High speed and time lapse photography are two techniques that allow us to understand the world around us by slowing down or speeding up processes that we could otherwise not be able to observe. High speed photography allows us to record phenomena that occur within a blink of an eye, and then replay them, frame by frame, millisecond by millisecond, to understand in full what has happened.
Time lapse photography allows us to capture processes that take a very long time, and play them much faster, which again allows us to develop new ways of understanding what has happened.
Both time lapse and high speed photography are ways to observe historical changes, at various speeds, using different filters to develop new perspectives regarding the subjects photographed.
That is, in essence, one of the most important premises of the data warehouse. History preservation techniques allow the business to play back events, slow down fast moving procedures and examine individual transactions that contributed to big maneuvers, or play back events that happened in the past to analyze and gain insight into their efficiency.
History preservation in the data warehouse is accomplished through different techniques, primarily known as slowly changing dimensions and snapshots. There are tons of literature materials out there about both, and if you are not familiar with those, and are working anywhere near data, you need to very quickly become familiar with those.
As a matter of practical example, take your sales forecasting information. You must have wondered about: how good are your forecasts? How accurate are they? Can you rely on your sales team forecasts regarding next week, next month, next quarter or beyond?
The only way to answer this question is to observe the forecasts accuracy over time. The forecast changes every day, and as opportunities get closer to closure, the accuracy improves. But since the forecast updates constantly, how can you tell if the predictions made a month ago about the following month were accurate or not? Well, your data warehouse could provide you with exactly this capability and allow you to examine your forecast as it gets updated each day, comparing it to the actual bookings as they occurred. Armed with such powerful information, you can develop a strong sense of your forecasting accuracy over time and across time.
Just like time-lapse photography, it takes time to build up the necessary amount of frames, or snapshots, to allow you to slow down reality and analyze what happened, but the results can provide you with course changing insights into your processes to help you achieve your goals and improve your competitive edge.