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Ad hoc analysis allows businesses to make quick and smart decisions to stay ahead of the competition. When a company is trying to figure out the specific cause of something, this analysis can help them find a solution.
Ad hoc allows for the gathering of analytical and statistical data from company-wide and outside sources. And unlike reports made monthly or annually, ad hoc analysis allows for a user to gather up-to-date information whenever necessary.
What is ad hoc analysis?
Ad hoc analysis (sometimes referred to as an “ad hoc report”) is a type of business intelligence (BI) process. It allows users to create an analysis of a specific business problem or question whenever necessary. It’s a more flexible analysis because it’s often conducted whenever needed rather than following a specific schedule.
Typically, an ad hoc analysis answers one specific business question. For example, say that your business sales are significantly down this quarter. You could use an ad hoc analysis to figure out the cause of this decline. The findings of this analysis can be based on existing information or new information.
Note that the majority of other BI processes use analytic patterns and algorithms to find the answer to a business question. Using pre-defined information allows for the reports to be conducted at regular intervals. But ad hoc analysis is different — it’s conducted on the fly, using any number of data sources.
With the option to use various sources, ad hoc analysis is customizable. You can also display the information however you feel — as a report, graph, or analytical report.
Ad hoc analysis answers the difficult business questions
Because ad hoc analysis can apply various sources of information, it’s a smart choice to answer complex business problems. For instance, a simple problem would be, “Which of my products sells the most units each week?” Any BI process can determine the answer by searching for purchasing patterns over a period and comparing it to the purchasing patterns of other products.
But asking “Why is a product selling the most units each week?” can be more difficult for most BI processes to answer. At least correctly. Ad hoc analysis truly shines as an answer to complex business questions.
In this analysis, you could look for comments from past customers. The positive comments may glean insight into why the product is popular. You could also source the information directly from customers using a survey. Or even look at what customers are saying about your competitor’s products and compare. Comments made by past customers, survey answers, and comments made about a competitor’s products are three different information sources that can tell you why your product is selling more than others.
What is ad hoc analysis used for?
As mentioned above, the goal of ad hoc analysis is to address a specific business question whenever needed. It’s different from other reports which may be conducted weekly, monthly, or annually. For this reason, ad hoc analysis is best for:
Finding (and using) new data. You can find and use the latest data when conducting an ad hoc analysis. It’s fresher than the information used in weekly or monthly reports — by the time these reports are finished, the information used may be outdated or redundant.
Impromptu decision making. Businesses that can make faster decisions are at an advantage to those businesses that can’t. By responding quickly, these businesses can handle customer inquiries faster, get products out to customers sooner, and solve customer problems promptly. In many ways, speed is a necessity for business success, which this analysis can help with.
Less IT stress. Typically, the IT staff handles these types of analytical support. But with ad hoc analysis, they won’t need to. As such, it allows the team to focus attention where it’s needed most.
Types of ad hoc data resources
Ad hoc analysis typically uses company data sources for information. The final reports can be presented in charts, summaries, analytical reports, or statistical models.
For easy access to data from other sources, ad hoc analysis can benefit from online analytical processing (OLAP) dashboards. On top of that, the reports can use big data resources too. Big data is best when you’d want your information to be sourced from outside company resources.
The benefits of ad hoc analysis
There are several benefits to using Ad Hoc analysis in business. Here’s a crash course in the top advantages.
Streamline decision making. Since this report is generated at a moment’s notice, it can allow for faster decision making. This can be crucial, particularly when needing to get a product to market quickly.
Flexible reporting. Fast decisions can allow for flexibility in the business environment. You can “edit” or change decisions quicker too, meaning it’s easier to adapt to real-life changes.
Simple to use/do. These reports tend to be more visual (such as graphs) which can make it easier to understand, especially compared to reading other lengthy dense documents.
Less stress on IT. Typically, IT handles BI reports, but ad-hoc analysis allows anyone in the business to do it. Which means you can take it upon yourself to do it, and perhaps get quicker results.
Complimentary. Ad-hoc analysis can be quicker than other forms of BI reporting. However, the two complement each other. Ad-hoc analysis can allow for multiple sources and greater insight, and that can support other reports and business analyses.
Ad hoc analysis is best for answering complex business questions whenever the questions appear. It can be used and conducted by anyone in the company (not just IT teams). And you can use both company data and outside resources to support your findings.
This analysis helps businesses make smarter and faster decisions. Streamlining the decision-making process gives businesses an advantage — they can answer questions quickly, get products out quicker, and respond to a changing business landscape as needed.
Because ad hoc analysis can be conducted whenever needed, it can complement other reports and analyses that are completed on a weekly, monthly, or yearly schedule. Although you can do one without the other, using ad hoc analysis with other reports may present more accurate findings.
Image by David Schwarzenberg