Tableau vs. Power BI

By Apsara Rodriguez

Data analytics is the science of analyzing raw data in order to extract valuable insights and use those insights in making smart business decisions. Data is often combined with machine learning to create predictive analytics for other analytics processes that bring the value of the information to light (Conrad, 2019). In the prevailing world, every organization relies on making data-driven decisions. Data analytics, with its far-reaching use cases and diverse applications, is now emerging as the keystone of strategic business decision making (Scott, 2020). In order to make a data-driven decision, data needs to be analyzed to identify the factors that may influence the business. Data visualization is the graphical representation of information and data in the form of graphs, charts, images and videos that explain the numbers and allow you to gain insights from it. It changes the way we make sense of the information to create value out of it discover new patterns and spot trends. At present, the two most popular data visualization programs in the business intelligence market are Tableau and Microsoft’s Power BI. While similar in function each software offers a different experience toward data analytics. Tableau seems to be tailored toward the user with its simplistic design whereas Power BI is suited with a more powerful suite of tools for in-depth analysis. In this blog, I will be comparing the software of these two data visualization offerings.


Tableau is the fastest growing data exploration and visualization tool for users to explore, visualize the data and tell stories (Nawal, 2019). It is considered to be the gold standard in data visualization tools (Gartner, 2018). It analyzes the data very quickly using drag and drop functionalities and translates queries into visualization. An interactive visual, in the form of worksheets and dashboards can be created in Tableau which provides actionable insights and helps in making business decisions.

Tableau facilitates the data discovery process as well as data communication process in the form of explanatory graphics, exploratory dashboards, and storytelling no programming required (Jones, 2014). Different types of visualization can be created with a large amount of data without impacting the performance of the dashboards (Scott, 2020). Tableau helps in simplifying the raw data and can extract the data from many formats as Excel, Text, Comma Separated Value (.csv), and table from pdf documents. Tableau software is easy to understand, user-friendly, and doesn’t require any kind of programming skills to operate. The best features of Tableau are data blending, real time analysis and collaboration of data. Tableau gives users the ability to modify data links or create them manually based on their company’s preferences.

Tableau Dashboard has a great reporting feature that allows users to customize dashboards specifically for certain devices such as mobile phones or laptops. Tableau automatically understands which device the user is viewing the report on and make adjustments to ensure that the right report is served to the right device.

The following dashboard is created by Johns Hopkins using Tableau for COVID-19 global cases. In this dashboard, Johns Hopkins tracks the global Coronavirus cases. Available on their Open Data Portal, the dashboard provides daily updates on the cases in each country, as well as the total number of deaths and the number of recoveries.


Power BI

Power BI is a data visualization and business intelligence tool that converts data from different data sources such as Excel, Comma Separated Value (.csv), Power BI Desktop (.pbi), databases in the cloud, and databases on-premises to interactive dashboards and Power BI reports. An instinctive and user-friendly feature of Power BI interface allows to transform, shape and merge data into interactive reports to make critical business decisions quickly.

A Power BI dashboard is a single page visualization tool that tells a story through visualizations. The following dashboard is created using Power BI which shows the live status report of COVID 19 by US State and County.


COVID-19 — Interactive Power BI Map of Total Cases by US State and County

Comparison of Tableau and Power BI

The following table compares Tableau and Power Bi on nine dimensions:

TableauPower BI
Wide range of analytics capabilities suitable for users of all skill groups.Highly technical nature of the data models, needs strong understanding of data modeling concepts.
More expensive than Power BI.  Affordable price.
Abilty to connect to numerous database sources and servers, compatible with Microsoft Azure, AWS.Limited ability to connect to all types of data sources, compatible with Microsoft Azure.
Integration of Business Analytics (BI) report is a real-time challenge in Tableau.Integration of BI report is easy.
Mobile friendy dashboards with ability to integrate multiple datapoints in analysisLimited data points in visualization, row size limitation
It uses Scripting languages such as R & Python to avoid performance and for complex table calculations.Power BI uses scripting languages as SQL. Python and R.
It is compatible with both Windows and Macintosh.It is compatible only with Windows.
Importing custom visualization is a bit difficult.It can create multiple visuals in a single page.  
Can clean the data quickly for analysis.Can connect multiple data sources.  


The decision concerning which analytics application to rely on comes down to the depth of analytics required by the organization. Both simplify the task of analyzing data and offer visualization tools to improve understanding and ease the communication of the data. As such, either program would benefit a business by enhancing the decision-making process, the difference lies within the preferred experience of the user. Power BI is tailored more towards the data analysts with its powerful suite of tools which require a firm grasp of data modeling, while Tableau is more suited for a general audience looking for a simple approach towards business analytics. In terms providing a capable set of tools for data analysis and visualization which can be used by almost anyone, Tableau comes out on top, but for those wanting a more powerful data analysis software Power BI is the way to go.



Tableau software comes in a desktop, server and online hosted model. The five different basic packages of Tableau are:

Tableau Desktop: Tableau Desktop is a downloadable on-premise application for computers which allows users to code, customize reports and develop visualization in the form of sheets, dashboards and stories. Data transformation, creating data sources, creating extracts and publishing visualization on Tableau Server are some useful functionalities of Tableau Desktop.

Tableau Server: Tableau Server is an organization-wise visual analytics platform for creating interactive dashboards. It is essentially an online hosting platform to share the workbooks, visualizations that are created in the Tableau Desktop application across the organization. The security is high in Tableau Server and can give security level permission to different work in an organization to determine who can access.

Tableau Online: Tableau Online is an online sharing tool of Tableau. It can publish dashboards and share with others. It can connect to any cloud databases at any time anywhere and it can automatically refresh the data from Web-App like Google Analytics and Salesforce.

Tableau Reader: Tableau Reader is a free desktop application which allows users to view the workbooks and visualizations created using Tableau Desktop or Tableau Public. There is no security in Tableau Reader as anyone who gets the workbook can view it using Tableau Reader.

Tableau Public: This is a free service that lets anyone public interactive data visualizations to the web. The visualizations are created in Tableau Desktop Public edition which requires no programming skills.

Power BI

Power BI also allows real-time dashboard updates, and data exploration using natural language query. Power BI is broken up into five different components and they are:

Power BI Desktop: Power BI Desktop is free to download and install. It can connect and access various sources like excel, CSV/Text files, Microsoft Azure, SharePoint, etc. It has drag-and-drop interactive visuals on to the pages using calculated measures and columns.

Power BI Service: Power BI Service is one of the ways to embed the reports with the website under an organization. Users can create our own workspace which helps to maintain personal work in Power BI Service. Users can interact with their data with the help of Q&A (natural language query).

Power BI Report Server: Power BI Report Server allows businesses to host reports on and on-premise report server. Report Server gives users access to rich, interactive reports, and the enterprise reporting capabilities of SQL Server Reporting Services. 

Power BI Mobile: Power BI offers an arrangement of mobile applications for iOS, Android, and Windows 10mobile devices. In the mobile app, we can connect to and interact with our cloud and on-premise data. It is very convenient to manage dashboard and reports on the go with our mobile app to stay connected and being on the same page with the organization.

Power BI Data Gateway: Power BI Data Gateway works as the bridge between the Power Bl Service and on-premise data sources like DirectQuery, Import, and Live Query. We can use a single gateway with different services at the same time.


“A Comparison of Tableau and Power BI, the Two Top Leaders in the BI Market.” Experfy Insights, 15 Feb. 2019,

Conrad, Alainia. “Power BI vs Tableau vs Qlikview: Which Is The Winner in 2020?” SelectHub Raquo, 2019,

“Introduction to Tableau.” Communicating Data with Tableau, by Ben Jones, First ed., O’Reilly Media, 2014, pp. 15–16.

Kishore, Nawal, et al. “Tableau Vs PowerBI: Compare Features Benefits Key Considerations.” KnowledgeHut Blog, 20 May 2019,

Niftit. “Power BI vs Tableau: A Comparison.” Medium, NIFTIT SharePoint Blog, 29 May 2017,

Scott, Tamara. “Power BI vs Tableau: A Data Analytics Duel.” TechnologyAdvice, 13 Jan. 2020,

“Tableau vs. Power BI: Deciding Which Tool Is Best for Your Business.” Cognetik, 12 Feb. 2020,