How to (Easily) Tap Historical Data for Business Growth

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Click to learn more about author Joe Gaska.

Imagine if you could remember every single thing that has happened in your life, and go back to any point in time to see how decisions, both big and small, altered your path. What might you learn that would help shape the decisions you make today and tomorrow?

Being able to learn from our history is incredibly important and powerful – not just in our personal lives, but also in business. As the old adage goes, if we don’t learn from it, we’re bound to repeat and get stuck in the past, even as everything around us changes.  

Historical Data Fuels Business

Everyone knows businesses run on data. There’s a lot of discussion about the need for real-time information, which is invaluable for many aspects of business. Intuitively, people also know there’s a great need for historical data, which covers everything that has happened in the past up to and including now. 

Historical data is essential for discovering cause-and-effect patterns, identifying and predicting trends, enhancing customer relations, pinpointing market needs, and accelerating business growth. It’s also critical for cybersecurity and compliance (think traceability and audit trails), and as fodder for AI and machine learning training sets. 

Where does this historical information come from? For sure, from legacy applications. But increasingly, also from cloud-based or SaaS applications. According to Gartner, 97% of organizations use SaaS applications. And ESG found that SaaS accounts for one-third of an average organization’s mission-critical apps, spanning CRM, marketing automation, e-commerce, ERP, and more. These apps are where decisions get made and business takes place. But for many organizations, historical SaaS app data is elusive. 

APIs Breed Challenges

Business users across the enterprise recognize the value of historical SaaS data and are eager to reuse it outside of the applications themselves – for instance, feeding it into their analytics and operational systems, such as Tableau, Amazon AWS (Redshift, QuickSite, SageMaker), Microsoft Azure (Power BI, Analysis Services), and SnowFlake, among others. 

The most common way to directly access data residing in SaaS apps is via APIs. However, this can be problematic. SaaS vendors typically limit the number of API calls that subscribers can make during a fixed period of time. If the number of requests exceeds the limit, the app will either stop responding – meaning no data access – or it will continue accepting API calls but charge the subscriber for overages. 

In addition, maintaining APIs for every system and tool is time-consuming and costly for IT teams. And as more organizations rely on more SaaS apps, it’s becoming unsustainable. As a result, the historical information residing in those apps often ends up sitting dormant, locked in the app instead of reused and leveraged for other critical purposes.

When users are able to access SaaS data via APIs, they’re likely to download, make their own copies, and store them in their own folders and systems, creating data sprawl. Not only does this increase potential access points and, therefore, cybersecurity vulnerabilities, it can also cause other issues. From inaccuracies caused by data being changed in one copied version and not others, to not knowing where information is located and who can access it, data sprawl is a huge risk – especially when it comes to data reuse and maintaining compliance with privacy regulations.

A Better Way to Tap Historical Information

For a more reliable, safe, and cost-effective way to tap into SaaS app data for reuse, store it in your company’s own cloud data lake, such as your AWS environment, instead of in the vendors’ apps. By consistently and frequently capturing that data in a centralized lake, you create a pool of up-to-date historical information – and a single source of truth – that users can easily leverage without APIs and without having to make copious copies. 

You can also take advantage of point-and-click solutions that stream historical information directly from your AWS bucket into the analytics and operational tools preferred by your end-users, enhancing your company’s agility and market responsiveness. Plus, you get the added benefit of data ownership. When historical data resides in the cloud your organization owns and manages, you have control over who accesses which information and where it travels. This helps you maintain the digital chain of custody that is so urgently needed.

Bottom line? Businesses can’t truly succeed if they operate in a vacuum. Historical information provides the context and data points you need, and increasingly it’s sitting in SaaS apps. Don’t let it go to waste.

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