A question I often here is this: Which tool should I use, Tableau or Power BI? The truth is: They are not mutually exclusive.
Tableau is great at business mysteries: ill-defined questions where you have to surf the data for results. Power BI is particularly great at modelling and cleaning the data, with clean, crisp data visualisation and the ability to use custom and open-source data visualizations. This blog isn’t aimed at the technical user, but at the analyst who needs to get information out quickly. I will do another post, aimed at the geeks, another time.
Tableau and Power BI are paintbrushes for your data. The tools do not have to be mutually exclusive. Power BI contains some superb data preparation functions which are aimed at business users. Speaking to customers, however, it’s clear that they aren’t aware of its functionalities. So, I decided to make your life easier for you by helping you to compare the two, using the same data with the same result.
In the first video, we will look at Tableau Prep in some detail. We will use one of the Tableau datasets, Superstore, and we will work through one of Tableau’s own tutorials.
In the next segment, I repeat the exercise using Power BI and Power Query so that you can compare more easily. Ultimately, both tools achieve the same ends.
Where Tableau Prep falls down, in my opinion, is that Tableau Prep does not handle complex pivots very well. In the World Data Bank data, the Life Expectancy data which was made famous by Hans Rosling is available, and this data needs pivoted in order to be visualized effectively. Tableau needs a lot of branching pivots to get it to work. Power BI, on the other hand, pivots it within a few clicks. What do we take away from this?
- Tableau Prep is great for simple data preparation tasks
- Power Query, also known as Get and Transform in Excel, is great at simple and much more complex and difficult data preparation tasks.
So, which tool you use will depend on the data prep that you need to do. If it is easy, use Tableau Prep. If it is anything above easy, or includes easy, use Power Query.
You can use Power BI to shape the data, and then use the data in Tableau. See? You don’t have to choose. Select the best paintbrush for what you need to do, and you are not restricted to one paintbrush.
To see the videos, go here:
Tableau Prep: An Overview
Power Query and Power BI Together for Tableau Users: