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IBM Cognos vs Tableau Comparison 2021

by Arthur Zuckerman

In today’s increasingly data-driven business world, having business intelligence (BI) tools is a must for companies to be competitive. However, there are different types out there. For instance, some provide tools for data discovery while some are more equipped for data visualization. Meanwhile, there are also systems that offer better features for data mining and organization. As a result, you can’t easily compare one product to another.

So to help you out, we have prepared this in-depth business intelligence software analysis that focuses on IBM Cognos and Tableau. While these two offer varying specialties and foci, these are still two of the most popular BI systems on the market. That said, it surely wouldn’t hurt to take a closer look at them and see which one will suit your business’ needs. 

An Overview of IBM Cognos

IBM Cognos is a comprehensive BI solution covers every facet of your analytics processes from data discovery to operationalization. Also, it has a robust visualization module that allows you to easily visualize, analyze, and share dashboards with anyone in your company. This way, new insights can be generated from every corner of your organization. What’s more, it comes with a top-of-the-line visualization module that offers lets you create interactive reports.

Another great thing about IBM Cognos is that it’s an AI-powered platform. Meaning, it can present actionable insights using plain language so you don’t have to manually generate them. What’s more, it has an AI-assisted data preparation module that will clean, combine, and interpret data sources in minutes. Plus, users can ask the AI a question in plain language to receive an actionable answer. With these features, analysts and executives can make use of data more. 

Other key features include smart in-context search, intuitive interface, various reporting styles, scheduling, alerts, and automatically generated data models. 

The platform can virtually work with all types of business systems as it can pool data from them. So, integration with your current workflow is not a problem. Lastly, its pricing scheme starts as quote-based as it is deployed in personalized fashion for you. 

IBM Cognos Analytics dashboard

IBM Cognos is an AI-powered platform that can handle large, complex data sets.

An Overview of Tableau

Tableau is a popular BI tool that focuses on collaborative data discovery and visualization. It even has this Tableau Public feature that is open for anyone to view. In it, you’ll find public dashboards shared by individuals from different walks of life. 

Also, Tableau has a very intuitive interface that can be used to produce highly-visual shareable data visualizations without programming knowledge. Thanks to its drag-and-drop capability, you can easily create your first dashboard in minutes or a few hours. 

Tableau is offered in different plans and deployments. Mainly, it has three user and license types: (1) Creator, (2) Explorer, and (3) Viewer. The most comprehensive one is the Tableau Creator that allows users to prepare and author dashboards. Meanwhile, a Tableau Explorer account lets users edit existing visualizations and workbooks among other things. Lastly, the Tableau Viewer license only allows users to view, comment, and interact with the dashboards. 

The solution can be used seamlessly with other business systems, especially for data preparation. This includes leading CRM tools, ecommerce platforms, productivity suites, and many others. As for pricing, plans start at $12 per user per month for a Tableau Viewer License. 

Tableau dashboard

Tableau is an easy-to-use BI platform built for novice and expert data analysts alike.

IBM Cognos vs Tableau Comparison 

As mentioned, comparing both solutions are like comparing apples and oranges. So, we couldn’t give you a verdict on what is the superior software. Of course, in our earlier discussion, you’d infer that IBM Cognos is the more comprehensive and powerful tool. 

So, we are not going to give you verdicts here. We’ll just give you our IBM Cognos vs Tableau comparison insights as to which product fits better for certain company types and business processes. We’ll discuss it using these points of analysis: (1) business types,  (2) creating a data culture, and (3) handling complexity. 

1. Business Types

Small businesses and large enterprises deal with different types and sizes of data. Most SMBs process minimal sets of data and don’t have in-house professionals to prepare the data for them. For this, Tableau is the best fit as it is simpler to use and offers more straightforward features. On the other hand, large enterprises need to handle large data sets and can perform more complex analyses. In this case, IBM Cognos might be more useful as it is intended for large enterprises and highly-specialized data-centric businesses.

To illustrate this further, there are about 4,561 companies with yearly revenues north of $1 billion. Only 2,615 of the same revenue range use Tableau. However, for companies with a yearly revenue ranging from $1 million to $50 million, Tableau has more users than IBM Cognos with more than 20k companies using it. Cognos only has less than 10k. 

Also, Tableau generally has more users because it is easier to use. IBM Cognos is for technical users like data analysts, data scientists, CIOs, and business services like consultancies. Tableau can be used by such personnel as well. However, it is very limited compared to that of IBM Cognos. 

IBM Cognos’ AI is powerful enough to give actionable insights and answers for queries. Thus, it is generally considered more powerful and accurate than Tableau. On the flipside, Tableau is easier to use but because most users are not expert data handlers, there can be inaccuracies in analyses. This brings us to our second point of comparison. 

2. Creating a Data Culture

As Tableau is more user-friendly, it is better than IBM Cognos when you want to begin fostering a data-driven culture in your organization. For example, middle managers who don’t specialize in analysis can use Tableau easily. They can create interactive dashboards and easily share them to create a better view of the business situation. Also, you can get other employees Explorer and Viewer licenses so they can easily see, understand, and react to data discovery. 

While IBM Cognos can be used for such cases as well, it can be more complicated. Moreover, as even the most basic package from this vendor have extensive features, there’s a good chance you’ll be paying for tools that your employees won’t really need. On the other hand, IBM Cognos is great for larger companies with in-house data analysts who can make the most of its sophisticated functionalities.

So, our verdict is that Tableau is best when you are only starting your BI efforts. It democratizes the use of quantification and the framework for metrics-driven outcomes. 

3. Handling Complexity 

When you want a solution that can handle tons and tons of data, you have to go with IBM Cognos. This is because it has a powerful AI that assists you in data cleansing and preparation for the operationalization of the generated insights. 

However, great skill and extra care are needed to man IBM Cognos. This is why it is only used by people with the right expertise and aptitudes. Top industries that use Cognos for their end-to-end business intelligence processes are manufacturing, technical industries, and business services. 

Similar businesses in these industries also use Tableau. However, those that are more data-heavy rely on Cognos and similar products more. 

Which BI Tool Should You Choose?

Our official IBM Cognos vs Tableau comparison verdict, in boxing terms, is a no contest. You can’t really compare the two rather directly. 

In fact, an organization can even use both products at the same time. For example, for its analyst team composed of experts, IBM Cognos could be used to get actionable insights from huge, complex, and disparate data. On the other hand, every other department can use Tableau to foster a data-driven culture. 

A hybrid deployment can work well for finance firms, business services, government agencies, and many more. In this way, you get your top analysts one of the most comprehensive solutions on the market while you introduce a data-driven business ideal for those who are non-experts. To compare more business solutions, you may also check out our business management software analysis.

A rule of thumb here is to use Tableau if you want to democratize your insight generation from data and utilize IBM Cognos if you want to handle complex data. Also, both have comprehensive self-service knowledgebase material available so you can learn on your own. Additionally, they have learning programs. All you have to do is check their website or contact their wonderful customer support representatives. 

You can also check out our Microsoft Power BI vs IBM Cognos comparison for more information on these tools.

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