Build vs. buy: choosing the right embedded analytics solution

  • 28 March 2022
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This content, written by Erik Kuld, was initially posted in Looker Blog on Apr 27, 2019. The content is subject to limited support.

Your customers expect data. They already get it in their day-to-day lives: they know when that package will arrive, how much screen time they spend on which apps, and how many Twitter followers they have. When they use your product, they expect the same level of access and analysis into your data.

And it's bigger than adding a dashboard in your product — it's about embedding an experience with data that surpasses your competitors, delights your customers, scales with your product growth, and maybe even creates a new revenue stream. All while minimizing the cost of maintenance going forward.

The promise of embedded analytics tools for growth

Let’s say you are a technology leader. You’ve been tasked with growth. It’s your initiative. You also have valuable data that your customers or partners would really want. So, you set out to explore embedded analytics solutions for delivering data to drive growth.

The strategic opportunity is clear — you could be the first to deliver a new type of data in your market, or you could deliver data much better than your competitors and win new business from them. From that success, you could quickly expand into new and adjacent markets, much like how did, and rapidly start to unlock real growth for your organization.

As good as that sounds, you start thinking about the costs associated with these efforts. Your team says your customers only need “a simple dashboard.” You probably can’t justify hiring new engineers for such a simple project, so you’d have to pull resources away from your core competency, who are already over capacity.

How about buying an embedded analytics solution from a vendor to cheaply outsource the problem? Your engineering lead shoots that idea down immediately, sharing horror stories of getting burned badly by analytics vendors in the past...

Uh oh...

The stories are painful. By moving your data into a vendor’s proprietary, vertically integrated solution, you lose transparency into how data transformation and delivery is done. You also lose agility in — and control over — how you can build user experiences with that data.

Then, as you grow your customer base and add new use cases, you consume a ton of resources with the manual maintenance work required to update permissions and metrics definitions for each customer.

Worst of all, the new points of failure introduced by the opaque, heavyweight solution are brittle — the data in the analytics product starts to break. The inaccurate data erodes customer trust in your product, hurts your company’s brand, and could cause real harm to people making decisions from wrong information.

But it’s 2019, and users demand helpful, accurate data. What should you do?

The reality of build vs. buy

Many companies experience these build vs. buy dilemmas. At first, some decide to “DIY” by building their own embedded analytics solution. As the projects suck up unexpected resources, companies discover (the hard way) that the backend powering their “simple dashboard” was hard, slow and expensive to build from scratch and maintain over time. Authentication, permissioning and administration are also particularly challenging, and there’s a whole lot more under the surface —

Looker for embedded analytics

The hidden challenges associated with building a data product in-house are why we’ve seen companies choose (PBL) for their embedded analytics needs. Common benefits we see these organizations experience include growth in their:

  • customer base
  • product lines and revenue streams
  • market competitiveness

The best part: they accomplish this with a lean, agile development team to achieve and sustain a high return on engineering effort.

As an engineer-inspired analytics platform, Looker’s architecture is fundamentally unique. We designed Looker to leverage the power, speed, and unique functionalities of modern databases. We maintain a version-controlled data model to store and manage all data definitions. And we built Looker as a platform, with the intention of powering custom data experiences. This is why PBL is uniquely suited for companies building high stakes data products.

The benefit The Looker difference Bottom line impact
A future-proof architecture No vendor lock-in because Looker is ecosystem agnostic from database to application. Save costs by leveraging your existing tech stack and data investments.
Rapid time to value Rapidly prototype to drive new and better product-market fit in weeks, not months. Accelerate revenue and product engagement.
Customization and control Deliver data exactly how you want it, with custom UIs and visualizations. Try it out . Reduce churn with engaging user experiences.
Scalable, minimized maintenance Manage metric definitions and permissions in one place and have changes propagate everywhere automatically. Decrease costs by minimizing maintenance overhead.
Complete data, simply Maintain the richness of your data while abstracting away the complexity of serving it up accurately. Reduce churn and account management costs with engaging, self-serve data exploration.
Efficient development Use the modern git development workflows and trusted release processes you love. Save costs with lean, agile development across teams.
Flexible content management Let account managers and product managers build content to give time back to engineers and analysts. Focus resources on your core competency and reduce account management costs.
Peace of mind from always accurate data Keep your data in-database and query it in real-time so your data is always accurate and fresh. Grow trust in your brand and reduce churn risk.
New streams of value Offer richer functionality at premium prices to incentivize engagement and upgrades. Grow net new and upgrade revenues.
Leverage our expert professional services and support teams along the way. Reduce risk with a team of experts.

Learn more

The rise of new database and analytics technologies have finally made it possible to build data products and experiences in the way you might expect from modern software development platforms.

Learn more about what is possible with modern embedded analytics in our Embedded Analytics , in this built entirely on the Looker platform, or to our team to learn more about embedded analytics with Looker.

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