As a user of a business intelligence (BI) application that provides reporting and querying capabilities, do you ever wonder why some of your reports or queries execute in seconds while others take minutes? Waiting several minutes for a report or query to complete is frustrating for most users. Assuming that the components and technical architecture of the BI/ad hoc query environment are appropriately addressed (Components of an Optimal BI/Ad Hoc Query Environment, December 2000 and Differences Between Web and Non-Web Applications, March 2000,, the primary cause of slow performance can be the design of the report/query, the BI application or the database.

When configuring most BI applications that provide reporting and querying functionality, a reporting subject area needs to be developed and designed. Leading BI application vendors that provide these capabilities – Brio Technology, Business Objects SA and Cognos – refer to these reporting subject areas as a data model, a universe and a catalog, respectively. Reporting subject areas are typically focused on a business function or process (such as accounts payable, fixed assets, human resources or sales) and provide users with the ability to develop their own reports and queries to extract data from a database or result set. The process of designing a subject area depends on the collection of the users' functional requirements. The team that is responsible for configuring the BI application must design the subject area to satisfy the functional requirements and achieve optimal performance. In order to do this, the processing that occurs when using the BI application must be understood . For example, a user accesses a BI application and either develops a query or executes a report. The BI application dynamically generates the structured query language (SQL) statement which is then submitted to the database. The database executes the SQL statement and returns the result set to the BI application. If a report was originally executed and contained calculations and formatting, the returned result set would be further processed by the BI application. Figures 1 and 2 describe the flow of processing.

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