If You Think OLAP is Obsolete… Think Again!
If you think OLAP is Obsolete…
…A few things could be possible:
- You don’t know what OLAP is.
- You haven’t seen a recent OLAP application.
- You never tried to do the nitty-gritty of business planning, analytics or reporting.
- You’ve resigned yourself to doing manual labor in Excel spreadsheets and pushing data to a dashboard.
OK, let’s give nay-sayers of OLAP (OnLine Analytical Processing) a bit of credit, since creating an OLAP solution could historically be a frustrating endeavor. That was especially the case when essentially none of the OLAP products on the market could be considered “online.”
What people called OLAP technology was not connected in a live way to the data source: some degree of batch processing was required to update data from transactional sources to an OLAP cube with its own proprietary database.
And that is where you lose IT people.
Ugh!—a propriety OLAP database…really?
IT needs a proprietary system to maintain like they need a hole in the head. IT staff are already underwater trying to make sure that all the delicate connections between systems are running. Maintaining a propriety system means learning how that system works and how to make it work well with others (thus the fallback to old-timey batch processing).
In an optimal world, IT wants to know that processes and communications between applications are seamless, and that end-users are served with the data they need, as fast as is technologically possible.
Now, we all (IT especially) need a refresher about OLAP.
It’s true that OLAP could be difficult in execution, yet there are a couple of facts we must keep in mind: (1) many firms benefitted significantly in their reporting and analytics processes by adopting an OLAP solution, and (2) in concept, OLAP—best defined as “fast access to shared multidimensional information”—is a kind of yearned-for technology that users (especially business users mired in 100s of spreadsheets) instinctively know will make them much more effective at their jobs, which is to provide management with the best decision support possible.
For those reasons, OLAP never went away. Certainly, the term OLAP arguably fell out of favor (often supplanted by that much friendlier signifier, Business Intelligence), but—here’s the really good news—the latest OLAP technologies now address the drawbacks of the older technologies in a way that makes OLAP more valuable than ever.
The newest, most evolved OLAP products address the historical drawbacks of batch processing, proprietary databases and more, including:
- Relational Transformational Connectivity – The multidimensional OLAP database connects directly to a relational database table and transforms it live to the multidimensional database; this connection has bidirectional capability.
- Spreadsheet Transformational Connectivity – The multidimensional OLAP database connects directly to a two-dimensional spreadsheet and transforms it live to the multidimensional database; this connection has bidirectional capability.
- Dashboard Transformational Connectivity – The multidimensional OLAP database connects directly to dashboard products and displays data live from the multidimensional database.
- End-User Tool Transformational Connectivity – The multidimensional database connects directly to other end-user tools (such as Word, PowerPoint, etc.) and transforms data live from a multidimensional database.
- Collaboration Transformational Connectivity – The multidimensional database is collaborative, i.e., allows many simultaneous connections for relational; spreadsheet; dashboard and other end-user tools to connect directly to other end-user tools (such as Word, PowerPoint, etc.) and transform data live from the multidimensional database.
[the above is excerpted from a white paper from the OLAP developer PARIS Technologies]
How dare anyone call those capabilities obsolete?!
It’s the opposite of obsolete, indeed what you may you need—a platform that finally allows you to create OLAP-based planning, analytics and reporting for future success.
(This post was originally published on July 1, 2015 and has been refreshed for you reading pleasure.)