Twenty-three! That’s the precise number of zeros in a zettabyte. The World Economic Forum estimated that our world had 44 zettabytes of data at the dawn of 2020, and it goes on to say that by 2025 the world will generate 463 exabytes (with eighteen zeros) of data daily. Insane right? But the real question is, how many insights is that data-generating? Hence, the real competitive advantage lies not in having data but in mining actionable insights from that data. People want answers as quickly as possible in today’s fast-paced business landscape. This means an ad-hoc reporting tool is an essential part of their data strategy for data-driven organizations.
What is Ad-hoc reporting?
Ad hoc reports are reports created on a needs basis. Think of ad hoc reporting as a report built on the fly. It’s not something that was planned for.
It’s a custom report, typically with a one-time use. Ad-hoc reports can be as simple as a one-page data table or an interactive multi-tab visualization.
Ad hoc means “whatever is needed at the moment.”
Simply put, ad hoc reporting can be used anytime you know what kind of information you are looking for. You can use the ad hoc reporting tool to create a report with information specific to your needs. For example, when one of the standard or static reports does not precisely show the data you are looking for then you would want to use an ad hoc report.
Building an Ad-hoc report
So if you’ve decided that an ad hoc report is what you need, let’s go over what information you should have to build your ad hoc report successfully. Creating an ad hoc report without a clear idea of what data you are trying to see will be complex. That’s why we recommend you gather the answers to these three questions before you begin building your report:
- What period are you interested in? A particular, fiscal year? A specific month in a year?
- What data do you want your report to include? Do you know how you’d like to categorize that data and what measures you want to have in your report?
- If you need to, how would you like to filter your report? Is there a specific vendor you want to filter for, a particular state that you want to focus on, or a dollar amount you’re looking for?
Once you have the answers to these questions, you are ready to start building your ad hoc report.
Enhanced Ad-hoc Reporting with Interactive Data Visualization
Data visualization is when data communication happens by encoding it as visual objects. When ad hoc reporting, which shares almost the same goal, works hand in hand with data visualization, you find crystal-clear insights in your data. It is not possible to use excel spreadsheets and pre-set reports. Ad hoc report generation with interactive data visualization allows you to consume data quickly and turn, twist, and play with the data to gather valuable insights.
Here are some of the options that interactive data visualization provides to take complete advantage of ad hoc reporting:
- Exchange charts and graphs for identical metrics
- Customizable metrics
- Customizable drill-downs for in-depth reporting
- Bespoke dashboards with multiple metrics
Businesses today are preparing for the future by arming themselves with the ability to think, absorb, and move quickly. Good business analytics software helps you manage all of this at the drop of a hat. However, what we need is a great BI platform that offers interactive data visualization for us to look deep into our data and find out anything we want with speed and even when things change.
Benefits of Ad-hoc reporting
Ad hoc reporting is excellent for a few reasons.
You need to get the correct information fast in front of the right people.
You can get essential answers to important questions in real-time—business changes. It would be best if you had flexible reporting. It’s impossible to predict what questions may pop up in the future, and ad hoc reporting flexes with your business.
Ad hoc reporting is cheap. It streamlines access to critical information. And with easy-to-use setup wizards, there’s little need for training.
Team collaboration goes up as information becomes easier to access and especially with sharing with a web link.
Lastly, there’s no strain on IT. Web-based solutions allow users to create the reports themselves.
No need for IT report developers to build something custom every time.
Things to look out for in good ad hoc reporting software
- If you need a good ad hoc reporting solution, there are a few things you want to look for.
- Most important is the ease of use and if the software isn’t user-friendly, there won’t be user adoption. Look for the non-computer person features, like setup wizards.
- Make sure the software is robust. Once your team is on board with the software, they’re going to get good at it.
- Please make sure the limitations of the software don’t cap them. Your solution should have dashboards, drill-down and drill through, advanced sorting and filtering, rich visualization tools like heat maps, charts, and graphs – stuff like that.
- It’s golden if it’s web-based. Apart from having a cohesive look on all devices, web-based solutions are available anywhere and on any device. You also won’t need an IT person to set it up on every device because once it’s integrated, all you have to do is click the link. That said, it should be easy to integrate.
- The best solutions are data-source neutral, meaning they can connect out-of-the-box to most data sources. This saves IT from creating custom complex metadata structures as the underlying layer, which is time-consuming, frustrating, and expensive.
With more and more businesses looking to be more data-driven, self-service ad hoc reporting tools can deliver business intelligence and reporting functionality to end-users in an intuitive self-service format with a no-code and drag and drop functionality.
Users with minimal technical skills can create visually rich reports on an as-needed basis. Ad hoc reporting tools save your developers time and business money by empowering end-users to build their reports with increased access to data. Your business users can quickly discover trends and insights that drive profitability and increase efficiency.
Of all the things an ad hoc reporting tool can be at its core, it’s a decision-making tool; as end-users begin integrating the reporting tool into their daily workflow, they’ll make smarter data-driven decisions on the fly.