Power BI vs Tableau, Which to Choose?

Power BI vs Tableau, Which to Choose?
Image adapted from Slatan/ Canva

Hello there! Today, let's talk about business intelligence tools, which can be helpful for those who want to pursue a career in data analysis, business analysis or data science. Business intelligence tools allow you to collect, process and analyse large amounts of data from both internal and external systems. They are also known as data visualisation tools.

Now, there are a plethora of BI tools on the market, and they seem to be multiplying like rabbits! But that said, there are a few favourites. The three most popular are: Power BI, Tableau and QlikSense. You might come across Sisense, MicroStrategy, Zoho Analytics, and SAS Business Intelligence, just to name a few.

Personally, I am familiar with only a few of these tools, and some I have only used as an end user. Instead of giving you a list of pros and cons for each tool, I want to share my decision-making process in choosing the tool I decided to focus on.

As humans, we tend to struggle when given too many choices. Too many options can lead to decision fatigue, resulting in procrastination, decision paralysis or making impulsive choices based on limited information. Knowing this, my general approach is to limit my options to the top two or three. In this case, I examined the top two tools: Power BI and Tableau. Keep reading to find out which one I chose. 😉

Let's look at the parameters I used to assess and decide which tool was right for me:

  • Visualisation Capabilities
  • Ease of Use
  • Customisations
  • Data Connectivity
  • Performance
  • Ease of Integration
  • Cost
  • Future Growth
  • Community and Support

Visualisation Capabilities

Both Tableau and Power BI support a wide range of visualisations, including bar charts, line charts, scatter plots, heat maps, treemaps, and more. When I looked into this (early 2021), Tableau supported more advanced visualisations, such as Sankey charts and network diagrams.

Ease of Use

Power BI and Tableau are intuitive and user-friendly, with drag-and-drop interfaces and easy-to-navigate menus. However, the consensus is that Power BI is easier to pick up than Tableau, probably because it's based on a user interface in Microsoft Office 365, which many end-users are already familiar with.


Both BI tools offer a high level of customisation, allowing users to adjust their visualisations' colors, fonts and labels. However, Tableau offers more flexibility and control, making creating customised templates and styles easier. I once heard someone describe Tableau as "hacky", in the sense that you can hack your way to get Tableau to do what you want.

Data Connectivity

Both Tableau and Power BI offer a wide range of data connectivity options, allowing users to connect to various data sources, including Excel, CSV, JSON, SQL databases and other data sources. Just to give you an idea, both tools have over 80 connectors!


Both tools are capable of handling large datasets and generating visualisations quickly. However, Tableau has a slight edge in this area when it comes to significantly large datasets. Power BI is faster when datasets are more limited.

Ease of Integration

As Microsoft developed Power BI, it's no surprise then that it is much easier to integrate it into your workspace if you use the Microsoft Office suite. Salesforce recently acquired Tableau and now there is native integration. That's not to say it's difficult to connect to Microsoft Office data sources using Tableau. I think the question is probably more of which would run more smoothly for your setup.


Regarding cost, Power BI and Tableau have different pricing options. Power BI starts at a lower price point of USD 13.70 per user per month, while Tableau starts at USD 70 per user per month, making it generally more expensive. However, both offer free trials and subscription plans to fit different budgets and needs.

Future Growth

No one can accurately predict the future with certainty. However, both are likely to remain market leaders due to their ease of use, extensive features, and strong community support.

Community and Support

When it comes to community support, both tools have active communities of users and developers that offer a wealth of resources like forums, blogs, and tutorials. However, Tableau's community is larger and more established. I read on a website that Tableau has over 160,000 active users participating in over 500 global user groups, and over 150,000 active customers in the Tableau online community. This makes it easier to find support and resources online if you choose to go with Tableau.

Which of the two did I choose?

It was really hard for me to decide between these two BI tools; they're so similar! At first, I decided to learn both, but I soon realised it was too overwhelming. In hindsight, focusing on one tool is more efficient and less time-consuming. By honing my skills in one tool, I was able to become proficient in using it, which saved me time and increased my productivity.

Ultimately, I chose Tableau over Power BI, despite its steeper learning curve. What swayed me was the strong support and community around Tableau. I didn't give the cost too much thought since I can access both tools through work.

So, if you're trying to decide which of these tools or any tools, I would recommend considering your needs and preferences.

Knowing what you know now, which of the two would you choose?