Top trends in custom data application development that are accelerating growth

Erik Kuld, Looker Application Platform, Google Cloud

Aug 11, 2020

At Looker, we’re lucky to work with so many innovative organizations from around the world who are using data in ingenious ways to create business value. Of all the teams we get to partner with, those who are building custom data applications on our platform are experiencing some of the most exciting leaps forward. We’re seeing two trends of innovation in the market that are accelerating their growth.

Trend #1 — A technical innovation: Enable proactive and operational insights with data applications

Business applications have historically been reactive. For example, if a manufacturer’s production line went down, the business would typically learn about it in a static dashboard or a report, then an employee would log an issue in a form to dispatch a response team to fix the problem, and the whole time the organization (and its customers) would be in pain. The key challenge here is the high latency between when the problem happened, how the information was communicated, and when the problem was resolved.

Today, thanks to a revolution in cloud infrastructure, lightweight data application platforms like Looker help organizations flip from reactive to proactive. Data is flowing from increasingly connected and instrumented devices everywhere and these potential sources of insight can be analyzed with predictive ML models, and experienced by users in near real-time at web scale where they already work. For the production line example above, instead of organizations being reactive and experiencing that pain, they have the agility to predict and prevent problems from happening and can ensure a better customer experience. Key here are dynamic and integrated operational data experiences and modern, custom business applications... not static and siloed informational dashboards or reports.

Crisp is a perfect example of this technical innovation. They leverage Looker and cloud infrastructure from BigQuery to reduce the latency of communication in food supply chains to combat the bullwhip effect, reduce waste and make the global system more profitable and sustainable. Their custom data application is enabling proactive and operational insights, not reactive and informational ones.

Trend #2 — A business model innovation: Use SaaS subscription tiers to drive revenue from data applications

SaaS has been around for 20+ years — it isn’t new. However, thanks again to a revolution in data infrastructure and the technical innovation described above, we’re seeing a large and rapidly growing market segment strategically include modern analytics product capabilities in their tiered subscription pricing models to incentivize upgrades and drive new revenue.

HP is one example of an established market leader that has made a strategic shift to SaaS subscription business model, and view Managed Services and other portals powered by Looker as important competitive differentiators and drivers of recurring software and hardware revenue.

Atlassian is an example of another market leader, now famous for the best-in-class sales efficiency of their SaaS business model. In 2018, they acquired long time Looker customer OpsGenie, and are now replicating their successful premium SaaS analytics data product strategy (powered by Looker) in core products across the Atlassian portfolio.

These organizations’ data applications deliver more competitive products and net new recurring revenue streams.

Winning strategy: focus on creating business value with data apps... fast

Our most successful customers ride these waves of innovation to identify opportunities to create new business value for employees, partners and customers. With Looker, they approach these opportunities with a product manager mindset — they rapidly ship and iterate new data experiences to validate and grow product-market fit. And they take advantage of Looker’s unique future-proof in-database architecture to supply their data applications with governed near real-time data at web scale. The performance, agility and scalability of Looker helps them deliver differentiated customer experiences, minimize on-going product development costs and adapt to changing needs.

Notably, the leading edge of innovators start with a focus on making a business case for growing revenue or reducing cost. To do that, they start with a vision of their dream application and work backwards from that end goal to rapidly build the minimum viable product requirements. (This approach lets them maximize the benefit they gain from the technical and business model innovations mentioned above.)

Our most innovative developers dream beyond static reports and realize their vision with Looker developer tools and partners.

Now, these dream applications can be built and deployed faster than ever. For product leaders and data application developers, Looker’s spectrum of developer tools — from no-code to full-code — serve a wide range of possible data experiences:

We’re excited that the new extension framework is now in open beta, and apps built with it can be quickly distributed and installed via the Looker Marketplace, which is now in general availability. Already, we’re seeing customers and partners leverage these enhancements to deploy diverse and improved data experiences that delight users, streamline workflows, and accelerate business growth.

Stand on the shoulders of Looker with the extension framework

The extension framework accelerates custom data application development to help product builders ship new types of data experiences fast and solve valuable data use cases. Developers get a great return on engineering effort — they focus on building great user experiences, and leave the data engineering, DevOps, security, and hosting to Looker.

Developers simplify deployment, accelerate time to value and reduce the amount of required engineering effort with the extension framework.

We’ve opened up the Looker user interface as a development surface to let developers deploy JavaScript applications — even leveraging third party APIs — to create new and augmented data experiences in our core product. Because it lives in Looker, the extension framework handles web application hosting, authentication, and authorization. It also provides developers with full access to the Looker APIs, a library of prebuilt UI components, and extension templates for even more customization control and faster time to value. Of course, developers can also choose to embed their extensions anywhere in other web applications, by using iframes and the Embed SDK.

It took 1 developer 1 day to stand up an application using the extension framework! I've seen a lot of great Looker features built over the years. This has the potential to be the most ground-breaking.
— Jawad Laraqui, CEO of Data Driven

An immersive full-screen onboarding app, built in the Looker UI by Data Driven.

Looker is thrilled to empower developers across a wider range of technical sophistication with such an accelerated and enhanced low-code development experience.

Distribute applications to customers in the Marketplace

The Marketplace helps developers easily distribute their data applications to grow user engagement and create new revenue opportunities. Looker customers quickly discover new solutions for valuable use cases and get a fast, seamless installation process — all within the Looker interface.

We’ve brought together, in one place, Looker- and community-built applications, custom visualizations, data model connections, plug-ins and integrations to help more developer solutions reach more engaged users. Because the Marketplace is in the Looker web app, administrators can quickly find, install and deploy the new data experiences and value accelerators within minutes instead of hours or days. As in other app stores, these packages are managed and versioned by developers, so all users will continuously benefit from updates and new functionality.

We’re excited to grow the value created and realized for both customer and developer sides of our emerging data platform ecosystem.

Easily discover and install Looker- and community-built technologies in the Looker Marketplace.

Looking to the future

Looker and Google Cloud believe that our business application development tools should serve the full spectrum of developers, so the right person can build the app that will best solve the business problem at hand. Sometimes that's a data engineer, or a software engineer; but often the person closest to the problem (and the best solution) doesn't have coding skills.

We're lucky to join Google Cloud and get to work alongside great teams like AppSheet. Their no-code app development platform empowers anyone to build apps. As Looker continues to expand its suite of developer tools and continues to integrate with Google Cloud, we're excited to explore ways to work together and continue to serve the full spectrum of business app developer needs, for all types of data and user experiences.

We can’t wait to see all the creative ways our customers and partners continue to build great data applications. We encourage developers and product leaders to reach out with your feedback so we can continue to accelerate you on your mission!

Contact: product@looker.com

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