QlikView & Tableau vs. traditional BI systems - how are they different?



We have been using several traditional BI solutions from the likes of SAS, Oracle and SAP. However, we have been suggested to move to QlikView / Tableau by several people in the industry.

I still don’t understand how these tools are different from the traditional BI? What are their advantages and dis-advantages? What should be the factors to decide whether we should think of implementing one of them in our BI stack?

Difference between Visualization tools

Qlikview requires more expression writing, and this is more attractive to technical people (who code). Tableau is more user interface driven, and this is more suitable for business (non technical) people. Personally, I feel Tableau to be more visually appealing, and for sure more easy to use and learn as compared with Qlikview. Tableau update their version frequently (I went to their 9.0 product launch 2 days ago), something like twice per year or at least once per year. Two of the cool new enhancements in 9.0 are 1) Statistic Pane, and 2) allow connection to SAS file directly. I have not really done more research in deep. I guess the push of the new product Qliksense (a more user interface driven product) from Qlik is to compete with Tableau.

PS: Traditional BI requires more technical support. This is what people from Tableau said “You don’t need BI/technical people to do ETL anymore, everyone can connect to data and do their own report”. If this statement is true and you are one of those BI/technical people, you may not want to implement Tableau ^_^.


Let’s understand this through an user perspective:

A typical BI project in traditional system used to be a big challange to take up to. The budgets required to deliver the output would be very high and so would be the time needed to implement these projects. For example, a typical traditional BI product, which requires creation of OLAP cubes, would take any where between 1 - 2 years depending on the state and readiness of the Organization. Typically, a lot of business requirement change in this time frame - new products come up, old lines of business get shut down, there could be mergers / acquisitions, so on and so forth. By the time the solution comes to implementation stage, it remains far less useful than what people would have thought at start. Having said that if you can mange the requirements well, a traditional system can yield a lot of benefits.

On the other hand, products like QlikView and Tableau work on very short implementation cycles. They don’t depend on creation of OLAP cubes to retrieve data. The end user or designer is free to pull in data as per their need. These solutions are also RAM based, so the hardware costs of implementation also run relatively low.

A good analogy to understand the difference is expensive SUV vs. low cost sports car. An expensive SUV might take more time to reach a place, but it does so in robust fashion. A low cost sports car can reach the destination quickly, but might need some engine tweaking and small changes to reach the destination.

Hope this brings out the difference.