Looker Blog : Data Matters

Analysts, It’s Time to Focus on Analytics

Daniel Mintz, Chief Data Evangelist

Dec 5, 2017

data-tools

I’ve got some bad news. If you’re an analyst, you’re not being well-served by your existing tools. And at Looker we understand your pain.

But I’ve also got some good news: today Looker announced the availability of new features that are going to make your life as an analyst much easier.

Now with Looker, you can:

  • Combine your business data with new data sources more easily than ever with Looker’s Data Blocks
  • Collaborate on your business logic with Looker’s simple, powerful integration with Git
  • Use Looker to build exactly the tool your company needs with Looker’s Action Hub

Sounds pretty good doesn’t it?

But before we get to the good news, let’s take a look at three challenges I faced when I was an analyst -- I think you might be facing these challenges, too. I like to think of these as the proof that analysts need better tools.

1. Write and maintain SQL queries.

One of the most basic job requirements for any data analyst is a fluency in SQL. Why? Because if you’re like me you’re going to be writing SQL a lot. And you’ll most likely be writing variations on the same SQL over and over and over again.

For most analysts, writing SQL from scratch is just a fact of life. Because sadly, the really impressive SQL you write (y’know, the ones you’ll want to save) will be so hard to parse in a few weeks that you’re pretty much just better off building that query from scratch.

I know that workflow because I’ve been there myself.

2. Optimize how fast those queries run over and over.

Writing correct queries is a good start, but sometimes the first thing you write doesn’t return fast enough. So another core task of analysts is examining database usage to improve performance.

And if your data volume is growing rapidly (which, of course it is), you also need to constantly think about upsizing and redistributing data across nodes. I know your pain all too well.

3. Answer any and all questions from business users

Those two responsibilities are just preliminary steps to doing the thing that you (and I) were actually hired to do -- analyzing data and delivering those insights to the rest of your company.

If you’re like me, that’s the thing that made you want to become an analyst in the first place. But that’s too bad, because the previous two tasks are going to take up 75% of your time. So even though your business users could use your help interpreting and analyzing data, you rarely have time.

Isn’t it strange that the task that you were originally hired to do (and that you WANT to do) is being crowded out by two responsibilities that you seem to repeat over and over again?

Does it feel like something’s broken? It is.

And the thing that’s broken is your workflow. But it’s not your fault. And Looker is here to help.

What if I told you Looker can dramatically reduce the time you spend writing and optimizing queries?

Most business intelligence tools on the market focused on making it easier to extract data from the data warehouse or making it easier to manage SQL queries. Those approaches both come from a world where data warehouses needed protecting from your business users.

Today’s data warehouses are ridiculously fast and they’re incredibly cheap. So you need a tool that takes advantage of them, right? That’s Looker.

Looker works to free analysts like you from the tedious work of writing ad-hoc SQL queries. And we do that by making it easy to codify your knowledge in a data platform that’s shared across your company.

The benefits of this approach are straightforward and easy to capture. You get to build on top of a centralized data model that contains all of your business logic. And that business model is used to serve your users by generating the SQL queries they need to answer their own questions. Without you doing it.

Now you can focus on what you actually want to do--game-changing analysis that can drive your business forward.

What’s more, with Looker you can leverage work others have already done in the form of blocks of business logic. So, for example, data experts at Looker have pre-modeled public data and made it accessible to you so you don’t have to reinvent the wheel. We call these Data Blocks.

Check out Looker’s Data Blocks to see how we’ve made it easier than ever to deliver new data sources like data from the US Census or weather data to your business users without the need to develop the logic yourself.

Speaking of leveraging others’ work…. We can help there, too

If building on your own work is hard in your current workflow, collaborating with others is near impossible. This is particularly frustrating because software engineers work on far more complicated code all the time, and they collaborate constantly.

How do they do it? Version control.

Looker leads the industry again, finally bringing advanced version control to modern data analysis. Now, instead of working on queries in your own silo, you’re building on your data like a software engineering team.

What’s more, Looker’s new shared Git Branches make it easier than ever to collaborate with other LookML developers on the same code.

So what are you waiting for?

We’ve worked with a lot of analysts at Looker. And if the problems I described above sound familiar, you’re not alone. I get it.

But I know from personal experience that after adopting Looker, you’ll be able to envision a whole different work life. (I was a Looker customer for a lot longer than I’ve worked here.)

And fundamentally, that’s why I came to Looker. Because giving analysts back the time they need to construct innovative solutions that help their businesses grow is hugely rewarding. And as we fully embrace Looker’s ecosystem, the innovation we’re seeing only grows. Looker’s Action Hub is a huge step forward on that. Now, analysts can easily build tools for their colleagues that reach outside of Looker, and integrate directly with the other tools people are using every day.

Want to make it easy for your teams to send data to Slack? Check out our Slack action. Want to make it easy to email or text a specific group of users through Looker? You’re going to love our Sendgrid and Twilio actions.

If all this sounds interesting, let us show you it in action. You can request time with our team and sign-up for a Looker demo to check out the analyst experience in Looker for yourself. Or maybe you want to learn more about Looker’s Action Hub, and data actions. Sign up for our LookInside webinar where Looker’s product team will be walking through some popular workflows available through Looker actions.

We’ve worked hard to make it easier for analysts to collaborate, experiment, and build insights together on our platform. We can’t wait to see what you build next.

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