The rules of data – Calculated Data

In my last post, I talk about the importance of not duplicating your data and having a single source of truth. This time I want to focus more on calculated data and the source of truth part and one crucial way we can ensure our data is the truth.

What Is Calculated Data?

I was born in 1982, and I am 38; both of these statements are true, but in a few months only the year will be correct and not my age. My current age is an example of calculated data. This means that although it is correct at the time of calculation, it might not always be accurate.

This is a simple but very effective rule to follow, don’t store values you can calculate.

The Issue With Calculated Data

The issue with calculated data isn’t just the obvious one of needing to update the data every time something changes but an issue of dependency. If you are storing calculated data, you are most likely either employing someone to keep it up to date or doing it with automation. Both of these ties you down to either an application or a person.

To demonstrate the issue of calculated data, let’s pretend you have a scheduled automation set to run on January 1st to update everyone’s age by one year, but the schedule fails to run due to some system updates happening over New Year. You could very easily be left in the position of your ages data not being updated and no way of knowing it is incorrect.

Granted, the example above is an overly simplified scenario. However, it shows very clearly the risk of storing calculated data, especially when you have no fall back to ensure accuracy.

How Can I Prevent The Issues of Calculated Data?

To prevent the issues and pitfalls of calculated data affecting you, there are a couple of things you can do:

  • If you want to calculate values from your Deals, Sales Orders, Invoices, etc, you should be using reporting software like Zoho Analytics. Using Analytics, you can get constantly updated live reporting to show you all the calculates you want. The key difference here is Zoho Analytics shows the calculations of your stored data but doesn’t itself keep the results, mitigating the issues described above.
  • If you want to have someone’s age stored against their contact, make sure you also store their year of birth. Although keeping age isn’t ideal at least you still have the year of birth to check your calculations against.
  • Make use of the formula field within Zoho CRM. This is a unique field you can add to any module that allows you to do on the fly calculations for each record. Much like Analytics above, this data isn’t stored and so is always calculated correctly at the time.
zoho analytics

Following the rule of not storing calculated data is just another way to keep your data clean. Next time I will be talking about the importance of choosing the right required fields. Click here to read my previous blog about the rules of data duplication.

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