Vendor Round-up: Comparing Alteryx, Tableau, and Power BI for Data Visualization and Data Wrangling 


Visualization: 3 out of 5 

The current Alteryx platform has limited visualization and reporting capabilities. There are some excellent data investigation tools and visualization tools for workflow developers. Alteryx also provides some limited tools for reporting, but it does not replace a business intelligence or dashboarding tool. 

Data Wrangling: 5 out of 5 

Alteryx is Capitalize’s top recommendation for accessing, cleaning, manipulating, and pushing data. It can connect to nearly any database, file, or API. It provides hundreds of dynamic tools that make almost any data transformation possible. The integration with top databases and business intelligence tools gives users flexibility when selecting and changing the strategic systems that surround Alteryx. 

The critical difference between Alteryx and traditional ETL tools is user adoption. No other tool embeds itself in functional departments like Alteryx. Users who traditionally use Excel and refuse attempts to bring in new technologies are able to understand and utilize Alteryx. Alteryx has done for data wrangling and data process automation what Tableau originally did for dashboards and visualizations. It has brought a usable experience to the masses. 

After reviewing all of the tools on the market, Capitalize believes that Alteryx is the most approachable and most adopted data wrangling platform for people without programming backgrounds. 

Based on the drag-and-drop interface, the capacity to visualize your processes, the ease of troubleshooting processes, and your ability to collaborate, Alteryx easily wins in head-to-head comparisons against the competition. 

Note: Alteryx includes advanced functionality like predictive and geospatial tools that go beyond data wrangling. One key differentiator of Alteryx is that users rarely outgrow the capabilities or hit functionality limitations. 


Visualization: 5 out of 5 

Tableau was the first to market with a user-driven data visualization tool. That lead has helped them remain the best of breed for dashboards and interactive reports. The Capitalize team considers Tableau the gold standard of data visualization tools. It can connect to nearly any database or file ready for visualization and quickly begin visualizing the data. 

Tableau gives simple functionality to the end users but also a lot of power to the IT organization.  

One area of weakness is highly formatted reports. Tableau does not provide a “pixel-perfect” tool for building reports that need to be distributed as PDFs, letters, or other highly formatted documents. Because we are evaluating visualization tools, we are not deducting points for this, but it can mean an additional reporting tool is required. 

Data Wrangling: 3 out of 5 

Tableau released Tableau Prep in 2018 to help users who struggled to get their data ready for visualization in Tableau Desktop or Server. The first few years were challenging due to lack of functionality, inability to write to databases, etc. 

Over the years, the platform has improved but lacks in critical areas when compared to Alteryx. Our consultants and clients have found that processes run more slowly than desired. The interface is less intuitive for users due to a myriad of menus, and troubleshooting a workflow is more complex than in Alteryx. 

For simple use cases, Tableau Prep is typically acceptable. Most clients hit a wall quickly with Tableau Prep and look for alternatives. 

Power BI 

Visualization: 4 out of 5 

Power BI has done a fantastic job catching up to Tableau. The original versions were very limited, but over the years Power BI has become a very competitive offering. 

Currently, Power BI and Tableau are similar, but Capitalize has found that Power BI is a more “code-heavy” visualization tool when compared to Tableau. Simple things can be done quickly in Power BI, but as the complexity grows, users need to learn the “M” and “DAX” languages. For programmers, Power BI is a great platform to push dashboards and reports to the users. 

One key differentiator for Power BI (vs. Tableau) is highly formatted reports. There is a second interface called “Power BI Report Builder” that allows users to build highly formatted reports like invoices, “pixel-perfect” PDFs, and other highly formatted documents.  

Data Wrangling: 2.5 out of 5 

Power BI has the least competitive data-wrangling capability of the group. Users can wrangle data with Power Query or Data Flows, but both have considerable weaknesses in our experience. 

Power Query is very “code-heavy.” It requires strong programming knowledge and uses a proprietary programming language called “M.” 

Data Flows only works with Power BI and the Azure platform, quickly creating vendor lock-in. The functionality is limited, and developers hit those limitations rapidly. 

We have seen many IT teams try to push Power BI to business users, and data wrangling is almost always where the initiatives fall apart. 

If IT will be doing all of the data manipulation and process automation, Power BI has options. It will likely be too complicated for non-programmers. 

Key Considerations: 

The success of the platforms above is highly dependent on your company’s data quality, data architecture, and ability to access your data. No platform performs well if the data is incomplete, stored inefficiently, or impossible to access. 

As you implement an automation or visualization technology, we highly recommend examining your data strategy. This may include operational systems, data warehouses, data lakes, data governance, and master data management.  

Your data strategy is the foundation for reporting, data visualization, and analytics. 

If you would like to discuss your unique situation and the best platforms and projects to reach your goals, please contact