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Ad hoc analysis and reporting

What is Ad Hoc Analysis and Reporting?

Ad hoc reporting & analysis is a process of investigating one-off questions that don’t already exist in a dashboard. The defining feature of ad hoc analysis is that it’s iterative—the answer to one question generates more questions, and so on.

Ad hoc analysis answers one-off questions and can drive specific business decisions. This is different from KPI dashboard reporting, which assembles metrics that monitor the business, a department, a project, or an initiative. Companies need both types of analysis to accurately see what’s happening.

Ad hoc reporting & analysis is a process where analysts investigate one-off questions that don’t already exist in a dashboard.

Examples & Use Cases for Ad Hoc Analysis & Reporting

  • An airline company wants to understand the potential impact of a new companion fare promotion they’re considering.

  • A marketing manager wants to know why a recent blog post performed so much better than others.

  • An exec team wants to know why app downloads are stagnating on iOS but not on Android.

  • A product manager wants to know how people are interacting with a new feature.

  • An analyst wants to figure out why their data pipelines get backed up every Thursday.

  • A support team wants to decide if they should expand their support hours.

  • A CSM wants to figure out which use cases they should focus on in an upcoming check-in call with a customer.

How to Evaluate Tools for Ad Hoc Analysis & Reporting

To do analysis, you need a modern business intelligence (BI) tool that sits on top of your data stack, like Mode. Mode makes ad hoc analysis easy; here are a few capabilities of Mode that you should look for when evaluating whether or not a BI tool is fit for ad hoc analysis.

Data exploration: Analysts build the static dashboards, but when business users want to dive deeper, are they able to? Mode lets you click into charts and explore the data further with Data Explorations.This can help teammates across the org self-serve and get their answers faster.

Iteration: Analysis is going to be iterative. Is your BI tool flexible enough to help you answer constantly changing questions? For smoother exploratory deep dives, your BI tool needs to allow for flexible data prep (the ability to pull in raw data when needed), and flexibility visualizing and sharing the data.

Customization: Ad hoc questions are unique for each company, its product, and teams. Is your BI tool able to have customized data views to reach a variety of stakeholders? Features like filters, parameters, and HTML capabilities makes it easier for everyone in your org to consume data and ask better questions.

Collaboration: Does your BI tool allow you to make decisions collaboratively? To get the most-informed answers to ad hoc questions, data teams and domain experts should be able weigh in— easily viewing or editing work—in the same tool. Having the ability to edit queries and create visualizations in the same tool makes collaboration easier and getting answers quicker

The most important company decisions can come from ad hoc analysis

  • Companies are constantly evolving. Every change—the introduction of a new marketing channel, a new product line, a new business initiative—requires ad hoc analysis to understand. At the start of the pandemic, for example, businesses had to figure out how to operate in an entirely new world. In these moments, predefined reporting goes out the window. Every question was new and most were urgent.

  • Ad hoc analysis is the foundation of standardized reporting. KPIs and core metrics aren’t preordained; they get developed as a company figures out what’s important to track and what doesn’t matter that much. That development process requires ad hoc analysis.

  • Standardized reports generate more demand for ad hoc analysis. Reports and dashboards will often surface things that look surprising—in fact, that’s often their very point. Just as a car’s check engine light isn’t there to tell you everything about the car but to tell you when you should pop the hood and investigate, standardized reporting can never show every possible view of the data. When we see anomalies in our reporting, we turn to ad hoc analysis to understand what’s happening.

Related terms:

ETL tools , Transformation tools

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