Using a data warehouse can help clubs make better strategic decisions based on factors such as third-party data and real-time trends.
Data warehousing is more than just a visualization tool. It is a combination of business and intelligence that allows you to operate in a smarter manner. Image courtesy of Motionsoft.
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Data warehousing has become a much talked about topic in the industry, and many people are curious about the rippling effect it will have. To understand data warehousing, it is important to know what a data warehouse is and is not, how it can help you make better strategic decisions, and how business intelligence will ultimately drive better, and smarter, decisions.
First, you need to know what a data warehouse is and what it is not. Technically, a data warehouse is a relational database that is designed for query and analysis rather than for transactional processing, and it includes the standard transactional data that has been historically reported on. At a more technical level, a data warehouse environment includes an extraction, transportation, transformation and loading (ETL) solution, as well as an online analytical processing (OLAP) engine, client analysis tools and other applications that manage the process of gathering data and delivering it to business users.
Understanding that a data warehouse is not just a visualization tool is important. Just because the reports you see today are colorful and pretty does not mean you are running a data warehouse. A data warehouse does have visualization tools, but it also should have a dashboard to allow for customization, drilling down into details, third-party input and visibility of trends.
Customization refers to the ability to restrict or release data based on different roles. The executive user may see a high level graph of department productivity, while the department manager could see the specifics by employee, and the department employee would see their specific details for the month. An executive might want to see total check-ins per day to get a high-level understanding of utilization, while the front desk manager would be more interested in reviewing check-ins by hour to see when they need to staff up or down. They are not overloaded by too much detail, and they are not limited by a lack of information.
It also is important to consider the ability to drill into information when using a dashboard. Your CFO regularly reviews the amount of total recurring revenue from memberships; however, from that same report, he or she may want to drill down to see which members are generating the business. This gives the CFO the ability to see the details behind the summary information if he or she wishes to but keeps that detail from the standard view.
So why is it important to be able to drill down within the same report? Trending. In business speak, trending is the ability to make decisions about issues before they become problems. Put another way, it is better to be proactive than to be reactive. For greater granularity, one of the invaluable tools of a data warehouse is the ability to watch data in real-time. Unlike traditional transactional reporting that will cause your entire club management system to come to a standstill, a data warehouse allows you to run real-time reports without experiencing any speed or performance issues.
One of the major benefits of a data warehouse is the ability to pull in third-party data. There are hundreds of applications where third-party data would be useful, but one of the best is weather patterns. For example, let’s say you decide to run two similar January promotions. In year one, you sell 260 memberships. In year two, you sell 79. At first blush, this would seem to indicate that you have either saturated the market or there is more competition. But the cause may be more out of your control than you thought. Pulling in weather patterns and comparing it to sales, you might find that in year one there was almost no snow in January, while the first two weeks of year two had three major snow storms.
Ultimately, a data warehouse is really a business intelligence tool. Business intelligence is a combination of two of the most important words that any operator can know—the “business” of what we do and the “intelligence” of using knowledge to optimize all the factors that go into creating a successful operation.
Hossein Noshirvani is the executive vice president for Motionsoft, Rockville, MD, and is the head of Motionsoft’s marketing team. He has been involved in the health and wellness industry for more than eight years. Noshirvani shares his experience of working with the best and the brightest in the health and wellness industry regularly on Motionsoft’s The Circuit Blog.