 70+ connections – a big plus for companies seeking more robust analytics capabilities, who need a common source for both their data and their data reporting vehicle. 

With over 65+ native connections for real-time insights (including Dropbox, Google Cloud SQL, Oracle, Azure SQL Data Warehouse, MYSQL, and OneDrive), Tableau allows for the use of third-party connectivity tools to connect Tableau to any web-based data source.

Power BI vs Tableau: Data Visualisation

Power BI focuses on predictive modelling and reporting and allows for custom visualisations with the ability to crowdsource from the Microsoft community via the Office store. For more advanced users, it offers the option to implement d3.js and R visuals. 

Tableau offers more robust and scalable data visualisation features, ideal for large data sets. Users benefit from the ability to “drill down” better, with drag-and-drop features that allow less tech-savvy users to explore visual-based discovery.

Conclusion

Power BI and Tableau are top-rated BI solutions for good reasons. While both have extensive data analysis and visualisation capabilities, it is clear why Power BI appears to emerge as a favourite among small and medium-sized enterprises. Its flexible integration, ease of use, and its ability to leverage the popular Microsoft ecosystem and security models all contribute towards this preference, while Tableau’s ease of handling larger data sets makes it a favourite among data scientists.

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