OLAP-Cubes for Financial Analysis and Planning

OLAP (Online Analytical Processing) cubes are a data structure used in business intelligence and data warehousing to support fast analysis of data.
OLAP Cube is a multi-dimensional array of data used to perform complex queries and analysis rapidly. OLAP cubes allow data to be pre-aggregated and indexed in a way that makes retrieval of aggregated data efficient.

Key Concepts

Dimensions: These are the perspectives or entities with respect to which an organization wants to keep records. Common examples include time, geography, products, and customers.

Measures: These are the quantitative data or metrics that are being analyzed. For example, sales, revenue, and profit.

Hierarchies: Dimensions often have hierarchies that allow data to be viewed at different levels of granularity. For example, a time dimension might have a hierarchy of year -> quarter -> month -> day.
Slices, Dices, Drills:
  • Slicing: Selecting a single layer from the cube, like selecting data for a specific year.
  • Dicing: Creating a sub-cube by selecting specific values for multiple dimensions.
  • Drilling Down/Up: Moving through levels of data hierarchy, for example, going from yearly data to monthly data (drill down) or vice versa (drill up).

Types of OLAP

MOLAP (Multidimensional OLAP): Stores data in a multidimensional cube. It pre-computes and stores data in a specialized format, which allows for fast data retrieval but can require significant storage space.

ROLAP (Relational OLAP): Stores data in relational databases and uses complex SQL queries to generate aggregated data on the fly. It is more scalable with large data sets but can be slower than MOLAP.

HOLAP (Hybrid OLAP): Combines the benefits of MOLAP and ROLAP by storing part of the data in a relational format and part in a multidimensional format.

Example Scenario

Imagine a retail company that wants to analyze its sales data. An OLAP cube could have dimensions like:

  • Time: Year, Quarter, Month, Day
  • Location: Country, Region, City, Store
  • Product: Category, Subcategory, Product

And measures like:

  • Sales Revenue
  • Units Sold
  • Profit

Users can then slice and dice the cube to analyze data such as:

  • Total sales revenue by region and product category for the current year.
  • Monthly sales trends for a specific product.
  • Comparison of quarterly sales performance across different regions.

OLAP-Cubes for Financial Analisys and Planning

OLAP cubes are particularly beneficial in financial analysis and planning due to their ability to handle large volumes of data and perform complex calculations swiftly. Here's how they can help in these areas:
Trend Analysis:

  • Historical Data: OLAP cubes can store and analyze historical financial data, allowing organizations to identify trends over different periods (e.g., monthly, quarterly, yearly).
  • Comparative Analysis: Compare financial performance across different time periods, departments, or regions to identify patterns and anomalies.

Variance Analysis:

  • Budget vs. Actuals: Compare actual financial performance against budgeted figures to identify variances and investigate reasons for discrepancies.
  • Drill-Down Analysis: Drill down into detailed data to understand the underlying causes of variances, such as specific expense categories or revenue sources.

Ratio Analysis:

  • Financial Ratios: Calculate and analyze key financial ratios (e.g., liquidity ratios, profitability ratios, debt ratios) to assess the financial health of the organization.
  • Benchmarking: Compare these ratios against industry benchmarks or competitors to evaluate relative performance.

Scenario Analysis:

  • What-If Scenarios: Use OLAP cubes to create and analyze various financial scenarios (e.g., changes in revenue assumptions, cost structures) to understand potential impacts on profitability and cash flow.
  • Sensitivity Analysis: Assess how sensitive financial outcomes are to changes in key assumptions or variables.


  • Detailed Budgeting: Create detailed budgets at various levels of the organization (e.g., department, project) using historical data stored in OLAP cubes.
  • Consolidation: Consolidate budgets from different parts of the organization to create an overall corporate budget quickly and accurately.


  • Revenue Forecasting: Use historical sales data and trends stored in OLAP cubes to forecast future revenues.
  • Expense Forecasting: Analyze past expense patterns to project future costs and improve the accuracy of financial forecasts.

Resource Allocation:

  • Optimal Allocation: Analyze financial data to determine the most efficient allocation of resources (e.g., capital, personnel) to various projects or departments.
  • ROI Analysis: Evaluate the return on investment for different initiatives to prioritize funding and resources.

Performance Management:

  • Key Performance Indicators (KPIs): Track and analyze KPIs using data from OLAP cubes to monitor financial performance against strategic goals.
  • Balanced Scorecards: Use OLAP cubes to support balanced scorecard initiatives, integrating financial and non-financial performance metrics.

Benefits of Using OLAP Cubes for Financial Analysis and Planning

  • Speed and Efficiency: OLAP cubes allow for rapid retrieval and analysis of large datasets, enabling timely financial analysis and decision-making.
  • Multi-Dimensional Analysis: Analyze financial data from multiple perspectives (e.g., time, geography, product) to gain deeper insights.
  • Data Integrity and Consistency: Ensure consistency in financial reporting and analysis by using a single, integrated source of data.
  • User-Friendly: Financial analysts can easily create complex queries and generate reports without needing extensive technical expertise.
  • Scalability: Handle increasing volumes of financial data as the organization grows, without compromising on performance.