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Ad hoc reporting is a business intelligence practice that allows users to create dynamic reports or a one-time report as and when needed for a specific business requirement. Ad hoc reporting makes an essential part of the business along with traditional reporting. It induces data-driven decision-making, innovation, data democratization, and collaboration. The two most important aspects of this tool are Ad Hoc Reporting and Ad Hoc Analysis.
Ad hoc data analysis equips end users with the choice to seek the answers and take the actions they need to maximize business benefits. Aligning the elements of ad hoc data analysis with business goals, answers users’ queries with the right answers in the least possible time and enable businesses to thrive in dynamic business environments.
Why is an ad hoc reporting tool truly valued in BI?
A data-driven company seamlessly enjoys more benefits than any of its counterparts. There is a pool of opportunities with improved operational efficiency, better quality business intelligence, and higher profitability, ensuring growth over time. This assertion is supported by MicroStrategy’s ‘2020 Global State of Enterprise Analytics’ report, which reports that while 65% organizations were predicted to increase spend on analytics, only 7% used a self-service tool. A staggering 79% depended on IT or analysists.
The Importance of ad hoc reporting
The need of the hour is not just data analysis, it is ‘real time’ data analysis that leads to actionable insights. The large data sets owned by organizations need to be segmented, curated and analyzed to drive data-driven decisions and to tap into unexplored insights. Ad hoc reporting triggers actions beyond analysis.
Ad hoc reporting essentially empowers business users by helping them make reports without the need of writing any SQL query, paving a smoother path from static to dynamic reporting. This enables the users to answer their precise and time-sensitive business questions in real-time by quick creation of independent reports without having to wait for a detailed analysis or scheduled report.
With the advent of data visualization, it became even more effortless for business users to explore their data, question it, and produce answers/solve business challenges on a regular basis. Ad hoc analysis includes an individual or small group analyzing, visualizing, collaborating, and taking action based on the insights formulated by creating an on-spot report or drilling deeper into an existing report. Without the need for any IT personnel to make reports, ad hoc reporting gives the user the opportunity and capability to use smaller or specific datasets to create their own reports. Using it, they can derive insights as per the requirement for individual use, in case there is no solution available in the current static reports.
How are ad hoc reports different from canned and parameterized reports? What more do they offer?
Canned Reports are a set of reports which are created using a large amount of data by professional or technical analysts on a recurring basis, say weekly, monthly, or any other interval. These are high-quality reports formatted in a certain way or in structured templates. It highlights critical KPIs and ongoing metrics to various departments, crucial to their day-to-day work. As mentioned, these reports cater to a wider audience and aim to answer general business questions, therefore are static in nature. Business users cannot make any changes or modify the reports in any way. For example, these reports can be general sales, financial or operational reports.
Parametrized reports are based on a certain set of parameters, created and distributed in fixed regular intervals as well. They are like canned reports, except for one main difference. Here, the business users can modify the reports up to some extent and customize them to derive necessary insights, for example, they can filter, sort, and use a few other primary operations. For a department expert, these reports may not provide complete solutions. Instead at times, these reports can end up raising more significant and deeper questions requiring precise answers and figures.
In such instances, these sector experts can create a one-time report using ad hoc reporting. Through this report, they can answer all their specific questions pertaining to their department and essential for the sustained growth of the company. Hence, ad-hoc reporting aims to empower the large user base of BI i.e., the business users to generate insights specifically and independently. For example, each retail store can analyze its own data and each sales executive can identify gaps in its performance and take immediate actions to resolve them.
How ad hoc reporting can benefit organizations:
Which features make for a good ad hoc reporting solution?
- Ease of use: A business intelligence tool should be user-friendly, easy to understand, and intuitive to interact. As for ad-hoc reporting, the major user base consists of business users, who all are not as tech-savvy as the data analysis or IT team. Hence, they need an easy interface to perform the complicated process of data analysis. However, given that the IT team will be using the same software, the right tool will strike the balance between the needs of these two user groups.
- Real-time data analysis: Business users’ needs being real-time, and the industry’s ever-changing demands require more than a static report. The right BI tool will provide the prerequisites to create their own one-time report from scratch. For example, a refined data set to work upon, and a designated workspace to bring their ideas to life would be ideal.
- Ease of replication: The right BI solution will enable the end-users to replicate the canned and parameterized reports without having to remake them from the ground up. It will provide them with the ability to alter and modify the newly made replicated reports, helping save time and effort.
- Multi-device optimization: The ad-hoc reporting solution should not be restricted to desktops only. To reap full benefits, analytics should be accessible from anywhere. A web-based solution will provide the desired flexibility in terms of devices, locations, and more. It will also save individual setup time as the solution can simply be accessed through the web.
- High accessibility: The solution should not just be web-based but be more advanced and hands-on at every level. This includes the connection to all kinds of data sources like traditional & modern databases, web services, streaming data, and more. It will help bypass the step of metadata structure creation and save the time of the IT team as well as the end-user, making the complete analysis a lot easier.
- Enhanced visualization: It is a known fact that humans perform much better with data interpretation when it is presented in the visual form. As a result, when it comes to choosing the right tool, it is advisable to opt for the one that possesses the ability to represent data through tables, graphs, charts, and pictographs.
- Simple navigation: When considering the right tool, it is prudent to ensure it is a self-service analytics tool that has the potential to segregate multiple data channels in one place without having to run it through multiple queries.
- Adaptability: Businesses thrive with an ability to adapt and upgrade with the changing times. A report’s utility is optimized with multiple applications. In the same way, when it comes to using an ad-hoc reporting tool, the parameters should evolve with the changing needs of the business. The adaptability that we are talking about need not only be in terms of quantity or numbers. Scaling of an ad hoc reporting tool also has to be present on the basis of ability and functionality for handling the data volume surges.
- Reach for the Cloud: Gone are the days of a physical store! The modern-day buzz of having an online business is mostly about running it from anywhere at any time. On similar lines, with reporting systems located in the Cloud, it is easy for business users to achieve speed to analytics.
How to Implement Ad Hoc Reporting
Get your data right:
Ad hoc reporting requires organizational data to centralized into one repository. This in turn, requires a pan-organization elimination of data silos and implementing a uniform data governance policy. Establishing a data management system for access control and compliance checks with relevant laws are the next essential steps.
Train your teams:
Although ad hoc reporting tools should be intuitive, managers and employees must be shown how they can get the most from the functionality. Rather than “how” training, this is “why” training such as how to select parameters for reports. Training people isn’t just about the software but about how to use data for optimum outcomes.
Industry Use Cases for Ad Hoc Reporting
Retail & Sales reporting
Data requirements may vary from time to time and from person to person or even from department to department. Precise data maybe the need of the hour for only a very specific period, for example, during the launch of a new range of products. How many bottles of sanitizers have gone off the shelf since 2022? Or how is the competitor’s product performing as compared to the organization’s brand?
The ad hoc reporting tool empowers sales and retail teams with the power of insightful data, which can be leveraged to improve marketing and promotion efforts. This data can help to enhance existing sales techniques and even predict the purchase behavior of customers. Ad hoc data analysis can help in identify a certain pattern and use it to push upselling or cross-selling. By incorporating ad hoc reporting, processes can be optimized to get the best-suited data. With the help of this data, the store manager, for example, can track the historical benchmarks and make better decisions for the upcoming quarters. The identification of the right patterns can boost traditional sales and retail processes.
Reporting in Human Resources
Let’s say an enterprise finds out that it has been seeing an acute rise in absenteeism over a period of nine months. After a while, it becomes difficult for Human Resources to identify the actual cause of the challenge. In such a situation, the ad hoc reporting tool comes handy. After accessing the report, management will be able to find out the exact cause of this issue and address it accordingly to lower the absentee rates and improve overall employee productivity.
As enterprises tend to gather heaps of information timesheets, benefits information, sick and holiday leave days, and performance, an ad hoc reporting tool can quickly and efficiently handle, gather and present all the required information required for actionable insights.
Ad Hoc Reporting has numerous benefits for implementing data analytics and financial statements to make decisions and quickly provide the insights required by Finance. Ad hoc reports can play an important role in determining a company’s financial health, trigger financial analysis that can yield precise numbers and provide a way continuously monitor to monitor the financial KPIs. Financial ad hoc reports can swiftly fulfill and handle first-time data requests, thus avoiding delays in providing data to customers while making important decisions.
The Future Is Ad Hoc Reporting
The ‘2020 Global State of Enterprise Analytics Report’ states that 94% of enterprises are of the opinion that data and analytics are crucial to the growth of businesses and lists limited access to analytics as among the top 3 challenges for effective analytics use.
As businesses realize the value of being at their best with anytime, anywhere access to data, organizations globally are equipping themselves with data-driven systems and processes in order to be future-ready. In a dynamic business environment, BI platforms that offer ad hoc reporting facilities can be a significant edge–A future that is based on agility and speed of data interpretation.