The basics of OLAP data modeling

The basics of OLAP data modeling are explained in this blog post.
In this data driven world, an enormous amount of data is collected and stored on a daily basis. But why is it important to collect and store these huge amounts of data? Having piles of raw data can help your organization to make better analysis. The problem is, data in its original form doesn’t always make much sense. By structuring your collected raw data, you will be able to
make more informed decisions. The process of structuring your raw data is called data modeling. This is where OLAP comes in.

Back to the basics of OLAP

OLAP is an acronym for Online Analytical Processing. Before we start explaining the basics of OLAP, you might wonder why OLAP can be handy for your organization. Well, OLAP is a multi-dimensional database   technology that permit to perform quick  data analysis on many data records. This analysis will provide relevant information aimed at better decisions taking , storytelling and planning. In summary OLAP is a software technology that allows organizations to perform multidimensional analysis of collected data. It provides the capability for complex calculations, trend analysis and data modeling with one goal: understanding your business better.

When learning about OLAP, there is no getting away from the terms dimensions, cubes, measures and hierarchies. Here are some definitions that will make it easier to understand their relevance.

1. Cubes

OLAP tools use multidimensional database structures, called cubes. An OLAP Cube, or a data cube, is a multidimensional data set that allows fast analysis of data, according to the multiple dimensions you set up. You can compare a cube with a multidimensional spreadsheet: you can collect data from users and store that data in a transparent way and calculate when needed. In order to form a cube you need dimensions.

2.  Dimensions

Dimensions are lists of related items used to organize your data in similar categories, such as products, time and/or regions. Dimensions are the basis for the data structure of an OLAP data cube. For example, the months and quarters may make up your Year dimension. You can compare dimensions with the business parameters that you normally see in the rows and columns of a report. A model can consist in multiple dimensions : example :

  • organization structure of the company
  • product structure
  • version (for simulations and final)
  • scenario (actual , budget , forecast , best case , worst case , …)
  • measure (Account list , FTE , Headcount , SKU , … )
  • currencies
  • exchange rates
  • year – period

In practice dimension need to be limited to +/- 12 in order to remain workable for end users and calculation engine. Depending on technology used the dimension can be higher without impact on performance.

3. Measures

Each cube must have at least one measure. But in reality, we see that cubes often contain multiple measures. An OLAP measure is a numeric value by which the dimensions are detailed or aggregated. It gives you the information about quantities you’re interested in. Do you have difficulties with defining you OLAP measures? Ask yourself the question ‘how much…?’ and your answer will be your OLAP measure. Measures can be financial or nonfinancial example: COA’s , KPI’s , FTE ‘s, Volumes , … .

4. Hierarchies

Hierarchies are the subcategories of your dimensions. They have multiple levels and allow you to drill down or drill up your data. What is drilling, you may ask? Drilling allows you to analyze your data at different levels of granularity. (example : total volume , volume by product group, volume by packaging by product group, volume by KSU by packaging by product group ).

Conclusion

OLAP is a common technology behind many Business Intelligence and CPM applications and is still most relevant today. Using OLAP can help your organization with your analyses, forecasting and planning. In short, it should contribute to better decision-making and eventually lead to more profit.

Do you have question or need more information? Our expert is happy to help you with this! Contact Christiaan Van t’ klaphek or Stijn Hermans for more information.

IBM Planning Analytics On-Demand — An introduction to what you can achieve

You may have read about “IBM Planning Analytics On-Demand”. It is the newest offered IBM solution for planning, reporting and forecasting, offered at a subscription starting at less than 50 Euros a month. 

What is included in the offer and what can you realize with the solution? 

IBM Planning Analytics? 

IBM Planning Analytics is the AI infused planning, forecasting and reporting solution offered by IBM. The heart of the solution is the “TM1 server”; the powerful calculation engine which has proven to be capable of working with large data sets and  perform fast real-time calculations. This makes IBM Planning Analytics a perfect tool for forecasting and scenario-analysis. This software has been available as both a SaaS and On-premise offering for years. 

What is Planning Analytics “On-Demand”?

IBM Planning Analytics On-Demand is the easiest way to start  with a  low-cost planning and reporting solution focussed on self-service for one single user of a smaller user group. 

IBM Planning Analytics On-Demand includes:

  • Web-based analysis, planning, reporting and modelling capabilities 
  • Start with one user and one data model; easily add capacity on-demand to support more users and applications
  • Pre-build templates to start and play around. Also, guided tutorials and training contents is included to allow a quick start

IBM Planning Analytics On-Demand overview

From a technical point of view this means you will get a cloud hosted multi-tenant environment with one or multiple containers, each including an individual database of 2 Gigabytes maximum. You can integrate your own data via CSV-files and you can use IBM Planning Analytics Workspace to build planning models, reports and dashboards.

You can create multiple applications by adding databases to your subscription at any time. However, you cannot exceed the 2 GB maximum database size. Very important is that databases cannot be cumulated because they exist in separated containers. Also, you cannot use the Excel Add-in but are restricted to work in the web based interface (IBM Planning Analytics Workspace of  “PAW”).

When would I need to upgrade to the‘full version’?

The IBM Planning Analytics On-Demand version is a great way to start for small user companies, departments or if you are just a single employee and just want to solve a spreadsheet problem.  The software comes with great functionalities, but is of course restricted. While you can invite your colleagues, larger applications and large user groups are not supported. The full version, usually referred to as “Enterprise” for instance allows you to host large planning applications with connections to various data sources.  Features that are included in the full version among others, are:

  • Large databases– e.g. 128 GB or even 2 TB(!)
  • Direct connections to source data via the REST API or ODBC enabling you to connect with multiple cloud and local data sources.
  • Interface to other IBM software products such as IBM Controller and IBM Cognos Analytics.
  • The powerful Excel Add-In to use the data in Planning Analytics directly in Ms Excel.
  • Advanced features to set up security and access control compliant with your organization’s policy

IBM Planning Analytics Enterprise Added value

How can you start?

New to IBM Planning Analytics? You can directly start with your IBM Planning Analytics On-Demand subscription.

If you have already started with a free trial before, you can also directly move forward from here to an On-Demand Subscription.

 

 

 

Want to know more?

Feel free to leave us a message via this website or just email me at cvantklaphek@aexis.com.

Also, make sure to check out our Events page and subscribe to our events and webinars. New webinars about IBM Planning Analytics and the benefits of integrating AI into your forecasting process will be published next week.

Want to start with your IBM Planning Analytics On-Demand right away? Fill in our form and we will help you!

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    budgeting and reporting

    Efficient daily budgeting and reporting at Amrâth Hôtels

    The successful Amrâth Hôtels group stands for comfort, personal service and a unique character. Internally, the group has a small-scale and flat structure organisation. Operations Director David Dreese explains how the organisation manages to always stay innovative and flexible: “We are at the forefront of automation because of our active collaboration with our partners. We are loyal to our partners and these partnerships make it possible for us to come up with innovative and efficient responses to the ever-changing wishes of hotel guests. The Aexis budgeting and reporting solution provides Amrâth Hôtels uniform statements per hotel on a daily basis, while other specific reports of hotels and flexible clusters of hotels can also easily be created by Amrâth Hôtels employees themselves.”

    Time-consuming and error-prone spreadsheets

    The annual budget of the Amrâth Hôtels used to be drawn up by means of a large number of spreadsheets. Because this was always a time-consuming job, the idea of using a professional tool  had been on the table for some time. In addition, it was also necessary to be able to produce automatic, uniform and well-organised operational reports based on multiple source systems. Another requirement was that it had to be fairly easy to make changes directly in consolidated statements.

    Insight in actuals, budget and forecast on a daily basis 

    With the Aexis solution, all relevant data from various systems such as the PMS, POS, HR and financial applications is updated automatically on a daily basis. Financial and operational reports are available and consolidated in the centrally secured environment. The full budgeting process is supported by the central application, while budget holders can enter the figures directly into the Aexis solution. The functional key users are responsible for the functional management of the application and the development of the required reports. David Dreese: “We finally have a budgeting tool that we manage and maintain according to our own wishes and requirements. We are not losing time anymore on various decentralised hotel overviews.”

    Future-proof solution for financial and operational information

    The Aexis solution is scalable and flexible for the required planning, forecasting, reporting and dashboard processes. Due to the modular structure, we can start quickly and easily, while the platform also meets any future requirements. Aexis acts as a facilitator in this process. “Over the past years, Aexis has proven to be a valued and reliable partner. They sold us what we needed, and they will assist us in the further development with how we will use the solution”, according to David Dreese.

    Aexis: management information for your hotel or hotel group

    The Aexis solution integrates with your existing software, collects and combines the required information from it and provides you with integrated management information. You have both consolidated and detailed insight and also unique scenario analysis options. 

    The planning and reporting processes can efficiently be implemented in the Aexis solution based on your current Excel sheets. For more information, go to www.aexis.com or mail us at info@nl.aexis.com.

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