Looker vs Periscope vs Chartio – War of modern BI Tools

By: Published: August 17, 2017

Companies these days are investing heavily in getting their data analytics stack right. Right data analytics stack means that they are always on top of what’s happening with their business, how are the users behaving with their product, what areas they need to focus on. Data is becoming the common denominator in decision making across industry verticals.

A typical data analytics stack comprises three key steps:

  • Clean, Extract, Aggregate and Prepare data for analysis: This is where ETL or Data Integration tools like Hevo come into play.
  • Store data in a data warehouse: A Data Warehouse is a database that stores all of your data at a single place. Commonly used data warehouses are Amazon Redshift, Google BigQuery, and Snowflake.
  • Explore, Consume and Share Data/Insights: Once the data is present in your warehouse you need tools to explore, consume and share data/insights with your team.

A data warehouse will provide a SQL query interface which can give you raw numbers. But, the human brain was never trained to consume and remember a lot of numbers. The human brain was trained to see visual things, remember patterns and use intuition to reflect on what to do. Hence, it would be extremely hard for your team to take decisions if you keep throwing large spreadsheets filled with numbers at them.

Enter Business Intelligence Tools

Business Intelligence Tools solve this specific problem – make it easier for everyone to visualise and consume data. There are various aspects that BI tools aim to cover:

  • Connection to a Data Warehouse – A BI tool should be able to connect to the data warehouse of your choice.
  • Exploration of Data – BI tools should allow easy exploration of data. This means the right tools to quickly fire a few queries and see results.
  • Visualisation – Transform your data into visualisations that identify trends, patterns, and outliers. The BI tool should allow to customise your visualisations through appropriate chart types, unit conversions and drill down filters. Above all, the visualisations should be beautiful and intuitive.
  • Share Insights – Once you find insights and prepare visualisations, you must be able to share it with your team through email, PDF, scheduled reports or shareable links without having everyone to install any software.

Let’s look at 3 of the popular tools in the market and assess –

1. Periscope

Periscope can connect to all popular data warehouses. Visualisations are pretty and they have a variety of sharing options. You can share dashboards through live shareable links, schedule reports, email them and even embed the dashboards in your product.

Some noteworthy features are:

1.1 SQL First

If you have experienced SQL users in your team then Periscope should be a BI tool in your consideration set. An experienced SQL user can write a much more sophisticated report in a very short effort as compared to the other tools. In addition to this, they also have a data discovery feature that helps business users with no coding experience answer questions using a drag and drop interface. 

1.2 Faster Queries

Periscope positions itself as a BI Tool which has higher query performance than the others. A key feature enabling this is Periscope Data Cache. Queries running this cache run up to 150 times faster than on customers’ database.

1.3 Data Governance

Periscope has a comprehensive Data Governance module. You can control user access to data tables by creating isolated environments within your company. On top of that, you decide who can read and write queries.

To sum up – Why use Periscope?

  • Serves SQL Analysts better than any other tool. Has a drag-and-drop query builder for business users who do not have SQL knowledge
  • Awesome shareable and embeddable dashboards

2. Chartio

Chartio can connect to all popular data warehouses. A variety of intuitive visualisations is available to choose from. You can share dashboards through live shareable links, schedule reports, PDFs etc.

2.1 Interactive Mode

Chartio has an interactive self-serve model for business users to create visualisations. You can simply Drag and Drop data to create, edit, filter and share dashboards all with a few clicks.

2.2 SQL Mode

For power users, there is a SQL Mode which can be used to build complex visualisations.

2.3 Snapshots

Chartio gives you the ability to take snapshots of dashboards in the form of PDFs so that you can take a look at historical data. It might be an interesting feature for a few folks.

Why use Chartio?

  • Useful for both SQL analysts and business users to build dashboards using the drag-and-drop features

3. Looker

Looker  Dashboards can be shared through live shareable links, schedule reports etc. Looker also provides an interesting Looker Bot for Slack users.

3.1 Data Modeling through LookML

Looker takes a different take on BI by providing data modeling through LookML. LookML provides a data modeling layer on top of your raw data. You can model your business metrics, dimensions, aggregates for a ready reuse across different visualisations and dashboards. Once the model is set up, business users can create visualisations through an interactive interface.

3.2 Data Actions

Data Actions enable you to take action on data right from Looker – anything from updating a field in Salesforce to assigning a ticket in Zendesk. It saves hours every day by automating or triggering periodic tasks based on custom criteria.

3.3 Looker Blocks

Looker Blocks are a pre-built library of analysis patterns, analytics best-practices, and dashboards. You can search and filter by industry and use-case to identify the blocks that can accelerate your business.

Why use Looker?

  • Looker’s LookML helps business users with the ability to build complex queries in Looker, focusing only on the content they need and not the complexities of SQL structure.
  • Easy to build dashboards with drag and drop mechanism.

A data analytics stack has 3 different components-  ETL / Data Integration, Data warehouse, and Data Visualization. We discussed 3 popular data visualization tools here.

Do share your experience of using these visualization tools or any other tool you have used, and what works for you in that.

Founder and CTO, Hevo Data

Sourabh has more than a decade of experience building scalable real-time analytics and has worked for companies like Flipkart, tBits Global, and Unbxd. He is experienced in technologies like MySQL, Hibernate, Spring, CXF, php, ExtJS and Shell.

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