Business Analysis (OLAP) - dummies

By Thomas C. Hammergren

Business analysis is the term used to describe visualizing data in a multidimensional manner. Query and report data typically is presented in row after row of two-dimensional data. The first dimension is the headings for the data columns; the second dimension is the actual data listed below those column headings.

Business analysis allows the user to plot data in row and column coordinates to further understand the intersecting points. In essence, this visualization of OLAP is most often utilized with an OLAP specialty database, although the business analysis can be done without such a database.

The most common form of this business analysis involves using Microsoft Excel PivotTables, in which a user can plot data as rows, columns, or intersecting cells.

Business analysis introduces analytical processes and a degree of variability into the user interaction model. Conceptually, the first steps are pretty much the same as the steps for querying and reporting, but then the user takes over:

  1. Manipulate the data.

    Look at it in a different way. Place some data on the rows, place other data on the columns, place the interested measurement at the intersecting cell.

  2. View the new results.

    Change the presentation style of the data into a bar graph or line chart. Add in another column of data to refine the points on the graph. In addition, the user can request the data beneath the data, such as the details underneath a summary.

From that point, the variability of the process might iteratively cycle through these steps (continually manipulating and reviewing the new results, for example) or even add new data for more analysis.