The term ‘online analytical processing’ (OLAP) has been applied to a range of techniques that can be used by senior managers and knowledge workers to query historical, summarised, multidimensional data. The term is used in contrast to ‘ online transactional processing’ (OLTP), where front-line staff are interacting with databases in the course of day-to-day operations. The data associated with OTLP is current, up to date and, probably, relational.

OLAP techniques provide the ability to answer more sophisticated questions than those provided by the standard reporting tools, such as ‘what if …?’ and ‘why …?’ A typical question would be ‘What will happen to our sales figures if we withdraw 200g tins of Brand X Baked Beans from our product ...

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