With most businesses moving towards self-service data discovery and cloud based solutions, there are a number of tools in the market that offer these solutions. In this post I’m going to try to help you decide which is best for your business, by putting the two product suites , Tableau and SAP Analytics Cloud, head to head in a detailed comparison review across key areas such as pricing, features, ease-of-use etc. Read on to explore the pros and cons of each tool in depth and find out why, and when, you might want to use one over the other.
What do SAP Analytics Cloud and Tableau do?
SAP Analytics Cloud and Tableau are BI tools that provide self-service data discovery solutions. Tableau is primarily a data-visualization and discovery tool which is easy to use. Users can analyze key data, share critical insights across the enterprise, and create innovative visualizations and reports. Tableau has multiple products like Tableau Desktop, Tableau Server, Tableau Online, Tableau Public, Tableau Reader and Tableau Mobile – based on your use-case you can select one of this or a combination of these tools. Out of these, Tableau Online provides a cloud-hosted version of the Tableau Server. On the other hand, SAP Analytics Cloud is a completely web-based solution. It is a Software as a Service ( SaaS ) BI platform that helps users discover, visualize, plan and make predictions all from one secure, cloud-based environment. SAP Analytics Cloud capabilities are built on SAP Cloud Platform, powered by the in-memory technology SAP HANA.
Pricing – How does Tableau and SAP Analytics Cloud Compare?
- Tableau Desktop Personal Edition – $35 USD/user/month – With this edition , users can explore and analyze data with advanced analytics, connect to few files like Excel and Google Sheets, and create visualizations, dashboards, and stories.
- Tableau Desktop Professional Edition – $70 USD/user/month –With this edition, users can explore and analyze data with advanced analytics, connect to hundreds of data sources—from files to databases, web applications, and more, create visualizations, dashboards, and stories, and publish workbooks and data sources to Tableau Server and Tableau Online
- Tableau Server – On-Premises or Cloud – $35 USD/user/month – Users can deploy on-premises or on public cloud with Amazon Web Services, Microsoft Azure, and Google Cloud Platform. Using Tableau Server, you can centrally manage data sources and workbooks, explore analytics from any browser or mobile device, and author in your browser and subscribe to workbook updates
- Tableau Online – $42 USD/user/month – Tableau Online is the SaaS form of Tableau Server with maintenance, upgrades, and security fully managed by Tableau. Users can centrally manage data sources and workbooks, explore analytics from any browser or mobile device, author on the web and subscribe to workbook updates
If your business does not have a data warehouse already, you might have to build a data warehouse to get the most out of your Tableau investment. This in turn increases the cost.
SAP Analytics Cloud Pricing:
The SAP Analytics Cloud costs $24 USD/user/month (billed quarterly or annually). This would be the cost upto 20 users. For more than 20 users, enterprise license costs would apply. With this edition users can have access to BI functionality only. This includes access to Smart Assist Features powered by Predictive Analytics. Can connect to basic data sources like excel, CSV, Google Sheets etc. and Enterprise-level data source connections like SAP HANA, SQL, OData services and more. Also supports team collaboration features.
SAP Analytics Cloud vs Tableau – The Features
Data Source Connectivity:
When we talk about data source connectivity, Tableau Desktop is the clear winner here. It can connect to a large number of data sources like SQL, Oracle, Salesforce, Amazon Redshift, Cloudera Hadoop etc. However, the cloud version of Tableau (Tableau Online) can only connect to data extracts and cloud based data. It cannot connect to on-premise data without the aid of Tableau Desktop. This makes it difficult to be used as a stand-alone solution for businesses that use on-premise data. Compared to Tableau, SAP Analytics Cloud offers a fewer data connectivity options. However, with SAP heavily investing on SAP Analytics Cloud, we can expect more connectivity options in the future releases.
Connecting to SAP Data Sources:
For businesses that use SAP as their analytics solution, SAP Analytics Cloud would be a better option compared to Tableau. This is because of the seamless integrity of the tool to the SAP backend. Both the tools can connect to SAP HANA (analytic and calculation views of SAP HANA) and to SAP BW. However, Tableau cannot* connect to SAP BOBJ Universes while SAP Analytics Cloud can. There a few limitations in Tableau when connecting to SAP data sources.
*Can connect using custom SDK but poses a lot of limitations
Once we connect to the data, Tableau offers a number of data modeling options like data blending, creating joins, unions, filtering data, merging data from multiple sources etc. In comparison to Tableau, SAP Analytics Cloud does not offer as many data modeling options but allows you to define measures and dimensions, create calculations, set up hierarchical relationships, geo-enrich your data etc.
Visualizations and Geo Map Capabilities:
Both the tools provide a wide range of chart types to help create compelling visualizations and stories. However, Tableau is a leader in Data Visualization and the range of visualizations, user interface layout, visualization sharing, and intuitive data exploration capabilities offered by Tableau are better in comparison to SAP Cloud Analytics.
Tableau offers a Geomap component with extensive customization capabilities in comparison with SAP Analytics Cloud. Common map types in Tableau include Proportional Symbol Maps, Choloropeth, Point Distribution Maps, Flow Maps, Pie Chart Maps, Polygon Maps and Spider Maps. It also Supports Geo JSON and Zipcodes apart from other location analysis like lat/long, region names etc.
SAP Analytics Cloud has a geomap component with support to 5 different layers – bubbles, heat map, chloropeth, POI, feature and flow. However, it does not support Geo Jason and Zipcode format which is a drawback in the current version.
SAP Analytics Cloud offers built-in integrated planning capabilities to help simplify FP&A. SAC provides the ability to plan and forecast in real time, making it the tool of choice when it comes to Integrated Planning. We can create and modify versions of planning models and use it for forecasting using predictive analytics. We can also align plans across all areas of the business with collaboration tools, and set unique permissions to control access to your secure data. In contrast, Tableau connects to Anaplan to perform Integrated Business Planning.
Sharing and Exporting Features:
Both the tools provide options to export to PDF. In addition, Tableau also offers an Export to Excel feature.
Although Tableau is highly interactive and fast with normal datasets, there are performance issues when interacting with large datasets. In comparison, SAP Analytics Cloud offers better scalability given that they are built on the SAP Cloud Platform which is powered by SAP’s in-memory technology, SAP HANA.
With the world moving towards predictive analytics, it is important we compare this feature across these two tools. Tableau natively supports time-series analysis, and runs predictive analyses like forecasting, and other common time-series operations within the tool. However, for advanced predictive capabilities it connects to R and Python. SAP Analytics Cloud goes also offers time-series analysis and predictive analysis capabilities like forecasting. Apart from this, it also provides a combination of planning and predictive analytics. This is one of the most unique features of the tool where analytics and planning interact with each other. Users can run their predictive models and visualize the outcome with the analytics section. Data can be accessed both on-premise or Cloud and insights can be collaborated with the other users
Tableau offers a number of collaboration options like subscriptions, commenting, web authoring (where other users can edit parts of the dashboard directly in the browser) and annotate and share options. In SAP Analytics Cloud, users can create workflows and comment, add comments, create discussions etc. Both the tools allow stories to be shared to other users and you can also set access permissions.
Both the tools support Mobile BI. Currently SAP Analytics Cloud is not supported in Android Platform but both the tools are supported in iOS. In addition, SAP Analytics Cloud dashboards need to be built using responsive lane pages so as to adapt to different screen sizes.
SAP Analytics Cloud VS Tableau: the conclusions
Tableau and SAP Analytics Cloud have their own set of strengths and weaknesses. Ultimately, it depends on your use-case and analysis needs. If visualizations are your core need, Tableau would be the tool of choice. If you are looking for analysis with planning and predictive capabilities, SAP Analytics Cloud would be the tool of choice.
Reasons to pick SAP Analytics Cloud over Tableau
If your business has already done an investment on SAP, SAP Analytics Cloud would be the tool of choice. Planning with predictive capabilities is one of the key features of the tool. When coupled with SAP Digital Boardrooms, organizations can get quick access to highly visual and interactive real-time KPI monitoring solutions which would enable better decision making. And given that SAP is releasing new versions with regular addition of features every two weeks we can safely say that it is a fast maturing solution.
Reasons to pick Tableau over SAP Analytics Cloud
Tableau is the leader in Gartner Magic Quadrant for Business Intelligence and Analytics platforms. They have invested over a decade in creating a platform that offers a range of visualizations with easy to use interface, multiple sharing and collaboration options, flexibility and intuitive data exploration capabilities. We can also expect a lot of enhancements in terms of performance when loading large datasets, new visualization options, and additional ETL functions etc.
Alternatives to SAP Analytics Cloud and Tableau
There are some alternatives to these tools like Power BI, QlikView, Sisense, Domo etc.