Ad Hoc

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Definition of Ad Hoc

Ad Hoc is a word that originally comes from Latin and means “for this” or “for this situation”.

It is used to describe something that has been created or used for a special and immediate purpose, without previous planning. In other words, it refers to actions taken to address a specific situation, circumstance or problem, and not intended to address other or ongoing issues.

It is commonly used both in business and government settings.

Examples

Business organizations and governments frequently form ad hoc committees to study a particular problem or issue and make recommendations to address it.

Here are some examples of the common differences between issues that are addressed on an ad hoc basis as compared to normal company undertakings.

Ad-Hoc Collaboration

  • Planning a company event
  • Designing a new website concept
  • Managing a new product launch
  • Designing a new marketing campaign

Structured/Planned Collaboration

  • Managing factories
  • Managing products
  • Managing clients or cases
  • Managing prospects

Sometimes unexpected circumstances arise, such as global pandemic, changes in country’s tax laws, etc. and this prompt companies to put together an ad hoc committee to determine how best to respond to the change in circumstances. This means that the actions taken are designed only to address a specific situation and are not intended to be an ongoing part of an organization’s operations.

The other meaning usually used for ad hoc is “as needed”.

To illustrate, when a company decides to hire additional personnel on a non-permanent basis. Say the company takes on a new project. There is uncertainty as to the number of manpower needed to finish the project. The company’s management may assign a primary group of employees for the task with the note that additional personnel “will be added on an ad hoc basis.”

Ad hoc is also used technically when referring to “ad hoc network”. It means to a network of computers or other devices that communicate directly with each other, often bypassing a gatekeeping access point like a router.

Advantages of Ad Hoc Actions

There are two primary benefits of taking ad hoc actions:

  1. Timely and efficient dealing.

Gathering a temporary team to address a special circumstance or emergency that has arisen can enable an organization to respond more quickly, and therefore more efficiently, to a situation than if dealing with the situation were merely assigned as additional work for existing employees.

  1. Cost-effective.

Handling things on a non-permanent basis may also be more cost-effective. Say, a company hires an expert on a temporary basis to work on a specific problem and pays them as an independent consultant, it may be less expensive than taking on a new full-time employee who may not be needed past the point of solving the specific problem.

Disadvantages of Ad Hoc Actions

Dealing with issues on a short-term basis comes with risks, such as the focus on a specific issue may ignore other important factors that may impact the overall organization’s effectiveness. Momentary actions taken to address a specific problem may result in an unplanned negative effect on other operational functions of an organization.

For example, an ad hoc committee formed to address an unexpected cash flow crisis may recommend terminating or laying off a considerable number of employees. While the move may solve the immediate problem, it may also end up creating larger problems for the company in the future as a result of losing valuable personnel and negatively affecting employee morale among the remaining staff.

Ad Hoc Analysis

Ad hoc analysis is referred to as a business report or data analysis created by users, as and when they need it.

In business intelligence (BI), it is a process designed to answer a single, specific business question. Users may create a report that does not already exist or drill deeper into a static report to get details about accounts, transactions or records. It lets the user determine which data sources to pull from and how that data will be presented.

Business intelligence (BI) is a technology-driven process for analyzing data and presenting actionable information which helps executives, managers and other corporate end users make informed business decisions.

One key distinguishing factor of ad-hoc analysis is its ability to provide complete customized analytics.

Ad Hoc Analysis in Business

Ad hoc analysis is performed by business users on an as-needed basis to address data analysis needs not met by the business’s static, regular reporting already conducted daily, weekly, monthly or yearly. 

The benefits of self-service BI conducted by ad hoc analysis tools include:

  • More current data.

This allow users to get latest insights into data not yet analyzed by a scheduled report.

  • Faster line-of-business decisions.

This enable users — typically, managers or executives — access to data through a point-and-click interface eliminates the need to request data and analysis from another group within the company.

This capacity enables quicker response times when a business question comes up, which, in turn, should help users respond to issues and make business decisions faster.

  • IT workload reduction.

Since ad hoc reporting permits users to run their own queries, IT teams’ field fewer requests to create reports and can focus on other tasks.

Although most ad hoc reports and analyses are meant to be run only once, in practice, they often end up being reused and run on a regular basis. This can lead to unnecessary reporting processes that affect high-volume reporting periods.

Reports should be reviewed periodically for efficiencies to determine whether they continue to serve a useful business purpose.

Ad Hoc Reporting

Ad-hoc reporting is a model of business intelligence (BI) in which reports are made and distributed by nontechnical business intelligence users.

In other words, with ad-hoc reporting, all the technical user does is to set up the BI solution, connect it to the data-sources, establish security parameters and determine which objects end-users can see. From that point on, the actual reports are created by business end-users.

In addition, with this BI model, users can use their reporting and analysis solution to answer their business questions as the need arise, without having to request queries from IT.

Naturally, ad-hoc reports can be as simple as a one page data table or as complex and rich as interactive tabular or cross-tab reports with drill-down and visualization features–or present themselves in the form of dashboards, heat maps, or other more advanced forms.

This depends largely on the following:

a) Type of ad-hoc solution employed

b) End-user needs; and

c) User’s confidence with the solution

Ad-hoc reporting sits in contrast with managed reporting, wherein, it is the technical user–the report developer–who creates and distributes the report.

Objective of Ad Hoc Reporting

The main objective of Ad Hoc reporting is to empower end-users to ask their own questions of company data, without burdening IT with the task of creating a numerous report to serve a variety of functions and purposes.

Ad-hoc reporting thus makes the most sense when a large number of end-users need to see, understand, and act on data more or less independently, while still being on the same page as far as which set of numbers they look at.

Let’s say, a firm with a large outside-sales force would be the perfect fit for ad-hoc reporting.

Each sales representative can set up his own report for his territory, showing performance against sales goals, orders taken, number of visits to each client, etc., in a format that makes the most sense to him. And just as importantly, the numbers used are pulled from the same data sources as the rest of the company, thereby promoting consistency and minimizing surprises at the end of the quarter.

A good-quality and a web-based ad-hoc reporting solution significantly improves the benefits of the ad-hoc reporting model for the company adopting it.

Benefits of Web-based Ad-hoc Reporting

There are benefits of a web-based ad-hoc reporting, such as;

  1. Timely and automatic delivery of critical information.

Self-service outputs with automatic scheduling/delivery of information let you facilitate timely decision making. Users get the information they need when they need it to answer critical, real-time questions. It is important to get critical information to the right people at the right time.

  1. Flexibility in a constantly changing environments.

Companies needs to evolve. Answers to varying business queries become more critical. It is impossible to anticipate what questions and answers users may need in the future.

  1. Training costs and time savings.

Streamlines users’ access to critical information. Easy-to-use wizards allow users to get up and running quickly, requiring less time to learn the application and providing clear guidance and saving time to build reports.

  1. Collaboration and information sharing.

Users can easily create, organize, publish and make reports available to other users via the Web for on-demand viewing.

  1. IT workload reduction.

The Web-based reporting application itself can be installed quickly for widespread availability to end-users. Once deployed, it empowers users to build the reports themselves anytime they need the information thus, no need for IT report developer’s assistance.

Characteristics of a Good Ad-hoc Reporting Solution

A good ad-hoc reporting solution should work towards the achievement of the company’s strategy.

It is important to identify what each end-user’s strategic function is within the organization, and ensure high optimization for an easier and more effective functions without having to compromise the benefits by being too expensive.

A good reporting solution should have the following characteristics:

  1. Being easy-to-use.

If it appears to be complicated, many end-users will be turned off and user adoption will suffer. For this reason, some of the better ad-hoc reporting solutions available today offer a basic set of intuitive features that are wizard-driven and will look easy even to the proverbial “non-computer person,” while also offering more advanced sets of tools for the user who feels confident.

  1. Being robust.

Given that adoption is not a problem, the ad-hoc solution should offer end-users what they need to see, understand and act upon their data. Far from being a more hi-tech version of Excel, it should offer interactive features like ad-hoc dashboards, drill-down and drill-through, advanced sorting and filtering, rich visualization tools like heat maps, charts and graphs, etc.

  1. Being Web-based.

For it to be truly valuable, a BI solution (including ad-hoc reporting) should run on the Internet. Apart from offering the familiar navigability with which we are all familiar, a Web-based solution is available from virtually anywhere and on any device sporting Internet connection.

Another advantage of a Web-based ad-hoc solution is that the system administrator won’t have to set it up individually on every user’s machine: installing it on the server is enough, and all the users need to access it is a simple URL.

  1. Being easy to set up.

In today’s time, a Web-based ad-hoc reporting solutions are data-source neutral, meaning that they can connect practically out of the box to most of today’s commonly-used data-sources, including databases, Web-services, flat files, etc. This saves the IT department the burden of creating complex metadata structures as the underlying layer, which is time-consuming, cumbersome and expensive.

  1. Having a server-based licensing with no per-user fees.

If the benefit of ad-hoc reporting is that of empowering end-users, it should not come with a “user-tax” in the form of per-seat licensing.

Ad-Hoc Analysis and Reporting Tools Considerations

Having several departments within an organization who need access to ad-hoc analysis and ad-hoc reporting, a BI solution that uses embedded analytics to help your teams easily view and digest big data from a variety of sources, is necessary.

This allow users to control how they visualize the needed data, and plugs right into its existing data sources (no matter how diverse or fragmented) so there’s no need to invest in any additional tools or hardware to get the necessary insights.

In addition, companies want to make sure that their BI solution ticks the box for granular data governance to easily set permissions and control access based on user level, dashboard or even down to a specific row.

And finally, businesses want to make sure that their BI solutions is really self-service oriented as it should be.