Power BI vs. Tableau: Which Analytics Tool is Right for You?

Last Updated: April 9th, 2023
Researched and Written by: Lexi Wood

Microsoft Power BI and Tableau are two incredibly popular business intelligence (BI) tools used by companies for data analysis and visualization. These two powerful software suites allow businesses to handle all sorts of tasks, from basic reporting to machine learning analytics. How can you select the right BI solution for your business needs? Learn more about the differences and similarities between Power BI and Tableau.

Power BI vs Tableau: Software Overview

Discover the differences between these two popular data analytics tools:

Microsoft Power BI: Desktop Free Version Dashboard
Microsoft Power BI: Opportunity Analysis Dashboard
Microsoft Power BI: Downtime By Vendor and Category
Microsoft Power BI: Downtime and Defect Analysis
Microsoft Power BI: Supplier Quality Analysis
Microsoft Power BI: Sales Category Trends
Microsoft Power BI: Store Sales Overview
Microsoft Power BI: Retail Store Performance Dashboard
Microsoft Power BI: Discount Analysis
Microsoft Power BI: Procurement Analysis
Microsoft Power BI: Opportunity Analysis
Microsoft Power BI: IT Spending Analysis
Microsoft Power BI: New Hire Analysis
Microsoft Power BI: Customer Profitability Dashboard
What We Like
Free version available
Frequent updates
High-impact, visual data summaries
What We Don’t Like
Basic features
Cannot share without upgrading to Pro
Limited access to other databases and servers
Price Range: $$$
Starting Price: $10/user/month
Client OS: Windows, iOS, Android, Web
Deployment: Cloud or On-Premises

Power BI is a self-service business analytics tool developed by Microsoft. The BI tool analyzes then creates easy-to-read visuals with your data. You can extract insights between different departments across your organization into one cohesive picture of performance. Metric dashboards allow users to monitor important business developments in real-time.

Power BI is very easy to learn and understand, as the user interface is based on the popular Microsoft Office 365 layout. Utilizing an easy-to-use drag-and-drop functionality for organizing data, there are many unique ways to customize your data visualization.

Tableau: Online
Tableau: Desktop
Tableau: Prep Builder
Tableau: Cloud Billing
Tableau: Tableau
Tableau: Sheet
Tableau: Changes
Tableau: Submittals
What We Like
Embedded analytics
Secure network
Shareable dashboards
What We Don’t Like
Need to have skilled IT staff to create SQL query to pull a dataset
Relatively expensive with significant associated costs for deployment and training
Steep learning curve
Price Range: $$$$
Starting Price: $75/user/month
Client OS: Windows, Web
Deployment: Cloud or On-Premises

Tableau is business intelligence software which allows users to easily visualize their data to create interactive, sharable dashboards with analytics and reporting. It’s easy to learn, particularly for those familiar with Excel, yet powerful enough to satisfy even the most complex analytical problems. Securely sharing your findings with others only takes seconds thanks to connectivity tools.

Tableau provides a variety of analytics platform products to fit your business. Some of the main products to harness your data and give a complete view of your business are:

  • Tableau Desktop
  • Tableau Server
  • Tableau Online

Each offers unique data visualization tools for you to explore data points. The result is BI software that you can trust to actually deliver answers to the people that need them.

Software Pricing

Both Power BI and Tableau have pricing plans based around total users. As such, the price can be drastically different depending on these factors. Another price point to consider is the deployment model. Subscription as a service (SaaS) for a cloud-based platform may change the cost over time compared to an on-premise model.

Power BI pricing begins at $10 per user per month, if paid as an annual subscription. Discounts are available for academic, government, and nonprofit organizations, so the total cost may vary depending on your industry. And existing users of Office 365 Enterprise E5 will be pleased to find a subscription included in their Power BI Pro license.

Tableau Creator pricing begins at $70 per user per month when billed annually. This is for individual purchases of Tableau Creator. Teams and organizations interested in Tableau have a different pricing structure based on their deployment model and amount of users. In both deployment options, Tableau Creator still starts at $70 per month per user.

On-premise deployment:

  • Tableau Explorer starts at $35/user/month (billed annually; minimum 5 users)
  • Tableau Viewer starts at $12/user/month (billed annually; minimum 100 users)

Cloud deployment (SaaS):

  • Tableau Explorer starts at $42/user/month (billed annually; minimum 5 users)
  • Tableau Viewer starts at $15/user/month (billed annually; minimum 100 users)

Winner: Depends on how many users you have, though Power BI is generally cheaper to start

Integrations and Compatibility

Both Power BI and Tableau are both compatible with other popular software packages and data sources. The more data you have for your analysis, the better you can understand the results. There is a lot of overlap between the different data sources they use, though Tableau has access to many data sources to use in visualization and analytics thanks to Hadoop compatibility. Additionally, Tableau was recently acquired by Salesforce, making it compatible with their customer relationship management (CRM) tools and more.

Power BI integrates with your existing solutions for an end-to-end approach to analytics from a variety of data sources. The platform has access to Microsoft Azure, SQL servers, Access DB, Oracle Database, IBM DB2, MySQL, and additional data sources. However, data capacity is limited compared to Tableau.

Winner: Tableau

Software Scale

Next, the size of your company must be taken into account. A small startup will have very different needs from a global enterprise. As such, you’ll need a BI software capable of keeping up with your growth or fitting in with your current budget.

Power BI tends to be used by smaller companies or even individuals. Scaling up the software for larger organizations will cost a lot more. Even then, there are limits to how much data you can use for visualization and analysis.

On the other hand, Tableau is more appropriate for larger businesses. In fact, the Tableau Viewer software even requires a minimum of 100 users. Also, Tableau offers more support services, which is crucial when dealing with enterprise-level issues.

Winner: Tableau

Ease of Use

Tableau installs take minutes. Configuring the installation is straightforward, allowing business users to manage the software on their own. However, there is more training required to fully utilize this platform to its highest potential.

Since Power BI’s intuitive user interface is based on Microsoft Office 365, it is user-friendly for employees who have experience with those programs. This platform offers drag and drop functionality, making it simple for users to arrange data in a visually appealing, easy to read manner. There are even user-friendly features for copying data formatting across different sources. And the software works well with Microsoft products like Azure Active Directory and non-Microsoft products like SAP.

Winner: Power BI

Power BI vs Tableau: Which is Best

The right BI software for your business will depend on your exact functionality needs. Power BI may be better suited for smaller operations while Tableau is more affordable for enterprise-level companies. And which business intelligence tools you select may depend on the software integrations and data sets you already have. Compare Power BI, Tableau, and other popular BI tools before making your final decision. If neither of these options fit, view a list of our top Tableau alternatives.

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