Regular reporting has become the cornerstone of any self-respecting data-driven company. But more often than not, the reporting process is automated and carried out with dashboards – which gives stakeholders an overview of the current business growth. Ad-hoc reports, on the other hand, enable your teams – especially Data Analysts – to answer in detail all questions the Business Users might have…Let’s see how!
First of all, the term "ad-hoc" comes from a Latin expression meaning "to this". It is now used to describe something that is created or carried out with a predefined purpose, or in order to meet a particular need.
When used in reporting, the term “ad-hoc” virtually means the same thing: meeting a specific need, at a specific point in time.
An ad-hoc report is generated or created on request, in order to investigate on a specific matter or answer a precise question asked by stakeholders.
They are then presented the conclusions of these analyses.
Here are some ad-hoc report examples:
An ad-hoc report is often a one-off: it is valid in the context where it was created, but it cannot be used elsewhere (at least not directly).
Both recurring and ad-hoc reports are essential to business analysis and decision-making, but answer distinct business needs. Choosing one or the other depends on the question that needs to be tackled.
Recurring reports can contain:
The benefits of ad-hoc reports for a business are numerous. Let’s focus on two of them.
Ad-hoc reports turn out to be particularly useful when a specific situation requires immediate action. For instance, in case of sudden changes in market conditions or customer behaviors, an ad-hoc report will prove very useful since it can be generated quickly and gather useful insights from various data sources.
While recurring reports and dashboards inform stakeholders of the general business situation, ad-hoc reporting is the best way to investigate any specific question that they might have. It requires looking for the data that will provide the best answers to these questions, and then sharing the conclusions of the analysis – and it is crucial to help companies make the right data-driven decisions.
Here is another advantage of ad-hoc reports: they can be shared with stakeholders – be it executives, managers or customers. Besides, they are flexible and interactive, which means that your stakeholders won’t experience any difficulty understanding and engaging with the information contained in your reports.
Ad-hoc reports improve communication and collaboration within your organization. They also enable you to optimize decision-making and substantially enhance your competitive advantage.
All in all, a proper ad-hoc report should provide answers to all Business questions: it should contain information about the context, a detailed analysis of the data as well as several takeaways and suggestions.
Slides are made up of charts, graphs, and other visual elements. They are the most widely used format for companies that want to share analyses and insights with stakeholders. They are visually appealing, which proves very useful when dealing with complex or abstract concepts which are hard to explain via written documents alone.
Dashboards, on the other hand, have a few advantages:
However, since slides consist of screenshots of previously created dashboards, combined with some contextual information, their use frequently results in a broken data lineage. Besides, they are usually static, which makes it impossible for users to interact with the data or alter the way it is displayed.
Likewise, dashboards are designed to display data in a summarized or aggregated way. They are useful for displaying general information, but aren't very user-friendly since they are created according to already-decided metrics: users cannot customize the analysis nor the display.
Notebooks appear to be the best solution:
Thanks to the detailed and timely insights they provide, ad-hoc reports help answer actual Business questions and allow companies to adapt their strategy and maintain a competitive edge. And when it comes to sharing ad-hoc reports, notebooks appear like the best option: they combine data, context and conclusions – all into the same document – to help you make the right data-driven decisions!