Guide To Ad Hoc Reporting (With Benefits And Best Practices)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published 6 September 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Organisations across industries rely on data to make critical business decisions. Ad hoc analysis is a powerful way to derive vital business insights, without spending time and resources on complicated data analysis techniques. Understanding the key features and benefits of ad hoc reports can help you decide whether it is the right choice for your team's data analysis needs. In this article, we explain ad hoc reporting, discuss its benefits, share a few examples and elaborate on the best practices for using ad hoc reports in the workplace.

What Is Ad Hoc Reporting?

Ad hoc reporting is the process of creating business reports in real-time. Ad hoc is a Latin phrase that refers to a particular task done for a specific reason. Unlike standard reports that businesses create periodically, teams create ad hoc reports for particular occasions. It answers specific business questions such as How many deals did the business close last quarter? or how many tickets did the support team resolve successfully the previous week?

Ad hoc reports allow teams to customise input variables to create flexible reports that deliver quick and targeted insights. It enables teams to quickly generate new business reports or edit previously made reports without requiring the expertise of IT or data analysis professionals. Ad hoc reports are visual, making it easy for the target audience to interpret them easily.

Related: Basics Of Work Report Writing (With Format And Examples)

10 Benefits Of Ad Hoc Reports

Here are the top advantages of using ad hoc reports as part of your business intelligence process:

1. Flexibility

The flexible nature of ad hoc reports is a critical advantage to businesses in a rapidly changing business environment. Companies can quickly answer critical business questions without requiring time-consuming data analysis. Ad hoc analysis empowers teams to modify and customise business reports in real-time. It helps teams ask specific questions that suit their requirements and generate interactive reports on the go.

Related: Business Analyst Vs. Data Analyst: What Is The Difference?

2. Proactive decision-making

Ad hoc reports provide businesses with real-time opportunities to correct and improve operational efficiency across departments. A significant benefit of ad hoc analysis is that it makes it easy for companies to get quick and fast answers to specific questions and issues. For example, sales teams can quickly identify the effectiveness of a particular sales strategy and rectify problems in real-time to improve results. This helps businesses make data-backed, proactive and agile decisions that result in positive outcomes.

Related: Important Decision-Making Skills: Definition And Examples

3. Access to multiple data sources

Ad hoc analysis helps you analyse numerous data sources to generate real-time reports. Ad hoc software contains a dashboard that allows you to control multiple data sources and determine which data inputs to use for specific reports. You can compare different data sources using features like filters, sliders and link reporting.

4. Ease of use

Another advantage of ad hoc reports is that even non-technical users can create efficient and quick reports. Ad hoc software has an interactive, visual and user-friendly dashboard that makes uncovering timely and accurate answers to all your business questions simple and easy. Ad hoc reports use graphic tools like tables, graphs and charts and are organised in an easy-to-read and shareable format, making data interpretation easy and accessible.

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5. Simplified data analysis

Ad hoc reports are a critical real-time decision-making tool. It allows end-users to make critical decisions without using complicated and time-consuming data analysis techniques. It gives teams real-time insights into the business strategies like sales, marketing, performance and others.

Related: 10 Valuable Data Analysis Skills

6. Reduced IT workload

Ad hoc analysis helps businesses save time and money by reducing the dependency on data analysis and IT professionals and minimising interdepartmental conflicts. Ad hoc reports are straightforward and user-friendly. They are essentially self-service reports, which allow non-technical end users to generate customised reports in niche business areas without relying on the technical expertise of data analysis professionals.

Related: Guide: What Does The IT Department Do In A Business?

7. Complete customisation

Ad hoc reports offer numerous customisation possibilities tailored to fit your business requirements. Ad hoc analysis software has handy tools like templates that you can adjust and use based on your needs. It allows businesses to generate custom reports without hiring expert business data analysts.

8. Elimination of operational hurdles

Operational hurdles are difficult to identify and can result in substantial output delays and productivity losses. For example, if a multinational company has issues paying invoices on time, they can run ad hoc reports to identify the core issues and rectify them. These reports can help pinpoint the reason for operational hurdles, helping businesses eliminate them and get back on track.

Related: What Is A Bottleneck? (And Tips To Resolve One Successfully)

9. Empowers employees

Employees across all levels and departments can find answers to relevant questions without relying on data analysis professionals or colleagues from other departments. This empowers them to make the right real-time decisions that improve productivity. When employees have robust data and reporting tools, they can quickly identify problems, trends and capitalise on available opportunities, increasing output efficiency.

10. Maximised data utilisation

Data is considered one of the biggest assets of modern organisations. Yet, it remains the least used or underused resource. By making data reporting easy, ad hoc analysis helps employees and senior leaders maximise utilisation of available business data to reap huge benefits and uncover market opportunities.

Related: How Much Do Data Analysts Make? (Plus How To Become One)

Examples Of Ad Hoc Reports

Here are a few examples of how ad hoc reports offer immense benefits to businesses across sectors:

Healthcare

Cortis is a chain of hospitals across South India. They want to track the number of patients admitted to the emergency room (ER) on weekends. They use ad hoc reports to find out this number and increase or decrease the number of healthcare professionals working on the weekends, depending on the number of patients. Ad hoc reports help the hospital chain make swift and accurate decisions that improve operational efficiencies and decrease mortality rates, thus saving lives.

Financial analysis

Sharp is a multinational company that offers consulting services to small businesses. Ad hoc analysis helps Sharp gain a deeper understanding of its financial data. For example, at the end of a month, they use ad hoc reports to identify the monthly gross profit after deducting all direct costs. This helps the key stakeholders make accurate budgeting, planning and resource allocation decisions for the following month, helping drive profitability by eliminating unnecessary expenses.

Retail

Dartboard is a grocery chain with hundreds of branches across the country. The company uses ad hoc reports to track inventories and spot sales trends. For example, ad hoc analysis of inventory revealed a spike in candle and incense stick sales before the festival period. Using this data, they stocked their shelves with extra volumes of these two products to meet the increased customer demand and drive sales revenues.

Education

Bright Mind is a franchise-based preschool. The institution used ad hoc analysis to identify that students of ages five to six were struggling with sight words and essential reading. Based on this data, the school offered after-hours phonics classes to students for an additional fee. This helped the institution increase revenues while improving its students' reading levels and capabilities.

Manufacturing

Conida is an electronics manufacturing company with an extensive supply chain spanning continents. The company wants to identify suppliers who are not delivering on time. Using ad hoc reports, Conida can quickly identify suppliers who have missed their deadlines in the last quarter. Using this data, they can terminate contracts with underperforming suppliers and renew contracts with suppliers who deliver consistently.

Best Practices For Ad Hoc Analysis

Here are a few tips to help you increase the efficiency and accuracy of ad hoc analysis:

  • Ask the right questions. The efficiency and usability of the report depend mainly on the question that the report answers. It is a good practice to focus the report on one business question or objective.

  • Keep it visually simple and appealing. While designing the report, avoid overloading the reader with too much information. If there are multiple data elements to include, you can consider separating them into different reports.

  • Include metrics that the audience is familiar with. This makes it easy for your target audience to understand and interpret the data in the report. You can include the report's time period so readers can understand the relevance of the information on it.

  • Make relevant data points easily accessible. Present the critical data points like total sales in a quarter prominently at the top of the report. This makes it easy for the readers to quickly understand the key insights without having to search for relevant data in the body of the report.

  • Use relevant templates. Using report templates available in ad hoc software can help reduce the time you spend creating various reports. You can also customise these templates to suit your specific business requirements.

  • Maintain report consistency. Use the same visual elements, like fonts, colours, layout and theme for all reports to maintain a uniform and consistent approach, to improve readability.

Please note that none of the companies, institutions or organisations mentioned in this article are associated with Indeed.

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