Self-service BI

Self-service BI review: Tableau vs. Qlik Sense vs. Power BI

All three next-gen BI solutions make data discovery and analysis remarkably easy, but Tableau does it best

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At a Glance
  • Microsoft Power BI

  • QlikTech International AB Qlik Sense 2.0

  • Tableau Software Tableau 9.0

Watching the new, easy-to-use, exploratory business intelligence products edge out the older, feature-bloated reporting platforms for systems of record is like watching evolution in action. Let’s face it: The first-generation BI products required their own IT priesthood to set up, and they incurred the same implementation delays as every other IT project. Things got worse, not better, as the various BI product marketers got into feature wars instead of actually trying to deliver business value.

The three data discovery products I’ve been reviewing over the last few months -- Tableau, Qlik Sense, and Power BI -- demonstrate a range of capabilities at a range of prices, with Tableau the most capable and expensive, Qlik Sense in the middle, and Power BI the least capable, but a very good value. Each product might be useful to you, depending on your specific requirements and budgetary limitations.

Note that there are about two dozen significant products in the BI category; the three I discuss here are not your only choices. As you’ll see, however, Tableau, Qlik Sense, and Power BI all offer a good selection of chart types and data sources, and they are all much easier to learn and use than the traditional BI products. On the other hand, other products are better for routine line-of-business reporting, even if they are not as good as these products for data discovery.

Tableau 9.0

Tableau Professional can connect to a wide assortment of file (Figure 2) and server data sources, including Excel workbooks, character- and tab-delimited files, statistical files, and upward of 40 server types, although 19 of those are available only from Windows. Tableau Personal is restricted to six kinds of data source; the free Tableau Public can use a mere four kinds of data source.

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