Sigma Worksheet: Interactive Construction of OLAP Queries

James Gale, Max Seiden, Çağatay Demiralp

A new generation of cloud data warehouses has changed the landscape of information technology. This shift brings large amounts of data and compute power closer to many users in enterprises. The ability to directly access the warehouse data, interactively analyze and explore it at scale can empower users, improving the effectiveness and efficiency of their decision making cycles as never before. However, existing tools for querying, analyzing, and exploring data in cloud warehouses are either limited in facilitating iterative ad-hoc analysis or difficult to use for the largest segment of enterprise users, who have limited time, interest, or skills for writing queries. Here we present Sigma Worksheet, a new system for interactively constructing data warehouse queries through visual direct manipulation. Sigma Worksheet enables users to perform powerful interactive ad-hoc visual data analysis without requiring programs, scripts, or SQL queries. To this end, it combines the notion of a multidimensional data cube with an expressive, spreadsheet-like query construction interface, in order to ease the generation of otherwise complex queries. The Worksheet interface borrows successful features from electronic spreadsheets to support the large segment of users familiar with that environment. We demonstrate the expressivity of Sigma Worksheet with several usage examples and report on its accessibility through user feedback we elicited since its deployment. Our user feedback suggests that Sigma Worksheet provides an easier to use and learn interface for data warehouses, improving the data analysis and exploration experience for both expert and non-expert enterprise users.

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