Grow platform usage and improve efficiency with Looker system activity analytics

Aleksandra Aleksic & Gaurav Kumar, Looker Product Management, Google Cloud & Looker Product Management, Google Cloud

Aug 11, 2020

Managing organization-wide data platforms can be challenging. While it’s clear that businesses who make good use of data outperform their competitors, data leaders often struggle with important issues such as user adoption, system performance, designing data experiences, creating popular content, and controlling costs. These challenges become particularly severe when managing large or complex sets of data, a large user base, or in instances where data is heavily used and analyzed.

To address these challenges, Looker provides system activity analytics. Looker system activity analytics gives insights into virtually every area of Looker usage and performance. It’s analytics for your analytics — built to help administrators grow their platform while encouraging use and improving overall efficiency.

Looker system activity: analyze your analytics

System activity analytics provides access to usage and performance information about your Looker instance either via intuitive pre-built dashboards or via ad-hoc queries and data exploration. At its core, system activity is an internal LookML model that connects to Looker’s underlying usage data. Activity analysis is modeled automatically and available via Looker’s Admin menu. It provides insights into key areas of the Looker system, such as user activity, how content is consumed and used in Looker, and the performance and number of queries users are running. System activity data is particularly useful for monitoring and auditing an organization's analytics efforts and data query patterns. It can also be especially useful when monitoring embedded analytics or the use of data by tools leveraging Looker’s APIs.

The system activity dashboards are available in the Admin menu

Most administrators who use system activity data use the pre-built dashboards and explores, Just as with any dashboard in Looker, you can download, schedule, and further drill into system activity metrics and elements.

System activity for large deployments

System activity analytics are available in every Looker instance. However, for organizations who plan to use system activity data extensively, there is elite system activity — an optional analytical store that increases system activity performance and retention limits.

Standard system activity Elite system activity
Data retention limit 90 days 1 year
Concurrent query limit Yes No
Caching policy Refresh every 12 hours No forced caching

To learn more about leveraging the advanced capabilities of elite system activity, contact your account manager or open a support request to connect with our team.

Users and adoption

One of the common ways we see system activity data used is the analysis of user activity and the identification of both power users and users struggling with adoption. Using system activity in this way can help Looker administrators drive platform adoption, identify and reach user groups who haven’t logged into the system much, if at all. From here, admins can ask questions and get a better understanding of what these users may need to feel more confident on the platform, whether it be additional training, peer programs with power users, or perhaps just more resources.

Looker administrators also use system activity to identify power users. Admins can quickly see which users are running the most queries, and also what is being queried and how well those queries performed. This enables admins to identify potential data ambassadors to help drive organization-wide adoption.

Top users by query count (and other metrics) from the database performance dashboard

Optimize performance and reduce resource costs

For most analytics tools, database resource consumption is a hidden cost and resource constraints can be difficult to predict — particularly with large numbers of users generating queries. System activity analytics enables administrators to track query performance, including any failed queries and which queries are consuming the most resources. With the scheduler heatmap, administrators can predict potential performance issues by identifying peak query times. Using the schedule heatmap, administrators can reschedule queries for off-peak times and improve overall system performance.

The performance audit dashboard is another tool admins can leverage to optimize performance. It shows information about the performance of content and persistent derived tables (PDTs) on your Looker instance, including the total and average query run times as well as details on any possible errors.

Drive better business outcomes with system activity

Looker system activity analytics provides insights into virtually every area of Looker usage and performance, with the goal of enabling administrators to be more efficient, improving platform adoption, and driving better business outcomes. And with elite system activity, you can retain data longer, perform more complex analyses, and deliver data to new places for use in new ways.

Our goal is to help you use Looker, better — and system activity is one of the ways we’re doing just that.


For more details on system activity, check out our documentation

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