Timeline Dimensions and Perspectives

Business Intelligence (BI) reporting is fundamentally tied to a complicated definition of multiple overlapping timeline dimensions. The time on your watch, phone, computer or sun dial is as simple as it gets but the complexity occurs when you start to break it up according to different perspectives.

Timeline Dimensions

The presentation, consumption and comprehension of data in a BI Report needs to be made as simple as possible. This is evident in the reporting requirements in the design of the variant popup screen and navigation block. While the data can be presented through many different types of timelines (perspectives) it is usually aligned to only one or two of them.

For Example: Calendar (0CALDAY) and Fiscal Period (0FISCPER) time characteristics.

When you look at the implementation of time dimensions within the SAP Netweaver Business Warehouse environment; it becomes clear that there are a few very distinct perspectives of time:

  • Calendar time dimension;
  • Fiscal time dimension(s);
  • Factory time dimension(s);
  • Payroll time dimension(s).

Each type of time dimension provides a specialised perspective of the time line that are utilised in specific workflows within the SAP suite of products. The name identifies what type of time line that time dimension is specifically trying to align itself too.

The Calendar Time Dimension is generic and used by everyone inside and outside of the enterprise.

The Fiscal Time Dimension is aligned to the enterprises accounting business processes.

The Factory Time Dimension is aligned to the enterprises goods and services business practices.

The Payroll Time Dimension is aligned to the enterprises human resource business practices.

Each perspective requires some distinct differences and complexity to be able to serve the needs of the business process that it belongs to. This can be identified by the functional complexity required to create and consume the time line data when it is combined with the posted transaction data:

  • Point in time versus intervals of time;
  • Granularity of time;
  • Hierarchies of time granularities;
  • Time zones of the timelines;
  • Variations of the entire timeline;
  • Compounding with a timeline variant;
  • Ability to overlap and compare timelines.

The Calendar time dimension is a generic time line where the master data values are aligned to the Gregorian calendar; 7 days in a week, 52 or 53 weeks a year, 365’ish days in a year and allowing for leap years. There is normally only one instance of the Calendar dimension available in SAP Netweaver environments.

The Fiscal time dimension is configured to align with the corporate enterprise accounting policies. It uses a more generic term called ‘Fiscal Period’ to identify the minimum time unit. The most common Fiscal Period implementations are aligned to roughly a calendar week or calendar month. The definition of the Fiscal Year is commonly aligned to the government tax collection agency of the country where the fiscal transaction occurred.

The Fiscal time dimension is clearly a little more complicated than the Calendar time dimension. The Fiscal time dimension is configured according to the corporate enterprise accounting policies for each country that it trades in. This implies the need for separate and unique Fiscal time lines according to the complexities it has to deal with:

  • Fiscal Period: The minimum time period (week, month, etc);
  • Fiscal Year: The alignment of annual activities (Jan-Dec, Apr-Mar, Jul-Jun, etc);
  • Fiscal Variant: The logical separator identifying different Fiscal time lines.

The Factory time dimension is aligned to the operational needs of running a warehouse for the enterprise. There are usually many factory variants created that enable many different perspectives of a time line; one for each location. This enables the individual factory calendars to be fine-tuned according to operational needs. Consider the implications of state specific public holidays like the Australian Labour Day.

A Factory Calendar is also very useful when utilised in job scheduling. It controls the initial decision to execute a report (or not) and aligns very nicely to a specific user community. This works well when sending Exception Health Check reports to a small reporting user group who are the only ones that care about that very specialised report.

The Payroll time dimension is configured to align with the corporate enterprise payroll policies. There are usually only a few variants created to provide a limited number of perspectives of the time line. Each one will align to a regular payment schedule; weekly, fortnightly, monthly and annual are the most common.

In larger enterprises, new Payroll Calendar Variants will be created to handle the different legal demands of different countries. Variations arise due to fiscal calendar alignment, frequency of payments, state specific tax calculations and statutory deadlines for enterprise reporting.

How comprehensive is your implementation of the multiple timeline dimensions in the DataModel?

Would adding a new perspective of time to an existing DataSet open up a whole new capability of cross-user community reporting?