Power BI and Tableau: A Comparison
Organizations everywhere are using these platforms because they make it possible to manage and present large swaths of data in a way that is easy, highly scalable, and customizable.
Let’s explore Tableau and Power BI to see which is right for your organization.
What is Tableau?
Tableau is a platform for data preparation, storage, analysis, collaboration, and—most importantly—visualization. Tableau is known for its highly customizable and colorful graphics and dashboards.
There are multiple Tableau products, including Tableau Prep, Desktop, Server, and Online, as well as add-ons like Data Management and Server Management, Embedded Analytics, and Mobile.
What is Power BI?
Just like Tableau, Power BI is a platform for data preparation, analysis, and visualization—but with an added emphasis on analysis and modeling (more on that below).
The Power BI suite is also comprised of several products, including Desktop, Pro, Premium, Mobile, Embedded, and Report Server.
Power BI versus Tableau
At first glance, Tableau and Power BI look very similar. However, there are some important differences to keep in mind before deciding to use either of them.
Here is a point-by-point breakdown of Tableau versus Power BI to help you determine which platform might work best for your specific circumstances.
Licensing and deployment
Power BI is available for individual users and organizations. It can be deployed through the cloud with Power BI Services, on-premises using Power BI Report Server, or embedded into applications using Power BI Embedded. There are three licensing models to choose from: Free, Pro, and Premium, each of which offers varying levels of support and functionality.
Tableau also offers programs for individuals and organizations, and there are three license types to choose from: Creator for discovering insights, Explorer for investigative analysis, and Viewer for interacting with data and building visualizations.
The Tableau Embedded Analytics platform requires a separate license. Pricing options and features vary depending whether you deploy Tableau using Tableau Server either on-premises or in the cloud or through the fully hosted Tableau Online service.
Both platforms will allow you to create and share stunning interactive data visualizations. The main difference involves how visualizations are presented to end-users inside the platform.
It’s a bit like iOS versus Android, with Tableau offering a curated selection of visualizations and Power BI offering an open library of options. Unlike Tableau, Power BI provides access to an open SDK, enabling a richer selection of visualization options.
Ultimately, choosing the best visualization tool for your purposes may come down to preference. Some teams prefer Tableau’s curated approach while others may want a bigger pool to draw from.
Data modeling and reporting
This is arguably the most important factor to pay attention to when deciding whether to use Tableau or Power BI.
“Visualization becomes easy if what you have under the hood is super powerful,” explains author and consultant Avi Singh, adding that he typically spends about 80 to 90 percent of his time on data shaping and modeling when working with clients.
According to Singh, Power BI has an edge over Tableau—particularly because of the fact that the underlying code is self-documenting. Power BI “offers tons of options in the ribbon itself, and if you want to go deeper, there are tons to explore inside of the M language. It’s really powerful and really easy to use.”Singh adds that Tableau doesn’t really have anything like that inside of its platform—which is why many users tend to go back and forth between Tableau and Excel, where they do their data shaping using the Query Editor and then bring it back into Tableau.
Which Platform is Better?
When exploring Tableau and Power BI, perhaps the most important takeaway is that you don’t have to choose one or the other. In fact, you can use both platforms side by side for maximum results.
Singh, for example, recommends using Power BI for modeling and Tableau for visualization.
“Clean, shape, and transform using Power BI or the rest of the Microsoft Ecosystem. You build the data model there using DAX and all the formal languages [they offer], but then you’re free to choose the data visualization tool of your choice.”
In other words, you can use Power BI reports and dashboards or Excel, and you can even connect Tableau to finish the process and create compelling visuals.
Whatever you decide, one thing remains clear: In the age of data, organizations are using more tools than ever before to collect, prepare, process, and collaborate on data.
The good news is with Neebo you don’t have to choose. Let your analytics practitioners use the BI tool they are the most comfortable with, each of these BI tools will query the same data via Neebo. Neebo is your business query logic standardization logic so to speak. All of the data logic is done in Neebo, and once Power BI or Tableau “hits” the analysis and visualization in both tools will be identical. For more on how to achieve BI independence using Neebo read this article on BI platform freedom.