Welcome to PowerOLAP: Concepts and Benefits
Congratulations! You have acquired a powerful software application called PowerOLAP®.
What makes PowerOLAP® a vital business solution? How does PowerOLAP® leverage the existing technology your company uses today to become the core of your Business Operating System? What functions and features of PowerOLAP® bring unprecedented analytical and planning capabilities to your PC in an instant? And, finally, how easy is it to use? This introduction will explore those questions in the pages to follow and prepare you to “be up and running” quickly on PowerOLAP®.
You may already know that PowerOLAP® is a multidimensional database software tool used for real-time analysis and reporting, as well as advanced, online budgeting and forecasting. You may also be aware that PowerOLAP® functions in conjunction with Microsoft Excel, your Web browser, and other applications you may already be using at your organization. In order to start benefiting from this powerful business application, you need to know how PowerOLAP® works and what it can do to improve your business.
PowerOLAP® adds benefits across the board, in performance, feature capabilities and, especially, from an end-user perspective, in the way it allows data analysts to do a much better job—intuitively, intelligently, speedily and very powerfully.
Planning, Analysis and Reporting
Knowledge is the foundation of all successful decisions. Successful businesses continuously plan, analyze and report on sales and operational activities in order to maximize efficiency, reduce expenditures and gain greater market share. Statisticians will tell you that the more sample data you have, the more likely the resulting statistic will be true. Naturally, the more data a company can access about a specific activity, the more likely that the plan to improve that activity will be effective. All businesses collect data using many different systems, and the challenge remains: how to get all the data together to create accurate, reliable, fast information about the business. A company that can take advantage of reliable information and turn it into shared knowledge, accurately and quickly, will surely be better positioned to make successful business decisions and rise above the competition.
OLAP—The Multidimensional Solution
Business is a multidimensional activity and businesses are run on decisions based on multiple dimensions. Businesses track their activities by considering many variables. When these variables are tracked on a spreadsheet, they are set on axes (x and y) where each axis represents a logical grouping of variables in a category. For example, sales in units or dollars may be tracked over one year’s time, by month, where the sales measures might logically be displayed on the y axis and the months might occupy the x axis (i.e., sales measures are rows and months are columns).
Sample Excel spreadsheet grid
To analyze and report on the health of a business and plan future activity, many variable groups or parameters must be tracked on a continuous basis—which is beyond the scope of any number of linked spreadsheets. These variable groups or parameters are called Dimensions in the On-Line Analytical Processing (OLAP) environment.
Nowadays, many spreadsheet users have heard about OLAP technology, but it is not clear to them what OLAP means. Unlike relational databases, OLAP tools do not store individual transaction records in two-dimensional, row-by-column format, like a worksheet, but instead use multidimensional database structures—known as Cubes in OLAP terminology—to store arrays of consolidated information. The data and formulas are stored in an optimized multidimensional database, while views of the data are created on demand. Analysts can take any view, or Slice, of a Cube to produce a worksheet-like view of points of interest.
Example representations of Slices of data from a simple three-dimensional Cube, including Cost, Product, and Time.
Rather than simply working with three dimensions, companies have many dimensions to track—for example, a business that distributes goods from more than a single facility will have at least the following Dimensions to consider: Accounts, Locations, Periods, Salespeople and Products. These Dimensions comprise a base for the company’s planning, analysis and reporting activities. Together they represent the “whole” business picture, providing the foundation for all business planning, analysis and reporting activities.
Sample Dimensions for Planning, Analysis and Reporting:
The capability to perform the most sophisticated analyses—specifically, the multidimensional analysis provided by OLAP technology—is an organizational imperative. Analysts need to view and manipulate data along the multiple dimensions that define an enterprise—essentially, the dimensions necessary for the creation of an effective business model.
How Multidimensional Cubes
Support Business Decisions
PowerOLAP cubes are populated with all necessary information to support daily decision needs. Cubes are the multidimensional structures in which an organization stores and models data. The Dimensions that make up a Cube, in turn, are made up of Members. For example, the Members of a Region dimension might be World Total, Europe and United States. Placing members into a Hierarchy defines natural parent-child aggregation points: World Total (parent) as the sum of Europe plus United States(children).
Example Region hierarchy: Total World ‘Parent’ member as an aggregation of United States and Europe ‘children’ members.
Once a hierarchy is placed into a Cube, along with other Dimension-hierarchies like Accounts, Months, etc., a “Slice view” of the Cube can be organized to display Dimension-member intersection points. For example, an analyst might produce a Slice to display World Total by Accounts for January, or expand the Slice to show January Accounts for World Total’s children, Europe and United States.
Example Slice: Units Sold by Region and Month
If more Dimensions are included in the Cube—Actual versus Budget, Salesperson, Department, etc.—one could simply choose to view, for example, Budgeted Sales, for United States, for January, for Salesperson A, in Department A, and compare it to the identical data set for Salesperson B, in Department B. This is the essence of OLAP: the capability to rapidly create and re-create modeling scenarios with drag-and-drop, point-and-click ease—and to share models throughout an organization, so that one user’s change will be reflected in all users’ views of the model.
Example slice: Tom’s Actual Units Sold in January in the US in Department A
Until the advent of PowerOLAP® software, OLAP products have required some form of manual importation of data from a relational database system, using a variety of methods for storing and loading data. Some OLAP products store a mirror image of the relational data in a proprietary multidimensional database; others store consolidation and formula information in the OLAP cube and leave the relational data in the data store; still other products use a combination of these two methods. PowerOLAP®application has made a leap in OLAP technology—it interacts dynamically with relational database management systems. No longer is there a “disconnect”, requiring manual intervention to bring data from “there” (a relational system) to “here” (a multidimensional Cube).
The PowerOLAP® Solution
PowerOLAP® sources data from relational systems, and delivers it dynamically to Excel or via the Web. By combining the most advanced features of OLAP, relational database and worksheet technology, along with new functionalities, PowerOLAP®empowers end-users to access numerous data sources throughout an organization, in real time, for sophisticated planning, analysis and reporting tasks. In this way, PowerOLAP® delivers limitless flexibility to businesses of all sizes.
PowerOLAP® enables analysts to create models with remarkable ease and offers the choice of viewing data in its own grid interface, in Excel’s or via the Web. You will gain the immediate benefits of working in a new, more sophisticated, yet easier-to-work-with multidimensional worksheet—a worksheet that is optimally designed to take advantage of the data in your relational database system and provide you with advanced sharing capabilities.
Use PowerOLAP® to create multidimensional perspectives of your business.
Example Slice: the dimension Accounts appear in the page area on the top, and the dimension members for Regions and Months appears on the columns and rows, data points are displayed in a spreadsheet-like grid.
Then use Excel to generate and print formatted reports or produce graphs that dynamically changes as your business changes.
A fast and easy Excel worksheet and graph generated from the PowerOLAP slice pictured above.
PowerOLAP® provides you with full flexibility in viewing the Dimensions that make up your business. Whether you use PowerOLAP alone, or with Excel as your final report writer along with the Web, you will substantially increase productivity and gain greater understanding and awareness about your business processes and activities.
In addition to the Excel front end, PowerOLAP® overcomes the drawbacks of predecessor OLAP tools by providing live, scheduled, or on demand relational database polling, in effect providing users throughout an organization with updates to analytical models as individual data transactions are recorded. By incorporating this functionality, via OLAP Exchange®, PowerOLAP® seamlessly integrates all the organizational tools necessary for reporting and analysis tasks—the relational database, the network server, an optimized multidimensional database, and the worksheet—into a faster, more powerful, more flexible single decision support application (for more information about OLAP Exchange®, please see the OLAP Exchange® section).
No matter what the analytical application, PowerOLAP® is the decision support tool of choice that answers the business questions management asks today. Welcome to a revolution in On-line Analytical Processing!
PowerOLAP® application enables organizations to create dynamic solutions quickly—in hours rather than days—between relational and multidimensional databases. With OLAP Exchange® client component, users have true online access to transactional data—as that data is recorded in real time—within a multidimensional format. Users have the ability to drill through to source relational tables, to examine records that constitute data points in PowerOLAP cubes. OLAP Exchange® client component also enables users with requisite rights “write back” changes and store multidimensional data in relational format.
PowerOLAP® application leverages investments and knowledge in existing database systems, providing unprecedented flexibility and speed for the back-end integration of transaction and analytical systems. By employing Excel and the Web browser as a front end, PowerOLAP® software connects users throughout an organization with underlying data sources via the tools they know best, direct to their desktops—another example of how PowerOLAP® application leverages company investments and knowledge.
With real-time transaction data at their fingertips, analysts are far more productive: the business models they create contain up-to-the-instant information; they no longer waste time keying in figures or trying to reconcile data from various sources, including individual spreadsheets. Working with real-time data, analysts can combine information from different business models/Cubes via PowerOLAP’s rich formula language to support “what if” analytical scenarios and to produce standard and ad hoc reports. OLAP Exchange® component facilitates the immediate updating of budget and forecast models, so companies can react with exceptional speed to changing business conditions.
PowerOLAP® business inteliigence tool is one single solution, closing the gap between relational and multidimensional worlds.
Main Advantages of PowerOLAP®
- Multidimensional Cube structures.
- Intuitive, drag-and-drop Slice viewing.
- Reports generated in Excel, allowing full Excel functionality along with graphical enhancements to reporting, and user ease in accessing PowerOLAP engine from within Excel.
- Ability to customize and “pivot” views and set constraints on data appearing in the Excel interface.
- Extremely fast calculation time.
- “On-the-fly” flexible analysis, and capability to make data additions and changes to parameters.
- Up-to-the-instant real-time, online data sharing.
- Data security maintains data integrity and protects access to specified areas of Cubes, across data ranges or even by cell.
- Internet connectivity via Web Services, enabling staff or customers to create unlimited reports and analytical views, including graphs; also, to enter figures into Cubes from wherever they can make an Internet connection.
- Synchronization Server component tool enables users to work as Remote Clients and then share and update Cube through a shared file; also provides relational backup to multidimensional data
- Dynamic connectivity and interaction with your company’s relational database, with the ability to drill through to the RDBMS source of PowerOLAP data points.