and the Internet of Things are, or soon will be, affecting every facet of our lives. We are overwhelmed with information — more data has been produced in the last 24 months than the total amount created in all previous years combined since the beginning of time.
At work, you may be one of many business owners and managers struggling with so much data. A recent Forrester report indicated that almost three quarters of companies say their goal is to be "data-driven,"
but only 29 percent were able to make productive connections between data and business insight.
Data visualization tools can help you make sense of it all. Microsoft's Power BI
and Tableau are two of the most popular business intelligence
tools — this comparison will look at their strengths and weaknesses to help you choose the right one for your organization.
Power BI was first published by Microsoft in late summer of 2014 and released to the general market in the middle of the following year. It is a descendant of Power Pivot, Power View and Power Query, a popular trio of Excel add-ins.The current product suite includes Power BI, Power BI Desktop, Power BI Mobile and Power BI Embedded.
Power BI was originally tied to Office 365 but was soon separated out as a stand-alone, freemium service. With that change came several other enhancements. Free users can download Power BI Desktop to begin working right away and also get 1GB free storage. Power BI Pro is reasonably priced at $9.99/month per user at this writing, allowing full program access and 10 GB of storage.
Power BI lets you connect to third party SaaS services like Marketo, GitHub, Salesforce and Zendesk to extend and enhance your data.There are preset connectors and content packs so you can leverage the data in the third party service and combine it with your data to create analytic graphics, reports and dashboards.
Power BI's advantages includes its free tier, sheer power and performance, and wide support of third party data sources. Its similarity to Excel makes it a natural choice for users of Excel and other Microsoft products.
Disadvantages include limited data sharing capabilities and the inability to publish reports with relevant data from Power BI Desktop.
is a Seattle-based data-visualization provider. Tableau software was released in 2003 by former Stanford professors and Ph.D. candidates in an effort to commercialize their research in data and business intelligence.The Tableau family of products include Tableau Server, Tableau Desktop, Tableau Reader, Tableau Public, Tableau Mobile, Tableau Online and Embedded Analytics.
Tableau is lean, flexible and fast. It can connect to a wide variety of data sources, including relational databases, big data, flat files, spreadsheets, OLAP cubes and online sources.You can connect to your data “live,” where changes in the spreadsheet are reflected in real time in Tableau.
However, some users feel the live connection is slow. Alternatively, you can extract a smaller data subset and pull it into Tableau manually, or you can connect to Tableau’s query engine. In the 2013 edition of Gartner’s “Market Share Analysis: Business Intelligence and Analytics Software" Tableau customers lauded the easy to use interface, providing fast access to the most important data.
Other Tableau advantages include custom geocoding, flexible analytics, multi-platform support, SharePoint Web support, Front End calculations and ease of customization.
Cons include lack of an Extract-Transform-Load (ETL) tool and no diagram view for data modeling.
Leading the Market
While Tableau led the market for several years and has a large user base, Power BI has quickly become the premier data visualization platform. Power BI has grown and iterated rapidly, shedding its early awkward teenage years as a group of Excel add-ins, evolving into a powerful, comprehensive data visualization platform.
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