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Ad Hoc Reporting Guide for Businesses

Ad hoc reporting is a valuable business tool for rapid data analysis. Learn more about ad hoc reports here, including their benefits and best practices.

Ad hoc is a Latin term used as a shorthand phrase for as or when needed. The ad hoc meaning in business can be applied to any number of processes, including reporting. It's used when someone wants to collect data outside a reporting schedule or cycle to get the most up-to-date information about a specific category. The information is then used to compare it against historical data, check a category's current performance, and ensure that projects are progressing as expected.

Data has always driven the decisions businesses make, but it plays an ever-increasing role in a company's direction for just about every aspect of its operation. Everything from hours worked by employees to the amount of tax paid on revenues is tracked. The resulting data is organized into a report to read, research, and uncover previously hidden information easily.

Aggregating this data into a report can take time, hence the routine of creating reports on set dates and intervals. An ad hoc report is drawn up outside of the publishing cycle and incomplete in terms of the information it contains. However, an incomplete report is still useful in terms of the information it contains.

Ad hoc reports deliver data that can be quickly acted upon if a category isn't showing desired results, if there's not enough staffing on a project, and if a plan of action is successful. Still trying to figure out what is an ad hoc report? Read on to learn more about ad hoc reporting and how it benefits you and your business.

What is ad hoc reporting?

The ad hoc meaning in business refers to the act of requesting a specific dataset from a database prior to its regular due date. It can be used for data profiling or tracking the results of different marketing strategies. Ad hoc reporting can be used to get the latest information from every category and process a business engages in, enabling you to make informed decisions and actions.

What is ad hoc analysis?

Ad hoc analysis is the study of a report to uncover information that can be used to generate a plan of action. This is known as a business intelligence process because it delivers insight into the current state of a category. The information in the report helps the business see what's going on and gain insight into its performance. From there, the users can implement changes if necessary, adjust plans, and build upon a successful strategy.

Ad hoc vs. standard reporting and analysis

Ad hoc and standard reports are similar in terms of what they contain, and both are used for business intelligence purposes. The difference between them comes down to the type of data and period that's being sought by the user.

Standard reports

A standard report is done on a recurring basis and delivers the same information every time it's due. For example, a report for a specific category is needed every quarter, and it has to provide data from the beginning to the end of the previous quarter. That means the report is set to be delivered the day after the end of the quarter and contains a predictable data set.

The recipient knows that the report will be on their desktop on a specific day by a certain time and knows in advance the category the data is derived from. They also know that they'll analyze and use a particular dataset for various purposes.

Ad hoc reports

These reports are fluid in that they can be used to pull data from any category and time period the user seeks. There's no waiting for a predetermined period to close, and the information sought can be utilized for anything the user wants. The user may need the information to refine their sales prospecting efforts or determine how close a division is to reaching its sales goals.

What are the benefits of ad hoc reporting?

Ad hoc reports help a business stay agile and keep up with its internal goals and the progress of various divisions. Pulling an ad hoc report between static reports delivers information on a project's current status and results, enabling decision-makers to take appropriate action.

Here are a few other ways ad hoc reporting can benefit your business:

Increased efficiency

Ad hoc reporting helps a business increase efficiency by checking key performance indicators (KPIs) randomly. Examples of KPIs include sales, marketing, social media monitoring, finances, and more. These areas deliver insight into the performance of different departments without waiting for a scheduled standard report.

Cost savings

Users don't have to wait for the information in a standard report to arrive on a specific date. With ad hoc reports, users can get the information they need sooner and make changes now instead of later, even if the data is technically incomplete. Less working time is wasted on waiting for the day the report is generated as well.

For example, say a user needs information from a quarterly report, but it's 6 weeks into the quarter. Ad hoc reporting lets them get information right away instead of 6 weeks from now.

Enhanced communication

One of the advantages of ad hoc reports is pulling a specific dataset for analysis by a certain group of users. Instead of parsing through a finished report and trying to get the users on the same page, the ad hoc approach of using a narrow definition for a specific data set enables the team lead to create a report that's repeatable, has the relevant data for analysis, and guarantees that the same data sets are sent to users who are assigned to the project. All uncertainties and confusion are eliminated as a result.

Customizability and flexibility

A standard report is known as a canned report because it pulls data that meets a set of parameters. The information in the report is fixed, while just about anything goes with ad hoc reporting in terms of the information it can pull. A user defines their inputs (including the start and end dates) and sends the query into the database to find the relevant information. The data delivered at the query's completion is in line with what the user is seeking as opposed to a fixed data set.

Challenges of ad hoc reporting

The practice of ad hoc reporting is beneficial to a business in many ways, but it also has its challenges that can undermine the practice.

It's essential to clearly define the data being sought to avoid going off in the wrong direction during analysis. Another issue with ad hoc reporting is consistency. Everyone who needs access to the data has to get the same dataset to ensure their conclusions align with everyone else's.

Last but not least, the practice of using ad hoc reports needs to be balanced with traditional or canned reports. Too much reliance on ad hoc data can result in skewed perceptions and conclusions that don't align with the information that's been collected and organized in a traditional report.

However, you can minimize the risks associated with ad hoc reporting and analysis by using an ad hoc reporting tool. This technology can help you create ad hoc reports quickly, easily, and accurately.

Best practices for ad hoc reporting

Before creating the parameters for an ad hoc report, you must be mindful of what you'll receive once the process has finished. Remember that the reporting process hasn't closed yet, and the information that's delivered isn't going to show the complete picture.

Engaging in best practices enables you to get the most value from the datasets and maintain their context in the following report. Some of the best practices include:

  • Know the question you want the report to answer.
  • Define the goals you want to attain with the data you collect.
  • Create a simple layout that makes it easy for the viewer to find the data they need.
  • Use a pre-made template or create one for defining the data in the layout.
  • Keep the reports simple and straightforward so all users can understand and comprehend the information presented.
  • Pay attention to the level of granularity when explaining your points.
  • Visualize the data as much as possible for ease of viewing and mapping.
  • Make it easy for the user to access consolidated data points.

The overarching theme for best practices in ad hoc reporting is to keep it simple. You're focusing on a specific dataset, and the users assigned to review the report may not always understand what you're trying to show them. Breaking down the information into visuals and providing explanations helps everyone follow along and understand how they can effectively execute their part in the project.

By ensuring you follow the best practices above, you can use ad hoc reporting in several ways. This includes identifying roadblocks to improve your strategy, determining and adjusting your budget, and making informed business decisions that impact your operations.

Find success with custom ad hoc reports

There's a lot to gain when improving various processes through ad hoc reports. The action can be applied to every business division that uses reports to find specific data, from a new sales automation process to uncovering problems that hinder customer satisfaction. Ad hoc reporting works across all business types, saves time and money, and makes it easier to solve problems.

Ad hoc reporting tools are valuable, and at Mailchimp, we recognize the benefit of using diverse tools that improve your business processes. That's why we include reports and analytics that work with ad hoc analysis and reporting techniques. We want to help you build a successful business, so get started today and gain a deeper understanding of your marketing strategies with our ad hoc reporting software.

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