Dashboards and Data Viz | Data Strategy

Whether you’re a data scientist or a sales manager, you understand the importance of timely, accurate information. Additionally, you know how important it is to accompany your reports with succinct, clear, and easy-to-digest data visualization.

Ad hoc reporting, in the simplest terms, allows you to create reports and dashboards for a specific purpose – to answer a singular, important question.

You may be asking yourself, “Isn’t that the purpose of any report?” Yes and no. Consider the typical reports you use every day. Did you ask for them or did they come prepackaged within a given set of parameters? More often than not, recurring reports are not ad hoc reporting; they’re parameterized. The beauty of ad hoc reporting, however, is that it allows you to approach unique questions and challenges with the data you need, as opposed to seeking solutions with the data you’ve simply been given. Because of this, ad hoc reports are an integral part of any viable BI (Business Intelligence) initiative.

Use ad hoc reporting to ask your data questions (and get answers)

Ask data questions

With ad hoc reports, you can empower end-users to ask questions of their data and, most importantly, seek the answers they need.

Think about it like this: If you receive a weekly, recurring website traffic report and notice a substantial uptick in visitors to your site, what would you do with that information? Most likely, you’d want to know where those visitors came from and what pages they visited. You might even want to know what time of day and day of the week saw the sharpest increase, among other metrics.

It would be difficult for a parameterized report to offer this level of detail. You would need an ad hoc report and data visualization to further explore the data you received.

Questions you can ask about your data:  

  • Do I have all of the information I need to understand the issue at hand?
  • Does the data I have now have any plot holes in its narrative? What do I need to fill them?
  • Is this data actionable, or do I need more information to make an informed decision?

Ask the right questions by making your reports available to a wide audience

Data for audiences

More often than not, successful BI initiatives aren’t the work of just one person. That’s why it’s important to have both recurring (parameterized) and ad hoc reports available to all stakeholders.

Doing so will provide additional insight into which ad hoc (customized) reports and data visualization your project needs.

This doesn’t mean your reporting dashboard should turn into the wild west of data collection and reporting. In fact, the opposite should be true. Your goal is to create a space where users can explore data on their own from a single, absolute source of truth.

Give information to the right people at the right time

Right time reporting

Ad hoc reporting allows you to deploy information to the right audience exactly when they need it. In other words, empowering end-users to seek the answers they want cuts out the middle man and eliminates the need to request reports from IT.

This type of report helps the end user avoid wading through pre-made reports to find the information they need and allows them to pull the exact metrics they want when they want them.

By doing this, you’ll not only encourage faster decision making but also reduce the workload of your IT department. Like any system, your reporting process and data warehouse require maintenance, but that doesn’t mean your IT team needs to spend extra time compiling customized reports. By giving users the power to build drilldowns on a self-serve basis, you free up your IT department to focus on big-picture projects while giving end users the information they need without waiting for IT to fulfill their request.

Encourage collaboration and information sharing

Data collaboration

On the surface, self-serve reporting may seem to foster fully independent decision making and data usage. After all, collaboration isn’t necessary if you have everything you need at your fingertips, right?

In reality, ad hoc reporting creates the perfect balance between autonomy and idea sharing. By giving users the creative freedom to seek the answers they want from data, you empower them to provide greater value to the organization as a whole. If everyone is looking at the same parameterized reports, there is little incentive to share findings with teammates and other stakeholders.

If you have the freedom to explore data as you see fit, finding a hidden insight or solution in an ad hoc report will encourage you to share your success with others. The result is an even more collaborative and synergetic environment for information sharing.

Read next: Building Better Data Through Teamwork

How to supplement ad hoc reporting with data visualization

ad hoc dashboards

The beauty of ad hoc reporting is that it provides real-time answers to immediate, pressing questions posed by your data. In a way, data visualization shares the same goal. Together, ad hoc reporting and crystal-clear data visualization can help you find insight in your data that excel spreadsheets or pre-set reports never could – even if the data itself is essentially the same.

In order to take full advantage of data visualization in your ad hoc reports, give users the option to do the following within your dashboard:

  • Adjust and compare different metrics/data sets
  • Swap out charts and graphs for the same metric
  • Build customized dashboards with multiple metrics
  • Create and explore drilldowns for in-depth reporting

At the end of the day, expertly visualized ad hoc reporting is a surefire way to elevate your BI initiative. It not only increases individual stakeholders’ ability to problem solve on their own and as a team, but it also increases the velocity at which you can consume data and gather insight from it.

Are you ready to elevate your reporting with data visualization?

If you’re ready to take your ad hoc reporting from good to great, get in touch with a representative from iDashboards today. Our state-of-the-art data visualization software can empower you and your organization to leverage real-time data so you can spend less time building reports and more time using the insight from them to improve your business. Click here to contact us today to learn more.

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Nate DeGrande Enterprise Account Manager @iDashboards

Nate DeGrande has been with iDashboards for over 5 years and works with our customers every day. He and his team are dedicated to the success of our users and constantly seeks to gain a deeper understanding of how we can make their lives and decision-making process easier.


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