This is a guest post by Nicole Hitner. Nicole is a Content Strategist at Exago, Inc., producers of embedded business intelligence for software companies. She manages the company’s content marketing, writes for their blog, and hosts their podcast, Data Talks. We're grateful for her contribution.
I always thought that the term ad hoc ment unplanned or spontaneous. After all, when you get called into an Ad hoc meeting it’s usually not on your calendar. But the truth is that Ad hoc means means “for this” in Latin and refers to something done for a specific purpose.
Ad hoc reporting is the process of creating reports for a specific need rather than for general use. In terms of business intelligence, ad hoc reporting capabilities enable people to either duplicate and edit standard reports or build new ones from scratch without assistance from IT.
Most of companies start by giving users a library of standard, general-purpose reports that address common business needs. Some of those reports will be uneditable, while others will be parameterized and have variables that can be customized for each person’s needs. For example, a user may be able to change the date range on a sales report, but nothing else.
Ad hoc reports, on the other hand, are completely customizable and ready to take on the task of getting targeted information that you might not have expected to need.
The Usefulness of Ad Hoc
Imagine that Liz is the lease administrator for Jackie’s Markets. She uses AMTdirect to keep track of all of her locations, critical dates, and real estate-related contacts. She uses a standard, parameterized report to provide executives with information about property taxes every month. It includes taxes assessed by all authorities, regardless of the payment frequency.
If Liz’s executive team suddenly becomes interested in property taxes assessed by the county of Westchester, NY that are paid quarterly, ad hoc reporting comes in handy. Liz can either make a copy of her standard report and edit it to meet the new need, or she can create one from scratch. IT does not need to get involved.
Key Features of Ad Hoc Reporting Solutions
Not all ad hoc reporting solutions are created equal, so whenever you are evaluating software that has a reporting component, be on the lookout for these capabilities.
The ability to create ad hoc reports from standard reports. This time-saving feature makes it easy to start with what you have and make the modifications you need.
The ability to create reports from scratch. Sometimes you won’t find a standard report that gets you close to what you need. In that case, you should be able to start at square one and create the report of your dreams.
The ability to display tabular detail. Aggregating and totaling data in a report is very useful, but in order to have full control over user-generated reports, you’ll want access to all the detail, not just the totals.
No data modeling background required. There are people who are really knowledgeable about data modeling. We love these people, but most end users are not data experts. You can find a solution that handles modeling behind the scenes so that non-technical folks can still get the information they need.
Web-based access. It’s 2018, and you should be able to create and run your reports from anywhere so that you can be responsive while not being chained to your desk.
You never know what questions will come up in business. With a strong ad hoc reporting solution in place, you can be confident that you’ll be able to find the answers nonetheless.