Glossary of Terms


Analytic Application

A software application designed to fulfil all the analytic requirements of a particular business process e.g financial analysis, customer analysis. These applications are often marketed as turnkey solutions by business intelligence vendors.

Balanced Scorecard An analysis technique, developed by Robert Kaplan and David Norton, designed to translate an organization's mission statement and overall business strategy into specific, quantifiable goals and to monitor the organization's performance in terms of achieving these goals.
Business Analytics A technique that makes it easier to visualise and analyse business data to support decision making
Business Intelligence Business intelligence (BI) is a broad category of technologies that allows for gathering, storing, accessing and analyzing data to help business users make better decisions.
Cube Also known as an OLAP cube. Data stored in a format that allows users to perform fast multi-dimensional analysis across different points of view. The data is often sourced from a data warehouse and relates to a particular business function. (See also Multi-Dimensional Analysis, OLAP, Data Mart)
Dashboard A user interface that organizes and presents information in a way that is easy to read. The name refers to the fact that it can sometimes look like the dashboard of a car. Also known as cockpits or scorecards. (See also Balanced Scorecard)
Data Mart An analytical data store focused on one particular business function designed to serve a particular community of knowledge workers. Often, the data mart is sourced from a sub set of data in a data warehouse and sometimes stored in a cube format for faster analysis. (See also data warehouse, cube)
Data Mining A process of analysing business data (often stored in a data warehouse) to uncover hidden trends and patterns and establish relationships. Data mining is normally performed by expert analysts who use specialist software tools.
Data Warehouse  A data warehouse is a database geared towards the business intelligence requirements of an organisation. The data warehouse integrates data from the various operational systems and is typically loaded from these systems at regular intervals. Data warehouses contain historical information that enables analysis of business performance over time.
Decision Support System A now superseded term for a software application that analyzes business data and presents it so that users can make business decisions more easily. (See also Business Intelligence)
Dimension Structural attribute of a cube describing the data, for example, ‘Time’, ‘Product’ or ‘Geography’. A dimension acts as an index for identifying values within a multi-dimensional array.
Drill Down/Up The act of moving from a summarised view of data into a lower level of detail or vice versa, particularly when performing multi-dimensional analysis. (See also Multi-Dimensional Analysis)
ETL - Extract, Transform and Load This is a 3 stage process delivers data from source systems into a data warehouse. First, the extract function reads data from a specified source database and extracts a desired subset of data. Next, the transform function works with the acquired data - using rules or lookup tables, or creating combinations with other data - to convert it to the desired state. Finally, the load function is used to write the resulting data (either all of the subset or just the changes) to a target database. The term is also used to describe Software tools that automate all or some of this process.
Executive Information System (EIS) A software application that presents high level information about the performance of the organisation to senior executives and managers. EIS systems were the precursor to modern business intelligence systems. (See also Dashboard, Balanced Scorecard)
Extranet An extranet is a software application that delivers information from within an organisation to a defined group of users outside of that organisation, typically customers, suppliers or business partners. For example, a telephone company may deliver billing information to it’s customers over the web via an extranet.
Hierarchy Dimension's members organized into parent-child relationships, for example ‘Quarter’ is a parent ‘ Month’ in the ‘Time’ dimension.
KPI Key performance indicator.
MOLAP Multidimensional OLAP.
Multi-Dimensional Analysis A technique for more easily visualising and analysing business metrics across different points of view. For example, a user may request that revenue data be analyzed to display all products sold in Nottingham in the month of July, then compare revenue figures with those for the same products in September, and then see a comparison of sales in Derby in the same time period. (See also Cube, OLAP)
Normalised Database The process of arranging data so it is held at its lowest level, generally removing redundant attributes, keys, and relationships.
Operational Data Store (ODS) A type of database that replicates data from operational systems and is updated at or near to the frequency of the operational systems. The ODS is then used for querying by users. An ODS is often an interim stage before implementing a data warehouse.
Oranz Oranz is a specialist consultancy company that specialises in providing organisations with advice and implementation services in the specific domain of business intelligence and data warehousing.
OLAP On-line analytical processing. OLAP is defined as providing fast access to shared multi-dimensional data. OLAP is a term used to generically refer to software and applications that provide users with the ability to store and access data in multi-dimensional cubes. (See also Multi-Dimensional Analysis and Cubes.)
OLTP Online transaction processing.
Query Tool A software tool that allows end users to access information stored in a database. Many modern query tools have extensive analytical and reporting capabilities. Many modern business intelligence tools have combined Query, Reporting and OLAP capabilities.
Portal Entry point for users to information via the worldwide web. A specific form of portal, the business intelligence portal (BIP) is used to provide a secured entry point to business intelligence resources, such as reports, analysis tools and other related documents.
RDBMS Relational database management system. The most popular architecture for storing data in a database. Most data warehouses are stored on an RDBMS. (See also SQL)
Reporting Tool A software tool that allows end users to build professional business reports based on data in a database. These reports can then be scheduled to be run automatically at particular times or based on business rules and distributed a group of end consumers who are interested in the information.
ROLAP Relational OLAP.
Semantic Layer. Term used by some business intelligence vendors that refers to a software layer that insulates end users from the complexities of a database structure and presents them with easy to understand business terms from which they can build database queries.
Slice and Dice Term used in the context of multi-dimensional analysis to describe the examination of business metrics from different perspectives. (See also Multi-Dimensional Analysis, OLAP)
SQL Structure Query Language. An industry standard software language designed as a protocol for accessing data in relational databases. (See also RDBMS)
Snowflake Schema A set of relational tables comprising of central fact tables each surrounded by normalized dimensions.
Star Schema A set of relational tables comprising of central fact tables each surrounded by de-normalized dimensions.
VLDB Very large database, typically anything over 100 gigabytes in size although definitions vary.