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Posted Feb 17, 2003

Introduction to MSSQL Server 2000 Analysis Services: Custom Cubes: Financial Reporting - Part II

By William Pearson

About the Series ...

This is the eighth article of the series, Introduction to MSSQL Server 2000 Analysis Services. As I stated in the first article, Creating Our First Cube, the primary focus of this series is an introduction to the practical creation and manipulation of multidimensional OLAP cubes. The series is designed to provide hands-on application of the fundamentals of MS SQL Server 2000 Analysis Services ("Analysis Services"), with each installment progressively adding features designed to meet specific real - world needs. For more information on the series, as well as the hardware / software requirements to prepare for the exercises we will undertake, please see my initial article, Creating Our First Cube.

Introduction

In the first article of the series, we used the Cube Wizard to build an initial cube with the assistance of the Dimension Wizard. We progressed through subsequent articles, creating similar dimensions to those we built with the Wizard, focusing largely in our second article on using the Dimension Editor to illustrate options for building a more customized cube. We continued this examination of dimensions in Article Three, where we recreated the calendar time dimension, this time focusing on the process through which the Dimension Wizard converts existing time / date fields to a time dimension, along with its hierarchy of levels and members. Article Three also exposed ways to customize the predefined, time-related properties that the wizard establishes in building the time dimension, suggesting options for customization of these properties to enhance the cube, from the dual perspectives of user-friendliness and the reporting needs of the organization. We created an example of an alternate time dimension for fiscal time reporting, and then we discussed some of the considerations surrounding the simultaneous housing of both hierarchies in the same OLAP cube structure.

In Article Four, we examined another special type of dimension, the Parent - Child dimension, and explored the attributes that make it different from a regular dimension. We discussed the considerations that surround Parent-Child dimensions, such as the recursive nature of their data sources, and various actions that must be handled differently in their creation and maintenance. We created a parent-child dimension using the Dimension Wizard, within which we worked with levels and properties. Finally, we enabled values at the parent level of our newly created parent-child dimension. In Article Five, Working with the Cube Editor, we reviewed, summarized and integrated many of the concepts and components that we had previously constructed individually in earlier lessons. We undertook a complete cube build "from scratch," pulling together all that we had learned, to demonstrate the assembly of a cube more sophisticated than the cube we generated in our first lesson with the Cube Wizard.

In Article Six, Exploring Virtual Cubes, we introduced the concept of virtual cubes, and practiced their creation and use. We discussed the options that virtual cubes provide, from the often-intermingling perspectives of consolidation of multiple data sources, presentation enhancement and control, and other functionality. Through the use of hands-on illustrations, we demonstrated some of the options that virtual cubes offer to extend the functionality and capabilities of individual OLAP cubes

In this two-part article, we will build a simple cube to meet some illustrative business requirements of a hypothetical corporate financial reporting function. We will expand upon many of the concepts we introduced in earlier lessons, where we used virtual cubes to merge the two into a single reporting "view," then we will discuss some of the challenges that accompany cube design for financial reporting, and explore an alternative approach to "merging"cubes.

In Part One of this article, we:

  • Created a core financial cube, focusing on the expense side, and based upon the expense fact table provided within the FoodMart 2000 sample database;
  • Discussed some of the realities of multiple fact tables in data sources that we often encounter in the business environment;
  • Explored some of the realities that accompany cube design for financial reporting.

In this half of the article, we will:

  • Develop our core cube further, bringing in sales / revenue and other information to make the Profit / Loss position of the organization complete for basic financial reporting purposes;
  • Explore and practice the use of a UNION ALL query to prepare a "virtual" fact table for more effective cube creation;
  • Discuss rollup and aggregation concepts and considerations;
  • Explore "merging" cubes using Custom Members;
  • Introduce methods of sign and data type control within our presentation;
  • Address formatting and other considerations that arise as we create a cube to meet the needs of our information consumers.

We will develop our initial core further in Part II of this lesson, then we will populate our model with the Revenue / Sales elements of a simple Income Statement, after discussing the options we have available within Analysis Services for doing so.



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