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?

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 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.

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