As data continues its growth as an integral part of modern businesses, companies increasingly need the help of business intelligence solutions to help them navigate tons of data. With these tools, companies can gain insights into potential opportunities.
Power BI and Qlik Sense are two popular SaaS tools helping business owners and managers collect and dissect relevant data to solve business needs.
Generally speaking, both of them come highly recommended, which can make it challenging to choose the right option for your business.
In this article, I dig into both business intelligence (BI) tools, comparing their value based on categories like features, pricing, limitations, and usability. At the end of this article, you will have the requisite knowledge about each tool to make the right decision for your business.
Before I start comparing Qlik Sense and Power BI, it is useful to know what they are. Although these BI tools perform very similar functions, some significant differences make them distinct from one another.
Microsoft’s Power BI is a business analytic solution that supports data collection from different databases. It offers actionable insights in simple and clear reports or dashboards. The software is cloud-based, and it provides data visualizations that are easily shareable with team members and colleagues.
The software is part of Microsoft’s slate of products, which makes it ideal for streamlining data importation and management for companies that already use them. Although it is handy for enterprises, it is primarily designed to make data integration and reporting easier for smaller organizations.
Qlik Sense, on the other hand, is more geared towards enterprises and is used mainly by large organizations. As a BI software, it functions more similarly to search engines, like Google or Bing. Data sets are accessible via keywords, and it works as a self-service analytics tool.
Like Power BI, users can use it to create reports and dynamic dashboards using imported data from external sources. Additionally, it is a development-based tool that gives users significant freedom in creating different data analytics objects.
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Now that I have explained what both tools are, it is time to examine their respective features. What exactly are you getting when you pay for either one?
When you buy Qlik Sense, you are getting access to an advanced BI product packing a long number of features. It offers Smart Search Capability, which allows you to search through data sets as if you were using a typical search engine. There is also data storytelling via dashboards and drag-and-drop visualizations. Other feature offerings include:
- Self-service analytics
- Shared object library
- Open and standard APIs
- Real-time analytics
- Big data integration
- Rapid development environment
- Collaborative data reporting
Others include fast and secure connections to multiple data sources and manageable data connections. However, the real advantage of Qlik Sense is its suitability to enterprise-level user needs. It offers in-depth enterprise dashboarding as well as advanced visualizations.
Compared to Power BI, both its dashboards and data visualization are significantly more customizable, mainly to suit the advanced utility needed by expert data users.
Also, it has integrated artificial intelligence, Insight Advisor, that analyses data sets and suggests insights as well as help with the automation of tasks.
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Microsoft designed this business intelligence tool to be more accessible by small businesses and organizations. As a result, while it offers a similar slate of features to Qlik Sense, they are not as advanced and robust compared to what is obtainable with Qlik Sense.
For instance, although its data visualization and dashboard features are customizable, user capabilities are still more restricted. Besides that minor caveat, Power Bi’s feature lists include:
- Ad hoc reporting
- Trend indicators
- Navigation pane
- Interactive reports authoring
- Ad hoc analysis
- Online analytical processing
One feature that ultimately makes Power BI stand out is its compatibility with other Microsoft tools. Companies that use Microsoft’s products can seamlessly combine and manage their data across the full range of software tools.
More practically, the familiarity of the user interface makes it easier to train and manage the transition of staff and colleagues to it.
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Both BI tools are feature-rich, but they carry limitations as a practical solution. Here are the limits of each one.
The ease of accessibility and usability offered by Power BI is great at helping small businesses find and scale their enterprise with limited technical and economic costs. However, in return, it offers limited data visualization capabilities.
For highly skilled data analysts, modeling is harder, and specialized data management is more complicated. The result is a lower ceiling on the type of projects that the software can execute.
Secondly, using Power BI to perform advanced analytics requires learning other tools like Power Pivot and Power Query. Performing more complicated queries also requires understanding the DAX language.
While Qlik Sense gives its advanced users better freedom and a higher range of capabilities, that feature comes at a cost. The most notable is what happens when you load data into models. Modifications to the data or model require high processing power and often need an expert hand to manage the data.
Also, when it comes to customizations like color or font customizations, Qlik Sense loses much of its user-friendliness.
Power BI is available on all devices, including Windows, Android, iPhone, iPad, Mac, and web-based platforms. However, Qlik Sense is accessible on all but Mac devices. There is no desktop version of the software for Mac computers, and users can only access the software via its web-based platform.
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I have touched on some of the issues facing either software when it comes to usability. However, there are still a lot unsaid about factors like user interface and the smoothness of processing data on each software.
Despite its enterprise-focused design, when it comes to user interface and ease of use, Qlik Sense is straightforward and easy to use. It has an intuitive UI with functionalities and controls that are understandable to users at any skill level.
Another thing that Qlik Sense has going for it is its cross-industrial applications. It works in any sector, whether it is communications to analyze customer service data or customer and sales analysis. Other applications include entertainment and sports, healthcare, and financial services.
Although this does not appear to be a universal problem, some users report trouble with screen size adjustment on desktop objects when using Qlik Sense on mobile devices. You might not encounter this challenge, and an update could improve things, but it is worth noting.
Lastly, Qlik Sense’s data storytelling feature has significant limitations in languages like Japanese and Chinese because the software does not support them entirely. However, it has full support for the English language.
The Microsoft-owned business intelligence tool is also easy to use with similar wide-ranging industry applicability. Still, its user interface is not as intuitive. Certainly not to users who are inexperienced users of other MS tools like Excel and Power Pivot. However, those familiar with them will mostly find it straightforward with little to zero learning curve.
Secondly, Power BI has a crowded interface that tends to lower the visibility of the dashboard or report. It might not be an issue if your screen is sufficiently wide enough. Still, overall, it can be better with fewer icons and options.
Besides that, it offers scrolling dashboards that make it easy to cover every insight in the report generated by the software.
Which tool is cheaper? Do they offer free versions you can test before making a financial commitment? Here is how both software compare when it comes to pricing.
In line with the focus on providing accessibility to small organizations, Power BI has a lower fee than Qlik Sense. For each user, Power BI Pro costs $9.99 per month. At this price point, individually licensed users can access its full self-service analytics capabilities.
Unfortunately, Power BI Pro users are limited to a maximum dataset size of 1GB. This limits the complexity and depth of insight receivable via reports and the dashboard, especially when working with big data.
To overcome this limit, users can either create multiple queries to process the data or opt for Power BI Premium. It costs $20 per month per user. In return, you will gain access to advanced AI-generated data insights and self-service prep for big data.
You will also get simplified data management and access at enterprise scale, all in addition to the features offered by Power BI Pro. If you would rather buy for your organization with unlimited users, it costs $4,995 per month.
However, while it is inevitable that you will buy if you plan on using Power BI, the company offers a 60-day free trial period. Feel free to check out the Power BI pricing page for price conditions and up-to-date information.
At base price, Qlik Sense costs more than Power BI. Its lowest pricing package, Qlik Sense Business, costs $30 per month per user and billed annually. It is only applicable to groups and teams with a 1.25GB in-memory app size limit.
At this price, you will get all the basic features of the BI tool, including group collaboration and self-service analytics. If you would like to give it a trial run, Qlik offers a 30-day free trial. It is not as long as Power BI, but the scale of advanced capabilities makes up for the difference.
For company-wide use, Qlik Sense Enterprise SaaS comes in two flexible user packages, Professional and Analyzer. A professional user is billed at $70 per month and receives access to the full suite of features. An analyzer user, billed at $40 per month, can consume sheets and apps, create bookmarks and stories, and export to Excel.
Also, user capacity factors in the total cost and is thus determined via contact sales. For up-to-date pricing information, check out Qlik Sense’s pricing page.
Both tools require a significant financial outlay. Are they worth the money?
The goal of using a business intelligence tool like Qlik Sense is to use data to maximize opportunities. In that regard, Qlik Sense has the ability and reliability worth its financial cost. Many users have reported using the tool to correct the behavior of staff in expense reporting and less time spent on fixing errors.
Furthermore, Qlik Sense’s intuitive design, despite its advanced capabilities, means users, at any skill level, get most of their money’s worth. The software also offers adequate and responsive user support.
Customer support channels are available 24/7 and include email, phone, training, and live support. There is also a large community of users ready to help you resolve any problem.
The software is well-rated, and most customers report high satisfaction in their investment.
Price-wise, Power BI Pro is an inexpensive way to take advantage of business intelligence tools. However, that advantage starts to disappear if you work with large amounts of data, thanks to its 1GB dataset limit. Otherwise, it is a good starting tool for small to medium-sized organizations to maximize their business opportunities with data.
At Power BI Premium, the price advantage is dead. It does not possess sufficient depth in the customization of reports and visualizations to justify the cost.
Regardless, enterprise users, particularly those embedded in the Microsoft ecosystem, might find its compatibility with other MS products worth the cost. Most especially because it saves organizations considerable cost on training and has higher scalability.
When you run into problems or need help, Power BI has efficient customer support available across all channels except email and live support options.
Data is at the heart of using these BI tools. Their ability to extract data from multiple sources is at the heart of their function. How well does each one perform, and what exactly are they capable of in this regard?
One of the significant advantages of Power BI as a business intelligence tool is how easily it connects with other Microsoft systems, including the Azure database. Thus, it is easy to extract datasets from internal sources like Excel sheets and external sources like Azure.
This ease of data integration is not limited to MS products alone. You can integrate with Google Analytics, MailChimp, Salesforce, GitHub, comScore, Adobe Analytics, and over 100+ sources. This versatility means you will spend less time on data capturing and evaluation.
What’s more, all connected datasets are centralized into a singular platform, which you can then use to generate reports and create informative dashboards.
Similarly, Qlik Sense is capable of combining data into one centralized platform. It supports integration from different data sources, including Carto, DataTap, Limelight, Como, and several others.
The strength of this BI tool, though, lies in its intuitive extraction and collation of data. Everything in selected data sets is included with zero hidden data. Instead of hiding, Qlik Sense rather grays out irrelevant data in the reports.
An advantage of this is it gives the user the chance to discover subtle and hidden trends they might miss. It also allows the user to create detailed contextualizations for data from multiple perspectives at the same time.
Data visualization is how users are able to interpret and communicate data insights in an easy-to-understand manner. Here is how both business intelligence tools carry out the task, along with the various limitations.
With Qlik Sense, you get your standard boring and rigid template charts. But thanks to the easy-to-use drag-and-drop interface, you can easily create interactive visualizations with the tool. You will be able to create visual stories and transform your data insights into persuasive narratives.
The tool’s associative model aids this ease. Relevant data values are connected and can change their visualization when they are selected. Qlik Sense offers six selection states – Click, Lasso, Range, Draw, Legend, and Label selection.
There is also an in-depth list of visualization options. They include Histogram, Pie Chart, Treemap, Combo chart, Box plot, Bar chart, Pivot table, Scatter plot, and Distribution plot. Additionally, you can create custom widgets with one or more dimensions.
Other data visualization capabilities include managing chart properties like data appearance, coloring by dimension, and data sorting.
There is not much difference between the capabilities of Power BI and Qlik Sense as a visualization tool. It can create interactive data visualizations from connected online or easy to upload local data sets. Similarly, it offers a rich selection of visualization types to choose from, including Funnel Chart, Donut Chart, and Ribbon Chart.
That said, the Microsoft tool is renowned for its support for natural language queries. It is also known as Q&A. The feature allows you to search for and arrive at useful insights from your data using natural questions. With it, you can dig deeper into your data simply by following your instincts.
One significant limitation, though, is that this feature is only available on the dashboard. Reports do not support natural language queries.
Working with data is often more than a one-person affair. It takes two or more people working together to find and extract the most valuable insights from different data sources. How well do the tools support data sharing and collaborative analysis?
Collaboration is easy with Power BI. You can publish reports and dashboards to share with other members of your team. This can be achieved from different places in the tool, either through workspaces, favorites, or recent files. Asides from sharing reports, you can also share workspaces with up to 500 users.
However, to share, you need a Power BI Pro and Premium Per User license and so do recipients. Users cannot share directly from the Power BI Desktop.
You can also share and collaborate with others on Qlik Sense in the cloud hub. With the aid of user-created shared spaces, multiple users can develop content and give controlled access to dashboards and reports. Additionally, you can make sheets, bookmarks, and stories available to public users with access.
The Qlik Sense Business package offers a maximum of five users in shared spaces. For more, users will have to subscribe to Qlik Sense Enterprise SaaS.
|Qlik Sense||Power BI|
|Pricing||$30 per month (billed annually)||$9.99 per month (billed monthly)|
|Model Size Limit||5GB (expandable on capacity)||400 GB|
|Self Service Creation||Yes||Yes|
|Device Availability||Accessible on Android, Desktop, iPhone, iPad, and Web Platforms.
Unavailable on Mac
|Accessible everywhere, including Mac devices|
|Usability||Intuitive Interface||Easy to use (for experienced MS stack users)|
|Free Trial||30 days||60 days|
|Search and Conversational Analytics||Yes||Yes|
Both Qlik Sense and Power BI were released in the same year (2014). Since then, they have grown at a similar pace, such that it is hard to pick a clear winner when it comes to the better option. Rather, the better option is subjective, depending on the size and amount of data you plan to work with.
Size-wise, small businesses and startups should go for Power BI Pro. It is a low-budget option and is ideal for individual users with limited data needs. You will be able to create professional-grade data visualizations at an inexpensive cost.
Medium-scale businesses, however, should go for the Qlik Sense Business edition. It offers a lot more value for money, with support for up to five users. Additional benefits also include enough space to store and process data for a business of this size.
Finally, enterprise-level businesses can go for either the Qlik Sense Enterprise SaaS or Power BI Premium, depending on the skill level of the relevant users. It is advisable for teams that are more familiar with MS tools to use Power BI due to the easier integration with the Microsoft stack.
However, enterprise teams with low to mid-level skills are better suited to Qlik Sense Enterprise SaaS. It is far easier to use with an intuitive interface with full support for collaborative analytic content.
Tom loves to write on technology, e-commerce & internet marketing. I started my first e-commerce company in college, designing and selling t-shirts for my campus bar crawl using print-on-demand. Having successfully established multiple 6 & 7-figure e-commerce businesses (in women’s fashion and hiking gear), I think I can share a tip or 2 to help you succeed.