As someone who managed the planning function for a large corporation, the efficiency and effectiveness of analysts’ work is near and dear to my heart. A good planning function is supported by a platform that promotes data consistency across many perspectives, while promoting an agile (and creative) modeling experience with integration of existing models and powerful functional tools (e.g., analytics).
That was the goal of the data warehouse, but the complexity and rigidity of the multidimensional model limited agility. So, these environments evolve ad-hoc, with each analyst creating their own model based on unique logic, and links to other spreadsheets (also with unique logic). The result is a very fragile and unmanageable environment (what many call “Excel Hell”):
Companies need a way to get the analysts more intimately involved in the design of the underlying data models, and drastically reduce the design cycle. And they need to give analysts the robust functions that database systems offer, instead of all those “toy functions” (e.g., vlookups). Analysts need more agility and power.
These are among the reasons that Microsoft introduced the Tabular Model into SQL Analysis Services. This model produces a managed analysis environment with consistent data, shared logic, and relational database functionality extended to Excel:
Think of it as PowerPivot implemented across the whole environment (both the desktops and the servers), coupled with a new spreadsheet language and real functions. An analyst can build core model / logic in PowerPivot, and push that down to the server where it can be shared and extended. And its all managed with the same scalability, reliability and security as a traditional data warehouse (it’s still SQL Analysis Services).
Implementation can be incremental – realizing continuous improvement for low risk and low cost (you probably already own this). Worth considering if your analysis platform is not meeting the needs of the business.