Get More out of Ad Hoc Reporting Through Reusability

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Ad hoc reporting is a type of self-service business intelligence that enables business end users to create their own reports, dashboards and data analysis as well as customize visualizations without having to go to IT. The clear benefit for business users is now something IT departments are also embracing, with the adoption of self-service BI systems. Gartner predicts that by 2016 IT organizations will increase their self-service focus by 4x. “This will be a requirement for organizations that must not only optimize their IT resources, but also develop proactive IT service support models such as enterprise app stores, walk-up support or business productivity teams. IT organizations that fail to deliver effective IT self-service will struggle to increase agility and demonstrate value to the business.”

Traditionally, the term ad hoc reporting has been used in businesses to imply a report that is produced one time to answer a single and specific business question. However, it may be that you need to ask similar questions on a regular basis. Making a separate report each time can be tedious and time consuming. Thus, there is a benefit to reusing an ad hoc report to answer similar as well as different questions.

One aspect that can further the reusability of an entire report is the ability to share components such as tables, charts, graphs, crosstabs, etc. across the BI platform. Generating reports which are compatible across the BI platform leads to better reusability. Among the people in a company that could benefit from reusing reports, we will look at how business users and report developers can reuse ad hoc reports.

An ad hoc report can be reused by a business user especially if it includes features such as parameters and filters. At runtime, using different parameter values or filters will generate different reports. There is no need to rebuild the entire report. Using flexible functionalities such as this greatly saves time and effort. In addition to adding a parameter or filter, the user can drill down, change component types, switch data sources and use other interactive features.

Ad hoc reports can also be used to facilitate communication between different roles in an organization such as business users and report developers. Though the primary purpose of ad hoc reporting is for business users to build their own queries and reports, report developers typically take an ad hoc report and add more features or polish. Usually if a business user needs a report, they would abide by a process which may include requirement specifications with approvals or discussions. This often leads to long periods of back and forth negotiations. In order to better facilitate the design specification of the final report, a business user can use ad hoc reporting to create a mock up of the report they need. This new rapid prototyping process allows for drafts to be created very quickly in an agile development cycle.

In addition, the rapid prototyping process can be used by report developers. A developer can now create quick mock ups. A useful scenario is when a developer builds a report for a business user. To build a final report that matches the business user’s requirements, a developer can use ad hoc reporting to quickly illustrate different options. A report developer is usually not the one consuming the data, so this can help convey the specifications of the report that the business user needs.

Clearly, ad hoc reporting can go beyond creating single-use reports. Not only is ad hoc reporting beneficial to business users and developers, but reuse leads to greater efficiency. If your organization is not set up for easy reuse of ad hoc reporting, ask us how you can…

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