The objective of multi-dimensional analysis is for end users to gain insight into the meaning contained in databases. The multi-dimensional approach to analysis aligns the data content with the analyst's mental model, hence reducing confusion and lowering the incidence of erroneous interpretations. It also eases navigating the database, screening for a particular subset of data, asking for the data in a particular orientation and defining analytical calculations. Furthermore, because the data is physically stored in a multi- dimensional structure, the speed of these operations is many times faster and more consistent than is possible in other database structures. This combination of simplicity and speed is one of the key benefits of multi-dimensional analysis.
from OLAP Glossary, 1995