If you’re considering converting your company from Tableau to Power BI there are a number of hidden costs to be aware of that go beyond the difference in monthly subscription fees. We’ll break them down and explain some of the things you should think about before deciding on whether or not to switch platforms.
When comparing Tableau and Power BI we generally see the two as interchangeable at most organizations.
There are some things that Tableau does well that Power BI doesn’t and vice-versa. It’s hard to say that one tool is clearly a winner over the other from a functionality and data exploration standpoint even though many consultants and developers have a clear favorite platform that they enjoy working with.
We’ll break down the real cost of a conversion that you should keep in mind prior to deciding on a migration.
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Common Reasons to Switch from Tableau to Power BI
There are a lot of reasons that people consider when considering a transition from Tableau to Power BI as a reporting platform. Rather than go through all of them, we’ll point out the top 5 that we hear most often and thean break them down into greater detail.
- Power BI is Less Expensive
- Microsoft Ecosystem Integration
- Inclusion in Microsoft 365 Licenses
- More Frequent Software Updates
- Works Better with Excel
Conversely, one of the most cited reasons to switch from Power BI to Tableau is that dashboards look better. To us, it’s highly subjective and we’ve seen great looking dashboards on both platforms.
With this short list of reasons, it seems like a slam dunk, but as with most things the devil is in the details. We’ll break down each one of these into greater detail for your consideration.
Cost Comparison of Tableau and Power BI
Power BI and Tableau use similar but slightly different licensing models. Both charge per user per month and have different tiers of pricing.
Power BI Isn’t Free
The first misconception is that Power BI is free. It is not, while you can download Power BI desktop and create dashboards for individual consumption there is a licensing cost that starts at $10 per user per month for every person that wants to view and interact with a report on the Power BI Service.
Tableau offers a product called Tableau Public that lets people download and use a version of Tableau Desktop that lets people create dashboards, but it only allows you to save and publish to a public cloud and while great for learning isn’t suited for business use.
Tableau vs Power BI Licensing Costs
Comparing Licensing costs between Tableau and Power BI can be confusing. They both charge a per user per month fee but go about it in different ways.
Power BI Licensing Tiers
- Pro – $10 per user per month, lets you view share and publish reports on PowerBI.com
- Premium per User – $20 per user per month, lets you work with bigger datasets and has more enterprise features
- Premium Capacity – Starts at $5,000 per month and eliminates the need for individual viewer licenses
Tableau Licensing Tiers
- Creator – $75 per user per month, needed to create dashboards
- Explorer – $42 per user per month, lets you view and edit pre-existing dashboards
- Viewer – $15 per user per month, lets you view and share existing reports.
These are the most common prices listed and referenced, but there is some nuance to this. Each product offers on-premises products along with cloud products and there is the potential for price breaks for large deployments of each by going through a Microsoft or Salesforce sales rep.
Tableau vs Power BI Licensing Cost Comparison
Let’s use a hypothetical example of a business intelligence deployment for mid-sized business. We’ll assume 200 regular report viewers and 5 report developers.
Power BI: 200 viewers x $10 per month + 5 report creators x $10 per month = $2,050 per month or $24,600 per year
Tableau: 200 viewers x $15 per month + 5 report creators x $75 per month = $3,375 per month or $40,500 per year
This is a simple example and we’re making a couple of assumptions. We assume that nobody is actually using a Tableau Explorer license, it’s a weird in between for people who want to edit existing reports and isn’t likely to occur. Power BI Premium Per User licensing is useful for really large datasets and isn’t widely used outside of larger enterprises and very specific use cases.
From the example above, Power BI is a clear winner from a licensing perspective, but there are additional costs to consider for a migration.
Tableau references their pricing as being billed annually which can be beneficial to only writing one PO, while Microsoft lists pricing on a per month basis. Corporate accounts typically have more options, but it’s not uncommon to put licenses on a credit card or p-card.
Are there Tools to Convert from Tableau to Power BI?
The short answer is no. Both platforms create beautiful highly interactive dashboards the technologies behind each one are wildly different. From the data structure of how they store data, to the formula language used to create custom measures there are large differences and there’s no real benefit for either company to make conversions away from their platform easy. Most companies will find that converting from Tableau to Power BI is a manual process of re-building existing dashboards leading to a significant cost.
Labor is the Biggest Cost of a Tableau to Power BI Conversion
Converting from Tableau to Power BI, or even Power BI to Tableau is largely a manual process. It also requires developers with some familiarity with both platforms making it challenging to find people that are capable of doing the work and the reason why there are a number of companies specializing in implementations and conversions.
Power BI Developers come in an incredibly wide range of costs. You can find low-cost overseas contractors on services like Fiverr or Upwork along with higher paid domestic developers. Consulting companies can easily charge in excess of $150 USD per hour to cover developer costs and their overhead.
Depending on the complexity of the reports being re-built they can take anywhere from a few hours to over a hundred hours of development time not including the added workload for IT to help setup data connections to your company’s data warehouses and sources of information.
Because of the high conversion cost, we recommend exploring hiring Temp workers dedicated to your company for a set period of time and to work out expected costs on a spreadsheet to determine ROI and break-even points.
The Myth of Power BI Microsoft 365 Integration
Microsoft touts the Power Platform and Microsoft 365 integration as a big selling point for Power BI and it’s true that the features do exist, however there are added costs when doing things like embedding a Power App into a Power BI dashboard to enable write-back.
Power BI reports can be viewed directly within Microsoft Teams and embedded into SharePoint sites, but they are generally sub-optimal viewing experiences compared to navigating directly to Power BI. The following example highlights the experience of a Power BI report in a normally sized Teams window.
And while it’s possible to connect Microsoft Excel to a Power BI data source, it’s limited to only letting you view the data inside of a pivot table.
These are just some of the examples of how Power BI integrates with Microsoft 365, but there is some nuance to it.
The features exist but we wouldn’t necessarily rely on them as a major selling point. Many features are niche use cases and aren’t widely used across many organizations.
Which Microsoft 365 Licenses include Power BI Pro Licensing
Microsoft includes Power BI Pro Licenses in Microsoft 365 Enterprise E5 licensing. It’s a $15 per user per month increase over the lower E3 tier and includes a Power BI Pro license which normally costs $10 per user per month, E5 also includes Microsoft Publisher and some other advanced security features which may or may not be worth the incremental $5 per user cost above an E3 license with Power BI added on.
The Post Salesforce Reality of Tableau
One of the most often cited reasons on Reddit and other online forums explaining why Power BI is better than Tableau is the lack of feature updates after Tableau was purchased by CRM giant Salesforce in 2019. Microsoft has a very rapid feature release plan with new releases coming out monthly. After the Tableau acquisition, their primary focus was setting up integrations with other Salesforce products at the expense of adding innovative features.
Power BI, Excel, and Power Query
Our final point is that Power BI and Excel are semi-related but different products. Microsoft introduced Power Query, a data modeling tool in Excel 2010. They’ve since expanded the use of it to become the data transformation back-end of Power BI and several other of their data transformation tools.
The following example is from Power BI online, Microsoft recently revamped the look and feel of Power Query but it’s unclear if these changes will come to Excel, further widening the divide.
While incredibly useful, there are typically very few people within organizations that utilize Power Query. The ones who do, will have a head start on learning Power BI but will still have to learn a new way of thinking and an entirely new formula language in Power BI DAX.
Because of the lack of usage even in an Excel heavy organization, we wouldn’t recommend making a migration decision based on the learning path from Excel to Power BI. It’s still pretty significant and won’t be that much easier than transitioning from Excel to Tableau.
On a per license basis, Power BI is less expensive than Tableau. The two pieces of software produce similar looking dashboards and reports but get their in very different ways behind the scenes making the conversion process mostly manual.
Companies that have years of dashboards already built out in Tableau may find the added cost of paying to convert them to Power BI is prohibitively expensive. Other organizations may find that the license costs are worth it in the long run to make a switch.
There are plenty of companies who have made the conversion, and even with the added costs managers may look at it as an opportunity to re-visit and re-create a lot of reports that people currently view and make them better.