How Does OLAP on the Cloud Enable Instant Data Adjustments

OLAP on the cloud

OLAP on the cloud is enabling companies to facilitate seamless data adjustments in a world where dynamic financial planning and agility is a must.

WeWork went from being a hot new startup with a valuation of $47B in 2019 to filing for bankruptcy in 2023. Last year also saw SVP Financial, the parent company of Silicon Valley Bank, go bust despite being one of the largest asset-holding companies. These bellwether events are signals of the tumultuous times in which businesses are required to operate today.  

Quick adaptability in the face of unpredictability is the only key to survival. Companies have no choice but to be ever agile, active and resilient to uncertainties and challenges. The importance of dynamic financial planning and risk management in step with market, economic and competitive trends is critical.  

The New Normal in FP&A 

The traditional approach of rigid, long-term financial plans is no longer sufficient. Instead, enterprises are required to embrace a more responsive and flexible financial strategy that can swiftly adjust to evolving consumer behavior, global events and economics. A readiness to make adjustments to financial plans is vital.  

An adaptable planning process accommodates diverse risk and strategy scenarios. This approach is characterized by its multidimensional nature, reliance on drivers, responsiveness to events and emphasis on activities. Leveraging advanced analytics, it breaks the shackles of rigid accounting periods, transforming into a continuous FP&A practice that fosters a culture of nimbleness.   

Dynamic Financial Planning 

When market conditions, business strategies and unforeseen events constantly impact financial data, instant data adjustment is the need of the hour. FP&A teams are mandated to incorporate new information, adapt assumptions and assess the immediate impact on financial outcomes. It is not always about weathering the storm, but also about seizing the opportunities that arise amidst the chaos. 

This agility is essential for making informed decisions that reflect the current business realities. Delays in data adjustments can lead to outdated insights, compromising the effectiveness of financial planning. Instead, instant adjustments empower FP&A professionals to respond promptly to emerging trends, capitalize on opportunities and navigate challenges with confidence. The use of rolling forecasts, scenario planning, activity-based budgeting and planning are some of the components of dynamic financial planning. 

Modern OLAP and Cloud as Affiliates  

In the new normal of continuous FP&A, online analytical processing (OLAP) and cloud computing have emerged as key facilitators that enable quick and seamless data adjustments. OLAP, with its multidimensional analysis capabilities, provides professionals the ability to swiftly explore financial data from various perspectives. It allows for nuanced insights into market trends, business strategies and unforeseen events. 

Paired with the scalability and on-demand resources offered by cloud computing, OLAP in the cloud becomes a potent powerhouse for seamless data storage, processing and accessibility. When the speed of decision-making directly correlates with competitiveness, the synergy of OLAP and cloud computing becomes a force multiplier. 

Challenges with Traditional FP&A Systems 

Traditional FP&A are based on legacy OLAP systems designed to rely on batch processing for updates, leading to delays in incorporating real-time changes into analytical models. Also, the intricate nature of last-generation OLAP cube structures often require complex time-consuming adjustments of data hierarchies to implement changes.  

Scalability emerges as another issue in traditional OLAP systems, particularly as modern datasets have grown exponentially in size. Adjusting large volumes of data strains system resources, resulting in performance bottlenecks and sluggish response. Moreover, limited data integration capabilities constrain consolidation of information from diverse sources, impeding the system’s ability to seamlessly correlate data. In addition, maintaining data consistency across the entire OLAP cube after making adjustments is a critical challenge. Changes made in one part of the cube may not propagate effectively, leading to discrepancies in analytical results.  

The lack of real-time updates and user-friendly interfaces significantly impacts the system’s adaptability to modern business environments. This limitation inhibits end-users from making ad-hoc adjustments swiftly, hindering overall operational efficiency.  

Advantages of Modern OLAP in the Cloud 

Addressing these traditional challenges necessitates the adoption of modern OLAP technologies that prioritize real-time processing, enhanced scalability and improved user accessibility. While last-gen systems were on-prem, modern systems leverage the advantages of cloud or hybrid deployment. They harness the capabilities of a flexible computing infrastructure, offering a more agile and cost-effective approach to analytical processing. 

Cost Efficiency and Flexibility

Cloud-based OLAP eliminates the need for extensive investments in physical hardware, maintenance and operational overheads associated with on-premises solutions. Organizations can adopt a pay-as-you-go model, paying only for the resources consumed. This flexibility allows businesses to scale up or down based on their needs, optimizing resource utilization and reducing overall costs. 

Elastic Scalability

Leveraging the cloud’s inherent elastic scalability, these solutions enable organizations to dynamically adjust computing resources based on demand. This proves particularly crucial in handling large datasets and accommodating variations in analytical workloads. Whether facing a sudden surge in data processing requirements, or requiring additional storage, cloud-based OLAP solutions seamlessly scale to meet these demands ensuring consistent performance. 

Universal Semantic Layer (USL) for Data Consistency

Modern OLAP solutions on the cloud introduce a remarkable advantage with use of a universal semantic layer (USL). USL serves as a consistent, standardized view of data across an organization, fostering shared understanding and reducing the risk of disparate interpretations. It effortlessly addresses the need for a single source of truth and mitigates the complexity associated with intricate hierarchies.  

The USL acts as a unifying force, consolidating diverse data sources and complex hierarchies into a coherent structure that is accessible to all stakeholders. By centralizing the semantic layer on the cloud, organizations establish a common vocabulary and structure for analytical processes, ensuring data consistency and accuracy. 

Reducing the overall complexity of intricate hierarchies and simplified hierarchical management  is another significant benefit. Utilizing USL, OLAP on cloud simplifies the management and adjustment of hierarchies. This simplification enhances user experience and facilitates wider adoption of analytics across the organization. 

A USL also streamlines data governance by enabling administrators to manage metadata, security and access controls in a centralized manner. This centralized governance contributes to data quality and integrity which are essential components for establishing a single source of truth. Cloud-based OLAP solutions often come equipped with built-in security features and compliance measures that address concerns about data protection and regulatory requirements. 

See also: Real-time OLAP Databases and Streaming Databases

Use-Cases of Augmented FP&A  

By leveraging OLAP in the cloud, FP&A teams gain the ability to make instant data adjustments. This ensures that financial models and forecasts reflect the most up-to-date information. Here are some practical examples that illustrate how this capability enhances FP&A: 

  • Real-Time Revenue Adjustments: When an unexpected surge in sales occurs due to a new product launch, FP&A team can instantly adjust revenue forecasts, incorporating actual sales data in real-time. This adjustment reflects in revenue projections immediately and facilitates optimal resource allocation.  
  • Scenario Analysis for Market Changes: With rapid shifts in market conditions, such as currency fluctuations or changes in interest rates, FP&A teams can perform instant scenario analysis by adjusting relevant variables in real-time. This enables quick assessment of financial implications and adjustments to strategies to mitigate potential risks. 
  • Merger and Acquisition Adjustments: A sudden acquisition or divestiture impacts financial structures. OLAP on the cloud allows for immediate adjustments to financial models, incorporating the new business entity or divested operations. FP&A teams can assess the impact on overall financial performance and provide timely insights to stakeholders. 
  • Cost Variations: When a sudden increase in raw material prices impacts production costs, it requires quick action from FP&A team. Using OLAP on the cloud, instantly adjusting cost data in the Profit and Loss statement allows organizations to accurately assess the impact on gross margin and operating profit. This agility is essential for proactive cost management strategies. 
  • Operating Expenses Optimization: One of the KRAs for FP&A teams is to identify opportunities to optimize operating expenses without compromising performance. By quickly adjusting expense data, they can assess the impact on net profit and identify areas for cost optimization.  This supports agile decision-making to maintain a healthy bottom line. 

Redefining FP&A for Business Agility 

Today’s enterprises must continually adapt to stay competitive, pre-empting risks with precision and speed, and be prepared to seize opportunities as they emerge. Considering the dynamics of the rapidly shifting markets, FP&A practices across organizations are going through a makeover. At the core of this transformation lies the imperative of business agility. Instant data adjustments, scenario-based analytics and real-time risk adjustments are the cornerstones of the new approach to financial analytics. 

A cloud-based OLAP model equips FP&A professionals with the right tools to swiftly adapt to market changes and manage its impact on business operations. It is developing as the new paradigm reshaping decision-making for organizations. OLAP and cloud architecture facilitate a dynamic and constantly updated perspective. This approach fosters agility, allowing businesses to manage uncertainty and respond promptly to shifts in market conditions. 

Real-time adjustments facilitated by cloud-based OLAP empower FP&A teams to promptly respond to emerging information, refine financial models and evaluate the immediate impact on forecasts. These modern solutions modernize FP&A by consistently delivering data-driven insights with actionable recommendations, positioning the organization to proactively navigate and respond to change. In an evolved business ecosystem, FP&A team assumes the role of strategic advisors for stakeholders, offering continuous counsel to facilitate informed decisions.  

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