Unpacking the Ad Hoc Analysis

Ad hoc reporting

Modern business intelligence (BI) is based on ad hoc analyses tailored to address specific questions. Getting a quick answer to a single, immediate question requires analyzing the data. This is where ad hoc analysis comes in—one quick chart to answer all the questions. Perhaps you will later find that chart useful and decide to incorporate it into a dashboard. Nevertheless, for now, ad hoc will suffice.

Ad hoc analysis is not just a fancy buzzword or something that only a select few may be able to do. It necessitates establishing a data-driven culture within your organization. You will be able to scale and mature your business intelligence efforts if you understand the role and function of ad hoc analysis.

Significance of Ad Hoc Analysis

Ad hoc analysis is performed when analysts investigate one-time questions that aren’t part of standard dashboards. And to answer those burning questions, here’s why it is needed:

1. Businesses constantly evolve. Every change, including introducing a new product line, marketing channel, or business initiative, requires ad hoc analysis. A new world opened up for businesses upon the start of the pandemic. This meant that predefined reporting was no longer applicable. There were many new questions, many of which were urgent.

2. Standardized reporting is grounded in ad-hoc analysis. KPIs and core metrics aren’t predetermined; they evolve as a company learns what matters and what doesn’t. Ad hoc analysis is essential to this development process.Ad hoc analysis

Difference Between Ad Hoc Reporting and Structured Reporting?

A number of differences exist between ad hoc reporting and structured reporting. Ad hoc reports are only generated when needed and in a format relevant to the audience, as opposed to structured reports that use formalized templates.

Structured reports are also created by people with extensive technical expertise and experience working with business intelligence tools to sort through and compile tons of data. Comparatively, ad hoc reports rely on smaller amounts of data, giving enterprise employees the ability to report specific data points that help answer business-related questions. 

For instance, some A/B testing tools have features that allow website owners to create ad hoc reports. The size of the company doesn’t matter. Data speed and on-demand availability are what matters to customers.

Steps Involved in Creating an Ad Hoc Analysis Report

Quantify the Business Problem

From an analytics perspective, business questions are often vague or poorly defined. Establish quantifiable definitions for the questions asked and align the business on whether those are the correct/appropriate interpretations for the questions. Developing possible measurable definitions of the question can also be enhanced by asking for the context behind the question.

Formulate Hypotheses

Upon defining your specific business question, the common stumbling block is to start “boiling the ocean.” This means gathering data you already have, obtaining data you don’t have but need, and dumping that into the latest data science model. Even though such an approach might yield some valuable insights, it is neither the most scientific nor the most calculated way to solve a problem. Generating hypotheses requires you to use your domain expertise.

Choosing the Testing Model

Choosing a suitable analytical method is the first step in testing your hypotheses. Take into account the output you want and its actionability. Analytical techniques may include any of the following and more.

  • Predictive models
  • A/B testing
  • Time Series analysis
  • Techniques such as clustering, classification, or Natural Language Processing

You should also answer questions pertaining to the data and metrics you will need for the analysis during this phase.

Discovery and Transformation of Data

Now that your ad hoc business question has been quantified, hypotheses generated, and your analytical method described, it is time to collect, organize, and prepare your data.

Find out what data sources exist within your organization. Investigate where your information is stored – in a database, the cloud, or SaaS applications. There may be pain points that you need to resolve before exploring all the data you require. Your ability to use the information right away will depend on the centralized nature of all the data and the BI or Data Science tools available. There is a possibility that you will have to extract data from multiple systems and stitch it together offline in Excel or another tool.

Test the Analysis 

Your data is now ready to be analyzed so you can begin looking for answers to your business question. Your approach to this will depend on your chosen analysis method and the tools at your disposal. Using multiple devices simultaneously to access your final dataset will help you drive efficiency and lessen time-to-insight for agile, data-driven decisions.

As you interpret data, you may discover that your earlier steps need to be revised if the analysis comes to a dead end. Depending on how the data was collected and prepared, you may have to reconsider how well your original framework applies to this specific question.

Making Recommendations on Your Findings

Bravo! Providing your data analysis matches up with the questions and hypotheses posed in the previous steps, you’re getting close to sharing your findings. Now is the time to put a frame to your results in a consumable format.

If you are using a BI tool, you will be able to create dashboards with sophisticated visualization options that are simple to use and share. If not, you may need to use a presentation tool such as Microsoft PowerPoint or Google Slides to create visualizations such as charts, graphs, maps, and other graphics.

Before making a recommendation, be sure to consider the audience for your report so that you are providing relevant context and detail. Depending on the organization’s role and status, it may be necessary to trade off the technical depth of your analysis against the strategic implications of its results and recommendations.

Completing the Picture

Answering business questions based on data in the most comprehensive way possible with actionable results and recommendations. Still, a fast-changing business world requires as much agility as possible to respond. Yet, this is not always the case. The time analysts spend finding, retrieving, and preparing data for analysis is far too time-consuming when working in silos and without proper knowledge management and collaboration tools.

Embedding Your Ad Hoc Reporting 

Data transmission must be fast. The better your data insight, the more agile your decision-making will be. This is why embedded ad hoc reporting is so valuable. Dashboard changes and updates are made in real-time without going through a separate process.

The benefit is most apparent in industries that change rapidly, such as retail and technology. In addition, it can be used when data needs to be quickly distributed to stakeholders who are geographically dispersed.

If, for instance, you want to share results with your team or investors who require greater sophistication, embedding ad hoc reporting can offer the ability to build customized reports that answer more specific questions.

In addition to eliminating the need for separate reports and presentations, embedded ad hoc reporting provides real-time analysis. As a result, you can save time and ensure every user has the most up-to-date information.

Implementing embedded ad hoc reporting is transforming the way decisions are made. Making decisions based on instant feedback allows businesses to react more quickly to market changes. This can be a huge advantage in industries that are constantly in flux. You can use them to shorten the time to insight while maintaining the flexibility to produce ad-hoc reports.

Embedding ad hoc reporting solutions into existing products can deliver benefits beyond faster decisions. As well as providing enhanced control over who sees data, these systems are also more secure.

As new data is discovered or outdated information is updated, your BI tool can support ad hoc reporting on-the-fly. This keeps the content fresh, giving it a longer useful life without diluting the insights.

How can Ad Hoc Analysis help you?

With DotNet Report Builder’s Ad Hoc analysis, you can transform your company from reactive to proactive. 

Updated Data

In addition to providing users with up-to-the-minute information, ad hoc reporting also offers them access to data that is not yet analyzed for a scheduled report. 

Reduced Workload for IT

Information from all departments can be mined and analyzed conveniently and easily without burdening IT staff or spending additional money on recruitment. The IT team can focus on other essential tasks with fewer requests to create reports.  

A Greater Level of Agility for Users

The ability to respond quickly to specific business questions on demand assists managers and other leaders speed up the decision-making process throughout an organization. 

A Flexible Reporting Process

Users can navigate and select relevant data with the right ad hoc reporting tools. By combining insights, reports can be analyzed and presented quickly. 

Reduced Bottlenecks for Analysts

In addition to empowering analysts to ask specific questions about corporate data using ad hoc analysis and reporting, they can relieve themselves of the burden of one-off data and report requests.

Why Should You Rule Out Static Dashboards?

The world is becoming more digital and dynamic by the minute, and we’re always online. This is equally true for businesses as well. On the one hand, the prospects are great: companies can get qualified leads while tracking every detail and providing exceptional customer service. The Gartner survey found that digital channels accounted for almost 80% of marketing budgets in 2020.

Conversely, speed is everything. In today’s fast-paced environment, marketers should be able to quickly have answers to their questions based on reliable data. Classic analytics tools cannot deliver value to modern businesses despite having a lot of data since they were never meant for the demands of today’s time.

Furthermore, one of the biggest challenges in marketing analytics is successfully implementing data insights, as CMOs rarely get what they want.

Bottom Line

One of the hallmarks of ad hoc analysis is that it’s iterative—where one answer always leads to more questions in the house. It is common to have an idea of how one might answer an ad hoc question, but that plan almost always evolves as you learn. Similar to a journalist doing an investigation, allowing the story to lead them closer to the truth rather than an architect creating a blueprint and following it precisely until the task is accomplished. Ad hoc analysis is of immense value for businesses, and the best analyses follow the data wherever it leads. 

Let your end-users construct their own ad hoc reports and dashboards without any learning curve by integrating DotNet Report Builder into your application.

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