Your Guide to Software Selection

Looker vs Tableau and Other BI Tools

One of the more popular business intelligence solutions on the market today is Looker. The system has been gaining a lot of attention these days, as the fields of business intelligence and Big Data explode. Getting actionable insights out of raw data is becoming, if it isn’t already, the most valuable asset of many businesses. These analytics are helping business leaders understand their customers, and even their own business, better.

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Within this complex landscape, Looker is standing out as both a powerful data analytics platform and a robust business intelligence tool. But it’s not the only major player in the BI game. Tableau software provides a business intelligence solution just as capable of discovering actionable insights. We’ll take a look at the features and functionality of both of these BI vendors, so you can decide for yourself which platform will best serve your business’ data needs.

Using Database Technology

As experts point out, Looker isn’t a storage facility. It doesn’t provide a hyper-converged platform where storage and network and computer modules are unified. But Looker’s business intelligence software does attach to a database to show the data from a SQL database in customizable dashboards.

For example, 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.

Tableau isn’t a slouch when it comes to databasing, however. Like Looker, Tableau can also pull data from a SQL database for analysis. What makes Tableau 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.

Data Visualization for the Masses

Another major advantage of Looker’s BI capabilities is its data visualization. A business’ raw and analyzed data needs to be shown in a way that every user can understand. Think about trying to read a large Excel spreadsheet: for all but the most analytical users, it’s a near-impossible task. Even the smartest people have trouble digesting a large amount of raw data in a spreadsheet without some sort of visualizing intelligence software.

To this end, Looker provides data visualization features, channeling numbers into charts and graphs. These are displayed in various real-time dashboards that users can check at a glance. And Looker’s integration with products from companies like Google and Amazon Web Services makes it even more powerful. Numerous vendor tools and applications parse and store data in particular ways, but Looker is seen as a leader in the process of taking in raw data and refining it.

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. Similarly to Looker, Tableau can visualize all types of data, from revenue growth to weather patterns. Its customizable visualization software allow users to create dynamic visualizations that help tell the data story.

For example, you can add color to specific data to differentiate between data points. So if you wanted to show revenue growth by industry, you could make all tech companies green, all manufacturing companies blue, all retail companies black, and so on. This makes analyzing the data and spotting trends as easy as taking a few seconds to stare at a picture.

Self-Service BI

Business users are clamoring for their own self-serve analytic tool that can get rid of data gatekeepers. 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.

The self-service business intelligence component that Tableau brings to the table is also pretty powerful. All of your users, no matter what their background, can act as a data scientist. A drag-and-drop interface makes analyzing your data simple when using the Tableau system. And the self-service capabilities don’t provide surface analysis. The analytics allow your users to get down into the nitty-gritty details of their data if they so choose, so they can find the insights that they’re trying to find.

Deployment

Deployment isn’t the biggest determinant of a BI vendor’s value, but it does matter for businesses thinking of adopting one. Tableau offers several different products, of which there are various deployments. Tableau Desktop and Tableau Server are both on-premise, using your business’ servers. Tableau Online, as the name suggests, is a web-based platform operating on the cloud. Looker, on the other hand, has an exclusively cloud-based deployment. So if your business prefers or is required to use on-premise software, you’ll need to go with Tableau. Otherwise, you can take a look at both solutions.

Other BI Tools

Although both Looker and Tableau provide robust data analytics, they’re far from the only effective business intelligence systems.

A Sisense package provides its own data visualization tool. The porting of data from SQL feeds insights, while API strategies promote integration and a user-friendly interface.

Microsoft Power BI is another player in the self-service business intelligence space: one with a big name. Dynamics-related MS tools are also front and center in many corporate searches for effective BI generation and use.

Qlik, similarly to Tableau, offers different versions of its BI and data visualization tool. With products such as Qlikview and Qlik Sense, Qlik has no shortage of powerful features.

This list is, as you can imagine, only scratching the surface of all the BI vendors out there. Conduct a thorough comparison of Looker vs Tableau along with other BI software to see what each one can do for your business in this age of Big Data, digital analytics and reporting.

Compare top tools in our BI Software Matrix Report.

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