What is Ad Hoc Reporting?

Ad hoc reporting is the term given to dynamic reporting that is created on an as-needed (“ad hoc”) basis. This is in contrast to generic reporting provided with software applications, such as traditional, static reports that cannot be modified and may even be run on a weekly, monthly or other cyclical basis.

Unlike traditional reports, ad hoc reports allow for dynamic changes to report elements and manipulation of the report’s contents, for example, the ability to add new fields to the report or pivot on a column of data.

The shift to ad hoc reporting is characterized by a move from static reporting to dynamic queries, one which lets end users ask and answer their own questions about their data.

Prior to the rise of BI in the 1990’s, users counted on tools like Excel or Access to explore their data on an ad hoc basis. While such tools were helpful, especially to power users, they proved to be a problem for organizations. Siloed by department, the data was often inaccurate – and there was little or no oversight, data security or disaster recovery.

As a result, organizations moved to BI platforms, which allowed ever-increasing gigabytes of data to be available to the organization. These applications had their own drawbacks. To make analytics available in close to real time they usually required ETL into a data warehouse. The requirements of the data warehouse moved reporting back to the IT department (and away from end users) due to highly technical, complex nature of ETL updates and database queries.

A new generation of BI software has focused on returning ad hoc reporting capabilities to end users, giving them the opportunity to create ad hoc reports and dashboards without a data warehouse, or even an understanding of the database model, and by delivering BI inside the applications they use every day.