Data is growing at a really fast rate than ever before, in fact, according to a report by Forbes
We create around 2.5 quintillion bytes of it every single day, with 90% of the world’s digital insights generated in the last two years alone.
Data has become a critical resource for businesses to thrive and compete in the digital space. it set the precedence for sales, marketing, customer support, and other teams in an organization to learn more about their customer’s desires, complaints, and business operations.
Since it’s inevitable for organizations to encounter problems with their business, customers, and competitors, they rely on up-to-date business data to improve their operational efficiency, business intelligence, profitability, and growth. Although general business data is important for every business, there are several forms of data reporting that can help businesses make more informed decisions based on some key insights, one of which is Ad hoc reporting.
Ad hoc reporting is a type of data gathering method that provides several benefits for businesses and can help them answer critical business questions. In this article, we define ad hoc reporting, its benefits, and how its applied across various teams.
Table of Contents
- What is Ad hoc reporting?
- What is Ad hoc analysis?
- The benefits of Ad hoc reporting and analysis
- Goals of Ad hoc reporting and analysis
- Ad hoc reporting vs. canned reporting
- Features of an Ad hoc reporting software
- What is a good Ad hoc reporting solution?
- Practical Application of Ad hoc reporting in the real world
- Challenges of Ad hoc reporting
What is Ad hoc reporting?
Ad hoc reporting is a business intelligence process that corporate professionals use to create quick reports on a needed basis. Unlike other reports, Ad hoc reports are generally created for one-time use to help businesses find answers to a specific business question such as – how many calls did a sales rep make in a week or how many support tickets were resolved last week.
An Ad hoc report presents information or business data in a visual format that makes it easy for recipients or users to easily access and gain insights from the data. Interestingly, Ad hoc reporting can be used to analyze a specific business question that had not been thought of before and is not addressed in the existing reports. Check out the detailed guide about the annual sales report.
Although the majority of these reports are developed by the IT department using a structured query language (SQL), non-technical users with access to the right ad hoc reporting tools and platforms can create new reports from scratch or edit previously made reports
In simple terms, ad hoc reporting is the reports that are creatively put together by users in real-time than pre-designed templates. They are mostly created by businesses in healthcare, manufacturing, HR, finance, and retail industries to use real-time data analysis to provide answers to specific business problems.
What is Ad hoc analysis?
Ad hoc analysis is a business intelligence (BI) process used by companies to provide answers to strategic business questions on the go. It uses modern dashboards to visualize multiple sources of data business data and create actionable insights that can help decision-makers make informed business decisions.
Ad hoc data analysis refers to the actions that a user takes to discover, present, and draw actional insights from information for a smaller, more niche audience with more visual elements than static reports. In simple terms, ad hoc analysis allows business teams to understand what’s happening in a business and connect more dots – enabling them to not just identify what happened but why it happened. These results are presented graphically so all the data is organized in a visually appealing way.
Ad hoc analysis is a dynamic process, which means that the elements of the reports can be changed and manipulated as their need arises in real time, providing some level of measurement that is not seen in traditional reporting. Essentially, for organizations to make the most out of their data, they should run ad hoc analyses.
The benefits of Ad hoc reporting and analysis
Here is a list of the benefits of Ad hoc reporting and analysis:
1. Access to multiple data sources
Ad hoc reporting and analysis software enable teams to gain access to multiple data sources in one place through the dashboard making it easy to compare reports by adding elements like screen filters, sliders, and link reporting.
2. Timely delivery of critical information
The ultimate reason for ad hoc reporting and analysis is that individuals irrespective of their technical expertise can access and get critical information to people who need it without bothering data analysts or the IT department. So essentially, with ad hoc reporting, anyone who wants to find answers to critical business questions can do so by themselves within a short period of time.
3. Offers flexibility in a changing business environment
Ad hoc reporting and analysis enable users to continuously update or modify reports in real-time. It provides an interactive reporting experience to users allowing them to ask specific questions that suit their business needs. Considering how important quick answers are to a continually changing business environment, ad hoc analysis and reporting facilitate changes in such environments.
4. Easy to use
An ad hoc reporting tool is an intuitive and visual platform that supports data visualization and enables users to easily find the right answers to the right questions. Similarly, ad hoc analysis also allows users to make decisions and recommend initiatives that can help the business improve as well as make data-driven decisions on the go. Explore some useful sales report templates.
5. Streamlines decision-making
Ad hoc reporting enables on-the-spot decision-making for businesses. Its data reports provide organizations with a look into the current state of the business highlighting the performance of the sales, marketing, and other business teams. Ad hoc reports are organized in a way that is easy for users to read and share to support quick decision-making. In addition to these points, ad hoc reporting provides businesses with answers to questions in a way that supports effective decision-making.
6. Reduced workload on the IT department
As highlighted earlier, Ad Hoc reporting and analysis can be carried out by non-technical users as long as they have access to the right tools. This self-service feature enables end users to create customized reports without relying on IT analysts for assistance. With this, IT specialists can focus their time, skills, and expertise on more demanding IT tasks.
Ad hoc reporting tools provide employees with access to information and easy-to-use methods to find solutions to business questions quickly, reducing the need for teams to enroll for expensive training and guidance. Also by using advanced query techniques, organizations can reduce the need to produce reports manually.
8. Customizable reports
Ad hoc reporting and analysis tools have customizable features that users can use and adjust based on their needs. These reports help you gain and keep visibility across various teams in an organization. Some of these tools also have built-in templates that you can use to present business data in a way users can view and gain actionable insights. Check out the detailed guide about annual contract value.
Goals of Ad hoc reporting and analysis
The ultimate goal of ad hoc reporting and analysis is to help businesses gain actionable insights from their data to drive business growth when the need arises. Ad hoc reporting and analysis can achieve this in three ways:
1. Empower decision-makers with data
Ad hoc reporting tools have a self-service feature that enables everyone in an organization irrespective of their technical expertise. These tools can enable business leaders to find answers to their business questions without any assistance from data analysts and IT teams. In addition to these, easy access to the data when needed makes it easy for decision-makers to make informed business decisions.
2. Inspire business leaders to explore data
The intuitiveness of most ad hoc reporting tools inspires data discovery by making data available for an average business user and enabling information sharing across colleagues and departments within an organization. The easy access to information for more people in an organization including business leaders enables them to identify trends, inconsistencies, and opportunities.
3. Streamline the decision-making process
Ad Hoc reports providing business users with an overview of their business condition through a specific filter, be it marketing, human resources, sales, inventory, finances, or other important business departments. The business information is organized intuitively and visualized in a creative and appealing manner that it’s easy for business leaders and stakeholders to access without any technical explanations. Essentially, data analysis and reports can be easily and quickly shared with all teams in an organization enhancing the decision-making process.
Ad hoc reporting vs. canned reporting
Canned reports otherwise known as traditional or static reports are created by expert data analysts and IT specialists and shared with key business leaders and stakeholders at regular intervals such as weekly, monthly, quarterly, or annually. Canned reports compile a variety of metrics, data, and report elements that are relevant to a specific business department or the organization as a whole. Static reports unlike ad-hoc reports put a lot of burden on the IT specialists.
A user in an organization usually sends a request to an IT specialist who mainly manages the business intelligence (BI) tools to generate, organize and send the results to the users usually within a few days depending on the size of the organization and existing process. For example, a monthly financial report could include cash flow, financial data, and a balance sheet that will be sent to the finance team and CFO.
Key differences between Canned reports and Ad hoc reports
1. Ad hoc reports are agile while canned reports are on demand
Ad hoc reporting involves providing presents and analyses of data on the go to enhance data-driven decision-making with the assistance of any IT specialists. Ad hoc reports are created when a business problem is detected whereas canned reports are requested by data users and developed by IT teams. Canned reports are not in real-time and require a structured request process to demand the data reports.
2. Ad hoc reports are versatile and flexible while canned reports are static
Ad hoc reporting allows users to either create reports from the scratch or modify existing reports. Similarly, users can easily navigate through data on customizable charts, graphs, and tables. On the other hand, Canned reports content is static and users are unable to change or modify the report elements without the help of the IT department.
3. Ad hoc reporting is easily accessible while canned reports are accessed via emails and are outdated in delivery
Ad hoc reports are not limited to employee desks and are usually online and easily accessible via the internet connection while canned reports are sent via emails in a spreadsheet which can make it difficult to identify trends or compare data thereby limiting data insights and discovery.
4. Ad hoc reports boost collaboration while canned reports don’t support collaboration
Ad hoc reporting uses modern business intelligence (BI) tools to enhance data transparency and sharing the data within teams in an organization to improve further interaction, efficiency, and better business decisions. While canned reports are not compiled and presented in a dashboard that can be easily shared among various teams in an organization. With static reports, you have to search for the data in your emails instead of the dashboards on ad hoc reports.
Features of an Ad hoc reporting software
Ad hoc reporting and analysis tools must provide business leaders and key stakeholders with the ability to easily access data and creatively visualize it in a way that helps you answer strategic business questions. There are some important features that must be in your ad hoc reporting tool to help every member of your organization to get the most out of your business data:
1. User friendly
Your business data is critical to the success of your business. The essence of ad hoc reporting and analysis tools is to enable data analysis and make it easy for teams to make the best out of the business data. For this reason, you must ensure that the ad hoc reporting software you choose to work with must be user-friendly and easy for users to use and achieve results with.
2. Access to numerous data sources
Considering how important numerous data sources are for ad hoc reporting and analysis, you must ensure your choose an analysis software that can effectively and efficiently compress all organizational data into one source without having to run queries from multiple sources.
3. Data visualization
Following reports that humans process visual information more than other written information, you must ensure your ad hoc reporting and analysis tool has charts, graphs, tables, and other graphical elements beyond just rows and columns that can make it easy for users to view and gain insights from data.
The best ad hoc reporting and analysis tools must empower users to create their own reports when necessary, thereby allowing them to save time and money by taking the burden off professional data analysts and IT specialists and allowing them to focus on adding value where they are needed.
5. Intuitive technology
When business intelligence tools are easy to use and set up, it becomes a lot easier for many people to use them and gain insights from the tools. If the tools are easy to use and less complicated, more people are likely to benefit from them to boost business growth. Find the detailed guide about the compound annual growth rate.
Ad hoc reporting tools must be relevant for all businesses irrespective of the size or industry and should be able to support their growth. The tools must be able to scale up with businesses that can help them grow.
What is a good Ad hoc reporting solution?
A good ad hoc reporting solution must be able to help an organization achieve its strategic goals and objectives. For this reason, you must ensure that a good ad hoc reporting solution must offer the following key attributes
1. It is easy to use: A good ad hoc reporting solution must be easy for users to use and navigate around to achieve the best results. So as to avoid situations that can cause strains in the data gathering and analysis process, the ad hoc reporting solution must not have complicated features.
2. It is robust: The ad hoc reporting solution must offer users what they want to see, understand and work with to achieve the desired business result. It must have interactive features like drill-down, drill-through, ad hoc dashboards, rich data visualization, and advanced sorting and filtering.
3. It is online (web or cloud-based): To make the data reports and analysis easily accessible to every user across various teams in an organization, the ad hoc reporting solution must be run online so anyone from anywhere in the world can easily access and use the data.
4. It is human: The ultimate goal of using ad hoc reporting solutions is to support business operational efficiency, make data easily accessible and customizable as well as enhance business decision-making. For this reason, the ad hoc tool must support current business models and can enhance productivity and engagement.
Practical Application of Ad hoc reporting in the real world
Ad hoc reporting and analysis are used by many companies across various industries to enhance business operations and improve day-to-day decision-making. The following explains how different sectors and organizations use ad hoc reporting:
1. Sales: Sales managers use ad hoc reporting and analysis to key into specific data, identify sales trends and create reports of the sales activities and performance at various intervals.
2. Healthcare: Healthcare centers like every other organization also have business problems that can be solved with data. Hence it became necessary for hospital managers, healthcare administrators, physicians, and department managers to be able to generate and compile reports and analyses when the need arises.
3. Finance: Financial management heavily relies on data such as AR and AP figures, metrics, KPIs, and other important business data to carry out their day-to-day tasks. Ad hoc reporting and analysis empower the finance team with all the important business data that can help them understand what and why certain things are happening.
4. Manufacturing: The use of ad hoc reporting and analysis in manufacturing industries enables production managers to understand the status of different production stages to ensure everything is going as planned and in special situations where problems arise, they can be informed on time and provide a solution to the problems.
5. Human resources: Data is central to the daily operation of the human resources department. HR collects various forms of employee data from contact information, CV, salary, timesheet, benefits information, performance data and so much more. HR managers and professionals use ad hoc reporting and analysis to effectively manage employees and spot problems when they arise to improve employee satisfaction.
Challenges of Ad hoc reporting
Owing to the popular saying that no technology is without its own limitations/ challenges, ad hoc reporting, and analysis regardless of its numerous benefits and uses also have their own challenges. Here are some of the limitations of ad hoc reporting:
- It sometimes offers a partial view of data, which can prevent business leaders from gaining access to the data they need.
- There are issues regarding data inconsistency. Since ad hoc reporting requires the same data across various departments in an organization, this can result in inconsistency in the reports since all departments are different and will have varying data.
- Although most ad hoc reporting tools are intuitive, easy to use, and have self-service features, a lack of training on their use for users can facilitate limitations that yield negative results.
- The use of ad hoc reporting makes it difficult to ensure effective data governance or data management practices, which can affect data trustworthiness.
- Over-reliance on self-service tools can take out the human factor from reports and give room for errors to be made. On the flip side reliance on static reports also makes it hard to get reports on the go. Hence businesses must find the right balance between static and ad hoc reports.
Data gathering, analysis, reporting, and sharing is an important function that every business organization must have. With the fast rate at which businesses are growing today, it is not only enough for teams to be able to generate data and analyze them, they must be able to make good use of the data – to solve business problems, improve customer experience, and foster team collaboration.
Fortunately, ad hoc reporting provides teams within an organization with the added advantage of detailed data gathering and focused views with easy access to data, and streamlined data exploration to enhance business results. With these benefits, functionalities, and many more, ad hoc reporting and analysis is a must-have practice that data-driven companies must engage in to create quick, accurate analysis.