“You can have data without information, but you cannot have information without data”.
The above quote by Daniel Keys Moran, an American computer programmer illustrates the essence of data in this fiercely competitive business world. Whether you want to improve your business performance, increase profits, achieve operational efficiency, or improve your business intelligence, leveraging the wealth of opportunities provided by big data has become a necessity. The availability of many moderately priced online reporting tools has made it possible to convert this data into segmented and curated information paramount for business development.
But the question is whether the insights we have derived today will remain our priority for the next day as well. As goes with a popular saying, in this fast-moving world, only thing constant is change. Your information requirement today might completely change tomorrow. The goal is then, not to have a static glance at your business processes, rather the ability to be agile enough to drill down deep into data and get any required information.
This lays the foundation of ad-hoc reporting or as its Latin to English translation: “As the occasion requires”, i.e. getting answers to business questions as the occasion requires. This article presents a basic overview of ad-hoc reporting, its benefits, and few real-world examples of ad-hoc reporting.
What is Ad-Hoc Reporting?
Ad-hoc reporting refers to the creation of dynamic and real-time reports by end-users on an as-needed basis. It means users are empowered to create autonomous reports for necessity and get instant answers to dynamic queries. Ad-hoc reports allow even a non-technical user to create their own customized reports as per business needs, without putting the burden on IT staff. An ad-hoc report can be as simple as a single page data table or can be as complex as a dashboard, heatmap, and other reports with drill-down features.
Ad-hoc reporting has become a necessity in today’s data driven business world. It works in tandem with the recurring parametrized reports by providing required level of insight at any instant. However, the very purpose of ad-hoc reporting is defeated if the reliance is always on technical IT staff to create on-demand reports.
By the time an IT user develops an ad-hoc report and sends it back to the end-user within few days, the requirement might be over.
As per the IDC Seagate report, factors like increasing use of IoT devices, digital data engagement have been influencing the creation of real-time. Demand for real-time data is driving the edge and ad hoc reporting is much required to accommodate this demand.
Figure below shows the growth of worldwide real time data from 15% in 2017 to 30% in 2025.
It is always necessary to have a quick and instant view of insights to stay competitive, something which traditional ad-hoc reports cannot achieve. Rather, this is achieved by modern, self-service Business Intelligent solutions. These allow users to create, format and manipulate reports to get instant answers in real-time.
A good ad-hoc reporting solution should have the following characteristics as shown in below info-graphic:
Top 4 Benefits of Ad-Hoc Reporting
1. Ad-hoc reporting helps save money and time by empowering end users.
A good ad-hoc reporting tool provides self-service solution by allowing users to create and customize the reports as per business requirements, without having to depend on IT experts. As per a recent study by APQC, an average organization spends about 80 cents on reporting for every 1K dollars of revenue. Empowering users thus allows the IT department to focus on much important issues.
2. Ad-hoc reporting increases data discovery through data democratization
The sharing capabilities of ad-hoc reporting allows users to recognize important trends and correlations among different data sets. The ability to get connected to different data sources allows users to get answers for every current and forthcoming business questions. Even non-technical users can parse through vast amount of data to discover things like new revenue markets, inconsistencies, etc.
3. Ad-hoc reporting allows real time interaction with data
With ever evolving business environment, ad-hoc reporting provides the required flexibility to modify existing reports as per business needs. User can regularly interact with real time data and get quick answers to their existing or potential questions.
4. Ad-hoc reporting supports decision making
Ad-hoc reports provides users with a snapshot of the current state of different business areas like sales, marketing, finance, etc.
Availability of easy to read reports with real time data among different users’ facilities quick and swift decision making.
6 Examples of Ad-Hoc Reporting in Real World
Ad-Hoc Reporting in Healthcare
Ad-hoc reporting plays a vital role in healthcare industry by providing real time access to critical data which can in turn help relevant stakeholders to make quick and correct decisions which can eventually save lives, increase mortality rates and improve operational efficiencies.
Self-service BI tools offering ad-hoc reporting feature would also allow a physician with least or no SQL query or HTML knowledge, to develop required medical reports such as a blood report.
Figure below shows an example of ad-hoc reporting used in the healthcare industry. By using a self-service BI tool like BIRD, a healthcare professional can view count of inpatient as well as outpatient admissions by admission in real time. On further drilldown, patient discharge data can be obtained which can be then leveraged to curb hospital re-admissions.
Ad-Hoc Reporting in Sales
Ad-hoc reports are essential in sales department to gather trends and generate leads. It is easy to forecast trends and derive insights by scrutinizing and evaluating the performance of various salespersons. Ad-hoc reporting is used mostly in firms with large sales force.
Each salesperson can develop and customize a report for his (her) own territory to capture important information like sales goals, orders taken, leads generated, number of sold products, etc. Consistency and uniformity are achieved by extracting required data from same data sources across the whole sales department.
Figure below shows how ad-hoc reporting helps the e-commerce industry to gain information about sales with respect to products. On further drill down, sales figures for different regions can be obtained in real time.
Ad-Hoc Reporting in Education
Education sector produces a large amount of data through various areas such as attendance, work reports, grades, progress reports, etc. Ad-hoc reporting plays a crucial role in leveraging this big data to improve education, and subsequently the economy. Information is actively shared among different departments to engage each student on a personal level.
A best example is the Special Education Ad Hoc Reporting System (SPEARS) used to access and analyze data collected from different district and charter schools in Texas.
Ad-Hoc Reporting in Government
Government agencies employ ad-hoc reporting tools to deal with a wealth of critical information, derive insights, and make prosperous decisions that can benefit many citizens. Government bodies across the globe can leverage ad-hoc reporting to curb alarming situations like fire accidents, the opioid crisis, increasing crime rates, etc.
Ad-Hoc Reporting in Retail
Ad-hoc reports are effective in preventing losses and increasing sales in the retail sector. Store-specific retail analytics reports allow retailers to achieve desired results like maintaining inventory, managing market trends, retaining existing customer base, acquiring new customers, etc.
Ad-Hoc Reporting in Finance
The finance industry is rife with quantitative data such as figures, financial KPIs, metrics, etc. Ad-hoc reports allow a finance industry insider to drill down deep into different data segments. This in turn increases the ability to capture trends that can provide the best return on investment.
Ad-hoc reports are one-time reports generated for a specific business purpose. It is always a better choice to exploit self-service business intelligence tools which can increase data accessibility, streamline decision making, and produce desired results in this dynamic environment.
Ad-hoc reporting allows you to go beyond basic figures, tweak queries and formats, and define additional problems whose solutions would be crucial for business success.
Click here to leverage BIRD’s ad-hoc reporting skills.