Business intelligence vendors offer a variety of solutions designed to help you gain a deeper understanding of data. One category of business intelligence software involves OLAP tools which are used to analyze data stored in a database.
What are OLAP Tools?
OLAP stands for Online Analytical Processing. OLAP tools allow you to look at multidimensional data in different ways. These tools are usually part of a larger system involving an OLAP server, database management system, and a client computer.
Are OLAP Tools Enough?
Traditional OLAP tools require complex ETL (extract, transformed, and loaded) processes that places data from different sources into a centralized data warehouse and OLAP cubes. From there, OLAP tools are used to create high level views of the aggregated data for analysis and presentation. Unfortunately, these tools are often difficult to understand and use.
While OLAP tools have long been important components of business intelligence, vendors such as InetSoft have taken them to a new level. Newer technologies move beyond OLAP and make business intelligence more accessible to business users.
Modern OLAP Tools
Traditional OLAP solutions involve OLAP servers and clients which typically require a team of IT professionals to design, plan, deploy, configure, and manage. Once fully deployed, business users need to undergo extensive training in order to learn how to use these complicated tools. Fortunately, hosted OLAP servers are now an option. Like other Web-based solutions, going with a Web-based OLAP server can eliminate the time-consuming and labor-intensive process of planning and deploying a standalone OLAP system. Business intelligence vendors offering cloud-based OLAP tools typically offer scalable solutions as well.
Other benefits to choosing a hosted OLAP server include:
· Fast implementation
· No expensive BI consultants required
· Low maintenance
· Easy to administer and use
· No costly software or hardware investments needed
· Access OLAP tools using a Web browser
Not only can you quickly deploy a robust, agile, and easy-to-use business intelligence solution, Web-based business intelligence tools often go far beyond traditional OLAP. For example, instead of being limited to data residing on an OLAP server, modern business intelligence tools can quickly retrieve data from disparate data sources and "mash it up." Data mashups allow you to look at data from a variety of sources such as from legacy data sources, external data sources, multidimensional databases, OLAP cubes, and more.
What Can You Do with Modern BI and OLAP Tools?
The ability to easily retrieve data from disparate sources using Web-based solutions from modern business intelligence vendors such as InetSoft is just the beginning. You can gather this data in real time and visualize it using a variety of data visualization tools such as interactive maps, spark lines, charts and graphs, and more. You can also create dynamic dashboards that display real-time data based on your key performance indicators as well as explore relationships by drilling down on the data or overlaying data from different data sources.
Perhaps best of all, modern BI and OLAP tools are easy to set up and use. Instead of being intimated by big data, you can intuitively explore it to gain a deeper understanding of trends, warning signs, and opportunities.
Frank Poladi is the author of this article about moving beyond OLAP tools to understand data. In this article he gives his readers insight on the world of OLAP tools and using it with business intelligence vendors. In his free time he enjoys taking trips around the world and sharing his journeys on his blog. Make sure to add him on Google+ or follow him on twitter @FrankPoladi.