MDX in Analysis Services: Mastering Time: Change across Periods

About the Series …

This is the fifteenth tutorial article of the series, MDX
in Analysis Services
. The series is designed to provide hands-on
application of the fundamentals of MDX from the perspective of MS SQL Server
2000 Analysis Services
("MSAS"); our primary focus is the
manipulation of multidimensional data sources, using MDX expressions, in a
variety of scenarios designed to meet real-world business intelligence needs.

For more
information on the series, as well as the hardware / software requirements to
prepare for the tutorials we will undertake, please see the first lesson of
this series: MDX
Concepts and Navigation
.

Note: At the time of writing, Service
Pack 3
updates
are assumed for MSSQL Server 2000, MSSQL Server 2000 Analysis
Services
, and the related Books Online and Samples.
The screen shots that appear in this article were taken from a Windows 2003
Server, and may appear somewhat different from coinciding views in other
operating systems.

Introduction

In our
last tutorial, Introducing
DISTINCT COUNT
, we introduced the concept of distinct counts,
discussing why they are often a requirement in our analysis efforts and those
of the information consumers whom we support. In our introduction and
throughout our examination of the MDX syntax we assembled to achieve our
illustrative objectives, we highlighted the challenges that accompany the use
of distinct counts. We performed practice exercises, to illustrate
solutions for hypothetical business needs that called upon the use of distinct
count
capability, obtaining exposure to the options afforded us by the
MSAS user interface, as well the MDX syntax involved with using the alternative
solutions that we proposed.

In
this article and others subsequent to it, we will focus on time
considerations in our MDX queries, and how we can successfully report change
over time
, as well as to accumulate those changes to
present the precise snapshots, trends and other time-based metrics so dearly
appreciated in business. We will briefly discuss common needs with regard to relative
time
, and then undertake a multi-step practical exercise, built around a hypothetical
business need, to illustrate a potential solution for that need.

William Pearson
William Pearson
Bill has been working with computers since before becoming a "big eight" CPA, after which he carried his growing information systems knowledge into management accounting, internal auditing, and various capacities of controllership. Bill entered the world of databases and financial systems when he became a consultant for CODA-Financials, a U.K. - based software company that hired only CPA's as application consultants to implement and maintain its integrated financial database - one of the most conceptually powerful, even in his current assessment, to have emerged. At CODA Bill deployed financial databases and business intelligence systems for many global clients. Working with SQL Server, Oracle, Sybase and Informix, and focusing on MSSQL Server, Bill created Island Technologies Inc. in 1997, and has developed a large and diverse customer base over the years since. Bill's background as a CPA, Internal Auditor and Management Accountant enable him to provide value to clients as a liaison between Accounting / Finance and Information Services. Moreover, as a Certified Information Technology Professional (CITP) - a Certified Public Accountant recognized for his or her unique ability to provide business insight by leveraging knowledge of information relationships and supporting technologies - Bill offers his clients the CPA's perspective and ability to understand the complicated business implications and risks associated with technology. From this perspective, he helps them to effectively manage information while ensuring the data's reliability, security, accessibility and relevance. Bill has implemented enterprise business intelligence systems over the years for many Fortune 500 companies, focusing his practice (since the advent of MSSQL Server 2000) upon the integrated Microsoft business intelligence solution. He leverages his years of experience with other enterprise OLAP and reporting applications (Cognos, Business Objects, Crystal, and others) in regular conversions of these once-dominant applications to the Microsoft BI stack. Bill believes it is easier to teach technical skills to people with non-technical training than vice-versa, and he constantly seeks ways to graft new technology into the Accounting and Finance arenas. Bill was awarded Microsoft SQL Server MVP in 2009. Hobbies include advanced literature studies and occasional lectures, with recent concentration upon the works of William Faulkner, Henry James, Marcel Proust, James Joyce, Honoré de Balzac, and Charles Dickens. Other long-time interests have included the exploration of generative music sourced from database architecture.

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