Chen Cuello
MAY 4, 2023
5 min read
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A dimensional data model is a conceptual modeling technique that organizes data into a structure optimized for querying and analyzing data, combining “Facts” and “Dimension” tables. The Dimensional Modeling (DM) concept was created and developed by Ralph Kimball. Since then, it has grown into a widely used data model for data warehouses, business intelligence systems, and other decision support systems.

The dimensional data model aims to improve data retrieval, create a data model that is easy to understand, and provide a clear and concise representation of the data. Dimensional Modeling is a system of structuring data with an optimized approach method to store it in a dimensional modeling data warehouse. In this blog post, you will learn the types, benefits, and processes of Dimensional Modeling.

Important Characteristics of Dimensional Data Modeling 

  • Simple to Understand and Navigate: The dimensional data models use Facts and Dimensions. By organizing data this way, dimensional data models provide a clear and concise representation, making it easier for business users to understand, analyze, interpret, and navigate through.
  • Accelerate and Optimize Performance: A dimensional data model is typically optimized for query dimensional modeling performance, as queries can be written to retrieve specific subsets of the data quickly and efficiently. This makes the summary of recorded data logically less redundant and the utilization of memory and CPU more efficient.
  • Focus on businesses: Dimensional data models focus on business dimensions and facts, unlike traditional data modeling, which focuses on the data itself. This means that dimensional modeling is designed to support the decision-making process rather than just storing and retrieving data.

Key Elements of Dimensional Data Modeling

Dimensional data modeling involves several key elements that work together to create an effective dimensional data model. These elements include Dimensions, Facts, Attributes/Measures, Fact Tables, and Dimension Tables.


Dimensions are the descriptive characteristics of the data in Dimensional Modeling. They provide context to the facts and help organize the data into a meaningful structure. For example, a time dimension might include information about years, months, weeks, and days, or A product dimension might include information about product categories, brands, and models.


Facts are a collection of measurements, metrics, or other data points representing the analyzed business metrics. Examples of facts include sales, revenue, profit, and quantity sold.


Attributes/measures provide additional information about the Dimensional Modeling data dimensions, and they may be of a descriptive or numeric character. For example, a product dimension might include attributes like product name, description, and manufacturer.

Fact Tables

Fact Tables are the principal tables of the dimensional data model and contain the measures that are in for analysis. Fact Tables relate to the Dimension Tables with a method known as foreign keys. Fact Tables are usually very large and contain a huge amount of rows of data and fewer columns. The Facts Table might include the following:

  • The Measurements/Facts
  • Foreign key to relate to the Dimension Table

Dimension Tables

Dimension Tables store the business’s data dimensions and give context for the Facts in Dimensional Modeling. Dimension Tables provide descriptive information about the data, which is linked to the Facts Table. They are typically optimized tables and are presented with many long columns but fewer rows. For example:

  • Contact or product information that can be sorted by name, address, and email dimension, or product type, code, brand, color, etc.

Types of Dimensions in Dimensional Data Modeling

Dimensional Modeling is an important aspect of dimensional modeling data warehouse and business intelligence practices. It involves creating a conceptual representation of the data that is used to analyze and make informed business decisions. One of the key elements of Dimensional Modeling is the dimensions itself. Below, we will explore the different types of dimensions in the dimensional data models.

Conformed Dimension

A conformed dimension is a dimension that is shared by multiple Facts in the data warehouse. The definition and structure of the conformed dimension need to be consistent across all the fact tables that use it, so the facts can be categorized across the Dimensional Modeling. This ensures that the data is accurate and can be easily compared across different fact tables.

Outrigger Dimension

Outriggers are dimension tables that are shared across more than one dimension in a dimensional data model. An outrigger table is generally included in a hierarchy, although it is not directly linked to the Fact Table.

Shrunken Dimension

It is a subset of a larger dimension in dimensional modeling. It contains only a subset of the attributes of the larger dimension and is used in a specific context. An example of a shrunken dimension could be a product dimension containing only the attributes relevant to a specific store location.

Role-Playing Dimension

This dimension can be used in multiple ways within the same table and other dimensional data model tables as well. It is essentially the same dimension but is used to represent different aspects in dimensional modeling. An example of a role-playing dimension could be a date dimension that represents both the order date and the ship date in a sales fact table.

Dimension to Dimension Table

A type of table representing complex hierarchies or relationships in a star or a snowflake schema of dimensional modeling. An example of a dimension-to-dimension table could be a revenue Fact Table that is presented in a relationship between multiple dimensions, such as a product, location, and time dimension.

Junk Dimension

A dimension that contains low cardinality facts is put together into one dimension in the dimensional modeling data warehouse. It is used to reduce the number of dimensions in a fact table and to simplify the data model.

Degenerate Dimension

A degenerate dimension is derived from a Fact Table and is known as a Fact Dimension in a dimensional data model. It contains facts used for grouping or filtering the data unrelated to any other dimension.

Swappable Dimension

A dimension can be replaced with another similar dimension without affecting the dimensional modeling data warehouse. It is used to simplify the data model and to improve performance.

Step Dimension

It is used to represent a process or a sequence of events in dimensional modeling, analyze the performance of a process, and identify bottlenecks or areas of improvement. An example of a step dimension could be a table that contains the steps involved in a manufacturing process.

Process for Implementing Dimensional Data Modeling

The process for implementing dimensional data models can be separated into the following steps.

Connect the Business Process

The first step in implementing a dimensional data model is to connect the business process with the proper Dimensions and Facts. This involves understanding the key business processes that will be used to analyze and ensure that the data model reflects these processes.

Connect the Grain

The next step is to connect the grain within the dimensional modeling. This is based on determining the level of detail at which the data will be analyzed, for example choosing between frequency measurements such as daily, weekly, monthly, or yearly. The grain must be consistent across all the dimensions and fact tables in the data model.

Connect the Dimensions

Connecting the dimensions through identifying the key attributes or characteristics of the data and creating dimensions that represent these attributes and contain extensive information about the objects in question.

Connect the Facts

The following step is to identify the core measures or metrics that will be used to analyze the data and create Fact Tables that represent these measures, and that will be linked with the associated Dimensions via foreign keys.

Create the Schema

The final step of the dimensional modeling process is to create the schema, which starts with designing the structure of the data model and creating the necessary tables and relationships. The schema needs to be optimized for performance, to represent the business processes and requirements, and to align the tables of Facts and Dimensions within the database. There are two general types of Dimensional Modeling Schemas:

  • Star Schema: A simple structure Star Schema, where the Fact Table surrounds a series of Dimensions Tables.
  • Snowflake Schema: An extension of a Star Schema containing more Dimensions, split into more tables.

Advantages of Dimensional Data Modeling

Dimensional data modeling offers several advantages over traditional data modeling techniques, and some of the key benefits of dimensional data models include:

  • Simplified Data Structures
  • Easy-to-understand and analyze
  • Faster Querying
  • Improved Performance
  • Flexibility
  • Lower memory requirement
  • Faster data retrieval

Challenges in Dimensional Data Modeling

While dimensional data models offer quite a lot of advantages, they come with a few challenges too. Some of the common challenges include:

  • Data Integration: Dimensional data models require data integration from multiple sources, which can be complex and time-consuming.
  • Data Quality: Dimensional data models are only as good as the data they contain. Ensuring data quality is a critical component of building an effective dimensional data model.
  • Data Governance: Dimensional data models require a robust data governance strategy to ensure consistency, accuracy, and completeness of the data.
  • Performance Tuning: Dimensional modeling require ongoing performance tuning to optimize query performance and ensure that the dimensional modeling data warehouse operates efficiently.

Final Thoughts

Dimensional modeling is a powerful technique for designing a dimensional modeling data warehouse for business intelligence systems, and other business decision-making support systems.

Its focus on business processes and measurements with the utilization of dimensions and facts, achieving query performance optimization, and support for hierarchies and aggregates make it ideal for analyzing large amounts of data and making informed business decisions.

In addition, the wide range of different types of dimensions data models gives the opportunity and flexibility to businesses to create an effective personalized dimensional data model.


What is an example of dimensional modeling?

An example of dimensional modeling is a sales analysis dimensional modeling data warehouse that contains Fact Tables for sales transactions and dimensions for products, customers, and time. This type of model allows for the analysis of sales data across multiple dimensions, such as by product, by the customer, or by time period.

What is the purpose of dimensional data modeling?

The purpose of dimensional data modeling is to provide an efficient and effective means of analyzing and reporting on data. Dimensional data models are optimized for fast querying and analysis, allowing for quick and efficient data retrieval.

Differentiate between data modeling vs dimensional modeling

Data Modeling vs dimensional modeling main difference is that Data Modeling refers to the process of creating a conceptual representation of data structures and their relationships, while Dimensional Modeling is a specific type of data modeling that focuses on creating simplified, user-friendly structures optimized for querying and analysis. Dimensional Modeling is often used in business intelligence applications where timely insights are critical.

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