Business Intelligence Blog from arcplan

Guided Ad-Hoc: It’s Not an Oxymoron


Limiting the ad-hoc experience may be best for most business users.

Last time, I wrote about how the concept of self-service is driving ad-hoc adoption and presented the kinds of skills users need in order to effectively take advantage of ad-hoc reporting tools. The conclusion was that even though self-service is great for the power users in your organization, it should not be seen a silver bullet for regular business users. Sure, business users want to be able to answer business questions on the fly, but most ad-hoc reporting tools are going to be too advanced for them. So what can you offer them?

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Most people need a guided ad-hoc experience or straight-up guided analytics, i.e. dashboards and scorecards. Guided analytics are suitable for most business users, especially executives and managers, and can contain an ad-hoc component that allows for some on-the-fly report creation. To the right, you can see an example of a dashboard solution whose final tab is ad-hoc.

The other option is to offer "guided ad-hoc" to users, meaning that there is some structure to the process; you have the flexibility to generate your own reports within certain parameters. For example, a guided ad-hoc tool may allow the user to build a report from a list of predetermined columns and rows. This way, the user has a solid foundation for creating their report along with complete flexibility for generating the answers they need.

Whether you choose to implement a guided ad-hoc tool or a guided analytic application with an ad-hoc component, features that are essential include familiar controls like undo and redo buttons. Drill-down, filters, and charts are also features users expect. Business users may also want to share reports with their peers or decision-makers, so the ability to create a PDF, export the document to Excel, or simply print are useful features as well.

Business users appreciate guided analytic solutions because they allow them to create their own reports without reliance on IT. The right ad-hoc solution also empowers them to go beyond traditional reporting and make new connections, explore patterns, and provide answers to critical business questions.

arcplan Spotlight is our newest ad-hoc analysis solution (included with arcplan 7.1+ installations) that empowers users to build dynamic reports using drag-and-drop and familiar controls, and connects to more than 20 data sources. It can be embedded into dashboard applications, giving users an ad-hoc component to their guided analysis. Have questions? Leave us a comment!

Dwight deVera

About Dwight deVera

I'm Senior VP responsible for Solutions Delivery at arcplan in North America. I also present on a lot of arcplan webinars, so you can sign up to hear me - the events listing on our website is located here: You can also follow me on Twitter: @dwightdevera.
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