As part of our ongoing exploration of how IBM® Planning Analytics can ease specific pain points for businesses, we are considering the management of structure used in regional business planning spreadsheets.

We have previously discussed consolidating structure in from ERP systems, but what happens when an organisation needs to see alternative views of the same information?

A key issue with spreadsheets comes to the fore when new items appear and the resulting change requires updates to all dependent sheets and books. Further difficulties arise when these items have associated characteristics the business needs to report on.

This concern has been managed within IBM® Planning Analytics through attributes, and now hierarchies, which allow for multiple analyses of a single data set in the same place. The whole application adapts to change by locating an alternative structure within a single dimension, negating the need to build additional cubes in order to carry out additional analysis of the data.

To contextualise this particular issue within a specific industry, we can look at construction. Contracts move through a life cycle, acquiring changing attributes as they do so. Hierarchies provide different windows through which to analyse data; ‘virtual dimensions’ are used to control reporting requirements with little ongoing maintenance.

Consider an organisation where cost centres and departments change periodically to report under a new regime. In this situation, hierarchies will simply hold the new structure within a virtual dimension and facilitate this alternative reporting wherever the original dimension forms part of the existing data model.

There is no limit to the number of hierarchies it is possible to assign within a model which, in effect, allows for limitless alternative analysis using this method.

Overhead is also reduced on models – increased centralisation of alternative structures removes the need for multiple cubes to hold them.

As a final point, security is often linked to structured dimensions. A dynamic system like this seamlessly assigns security when regions move, increasing automation and the reduction of errors.

We are going to explain how IBM® Planning Analytics is introducing a new style of analysis in our next post but if you have any questions in the meantime, contact us.

Simon Bradshaw

I have worked in finance and business systems development since 2001 and am an associate member of the Chartered Institute of Management Accountants. In 2016 I became a founding member of Spitfire Analytics, a consultancy specialising in IBM Planning Analytics. We are committed to building long-term relationships across all industries. I focus on my CPD through CIMA and IBM badges, ensuring I am always abreast of best practice and developments within the industry.


Spitfire have a depth of understanding not only in Cognos/TM1 technologies, but also in finance and accounting. It is this combination of expertise and their ability to get to the heart of business problems that has resulted in such confidence in their delivery and capabilities. The insight and value-add they have brought is evident.

- Peter Smith, Head of Solution Delivery, Edrington

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