By Avichal Singh [Twitter]

Yes, you heard me right. I hear a lot of talk about “Power BI versus Tableau” – some discussion even makes it sound like the next fight airing on pay per view. But I believe they go great together.

A dream you have, will come true

(courtesy Fortune Cookie MessageSmile).

Sooner or later there are going to be legions of Power Pivot developers – yes I call them developers; these are our Excel Superheroes charged up on Power Pivot. No longer creating workbooks, these are BI applications in all respects. The pace is hard to predict, but revolution is coming. Already in my short stint at P3 Adaptive I have been heartened to work with folks from California to Germany who are discovering Power Pivot and it’s amazing powers (Can we make this a drinking game, every time I use the word ‘power’, everyone downs a shotSmile). If you are still sitting on the Excel fence, sign up for our next Webinar and Cross the Gap from Excel to Power Pivot.

Back to Tableau…

Power BI can power Tableau

Tableau is a great tool. I can only claim a 101 level familiarity, but I have seen enough to know that it is a very promising tool. At it’s heart Tableau is and will be a data visualization company. Which is terrific, it is better to do one thing and do it well (Sigh! MicrosoftDisappointed smile)

Although at one point Tableau had filled gaps in data collection, modeling and shaping; by now Power BI toolset (Power Pivot and Power Query specifically) have done that and more! The biggest overlap still, is with Power View (and it’s upcoming cousin Power BI Dashboard).

But I say, if Office can play well with Dropbox, in spite of Onedrive…
Power Pivot and Power Query can play great with Tableau, in spite of Power View.

Power Query

In Tableau’s very first tutorial (seriously, the first one in their On Demand tutorials) it states that messy, heavily formatted data set is not ideal for Tableau. Neat little, table shaped data (rows/columns) is the data that “Tableau works best with”.

Guess what, Power Query loves messy data! I am no an expert but look what I can do with Power Query. Power Query > feeding a Power Pivot model > which is used in Tableau, sounds just peachy to me.

Power Pivot

Tableau (as a viz tool) is served well, by connecting to any data source and especially Power Pivot models. I am willing to bet that Excel has been the #1 data source use for Tableau, and there are many a new Power Pivot models down that road! These guys are a step ahead of me though, and already support native connectors to Power Pivot. (See data sources, but do get the drivers).

Tableau offers Power Pivot connectivity
Tableau offers Power Pivot connectivity but they took away their ‘Export to Excel’ button, Grrr!!

And as far as I am concerned that is a marriage made in heaven. Check out my quick Tableau viz of the Power Pivot model I built for Variable Grain Control. Okay coming soon (apologies, traveling at client site so bit of a rush). Do leave comments with any examples you have done with Power Pivot and Tableau.

Tableau can empower Power BI

Tableau is a BI tool in it’s own right, but given that it’s strong suit is visualization, no reason that it can’t fit in with the Power BI family. Tableau can be another (quite powerful) visualization option that works with Power Pivot.

What is Power BI

Power Pivot should be agnostic towards the visualization tool. It’d be a testament to it’s strength that you can use it drive visualization in plain old Excel (always an excellent option), Power View, Power Map or Tableau! One more visualization tool (albeit non-Microsoft) does not detract from it but adds to the Power BI ecosystem.

You Win!

Ultimately the user wins. You get a great set of options to choose from amongst Microsoft Power BI and Tableau. But remember it does not need to be one or the other. These tools can be used very effectively in a complementary fashion.

Just the other day, I was speaking to a close friend who was oohing and aahing about Tableau and how it’s really changed things at work. I was responding with noncommittal grunts. But as she wound down, she admitted that she still uses Excel when Tableau feels like too much work. I literally jumped out of my chairSmile

Excel is ubiquitous, is familiar to all (okay at least to about 750 million of us out there). And Tableau or no Tableau, Excel is not going anywhere. As more Excel users discover Power BI the more empowered they would be to wield data into insight.

Power Power On! with Power Pivotn my friends!