No single business intelligence tool can be the best fit for every individual company.
That means CTOs and product managers looking for BI software have an important decision to make. Finding the right data analytics tool for your company is the difference between giving your entire team data superpowers and giving them a headache as they try to navigate overly complicated features or can’t find answers to their data questions.
There are plenty of options out there. But trawling through the standard lists of features, it’s hard to really grasp what these tools will – and won’t – do for your company.
This article dives deep into three leading BI tools: Looker, Tableau, and Trevor. We delve into what these tools have to offer in terms of query features, data visualization, and customizability. But we also consider the limitations of each business intelligence tool and outline which companies will get the most out of each software – and which businesses should look elsewhere.
By gaining a fuller understanding of Looker, Tableau, and Trevor in context, you’ll be well-placed to pinpoint which tool will meet your company’s unique needs.
Looker is an enterprise-scale BI tool with highly customisable data analytics features.
What is Looker good for?
The advantages of Looker include:
- Sophisticated drag-and-drop query builder that lets non-technical users go deep into the data by running ad-hoc queries and drilling down on results.
- A range of data visualizations that are attractive, interactive and easy to embed and share.
- LookML data modelling functionality presents raw data in an intuitive way that allows your tech team to customize parameters to suit your business.
- Full semantic data models for big data so you can create a single source of truth across the organization.
What are Looker’s pain points?
- Setup is time-consuming and a skilled data team is required to clean, model, and define the data in order to build Looker Blocks.
- Only the tech team can customize queries from raw data inputs – your business users will need to ask engineers for help.
- Even experienced techies will experience a steep learning curve in troubleshooting the tool, since Looker uses its own modelling language, LookML, rather than the standard SQL.
- It’s one of the pricier data analytics tools on the market.
Who is Looker best for?
Larger enterprises with an established data infrastructure and on-call tech team will get the most out of Looker. The tool is especially popular with high-end organizations in the software industry looking to create a single source of truth for data analytics and governance.
Is Looker owned by Google?
Yes, Looker was acquired by Google Cloud in 2020. Google also offers other data analytics platforms, including Google Analytics and Google Data Studio.
If Looker seems like a good match, take a look at our piece on Looker alternatives before you make your final decision.
Owned by Salesforce, Tableau is a large-scale, comprehensive data analytics tool that specializes in data visualizations.
What is Tableau good for?
The advantages of Tableau include:
- No-SQL interface allows non-technical users to engage with data via Explorer mode and the Tableau Data Engine.
- Top-of-class data visualizations that are highly interactive.
- Add-ons are available for predictive models and more comprehensive data prep and data governance.
- Connects directly to online analytical processing OLAP cubes as well as data warehouses.
What are Tableau’s pain points?
- Complex tool with a high learning curve – even techies may encounter difficulties troubleshooting the in-memory datastore.
- Non-technical users may feel out of their depth without significant training, and SQL knowledge is needed for some more complex queries.
- No automated scheduling or auto-refresh functions for data visualizations, which means updates to the data have to be checked manually.
- Strong focus on data visualization means business intelligence features are more basic.
- You have to do extensive data cleaning and create data models before you can get started.
Who is Tableau best for?
Larger companies whose main priority is data visualization or companies that have a data team that can manage setup and troubleshooting.
Trevor is a powerful, agile BI tool for companies looking to go beyond the standard dashboards for deep data analysis.
What is Trevor good for?
- Intuitive no-code query builder gets business users answers to complex data questions in minutes – and techies can go deeper with SQL.
- Highly versatile tool with no limits on the kinds of dashboards you can build and ad-hoc queries you can run.
- Drill-downs, filters, and pivots, let your whole team get their hands dirty and explore the data.
- Quick setup, with out-of-the-box data connectors and automated join detection for multiple databases.
- Strong integrations with APIs mean you can automate workflows and send data alerts on Slack, Gmail, Salesforce, Excel and hundreds of other programs.
- Accessible, all-inclusive pricing plans with unlimited users to scale with your company.
- Known for having a responsive, helpful customer support team.
What are Trevor’s pain points?
- Limited range of data embedding features at the moment, though these are in development.
- No data modelling features for larger enterprises seeking to define a single organization-wide source of truth.
Who is Trevor best for?
Growing companies who want to empower non-tech users to access powerful, ad-hoc business intelligence, and need a tool that will integrate seamlessly into their workflows.
No-code query builder for business users
Looker’s drag-and-drop no-SQL interface consists of predefined analytical blocks called Looker Blocks. Within the limits of the Looker Blocks, non-techies can tap into impressive data querying power to ask complex data questions on the fly.
Tableau’s query builder is more visualization-focused than Looker and has less robust business intelligence capabilities. Its intuitive drag-and-drop Tableau Explorer mode allows users to get visual answers to their data questions quickly using natural language – no programming knowledge required.
Trevor’s no-code self-service query builder stands out for its versatility and ease of use without compromising on power. Offering unlimited ad-hoc queries, complex questions, and customizable columns, it’s strong on business intelligence.
By using Looker Explore mode, business users can play around with the data at a granular level. Non-techies can perform filters, pivots, drill-downs and aggregations with ease.
Tableau also lets non-techies drill down into the data and compare datasets. It has strong benchmarking and forecasting features (though these cost extra), which allow companies to spot patterns in the data for industry comparison and trend prediction.
Trevor makes it easy for business users to delve deep into the data, with granular segmentation, drill-downs, and filters at row level. It’s especially effective for exploring connected data, with automatic join detection that helps users to discover data relationships.
Flexibility and customizability
Looker is a versatile software that can be endlessly adapted to specific business needs. However, only tech experts using Developer mode can adapt the Looker Block parameters, which can disempower business users. Non-techies are limited to the tables defined and customized by the tech team – they can’t make calculations based on raw data.
Tableau allows business users with Explorer roles to make calculations on the base data, which means they’re not limited to table data and have more flexibility. Like Looker, though, it’s a complex tool, and you’ll need experienced data engineers to customize the query builder and dashboard parameters.
Trevor is an agile tool that can be customized by techies and non-techies alike. There’s no limit on the questions business users can ask or the dashboards they can create without using code – and techies can use SQL to get even more advanced.
Integrations and automations
Looker has a decent range of API connectors with third-party tools, including Google Docs and the Microsoft Office suite. It’s set up so you can easily embed your dashboards in presentations or websites.
Tableau users can quickly and easily embed visual analytics into applications like Sharepoint and Jive, and there’s a social media feature for real-time sharing on Facebook and Twitter. API connections are available for Google Analytics, Salesforce, SAP, and more.
Trevor offers a huge range of API integrations that can automatically stream data in real-time to Gmail, Salesforce, Xero, Excel and more. Users especially love its context-specific Slack integrations and automations, which can be used to share snapshot summaries of key metrics or get notified when big clients take an action.
Data visualization features
Looker is known for its high-quality data visualizations, though the variety of preset visualization tools is a little limited. Dashboards on Looker are highly interactive and help users to explore the data.
Tableau is the strongest of the three on data visualization features. Using visual query language (VizQL), users can create a huge range of powerful visualizations almost immediately, with additional storyboarding features available.
Trevor offers attractive data visualizations with real firepower. Dashboards and charts are highly customizable, and they offer users a chance to interact spontaneously with the data in real-time to unearth deeper insights.
All three tools offer high levels of data security, with encrypted connections, GDPR compliance, two-factor authentication, and granular user/group/role permissions that help with data governance. Tableau loses some points for focusing mainly on row-level security, though, with limited centralized data security.
Here’s how the features stack up at a glance:
|No-code query builder||High power, moderately intuitive.||Medium power, moderately intuitive.||High power, very intuitive.|
|Customizability||Strong, but data engineers needed.||Strong, some engineers needed.||Strong, no need for engineers.|
|Integrations & automations||Large range of integrations, strong embedding features.||Large range of integrations, strong embedding features.||Large range of integrations, medium embedding features.|
|Data visualization||High quality, limited range.||Top-quality, large range.||High quality, large range.|
Trevor is by far the most affordable tool of the three. With Trevor, you’ll pay $299-499 a month total for unlimited users and unlimited database size, compared to $3,000+ per month for Looker or several thousand for 30 or so users with full permissions on Tableau’s per-user, per-role pricing scheme. You’ll also have to factor in significant staff training for Looker and Tableau.
How much does Looker cost?
Looker provides custom pricing to each company – but sources suggest it starts at $3,000 per month.
How much does Tableau cost?
Here’s the breakdown of Tableau’s pricing.
How much does Trevor cost?
Here’s the breakdown of Trevor’s pricing. Trevor offers a 75% new customer discount and a 50% 1-year discount for startups as well as a free trial.
Setup and data transfer
|Data sources||Supports various SQL databases and data warehouses, with connectors to data sources like Salesforce.||Supports various SQL databases and data warehouses. Works with OLAP cubes for online analytical processing.||Supports various SQL databases and data warehouses as well as CSVs.|
On-premises and cloud options.
|Tableau Desktop on-premises option and Tableau Server and Tableau Online cloud options.||On-premises and cloud options.|
|Setup process||Lengthy, complex setup as data engineers will need to learn the LookML language and define all data dimensions.||Lengthy, complex setup involves data cleaning and setting up semantic data models.||Speedy out-of-the-box setup, automatic detection of joins between databases.|
Ease of use
Once Looker is up and running, it offers a relatively smooth experience to business users, especially if they’re proficient Excel users. There’s a fairly steep learning curve to get started, though, and non-techies will need significant onboarding. They’ll also need technical support to troubleshoot or customize query parameters.
Tableau also has a steep onboarding curve given its complexity and the need for data cleaning and data models in setup. From then on, it provides an intuitive UX that combines analytics with simultaneous data visualization, allowing users to easily spot patterns.
Trevor is very strong on user-friendliness. There’s minimal onboarding required and lots of resources and support available. Business users find the streamlined interface easy to navigate even in running more complex queries.
Looker vs. Tableau vs. Trevor: Which is best for you?
Choosing the right business intelligence platform could be the difference between empowering and frustrating your team. It’s not a decision to be rushed. Take the time to consider each tool’s price, range of features, ease of use, and determine whether it will get your business users the data they need.
If you’re looking for a full enterprise-level data governance solution, Looker could be a good option – but tech users will need to prepare for a steep learning curve. If you prioritise data visualization above all else, Tableau is worth considering.
If you’re in the market for an agile, intuitive, and powerful solution that’s not just accessible but enjoyable for business users, Trevor’s balance of versatile querying and attractive visualizations make it a top choice.