Business intelligence and data analytics tools such as Looker and Tableau provide enterprise data and BI teams with tools to visualize their business data and connect disparate data sources. These tools provide businesses with analytics, visualization, and software integrations to better study their data and apply it to their operations. To decide which BI solution is best for your business, consider the key tools your business needs, the BI experience of your analysts, and your most prioritized software integrations.
What is Looker?
Looker is a cloud-based business intelligence and embedded analytics platform that is part of the Google Cloud portfolio. It provides data visualization and modeling capabilities for enterprises.
Looker’s data modeling tools allow teams to link Looker to a database and use Structured Query Language (SQL) to define a data model. Looker provides ready-made modeling patterns so that teams can start modeling immediately without having to write all their own models. Looker also offers ready-made templates for quickly building dashboards from common data sources such as Google.
For developers, Looker provides an API for customizing workflows or developing business-specific applications. Development teams also have the ability to build Looker extensions to share with Looker users outside their organization. Companies looking to resolve BI questions with other organizations will benefit from Looker’s collaborative development features.
What is Tableau?
Tableau is a data visualization and analytics solution owned by CRM provider Salesforce. Tableau connects to a wide variety of data sources, from databases to Google Workspace applications. It also provides analytics for Salesforce customers, analyzing data from the CRM alongside data from other business applications.
Tableau offers drag-and-drop functionality for creating data visualizations and allows inexperienced users to start designing dashboards right away. Tableau supports massive warehouse workloads and large unstructured data sets for businesses that need to analyze large stored volumes or data from powerful applications.
What are the differences between Looker and Tableau?
Looker and Tableau differ in data modeling technology, integrations, and ease of use. Consider the specific needs of your business when evaluating each of these BI tools.
looker vs. Tableau: data visualization and modelling
For data modeling, Looker uses LookML, a coding system similar to SQL. When Looker is connected to a SQL database, users can automatically generate a LookML data model.
Looker offers over 100 pre-built modeling patterns to help teams build their models. These patterns allow them to customize models based on company-specific data measurement needs. Looker also develops a basic model for businesses by observing relationships between the tables in the organization’s data schema.
Looker offers visualization tools such as dynamic dashboard filtering, which allows users to filter by individuals and groups, and a whole marketplace of visualization types, including maps, funnels, and timelines. However, some customers felt that Looker’s visualization tools were weaker and would have preferred the ability to customize them further.
Tableau offers visualization features such as drag and drop, which allow data analysts to easily select dimensions such as customer ID or zip code to view sales data. Analysts can also use natural language questions to view a graph of answers. Note that Tableau does not have a built-in data dictionary template, so creating visualizations from many different data sources may require manual work.
Tableau does not provide powerful data modeling features. If your data team needs to create both models and visualizations, Tableau doesn’t provide enough tools to do it.
What it comes down to:: Consider Looker if your data teams need to easily build data modeling. If you need easy-to-learn visualization capabilities, especially for newer teams, consider Tableau.
Looker vs Tableau: Integrations
Important Looker integrations include Salesforce and Slack. Looker allows teams to send data directly to Slack channels and use slash commands to search for data within Slack. Looker is a useful solution for teams that communicate intensively via Slack and want to share LookML dashboards in those conversations.
Looker also integrates with Snowflake, among other SQL databases and data sources. For data teams experienced in SQL, Looker provides the tools to create an infrastructure of databases with a central source of data insights. Consider Looker if your BI professionals need database-intensive data analysis and integrations or want to use Snowflake alongside Looker.
Tableau offers API connections and native integrations with many other tools, including Splunk, Amazon Athena, and SAP HANA. It works with SQL databases and can retrieve data from tools such as Shopify, Zendesk, and Snowflake. Tableau also has extensions for languages like Python and programs like MATLAB. If your team has data scientists or engineers looking to link their data models to their most used programs or languages, consider Tableau.
Salesforce acquired Tableau in 2019 and customers using both will benefit from the ability to analyze Salesforce data in Tableau. If your enterprise has an established Salesforce platform, your sales, marketing, and operations teams can also benefit from partnering with the business intelligence team to better understand CRM data and customer behavior.
What it comes down to:: Tableau is beneficial for companies that use Salesforce or store data in many applications. Looker is useful for companies that want to collect data from many databases and is especially useful for teams with SQL experience.
Learn more about APIs and connecting applications: What is API Integration?
looker vs. Tableau: ease of use
Looker works on Mac, Windows and Linux systems; it is a good choice for data teams using different devices and operating systems. It is highly customizable, giving BI professionals flexibility in designing models. However, its adaptability can mean a learning curve, especially for inexperienced team members.
Looker also receives very free user reviews for its customer support team. Consider Looker if your data team needs additional support from a BI vendor when implementing or using the solution.
Tableau is a tool for new or small data teams that need to start creating visualizations and dashboards right away. It is relatively easy to learn. Aside from desktop and laptop computers, Tableau works on both iOS and Android devices.
It has its own query language, VizQL, which allows teams to create visualizations based on the results of a query. VizQL supports SQL analytics capabilities and also lets data teams create temporary variables that don’t actually alter the source data.
Keep in mind that Tableau’s many features can be overwhelming for inexperienced BI professionals. For advanced data operations such as modeling, Tableau does not provide native functions or templates.
What it comes down to:: Tableau makes it easy to create visualizations, but exploring the other features takes time, as does the manual work required to make up for the lack of modeling functionality. While Looker’s high adaptability may require a lot of learning in the first few weeks or months, the customer support is a plus for teams that need extra help.
looker vs. Tableau: prices
Looker pricing is available by requesting a quote from Google Cloud, the parent platform. Looker has multiple business plans and generally its price is more affordable for larger data teams with multiple users.
A single Tableau creator license costs $70/month, and the price is multiplied for each additional analyst on the plan. Viewer licenses, designed for executives, cost $15/user/month and allow leaders to view dashboards and visualizations created by the analytics team. Tableau’s pricing is suitable for both SMBs and larger businesses.
What it comes down to:: Tableau has a competitive price advantage for small businesses. Looker’s customizable pricing plans allow enterprises to design a solution with the features and capacity they need.
Is Looker or Tableau Better for Your Business?
Looker is a good choice for teams with experience in SQL and organizations with multiple SQL databases. It can be used alongside other data analysis tools such as Snowflake.
Large data teams that need the ability to develop models will benefit from Looker’s modeling tools. Looker is also a good solution for BI teams that have development experience and want to create their own apps or embed Looker analytics into existing business software.
Small and inexperienced teams will benefit from the ability to create visualizations directly in Tableau. Companies with many data sources, including multiple databases, also benefit from Tableau’s integration capabilities.
Consider Tableau if your enterprise or small business uses multiple data sources or multiple non-Microsoft applications. Because Tableau supports so many data connectors, it is a good choice for teams with distributed applications that need to collect all their information in one place for analysis.
Are you considering other BI solutions? Read Top Business Intelligence Software The next.