Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Power BI, Tableau or QlikView



Ok ok I went along with Power BI but hear me out.

A year ago I joined Zervant to be responsible for the company's BI and analytics. Pretty soon I had to make a choice: which BI package should we take into use. Before this, Zervant didn't use anything apart from Excel and a Geckoboard. From my previous positions at Nokia and Microsoft, I have experience in Tableau, QlikView  and Power BI, in that chronological order. It quickly came down to a choice between these three. Or to be honest - between Tableau and Power BI.

Give a man a fish, and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish, and you feed him for a lifetime.

I'm a big believer of self-service BI. I would rather build an analytics team that enables others solve their decision needs rather than giving the right conclusions. Therefore, building something that can be used by anyone in the company was one of the goals. Also, joining a start-up meant cost was a concern.

QlikView is in my experience complex to set up and maintain. I might be wrong, but I've always found QlikView a bit unapproachable. Powerful, yes, but too much a commitment and an investment. I wanted something that was easy to take into use, and possibly change if we didn't get along. QlikSense Cloud has changed this fortunately, but I'm still getting an allergic reaction from Qlik* (sorry). Maybe it's also the fact that I haven't seen great examples of QlikSense in actual use. Also, when searching for tips on QlikSense it becomes clear that the user community must be significantly smaller when comparing to the other two, which means less help when you run into issues. I believe I'll eventually end up giving QlikSense an honest try, but I will need to have some very convincing reasons to switch. And I wouldn't do it for $25 / user per month.

I like Tableau: the way it looks, integration with R, scripting and the rest of the features. I actually prefer it to Power BI. But what I don't like is its price: $112 / month per user, when you need to connect to a PostgreSQL server and have someone else host the dashboards for you. I also often struggle with the way Tableau assigns my data to dimensions and measures. Back when I was making this decision Tableau would've meant shelling out 2500 € for a year's license, and I wasn't ready to make a commitment of that size just yet. $112 / month per user might be a different story.

I ended up choosing Power BI and while I sometimes get some dissatisfied comments on this decision from Tableau fans, I am completely satisfied with the decision. Power BI is on-par feature-wise with Tableau. You don't have as much power over design, the DAX language is often infuriating, and I have only recently learned to tolerate the way you are forced to use on-premise data gateway despite the fact that your databases are also in the cloud. All these shortcoming are offset with what I am able to accomplish with it for the price: free now and $10 / month per user later. I also really appreciate the custom visuals, despite them often being quite buggy. But keep in mind that Mac users will not be able to develop new reports.

So, if you are a price-conscious Windows user and need a BI tool that anyone can use, have a look at Microsoft's Power BI.

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