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This blog is an extension from our previous comparison of self-service BI tools. The complete finding, complied in a deck with 50+ slides, were presented online – a recording of which is available here.

Which Self-Service BI tool is the best ?

It is a topic that has been discussed & debated quite often. While the question takes various forms — with a mix of tools chosen amongst Tableau, Power BI, TIBCO Spotfire, Qlik, SAP and others for consideration— the answers to any one question takes different forms depending on whom you speak to.


We often found that considerations used to assess these tools were either oversimplified (e.g. We chose Tableau as it delivers the best User Experience) or relied on a larger but seemingly limited set of factors at the high level (e.g. cost, data connectivity, data blending, visualizations, collaboration, mobility and data governance).


To be sure, we – the team at Visual BI – decided to figure it out on our own, using factors as granular as possible. And thus, we set out on one of the most elaborate comparisons ever done. The tools selected for comparison based on popular requests were,


  • Tableau

The market leaders in the field of BI and analytics, with wide range a data connectivity options.

  • Power BI

Microsoft’s offering in the space of data visualization that provides easy access with O365

  • Qlik Sense

New offering from Qlik to address self-service BI and data discovery use case

  • TIBCO Spotfire

Tools with feature rich content especially on geo, predictive and big data analytics

  • SAP Lumira Discovery

Self-service BI tool from on-prem SAP BI that integrates with BusinessObjects BI Platform

  • SAP Analytics Cloud

Pure cloud offering from SAP that covers BI, Planning and Predictive functionalities

In this column, we review our approach and summery of the finding,

Primary Evaluation (Functional)

The criteria for evaluating the self-service BI capabilities of each tool were,

  • Data Acquisition
  • Data Preparation
  • Data Visualization
  • Data Exploration
  • Data Enhancement (New) – Advanced Analytics for self-service BI
  • Data Collaboration

And within each area, we decided to drill down further into more granular aspects as shown below,

Self-Service BI Tools - An In-Depth Comparison


Supplementary Evaluation (Enterprise Features)

An extensive list of enterprise features was compared and ranked for each tool, such as-

  • Security & Data Governance
  • Live vs Import Data Connectivity
  • Mobile BI
  • Geo Analytics
  • Predictive Capabilities
  • Planning Features
  • Custom Extensions
  • Web Authoring
  • Integration with On-Prem & Cloud Platforms
  • Big Data Connectivity
  • Pricing & Licensing
  • … and more

A sample slide comparing key features across the tools is shown below,

Self-Service BI Tools - An In-Depth Comparison


Tertiary Evaluation (SAP Customers)

We did a deep-dive into connectivity and features specific to enterprises running SAP, such as-

  • SAP HANA Connectivity (Import & Live connectivity modes)
  • SAP BW Connectivity (Import & Live connectivity modes)
  • SAP BusinessObjects Universe connectivity
  • Use of SAP BICS (using OLAP engine) vs. Non-SAP MDX Connectivity

And finally, we also investigated implications of using BICS vs. MDX

Self-Service BI Tools - An In-Depth Comparison



Each tool has its strengths and weaknesses, so there are many factors to consider before finalizing on a tool or set of tools. The conclusions can be summarized in the following flow chart that can facilitate decision making,

Self-Service BI Tools - An In-Depth Comparison


We introduced a new section called Visual BI wisdom, that covers the following recommendations and best practices based on working with multiple customers,

1) Defining user personas

2) Tool vs Data strategy

3) Trial and evaluation before making the final call

4) Personal / Teams / Organization based preferences

5) The rapid evolution of the BI/Data visualization market

6) Managing multiple BI platform including BI Hub

If you would like our team to walk you through the detailed findings, reach out to us here (link).

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