Tableau and Spotfire are both leading data analytics and business intelligence platforms. Both were scored well by Gartner in its latest “Magic Quadrant (MQ) for Analytics and Business Intelligence Platforms.” Gartner graded Tableau as a Leader and Spotfire as a Visionary.
BI and analytics applications are a hot item as organizations seek to mine data from massive data sources like relational databases, enterprise applications, unstructured data, and social media. Instead of a small team of data scientists slicing and dicing data, now marketing, line of business heads, sales, and IT are all utilizing data analytics in their day-to-day activities.
As two popular data analytics platforms, users often are forced to choose between Spotfire and Tableau. There are arguments for and against each. It is hard to say that you could go wrong with either selection. But which is the better data analytics tool?
Spotfire vs. Tableau: Key Feature Comparison
Spotfire is a mature product offering strong analytics, dashboard, visualization, data preparation, and workflow capabilities. It allows users to harness data science techniques, geoanalytics, and real-time streaming analysis in easily consumable forms, and can automatically suggest visualizations.
Tableau is very much focused on delivering analytics with AI, data management, and collaboration. At the heart of Tableau is a proprietary technology called VizQL that makes interactive data visualization an integral part of understanding data. It differs sharply from traditional tools that require the user to analyze data in rows and columns, choose a subset of the data to present, organize that data into a table, and then create a chart from that table. VizQL skips those steps and creates a visual representation right away, providing visual feedback as you analyze.
How about the latest features and updates? Tableau, of late, has been adding features like Ask Data in Slack (ask questions using natural language and automatically get data visualizations), Einstein Discovery in Slack (predictions in the flow of work), and Model Builder (collaboratively build and consume predictive models using Einstein).
The latest updates for Spotfire include a better interface for administrators, data source name availability from server diagnostics, connection to TIBCO Cloud Data Streams from Spotfire on-premises installations, new connectors (such as PostgreSQL, MySQL, Oracle, Amazon Redshift, Apache Spark SQL, and SAP HANA), single sign-on (SSO) to data sources, and more security features.
Both Spotfire and Tableau offer comprehensive features, so the winner here comes down to which product offers the functionality the user specifically desires.
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Is Spotfire or Tableau Easier to Use?
Both platforms have a definite learning curve, but Spotfire appears to be a little easier to use than Tableau.
Users of Tableau should be well-versed in working with the R programming language, which is used heavily in statistical programming and data analysis. But Tableau has been working to become easier to use. Its AI-powered analytics features lower the barrier to data science techniques. Tableau works really well when Excel and statistical data is being used as the raw material. For other formats, ease of use can suffer.
Spotfire is said to be easier in terms of enabling more users to access, customize, and use sophisticated dashboards and visualizations. Some users complain about a lack of offline data modeling capabilities. But Spotfire gets high marks for data visualization.
The conclusion: both require some technical knowledge, but Spotfire is probably a little easier for a non-technical audience. Both are excellent for more technical and advanced users.
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Spotfire vs. Tableau: Analytics Capability Comparison
Tableau tries to differentiate itself with what it describes as an intuitive analytics experience with richer capabilities based on its patented VizQL engine. It can connect to data live (performing queries in-database and returning results in real-time) or in-memory (ingesting data from source systems into Tableau). This allows users to control performance, cost, and data freshness.
Tableau also scores very well on live query capabilities and extracts, helping analysts to query faster. Its use of the R language makes it the winner on statistical capabilities.
Spotfire has excellent analytics qualities, too. It harnesses machine learning to transform data and provide insights. It also offers top notch visualization, dashboard, and customization features.
Indeed, there is little to differentiate between Spotfire and Tableau on analytics. Perhaps the deciding factor is handling mass amounts of data. Some users say Spotfire has big data limitations – though reports are mixed. Tableau doesn’t suffer from that. So, for smaller data sets, Spotfire might come out ahead whereas for very large ones, Tableau leads.
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Spotfire vs. Tableau: Comparing Cloud and On-Premises
Spotfire is ahead of Tableau when it comes to the cloud. Both platforms originated in the on-premises world. But Spotfire has made more progress on providing cloud and hybrid functionality.
Tableau does offer cloud-hosted solutions such as Tableau Online and Tableau CRM, but its strength lies in on-premises deployments and this is where much of its massive installed base resides. Thus, it can be challenging to scale out Tableau workloads in the cloud.
Spotfire vs. Tableau: CRM Comparison
CRM and BI often go together. With Tableau now being owned by Salesforce, it offers excellent marketing and enterprise product capabilities. It is in the process of being integrating with Salesforce Einstein Analytics (known as Tableau CRM). An Einstein Discovery dashboard extension, for example, brings predictive modeling capabilities from Einstein to Tableau.
Spotfire offers sales and marketing teams plenty of great visualizations and dashboards. But it stops short of CRM. But it is set up to integrate well with third-party CRM systems. Whether you use Salesforce, Microsoft Dynamics CRM, or another CRM systems, Spotfire can integrate it.
Overall, in this category, Tableau wins as it can provide CRM in one package. But for those not part of the Salesforce universe, Spotfire offers a good alternative.
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Spotfire vs. Tableau: Comparing Integration Challenges
Tableau has its hands full in integrating with Salesforce. This creates a somewhat fragmented experience between Einstein Analytics and Tableau but steady progress is being made in bringing both together. It won’t be long until those issues are resolved. As a result, Salesforce customers will be upsold to Tableau and vice versa.
Spotfire, similarly, is in the midst of integrating the Information Builders BI platform with its own. This will take time but will bring additional functionality in the long run. Already it is bearing fruit as seen in the recent updates to the platform.
Further, Spotfire has a hyperconverged analytics vision that is ongoing. Some users noted that the technical capabilities of this have yet to match the hype. But the company is working hard to close the gap via tighter integration.
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How do Spotfire and Tableau Prices Compare?
Tableau has a reputation for being expensive. By some estimates, it works out about $75 per month per user for decent analytics functionality. But those who only want to interact with some basic dashboards can get it much cheaper. That said, the addition of Tableau CRM for a list price of up to $150 per user per month means newer functionality and Salesforce integration doesn’t come cheap.
Spotfire also lacks a good reputation on pricing and contract negotiating. The company doesn’t publish prices online. But it looks like there are different prices for analysts, business authors, and consumers of analytics data. These range from $25 a month per user to $125 per month. In this category, users should check pricing as it applies to their specific environments. In some cases, Tableau will win; in others Spotfire will be cheaper. Overall, licensing on Spotfire looks more complex. The company also charges for integration with other platforms.
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Spotfire vs. Tableau: the Bottom Line
Tableau boasts a fanatical user base and a very loyal user community. Its user conferences attract large crowds. Tableau’s popularity is growing, too, partially through the distribution of a free platform known as Tableau Public. This is where people can share and explore data visualizations online. It contains over 3 million interactive visualizations. Yet it is in the data scientist, analytics specialist, and power user markets where its feature set wins the most plaudits.
TIBCO Spotfire also has a loyal following among data scientists and power users. It is particularly strong in life sciences, high-tech manufacturing, transport and logistics, and energy. But outside of its installed base, it lacks market momentum. Gartner said it rarely comes up in surveys of who is bidding for different projects. For those verticals in Spotfire’s areas of strength, it probably it just ahead of Tableau. But for other verticals, Tableau might be a better choice.
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