Periodically Purge Reports and Queries

I’ve written about how data accretes over time, which requires us to periodically and consistently work on cleaning the data. If we don’t keep the data clean, the database get overwhelmed with bad data (or the weeds will overrun the garden, if you prefer).

A similar thing happens with queries and reports within the database. As time passes, staff will create new reports and new queries. They may create these because a new query is needed, or they may create these because they’re unsure or unaware of any query or report that already exists (even if they’ve got access to all the queries and reports).

So over time, many more reports and queries will be created. And the bigger that list gets, the more likely it is that future users will create even more queries and reports, rather than trying to find the correct query or report in a huge list. You can see the vicious cycle that is created.

The key is to treat your list of reports and queries just like the database itself: take the time to periodically prune the list of reports and queries so that users have as few choices as possible, and to make sure that there aren’t duplicate reports and queries (or what appear to be duplicate reports or queries).

I recommend that at least annually, if not more frequently, someone with deep knowledge of the database reviews all of the saved queries and reports in the system and removes all reports that are no longer needed. Some systems will provide reports on how often a report or query is used, but if your system does not, use your best judgment.

One trick I often recommend: rather than deleting the report or query, simply “hide it” from users and see if anyone complains. If they do need it, you won’t have deleted it and can restore it quickly. If they don’t complain, then you know it is no longer important.

Queries and reports are critical to the successful management of your database. Don’t neglect the periodic cleaning required to keep them useful.

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