Multidimensional Consolidation

Online analytical processing (OLAP) is a multidimensional, multiuser, client-server computing environment for users who need to analyze enterprise data. Finance departments use OLAP for applications such as budgeting, activity-based costing (allocations), financial performance analysis, and financial modeling. Sales departments use OLAP for sales analysis and forecasting. Marketing departments use OLAP for market research analysis, sales forecasting, promotions analysis, customer analysis, and market/customer segmentation. Typical manufacturing OLAP applications include production planning and defect analysis.

Important to all of these applications is the ability to provide managers the information that they need to make effective decisions about an organization’s strategic directions. A successful OLAP application provides information as needed; that is, it provides “just-in-time” information for effective decision-making.

Providing such information requires more than a base level of detailed data. Just-in-time information is computed data that usually reflects complex relationships and is often calculated on the fly. Analyzing and modeling complex relationships are practical only if response times are consistently short. In addition, because the nature of data relationships may not be known in advance, the data model must be flexible. A truly flexible data model ensures that OLAP systems can respond to changing business requirements as needed for effective decision making.

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