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Lord of Dashboards: Power BI vs Tableau – Which one is better?

Business Intelligence (BI) helps store, collect, and analyze business data, and provides insights in the form of user-friendly visuals such as graphs, reports, charts or dashboards, to make strategic business decisions. BI is a vital part of every other company today. BI or analytical tools are an integral part of any data-driven enterprise that enable organizations to collect, interpret and analyze large amounts of data, helping them make informed business decisions and derive better business development. The two most popular and most used BI tools, currently in the market are: Power BI and Tableau. Business Intelligence Analysts or Data Scientist often face a dilemma when evaluating BI tools. In this blog, we will explore the powerful features and significant differences between Power BI and Tableau.

 



What is Power BI?


Launched in 2015, Power BI is a Business Intelligence and data visualization tool by Microsoft. This data visualization tool allows users to extract data from various sources, such as Excel, images, tables, etc. and turns your unrelated sources of data into coherent, visually immersive, and interactive insights. The platform uses existing Microsoft systems such as Excel, SQL and Azure to enable the creation of data visualizations. Power BI is used by many organizations around the world, including Amazon, Adobe, Roll Royce, Visa, Netflix, Walmart, amongst many other companies. In addition to these, many other organizations across various sectors, including finance, technology, healthcare, energy, manufacturing and retail, benefit from Power BI’s capabilities.


Fig 1. An example of Power BI Dashboard


Power BI Products

Below given is a list of few of the Power BI products:


  • Power BI Desktop: A free Windows Desktop application for creating and publishing reports and dashboards.

  • Power BI Service: It is also referred to as Power BI online and is an online software as a service (SaaS) used for collaborating and sharing on reports and dashboards.

  • Power BI Report Builder: It is a tool that allows users to create paginated reports (.rdl) that you can publish to Power BI service. Paginated reports are designed to be shared or printed.

  • Power BI Report Server: It is an-premises report server with a web portal in which you can display and manage reports and KPIs. It is built upon SQL Server Reporting Service’s (SSRS) architecture; and it is used to host Power BI reports (.pbix), paginated reports, mobile reports, and KPIs. This tool is available only through Power BI Premium license.

  • Power BI Mobile apps: It is a mobile application that brings Power BI to your pocket. It allows developers to design reports and dashboards in Power BI Desktop and Power BI Service, on Windows, iOS and Android devices. It allows users to connect with cloud and on-premises data.

  • Power BI Embedded: It is a Microsoft Azure Service that allows developers and independent software vendors (ISVs), to quickly and easily embed Power BI reports and dashboards into your own applications such as Windows, portals, CRMs (Customer Relationship Management), etc.



What is Tableau?


Tableau is an interactive data visualization tool from Tableau Software built in 2003 (later in 2019 was acquired by Salesforce). This tool provides an interactive and intuitive interface for creating compelling dashboards, maps, worksheets, and stories to understand the data and interpret the analyses. This BI tool helps in reporting and analyzing vast volumes of data. It is used by organizations and businesses of all sizes, from startups to Fortune 500 companies.

 


Fig 2. An example of Tableau Dashboard

 

Tableau Products

Below given is a list of few of the Tableau products:


  • Tableau Public: It is a free platform to explore, create and publicly share data visualizations online. It has a large repository of various data visualizations.

  • Tableau Prep Builder: It provides a modern approach to data preparation, thereby making it faster and easier to combine, design and clean the data for analysis. It also automates the data prep flows to make your data analysis faster.

  • Tableau Desktop: It is a platform that provides an intuitive drag and drop interface that allows you to access, visualize, and analyze your data, to make data-driven, impactful business decisions, even when you are offline.

  • Tableau Cloud: It is the new Tableau Online. It is an fast, flexible, easy to use self-service platform that allows users to prepare their data, author, analyze, collaborate, publish, and share.

  • Tableau Server: It is a centralized repository that allows you to connect to any data by sharing, collaborating, and exploring data across entire organization from your computer, mobile, in a secured environment.

  • Tableau Mobile: It is a companion app for Tableau Cloud and Tableau Server. Giving you access to your Tableau site, lets you interact with the content on your site, and discover data insights on the go, even if you are offline. It is available for Android and iOS. This app is not an authoring tool, as it allows you to view the content that has been published to Tableau Cloud or Tableau Server.

  • Tableau AI: It is a suite of capabilities that brings trusted generative Artificial Intelligence (AI) to the entire Tableau Platform to democratize data analysis and simplify insights consumption at scale. It accelerates time to value and reduces repetitive tasks for a data analyst by providing smart suggestions and in-product guidance.

Power BI vs Tableau comparison: Key Features and Differences

Both Power BI and Tableau are powerful business and data analysis tools, but they have their individual distinct features and use cases. Let’s take a closer look at their features and some key differences between them.

Aspects

Power BI

Tableau

User Interface

User-friendly interface suitable for beginners

Intuitive drag and drop interface for creating interactive visuals

Data Visualization

It is equipped with various built-in advanced-level and modern visualizations for complex reporting that include Column/Bar/Stacked/Cluster charts, Ribbon charts, Tornado charts, Sunburst charts, Funnel charts, etc.

It supports basic and advanced level visualizations for high-level reporting that range from simple charts such as Bar chart, Pie chart, to complex ones like Bullet chart, Box Plot, Gantt chart, etc.

Programming language

Popular programming languages such as Data Analysis Expressions (DAX), Multi-Dimensional Expressions (MDX), R, SQL, Python, M, etc.

Languages such as Javascript, R, Python, MATLAB, SAS, SQL, etc

Customization options

Provides customization options like customized calculations to get deeper insights, although more limited than Tableau

Offers easy and extensive customization

 Cost

Multiple cost-effective pricing plans are available for users

Provides flexible pricing plans. However, when compared to Power BI, Tableau is expensive

Performance

Performs well with smaller data volumes but the performance can be slow when handling huge datasets

Its robust architecture handles significantly larger datasets efficiently, and thus outperforms  Power BI in terms of performance.

Data sources

Supports diverse data sources including cloud services, databases, and flat files

Supports connections to various data sources for comprehensive analysis

Security

Ensures robust security with its Governance Toolkit, and provides user-centric security features

Offers extensive data security and integration with protocols such as Kerberos, Active Directory; and provides row-level filtering to enhance data security

Learning curve

Easier to learn and use

For new users it takes time  to learn and expertise to master

Supporting OS

This software is not supported on MAC OS

This software is supported on MAC OS

Community support

Provides a vibrant online community of users and developers

Provides more comprehensive community support. It provides on of the largest and most active online data visualizations forums

Sharing

It allows powerful collaboration and sharing capabilities, such as allowing users to publish reports to the cloud securely and easily enables to embed reports into web pages or applications

It allows users to publish or share their data with ease, however users cannot embed reports into webpages or applications. Dashboards and Workbooks must be published to Tableau Server, Tableau Online, or Tableau Public before they can be shared

Machine Learning

Allows data analysts, professionals to develop AI- powered solutions, create machine learning models based on data from multiple sources

It uses machine learning algorithms to create predictive models and forecasts. Tableau’s machine learning capabilities are powered by Tableau Machine Learning Platform, built on top of Python programming language

Certifications

Power BI has one certification, PL-300: Microsoft Power BI Data Analyst exam, that covers all the main functionalities of this platform. It cost $165 USD. Power BI offers its exam in multiple languages

Tableau offers a wide range of certifications options depending upon the associate, analyst and specialist levels. Some of the Tableau certifications are: Desktop Certified Associate, Server Certified Associate, Tableau Desktop Specialist, Tableau Certified Data Analyst. These certifications cost around $100 - $250 USD depending upon the certification level. Tableau’s Certified Professional Exam is currently offered only in English language. The associate exam is available in multiple languages.

 


Power BI vs Tableau: Which BI tool is better?

Power BI and Tableau are both two of the most popular and powerful Business Intelligence (BI) tools currently available in the market. Both have their own advantages, powerful features and drawbacks. Tableau is mostly used for creating interactive visualizations and analyzing large data sets, while power BI is more geared towards creating interactive reports and dashboards. One platform has better customer support while the other is faster. Power BI emphasizes user-friendly governance, while Tableau provides robust data security features, so the choice aligns with the organization’s security requirement. Both tools have their own strengths as compared to others, so the choice depends on your organizations data analysis requirements and budget.


In the dynamic duel of Power BI versus Tableau, both contenders bring their A-game to the data arena. Whether you’re drawn to Power BI’s user-friendly interface or Tableau’s customizable visualizations, remember that the right choice depends on your unique data needs. So, go forth, explore, and let your data-driven journey unfold! 

 


Thank you for reading! I hope you enjoyed reading this blog as much as I have enjoyed writing it.

Please do give me a clap if you find this blog useful!

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