More and more companies are striving to extract value from the huge amount of information stored in their databases. The types of data that companies collect are really diverse, including client names, financial variables, consumption habits… pretty much everything that is stored as information can be analyzed, processed and calculated using simple metrics. On the basis of these types of analyses, business execs can make better decisions. And by better, in this context, I mean informed decisions.
This is where data visualization tools come quite handy, in fact, these tools play the key role. That leads us to our main topic – business intelligence (BI) platforms. We are going to have a look at these analytics platforms. The first question that we should answer when discussing business intelligence platforms is “What is business intelligence and analytics?”, followed by “How does business intelligence work?”. Let’s take one step at a time.
Maybe the best way to define or explain what business intelligence is to define its goal, or better yet, the reason why anybody would want to use it. And that is a pretty easy task – you will need a business intelligence tool if you want to make decisions based on data. So, using a business intelligence platform is a must for data-driven businesses.
These platforms enable us to collect large amounts of data, often from different sources, and more importantly, organize them into graphs and maps that are easy to read and understand. These maps and graphs are updated in real time and we can configure them in a way that allows us to get all the answers that are vital to our company’s progress and success.
There are multiple BI tools, so you might be struggling with the decision which one to choose. The best business intelligence platforms list will almost certainly include Tableau and Microsoft Power BI. The most common business intelligence platforms comparison is between these two. Here are my two cents on the issue.
- Microsoft Power BI is one of the leading business intelligence platforms, and there’s a growing interest from multiple potential customers to adopt it. One of the key reasons for its popularity is the “five for five” strategy. It takes five seconds to subscribe and five minutes to be surprised. One of the key characteristics of this Microsoft tool is the easy implementation and the possibility to upload, share and use reports from any device, be that a PC, a tablet, or a smartphone. Microsoft Power BI also offers a cloud service. Due to its integration with Microsoft Office 365, it also allows access to local data sources, as well as database origins and cloud services. The target audience when this tool was designed weren’t data scientists and analysts, but business managers and execs.
- Tableau, on the other hand, is an intuitive platform and it aims at making the workflow easy, allowing clients to get clear insights from the available data. It can visualize data interactively, allowing you to interact with it in several ways, including comparing data, filtering it od connecting different variables. Tableau’s initial plan was to appeal to corporate buyers, but as the market is mature it shifted its focus to large corporations and IT experts.
- Microsoft Power BI has three versions: Desktop, Server, and Gateway; for local work, supporting mobile devices, and cloud.
- Tableau also comes in three different versions: Desktop, Server (local) and Online (cloud).
Microsoft Power BI opted for a simple cost scheme, with only two packages – free and paid, based on the volume of data.
Tableau offers two packages - personal and professional, and here the basis is the amount of data sources that are connected; with two additional packages for their online and local versions.
The price of Microsoft Power BI Pro has remained the same since the first quarter of 2015 and is one of the lowest on the market ($9.99 per user, per month for up to 10GB of data).
It also offers a free package up to 1GB per user. Although it is important to remember that it can incur additional costs to scale the service, especially if you reach the limit of 10GB per user.
The Tableau Desktop cost scheme is more expensive than its key competitor. It starts at $35 monthly fee per user (with an annual commitment) and reaches up to $75 if you choose the professional version.
The cost and complexity of their packages is one of the greatest challenges for Tableau. It is important to pay attention to the adjustments that Tableau will implement in the future, especially in relation to the simplification of its packages, volume discounts, and subscriptions.
Some of the advantages of using Power BI are:
- Increase in efficiency, as companies can extract reports autonomously when they require them, without prior knowledge or training.
- Power BI presents a Quick Insights tool that identifies correlations and patterns in your data, producing graphics including customized ones.
- Advanced analysis integration is possible through R visual scripts and objects, Microsoft Azure Machine Learning and Azure Stream Analytics.
The advantages offered by Tableau are:
- You have the ability to connect to a range of data sources.
- You can use the API of this tool for systematic data extraction.
- If a user has experience in programming, Tableau can work as a front-end of tool that allows deep statistical immersions and advanced analysis.
It is very difficult to announce an absolute winner in this competitive market. The extraordinary versatility and the ability to perform deeper and more complex data analyses are definitely two of Tableau’s pros. But it does come at a higher cost and has a slightly more difficult user-interface, especially for users that aren’t particularly tech-savvy. The “drag and drop” system helps a lot though, especially with the programming of customer panels.
Power BI isn’t particularly powerful, but its integration with common data sources as Excel and Azure is top-notch. It is more user-friendly for those who are not primarily dealing with data analysis, and advanced users find it particularly simple to use. The price plays a role too – It is roughly seven times cheaper to create a panel with Microsoft Power BI as opposed to Tableau.
It all boils down to your preferences and needs, if you’re looking for a data visualization tool that is easy to deploy and understand, at a reasonable price that is capable to structure and present your data in the right way then Power BI would be your cup of tea. However, if you need more detailed panels, out-of-this-world graphics and you need to handle complex data, Tableau is right up your alley. Before you reach a decision, make sure that you are choosing a long-term solution and always bear in mind the amount of data that your company is handling.