If we talk about business intelligence in the modern era, ad hoc analysis is a very specific type of analysis, which is tailor-made to address specific types of questions. It has the ability to help you find answers to a single question, quickly by analyzing the data.
For instance, if a CMO of a company wants to do an instant comparison of the spend on Google ads and Facebook ads and find out if the total spends in a particular, then this can be done using ad hoc analysis. If there was a visualization of the said data in the form of a dashboard, then it is reflected into a full-scale BI reporting.
Ad hoc analysis is all about the instant solution and instant action, for example, one graph to answer one question. After some time, if the said chart looks to be useful, then it can be converted into a dashboard. In a nutshell, ad hoc is meant for delivering something now.
What is to be noted is that the term ad hoc analysis is not just a routine buzzword for people to use in their presentations, and it definitely is not something that has limited usage to a few sets of people. It is very important for any organization to have a process and culture of using data for all kinds of decisions. Once an enterprise understands the role of ad hoc analysis and its operations, it impacts the scale of business intelligence, and it can easily scale up.
Ad Hoc Analysis at the core of data culture
Ad hoc analysis, which is also known as ad hoc reporting is nothing but a methodology of utilizing business data to help in deriving answers for a specific question at the moment. Usually, these questions are one-off questions. Having ad hoc analysis brings in a lot of flexibility and spontaneity to the traditional and rigid process of BI reporting.
The traditional method of business intelligence reporting was extremely complex from a technical standpoint and quite time-consuming as well. It takes a considerable amount of effort to create, update and share reports and dashboards. The solution to this problem was business intelligence so that the management can informed decisions for the growth of the business.
Unlike the business intelligence reporting technique, ad hoc analysis is the exact opposite of that. It is like an instant deep dive into the data to find the answer to one particular question. Usually, the answer to such questions is temporary and it helps in taking short-term decisions.
Thanks to the latest self-service business intelligence tools, the technology of ad hoc analysis has become relatively easy for most businesses. These self-service business platforms deliver exceptional user experience combined with robust features that do not require any or minimum coding. In an organization, if there are more people who like to do the number-crunching work, the better it is for the organization. A data-based culture means every individual in the organization is given the right to look at their data whenever they need it so that they can perform ad hoc analysis.
High-Level Steps of Ad Hoc Analysis
If an ad hoc analysis is to be accomplished, it can be easily executed by using self-service business intelligence tools. There are many in the market who provide BI technology, however, to perform an ad hoc analysis, there are four steps that the enterprise has to undertake.
1. Connect various sources of data
This is a self-explanatory statement. Every data source in an organization has to be connected to the business intelligence platform. The reason behind this first step is that enterprises are usually setting up their BI platform, so it is a one-time task that needs to be performed.
In case of a situation where there is a new data source in the organization that was not connected in the initial setup, then it needs to be connected to the BI platform. A key benefit of connecting data sources to the BI platform is that it will give users access to the data whenever they want, and they can perform a comparative analysis of one data set with the other one.
Ad hoc analysis means quick and instant results. Searching through the large data set can be time-consuming and it can bog you down. However, having a good BI platform can ease out the process.
2. Self-exploration of data
One of the most important elements of ad hoc analysis is the power to explore the data on your own. Earlier this was performed by data experts, however, today anyone can explore this data and one does not require any specific skill such as a data expert.
Earlier data exploration required to know the complete length and breadth of SQL. This made the whole process of ad hoc analysis. This was technically a bottleneck that made ad hoc analysis practically impossible, as every question had to go through multiple parties before getting answered.
However, modern technology comes with Visual SQL builders that make it easy for people to read the data without any knowledge of coding.
3. Create your own visualizations
Now the fun part begins, once you have explored the data and you found out what you exactly needed. This is called visualizing your findings. There could be times when the visualizations can be as simple as just comparing two numbers. While in other instances, you might require a complete bar chart or pie chart, or line graph.
Ad hoc analysis is fast, and it can get messy too, but that should not deter the organization and its data-crunching resources. It will be a waste of time if you try to create a perfect visualization. The objective should be to quickly create this visualization and convey the message.
4. Develop skills
The last step in this process may sound a bit vague but it is very pertinent for organizations to follow. If you continuously keep doing ad hoc analysis, then there is a high possibility of you becoming an expert in it. During the course of the journey, you can start developing the skill of data literacy.
Today, most of the people who are working with the data and knowledge segment in an organization, do develop the skill-set of data literacy. This includes people from sales executives to senior product managers.
How to know if your BI tool can handle ad hoc analysis?
As an organization, if you are planning to invest in a business intelligence platform, then it is important to find out if that tool can handle ad hoc analysis. This can be done by identifying some features or factors in the Bi platform
- The business intelligence platform should be a self-service one
- The platform should be easy to use
- Any sort of iteration to be done in the platform should happen at its core
What is noticeable is that ad hoc analysis is not just limited to a few sets of people in an organization. It is to be treated as a critical component in the organization and pretty much every individual in an organization must follow this method for arriving at critical decisions.