The Basics of Ad Hoc Analysis


Business intelligence takes many forms, with different types of BI serving different needs.

Ad hoc analysis is a specific form of BI that varies from other forms but has its own advantages.

Table Of Contents

What Is Ad Hoc Analysis?

What Are The Benefits Of Ad Hoc Analysis?

Ad Hoc Analysis In Action

Final Thoughts

What Is Ad Hoc Analysis?

The definition of “ad hoc” is on the spot, or done for a particular purpose as necessary. 

In BI, the process of ad hoc analysis is to answer one specific business question. This type of analysis may be done in response to an event, like a decrease in sales. It can provide a report that isn’t part of any other BI, or it can dig deeper into an existing report to get more detail. 

This is different than BI processes that mine through data and find patterns and algorithms, for instance. In those instances, there are existing templates and predetermined data sets. Reports may be generated on a regular basis.

Ad hoc analysis allows the user to make a query at any time, select the data sources, and determine how data will be presented. This is a totally customized form of analytics.

Examples of when you would run an ad hoc analysis include when you have a specific business question about existing data, or when an existing analysis does not or isn’t able to answer the question. Ad hoc analysis allows for a deeper dive to find the answer to a specific query.

Ad hoc analysis can be as simple as running analysis on a spreadsheet to see how many sales were made in a specific timeframe, and compare it to other timeframes.

But ad hoc analysis is not just about looking at one set of data. Questions, their analysis, and the answers can be more complex. Big data sets can be analyzed to answer a question. 

Here’s an example.

Let’s say your business is losing customers. The question of “why” can be answered looking at various sets of data. Specific product lines can be examined to see which ones are dropping customers. Customer service results can be explored. 

Even sets such as social media comments or customer satisfaction surveys can be analyzed to provide a layered look at the reasons “why”. 

The display of the results of ad hoc analysis is also customizable and can be different than other BI reporting. Ad hoc data can be more visual than standard reports, for instance, because it provides results of a single query. This can make it more user-friendly.

What are the Benefits of Ad Hoc Analysis?

Let’s dig in to explore some benefits to using ad hoc analysis:

  1. Quicker decision making: When business users can get answers to their questions “on the spot”, business decisions can be made more quickly.
  2. Flexible: Quicker also means more flexible, as users can adapt queries based on the ever-changing business environment. Additions and edits can be made in real-time. Users ask questions that fit their needs.
  3. “Fresher” data: Quick and flexible also means fresh. When users have a question and get the answer they need, they could be getting analysis that hasn’t yet been provided in other reports.
  4. Easy to use: Reports are usually visual and answer easy to understand, which also aids in faster decision-making.
  5. Reduction in the workload of IT staff: If IT typically handles your bigger BI reporting, ad hoc analysis allows for queries and analysis to be done by the business user. This frees up IT staff for other work. 
  6. Works in conjunction with other reporting: Ad hoc reporting can provide a quick answer in its own report, without waiting for regular, standard analysis. But the two work together. They each have their own purpose, with ad hoc reporting providing a different level of insight to support good decision making.

Ad Hoc Analysis in Action


By now you’re probably wondering:

What does this look like in real life?

Let’s take a look at ad hoc analysis in healthcare. This is an ideal field for the use of ad hoc analysis, for several reasons. 

For one, healthcare professionals are not IT professionals, so being able to simply access the information they need is ideal. Secondly, speed is important. Users need access to accurate and timely data to allow for timely decision-making.

Healthcare professionals can benefit from easily digestible reports providing answers to specific questions, such as a query about blood test results. Being able to get the information needed when the question arises, without waiting for IT support or for a regular reporting cycle, can be a powerful tool in this sector.

Running ad hoc analysis on big data sets has the potential to provide benefits to healthcare in areas such as reducing the need for return visits or preventative medicine.


Final Thoughts

Ad hoc analysis can provide many benefits to support the success of businesses and other sectors like healthcare. 

When specific questions arise, it’s powerful to get the analysis needed to allow users to understand the causes and make decisions that lead to improvements. 

Ad hoc analysis can supplement other BI strategies for the betterment of the business.