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When I first came across Tableau as a BI option, I was honestly quite curious about how much a Tableau subscription costs and if it was worth it.

So here are some points that might help you in your consideration for Tableau.

Let’s dive right in with a short answer:

Tableau is worth the cost for most use cases in businesses. Tableau offers a wide range of functionalities and data integrations for analytics use which are best for organizations. However, the price of Tableau is not cost-effective for individuals and not recommended for personal use.

I know I’ve been mentioning Tableau several times now and you must really be thinking – What does Tableau actually do?

Not to worry, I’ve once been there myself. My first Google about Tableau landed me somewhere here. So trust me when I say that I’ve once been confused as well.

What is Tableau?

Let’s start with defining Tableau. In Business Intelligence or the Data Analytics field, Tableau usually refers to Tableau Software. Most analysts should understand what this tool does but for sake of my general readers, let’s dig deeper.

Tableau is commonly used as data preparation, data analysis and data visualization software for representing business operations. It offers a platform for building and putting together charts and graphs on a dashboard, which is usually shared among stakeholders.

Here’s an article you may like where I cover all things about Tableau.

How Much Does Tableau Cost?

Tableau licenses cost $70 USD/month for a Creator license, $35 USD/month for an Explorer license, and $12 USD/month for a Viewer license. Each Tableau license offers different products like Tableau Desktop and Tableau Server access, which affects their respective prices. However, Student licenses are free.

Tableau Licence Pricing Plans

ProductTableau Creator
(For Individuals)
Tableau Creator
(For Teams and Organizations)
Tableau Explorer
(For Teams and Organizations)
Tableau Viewer
(For Teams and Organizations)
billed annually
$70USD/user/month | billed annually$35USD/user/month | billed annually
min. 5 Explorers required
$12user/month | billed annually
min. 100 Viewers required

Reasons Why Tableau is Worth it

1. Many Data Sources to Connect To

Tableau is a well-known tool among those who frequent forums on BI. The first reason for being a top choice as well as top popularity is its very advanced ability to connect to common sources of data with it’s built-in connectors.

To list a few, Tableau is able to access, file systems, cloud-based systems, relational database systems, and open database connectivity (ODBC).

I’ve actually put together a simple resource guide for you previously in another blog post on Tableau data sources so do check it out if you’d like to read more details on the specific sources.

Just look at this screenshot I took below. What a wide variety offered by this software!

Tableau Data Sources and How to Connect

With such a massive list of data source connectors available, business intelligence analysts or data analysts would love this seamless integration. The data workflow is much more effectively optimized, by saving all the trouble of setting up manual connections to any BI tool.

In other situations, pulling in data can be a cumbersome process, where you’ll need to write scripts of code in Python or R to read in some data. As for alternative BI tools, they tend not to have that many options offered as compared to that of Tableau.

This time-saving feature can potentially be really worth it, especially if you are looking for an efficient tool that can get the job done in a fraction of the original time.

This is great if you are an expanding business since the extra time can be spent on actually working at the heap of data stored in your data dumps.

Thinking of learning how to do this in Tableau yourself?

Check out this list of 9 Tableau courses with certificates to get started!

2. Custom SQL Querying

woman working at home using her laptop

Believe it or not, there are more extra features available about data sources. Upon pulling the data in through the pre-built connectors, Tableau is able to both offer simple drag-n-drop joining of tables as well as advanced custom querying in SQL.

If you’re wondering about SQL, pardon my analytics jargon.

Let me explain SQL or Structured Query Language is a commonly used language by BI analysts for selecting just the right amount of data needed in a database. Put simply, it is a means for data guys to speak to databases.

What’s cool about Tableau, is that this feature of using SQL to select the right data taken from your sources is all available within the software.

All my fellow data geeks rejoice! Tableau can really be worth it if you or your company’s data analyst is experienced in SQL to fully take advantage of this resource.

3. Wide Variety of Charts to Choose From

Upon booting up Tableau, as well as picking out the data we want, our next step would be visualizing them in an insightful manner. Over here, Tableau would lead us to two options – use built-in charts OR chart your own destiny (please get the joke) and create unique, customized graphs manually.

To begin, let’s have a look at the full list of charts you can select from for your data.

Built-in Tableau Charts:

  • Text Tables
  • Heat Maps
  • Highlight Tables
  • Symbol Maps
  • Maps
  • Pie Charts
  • Horizontal Bar Charts
  • Stacked Bar Charts
  • Side-by-side Bar Charts
  • Treemaps
  • Circle Views
  • Side-by-side Circles
  • Continuous Line Graphs
  • Discrete Line Graphs
  • Dual Line Graphs
  • Continuous Area Graphs
  • Discrete Area Graphs
  • Dual Combination Graphs
  • Scatterplots
  • Histograms
  • Box-and-whisker Plots
  • Gantt Charts
  • Bullet Graphs
  • Packed Bubbles Chart

By scrolling this far down, I’m sure that you’re convinced that Tableau offers a wide variety of beautiful data visualization options. However, the functionalities do not stop there!

For example, a common alternative to pie charts is donut charts. Donut charts aren’t readily available in Tableau and you might want to have one for your presentation.

Fret not, being a flexible and dynamic visualization tool, the donut chart can be created manually. If you’re curious to know how it looks like, check out the image below!

Also if you would be interested in creating one for yourself, do go over to this Donut Chart Tutorial I’ve made previously.

Such extensive options for visualizations would be useful for businesses that require advanced custom visualizations for their reports and infographics. Therefore I would say that Tableau is worth it for the BI in such businesses.

Thinking of learning how to create such things in Tableau?

You might like this article on whether Tableau is worth learning over here.

4. Interactive Dashboards

Many a-times, insight from data is obtaining by playing with them. I enjoy “playing with data”, or what others might call interacting with data.

This sought-after feature of interactivity is found mostly in BI software and not in programming languages unless you’ve built web apps for that.

In most cases, dashboard reports from analysis must come with interactivity. Tableau offers you interactions such as filtering through selecting data points on a chart as well as filtering by input.

To me, this all just means that there powerful ways where you can reach deeper insight after “playing with the data” on Tableau.

5. Available on Common Operating Systems

This is a really crucial one – you’d ideally not want a BI tool that’s incompatible with your machine. Like most desktops and laptop notebooks these days, it should either be on a Microsoft Windows or a Macintosh operating system (OS).

You would be delighted to know that Tableau is offered in both of these OS types. I sure was when I first heard of it.

I personally have two computer setups – one on a Windows OS and the other on a Mac. The freedom to work on my data on either of my machines was a much-welcomed one!

If you choose Tableau as your go-to BI tool you’re in for more flexibility. Depending on your personal or your company’s needs Tableau might be worth getting for its added flexibility across OS types.

Curious to know if Tableau is suited for you?

Read this article on who Tableau is designed for over here.

Reasons Why Tableau is NOT Worth it

1. Software Cost

one dollar bill

This is probably the reason why you are here. The cost of Tableau is a big barrier to many analysts and you must have reached this dilemma too. Let’s look at the current costs of Tableau from their website as of October 2020.

ProductTableau Creator
(For Individuals)
Tableau Creator
(For Teams and Organizations)
Tableau Explorer
(For Teams and Organizations)
Tableau Viewer
(For Teams and Organizations)
billed annually
$70USD/user/month | billed annually$35USD/user/month | billed annually
min. 5 Explorers required
$12user/month | billed annually
min. 100 Viewers required

You might already know these prices and are on the fence about purchasing your licenses. Although Tableau has much to offer, I would have to upfront say that these products are pricey.

Considering how many tools in data analytics such as R and Python for their libraries are open source (A.K.A free), having to pay for BI tools at such a steep price would be surprising.

This is where Tableau shows its limitations, which might not be worth it for small organizations just starting up or for individuals with no financial subsidy.

2. New, Unfamiliar Interface

New interfaces always seem to be scary-looking, no? Tableau might not be worth it for you for its unfamiliar interface.

My BI stack was a whole bunch of spreadsheets from Microsoft Excel and Google Sheets just before I delved into Tableau.

Chances are, you have come from the same software as well. If you are from a startup looking to expand your analytics department, this should be a familiar situation to you right now.

Tableau is a software that works very much like Excel and Google Sheets – it cleans and visualizes data.

The transition to Tableau from this spreadsheet software might be too overwhelming for data analysts who are looking to learn the ropes while on the job due to its unfamiliar interface.

Having a different approach to data visualization, the extra hours put in to relearn simple tasks might not be worth it.

Additionally, training costs might be incurred for reskilling yourself or your data team.

3. Additional Features Require High Skill to Use Effectively

stressed black male entrepreneur working on laptop in park

As I mentioned above, Tableau really shines when customization is your priority. For example, custom SQL querying, as well as custom chart building, might require high skill levels for effective use.

The bells and whistles from Tableau are only as good as their users. If you are looking to purchase Tableau for yourself or a small startup, you need to consider if there’s enough experience to truly experience Tableau’s power.

What are The Disadvantages of Tableau?

  1. Costly
  2. Not within any ecosystem of products
  3. Difficult to master
  4. Poor data transformation functions

Alternatives to Tableau (With Pricing!)

1. Power BI

Developed by Microsoft, Power BI is a major competitor to Tableau. It is one of the more popular data visualization options for your analytics needs.

Here’s what I pulled from the Power BI pricing page as of October 2020.

ProductPower BI ProPower BI Premium
PurposeSelf-service BIBig Data and Cloud Computing

As you can see, Power BI is a considerably lower-cost alternative to Tableau. Now you know why it’s that popular among data analysts. If you’ve considered the points I mentioned in the subheadings above and realized that cost is the main reason for your hesitation, Power BI might be your solution.

If you’d like to read more about Power BI, here’s an article I wrote about learning Power BI:

2. Qliksense

Qliksense is another data analytics solution alternative to Tableau. It offers similar analytics functionalities but at a lower cost of $30USD/user/month. One caveat that I realized Qliksense lacked, was the look and feel of the software. It feels quite rigid and the visualizations are far less beautiful compared to Tableau.

Here’s what I found on their pricing page as of October 2020.

ProductQlik Sense® BusinessQlik Sense® Enterprise SaaS
PurposeAnalytics within groups/teamsAnalytics across organizations
Pricing$30USD/user/month. Billed annually.$70USD/month. Billed annually.

If you are still unable to justify the costs for Tableau, you might want to look further into Qliksense.

Related Questions

Where Can I Start with Tableau?

You can start a 14-day free trial of their Tableau Desktop software to fiddle around with things first before you make a purchase. That should help you in making that decision that you came here for.

Alternatively, if you are a student, you are in luck! Tableau offers free Tableau Desktop licenses to students. You can check that out here.

Still unsure where to start? This list of 7 clever ways to learn Tableau should be helpful for you!

Is Tableau Difficult to Learn?

Tableau is not difficult to learn but it is difficult to master. The difficulty is largely dependent on individual skills and background in data visualization. With a background in analytics, learning Tableau should be a smoother experience.

How Much Does Tableau Cost a Month?

Tableau costs $70 USD a month for a general Creator license. However, the cost may depend on the size and need of the Tableau license. Other pricing plans for licenses cost $35 USD/month for an Explorer license and $12 USD/month for a Viewer license. However, Student and Instructor licenses are free.

Why is Tableau So Expensive?

Tableau is expensive because it is a premium data visualization software. Tableau provides a flexible and powerful solution for business intelligence. Therefore it is priced competitively at $70 USD a month for a general Creator license. However, the cost may depend on the size and need of the Tableau license.

Who Should Learn to Use Tableau?

Anyone that’s hungry to develop new in-demand skills. That includes you! The fact that you’ve read this post to this point shows that you are driven and eager to learn.

In a corporate setting most roles with quantitative functions like accountants, marketers and programmers find themselves needing to pick up Tableau as a skill naturally.

If you’re keen to learn more about Tableau, you can consider browsing my collection of posts on Tableau here.

Here’s another Tableau article you might be interested in:

Final Thoughts

Is Tableau worth the cost? You should have already arrived at your answer by this point but in case you need a personal opinion from a fellow data guy, Tableau is worth it. Thanks and see you in my next post!

My Favorite Learning Resources:

Here are some of the learning resources I’ve personally found to be useful as a data analyst and I hope you find them useful too!

These may contain affiliate links and I earn a commission from them if you use them.

However, I’d honestly recommend them to my juniors, friends, or even my family!

My Recommended Learning Platforms!

Learning PlatformWhat’s Good About the Platform?
1CourseraCertificates are offered by popular learning institutes and companies like Google & IBM
2DataCampComes with an integrated coding platform, great for beginners!
3PluralsightStrong focus on data skills, taught by industry experts
4StratascratchLearn faster by doing real interview coding practices for data science
5UdacityHigh-quality, comprehensive courses

My Recommended Online Courses + Books!

TopicOnline CoursesBooks
1Data AnalyticsGoogle Data Analytics Professional Certificate
2Data ScienceIBM Data Science Professional Certificate
3ExcelExcel Skills for Business Specialization
4PythonPython for Everybody SpecializationPython for Data Analysis
5SQLIntroduction to SQLSQL: The Ultimate Beginners Guide: Learn SQL Today
6TableauData Visualization with TableauPractical Tableau
7Power BIGetting Started with Power BI DesktopBeginning Microsoft Power BI
8R ProgrammingData Science: Foundations using R SpecializationLearning R
9Data VisualizationBig Book of Dashboards

To see all of my most up-to-date recommendations, check out this resource I’ve put together for you here.

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