Thursday, August 18, 2005

30 ways to use OLAP in business

An interesting article by Contour Components discloses 30 ways on where OLAP or multidimensional data analysis is applicable. OLAP is a specific way of financial and statistical data representation for executives, specialists and analysts. It is designed to aid in decision making and better information understanding. The main idea is to answer the user’s questions, arising at the work time, on-the-fly.

An OLAP system allows user to get into details and generalize, filter, sort and regroup data at the time of analysis. Intermediate and final totals are recalculated instantly.

The main data viewing and manipulation tool is the dynamic electronic worksheet. Its elements – columns and rows – are the manipulation controls. Moving rows and columns or clicking them user makes the system perform calculations and show data in different aspects.

Thus, user can produce lots of reports out of a single dataset on his own, without any interference with IT-specialists. This saves IT departments from continuous hard-coding of various kinds of reports and gives additional degree of freedom to executives and specialists for getting the essential information.

OLAP breaks data into two groups: facts (numbers, also called measures) and dimensions (descriptions). Facts are aggregated in a given slice by some algorithm while the user defines grouping and aggregation depth.

Also, an electronic worksheet can display data with a regular structure. OLAP is suitable everywhere, where a task of multifactor data analysis takes place. Generally, having a table filled with data, given that it contains at least one descriptive column and one or more data columns, OLAP can become an effective and convenient tool for analyzing such table and producing reports.

Read 30 ideas of using OLAP