Tableau vs. Power BI

This isn’t going to be a typical comparison between two different solutions. I am not objective here. In a different lifetime, I might have become a great advocate for the other solution. After all, it has great visualizations, and a fantastic community of professionals and fans. You might also argue (especially if you are a fan of the other product), that I have no real claim to share my thoughts here. After all, I have never used the other product.

Nevertheless, if you are a fan of the other solution (and by now may be a bit angry that this blog post was shared with you, by someone from the other side), I think you should read this blog post, and the series which will follow. I am not going to convince you to stop using the other product. But it’s definitely time for you to start using this new emerging product. In the next 10 years, it will conquer the world. It has already started. And you cannot afford to stay behind.

In this series, we will discuss why Power BI is going to change your organization’s data culture, and provide you a rare opportunity to join the evolution.

As a community member, I have started to feel the momentum in the second half of 2016. The demand of Power BI was steadily increasing, and since 2017, it is accelerating to exhilarating proportions. Last week in Microsoft Data Insights Summit, James Phillips announced Power BI Premium, and shared a series of game changer features which will be released in the next three months.

Especially interesting for Tableau users who start considering Power BI projects, in the next 3 months, Power BI will release lots of storytelling experiences, that were typically associated to Tableau’s unique value proposition. The Power BI new features include timeline custom visual, quick insights, drill down and Visio integration. And there are also the new Data Bars that were just released in Power BI Desktop June update and the global availability of ArcGIS Maps.

The new Data Bars are available in Power BI desktop June Update
The new Data Bars are available in Power BI desktop June Update

Update (Sep 8, 2017): Power BI released an improved sampling here, which better addresses the limitation. We can now officially say that the claim above is obsolete.

So, here are few snippets of the things we will discuss in this series:

  1. Demystifying Power BI misconceptions.
  2. Share resources & best practices for BI teams that start considering using Power BI, or are starting their Self-Service BI & Data Governance journey.
  3. Demonstrate the power of Power BI to change your organization data culture (Sneak Peek can be found in my session at the summit here).

Ready to start?

Demystifying Power BI misconceptions – Part 1

Update (Mar 10, 2018):

  • Tableau Marketing Team removed the 8 ways Power BI Falls Short section here, and softened their anti-Power BI tone.
  • Power BI released three more game-changing features: Bookmarks, PowerApps Custom Visual and the new Tooltips.
  • Garther 2018 recognized both Microsoft and Tableau as leaders – But you can see that Microsoft are in a better spot 🙂
  • You can keep reading this blog if you think that Tableau is a better solution, or jump straight to this article to learn why Power BI should be your preferred solution at this stage.

According to a Tableau marketing page here (Which you can find as the first Google search result of “Power BI vs. Tableau”), there are 8 ways Power BI falls short (One personal note for Tableau product marketing team – Can’t you be less negative here? Don’t you think some people will think you are too drastic, and perhaps even in panic?).

8 Ways Power BI Falls Short - Not

According to Tableau, the first way Power BI falls short is the missing of outliers in scatter charts: “For starters, Power BI limits data visualizations to only 3,500 data points; it automatically filters your data, at random, for any points exceeding the limit.”

So, I had to test this claim (I am sure it was a correct claim in the past, but with the massive monthly updates by the Power BI team, it’s difficult to track the improvements).

Update (Ssp 8, 2017): This section was written before September update, which addresses the limitation above, by sampling high density scatter charts. Read more here.

I created an Excel workbook with more than 10000 rows, and a single outlier, whose location in the dataset can be randomly selected. When I loaded the data to Power BI, the outlier was always detected (Check out the cyan colored dot in the top right corner), so even if the visual is limited to 3500 points, the outlier is shown.

You can download the Excel file here and the Power BI report here.

Now, even if Power BI is limited to 3500 values, you cannot rely on Scatter Chart to detect outliers.  You better use box & whisker custom visuals or R Custom Visuals in Power BI, and with few mouse clicks, and zero knowledge of the programming language R you can detect clustes with outliers.

In the next post in this series we will continue the journey in demystifying the other seven ways Power BI falls short according to Tableau.


    • Gil Raviv Post authorReply

      Tableau has some stunning visuals, I agree. But can you show me one example where 1 million points in a visual are actionable and don’t slow down the report interactivity? BTW, the more important question – do you find this limitation a showstopper to use Power BI?

  1. Ken Flerlage Reply

    One critical point worth making is that Tableau originally posted “10 Ways Power BI Falls Short” almost a full year ago (August, 2016), so I think it’s safe to assume that they were comparing Tableau to Power BI at that time. I saw the post in the fall and searched for a non-biased comparison of the products. I had no luck and decided to write my own. At the time, I had been tinkering with both Tableau and Power BI, but wasn’t really convinced of the superiority of either (Full Disclosure: I’ve since come to the conclusion that Tableau is the best visual analytics software available and have gone all in with the product). My goal was to explore Tableau’s 10 criticisms, as well as Microsoft’s response detailing 10 advantages of Power BI over Tableau and to do so in a completely unbiased manner. Here’s my post:

    I found that, at that time, Tableau’s list of 10 criticisms were mostly true. Granted, as you’ve pointed out, they are no longer necessarily true, but that’s largely because Power BI has come out with recent enhancements to address these issues. At the time of Tableau’s post, none of those enhancements existed.

  2. Anonymous Reply

    How can you provide an unbiased opinion if you haven’t tested both products? I do wonder…

    • Gil Raviv Post authorReply

      You are right. It’s a biased opinion. But you won’t find me writing a negative thing about Tableau, and you are welcome to provide your opinion, here in the comments, or as a guest author.

  3. Skip Reply

    Power BI attacks that list and its even smaller today, Power BI has many features Tableau doesn’t… MANY many features and its much cheap.

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