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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.


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 a global pandemic, changes in a country’s tax laws, etc., and this prompts 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 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.

Business intelligence (BI), 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 allows users to get the latest insights into data not yet analyzed by a scheduled report.

  • Faster line-of-business decisions.

This enables users — typically, managers or executives — access to data through a point-and-click interface eliminating 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 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 regularly. 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, and 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.

The objective of Ad Hoc Reporting

The main objective of Ad Hoc reporting is to empower end-users to ask their questions about company data, without burdening IT with the task of creating numerous reports 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 report for his territory, showing performance against sales goals, orders taken, the 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 web-based ad-hoc reporting solution significantly improve 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 need 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 an 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 an 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, 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 that 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 allows 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 the user level, dashboard, or even down to a specific row.

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


1. What does ad hoc stand for in business?

Ad hoc reporting is a type of reporting that is specific to the needs of the user. The user can request whatever data they need, in any format, and get it immediately.

In other words, it refers to actions or requests that are done outside of the normal course of business or emergency situations.

2. How do you perform an ad hoc analysis?

An ad hoc analysis is a method of examining data to find new insights that are not accessible through standard reporting methods. To perform an ad hoc analysis, you must first have access to data that is relevant to your inquiry. You can then use various methods, such as data visualization or statistical analysis, to explore the data and find trends or relationships.

3. What is an example of ad hoc?

One example of ad hoc is when a company needs to generate a report for a specific customer or client. The company would not be able to create this report using standard reporting methods, so they would have to perform an ad hoc analysis.

Another example is when a business needs to investigate a problem that has arisen outside of the normal course of operations. For instance, if there is a sudden increase in customer complaints, the business might conduct an ad hoc analysis to try and determine the cause.

4. What is ad hoc compensation?

Ad hoc compensation is a term used in human resources to describe payments or benefits that are given outside of the normal payroll. The term can be used to refer to payments that are made in response to an emergency, or as a means of rewarding employees for exceptional work.

5. What is the difference between ad hoc and post hoc?

The main difference between ad hoc and post hoc is that ad hoc refers to actions or requests that are done outside of the normal course of business, while post hoc refers to actions or requests that are done after the normal course of business.

Ad hoc is also typically used to describe activities that are specific to the needs of the individual, while post hoc is used to describe activities that are more general in nature.

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