Looker Wants To Bring Big Data Down To Earth

Big data has gone from hot to warm, and most companies are now more interested in how to pull real business insights from big data implementations. Analytics tool company Looker wants to help them do that, and this week released Looker Blocks.

Jessica Davis, Senior Editor

September 24, 2015

3 Min Read
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Even though big data slipped off Gartner's Hype Cycle this year, plenty of organizations are still pursuing the promise of analytics tools that can turn data into practical business insights and make them accessible to every user.

Looker is one of several companies working in this area, and the Santa Cruz, California-based company updated its analytics tool this week with Looker Blocks.

Looker said the Blocks are "apps" within the Looker system that are components of business logic, such as churn prediction, lifetime value metrics and others, that can be combined and customized for an organization's particular needs.

[Struggling to succeed with an advanced analytics project? Read How To Succeed With Advanced Analytics.]

Charles Whittaker, director of business intelligence at Avant, an online personal loan company that uses the Looker platform, told InformationWeek that the Looker Blocks are very much like templates that can help organizations get up and running quickly with the Looker platform. Avant is one of several well-known companies that use Looker. Others include Yahoo, Etsy, Autodesk, and Sony. Looker has just under 400 customers.

Avant started with a trial version of Looker two years ago, and Whittaker has since developed on the platform to create self-service tools that anyone in the company can use.

"We are very passionate about having a data-driven culture here," he said. So corporate attorneys at Avant use Looker, and members of the C-suite use Looker, Whittaker said.

"Even if you don't have a strong data background, if you notice a trend you can ask the system what has changed. It enables people to slice and dice things without having to use code."

Looker executives said the company's new Blocks can be used to analyze the sales funnel, monitor customer health, conduct Web analytics, optimize an online storefront, and essentially perform almost any analysis that a company might need.

"We're building a cross-company data platform," Looker CEO Frank Bien told Information Week. "It's a big data platform that everyone can use."

Bien said that Looker is designed to give all users access to all segments of data, and not merely segment the data into reports delivered by the company's data team. Data analysts within companies curate that data in Looker's modeling layer by creating centralized definitions for the whole business. Looker has made the best of these public in Looker Blocks.

"Looker Blocks offer best practices on each of these analytics functions," Bien said. "All businesses have similar types of analytics and metrics they are doing. The Blocks help people get up and running faster. The time to value is faster."

That's what companies are looking for in terms of big data investments in the months ahead, according to a recent Gartner survey. The survey of 537 Gartner Research Circle Members conducted in June showed greater interest in the practical application of big data going forward.

"This year begins the shift of big data away from a topic unto itself, and toward standard practices," said Nick Heudecker, research director at Gartner, in a prepared statement announcing the survey results. "The topics that formerly defined big data, such as massive data volumes, disparate data sources and new technologies are becoming familiar as big data solutions become mainstream. For example, among companies that have invested in big data technology, 70 percent are analyzing or planning to analyze location data, and 64 percent are analyzing or planning to analyze free-form text."

About the Author(s)

Jessica Davis

Senior Editor

Jessica Davis is a Senior Editor at InformationWeek. She covers enterprise IT leadership, careers, artificial intelligence, data and analytics, and enterprise software. She has spent a career covering the intersection of business and technology. Follow her on twitter: @jessicadavis.

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