What Is Ad Hoc Reporting?

Feb 8, 2018

Nicole Hitner

Ad hoc means “for this” in Latin and refers to something done for a specific purpose. Ad hoc reporting, then, is the process of creating reports for a specific occasion (as opposed to for general use). In business intelligence, ad hoc reporting supplements regular reporting by enabling end users to either duplicate and edit premade reports or build entirely new ones from scratch without assistance from IT.

BI analysts typically provide their end users with a library of premade, general-purpose reports that will satisfy business needs most of the time. Some of these regular reports will be fully static; all end users can do is select the report and run it. Others, however, may be parameterized, giving end users the ability to customize one or more variables affecting the report’s output.

It’s important to distinguish parameterized reports from ad hoc reports. A parameterized inventory report, for example, might permit the end user to select a date range and warehouse but would prevent her from changing anything else about the report. Parameterized reports are somewhat customizable; ad hoc reports are completely customizable and indispensable to executives and managers looking for swift, targeted insights.


The Value of Ad Hoc

Consider this example. Bob is the regional sales manager for a magazine company, and he uses an application called MagaZone to keep track of all his team’s ad sales. MagaZone’s reporting suite includes a premade parameterized sales report that will show him how much each member of his team has sold into which publications over a specified period of time, but he needs more detailed information this month.

This month, some of his company’s magazines have introduced a new type of print ad called an advertorial, and he wants to see how many of these new ads his agents have sold and to whom. With ad hoc reporting, he could either make a copy of the original sales report and add the newly pertinent data fields (such as AdType and ClientIndustry), or he could build and run a brand-new report expressly for that purpose. In either case, he’d have the tools he needed to get a pulse on the new ad campaign, and he wouldn’t need to wait for technical assistance to do so.


Features of Strong Ad Hoc Reporting Solutions

Ad hoc reporting solutions vary in functionality, so it’s important to look at the details when evaluating a BI application. Here are capabilities to look for as you browse!

The ability to create ad hoc reports from regular reports. This saves end users a great deal of time. A robust ad hoc reporting solution would make it possible for end users to clone static or parameterized reports and make changes to them without affecting the original reports or having to build them from scratch.

The ability to create reports from scratch. When no regular reports even come close to satisfying an emergent business need, end users should have access to well-groomed data and a blank reporting canvas.

The ability to display tabular detail. If an end user is taking the time to build a custom report, she will want access to all the data, not just totals, averages, and other aggregations. Granting end users access to tabular detail rows gives them granular control over their ad hoc reports.

The ability to build a report without having to know anything about data modeling. We’ve written extensively on this subject because it’s an important one. Non-technical end users are generally unfamiliar with the nuances of data modeling, so it’s important to find a solution that handles modeling behind the scenes while permitting more advanced users to adjust those defaults.

Ease of use. Business intelligence reports can be very complex, so you want the application to be powerful and feature rich without being overwhelming. Look for solutions that can be tailored to accommodate users at either end of the technical spectrum.

Web-based access. What’s the point of being able to answer unanticipated questions if you can only do so at your desktop computer? Ensure that your end users will be able to access their data anywhere on any connected device so that their ad hoc reports can be truly ad hoc.

To see how easy it is to create an ad hoc report in Exago BI, check out our Basic Training video series, or browse our case studies to learn what clients are saying.


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