Why ad-hoc reports are essential to your business

Regular reporting has become the cornerstone of any self-respecting data-driven company. For businesses experiencing a rapid change in market conditions, ad-hoc reports are a vital part of their Business Intelligence toolkit.

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Thibaut Collette

June 1, 2023 · 5 min read

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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!

What are ad-hoc reports?


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:

  • top-selling products for a given period;
  • sales performances in various regions;
  • cost prediction for a given period;
  • churn rate of non-paying customers;
  • KPIs of a new payment feature.

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). 

What’s the difference between recurring reports and ad-hoc reports?

Ad-hoc reports:

  • created when needed
  • specific and customizable
  • often hand-built

Recurring reports:

  • generated on a regular basis
  • designed to track predefined metrics or data points over time
  • can easily be automated and shared directly with stakeholders
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 reporting gives an overview of the evolution of the business and ensures all operations are going according to plan.
  • Ad-hoc reporting, on the other hand, is a one-shot analysis, digging into a specific matter at a specific time – for example, if a Sales representative needs to learn why a product has seen a decrease in sales.

Recurring reports can contain: 

  • daily sales metrics;
  • the weekly usage rate of an app;
  • weekly acquisition reports;
  • monthly downloads of an app;
  • monthly costs.

Why are ad-hoc reports so valuable?

The benefits of ad-hoc reports for a business are numerous. Let’s focus on two of them.

Real-time reporting

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. 

Sharing insights with stakeholders

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

Which format for optimized Data Storytelling?

Slides and dashboards

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: 

  • They provide real-time data, which enables stakeholders to monitor key metrics and trends on the spot.
  • They are interactive: they allow stakeholders to explore the data on their own and draw their own conclusions. This interactivity is particularly helpful for those who are more data-savvy and want to dive deeper. 

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:
  • they provide a flexible and interactive environment for data analysis and data visualization;
  • they make data iteration and exploration easier for users: they can run queries, apply filters and visualize data in real time;
  • they allow Analysts to investigate and deepen Data Storytelling by running queries without breaking the data lineage, and adding text explanations for better BU understanding;
  • reports can then be shared across different teams and with stakeholders;
  • once they have been created, they are easy to reproduce and reuse for similar analyses.

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!

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