Tableau vs Power BI
I’ve had the fortune in the last couple months to be doing a lot of innovative work for a client of mine using the power BI toolset. Recently, I’ve been busy publishing information with tableau, and have come to realize the strategical difference in each toolset. Microsoft’s direction is now devices and services, which is why they are pushing their cloud solution. They aren’t alone, if you have a look at TIBCO’s spotfire, they are up to the same thing. Even tableau has begun to offer some on prem / off prem services.
In the BI world, the cloud analytics world becomes only a “anywhere anytime” presentation layer that enables ultimate business flexibility. That said, the underlying DAX platform and powerpivot tabular model empower the data analyst to further manipulate the data. In the analytics space, quick iterations are the key to success. One needs to be able to iterate quickly to run down the path of data discovery. Quicker iterations lead to hasty data cleanup and more insight sooner. Powerpivot is Microsoft’s latent answer to a true semantic layer in an analytical tool. It’s built on the same engine as SSAS, only that it’s a tabular model, and not multidimensional. That said, most organizational needs can be accomplished quickly (and with more iterations) with a simple tabular model. No need to put the cart before the horse and build a complex model before you know what too look for. Powerpivot gives a good visual representation of what the tabular model looks like…
The following is an example of what the Data Analysis Expressions (DAX) looks like. It’s not meant to be a full semantic language, but rather a more efficient replacement for excel formulas and calculations. As always, it presents an opportunity to bend the model when you need it to work…
What truly differentiates powerpivot and the tabular model is the ability to pull in data from any type of service (OData, Excel, MSSQL, Oracle, you name it), but the ability to manipulate and transform that data in the model itself. This is what differentiates this product from it’s predecessor and it’s competition. However, Microsoft doesn’t allow these models or this analysis to be published publicly… that’s where tableau comes in.
So that is exactly what I had to do for the hackathon. Import the data into my own database, manipulate it, and export it as a series of excel files.
Messy, but it worked. Tableau allows for some basic manipulation (you can join files, filter them, the basics etc). In effect, we used the tableau public service as a presentation layer. But that’s just it, tableau only offers a presentation layer. It’s semantic layer isn’t very sophisticated. The presentation layer is more powerful than the powerBI visuals, but it lacks in presentation, it makes up for in flexibility and efficiency.
Analytics tools exist in a commoditized space. As Bill Ruh said last month, Efficiency is the new competitive differentiator. He’s right. The more efficiently data scientists can mash up with a tool, the more valuable it becomes to them….