"Historical reporting is subject that I find more exciting than I should care to admit," explains ZAP's CTO Chris Reeves in this guest blog.
"But if I can’t pass on a little of my enthusiasm, I’ll at least be content to have passed on some knowledge..."
What is Historical Reporting, and How Can a Data Warehouse Help?
Let’s kick this off with a definition (just one). Historical reporting is reporting over time with the goal of identifying trends: Are support tickets up? Is receivables-aging improving? Are sales opportunities growing?
The challenge here is that business applications rarely consider historical reporting requirements.
The most common form of historical reporting is historical charting. The value of charted history is that the eye can pick trends with ease. Trends can drive actions and effective reporting should be actionable or, really, what is the point of it? To accurately identify business-impacting trends, it is necessary to report on the full history, not a limited subset.
This is where data warehouses can help. Data warehouses provide many benefits, not least: a sanctioned source of truth, improved data governance, and optimised reporting performance. Data warehouses can also capture changes over time. With the appropriate software, business applications can be queried periodically and the changes recorded. This ‘history-of-changes’ then allows for all historical reporting requirements to be satisfied. The following diagram shows a history-of-changes in the warehouse that the CRM applications, such as Salesforce or Microsoft Dynamics, fail to capture.
What Are the Challenges?
In my post to the ZAP website on 'Getting started with historical reporting data', I've set out a detailed example of the challenges and solutions around historical reporting. It leads off with a chart of a hypothetical company that shows sales by region over time (calendar quarters), and an (admittedly concocted) trend that demonstrates why historical reporting works so well in chart form. In short, the West Coast of my imaginary company could do with some of the East Coast's sales magic.
And then we throw in a curveball… Imagine a scenario where one sales person had moved - mid-quarter! - from the East Coast to the West Coast... Naïve sales reporting would, from that moment onwards incorrectly credit sales and sales people, and it becomes clear that a source system (i.e. a stand-alone ERP) doesn’t provide the information necessary to correctly report on such a scenario.
...And How Can ZAP Data Hub Help?
This is where a complex subject suddenly becomes very straightforward. How can ZAP Data Hub be configured to account for historical reporting in this migrating sales person scenario? Firstly, open the Sales Person pipeline and add a new History Step. Secondly, set the Region column to Tracked.
That’s it! ZAP Data Hub will do the heavy lifting, updating the underlying warehouse structure and capturing changes as they occur. And this is all detailed on our blog, help files and in the ZAP Academy.
If You'd Like to Learn More...
I've written several more blogs and examples on the subject of historical reporting, and how ZAP Data Hub can handle this for you. Some key pieces to flag up include: