Tag Archive for: excel

Regardless of whether the perception of using SmartView for large queries is good or bad, the reality is that finance and accounting users require the ability to pull large volumes of information out of Essbase.  The only limit that I am aware of in the days of the Excel Add-In was the maximum number of rows Excel would allow (assuming the Essbase application cache settings were high enough to support it).  With SmartView, there is a limit.  The limit is controllable very easily, however.  The error that users may question an administrator follows.

“Cannot perform cube view operation. OLAP error (1020011): Maximum number of rows [5000] exceeded.”

To increase the maximum number of rows a user can retrieve, or submit, edit the service.olap.dataQuery.grid.maxRows property in the essbase.properties file.  The default is 5000. While editing this property, it may be benefitial to evaluate the size if the columns (.olap.dataQuery.grid.maxColumns), which is set to 255 by default.

Once this is updated, restart the Hyperion services.

The location of the essbase.properties file is dependent on the version of Essbase installed.  Start by going to the server with APS installed.

Location for version 9.3
%HYPERION_HOME%\AnalyticProviderServices\bin directory

Location for version 11



Many people use Custom Lists in Excel – sometimes without even knowing.  If you have ever typed January into a cell and used autofill (click the dark plus sign, and drag across other cells) to create February through December, you have used Custom Lists.

Excel has a few Custom Lists setup for users when it is installed. Select the Tools / Options menu, and display the Custom Lists tab to view them.  Users can create their own Custom Lists in this dialog box by entering a list separated by commas or importing a range of cells that already includes a list.

For Essbase users who use the Hyperion Spreadsheet Add-In or SmartView, this can become a valuable tool.  Many times Essbase users will want to display a specific list of accounts, measures, products, etc.  Rather than selecting these from the member selection, or typing them, Custom Lists can be created and used to reduce the effort.

Let’s assume a user is responsible for a subset of the existing products and those products are only sold in a few of the markets.  The user may spend a lot of time creating the market list every time they create a new retrieve.  If the user creates a Custom List, they can automate this selection process.  A Custom List might include the following members.

Columbus,Cincinnati,Los Angeles,Tempe,Dallas,Austin,Seattle,Denver,Nashville

All the user has to do now is type Columbus in the first cell and use the autofill to list the rest of the markets.  This function can save those who frequently create add hoc reports a lot of time.

Custom Lists can be created for just about anything, are easy and quick to create, and are useful in a variety of situations.  www.In2Hyperion.com is not just for those in a technical capacity.  User related ideas, such as using Custom Lists, will become more prevalent on this site.  Sign up for our newsletter and receive notifications when more Excel tips for Essbase users become available.


Users of Essbase have some control over the performance of a database and how responsive it is when retrieving data.  With a basic understanding of how Essbase stores data, users can optimize performance by changing the order of the dimensions and members in a report.

It might be helpful to read our article on sparse and dense dimensions.  Here is a brief overview:

An Essbase database is comprised of thousands, if not millions or billions, of data blocks.  Each block of data, and its size, is defined by the dense dimensions in the Essbase outline.  The volume of blocks is dictated by the unique combinations of sparse dimension members.  If Time and Accounts are dense, each block created would hold all the months for every account.  If Organization and Product are sparse dimensions, there would be a block for each unique combination of Organization and Product.  A block would exist for Center 10 / Product A, as well as Total Organization / Total Product.  If the outline has 20 members in Organization and 15 members in Products, the database could have up to 300 independent blocks.

If a report is written to show an entire income statement for all 12 months for Total Product and Total Organization, how many blocks would have to be queried?  Remember, there is a block for each unique member combination of Organization and Product.  The answer is one, because there is a block for Total Organization/Total Product that includes every account and every member in the time dimension.

How many blocks would be accessed if a report pulled Total Sales (a member in the Accounts dimension) in January for every product?  Since the Product dimension is sparse and there are 15 products, 15 blocks would have to be opened to return the results.

Here is where your understanding of what sparse and dense represents will help you improve your reports.  Opening a data block, reading the contents, and closing it, is similar to opening, reading, and closing a spreadsheet.  It is much faster to open one spreadsheet, or block, than 15 spreadsheets.  So, if the database retrieves are written in such a way to minimize the number of blocks that need to be accessed, or the order in which they are accessed, performance can improve.

I will agree that if data for all 15 products is needed for the report, all 15 blocks have to be opened.  There is no way around that.  That said, often times users will build one worksheet for income statement and one worksheet for balance sheet.  This means that the report is making two passes on the same blocks.  In theory, it takes twice as long to open/read/close a data block 2 times than it does once.  It is faster to have the income statement and the balance sheet accounts in one worksheet, which only makes one pass on the required blocks.  One worksheet for Income Statement and one for Balance Sheet can be created with cell references to the worksheet that has the retrieved data, if 2 separate reports are required.

I frequently see another example of a report requiring multiple passes to the same data block.  Using our example dimensions above, assume product information is required in a report for multiple accounts.

    Jan Feb Mar
Income Product A      
Income Product B      
Income Product C      
Income Product D      
Expense Product A      
Expense Product B      
Expense Product C      
Expense Product D      

The Essbase retrieve above would start from the top of the spreadsheet and move down the rows to retrieve the data from Essbase.  This cycle would open the Product A block, then B, C, and D, and retrieve the associated income for each.  It would then have to reopen the same 4 blocks to access expenses.

The following example, again going from top to bottom, would access both income and expense while the block is open.  The way this retrieve is setup, it eliminates the need to access the same block multiple times, yet still pulls the required information.

    Jan Feb Mar
Income Product A      
Expense Product A      
Income Product B      
Expense Product B      
Income Product C      
Expense Product C      
Income Product D      
Expense Product D      

These examples are very small.  In a real world example, a report of this size would not produce significant variances in the time it takes to retrieve them.  Users often have spreadsheets that are hundreds of rows long and take minutes to retrieve.  In these situations, eliminating the need to access the same block multiple times can produce notable improvements in the time it takes to retrieve data from Essbase.

With a basic understanding of how your database is setup, users of Essbase can help themselves with some simple changes to the format of the retrieve worksheet.  If access to the dimension properties in your database is unavailable, ask your system administrator to supply them for you.



I started my career as an accountant and never had any aspirations of doing the same thing all day, every day.  While I struggled through what I considered monotonous job functions, I developed a knack for finding ways to automate my job.  As a result, I didn’t have to do repetitive tasks and I had more time to learn the business. Don’t get me wrong, accountants possess a unique set of skills and talent that I respect trumendously. It is a critical function of any business.  So, kudos to you accountants!

When I get involved with building new applications with Hyperion, or updating existing models, it pains me to see accounting, finance, and the staff who support Hyperion continue to perform repetitive tasks that dominate their time.  It can drive talented people to look for employment elsewhere.  It inflates salaries and jeopardizes credibility with an increase in human error. It also deteriorates the quality of business analysis, introducing a greater risk of poor decisions.  Inflated expenses and poor management decisions can be catastrophic to any business.

Automation in accounting and finance areas is critical to productivity.  Being able to support the constant push from management to become better and faster with less resources is always challenging.  If your Hyperion environment is supported outside of finance, IT areas are under just as much scrutiny.  How much of your time, or staff, is spent generating reports?  How much more time could be spent helping analyze the business and adding value to management decisions?  From an IT prospective, how much of your time is spent supporting the environment and responding to requests where answers could be automatically generated?  If 20% of your reparative tasks were eliminated, how much more effective you would you be?  How much more experience would you gain?  How much more marketable would you be both internally and externally?

Many of the possibilities for automation are never discussed.  Most people don’t even realize how much time they spend performing repetitive tasks that could be automated. Some think it would be impossible to automate and others think it would be too expensive.  The examples below were both accomplished in a matter of weeks.  The investment had a positive return within months.  The non-monitory gain was felt immediately.

Don’t think of why it can’t be done.  Think of a solution without constraints and ask, “How can we get there?”  With the proper guidance and background, massive improvements can be accomplished with minimal effort.

To spark some thought, think about these situations.

Monitoring Essbase jobs and keeping users informed of system status

Are you responsible for managing all the jobs that run on Essbase server(s) and are constantly asked if something has completed, or when something will complete, by your users?  Some organizations have a person dedicated to managing this information flow.

I implemented a solution at a large financial institution to conquer this problem.  The result was a solution that required zero effort to maintain and provided a summary of over 50 processes in one web page.  It gave the status of the process, when it last executed, if there were any errors, and a link to the log and error files if they were required.  Access was granted to all the Essbase administrators.  Another page was available for all users that displayed the status of the application, when it was last loaded, when it was last calculated, and several other useful sources of information.

The days of searching through folders on multiple servers are now long gone for system administrators.  Users are more informed and support tickets diminished substantially.  The estimated time savings was 4-6 hours per day.

This solution was built using existing technologies, limited to Maxl, Windows scripting, ASP.NET, and access to an IIS Server to host the website.  It was 100% maintenance free and built dynamically enough so that new applications could be added and applications could be renamed or deleted.  All this is possible without changing any code or processes.

Distribution of reports

A large international organization distributed over 150 reporting templates to an equal amount of people in the US and abroad.  These templates were distributed daily through the monthly close of business.  The daily adjustment cycle finished updating the reporting Essbase application around 2 AM.  When a finance staff member arrived around 8 AM, the work began.  The template was refreshed and saved for each of the 150 business entities.  Emails were then sent to each of the 150 people with their respective report.  This process took about 6 hours every day it was performed.

Using existing technology, a process was created to traverse through a spreadsheet that had 2 columns, which was maintained by finance.  The first was the business unit, followed by the email the report was to be sent to.  Using the Essbase toolkit and Excel, a process was initiated as soon as the database was updated that opened a spreadsheet that included the template, changed the business unit, refreshed the template, saved it, and emailed to the intended recipient.  This process took less than 1 hour and all the reports were distributed before 4 AM.  Customers received their reports earlier (those in Asia a day early), no human errors were made, and the finance staff now had an additional 6 hours to add value.