MicroStrategy Review

MicroStrategy vs. Tableau


After a recent presentation, several attendees asked me about the applications of Visual Insights and Tableau. Many companies are investing in both tools and are trying to figure out the right tool for specific applications.

Tableau has found its sweet-spot as an agile discovery tool that analysts use to create and share insights. It is also the tool of choice for rapid prototyping of dashboards.

  • Tableau is very flexible with its data import. Tableau's data blending capability is very intuitive. This capability is useful when you have data spread across several different sources that has not gone through ETL processes. This is a problem analysts deal with routinely. They are unable to wait for the data warehouse team to develop ETL processes to provide the physical models they need to build an analysis.
  • The Tableau interface is Excel-like and has a low barrier to entry for analysts that are used to working in Excel.
  • Building a dashboard by mashing up visualizations in a Tableau worksheet is extremely simple. Users are able to build good presentation-quality dashboards in a very short amount time.
  • Tableau's annotations capabilities and its time and geographical intelligence are key differentiators.
  • Tableau has overcome limitations in data sharing with the introduction of a Data Server in Tableau 7.0. The Data server allows Data sources and extracts to be shared securely and opens up interesting new possibilities.

If your application can take advantage of the above characteristics, consider Tableau.

Visual insights (VI) is MicroStrategy's data discovery tool. VI has many differentiating features which make it attractive:

  • VI is free if you already license Report Services.
  • VI supports visualization and dashboard creation over the Web.
  • Your existing MicroStrategy reports may have content that can be used as datasets for visual exploration. Converting a report to an analysis is a one click action.
  • Within a MicroStrategy project, applications can be built relating multiple visual insights analyses. A visual insights analysis may also support ad-hoc drilling workflows that access the data warehouse.
  • VI is Flash based and it is possible to export analyses and view them offline.
  • VI is built on top of a shared infrastructure and is fully integrated with distribution services, olap services, report services and other key features of the MicroStrategy platform such as its security and administration features.

Consider VI for the following applications:

  • As an exploration interface for existing MicroStrategy reports.
  • As a Web-based tool for providing self-service visualization creation capabilities to business users. Provide a layer of certified OLAP services cubes and report builders that are created by a developer community as a backbone for building these visualizations.
  • For applications that need scheduled delivery to email/file/print.
  • For applications that have complex security requirements.
Disclosure: I am a real user, and this review is based on my own experience and opinions.
14 visitors found this review helpful
13 Comments
Tech Support Staff at a tech company with 1,001-5,000 employeesVendor

Thank you for the excellent information on the two BI tools. However, would you recommend Microstrategy or Tableau to a new user (company)? It could be a new company that is not yet sure of their exact needs when it comes to opting for a certain tool for their BI needs, hence wants to explore before making a decision.

14 July 13
Anurag Singh ChauhanConsultantTOP 20

MicroStrategy is much more than just an visualization tool, which unfortunately tableau isn't (yet). Tableau for many is excel on steroids, where business user can bring DW data blend with excel data and find something for himself. But that's just an 'business user' and departmental way to pushing visual analytic which this user might have done by getting microstrategy excel export and build chart in excel itself.
VI for sure doesn't looks as mature as tableau, i don't think its meant to be..its just an add-on to existing platform which might not serve as replacement for Excel.

For an new company...unsure of plans..MicroStrategy makes more sense as it offers more BI features than just visualizations supported by tableau.

31 July 13
Tech Support Staff at a tech company with 1,001-5,000 employeesVendor

Those are enough reasons for a new business that is spoilt for choice to opt for MicroStrategy for their BI needs. Thank you Singh,

18 August 13
Tech Support Staff at a tech company with 1,001-5,000 employeesVendor

When a business enterprise is aware of their specific BI needs, they are in a position to select the right tool for that. With that, they can tell whether Microstrategy or Tableau is the best choice for their business.

01 September 13
BI Expert with 51-200 employeesReal User

I agree with most of the stuff mentioned above, but wanted to give things a different angle: in my opinion, the BI tool selection really depends on the size of the organization. In many cases, the whole organization is the size of a department in an enterprise. In such cases, Tableau would be an excellent choice: It would definitely cover the data visualization and analytics requirements of different types of users - analysts, managers, sales, etc. – and save lots of time and money in implementation.

Tableau connect to (almost) all relevant sources, including traditional DBs (Oracle, MySQL, SQL Server, etc.), Analytic DBs (Vertica, ParAccel, etc.), cloud sources (Google BigQuery) and many more.
From my experience, Tableau is a great tool to visualize and analyze huge volumes of data. It gives both the response time and the ability to "find the needle in the haystack", using its visual analytics.

As mentioned, Tableau's TCO is great - especially when compared to BI suites such as MSTR, BO, Cognos, etc. . You get what you need in a fraction of the time and resources it takes to get it with those "monster" suites.

Tableau is indeed limited to Windows OS only. I truly hope it's only a matter of time they'll fix that, too.

15 December 13
Larry KellerConsultantTOP 5

If Tableau and MicroStrategy are the last two standing in a vendor selection, the team performing the assessment created murky requirements at best. VI for MSTR was an added capability to the MSTR software suite as a defensive measure for those accounts that TSI had penetrated or some cases supplanted. TSI was purpose-built for the business user with almost no limits to data connections to source systems and data size. With the addition of R integration and a MAC version in 8.2 TSI has invested more into R&D as a % of revenue than all the players in Gartner's magic quadrant. One day Gartner could do the markets a favor and address best of breed DV players only vs the clutter of today's noisy scatter chart

15 December 13
Chief Executive Officer at a tech services company with 1,001-5,000 employeesReal UserTOP 5

I suggest Tableau 7.0 it is accessibility and robust network connections make it ideal for connecting server purposes within small to large organisations depending on the amount of data they have.

02 February 14
Larry KellerConsultantTOP 5

Version 8.1 of Tableau added significant functionality at the server level. I stand by my earlier comments about the two vendors when a client is making a selection from just those two

02 February 14
Khalid BerradaConsultantTOP 20

And keep in mind that with Tableau 8.1 , you start to have an integration with R the statistical tool. That could have a great added value when it is time to find more tricky relations across your data.

06 February 14
Project Manager at a tech consulting company with 1,001-5,000 employeesConsultant

A few additional Points we need to think about- is Data Discovery the only or most widely used in BI? There is obviously more to it than only Data Discovery. Thinking beyond Data Discovery, the functionality that MicroStrategy provides is a enterprise class BI implementations with a robust security model and a object oriented approach, self service BI etc., in addition to a solid API and SDK interface to customize based on ones needs.

06 February 14
Professional Services Manager at a tech consulting company with 501-1,000 employeesUser

Just to add some important updates, MSTR 9.4.1 has a Desktop version that is 100% free. They improve the ability to import data, data blending, and georeferencing. It has R integration too. This way, consider MSTR Desktop 9.4.1 even if you need a Data Discovery tool.
So, I suggest an update on this article. It is based on data of May 2013. In IT it is an eternity...

17 July 14
Systems Analyst(Sr. Tech Dev) with 1,001-5,000 employeesVendor

A quick Question to all the people here from a user's point of view. If I were to go for a product with good usability factor for end users along with good support considering minimal cost, which one is more preferable?????

04 June 15
Anurag Singh ChauhanConsultantTOP 20

Hi Parag, "good" and "minimal cost" only means excel unfortunately.
Tools like Tableau may seem just $1000 away but cost escalate when rolled out to all employee in company with proper support.

05 June 15
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