April 4, 2018
Microsoft’s Power BI began in 2013 as a humble power-pivot style add on component for Excel. Since then it has evolved into a full stack, cloud based BI solution aimed at integrating simple dashboard style solutions into your existing Microsoft service suite.
QlikView began in Sweden in 1993, long before the information revolution kicked into full throttle. It’s the most mature dashboarding tool on the market and from the beginning it has been focused on data insights and guiding people to ‘ah-ha!’ discovery moments in their data. This article does not consider Qlik Sense, which will be the subject of another blog (coming soon!).
This article is very high-level and focuses on the core elements my clients have found most relevant in deciding between these two vastly different beasts. I hope it helps you to decide which one may best suit your organisation.
Let’s break down their relative strengths!
At their core, every BI solution comprises of 3 parts: capture, transform and deliver.
The first challenge in any BI system is capturing your data. When it comes to easily connecting straight to your data source, Power BI is more prepared for the job, with a massive range of connectors available right out of the box.
However, when it comes to transforming your data (matching records, merging sources, preparing for analysis) QlikView is still the boss.
For heavy lifting like dealing with multiple sources of data that need to be combined, with Power BI you will eventually need some kind of data warehouse in the chain. QlikView on the other hand has a capable and fast scripting engine that can entirely take the place of a data warehouse.
i.e. both will take you from 1 to 3 for simple data, but for advanced data transformation you will need a Data Warehouse for steps 1 and 2 if you are using Power BI.
Power BI has an extremely intuitive interface. Anyone who has ever used a pivot table in Excel will be able to pick this up relatively easily. Simply click and drag charts and fields around to where you need and use the available properties to customise as required.
This simplicity comes at a cost though. While it is easy to create your chart, for anything beyond simple aggregation and pivoting of your data will send you down a road of tricky hacking and functional dead ends.
QlikView on the other hand has a feature-packed and enormously flexible interface. In fact with QlikView, can you create dynamic visuals based on highly complex, parameter driven, customised aggregates. You can go as far as building an entire custom reporting interface complete with buttons and actions.
But, you guessed it – this too comes at a cost. The learning curve is simply too high for most non-developers.
Both solutions are highly secure, as you would expect. Once applied, the security in either solution is absolute and iron clad. Both will integrate with your active directory and can use integrated security to authenticate users.
However, that’s where the similarity ends. Power BI demands AD security and has an enormous blind spot which may be a deal-breaker for some organisations: No row level security.
Simply put, row level security is the ability to determine who can see what at a detail level. For example, if you want to provide reporting to doctors that securely locks away all the information relating to patients they don’t personally treat, row level security is essential.
While Power BI can use group membership to determine access, it does not implement user-level security. This gap has been discussed at length in the developer community and may very well be addressed in future updates to Power BI. At time of writing, however there is no indication from Microsoft as to if or when.
On the other hand, QlikView has its own difficulties with authentication – especially if you want to host your QlikView application on the cloud and authenticate with O365 accounts or other single sign on services.
Power BI was designed from the ground up for a mobile world powered by cloud services. Power BI comes with it’s very own mobile app, which uses mobile centric views of your data. Power BI makes it very easy to create custom visuals and share them with your colleagues.
From a mobile standpoint, QlikView is somewhat behind. QlikView is focussed on the desktop experience and really needs a larger screen to interact with. In addition, QlikView does not facilitate end-user created content. QlikView instead uses features such as bookmark sharing and user stories to allow users to share their discoveries on an existing application. In practice I have rarely seen this used however.
In this BI pro’s humble opinion, the difference between Power BI and QlikView boils down to simplicity vs power:
Of course, there is so much more to both solutions – but where does one stop?!
If you’re keen to understand which tool is best for you, and how to best go about implementing a BI solution for your organisation, feel free to get in contact with us. We’d love to help.