Power BI vs Tableau

2021 Reviews of Top Business Intelligence Tools

Power BI vs Tableau Guide

This guide provides an in-depth comparison of top BI software and practical advice to help you select the right solution for your organization.

  1. Which Are The Top BI Tools?
  2. Power BI vs Tableau
  3. Analyst Perspectives

Which Are The Top BI Tools?

The best BI tools help you make better, data-driven decisions that move your organization forward. As you’ll see below, to truly achieve this, your tool must bring together data integration, data analytics and data literacy.

Only 3 Leaders
In their 2021 report, Magic Quadrant for Analytics and Business Intelligence Platforms, Gartner named only three vendors as Leaders: Power BI, Tableau and Qlik.

Power BI vs Tableau

Evaluating and selecting the best solution for your company can be challenging given that there are so many vendors. This guide compares the three Gartner Leaders Power BI vs Tableau vs Qlik on the key evaluation criteria.

Fully Explorable Dashboards

You need more than cool-looking dashboards. You should be able to explore all your data in any direction, directly from within the dashboard. That way you can uncover relationships you might not have considered when you or an analyst first set up the query.

  • Power BI

    Power BI’s SQL database restricts you to follow specific paths and limited data. So, for each query, only a part of your data is analyzed, which lets patterns and connections go undiscovered.

  • Tableau

    Any exploring can only happen in the very beginning of the process, before the final dashboard, so end users are not explorers. This is because Tableau also uses a query-based approach which limits you to predetermined, linear query paths within a specific slice of your data.

  • Qlik Sense

    Qlik Sense is built on an “associative” data engine that allows you or any user to explore all your data freely from any angle. And machine learning helps Qlik’s cognitive engine learn over time and give you exploration ideas.

Screenshots of Qlik's interactive dashboards.

Data Visualization

When comparing Power BI vs Tableau, remember that most tools can visualize data in interactive graphs, charts and maps. The best tools offer AI to help you create charts, highlight outliers, and suggest new visuals. Plus, as with dashboards, you’ll want to freely explore all your data, in any direction, directly from within the visualization.

  • Power BI

    Power BI offers a full suite of interactive data visualizations. But, as with their dashboards, the preselected query paths will restrict your filtering and exploration.

  • Tableau

    Tableau’s best known for their full range of visualizations. But again, like Power BI, you’ll be limited in your filtering and exploration by the query paths the original author selected.

  • Qlik Sense

    Qlik makes their full range of interactive visualizations more powerful by compressing large data sets, revealing the shape of your data and pinpointing outliers. Plus Qlik provides AI help for creating charts, recommending associations, and preparing data.

Many Use Cases (On One Platform)

Your tool should let you and all users perform all BI use cases using the same data and the same platform. You may have many different types of users, such as analysts, engineers and businesspeople performing many use cases, such as visualizing data, embedding analytics, or sharing dashboards.

  • Power BI

    Power BI does deliver on a range of common use cases but only if you invest in the full stack of Microsoft data and analytics products.

  • Tableau

    Tableau is primarily an authoring environment for analysts to create data visualizations.

  • Qlik Sense

    All users in your business can perform all activities—from visualization to data analysis—on the same platform with a common analytics engine, AI capabilities and analytics data pipeline.

AI-Powered Analytics

With the power of AI and machine learning, augmented analytics helps you quickly analyze your data by suggesting insights and new connections. This increases your productivity and helps you make better decisions.

  • Power BI

    Quick Insights and Q&A are the two Microsoft AI features which were added on to Power BI. To access these features you’ll need to purchase the whole Microsoft stack. And, these are objects on a dashboard which you’ll need to add every time.

  • Tableau

    Ask Data, Tableau’s AI feature was also a later addition which means it’s not core to the platform. It only connects to data sources, which means it can’t leverage the insight your analysts have built. And it doesn’t work with the business logic built into workbooks because it can’t access workbooks.

  • Qlik Sense

    Qlik's AI is an always-on engine within the context of the analysis the user is performing. This lets it suggest insights and new connections as you explore your data. This is possible because Qlik’s full range of AI capabilities are built into the platform at a foundational level.

Embedding Analytics

Your BI tool should make it easy for you to embed full analytics capabilities to all the processes, applications, and portals across your organization. That way, your employees, partners, suppliers, and customers can make better, data-driven decisions from within the systems they’re already using.

  • Power BI

    It is possible to embed dashboards and objects with Power BI. But surprisingly, Power BI is not API-first and a lot of capabilities are not available in its SDKs.

  • Tableau

    Tableau’s APIs are even more limited than Power BI’s. This means you can only embed a complete dashboard, not individual values.

  • Qlik Sense

    Qlik’s platform was built API-first using modern standards. This means you can embed a dashboard–and individual numbers, values, and metrics–within the latest web and application technologies.

Mobile BI

While comparing Power BI vs Tableau, keep in mind that you need a platform which lets you explore and analyze data and share insights wherever you and your teams happen to be.

  • Power BI

    Power BI has a mobile app but it only allows for viewing, not creating. And Power BI’s cloud is used primarily for uploading reports.

  • Tableau

    On a mobile device, Tableau only lets you download one sheet from a workbook. And it won’t let you filter; you’ll only be able to highlight one value at a time and scroll to find that value in related charts.

  • Qlik Sense

    Responsive design and touch are native to the platform. Qlik offers a full-native mobile app with fully interactive online and offline exploration and integrated alerting with push notifications.

Scalability

Bringing together all your datasets from many sources gives you a full view of your business. It also means handling large amounts of data. Plus, you may have many users performing increasingly complex analytics. Your tool should be able to do all of this without additional cost or lower performance.

  • Power BI

    Power BI can scale but Microsoft makes you pay for it. After you pass Power BI Pro’s low data limit of 1GB per data set, you must upgrade to Premium (or use live query, which will slow everyone’s work to a crawl).

  • Tableau

    When Tableau’s engine tries to handle large volumes of disparate data, it slows dramatically (especially if performing complex analytics). Plus, it won’t let you increment data and keep it fresh in small build windows.

  • Qlik Sense

    Even with massive data sets, real-time data and high numbers of users, Qlik’s associative engine provides instant calculation performance. And you can keep data fresher in a much smaller build window, due to Qlik’s ability to add, modify and remove records.

Governed Self-Service

Naturally, you want everyone to trust their data, analytics and insights. And you also want everyone to work quickly without having to wait for IT or analysts. This means your tool should allow you to control your data and content with a centralized management capability that uses rules-based governance.

  • Power BI

    Power BI takes a decentralized approach, which means your data is spread across people’s desktops and the cloud. This makes it expensive and time-consuming to manage data properly.

  • Tableau

    Tableau allows any user to make their own copy of copy of content. Managing all these iterations can take considerable time and effort.

  • Qlik Sense

    Qlik centralizes and unifies your data in the cloud, creating governed data models with robust data security. And all content creation happens in the cloud, where it’s governed and controlled at every step. Plus, governed libraries provide reuse and standardization for analytics.

Our technology works with your infrastructure

Deployment Flexibility

As you compare Microsoft Power BI vs Tableau, consider that you don’t want to be limited in your cloud strategy options or have to build new infrastructure. Your BI software should have a platform-agnostic, multi-cloud architecture that lets you deploy in any environment, from on-premise to cloud hybrid.

  • Power BI

    Power BI requires you to use Azure. Plus, the on-premise functionality is different from the cloud experience.

  • Tableau

    Salesforce now owns Tableau, so you may wonder where your data could end up and whether it could get locked in.

  • Qlik Sense

    Qlik is an independent company, offering you freedom and control of your data. And, Qlik provides a full enterprise SaaS environment and on-premise or private cloud options.

Diagram showing how data is processed into the Governed Data Catalog and BI Applications.

Data Integration

Data integration brings together and transforms raw data into analytics-ready data. Your tool should be able to leverage real-time data integration technologies like change data capture and streaming data pipelines to make data available across your enterprise.

  • Power BI

    To make data integration work on Power BI, you need to purchase additional products from the Microsoft stack. And even then, it can be difficult to manage the disparate offerings.

  • Tableau

    Tableau Desktop and in Tableau Prep provide data prep capabilities. But each product solves a different problem and neither product can solve them all. So you’d need to pick Desktop or Prep and then find other solutions for the data problems Tableau can’t solve.

  • Qlik Sense

    Best-in-class data integration capabilities for combining and transforming data as well as data cataloging are built into Qlik Sense. Plus, Qlik also offers an enterprise class data integration platform which provides a seamless analytics data pipeline.

Data Literacy Support

Most tools teach you how to use their platform. Today, you need more. You need all levels of people in your organization to be data literate: to be able to ask the right questions of data and machines, make data-driven decisions, and communicate meaning to others.

  • Power BI

    Power BI only provides self-service access to authors. And, once these authors have published content, it’s only available with very limited interactivity. All other users have to go back to the author for a new report when they want to explore deeper.

  • Tableau

    Tableau also requires you to be an author to interact with data and to benefit from Tableau’s data literacy initiative.

  • Qlik Sense

    The Qlik platform lets anyone, at any skill level, explore their data. Plus Qlik offers data literacy training programs for any user.

Total Cost of Ownership

As you evaluate Tableau vs Power BI cost, be sure to factor in the total cost of ownership (TCO). TCO covers the cost of software plus other costs over a 3- to 5-year period. These include systems setup and development, infrastructure, and systems admin and support. Your BI software vendor should provide full transparency into the total financial – and time – commitment.

  • Power BI

    Power BI can appear low-cost, but to scale up even moderately, you have to pay for an upgrade. Learn more.

  • Tableau

    Tableau will require additional investments as you scale. Learn more.

  • Qlik Sense

    Qlik’s total cost of ownership is lower than Power BI or Tableau. Plus, Qlik has no hidden or additional costs as you scale up.

Analyst Perspectives On BI Tools

Compare Power BI vs Tableau and other tools with these useful resources.

  • Survey of 3,000 BI Users

    See how top BI tools stack up in the 2021 BARC survey of real-world BI users. Qlik was ranked as a leader in 48 categories, including customer satisfaction, product satisfaction, business value, and analyses.

  • Gartner’s Choice for a Magic Quadrant Leader

    Find out why Qlik has been named a Leader in the Gartner Magic Quadrant for Business Intelligence and Analytics Platforms the 11th year in a row.

  • BI Tools Comparison Kit

    This kit provides essential resources for selecting the best BI tool such as an evaluation checklist and a TCO comparison guide.

Why do customers choose Qlik?

Compare Qlik Sense® to other BI tools and you’ll see why Qlik sets the benchmark for a new generation of data analytics.

Take data visualization to a whole new level with Qlik Sense.

A best-in-class, self-service business intelligence architecture is just one way Qlik Sense® sets the benchmark for next-generation data analytics technologies. Our one-of-a-kind associative analytics engine and sophisticated AI empowers people at all skill levels to freely explore data, make bigger discoveries and uncover bolder insights that can’t be obtained using other analytics tools. With Qlik, you can support nearly any use case and massively scale users and data, empowering everyone in your organization to make better decisions every day.

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