Cubes are Not Toys: Fast-track to Dimensional Analysis

Presentation Summary

Nancy McQuillen, University of Washington

Cubes provide a viable means of delivering data to end-users as an alternative to writing complex SQL queries. In 2009 the University of Washington delivered a production cube of the prior biennium’s financial transactions, supporting ad hoc questions about revenues, expenses, and other measures. The financial measures can be summarized by any combination of 12 built-in dimensions to answer questions about total dollars by organization, by account, by budget, by program, by job classification, etc. Using Excel 2007 pivot tables as the client tool, the cube was used to assist in summarizing measures for the university’s annual report, and to answer a variety of financial auditors’ questions. The presentation will provide an overview of this Microsoft SQL Server Analysis Services cube design, plus explanation of how the technology enabled delivery of current-state data warehouse data into dimensional form: • without ETL development, • without completion of master data projects and finalization of conformed dimensions, • without implementing a dimensional model in the relational database used as the cube source, • without requiring SQL queries by data end-users, and • without extensive training for users already familiar with Excel. The session will emphasize generic features of cube technology vs. vendor specifics.

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