One of the primary questions that always come to our table during customer projects is that how similar or different are MS Power BI and Tableau from each other. The client usually asks this question when they want to compare the two and want to two that solutions are more suitable for self-service BI, especially when you have specific requirements. So much is anticipated, there is no general answer to this question. Power BI and Tableau are leaders in the self-service BI market. Each company will still have to decide independently which tool offers them the right set of features and functionalities considering their requirements and respective areas of ​​application.

To give a first insight into the differences and strengths of the two tools, we have selected and compared some relevant functions.

Power BI Vs Tableau - Data Connection & Preparation

Both Power BI and Tableau have many options for connecting data sources. All common data sources such as files (Excel, CSV), databases (SQL, Oracle), or online services (Salesforce, Google Analytics) are supported. Therefore, you cannot decide over a single winner when it comes to the data connection. Because both Tableau and MS Power BI have an assorted range of connectors that enable users to easily connect the most common databases and flat files.

Nevertheless, once data sources are connected with Tableau or MS Power BI, you can identify the clear difference in terms of data linking and data modeling.

Power BI

If we consider Power BI, then data can be converted and modeled by using the Power Query “Formula Language M” or thorough user interface options. Also, the data tables can be linked and edited directly into the user interface of Power BI. The well-known Microsoft menu structure and visual aids enable creating complex data models directly in Power BI, without requiring any in-depth programming knowledge.

The creation of ER models with different cardinalities is also very much possible with Power BI. Classic data analysis structures can be taken directly from the data warehouse and enriched with additional tables such as a date or region table. Power BI can map relational structures and allows cross filters between tables.


Tableau users can also connect to data sources in many different ways. In addition to the overall data union or linkage, you can also link together data sources together in Tableau. Also, links between tables in the same database and between tables in different databases are supported by Tableau. Also, Tableau offers the function of data blending. The data merging is helpful if the data sources used to contain data that have a different level of detail or granularity.

A flat table is generated from all the links in Tableau, which then forms the basis for data visualization and analysis. This often results in requirements for the underlying data sources, which should have a relational structure if possible. This relational structure makes working with Tableau much easier.

Power BI Vs Tableau - Visualization (Reports & Dashboards)

Power BI takes a different approach for creating dashboards and reports in comparison to Tableau. Visualizations are not first created in different worksheets and then integrated into dashboards. Instead, individual visualizations are placed directly on a worksheet and then assembled to create a dashboard

This is done via a selection of predefined visualizations, which can then be filled with the corresponding dimensions and key figures. Compared to Tableau, this approach in Power BI is not as free and flexible. It is founded on the selection and structure prevailing in Microsoft’s visualization menus. MS Power BI provides a wide variety of formatting options. Object size, placement, fonts, and colors can be set as desired. The extensive possibilities are both a curse and a blessing. Inexperienced users won’t find it so easy but will get clear and unambiguous support in formatting.

Extensions In The Marketplace

If we look into Microsoft Marketplace, Power BI has a special feature in comparison to Tableau. Associated with this is the possibility of being able to add additional visualizations in Power BI. At Tableau, there are first tendencies to offer a marketplace. However, this is not yet comparable in terms of the amount of available content.

More Analysis at Tableau

Compared to Power BI, the aspect of data analysis is more important in Tableau. It is therefore not surprising that visualizations in Tableau are initially created on individual worksheets. Overall, the visualizations in Tableau look very modern and appealing. Visualizations can be created quickly using drag & drop or the "Show Me" function.  Dashboard designs are predominantly flexible in Tableau and provided a wide range of individual designing functions.

Tableau offers assorted visualization options to display, which are already braced by "Show Me" as part of the built-in best practices. Additionally, advanced users can create further visualizations. These include funnel diagrams, donut charts, Sankey diagrams, or radar charts, which are not created directly with a mouse click.

A summary of multiple worksheets is defined as a dashboard in Tableau. The visualizations (worksheets) can be put together as desired. Individual visualizations therefore only have to be created once and can then be added to each dashboard. Changes to visualization are therefore only necessary once. You don't have to create them again for every dashboard.

Story Option at Tableau

Another function for preparing visualizations is the story function in Tableau. A story is a series of visualizations that together serve to convey information. Similar to a PowerPoint presentation, a sequence of visualizations and dashboards is created as part of a story. The difference is that, unlike PowerPoint, they contain all the functionality that is provided in the visualization. Tableau offers several advantages, particularly when it comes to created dashboards and visualizations and dashboards. Nevertheless, there are also various formatting options in the Power BI dashboard which offer some design options.

Power BI & Tableau - Distribution of Reports

In Power BI Desktop, once you create data visualization and model, you can easily publish reports and datasets to the report server or Power BI cloud service. If you want to release reports to other users, they must also have a license to Power BI Pro. Then, these reports can be accessed and used by using any computer, laptop, smartphone, or tablet, through any internet browser. For users who don’t have the Power BI Pro license, individual reports can be made available through iFrame or can be published on the website.

In Tableau, users can also share data sources, stories, dashboards and visualizations, with the authorized users, simply by publishing them via Tableau Server. They can also view the visualizations via any browser or native tablet and iPhone apps, adapt them if necessary, and create them as their view. The same analysis options are largely available in Tableau Server as in Tableau Desktop. With Tableau Mobile, Tableau also offers an app with which mobile device users can access Tableau Server as an alternative to the browser.

In addition to the provision via Tableau Server, reports are saved and distributed as Tableau Workbook including extract and at the file can be opened by any user with at least Tableau Reader, which is a free desktop application. With it, users can easily open data visualizations, and can also interact with them to filter data, examine it more closely and gain new insights.

On-Premise or Cloud?

Both Power BI and Tableau provide options for distributing analyzes and reports while assigning different authorizations. The main difference is that, unlike Power BI (Pro), Tableau serves as an on-premise solution, which is a requirement for some users and companies. On the other hand, the provision in Power BI (cloud) is significantly cheaper and requires less effort. Many important features regarding user administration and provision can be found in both BI tools.

Power BI Vs Tableau - Getting Started & Costs

Microsoft offers various subscription types for Power BI which include Power BI Desktop, Power BI Premium, and Power BI Pro licenses. Power BI Desktop is also available for free for individual users and can be used open-endedly. Power BI Pro costs around € 8.4b0/user/month and provides additional functions such as collaboration, publication, approval, and ad hoc analyzes. On the other hand, Power BI Pro is available free trial for 60 days. Furthermore, Power BI Premium is licensed based on capacity and extends the functionality of Power BI Pro. Power BI Premium offers dedicated aptitudes to support larger data volumes in Power BI. User of Power BI Premium are also provided with content for viewing to users who don’t have access to Pro licenses.

Tableau also offers its solutions as a subscription. The prices for the individual license types i.e. Tableau Viewer, Tableau Explorer, and Tableau Creator) are offered per user and month and billed annually. Tableau Creator includes all of the data analysis and visualization functionality and costs $ 70/user/month.

Tableau Explorer is intended for users who want to access and interact with, or extend, the data sources and reports provided to Tableau Server. The license of Tableau Explorer requires a minimum purchase of 5 licenses. By combining at least one Tableau Creator and five Tableau Explorers, users can already use the Tableau Server, which is hosted locally or in the cloud. The Tableau Explorer costs $ 35 per user/month. For a larger number of report recipients, Tableau offers the license from Viewer (minimum purchase of 100 licenses). The Tableau Viewer authorizes the calling and interaction (e.g. filtering) of reports saved on the Tableau Server.

Our Conclusion about the Comparison Power BI Vs Tableau

If the focus is on low implementation costs, reporting, and, if necessary, data modeling or data preparation, then there is a lot to be said for the introduction of Power BI. The free entry via Power BI and Power BI Desktop offers a possibility to deal with the data analysis quickly and without costs and to discover its added value for the company.

If there is a strong focus on visual data analysis, sophisticated map displays, and the use of your server, Tableau can show its advantages.

When it comes to costs, Power BI is usually, at least initially, the cheaper option. The free trial period for Microsoft Power BI is 60 days and for Tableau, it's 14 days. Getting started and gradually building up knowledge in the use of the respective tool is therefore much easier with Microsoft Power BI since the solution can be tested over a longer time.

How Can You Compare Power BI & Tableau Yourself?

If you are about to make a decision and are considering whether Power BI or Tableau is more suitable for your application, please do not hesitate to contact us. With our free formats, Power BI Lunch & Learn and Tableau Lunch & Learn you can get to know both solutions in a half-day training.  Power BI and Tableau can also be used in data discovery sessions so that you can use your data to compare and experience the different approaches that distinguish the two solutions for data visualization and analysis.

Sam Khan
Digital Marketer
Codes Creators Inc.
Sam Khan is a Professional Digital Marketer at Codes Creators Inc. a power BI consulting company in the USA which is also providing mobile app development, software development, SharePoint Services, and more.

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Power BI vs. Tableau: Comparison of Self-Service BI Tools