Power BI vs Tableau

Posted by Errin O'Connor on Mar, 27, 2019 03:03

Power BI vs Tableau

Which of these powerful tools is going to be best for your business?

This question has been on the minds of many CIOs and Senior IT leaders for many years now.

Unfortunately there is no clear winner in this debate, as both are great tools to gain additional knowledge on your data.

However, it is possible to compare the two to get an idea of where to start in one’s search for a powerful BI tool.

I am going to go over three main points that I feel are the most asked: Features, Longevity, and Pricing.  In addition, at the end, I will provide a brief synopsis on why I have chosen Power BI over Tableau, after having worked with each for several years.

Both programs contain many of the same key features.  They are great at generating high quality interactive dashboards and reports and they both can pull in large quantities of data and create custom calculations for exploration, how they approach this task is very different.

  • Tableau takes a curated approach to how it builds its dashboards, it wants to start by getting data loaded in quickly and easily then put down various charts and graphs that can be easily modified and utilized. This leads to some swiftly designed and elegant looking reports and dashboards.
    • Go to HERE for some great examples
  • Power BI takes a different stance. What Microsoft wants you to do, is bring in your data, manage the relationships between tables and modify it with either Power Query or DAX.
    • Go to HERE for some great examples.

This can add additional complexity, but also forces the user to examine the raw data sooner for errors. As a SQL developer I prefer this method the most as ensures accurate data before spending the time to create the report.

Furthermore, one of the most powerful components in Power BI is custom visuals created in R. This provides a way to tailor content specifically for your company.

Life Expectancy

The next important area that is must be looked at closely is longevity.

Both products have been on the market for several years now and have gone through a multitude of updates and improvements during that time frame.

The big difference is Tableau has been in the business since January 2003, whereas Power BI has only been on the market since July 2015.

  • This means Tableau has had the longest time to refine the product and build out instructional materials;
  • However, Power BI does have the backing of Microsoft and with their push to office 365, and online services, have brought with it a fast adoption an integration of the BI suit, and with that, plenty of instructional materials.
  • Needless to say, both products are here to stay.

Finally, pricing for the two varies incredibly depending on what an organization plans on doing with the product. Which is why it is hard to give sold cost numbers.  Below is just some basic pricing information as of 3/26/2019 and is very likely to change as both product develop.

  • Power BI only has two main tiers of pricing which is a pro license for $9.99 per user a month, making it the cheapest option for small teams that will be housing the .pbix files through a shared folder or through email, one of the reasons why office 365 pairs so well.
  • Once a team has grown and want to deliver more reports, not just their teammates but customers, they will have to look at getting a premium license or an on-premise license which shoots the price up to around $5,000 per month.

However, for larger corporations this pricing method turns out to be, on average, cheaper due to only having to get the premium license which scales based on usage.

  • Only needing the $9.99 license for each developer.
  • Tableau, on the other hand has multiple product tiers based on a per user pricing model.
    • Creator, which is required for development of dashboards, $70 a month
    • Explorer, which is for users who need more control of reports but are not actively developing them for the company, $42 a month and requires a minimum purchase of 5
    • Viewer, for users who only need to interact with certain dashboards in a limited capacity.

Because Tableau includes hosting in their price it makes it easier to provide report to people outside of the organization or non-developers.  However, once organizations get large enough, the individual licenses quickly add up and overtake Power BI’s premium licensing options.


Now I would be remiss if I did not mention one of Power BI’s greatest assets, an asset that Tableau cannot duplicate. Power BI is part of the Microsoft Office 365 stack which enables it to seamlessly work with other office apps.

This allows an organization to take a more holistic view of how they will integrate security features, communication, version control and remove having multiple vendors and logins for their staff.

That is why, our customers choose Power BI as overall provides a cleaner work environment and a product that allows for more customization options than Tableau does.

Still not sure which is best for your business? Contact EPC Group and our Power BI experts will help you better utilize your business analytics.

Errin O'Connor
About the Author

Errin O'Connor

With over 25 years of experience in Information Technology and Management Consulting, Errin O’Connor has led hundreds of large-scale enterprise implementations from Business Intelligence, Power BI, Office 365, SharePoint, Exchange, IT Security, Azure and Hybrid Cloud efforts for over 165 Fortune 500 companies.

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