Tableau and Others Fall Short in BI Feature Set
Today’s business intelligence vendors are continually adding features to their tools to meet user demands. These include capabilities like a deeper ability to dive into the data through slicing and dicing, run complex analytical formulas for predictive and behavioral data mining, and social collaboration features.
Tableau is one of those vendors and has risen to the top quickly. Their visualization features are excellent. They’ve attracted the attention of many power data analysts and Excel jockeys for their myriad of different visualization types, allowing complex data to be visualized into something more consumable. While Tableau has its place with those users, it misses the mark as a BI tool for the enterprise that can support everyone, from business analysts to executives.
The problem is, Tableau was built as visualization tool first and an analytics tool second. Its visualizations are designed to display data but users quickly run out of options when they want to drill into the data. Users can’t cross-drill into other hierarchies or dimensions like the can with BI Office.
Like BI Office, Tableau can connect directly to Microsoft’s SQL Server Analysis Services (SSAS). SSAS provides users with the ability to do drill through, and slicing and dicing quickly. But that’s where it stops with Tableau. Unlike Office BI, Tableau can’t do conditional formatting or use calculation wizards on the data. You can read more about the specifics in this post: Tableau-An Incomplete Choice for Microsoft Analysis Services.
In fact, when Tableau does connect, it creates a proprietary data model that cannot be used outside of Tableau. And, when Tableau users want more advanced analytics or formulas, they have to use Tableau’s proprietary scripting language to write complicated queries.
Tableau also lacks wizards for even some of the most simple calculations, like time intelligence. Once again, Tableau users would have to write custom syntax to do that. Additionally, BI Office is one of the few BI vendors to provide the “N of N” feature. N of N can take two or more hierarchies and narrow a large data set down to the top “N” for example.
More recently, R, the programming language for statistical data mining is being leveraged by data scientists for its ability to do predictive queries, clustering, and forecasting. Many BI vendors, including Tableau, have yet to make R more accessible in their analytical tools. This is one area where BI Office leads the way. Users can access wizards that leverage the power of R without being a data quant. They can even save their custom calculations for reuse by others later.
Collaboration is probably one of the fastest growing features in BI tools. Though annotation has been around for a while now, the ability to add video or audio clips is relatively new. Office BI even integrates with some popular chat platforms such as Yammer, Jive and Chatter, and also adds their own. Plus, Office BI allows users to rate reports so they can be sorted by new, favorites, popular, etc. This type of collaboration is not possible with Tableau.
Something unique to BI Office that no other BI tools, not even Tableau, are doing is what we call narrative reporting. Users create regular documents of all types in Microsoft Office and can embed multiple data variables within the document. These documents can be customized to specific users and dynamically change as data is updated. While this alone is not new, the ease of use is. If a user is familiar with Microsoft Office, they can create these dynamic documents and reports. Unfortunately, Tableau falls down again as they do not integrate well with Microsoft Office.
Bottom line, be sure to look past the initial “wow” of some BI vendors, like Tableau. Take the time to understand and compare feature sets so that your users won’t be frustrated down the road.
- Tableau – An Incomplete Choice for Microsoft Analysis Services
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