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Monday, August 10, 2009

Oracle Essbase and the Meaning of "Time"

Of all the potential dimensions in an Oracle Essbase cube, in my opinion the most misunderstood is "Time". The reason is that "time" frequently means different things to different people, even within the same department.

When gathering requirements for a new Essbase cube, I first get a clear understanding of how people view their calendar(s). This defines their world. Typical questions include:

  • When does your month begin and end? What specific dates?
  • Can you provide a company calendar so I can see how days roll up to weeks, weeks to months, months to quarters and quarters to years?
  • Does everyone follow the same exact calendar in the company? If not, how do they differ?
Businesses can operate on a traditional calendar, a fiscal calendar, their own unique calendar, an industry specific calendar or some variation of these. Sometimes they operate using all of these at the same time. Here are characteristics of common calendar types:

  1. Traditional calendar: January 1 - December 31; months end on last calendar day of the month.
  2. 4-4-5 calendar: this is a calendar where each year has 4 quarters and each quarter is made up of 13 weeks. Each 13 week quarter is then grouped into two 4-weeks "months" and one 5-week "month". Frequently used for retail and manufacturing companies since it provides a consistent schedule for when the end of a month or quarter will occur.
  3. Unique company calendar: some major retailers have their fiscal years on non-traditional calendars. For example, Target Corporation has a fiscal year from February 1 thru January 31. It consists of 12 months, but is staggered to end in January to assist with their peak sales reporting period during December.
  4. Segment calendar: NPD Group is leading global provider of consumer and retail market research information for many industries. They break the year down into their own unique time buckets. This is one example but other industry groups do the same type of thing.
Sounds crazy but "time" really does mean different things to different people. Luckily, Oracle Essbase can handle "time" without breaking a sweat. In my next blog I will demonstrate the use of shared member rollups which allows us to define dates within different time buckets and satisfy the need for multiple calendars in the same cube. I will also attempt to answer the eternal question "Does Anybody Really Know What Time It Is?"


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