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The Time Dimension in the SAP Data Warehouse Cloud

With Data Warehouse Cloud version 2020.14, SAP has enabled the integration of time dimensions.

Why is the time dimension so important?

Previously, many aggregation levels of a date column were required in the data to be loaded for SAP Data Warehouse Cloud, e.g. for a separate “Quarter” or “Year” column when multiple levels of time aggregation were required in the story. Some of us are used to SAP BW, where the single date field can be used not only for the corresponding date field in the target object but also for other date fields such as quarter and year. This automation is now also possible in the SAP Data Warehouse Cloud. With only one date field, you can also filter to other date levels in the story when making use of the new time dimension. It automatically redirects the “day” information to the year, quarter and month, and also offers predefined levels of time hierarchies that can be selected in story mode.

Access to the time dimension

To take advantage of the convenience of automatically generated timelines, you must first add the timetables and their dimensions. This setting is done at the space level and not for the whole DWC.
How do you activate the timetables and dimensions? In the space environment, there is a “Time Data” file.
Clicking on the “Create Time Tables and Dimensions” button opens a dialogue box which objects the DWC creates:
  • Time table (contains the time data)
  • Time dimensions (year, quarter, month, day)
  • Translation tables (en, de, fr, es)
Here it is possible to change the business name and the time range according to your preferences. However, the technical names and the calendar type are predefined and cannot be changed. By clicking on “Create” they can be found in the Data Builder from now on.
Clicking on a dimension view in the Data Builder opens its architecture.
You can see the SQL statement and other configurations that SAP uses to deliver its time dimensions. In addition, the Day and Month dimensions have predefined hierarchies. To view them, click on the staircase icon.
The time tables and dimensions are now generated and can be integrated into the model. To do this, go to an existing analytical data set or upload new data to the DWC.
In my case, I started from scratch and uploaded a CSV file via Data Builder. The file contains a column called “Day”, which was already recognized in the DWC with the correct data type “Date”. You have to make sure that the date column is of date data type and not of string type. Otherwise, it will not work.
After the table has been loaded into the DWC via Deploy, a new view is created in the Data Builder. The table just loaded can be added to the canvas via drag & drop. If you now click on the view, you can associate the appropriate time dimension in the settings. I took the dimension Day because my dataset had a date column.
A new view opens. Here the DWC wants to know which column of the table should be associated with the new time dimension. Using drag & drop, the “Day” column can be associated with the “Date” dimension. All necessary settings in the model are now done, so you can continue with the story. Again, I would like to mention that the data type should be “Date”.
If you want to extend a model that comes from BW via aDSO, it may be that the date object was recognized as a string in the DWC.
For this case, a calculated column must be added first, which converts the data type string into a date data type (current workaround). With a click on the remote table, you add a calculated column. It should contain the formula ” TO_DATE(,’YYYYMMDD’) “, which provides for the data type conversion string to date.
Now there is a new column with the correct data type. From here you can add the association to the time dimension, as already described above.
Attention: The association to the time dimension must be done on the level of the analytic dataset – not on the level of the input view of the table. Therefore, in my example, I have changed the view to an analytical dataset.

Story building

The following default settings must be made in order to use the data model with the time dimension in the Storymodeler.
  1. The view is an analytical data set.
  2. The “Allow Consumption” button is active.
  3. The model must be uploaded via Deploy.
You create a new story and use the just extended data model as a database. I chose a chart, added any metric in the design panel and dragged my date object “Day” into it under Dimensions.
If you move the mouse over the date dimension, you will see that a hierarchy is now available. By clicking on the stair symbol and then on “Set Hierarchy…” you can select the desired hierarchy. The hierarchies available for selection are the predefined hierarchies in the time dimension Day shown in the input.
Depending on which hierarchy setting you have chosen, e.g. “Year, Quarter, Month, Day”, the hierarchy levels are affected.
I used the hierarchy “Year, Quarter, Month, Day”. With each additional level, the data becomes finer and details can be explored, as demonstrated in the following screenshot.

Arrange now your Expert Call. We are looking forward to your message.

Martin Hesse

Senior Consultant SAP BW
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