Aug 30 2010

What does personal grooming have to do with business intelligence?

Categories: Rants Dave Rathbun @ 8:40 pm

This post is a bit outside of my normal technical content. I was struck by something on the way home today and can’t get it out of my head until I write it down. For the past several years (since 2005, I think) I have had a beard. A few weeks ago, I shaved it off. Guys that have worn then removed beards will probably be able to answer this next question: What is the most common comment I receive from people that are seeing me for the first time without my long-time beard? Continue reading “What does personal grooming have to do with business intelligence?”

Aug 17 2010

Handling Conditions on Outer Joins

Categories: Join Techniques, Universe Design Dave Rathbun @ 4:25 pm

I don’t like outer joins in my reporting universes. Never have. Sure, if I am creating a universe against an application system I might consider using outer joins because of the normalized nature of the data. But if I am reporting against a warehouse schema of some kind, I really prefer to use inner joins. That way I avoid any potential performance issues caused by outer joins, but more importantly I avoid questions about report data. That being said, outer joins do have a specific purpose, and if I need to use them in my universe I certainly can.

One of the biggest challenges with outer joins (other than potential performance issues) is explaining to a user why their query results changed because they added a condition to their query. Remember that users don’t (typically) look at the SQL, so they won’t know that I have created an outer join. It can be confusing. Fortunately I have options as to how my outer joins are executed, so once I determine their usage requirements I can change the way my universe behaves.

Defining the Problem

For this post I will am going to use a very simple universe with only three tables, shown here.

Summit Sporting Goods Universe screen shot

This universe joins a customer to an order, and an order to order lines. In my database I have one customer that does not yet have any orders. If I run a query against the current universe structure, this new customer will not show up. My requirement is to show all customers, whether they have orders or not. This must be true even if I put a condition on the order table. That’s where it gets tricky. :) Continue reading “Handling Conditions on Outer Joins”

Aug 04 2010

Too Many Objects? Too Many Rows? Try Prompting For Level of Detail

Categories: Prompts, Universe Design Dave Rathbun @ 6:06 pm

A while back I was on a project where the users wanted to set up reports that initially displayed about six different dimension objects and a bunch of measures. They also wanted to have the flexibility of dragging a different set of dimension objects on the report and either adding to or replacing an existing dimension. The idea was good. The amount of data brought back was a problem. I was able to fix that with some interesting prompt objects in the universe.

The Problem Definition

For the example I will present in this post I will once again use my version of Island Resorts Marketing universe which I have converted to Oracle. I will create a report that initially shows the Resort and (for simplicity) a single measure (Revenue). The report will be designed to let the user drag on additional details like Service Line and Service. But I will design my objects in such a way that if the user doesn’t want to see the information at that level of detail they don’t incur the overhead (row count) simply because the object is present in the query. In order to accomplish this, I will prompt the user with a list that includes the tokens ‘Resort’, ‘Service Line’, and ‘Service.’ The user will select the lowest level of detail they expect to use on the report. In this particular example the selections are hierarchical, meaning that selecting ‘Service Line’ implies that the Resort data will also be present. There is another option ‘None’ that can be selected if they want to deactivate the entire list.

Note that XI 3.1 offers a new feature called Query Stripping (in service pack 3) that works for BW and other OLAP queries and does this process automatically. It is not (yet) available for relational databases. Continue reading “Too Many Objects? Too Many Rows? Try Prompting For Level of Detail”