Matillion BI Key Concepts – The Glossary

  • Matillion
  • January 21, 2013

The Matillion BI Glossary is the “dictionary” of business data available for you to use Matillion BI. Fields in the Glossary can be added to reports and analyses in a simple drag-and-drop manner.

The Glossary is great because it means you don’t need to know technical field names, where data is held or how to join complicated tables together.  Instead, you just choose sensibly named fields with useful tooltips from the Glossary, then get on with your reporting and analysis.

As part of every implementation, we carefully identify what fields your business needs in its Glossary i.e. what business information you need to be able report and analyse.  We then find this data in your underlying systems, integrate it into Matillion BI and you access it using the Glossary.

We carefully tailor the Glossary to make sure the terms in it match the terms you are already using in your business.  So if you call a Product a ‘Product’, then you’ll see it called ‘Product’ in your Glossary.  But if you call it an ‘Item’, or a ‘Part’, or an ‘SKU’, then that’s what it will be called.

So what does the Glossary look like?

The Glossary is organised into functional areas (e.g. Sales, Purchasing), then transaction types or “Facts” (e.g. Sales Invoice, Sales Order, Sales Delivery) then fields, measures and Dimensions.

It looks like this:


In this screenshot we can see the Sales Order fact (part of Matillion’s ‘Sales Analysis’ module).  Under the title, ‘Sales – Sales Orders’ we can see the various measures and fields, available for us to add to our report or analysis.

There’s some basic stuff like ‘Code’ and ‘Line Number’.  There’re also some measures, like ‘Net Value’, ‘Quantity’ and ‘Gross Margin’.

There are some extra folders of information available inside the ‘Sales Order’ fact, called Dimensions.  In this example we can see ‘Division’, ‘Date Received’, ‘Customer’, ‘Product’, ‘Sales Person’ and ‘Desired Date’.  Each Dimension contains all of the information you might want to group, filter or drill-down by in your report.

Every entry in the Glossary comes with a tool-tip which explains what the information inside means and how it was calculated.  We feel this is really important as it means the user always knows what they are analysing or reporting.  Where we can, we’ll put examples of your business data into these tool tips e.g. “Product Name e.g. Acme Widget 123 Blue X-Large”


When we click into any of the Dimensions, we find listed  all the information Matillion BI holds about that Dimension, available for us to use in our report.

For instance, if we click into the ‘Product’ dimension in this example, we find we have access to the ‘Product Name’ but also the ‘Product Group’, ‘Category’, ‘Colour’, ‘Brand’ and ‘Unit of Measure’.


It’s the same in each of the other Dimension folders.  ‘Customer’, for example, will have the customer’s ‘Name’ and ‘Account Code’, but also perhaps their ‘Market Sector’, the ‘Town/City/Country’ they’re located in and also their ‘Credit Limit’.  Date will have the ‘Date’ of the Sales Order, but also the ‘Year’, ‘Quarter’, ‘Month’ and ‘Week’ that date was in (you can read more about the Date dimension in a future blog post).

The benefit to all this?

If you want to know,

Gross Margin generated by sales of Product Group “Widgets” to customers in sector “Retailers”, broken down by Sales Person and compared to the same week last year

…using the Glossary, you can find this out in a couple of clicks, simply by choosing these fields and adding them to your report.

Want to compare the average payment days of “Premier” customers with “Standard” customers?  Or spot a customer who used to pay quickly and now pays slowly? Same deal… select the appropriate fields from the Glossary, drag them into your report, analysis or dashboard and a within a couple of clicks you have the information you need.

So how do you know what fields you need in your Glossary?

Well, to save us both scratching our heads for weeks, we do two things:

1)      We turn up with the box half full.

  • We’ll bring to the table, for each Fact/Dimension you’ll be using, a list of 30-50 suggested fields we think you’ll likely want, based on your industry and company type.
  • You’ll want to keep some of these suggested fields just as they are; you’ll want to turn some off totally as they won’t be relevant to you; some, you’ll want to keep but rename or tweak slightly.  That’s all fine – we’ll customise the Glossary for you to match your requirements tightly.
  • On top of this there will be some fields you’ll want, which we’ve never heard of before.  Maybe you want to track sales by the colour of your customer’s hair.  Well that’s weird – and we haven’t got that field in our standard list – but it’s no problem.  We’ll simply add it into the Glossary for you.
  • You end up with all the fields you need, named with the names you’re used to and none of the fields you don’t need.

2)      Now no-one is perfect, not even us,  so it’s likely that whatever list of fields we configure into the Glossary for you at setup time, is missing one or two key things that we didn’t together think of.  Again, this is no problem.

  • You can have your Glossary updated at any time.  Tell us that you’d like to start tracking sales by colour of customer’s hair, tell us where the data is in your underlying systems (or at least where in general we should look for it) and tell us what you’d like the field to be called in the Glossary.
  • We’ll go away, find the data, integrate it into your Data Warehouse and add it to the Glossary.  Presto, the next day, you’ll drill into your Customer dimension and find a field called ‘Hair Colour’.
  • Doing this is no extra charge, it’s part of the Matillion BI service, so you can do it as many times as you like as your requirements change and expand.

So in summary, the Glossary contains all the terms and information you need to do easy, powerful reporting and business analysis, without having to worry about where the data came from.

Here it is in use, creating an analysis of top selling products:


You can learn more about the key concepts of Matillion BI, such as: Reporting, Analysis, Dashboards, Report Scheduling/Scheduled Reports, Mobile Access, Microsoft Excel Integration, the Matillion Data Warehouse, ETL and the Matillion Data Accelerator, in other blog posts in this series.