Tableau vs Power BI – Summary to Date



I wrote a brief note to someone recently that I thought would make a concise summary of my testing of Tableau vs Power BI. I decided to publish this note to make it easy for me (and others) to reference the series of articles I have written so far, as well as to document my thoughts at this time (5+ months after testing began).

I also tried to explain to the note recipient some of my insights on using the tools. These insights are subjective, whereas the articles are more fact-based.

I decided to include these perceptions because they are remarkably consistent with my initial impressions of Power BI, even after having learned a lot more about its capabilities. This affirms for me how important the first impression of a product can be. Microsoft needs to improve their Power BI training program and I can tell them how to do it!

The Note and Findings to Date

Over the past five months, I have been testing Power BI fairly extensively in direct comparisons to Tableau. If you are interested in learning what I am determining, I have included a list of my articles that examine how these software packages compare in fair tests. These are real-world situations that I encountered and decided to do the testing when I thought the situations were fair for each software package.

So far, Tableau is easily winning the competition because it is a more mature and robust platform. Tableau is also much more flexible in usage and in the design of the dashboards and graphics I like and need to create.

Tableau gives me maximum flexibility for designing the types of visualizations I need to tell the stories I am uncovering. Alteryx gives me complete command over joining any data sources I need, as well as having minute control over every aspect of the data.

For me, Power BI is rigid in comparison to the combination of Alteryx and Tableau and does not allow me to work at the upper echelon of quantitative and visual analytics with the same degree of ease. Alteryx and Tableau are data agnostic platforms that allow me to quickly work with a wide-variety of data sources without too much trouble. This leads to some amazing work that can being completed in a short amount of time. If I continue to hone my Power BI skills, I might have a different opinion in the future.

Lastly, working in PBI is mundane by comparison to working in Tableau due to its structural design (including the user interface) and relatively rigid framework. In PBI, you “get what you get” for the standard chart types, without a lot of flexibility to customize the look and feel of those standard graphical types. Sure, you can build and share custom types of visuals, but I really don’t want to spend my time inventing new views when Tableau already gives me everything I need with visual best practices already applied.

In comparison, in Tableau, you are free to fly, to customize away at any level of interest. The only limitations you have in Tableau are related to your own creativity. This is one of the beautiful aspects of Tableau. This ability to express artistic and data creativity make Tableau alluring and addictive. I just have never felt anything like that when using PBI, which feels rigid, constraining, and just a few steps beyond Excel graphics.

Tableau vs Power BI Articles Published To Date

  1. Impressions From My First 5 Minutes Of Using #PowerBI
  2. Impressions From My First Day Of Using #PowerBI
  3. Impressions From Our First Month Of Using #PowerBI
  4. How Microsoft Could Put Real Power Into Power BI
  5. Test 1: Topographic Mapping
  6. Test 2: Visualizing Surface Water Flow
  7. Test 3: Charting Basic Time Series Data
  8. Test 4: Speed
  9. Test 5: Pure Computational Speed


Final Thoughts

This testing will continue for me because I want to keep exploring and learning more about Microsoft, Power BI and the new features they are releasing. I have a series of new tests in mind, and these will be conducted as time allows. I’ll try to update my feelings about this comparison after every 5 tests are completed.

There are a number of things I like about Power BI (already outlined in the articles above), but not enough to cause me to even think about switching over to it as a primary tool of choice. I would consider doing so if I thought that it would lead to better project outcomes, especially since Alteryx can produce output for Power BI just like it can for Tableau. If you are interested in seeing how Alteryx and Power BI can be used as a powerful combination, watch this video showing predictive analytics in Alteryx coupled with Power BI visualization.

Since I have been able to help achieve millions of dollars of cost savings and deliver keen business insights in the work that I do, I will continue to go with the best technologies available – and that is Alteryx plus Tableau. PBI is not even close to entering the discussion, primarily because of my personal experience and because of the superior software capabilities present in Alteryx and Tableau.

Power BI is on the move, however, and continues to add new capabilities over time. For this reason, I’ll continue work with the product to uncover the truth about its strengths and weaknesses.

2 thoughts on “Tableau vs Power BI – Summary to Date

  1. Pingback: Exploring 2017 Gartner BI Magic Quadrant Results - Analytics Industry Blog

  2. Pingback: 3danim8's Blog - Test 6 of Tableau Vs Power BI: The Shapefile Showdown

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