If you ask data scientists to list the most popular tools for generating visualizations, Tableau and Microsoft’s Power BI will likely be at the top. These tools are in high demand for a reason. They create some of the most robust visuals and help organizations gain greater insight into their business intelligence (BI) data.

But which is superior: MS Power BI vs. Tableau? There are pros and cons to each. To find the best option for your business, weigh their benefits and limitations.

Key Differences Between MS Power BI vs. Tableau

MS Power BI and Tableau are data visualization software tools that help you analyze sets of data and display your findings in a compelling visual form. This is one of the only similarities between MS Power BI vs. Tableau. The tools offer completely different features, dashboards, and visualization options. They’re also priced differently, with Tableau generally pricier.

To choose the right software for your organization, you first must understand what some of the main differences are between MS Power BI vs. Tableau. Start with a look at the main features of each:

Microsoft Power BI Features Tableau Features 
Robust baseline and custom visual options 24 baseline visual options 
User-friendly interface Interactive visuals 
No training required Exploratory data analysis tools
Entirely cloud-based Visuals can include very large data sets 
Drag-and-drop uploading options Drag-and-drop uploading options 
Scalable dashboards Drill-down tools 
Automatically correlates data Embeddable dashboards 
Cortana digital assistant support Supports other software like SharePoint 
Supports up to 3,500 data points per visual Report and visualization sharing 
Connects to multiple data sources Connects to multiple data sources 
Supports the full MS portfolio (including Azure)Includes cloud-based and on-premise options
Free baseline subscriptionsSelf-service Explorer subscriptions costs $35 per month ($42 for cloud support) 
Extended feature Pro subscriptions cost $9.99 per month Full-service Creator subscriptions costs $70 per month 
Full-service Premium subscriptions cost less than $5,000 per month and includes storage Limited-service Viewer subscriptions cost between $12 to $15 per month

Both tools allow you to create compelling visualizations and find hidden patterns in your business intelligence data. But which software is best? In general, Tableau offers more options to users, including the ability to analyze extremely large sets of data in a single visual. However, that doesn’t mean that Power BI is inferior to Tableau. In fact, Power BI is capable of producing very detailed visuals for smaller data sets using a significantly more user-friendly dashboard.

If you’re still deciding between MS Power BI vs. Tableau, you’ll need to consider the limitations of the software as well. We’ve created a chart showing the main shortcomings of each tool:

Microsoft Power BI Limitations Tableau Limitations 
Supports fewer than 3,500 data points per visualOffers more features than most small businesses actually need 
Fewer data sharing options than Tableau Has a steep learning curve 
Limited customer support for the free subscription model Doesn’t offer a free model and charges more than Power BI for basic visualizations 

There are downsides to both of these tools, so to find the best option for your organization, you’ll need to prioritize the features that matter most.

Which Software Should Your Organization Use?

Most small businesses will get the greatest benefit from MS Power BI. That’s because Power BI is usually less expensive, easier to use, and supports more than enough data for the average user. Unless you’re performing detailed exploratory data analysis on multiple sets of data that all contain hundreds of thousands of individual data points, Power BI provides everything you need to generate reports and create stunning visuals.

Another reason why so many small businesses choose Power BI over Tableau is that the software is more intuitive. Even if you’ve never generated a report or visualization before, you can get started in minutes with Power BI. There’s no training required. Even business executives with no data science background enjoy using Power BI.

If your company works with more data than Power BI can handle, then Tableau is the better option. This is also the best choice for organizations that already have a team of data scientists or other experts on staff. Those who are familiar with creating visualizations and analyzing data will find the Tableau system fairly easy to use, although there may be a learning curve in the beginning. You can also use Tableau to share data across the enterprise, so it’s a wise choice for organizations with multiple branches or large teams.

Ultimately, the choice between Power BI vs. Tableau depends on the size of your organization and your priorities.

Improving Your Organization’s Business Intelligence Strategy 

If you’re researching the differences between Power BI vs. Tableau, then you’re probably looking for a way to organize and maximize your data. The good news is that both of these tools offer free trials that you can test before you sign up for a paid subscription. You don’t have to commit to one just yet.

You can also get a free business intelligence audit from an experienced data analysis firm. A trustworthy third-party firm will assess your current BI strategy and provide you with a list of the features your organization needs to effectively analyze and visualize your data. The best of these firms already use the most advanced software, like Power BI and Tableau, to provide their clients with custom visualizations and dashboards at a low monthly cost. In other words, you may not have to choose between MS Power BI vs. Tableau at all. You can have the best features of both subscriptions for a fraction of the cost.

To get a free business intelligence audit, contact Tek Leaders today. Our team of data scientists have years of experience working with MS Power BI and Tableau software. We will help you find the right option for your organization and will even create a custom dashboard that every member of your staff can use to create beautiful data visualizations and reports. If you have more questions, you can reach us by email directly.

    Author: Devender (Dev) Aerrabolu

    Devender (Dev) Reddy Aerrabolu is the CEO of Tek Leaders. His goal is to help SMBs bring value from their data. Dev helped Tek Leaders grow from scratch into a $25 million enterprise by focusing on clients’ data needs.