Choosing Between Tableau and Power BI Business Intelligence Tools

Susan Asher | Wednesday, November 30, 2022

Choosing Between Tableau and Power BI Business Intelligence Tools

Both Microsoft Power BI and Tableau (whose parent company is Salesforce) are business intelligence (BI) tools that gather, integrate, analyze, and present business information to help you interpret corporate data and make wise business decisions. The 2022 Gartner Magic Quadrant report shows both tools as leaders in the BI space.

Magic Quadrant for Analytics and Business Intelligence Platforms

The functionality and features of the two platforms appear incredibly similar at first inspection. So, how can you determine which option is ideal for your company?

This article compares both platforms to help you decide.

A brief look at both

When comparing Microsoft Power BI to Tableau, you must consider who will use these products. Designed for the average stakeholder rather than a data analyst, Power BI features more drag-and-drop and intuitive capabilities to assist teams in creating visualizations. It's an excellent addition to any team that needs data analysis software but doesn’t have extensive training in data analytics.

Tableau is similarly strong, but its interface isn't as user-friendly, making it more difficult to use and master. Those with prior data analytics and statistics experience will have an easier time cleaning and translating data into visuals. At the same time, those just starting out using analytics software will undoubtedly feel overwhelmed by the uphill fight of learning basic data science before creating any dashboards or reports.

Why do you need a business intelligence platform?

In the present atmosphere, the urge to be more "data-driven" is expanding throughout industries, from manufacturing to financial services. Data helps you track your company's success, learn more about your consumers, and acquire a competitive advantage.

Below are listed some of the core capabilities of both platforms:

  • Integrate multiple data sources into a single source of truth
  • Measure business key performance indicators (KPIs)
  • Provide data through dashboards
  • Provide data transparency and sharing capabilities

Both Power BI and Tableau have been around for a long time and have millions of users globally, making it difficult to determine the best match for your company. However, while both platforms are prevalent, the final decision comes down to how suited each program is for your specific circumstances.

What is Power BI?

Power BI is a powerful application for data analytics, data visualization, and ad-hoc report creation, providing a multi-perspective view of the information. After you clean and aggregate data to create a single data model for analysis processes, you can view, visualize and analyze the information to generate key business insights.

Power BI imports data from .PXIB files using advanced compression algorithms, reducing storage requirements, data transmission time and the bandwidth needed. It offers several software services, over 100 connections, and a drag-and-drop capability to make it easy to use. Creating dashboards is easy. Power BI is built on Microsoft technologies like Excel, Azure, and SQL, making it an accessible choice for companies using Microsoft products.

What is Tableau?

Tableau is a well-known data visualization and business intelligence program used to analyze and create reports on massive amounts of data. The software enables users to build various charts, graphs, maps, dashboards, and stories to view and analyze data to make business decisions.

Because of its intelligible forms, Tableau data is more accessible for people of all levels to digest. While the learning curve for Tableau dashboard development is slightly steeper than Power BI, given it is geared more towards data analysts than casual users, it still doesn’t require you to be highly technical. 

Power BI

With Power BI, the core publishing tool is Power BI Desktop. It enables a variety of features to create new models and reports. Power BI Service is a cloud-based SaaS service that hosts Power BI models, reports, and dashboards. Data collaboration and interchange occur in the cloud using the Power BI Service.

The Power BI service is a secure Microsoft-hosted cloud service that allows users to access dashboards, reports, and Power BI applications – a form of content that integrates linked dashboards and reports — through a web browser or mobile apps for Windows, iOS, and Android.

Power BI Desktop is a free, self-service data analysis and report publishing solution for Windows computers. It can link to over 70 on-premises and cloud data sources to generate dynamic graphics. Data scientists and developers use Power BI Desktop to create reports that are then delivered to the Power BI service.

Power BI Pro is a cloud-based program that costs $10 per user per month. The ability to communicate with other Power BI users and deliver reports and visualizations to other Power BI subscribers across the enterprise is the most significant distinction between Power BI Desktop and Power BI Pro.


The Tableau Platform is comprised of a variety of products that allow users to combine diverse data sources and generate data visuals that can be shared internally and publicly. You can choose which products are best suited to your organization when arranging your licensing agreement with Tableau.

Tableau Desktop is a data visualization application for creating interactive dashboards and reports. Tableau Desktop's strength is its ability to easily turn data into data visualizations such as charts and graphs to create a story with your data. Real-time analytics can also be enabled by connecting directly to data sources that include live data. In addition to real-time capabilities, Tableau's data engine allows you to effortlessly import data from numerous sources and combine it by merging several views in an interactive dashboard.

Tableau Server is a platform where you may store all of your Tableau information, including workbooks and data sources. Tableau Desktop is used to generate dashboards, which are subsequently published to Tableau Server and shared with the appropriate individuals in your business. Tableau Server is a collaborative working environment that eliminates the requirement for worksheets to be downloaded and opened. You can manage and secure projects, just like many other server technologies or file-based repositories, to stimulate cooperation with the appropriate people.

Tableau Online is similar to Tableau Server, except it is a cloud-hosted analytics solution that eliminates the need to manage and maintain hardware. This enables faster and easier setup and configuration, as well as mobile access to business analytics. Dashboards generated in Tableau Desktop can be published and shared with others.

Tableau Reader is a free desktop version of Tableau that just allows you to see Tableau visualizations. This means that you can interact with visualizations by filtering and drilling down on data, but you can't alter them.


Power BI adheres to Microsoft's security standards and regulations and tight security compliance criteria. Every Power BI deployment has a web front-end and back-end cluster. Data is sent across two clusters to avoid security compromises, and clients are continuously authenticated.

Tableau provides many authentication options, including trusted authentication, mutual SSL, personal access tokens, and Kerberos. Tableau's security features include advanced network security and encryption. Tableau may additionally protect live data sources by enabling database credentials in published view. Tableau administrators have a variety of choices for keeping data safe.

Ease of Use

Power BI provides end users with real-time dashboards a data analysis. To improve the user experience, the tool also has superb drag-and-drop functionality. Users do not require substantial technical knowledge to use its robust data analytics and discovery features. 

Tableau also has powerful dashboard and reporting options, albeit some of them are less straightforward. Tableau's live query features are advantageous to analysts. Along with query-based visualization, the Tableau BI tool includes drag-and-drop functionality. To utilize all of the capabilities successfully, you might want to spend some time researching the Tableau UI and feature set.