Sigma vs. Looker

Considering Looker? Take another look: Sigma delivers true self-service ad hoc analytics — no LookML or SQL required.

Sigma vs Looker

Use Looker to:

  • Create flashy, interactive dashboards from an extensive selection of pre-built charts
  • Build dashboards with specific, pre-defined, and modeled paths for users to drill into
  • Automate workflows and embed analytics using Looker’s API

Use Sigma to:

  • Empower anyone to do self-service ad hoc analytics in a fully governed, familiar UI: the spreadsheet
  • Free data and BI teams from needing LookML and SQL to visualize data and do analyses
  • Enable business users to freely drill down to the data underlying dashboards to find answers

Why Companies Choose Sigma Over Looker

A language and interface teams already know and love

Rather than allowing data experts to use SQL, Looker requires them to learn its own proprietary language, LookML. In contrast, Sigma gives analysts the option to leverage their existing SQL expertise, translating to time and resource savings. Sigma also gives everyone — including non-technical users — the ability to query the data warehouse directly using an intuitive spreadsheet UI with familiar formulas and functions.

Sigma allows data experts to use SQL

Flexible data curation with zero pre-modeling required

With Looker, data must be extensively modeled using LookML before business users can access it. Sigma’s flexible spreadsheet experience allows even non-technical users to freely explore, join, calculate, filter, and sort through billions of rows of data directly in the cloud data warehouse with no modeling required. Users can also endorse and curate datasets for collaborative analytics on trusted data.

Sigma offers flexible data curation with zero pre-modeling required

“If you add up the time and the manpower we needed to generate standardized reports in Looker, each report came out to about $9,500 to build, test, and deploy. Sigma has brought that number down to $1,400 per report. That’s over 600% cost savings due to the fact that anyone on the team can go into Sigma and generate an analysis in seconds.”

Chris Lambert CEO at PAYLOAD

Ad hoc cloud data exploration puts answers at the user's fingertips

Because Looker locks data access behind proprietary code and predefined paths, business teams are forced to wait in request queues or turn to risky, outdated data extracts to get the answers they need. Sigma’s spreadsheet UI empowers any user to query billions of rows of live data down to the lowest level of detail to find answers to critical questions in real time — no coding, pre-modeling, or extracts required.

Resource savings + Accelerated time to value

Due to extensive LookML setup and maintenance, Looker takes months to deploy and requires continuous upkeep. Sigma’s cloud-native solution connects to cloud data and enables analytics in minutes without extensive modeling. This frees data and BI teams to focus on strategic data initiatives instead of updating LookML or pulling data extracts for the business.

Unlike Looker, Sigma’s cloud-native solution enables analytics in minutes

Sigma vs. Looker Feature Comparison


Visualizations and dashboards Business users can create visualizations and dashboards without pre-modeling from the data team or specialized skills, such as LookML. Sigma dashboards also provide the ability to easily click into and explore the data underpinning visualizations.Looker is a mature product known for its data visualizations and extensive charting library — but the data journey stops there. Business users have no ability to dig into the data behind the dashboards without LookML pre-modeling from data and BI teams.
Intuitive user interfaceSigma’s spreadsheet experience provides a window directly into the cloud data warehouse (CDW). Even non-technical users can explore and analyze all data in the CDW in real time and get answers to ad hoc questions in minutes without data team assistance.Looker is known for its sophisticated system for semantic layer creation on top of databases that allows business users to explore data without writing SQL. But there’s a catch: exploration in Looker is limited to what has been modeled by the BI team. Business users have to go back to the BI team every time they have a question that data hasn’t been prepared for.
Modern data governance Sigma connects its spreadsheet UI directly to the CDW. Features like pass-through security and robust access roles and permissions empower analysts while making it easy to manage governance.LookML locks data away from non-technical business users — and from analysts who don’t know the language. As a result, business teams usually rely on data teams to extract data from Looker for analysis in risky, ungoverned spreadsheets.
Freedom and neutralitySigma is an independent, cloud-native SaaS analytics company without an agenda to lock in or support any single hyper-scale cloud provider. Sigma is focused on enabling customers with maximum flexibility to analyze data in any of the leading cloud data platforms — Snowflake Data Cloud, Amazon Redshift, Google BigQuery, or PostgreSQL.Not only does Looker’s proprietary LookML language lock in customer data, but Looker has increasingly favored Google’s BigQuery over other cloud data platforms since their acquisition.
Analytics in action Sigma is designed to accelerate time to insight through true self-service ad hoc analytics. Sigma enables open-ended exploratory analytics to calculate, filter, and sort through billions of rows of data so business teams can quickly find patterns or the single record with the answer.Looker provides a solution for developing beautiful dashboards with pre-determined filters and drill-down paths but fails to deliver on true self-service ad hoc analytics. Any follow-up questions asked outside of the pre-built data model must go through data teams for additional LookML modeling, SQL queries, or extracts, leaving users without a way to find answers themselves.


Frequently Asked Questions

Cloud Data Platform
Can Sigma analyze data that is outside of the cloud data platform?

Yes! Sigma allows users to upload CSVs and combine them with existing data in their cloud data platform for flexible, agile analytics. This is done in just a few clicks using Sigma’s spreadsheet-like interface, so business users can independently join their own CSV files into analyses without data or BI team assistance.

Sigma Dashboards
Does Sigma have embedded analytics functionality?

Yes! Sigma enables the simple creation of secure, interactive dashboards that can be embedded into internal or external applications. In addition to publicly embedded dashboards, Sigma also allows customers to embed contextually relevant analytics directly in the apps and workflows that employees, partners, or customers use. Maintain total control over who can see what, including the ability for end users to securely view only their own data without needing a Sigma login, by authenticating end users through their own applications. End users can also drill into underlying details of embeds to gain even more insight.

What kinds of analyses can business users do with Sigma that they can’t with Looker?

With Sigma, business users can calculate, filter, and sort through hundreds of billions of rows of data to perform “What if?” analyses without waiting for the BI/data team. Common analyses that business users can do with Sigma but not with Looker include cohort analyses, root-cause analyses, YoY, QoQ, and MoM comparisons, as well as comparisons that are not predefined — for example, sales by market, region, or state, anomaly detection, scenario modeling, customer lifetime value (LTV), and analyses enriched with external data brought by users.