Power BI and Tableau: A Comparison

  • Benoite Yver
  • January 11, 2020

Salesforce’s Tableau and a Microsoft Product Power BI have emerged as two leading players in the global business intelligence tool (BI) market. So what’s better, Power BI vs Tableau?

Organizations everywhere are using these platforms because they make it possible to manage and present large swaths of data points in a way that is easy, highly scalable, and customizable. 

Let’s explore Tableau and Power BI to see which is right for your organization. 

What is Tableau?

Tableau Desktop is a platform for data preparation, storage, analysis, collaboration, and—most importantly— custom visualization. Tableau is known for its highly customizable and colorful graphics and dashboards. 

There are multiple Tableau products , including Tableau Prep, Desktop, Server, and Online, as well as add-ons like Data Management and Server Management, Embedded Analytics, and Mobile.

What is Power BI?

Just like Tableau, Power BI is a platform for data preparation, analysis, and custom visualization but with an added emphasis on analysis and modeling (more on that below).

The Power BI suite is also comprised of several products , including Desktop, Pro, Premium, Mobile, Embedded, and Report Server. 

Power BI vs Tableau

At first glance, Tableau and Power BI look very similar. However, there are some important differences to keep in mind before deciding to use either of them. 

Here is a point-by-point breakdown of  Power BI vs Tableau to help you determine which platform might work best for your specific circumstances.

Licensing and deployment

Power BI is available for individual users and organizations. It can be deployed through the cloud with Power BI Services, on-premises using Power BI Report Server, or embedded into applications using Power BI Embedded. There are three licensing models to choose from: Free, Pro, and Premium, each of which offers varying levels of support and functionality.

Tableau also offers programs for individuals and organizations, and there are three license types to choose from: Creator for discovering insights, Explorer for investigative analysis, and Viewer for interacting with data and building visualizations. 

The Tableau Embedded Analytics tool platform requires a separate license. Pricing options and features vary depending whether you deploy Tableau using Tableau Server either on-premises or in the cloud or through the fully hosted Tableau Online service. 


Both platforms will allow you to create and share stunning interactive data visualizations. The main difference involves how visualizations are presented to end-users inside the platform. 

It’s a bit like iOS versus Android, with Tableau offering a curated selection of visualizations and Power BI offering an open library of options. Unlike Tableau, Power BI provides access to an open SDK, enabling a richer selection of visualization options. 

Ultimately, choosing the best visualization tool for your purposes may come down to preference. Some teams prefer Tableau’s curated approach while others may want a bigger pool to draw from.

Data modeling and reporting 

This is arguably the most important factor to pay attention to when deciding whether to use Tableau or Power BI. 

“Visualization becomes easy if what you have under the hood is super powerful,” explains author and consultant Avi Singh, adding that he typically spends about 80 to 90 percent of his time on data modeling when working with clients. 

According to Singh, Power BI has an edge over Tableau—particularly because of the fact that the underlying code is self-documenting. Power BI “offers tons of options in the ribbon itself, and if you want to go deeper, there are tons to explore inside of the M language. It’s really powerful and really easy to use.” Singh adds that Tableau doesn’t really have anything like that inside of its platform—which is why many users tend to go back and forth between Tableau and Excel, where they do their data shaping using the Query Editor and then bring it back into Tableau. 

Which Platform is Better?

When exploring Tableau and Power BI, perhaps the most important takeaway is that you don’t have to choose one or the other. In fact, you can use both platforms side by side in real-time for maximum results. 

Singh, for example, recommends using Power BI for modeling and Tableau for visualization. 

“Clean, shape, and transform using Power BI or the rest of the Microsoft Ecosystem. You build the data model there using DAX and all the formal languages [they offer], but then you’re free to choose the data visualization tool of your choice.”

In other words, you can use Power BI reports and dashboards or Excel, and you can even connect Tableau to finish the process and create compelling visuals.

Whatever you decide, one thing remains clear: In the age of data, organizations are using more tools than ever before to collect, prepare, process, and collaborate on data. 

Transforming Data for Power BI and Tableau

Data transformation remains a challenge, regardless of which BI tool you choose.  You may have solved the simple EL part of the process through data loader tools to get data into your Snowflake data cloud.  But that’s the simple part.  Transforming this large, diverse, and complex set of data into something consumable in your BI is the difficult part.  And, BI tools have yet to step up to that challenge.

Introducing Datameer SaaS data transformation.  It is a powerful SaaS data transformation platform that runs in Snowflake – your modern, scalable cloud data warehouse – that combines to provide a highly scalable and flexible environment to transform your data into meaningful analytics.  With Datameer, you can:

  • Allow your non-technical analytics team members to work with your complex data without the need to write code using Datameer’s no-code and low-code data transformation interfaces,
  • Collaborate amongst technical and non-technical team members to build data models and the data transformation flows to fulfill these models, each using their skills and knowledge
  • Fully enrich analytics datasets to add even more flavor to your analysis using the diverse array of graphical formulas and functions,
  • Generate rich documentation and add user-supplied attributes, comments, tags, and more to share searchable knowledge about your data across the entire analytics community,
  • Use the catalog-like documentation features to crowd-source your data governance processes for greater data democratization and data literacy,
  • Maintain full audit trails of how data is transformed and used by the community to further enable your governance and compliance processes,
  • Deploy and execute data transformation models directly in Snowflake to gain the scalability your need over your large volumes of data while keeping compute and storage costs low.

Datameer leaves all data models and transformed data directly in Snowflake so your BI tools can easily access and scalably query it while keeping the data secure.

Are you looking for a no-code or low-code data transformation solution for Tableau that your data and analytics team can use?  

Learn more about our innovative SaaS data transformation solution with direct integration into Snowflake, Sign up for your free trial today!