When Ad Hoc reporting becomes the norm

Why do ‘ad hoc’ reports exist? By definition, these reports are meant to be performed only once for a specific business question which cannot be answered with an organization’s standard reporting. However, many organizations end up regularly running reports which are not included in their standard reporting, defying that one-time definition.  There are really three instances for when and why this could occur.

  • Changes or developments in the market which require additional analysis valuable to the business.
  • Proof of concept: a new idea or way of reporting which requires company buy-in before it can be implemented as a standard report
  • Progression of manager knowledge. When implementing a new reporting system, many companies limit the amount of data given to managers to avoid information overload. As managers adapt and begin to understand the information given to them, reports can then be expanded to include additional data for manager use.

While these are valid, if not desired reasons to expand upon standard reporting, regular “ad hoc” reporting is a practice which can lead to multiple inefficiencies, including excess reporting and quality errors, while consuming unnecessary IT resources. Therefore management should anticipate and plan for these occurrences in their organizations, and create procedures to manage and implement the ongoing changes in reporting requirements.

A great way to manage this process is to facilitate manager collaboration.  By doing this, not only will it increase manager engagement, but it allows managers to communicate the information they need and how they consume and analyze that information.  This can help identify obsolete reporting, and determine where to redeploy those resources to better serve their current information needs.

Collaboration also promotes the transfer of knowledge between managers. Managers are able to share ideas and techniques they use to analyze the data already available to them, which some managers may not be familiar with.  In many instances, ad hoc requests and business problems can be solved with data that is already available, but the business managers lack the know-how to alter the data to a format which they can leverage. Facilitating a collaboration group will allow those business managers who have solved those issues to share their techniques, resulting in greater overall efficiency and less demand on IT resources.

As previously mentioned, it is important for an organization to understand that updating reporting requirements should be a continuous activity. Therefore, to best manage those changes, manager review, collaboration sessions, and implementation should be set on an iterated timeline.  While it may not be necessary to conduct on a monthly or quarterly basis, performing annual or bi-annual reviews can help de-clutter and streamline the reporting process, all while engaging manager participation.

Implementing a reporting system in any organization, whatever the size, is a considerable task which can consume a lot of resources.  Integrating ongoing maintenance into your implementation plan can help preserve the quality and continuity of your investment.