The Basics of Ad Hoc Reporting


Business Intelligence (BI) is a powerful tool that helps businesses make informed decisions. 

Gathering and analyzing relevant data allows organizations to generate better results. A variety of tools and technologies will collect and analyze raw data to generate actionable business information. 

Ad hoc reporting is a type of BI that is a bit different from others. It can provide complementary information to regular BI analysis and reporting.

Table Of Contents

What Is Ad Hoc Reporting?

What Is the Goal of Ad Hoc Reporting?

The Benefits of Ad Hoc Reporting

Final Thoughts

What Is Ad Hoc Reporting?

If you got out your dictionary, you’d find the definition of “ad hoc” to be “on the spot”, or done for a particular purpose, and only as necessary. 

Ad hoc analysis is done to answer one specific business question, such as “why did sales drop in October?” 

That analysis generates ad hoc reporting, which is reporting or reports that are assembled by users in real-time, and not done on a regular basis or with a predetermined template.

Ad hoc reporting can generate information that isn’t part of any other BI, or it can dig deeper into an existing report to provide additional detail. Regular BI analyzes data on a predetermined cycle, looking for patterns and algorithms and generating a report based on a template. 

Ad hoc reporting allows the user to ask a question any time. The user can also select the data sources, and determine what the report will look like when complete. In this way, ad hoc reporting is a customized form of analytics. 

Another way to think of it is like a “do it yourself” solution - business users are allowed to ask a question and build their own report.

In the illustration above, you can see the ability to create ad hoc dashboards for obscure situations. In this scenario, it’s an umbrella company that is reporting on the impact Wet Days are having on their sales.

What Is the Goal of Ad Hoc Reporting?

There are several ways ad hoc reporting can benefit businesses.

While there may already be a number of BI reports used by the business on a regular basis, an ad hoc report isn’t about frequency. It’s about getting the information you need, when and how you need it. 

Ad hoc reporting will fill in holes left by regular BI reporting or dig deeper into a specific BI report. 

That means ad hoc reports can be produced on the fly, when necessary, and ideally generated by the business user. There should be no need to spend the resources of an IT department or wait for assistance or for the actual report to be done.

The true goal, and benefit, of ad hoc reporting, is to allow business users to ask their own questions, to fill in any gaps of other BI reporting. 

It gets better. Here’s what it looks like in real life:

Let’s say you own a business with sales representatives who are each responsible for a specific territory. 

While BI reports will give you information on your sales as a whole, individual sales reps could runs queries on their own performance. Examples could include the individual’s performance against the company’s sales targets; the number of clients visited in a time period, or the number of orders taken by the rep.

The overall report will tell a different story, but the ad hoc report generated by each rep will be from the same data sets, ensuring consistency. 

In this example, the company gets the information it needs, and individual reps can build plans of action based on their own ad hoc reports.

The Benefits of Ad Hoc Reporting

There is already so much data and so many reports available to businesses.

You might be wondering: Why you need ad hoc reporting?

Here are some reasons why:

  • The ability to “do it yourself” and build the reports the way users need them means that the right people are getting the right information at the right time. 
  • Questions get answered in real-time, which supports effective decision-making. Whether it’s a major decision or a tweak to a process, ad hoc reporting provides information as needed.
  • Business environments are constantly changing. The information you needed yesterday – or the information you get on a regular basis from other BI reports – may not be the information you need today. Ad hoc reporting will cover those gaps in a timely fashion, and supplement existing information as needed. 
  • Questions change over time, meaning ad hoc reporting allows for flexibility. You can’t know today what you might be wondering next week. The ability to adapt your information needs will make your business more adaptable too.
  • Allowing business users to determine their reporting needs takes work off the plates of your IT staff, freeing them up for other important work. Business users also get what they need when they need it, without having to wait for support from colleagues who have other priorities.
  • Ad hoc reporting is often easy to understand and share. Having quick and easy access to reports can enhance collaboration.  

Final Thoughts

BI is a powerful tool for businesses, to drive growth, improve performance, and manage costs. 

Ad hoc reporting is a powerful supplement to regular BI reporting, allowing business users to ask specific questions, dig deeper into existing reports, and be flexible enough to evolve the business as the environment changes.