Ad hoc Reporting – Importance, Benefits & more

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Ad hoc Reporting – Importance, Benefits & more

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. Ad hoc reporting is a business intelligence practice that allows the users to create dynamic reports or a one-time report as and when needed for any specific business requirement. It empowers the 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 by quick creation of independent reports without having to wait for a detailed analysis or scheduled report.

Ad-hoc reporting aims to empower the large user base of BI i.e., the business users to generate insights specifically and independently.

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 actions from 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 ad hoc reports are different from canned and parameterized reports and what more do they offer?

Canned Reports are the 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.

Digital Data Technology. KPI Business Dashboard Technology

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:

  • Collaboration and innovation
    With easier access and self-explanatory visualizations, not just the report creation but sharing it with the peers and team becomes easy. This induces collaboration and increases the usability of a single report. This sharing reduces time in generating insights and encourages innovation at every level of the organization.
  • Quick decision making
    This ability to generate insights on-spot speeds up the business processes and helps in quick decision-making across the organization and hierarchy.
  • Enhanced utilization of all data sources
    Ad hoc reporting enhances the utilization of all data sources. Now, each end-user can access the right set of data which previously would have been siloed, create stunning visualizations, modify dashboards, and answer all their queries.

    Over shoulder view of businessman using smartphone and laptop while analyzing sales graphs during quarantine

  • Discoveries and new opportunities
    Analytics becoming accessible to all kinds of end-users through ad-hoc reporting leads the path for discovering game-changing insights. The field professionals can now do their own analysis and find new opportunities that were not known before. This self-service ability promotes collaboration and helps identify correlations between inter-department work, singular efficiency, and overall revenue.
  • Reduce IT workload
    Through ad-hoc reporting, the end-users from any vertical or industry can make their own reports to answer deep specific questions pertaining to their area of work. This not just induces data democratization but also reduces the burden on the IT staff from the regular repeated requests over minor changes in a report or even the creation of a simple report. Hence, it saves time and energy on both ends.
  • Flexibility
    With ad hoc reporting providing intuitive visualizations and interactive drag and drop features, even the creation of real-time reports becomes effortless. This enables the end-users to be proactive and quickly respond to the dynamic business scenarios anytime, with quick creations, customizations, and the formation of actionable insights.
  • Saves time and money
    Ad hoc reports, being of specific use and serving limited requirements, can be made directly by the end-user. It does not need the involvement of an IT resource on a regular basis. This saves a huge amount of time otherwise spent by an expensive IT resource on a simple task. This also saves the back-and-forth time spent by an end-user explaining the problem and requesting a solution from the IT team. Also, with easy visualizations ad-hoc reporting does not need much training to go into full-fledged operational form, saving time and money on training as well.
Ad hoc reporting allows everyone to derive their own set of insights. But with different underlying data, the difference in insights can cause discrepancies. This can be sorted out with proper data governance. By providing the right access to the right set of people will lead to generating the right insights at the right time, sustaining integrity.

Which features are to be considered in a BI solution to make up for a good ad hoc reporting solution?

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.

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