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6/21/2010
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Kimball University: Extreme Status Tracking For Real Time Customer Analysis

Customer interactions create a wealth of timely data that marketing departments are eager to exploit. The customer status fact table provides a central switchboard for using this fast-moving data.

Our recommended design is the Customer Status Fact table approach shown in the figure below.

Kimball U

The Customer Status Fact table records every change to customer descriptions, behavior tags, and status descriptions for every customer. The transaction date dimension is the calendar date of the change and provides access to the calendar machinery that lets an application report or constrain on complex calendar attributes such as holidays, fiscal periods, day numbers, and week numbers.

The customer dimension contains relatively stable descriptors of customers, such as name, address, customer type, and date of first contact. Some of the attributes in this dimension will be Type 2 SCD (slowly changing dimension) attributes that will add new records to this dimension when they change, but the very rapidly changing behavior and status attributes have been removed to mini-dimensions. This is the classic response to a rapidly changing monster dimension. The Most Recent Flag is a special Type 1 field that is set to True only for the current valid customer record. All prior records for a given customer have this field set to False.

The customer durable key is what we normally designate as the natural key, but we call it durable to emphasize that the EDW must guarantee that it never changes, even if the source system has a special business rule that can cause it to change (such as an employee number that is re-assigned if the employee resigns and then is rehired). The durable key can be administered as a meaningless, sequentially assigned integer surrogate key in those cases where more than one source system provides conflicting or poorly administered natural keys. The point of the durable key is for the EDW to get control of the customer keys once and for all.

The customer surrogate key is definitely a standard surrogate key, sequentially assigned in the EDW back room every time a new customer record is needed, either because a new customer is being loaded or because an existing customer undergoes a Type 2 SCD change.

The double-dashed join lines shown in the figure are a key aspect of extreme status processing. When a requesting application sets the most recent flag to True, only the current profiles are seen. The customer surrogate key allows joining to the status fact table to grab the precise current behavior tags and status indicators. In a real-time environment, this is the first step in determining how to respond to a customer. But the customer durable key can then be used as an alternate join path to instantly expose the complete history of the customer we have just selected. In a real-time environment, this is the second step in dealing with the customer. We can see all the prior behavior tags and status indicators. We can compute counts and time spans from the customer status fact table.

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