Your Guide to Software Selection

Looker vs Tableau: Who is the Winner for Your Business?

Data is the backbone of business operations, and companies need to understand their data to understand their employees, customers and processes. Enter business intelligence tools — the tool has become a necessity for organizations of all sizes and industries. If you’ve evaluated competitors and your search for a BI solution has led you to the final steps of the decision making process, our comparison of Looker vs Tableau breaks down the benefits of both systems.

The need for a business intelligence solution is apparent in any company that desires a useful portrait of their data, and Looker and Tableau provide this functionality. Insights provided by these systems present an understanding of an organization’s current position and future goals. Through the analysis of data, businesses can better interpret metrics and use these findings to make informed decisions. When making a final decision on a vendor, consider your data analysis needs, company size and existing infrastructure.

Read on for our in-depth feature comparison of Tableau vs Looker.

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Looker vs Tableau

Looker vs Tableau

Advantages and Disadvantages

Data Visualization

The Looker BI tool provides extensive visualization abilities, complete with real-time analysis. Users can select different types of visualizations from the Looker library or create a custom visualization. Some examples of visualizations in the library are bubble charts, word clouds, chord diagrams, spider web charts and heatmaps.

A large part of the appeal of Tableau’s BI solution is a strong “visualization front end” that provides visibility to all kinds of data that would otherwise remain as separate, useless data points. Tableau offers a variety of interactive data visualizations created using visual query language (VizQL). The software can use structured as well as unstructured data to create visualizations. Additional features include storyboarding and the program’s Spatial File Connector, which extracts geospatial data.

Tableau’s data visualization features are superior to Looker. The intuitiveness, data breakdowns, filter abilities and pure visual capabilities of the software place it at a higher level of functionality.

Advantage
@Tableau rates better than Looker for data visualization in SelectHub's research & analysis of the two tools. #BusinessIntelligence #Software

Analytics

Looker offers analytics code blocks (Looker Blocks) with SQL patterns, data models and visualizations included. Although the blocks are pre-built, they are customizable and can be adjusted to the needs of the user. “Powered by Looker” is the software’s embeddable analytics tool that can provide Looker’s functionality to other programs. Looker utilizes platform-exclusive modeling language called LookML to manage data. In essence, LookML employs some features of SQL, but with improved functionality.

Several respondents on Quora mention Looker’s data modeling layer and how it presents raw data in a digestible way. Looker customers can create data models on the fly, or use available tools to build these user-friendly models. CEO & Founder of Fishtown Analytics, Tristan Handy, calls the combination of data modeling and reporting the “Holy Grail” of business intelligence and analytical processing.

With Tableau Server, users can securely access data sources and analyze business information in depth. Benchmarking provides the ability to compare the performance of your organization to competitors and industry standards. Forecasting predicts future possibilities for the performance of your business and the industry in general, providing the opportunity to proactively make decisions.

Tableau can also pull data from a SQL database for analysis. What makes the Tableau BI tool one of the best at using database technology is its ability to use cross-database technology. These allow you to extract data from multiple data sets and analyze them together, without the hassle of combining the sets in a single database.

Looker’s platform-exclusive analytics functions give the software an advantage over Tableau. Looker Blocks, Powered by Looker and LookML differentiate Looker from other business intelligence software that uses more standard data systems such as SQL.

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Looker data analysis

An example of Looker’s data analysis functions.

Advantage
@LookerData rates better than Tableau for analytics in SelectHub's research & analysis of the two tools. #BusinessIntelligence #Software

Online Analytical Processing (OLAP)

Online analytical processing through Tableau allows users to pull data for deep analysis. Data is organized in a pre-built cube format in which data is layered— examples of Tableau-backed OLAP cubes are Oracle Essbase, Teradata OLAP, Microsoft Analysis Services, SAP NetWeaver Business Warehouse, Microsoft PowerPivot and Analytical Views in SAP Hana. OLAP features available in Tableau include data drilling, exploration, filtering and time-series auto-generation. However, the pre-built nature of OLAP cubes does limit the functionality of some features, like data grouping.

Tableau surpasses its competitor in this category as it works with OLAP cubes, whereas Looker works around OLAP. Looker aims to replace traditional OLAP functionality with its own means of in-depth data examination. If OLAP is needed by your business, Tableau is the right choice.

Advantage
@Tableau rates better than Looker for OLAP in SelectHub's research & analysis of the two tools. #BusinessIntelligence #Software

Document Management

Looker converts reports into TXT, CSV, JSON, HTML and PNG formats as well as Google Spreadsheets and Microsoft Excel for the creation of data charts. Looker users can allow public access on reports and control viewing privileges.

Tableau has the ability to export reports in the form of PDFs, spreadsheet files, images, crosstabs and more. The program’s extensive formatting options allow for easy sharing and collaboration.

When comparing Looker vs Tableau, you’ll notice the tools share similar document management functionality. Both systems are able to convert reports into different formats and distribute the files easily. In the category of document management, Looker and Tableau reach a tie.

Decision Services

Consulting services provided by Looker help users understand the functionality of the system with the assistance of Looker experts. Looker offers training and workshops about the software, as well as on-demand customer service.

The analysis features of Tableau provide insight into business performance that can be used in future decision making. If you need assistance interpreting data analyses, this vendor offers consulting services to aid in planning. In addition, Tableau gives users fraud detection tools. However, the software does not support regulatory compliance features.

The decision services offered by Looker and Tableau both give users a resource for learning the systems and making the most of the tools they provide, placing the systems in a draw for this category. These services help small companies without an in-house analytics expert enjoy the benefits of BI as much as large-scale enterprises.

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Integrations

Integrations through Looker are provided through the software’s pre-programmed Looker Block code. Source blocks contribute data from outside applications. These integrations help businesses make the most of the tools they use on a daily basis as well as the data stored in those tools. Looker offers all of your business users self-service capabilities. In other words, you’re never at the mercy of IT or a data science consultant to view your data. Whenever you want to see it and analyze it, you can see it and analyze it.

Additionally, you can provide external self-service access to your dashboards and other data, visualized or not. For example, if you wanted your clients to be able to view certain data pertaining to them, you can embed Looker modules in websites and apps that they have access to.

Examples of resources available in Looker’s source blocks include Retail Sales Forecast by BigSquid, Facebook Ads and Google AdWords by Segment, and Cost and Usage Analysis by Snowflake. Additionally, Looker Blocks integrate with Amazon Web Services, Kustomer, Datatonic, MaestroQA and Fivetran. Looker also utilizes Atlassian products Jira, Bitbucket and Hipchat for project tracking and data modeling functions.

Tableau embeds dashboards and reports into programs through the use of application programming interfaces (API). The software is able to integrate with enterprise resource planning (ERP) tools, Extract, Transform and Load (ETL) software, customer relationship management (CRM) systems, and the Microsoft Office suite.

Specific program integrations include Google Analytics, Google BigQuery, Google Adwords, Google Sheets, Splunk, SAP and Salesforce. In addition, the software’s Social Media Analytics feature integrates with Facebook, Twitter and other social channels. Deployment options for Tableau include on-premise deployment through Windows or Linux and cloud deployment through AWS, Azure or Google Cloud Platform.

Looker holds the advantage for program integrations. The software’s analytics tools provide the capability to work with and pull data from many different systems. Specifically, the Looker Blocks feature streamlines integration by offering pre-built code that can be embedded into outside systems with ease.

Advantage
@LookerData rates better than Tableau for integrations in SelectHub's research & analysis of the two tools. #BusinessIntelligence #Software

Big Data Integration

Looker accesses Amazon Redshift, Google BigQuery, Snowflake, Git and other sources to extract data. The program’s LookML functionality breaks down data, adjusts for changes and organizes files.

Tableau data sources include Cloudera Hadoop, Oracle, AWS Redshift, Teradata, Microsoft SQL Server and many others, accessible through the software’s web data connector and APIs. Governance and security measures are included in the system, but Tableau can also integrate with security tools already in place, such as Active Directory, Kerberos and OAuth.

Tableau has the advantage in the category of big data integration. The software incorporates security control features, offering the added benefit of compliance assurance and secure data sourcing.

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Tableau data sources

A list of data sources from Tableau.

Advantage
@Tableau rates better than Looker for big data integration in SelectHub's research & analysis of the two tools. #BusinessIntelligence #Software

Advantage Summary

To conclude in a match-up between Looker vs. Tableau, Tableau emerges as the superior business intelligence system compared to Looker. Based on the evaluated features above, Tableau ultimately holds the advantage in more requirement categories: data visualization, online analytical processing and big data integration. In comparison, Looker provides better analytics and integration functions, but falls short to Tableau’s advantages.

Does your business take advantage of a particular difference between Looker and Tableau, or is there another business intelligence tool that better serves your organization? Let us know in the comments.

Top Competitors for Looker and Tableau

Birst BI
License Cost: $30,000/year for 20 users
Dundas BI
Starting at $6 per user per month
IBM Cognos BI
Starting at $75 per user per month
Oracle BI
Starting at $350/named user and $77 for software update license and support
SAP BusinessObjects
Starts from $55,000/year
SAS Visual Analytics
Starting at $1,365/month
Sisense
Starting at $21,000/year for 5 users
QlikView
Personal Edition is free. Licenses starting at $1,350/named user
Microsoft Power BI
Desktop Author is free. Pro starting at $9.99/month/user. Premium starting at $4,995/node/month
MicroStrategy
Starting at $600/named user/year
Alainia ConradLooker vs Tableau: Who is the Winner for Your Business?

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