Reporting Options for Analysis Services Cubes: MS Excel 2002

About the Series …

This is the tenth
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
.

In addition to MSSQL
Server 2000
and MSSQL Server 2000 Analysis Services, of which we
have made repeated use in the previous articles of the series, further application
considerations apply for this and subsequent tutorials because of their MS
Office
orientations. For those joining the series at this point because of
a desire to work with Analysis Services and its components from the Office
perspective, it is assumed that Analysis Services is accessible to / installed
on the PC, with the appropriate access rights to the sample cubes (which are provided
in a Typical installation of Analysis Services).

Through, and together
with, Microsoft Excel 2002, we will use Microsoft Query to create
an Excel PivotTable report based upon an OLAP cube as a data source. Microsoft
Query provides the capability for establishing connections to our cubes, among
other functions. Because it is an optional Microsoft Office component,
we will need to ascertain the existence of Microsoft Query on our PCs. If this
is the first time Microsoft Query is being accessed on the machine, it may be a
good idea to consult the appropriate Office 2002 online documentation for
installation instructions.

We will also need the Microsoft
OLAP Provider
, included in a typical Excel 2002 installation, which
consists of the Data Source Driver and the client software needed
to access cubes created by Microsoft SQL Server 2000 Analysis Services.

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 ParentChild 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 had 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 Articles Seven
and Eight
, which comprise the two-part tutorial, Custom Cubes: Financial Reporting, we
established as our primary objective the construction of a simple cube to meet some
illustrative business requirements, revolving around basic Income Statement
financial reporting. We expanded upon many of the concepts we have introduced
at some level in earlier lessons, involving the integration of cubes, as well
as a host of information about cube components and general cube design and
creation. We discussed some of the challenges that accompany cube design for
financial reporting. In addition, we explored the use of Custom Members as an
alternative approach to "merging" cubes, using cubes that we created
under the scenario of a realistic business constraint – the absence of a
single fact table
that contained "all that we needed in one place"
to meet the objectives of the cube’s design.

We navigated the
process of Parent-Child dimension creation to practice the steps, and
introduced various new concepts that we had not encountered in the series up to
this point, including the use of Custom Members and the handling of rollup and
aggregation considerations. Among other concepts we discussed and put into
action, we made use of a UNION ALL query to prepare a "virtual" fact
table for more effective cube creation, introduced methods of sign and data
type control within our presentation, and addressed formatting and other
presentation considerations as we created a Financial Reporting cube that
focused upon the Income Statement.

In our last lesson, Article
Nine
, we continued our series within Analysis Services through the
now-familiar interface and associated dialogs, and expanded our exploration by
grafting in, as an alternative approach, the creation of basic MDX expressions
and queries for use with multidimensional data sources. Our focus was the
establishment of the drillthrough capability within our cube models,
from two distinct approaches, while examining some of the valuable uses of the
drillthrough functionality from an information consumer perspective.

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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