/ 7 min read /

Tableau limitations and top 5 alternatives

by Khai To

Tableau limitations and top 5 alternatives
Image Source: https://linpack-for-tableau.com/tableau-dashboard/sales-dashboard/

Tableau is the most favorable tool in the BI industry with its appealing visualization capabilities that makes it outstanding among other software. If your company is looking for a BI product with fancy charts to present to the board of directors, Tableau will always be the first choice.

Tableau pricing 2020

Tableau is priced by users (like almost other tools) but it's varied depending on the role of your users. Creator, who builds the data flow and visualization in Tableau Desktop, is charged $70/user/month. Explorer and Viewer are fairly cheaper at $35 and $12 per user per month respectively for on-premise deployment. Please note that the price for Explorer and Viewer will go higher if you go on the cloud.

However, Tableau still has several limitations:

  • Tableau focuses primarily on visualization and cannot work with uncleaned data. In order to efficiently use Tableau, you need to do proper data cleaning in the underlying database first.
  • Lack data modeling and data dictionary capabilities for Data Analysts.
  • The support team is very poor and some users said that they have to solve the issue by themselves.
  • Lack of version control and collaboration when building data logic and dashboard.

In this article, we will go through the top 5 Tableau alternatives, offering not only their own robust feature sets such as data modeling, self-service analytics, data reusability, etc. but also more flexible pricing plans. Hopefully, after reading our blog post, you’ll find the alternative that best fits your needs.

Top Five PowerBI Alternatives

Holistics

Holistics is a powerful and scalable data platform for companies seeking an all-in-one data stack. Data Analysts can build a re-usable set of data for the Business Team to do self-service data exploration with minimal involvement of the data engineers

Pricing

Starting from $200/month, Holistics charges you based on your usage (or query runs) instead of users count which is quite affordable and more scalable in comparison to other products in the BI industry.

You can also use Holistics for free but of course, with limited query runs per month.

Pros

  • Self-service analytics with intuitive drag-and-drop interface for non-technical teams to answer adhoc data questions.
  • Support data consolidation from multiple sources (Spreadsheet, Google Analytics, MongoDB, etc.)
  • Work well with almost all the popular database in the market (PostgreSQL, MySQL, MS SQL, Snowflake, Amazon Athena, Google Big Query, etc.)
  • Powerful delivery capabilities via Email/Slack Schedule and Alerts, Shareable links.
  • Support team is super responsive and helpful.

Cons

  • You need to have a good foundation about Data Modeling concept to fully master Holistics
  • Holistics is a fairly new tool in the market so there are a lot of features still in the roadmap
  • The chart gallery can support most of visualization needs, other complex charts are still under development

Power BI

Image Source: https://www.senseiprojectsolutions.com/2019/10/30/new-power-bi-template-for-microsoft-project-for-the-web/

Power BI is without a doubt a well-known Business Intelligence platform in the industry with a strong modeling capability and a rich set of visualization. It is also the first choice for every company that has adopted the Microsoft eco-system.

Pricing

For personal use, Power BI can be downloaded on your local machine for free. However, if you want to use more Power BI services, you will need to pay $9.99/user/month for a cloud solution or $4,995/month for a dedicated server (cloud compute and storage resource)

Power BI pricing 2020

Pros

  • Support Connecting Multiple Data Sources easily, from cloud service to flat files like Excel
  • Visualizations Marketplace is very rich
  • Fully customizable and interactive Dashboards
  • PowerBI has an active community of power users and employees who are willing to deep dive into your use case to help you out
  • PowerBI has mature data modeling capabilities.

Cons

  • The learning curve is quite steep. Data analysts must learn DAX (Data Analysis Expression) and Power Query M language to fully leverage PowerBI's power.
  • If you use Mac devices, you cannot install Power BI desktop version to prepare data logic for your team (that's why we wrote a post on how to use PowerBI on Mac devices)
  • Power BI is your gateway drug into Microsoft’s ecosystem

Chartio

Image Source: https://chartio.com/product/dashboards/

Chartio is a business intelligence tool with a simple SQL-to-chart functionality. Chartio provides powerful query optimization on SQL for analysts and at the same time uses Visual SQL as its visual language for non-technical users to build reports with

Pricing

Chartio pricing 2020

Chartio's pricing is fairly competitive which charges on the number of users ($40 - $60 per user per month). However if your data team is scaling fast, it might quickly creep up on your bill.

Pros

  • Work well with any browsers
  • Support team and guides are very helpful
  • Can create chart quickly (adhoc analysis) for users who know SQL
  • Chartio offers a data pipeline to extract, load and transform the data as needed.

Cons

  • Visualization capabilities. There are not so many visualization options, and the charts customization is also a bit limited.
  • Embedded analytics is not included in the normal price package. The price is very high if your company is small or medium-sized.
  • The UI is not intuitive and simple enough for non-technical users to get used to quickly

Metabase

Image Source: https://medium.com/@Alibaba_Cloud/database-visualization-using-metabase-part-2-use-metabase-to-get-insights-db78b166b12f

Metabase is an open-source business intelligence tool that makes analytics accessible to everyone without knowledge of SQL. This Looker alternative lets you ask questions about your data and displays answers in formats that make sense, whether that's a bar graph or a detailed table.

Pricing

Free business intelligence software

Pros

  • Free business intelligence tool
  • Open-source
  • Light weight
  • Simplified and easy-to-use interface, which is suitable for the less technical-savvy

Cons

  • Have to set-up on your own server and need to maintain the infrastructure
  • Limited multiple integrations
  • Limited variety of charts and settings
  • Weak permission control
  • Not suitable for comprehensive and ad-hoc analytics
  • Rudimentary data modeling layer, nowhere near Looker's data modeling.

Google Data Studio

Image source: https://codelabs.developers.google.com/codelabs/community-connectors/#0

Google Data Studio is a reporting tool that nicely integrates within GA360 ecosystem (alongside with Google BigQuery and Google Sheet) and evolving on a monthly basis with an intuitive interface to explore and build insights. And it's completely free.

The tool seems to targets a set of semi-technical users, who work with numbers and know Excel very well. They might even know a bit of scripting language (Python, JS), but not technical enough to work on data infrastructure or building full reports from scratch, or building complex analysis that requires some SQL acrobatics.

Pros

  • Great report presentation layer. GDS provides a highly interactive drag & drop interface, where you can customize and re-style your charts.
  • Easily integrate other Google products like Google Analytics, Google Sheets, and AdWords so you can have even more information
  • The UI is friendly and intuitive. You can just start creating reports and dashboards within a few clicks.

Cons

  • Limited self-service data exploration capabilities. If you give the dashboard above to a user, it's highly likely that he doesn't know where to find relevant data or drill down/ drill through.
  • Lack of auto data refreshing capability. If you want to have real-time data, you would need to install a third-party browser extension (like this one)
  • If your data source is not Google-owned and needs to be integrated with Google Data Studio, it takes extra SQL code or ETL effort.

Conclusion

All the above products have their own benefits and drawbacks. Choosing an appropriate one for your company will be depended on a lot of aspects including the size of the company, your data maturity, your budget, and importantly, the use cases you want to solve.

It is not a one-day job so my recommendation is that you should involve all the related parties (data builders and data consumers) of your company to clearly list out all the requirements, narrow down to top 4-5 tools and try out all the tools.

If you need a little more pointer to choose the right tool, you might want to check out Chapter 4 in The Analytics Setup Guidebook which will discuss in detail how you can navigate the Business Intelligence tool space

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Tang Yee Jie - Senior Data Analyst, Grab

Tang Yee Jie

Senior Data Analyst, Grab