When I started working at my latest company all the reporting was done with a combination of Google Sheets and Tableau, with Tableau being the principle reporting mechanism. In the months that followed, I came to dislike Tableau immensely and favor Google DataStudio instead. The following explains exactly why that is the case.
In particular, I think DataStudio is great in five key areas:
- Features for Everyone
- Regular Updates
- Best Data Connections
- Always Online
- Unbeatable Cost
Let's dive into some detail on these.
Features for Everyone
Google DataStudio is a new product, it lacks many of the features that Tableau has, but this doesn't mean it is inferior. While DataStudio was released as a beta in 2016, Tableau has been around for over 5 years. This means that Tableau has a huge array of features for every analyst's needs, but this is what I don't like. The learning curve for Tableau is huge and mastery of each and every feature would take months of training. On the other hand, DataStudio is simple. Developed by a small team it has fewer features, but each is essential to your everyday life as an analyst and it's easy to quickly grasp everything that's possible and not possible.
More importantly, it's easy for others to grasp the technology. As the only data analyst in our company, it's important to me that everyone in the company is capable of fetching their own data when the task isn't difficult and DataStudio allows for that. Within each team, I have made sure there is at least one person who understands the features and is capable of editing reports. That way, when someone has a minor problem, they can go to their team's DataStudio expert and the problem can be resolved without me ever needing to get involved. This frees up a lot of time for me to work on other projects and not get bogged down in things like metric or dimension adjustments in tables.
The highly regular update emails that I get from the DataStudio team. Actually there is an update email on Jul 2 and Apr 27 as well, but apparently, it's not a Top Result.
Google DataStudio doesn't have as many features as Tableau, but for what it's currently lacking, it is quickly adding. Every month DataStudio releases a product update which isn't a boring bug fix or cosmetic change but often a brand new feature that greatly improves the functionality. For example, if you search why Tableau is better than DataStudio you'll probably see ‚??joins‚?? mentioned at least once. Up until a few months ago it wasn't possible to join data sources inside DataStudio and all the processing had to be done elsewhere, but now it is. You weren't able to have multiple pivot charts in one dashboard, or have more than 1000 options in a filter, but now you can.
The DataStudio community is constantly requesting and prioritizing features which the product team actually listens to and acts upon. I love this about DataStudio and it makes me excited to keep using the product and see how much it can grow.
Best Data Connections
Google Ads, Google Analytics, Google Sheets and Google Cloud Storage - four brilliant products integrated automatically.
Tableau has more types of data sources available to connect to than DataStudio, but DataStudio has better quality connections. A big part of many company's data is advertising budgets, and what's the world's biggest advertising platform? Google Adwords. Any online company will track user web behavior, what's the industry's leading product? Google Analytics. Many companies store purchase data in an SQL database, what's a good option for this? Google BigQuery. Google DataStudio integrates perfectly with the Google system (as you'd hope!) which means that connecting to Adwords is as simple as can be with all the metrics and dimensions you could ever need automatically imported. Similarly for BigQuery or any other Google Products such as AdSense. On the other hand, getting such a setup in Tableau requires a lot more work and the smoothness will never quite be there.
The most important data for a company can be linked directly in DataStudio which makes it powerful for quickly setting up robust reports and Tableau can't compare.
Tableau has a few features for getting your data online including Tableau Online and Tableau Server, but they feel tacked on to the main desktop product. When you work with DataStudio, everything is online from step one. You build reports online, your data is hosted online, you share reports online through URLs - everything is online.
On that note, sharing reports is an integral part of any analyst's job. There's no point in producing a report if you can't get it in front of people. To share a report with Tableau, you might have to export as a csv, or a pdf file and then send to the person via email. Or you might try to send them the Tableau file and hope that they have a view-only license installed and that it's the correct version. You can guess where this is going; DataStudio has no such problems. To share a report you simply input the user's Google Account email and choose view or edit rights to instantly make the report available.
The other benefit of using Google Accounts is that DataStudio is protected by all the same authentication as Google Sheets, Gmail etc., which means that your data is more secure and it is more difficult to get the valuable performance data out of your company.
The last point on the online-factor is small, but for me who works in online businesses, it's just another gold star for DataStudio. Since it is online and since you can customize reports with your own color palettes and styles, it's possible to make the reports look very much like your own website. It's small but it means that for all your employees the analytics experience is seamless and provides one less barrier to getting the information they need.
I would be remiss without mentioning the cost difference in the products. Tableau starts at around $70 per month per user, whereas DataStudio is just free. If a team consist of one or two analysts, then this isn't a bad price, but as I mentioned above, one of the biggest wins for DataStudio is that anyone can edit. If you wanted such a setup with Tableau then the number of licenses would skyrocket and the monthly cost would quickly approach $1000 for even a small business - not an insignificant cost.
Wrapping it all Up
I don't like Tableau for many reasons. I'm sure it has its place, somewhere, but I've never seen that place. For now, I love the simplicity, evolution, integrations, always-online and cheap cost of Google DataStudio and will be using and recommending this product for years to come.