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Which Data Analysis and Visualization Platform should you go for: Tableau or Microsoft Power BI?

Technology is not static and tech companies work to outdo each other by creating different solutions for their target markets and this is the case with companies that work to create data analysis and visualization platforms. Due to this, it might get confusing when trying to choose between platforms like Microsoft Excel, Microsoft Power BI and Tableau.

If you have no clue what data analysis and visualization is, well, it is the organization of unstructured data in a way that business can gain more insight about say their customers, inventory etc. Insights derived from data analysis is then visualized in easy representations like charts and graphs. The above listed platforms can simplify complex data sets easily and quickly.

In our previous blog post, which you can read here, we compared reporting in Microsoft Power BI versus in Microsoft Excel. Today, we will make a comparison of Power BI versus Tableau.

Which should you go for?

The first thing to think about when choosing a data analysis and visualization platform, is to understand the type of business, size, staff requirements and the different audiences that make up the business’ target market. With this in mind, decide on which business intelligence platform serves the business needs best based on the budget.

Both Power BI and Tableau are powerful data analysis and visualization tools. They are both intuitive and represent data with attractive and easy to understand visuals but they have some key differences.

Key differences

1. Service Offering

Power BI is a data analytics service developed by Microsoft in 2013. Through interactive visualizations and business intelligence capabilities, users easily create reports and dashboards on Power BI. On the other hand, Tableau is a data visualization tool developed in 2003. It works by converting raw data into comprehensive formats and users can easily create dashboards and reports on Tableau.

2. Data Visualization

Data visualization is the graphical representation of large and complex data sets into easy-to-understand graphs and charts. Power BI is best used for customized data visualization as options like drag and drop that make handling the data easy are available on Power BI. It also allows for importation of data from various sources.

In comparison, Tableau provides more organized and cleaner visualization of data. If you are working with large data sets and want clean visuals, then tableau should be your go to tool. It represents data in either workbooks or dashboards.

3. Price

Power BI is more affordable than Tableau. Power BI offers a free Desktop Version, flexible payment plans through a monthly subscription for a Pro Version that offers a 60-day trial and additional features through a Premium Version. The Pro Version costs $9.99 per user, per month. The Premium Version costs $4,995 per month and this price covers all view-only users at no extra cost and only the creators would still need Power BI Pro license to create or edit dashboards.

Tableau offers three payment plans. The first one is the Tableau Viewer ($12 per user, per month)–“It is for people who require access to analytic insight to perform their job function but prefer to access content that has been created by others”. The Second is Tableau Explorer ($35 per user, per month): “Explorers are your modern business users – your mobilizing force for change. They may not have analyst in their title, but they’re comfortable with data”. Lastly, Tableau Creators ($70 per user, per month): “Creators are anyone in your organization who connects to sources of data and crafts that data into something useful for themselves and others”.

Power BI pricing is therefore more friendly to Startups, Small and Medium enterprises. On the other hand Tableau pricing makes it affordable to Large enterprises mainly.

4. User Friendliness

Since Power BI is a Microsoft tool with Microsoft features, it makes it easier for beginners especially those familiar with Microsoft, to learn how to use Power BI. Even those not familiar with Microsoft, can learn Power BI quickly because of its intuitive nature. Tableau on the hand is best for professionals in the data management field like data scientists. This is because Tableau’s interface is difficult to learn compared to Power BI.

5. Data Capacity and Scalability

Tableau can handle larger volumes of data compared to Power BI. It has better performance as it uses a column-based model that works by storing unique values for each column making it easy to fetch billions of rows. A workspace on Power BI can handle up to 10GB of data. When it is above 10GB, Power BI pulls data stored in Azure in the cloud or from a local database.

Scalability is how well a database adapts to changing demands when resources are added or removed. When handling larger data sets, Tableau has better scalability compared to Power BI.

6. Integration

Power BI can be easily integrated to different data sources like Microsoft Excel Azure, SharePoint, Office 365 and many other tools by Microsoft. Tableau has a much richer list of different data sources including the above listed Microsoft Excel tools among others.

7. Data Shaping and Data Modelling

Data shaping means building hierarchical relationships between two or more logical entities in a query. Through Query Editor, Power BI helps users navigate define and perform data transformations with ease. Power BI also provides Data Analysis Expressions (DAX) in Power Pivot that allows users to make connections between multiple data sources using relationships – a process known as data modelling.

Tableau on the other hand has had a Data Shaping Modelling feature that creates one flat data structure in versions prior to 2020.2. In the latest versions Tableau has introduced relationships feature with some limitations.

8. Data Sources

Data sources are the location where data that is being used on the data management platform is found. They are the connections between a database and a server. Power BI can access fewer data sources compared to Tableau. Tableau accesses a large number of databases and servers like Amazon, Cisco information server and Big Query among many others. However, Microsoft is continually updating the data sources available to Power BI users.

9. Data flow automation

Data flow automation is the feature that enables creation of ETL processes that can be scheduled to run automatically to ensure that dashboards are always showing current data.

Power BI offers Dataflow in the cloud service and to have all the functionalities work, you would have to invest in Power BI premium.

Tableau offers Tableau Prep in the cloud service and to access all the functionalities you have to purchase Creator license.

10. For Small & Medium Size Businesses or Large Businesses

If you are wondering what to go for based on size of business, Power BI is easy to use and affordable for small and medium size business compared to Tableau. Moreover, it is easy for new staff to be acquainted with Power BI. Tableau is best for large organizations or companies with in-house data analysts. While Tableau is recommended for large companies, Power BI can still be adopted for the same large companies especially those already using Microsoft. Consult our team of experts here to find out more.

11. Customer Support

Customer support on Power BI is limited for free version users but tutorials and other resources are available. Both Power BI and Tableau have strong customer support with forums and discussions for users.

12. Infrastructure

Infrastructure on Power BI is SaaS (Software as a Service) where users access cloud-based Apps via the internet. Tableau offers more flexible infrastructure making it easy for users to integrate Tableau with their existing infrastructure as well as data sources.


The above comparison should guide you when making a decision on the best data analysis and visualization platform to use for your business. Both Tableau and Power BI employ powerful business intelligence technologies when analyzing and presenting insights on data. However, as a younger player in the industry, Power BI is proving to be a better option especially for SMEs.

Our team of data scientists can help you get started on Power BI in terms of training and creation of custom dashboard. It is as simple as contacting us here.

Tags :
Microsoft Power BI,Power BI,Power BI Dashboard
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