Microsoft Power BI vs Tableau Software: An In-Depth Comparative Analysis

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Recently, various business intelligence tools have flooded the market. Microsoft Power BI and Tableau are two of the top market performers since in the last decade. Since its inception, Tableau has consistently been one of the best performers in data analytics and BI tools. The relatively younger Microsoft Power BI has overtaken the competition to become a force for Tableau to reckon with. Both Power BI and Tableau have their strengths and weaknesses depending on the business requirements. It is important to consider factors such as budget, type of organization and intended use. Here is an extensive comparison of the differences between Power BI and Tableau.
Tableau BI Software: An Overview
The Tableau BI tool is considered the gold standard in data visualization. Founded in 2003, the company went public in 2013. This means that it has a ten-year head start over Power BI, giving it an edge in functionality. It offers robust tools for enhancing data discovery and visualization for all kinds of business users and organizations. Thanks to its easy-to-use drag and drop features, users can readily analyze critical data and share key insights across the organization. They can also creative innovative reports and visualizations. Additionally, Tableau also offers the option of embedding dashboards into business applications like SharePoint for speedy analytics. 
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All factors considered, Tableau is the preferred business intelligence tool for businesses. After dedicating a decade to data visualization, the results are in and Tableau is the winner. Considering factors like product usability, support, and community, it easily beats out competitors. Also, Tableau’s flexible deployment solutions give it an edge over Power BI. Its other strengths include user interface layout and intuitive data exploration capabilities. Tableau’s range of visualizations is also commendable. According to some tech experts, Tableau’s functionality is far ahead of Power BI than claimed by the Gartner Magic Quadrant.
The Tableau software is built on the philosophy of “seeing and exploring” data. Tableau is engineered to create unique and interactive visuals. It implements product capabilities in such a way that users can ask data-related questions. In turn, they can receive answers almost immediately through the manipulation of tools at their disposal.
The Tableau business intelligence tool is also more flexible than Power BI in terms of deployment flexibility. Users can purchase it on a subscription or on an upfront/ perpetual license. After this, they can install it either in an on-premise server or in the cloud.
Tableau has a good reputation for being an all-in-one data visualization platform. With the advancement of technology, users can expect significant future performance improvements. This will help to load large data sets. There will also be added ETL functions and new visualization tools.

Weaknesses of Tableau BI

The biggest disadvantage when it comes to the Tableau software is its cost. It is a higher investment for companies as compared to Power BI. Tableau projects are often accompanied by data-warehouse-building tasks. Along with the implementation budget and the incremental cost, this compounds the investment by a fair margin. However, a data warehouse is not always necessary. While Tableau connects more out-of-the-box systems compared to Power BI, it uses lesser data sources than its competitors.
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Power BI Software: An Overview
Power BI is a data visualization tool from Microsoft. After its grand debut in 2013, it has quickly gained ground on Tableau. According to Gartner’s recent BI Magic Quadrant, Microsoft is equal to Tableau in functionality. However, Power BI is better when it comes to an overall completeness of vision. The biggest advantage of the Power BI tool is that it is embedded in the greater Microsoft stack. This greatly contributes to the strong position of Microsoft in the Quadrant.
Power BI is a powerful cloud-based business intelligence and analytics tool. It provides a complete overview of the organizations most important data. It helps to simplify data evaluation and sharing for its users by connecting to all their data sources. The Microsoft software also offers scalable dashboards. This allows users to take their pick from many blueprint visualizations and then drag-and-drop data from navigation into the visualization.

Key Strengths of Power BI 

Tableau may be the gold standard for BI tools, but Power Bi doesn’t lag far behind. It is comparable to all of Tableau’s tools. As mentioned earlier, the biggest USP of Power BI is that it is deeply entrenched in the Microsoft stack. It is quickly becoming more integrated. Besides being included in Microsoft Office 365, it is also capable of being connected to external sources.
Originally, Power BI was an Excel-driven product meant for technical users. It is suitable for displaying and creating basic reports and dashboards. However, the business intelligence tools biggest strength is its cheap cost and great value for money. Being included in Office 365, it is free for basic use and the pro version costs $10 a month per user. This leads to the increased adoption of Power Bi as users can use the software without any risk.
The tool is very attractive for companies who lack the budget for a large BI project. This includes months of implementation time, dedicated analysts, and a data warehouse. As Microsoft heavily invests in Power BI, it is working on bridging the small gaps in functionality. With the disappearance of these trivial issues, the difference between Power BI and Tableau will become negligible.

Weaknesses of Power BI

As mentioned earlier, Tableau has a major competitive edge over Power BI. Due to its 10-year head start, the BI tool is better when it comes to functionality. However, its biggest weakness is the lack of flexibility with regard to deployment.
Since Power BI is only available on a SaaS model, companies need the tool in the cloud on a monthly licensing basis. Unless the organization’s business intelligence project allows this, using Power BI is out of question. Some businesses have concerns over data security or require a customizable solution. This makes Tableau more suitable for them.
Moreover, Tableau works better for users with large amounts of data who need on-premise systems. There are some new features being added to Power Bi through the Power BI Premium upgrade. This will definitely help Microsoft catch up to Tableau when it comes to on-premise capabilities and large datasets. However, this means extra cost for new features that are already present in Tableau.

Key Feature Differences: Power BI vs Tableau

Microsoft Power BI has native applications that can be accessed from any device, anywhere. The publish-to-web feature helps to add visualizations to the blog or website. Power BI also provides extensive online support with guided tutorials such as the YouTube channel and webinars.
 
The natural language query tool is one of the most interesting features of the Power BI tool. It can be considered a Google equivalent for your data. For example, users can ask questions such as “How much do we invest in a customer?” and “Where do our highest paying customers live?”.
 
Similarly, Tableau has some exciting features. They include extensive support tools that guide users through the basic software set up to initial data analysis. The data can be accessed and manipulated using the mobile application. Entire teams can collaborate on projects using the customizable shared dashboards. Tableau doesn’t have a natural language query tool. In 2018, the company launched Hyper along with the release of Tableau 10.5 that claims to be better than other query tools.
Microsoft Power BI vs. Tableau Comparison

1. Data Visualization

If your primary business need is data visualization, then Tableau is the obvious choice. It is considered the best business intelligence tool in the business when it comes to data visualization. Whereas, Power BI’s strengths lie in reporting and predictive modelling.

2. Cost

As mentioned earlier, Tableau is more expensive compared to Power BI. This is especially true when it comes to larger organizations. Businesses can make the most out of Tableau by building a data warehousing tool. Unfortunately, this further increases the cost.
Hence, when it comes to affordability, Power BI wins hands down. For example, the Tableau pro version costs a whopping $35 per user per month. On the contrary, the professional version of the Power Bi costs less than $10 a month for a user. Naturally, startups and small business will favour the affordable option between Power BI and Tableau tool.

3. Functionality

When it comes to functionality, Tableau is the answer to most business demands. The Tableau BI tool provides in-depth data discovery compared to Power BI.

4. Deployment

Between Tableau and Power BI, the former has more flexible options. This is because Power BI is only available as a SaaS model. Meanwhile, Tableau offers two variants such as cloud and on-premise options. If your company’s business policies do not include a provision for SaaS, then Power BI is not feasible. Tableau can prove to be a tad costly due to its licensing options and flexible deployment. However, in the Power BI vs Tableau comparison, the latter is a clear winner.

5. Integration

Both Microsoft Power BI and Tableau can easily be integrated with the market’s popular third-party tools. However, when it comes to out-of-the-box integrations, Tableau still maintains a slight edge over Power BI.

6. User Interface

The Tableau BI tool is known for its user-friendly user interface. Its key feature is that it enables easy dashboard customization. This is one of the aspects where Power BI wins over Tableau. The intuitive business intelligence tool from Microsoft has an unmatched ease-of-use and simplicity. This is why most business users prefer Power Bi over Tableau.

7. Data Handling Capabilities

On comparing Power BI with Tableau based on bulk data handling capabilities, the latter wins. Power BI is slower than Tableau when handling bulk data. However, this can be fixed by replacing the import functionality with a direct connection.

8. Community and Product Support

The difference between Power BI and Tableau is almost negligible when it comes to user communities and support. Since Microsoft Power BI is a relatively newer market product, it will take some time to build a loyal customer base.

9. Programming Tools Support

When it comes to programming languages, both Power BI and Tableau readily connect to them. A slight distinction between Power BI and Tableau is that the latter integrates better with R Language. Power BI uses Microsoft revolution analytics to connect to R Language. But this option can only be availed by enterprise users.

10. Customer Support

Tableau provides direct support by email and phone. Users can also log into the customer portal if they wish to submit a support ticket. Meanwhile, Power BI offers limited customer support for free users. Although free users can submit a support ticket, the paid ones get immediate support.
Summary: Power BI vs Tableau
Choosing between Tableau and Power BI proves a challenge for businesses due to their similarities. Here are three deal breakers to help organizations while making a Power BI and Tableau comparison.

1. Functionality

Users that regularly spend more time on their business tools will prefer to opt for Tableau. This is because of its unparalleled range of visualizations in the market.

2. Cost

Companies with budget constraints will naturally prefer Power BI, which costs $30 a month. It is a satisfactory data visualization tool for small and medium sized organizations. But large corporations that are ready to invest in business intelligence projects can opt for Tableau.

3. Licensing

Most users are left with no option when it comes to licensing. If they don’t wish to rent the BI software on a monthly basis or pay upfront, Tableau is the clear winner.

Difference Between Power BI and Tableau in a Nutshell

Tableau provides direct support by email and phone. Users can also log into the customer portal if they wish to submit a support ticket. Meanwhile, Power BI offers limited customer support for free users. Although free users can submit a support ticket, the paid ones get immediate support.

Microsoft Power BI

Pricing: $9.99 per user per month
Features:
  • Reports
  • Navigation Pane
  • Data sets
  • Customizable Dashboards
  • Q&A Question Box
  • Ad Hoc Analysis
  • Q&A Question Box
  • Ad Hoc Reporting
  • Trend Indicators
  • Online Analytical Processing (OLAP)
  • Rich graphical visualizations from complex BI data
  • Full suite of BI tools for data reporting and visualization
  • Interactive reports with Power BI Desktop
Customer Type: Large and Medium Enterprises
Supported Languages: English
Clients: Conde Nast, ABB, CAT, etc
Types of Support: Phone, Ticket and Training
OS Supported: Windows, Android, iPhone/iPad, Windows Mobile and web-based systems
Available Integrations: Power BI integrates with the following business applications and systems:
  • Salesforce
  • Google Analytics
  • MailChimp
  • Microsoft Excel
  • Adobe Analytics
  • Azure Mobile Management
  • Microsoft Dynamics

Tableau

Features:
  • Mobile-ready dashboards
  • Data notifications
  • Create interactive dashboards
  • Drag-and-drop and toggle view
  • Native data connectors list
  • Highlight and filter data
  • Share dashboards
  • Embed dashboards within
  • Tableau Public for data sharing
  • Metadata management
  • Automatic updates
  • Import all ranges and sizes of data
  • Translate queries to visualizations
  • Security permissions at any level
  • Tableau Reader for data viewing
Customer Type: Large and Medium Enterprises
Supported Languages: English
Clients: Pandora, Deloitte, Citrix, etc
Types of Support: Phone and Training
OS Supported: Windows, Android, Mac, iPhone/iPad, and Web-based systems
Who is the Winner: Power BI vs Tableau
In conclusion, business intelligence tools play an important role in making business decisions. As far as Power BI and Tableau are concerned, both the software have their unique features, pros and cons. Companies can opt for either one, depending on their business requirements. If the work involves analyzing a limited amount of data and functionality, Power BI is better. The reason for this is its affordability.
However, when a need arises to handle large amounts of data from different sources, Tableau is more helpful. It performs statistics and data visualization by offering plenty of functionality options. But again, the investment cost of Tableau is much higher than Power BI. Therefore, the comparison of Power BI and Tableau depends on the scale of business and requirement.
While selecting business intelligence software for organizations, it is important to make some assessments. These include cost, functions, vendor and product data. Businesses can also consider specific models like plans, functions, conditions, etc. It is also essential to analyze the terms for extra charges. They can include customer fees, set up charges, upgrade fees, customer service and disk space fees.
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