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7 Best Ad Hoc Reporting Software 2024

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Ad hoc reporting software empowers users to create custom reports and analyze data on-demand, without relying on pre-defined reports or IT assistance. It’s like having a self-service data analysis toolkit.

The ability to access information quickly and analyze information is crucial for any business. However, sifting through endless spreadsheets and reports can be a time-consuming nightmare. Ad hoc reporting software empowers you to ditch the wait for pre-scheduled reports and create custom reports on the fly. 🚀

But with so many options on the market, choosing the right ad hoc reporting software can feel overwhelming. In this article we will cover 7 best ad hoc reporting software solutions of 2024, helping you find the perfect fit for your needs and budget.

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List of 7 Ad Hoc Reporting Tools 2024

  1. Ajelix BI
  2. Zoho Analytics
  3. Looker Studio
  4. Power BI
  5. Canva
  6. Tableau
  7. Grow

What is ad hoc reporting?

Ad hoc reporting is a type of business intelligence (BI) that allows users to create reports on an as-needed basis. These reports are typically designed to answer a specific question or investigate an issue that arises during business operations. Learn more about ad hoc reporting in our latest article.

ad hoc meaning

Ad hoc literally means “for this” in Latin. In English, it refers to something created or done for a specific purpose, often without prior planning. Here’s a breakdown:

  • For a specific purpose: Ad hoc solutions address a particular need or solve a one-time problem.
  • Unplanned: They’re often improvised or created on the fly, rather than following a pre-defined process.

Why Businesses Need Ad Hoc Reporting?

With ad hoc non-technical users can explore data on demand using reporting tools with user-friendly interface. Ever feel stuck waiting on reports when you need answers fast? Imagine a scenario: sales are down in a key region, and you need to know why – yesterday.

Why do businesses need ad hoc reporting? infographic with 5 benefits explaining the importance

5 benefits why ad hoc reporting matters, infographic by author

Ad hoc reporting lets you ditch the wait and answer burning questions as they pop up. Here’s how ad hoc reporting can change your business process:

  • Rapid-fire Decisions: Got a hunch about a new marketing campaign? With ad hoc reporting, you can pull the data, analyze results, and make adjustments in real-time. So you don’t have to wait weeks for reports that might be outdated by then.
  • Unmasking Hidden Gems: Scheduled reports focus on what you already know to track. Ad hoc reporting lets you dig deeper, unearthing hidden trends or patterns that could be pointing to new opportunities or areas for improvement.
  • Data for Everyone: Forget the days when data analysis was an IT department exclusive. Ad hoc reporting tools are designed with user-friendly interfaces, empowering employees to explore data on their own. This frees up IT for more complex tasks.
  • Boosting Efficiency: Running a lean operation is key to success. Ad hoc reporting helps you pinpoint bottlenecks, identify wasteful practices, or track the effectiveness of new initiatives.
  • Happy Customers, Happy Business: Understanding your customers is vital. Ad hoc reporting allows you to analyze customer behavior, track campaign performance, and gain insights into what makes your customers tick.

Difference Between Ad Hoc and Canned Reports

Selecting the best report type hinges on your specific needs for data analysis tasks. This table breaks down the key differences between ad hoc reports and canned reports to help you determine which option best suits your situation.

FeatureAd Hoc ReportsCanned Reports
PlanningCreated on-demandPre-defined, pre-built
FlexibilityHighly customizableFixed data and format
Technical ExpertiseMay require some knowledge (becoming easier)Less technical knowledge needed
Use CasesExplore trends, investigate anomaliesMonitor KPIs, track progress
Comparison with ad hoc and canned reports

By grasping the strengths and limitations of both ad hoc and canned reports, you can leverage them strategically to glean valuable insights from your data. Ad hoc reports empower you to dig deeper into specific questions, while canned reports provide a consistent view of pre-defined metrics over time. Utilize both options for a well-rounded approach to data analysis.

1. Ajelix BI

Marketing analysis ad hoc example from ajelix bi

Marketing ad hoc dashboard example from Ajelix BI, image by author

Features

  • Data visualization: Create various charts and graphs (e.g., bar charts, pie charts, line graphs) to represent your data effectively.
  • One-click reports: Generate reports with your chosen data visualization format in a single click.
  • AI-powered data insights: Leverage built-in AI features to uncover hidden patterns and trends within your data.
  • Live data connection: Connect directly to Google Sheets or SQL server for real-time data updates in your reports.
  • Easy report sharing: Share your reports with colleagues for collaborative decision-making.
  • Customization: Customize dashboards and reports to fit your specific needs and branding.

Who is it for? 

Ajelix BI is suitable for small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) looking for an easy-to-use and affordable ad hoc reporting solution. Its focus on user-friendly features and free tier makes it attractive to non-technical users who want to generate reports without relying on IT teams.

Ajelix BI Pros & Cons

ProsCons
Easy to use, ideal for non-technical usersLimited data visualization options compared to other BI leaders
Freemium plan availableMay not be suitable for large enterprises with complex data needs
AI-powered data insights & features
Budget friendly solution
Ajelix BI Pros & Cons compared to other solutions

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2. Zoho Analytics

Zoho data analytics dashboard example

Ad hoc dashboard example from Zoho Analytics, screenshot by author

Features

  • Data visualization: Create dashboards and reports with various charts and graphs (e.g., bar charts, pie charts, line graphs, funnels).
  • Data blending: Combine data from multiple sources.
  • Mobile access: Access and analyze reports from your mobile device.
  • Collaboration tools: Share dashboards and reports with colleagues.
  • Customization options: Customize dashboards and reports to fit your specific needs and branding.
  • Workflows and automation: Automate tasks and workflows.

Who is it for? 

This BI caters to a broad audience, including small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) and larger enterprises. SMBs can benefit from its affordability and user-friendly interface for basic reporting needs. Larger enterprises can leverage its scalability and advanced features for more complex data analysis.

Zoho Analytics Pros & Cons

ProsCons
User-friendly interface with a good balance of basic and advanced featuresLimited data source connectivity compared to other industry leaders
Free plan available for basic needsSteeper learning curve for advanced features compared to some competitors
Scalable to accommodate growing business needsEmbedded charts can experience loading delays
Some users mention the lack of onboarding & learning materials
Pros & Cons of Zoho Analytics

3. Looker Studio

Looker (google data studio) dashboard example screenshot

Features

  • Drag-and-drop interface: Easy-to-use interface for creating reports and dashboards visually.
  • Data source connectivity: Connects to a wide variety of data sources, including Google products (BigQuery, Ads, Analytics), databases (MySQL, PostgreSQL), and flat files (CSV).
  • Data visualization: Offers various charts and graphs (e.g., bar charts, pie charts, line graphs, geo maps).
  • Collaboration tools: Share dashboards and reports with colleagues.
  • Interactive features: Create interactive reports with filters and drill-down capabilities.

Who is it for?

Looker Studio is ideal for businesses and individuals seeking a user-friendly and free ad hoc reporting solution. It’s well-suited for non-technical users who want to create basic reports and digital dashboards without needing extensive training.

Looker Studio Pros & Cons

ProsCons
Completely free, forever free tierLimited functionalities compared to paid BI tools like Power BI
Very user-friendly interface with drag-and-drop functionalityLacks advanced features like advanced automation and in-depth data analysis capabilities
Integrates well with other Google products (if applicable)May not be suitable for large enterprises with complex data needs
Missing onboarding or learning materials
Pros & Cons of Looker Studio

4. Power BI

Power BI dashboard example screenshot

Ad hoc report example from Power BI dashboard, screenshot by author

Features

  • Data visualization: Extensive library of data visualizations with high customization capabilities (charts, graphs, maps, etc.).
  • Data source connectivity: Connects to a vast array of data sources, including cloud-based services, on-premise databases, and flat files.
  • Business intelligence tools: Offers features like drill-down capabilities, data filtering, and advanced analytics.
  • Collaboration tools: Enables secure report sharing, role-based access control, and collaborative report editing.
  • Mobile access: Access and interact with reports and dashboards from mobile devices.
  • Integration with Microsoft products: Integrates seamlessly with other Microsoft products.
  • AI-powered insights: Leverages machine learning for automated insights and data pattern discovery.

Who is it for?

Power BI caters to a wide range of users, from individual data analysts to large enterprises. Its free tier makes it accessible for beginners and small businesses. Paid plans with advanced features are ideal for businesses of all sizes with complex data analysis needs, especially those already invested in the Microsoft ecosystem.

Pors & Cons of Power BI

ProsCons
Widest range of data source connectorsSteeper learning curve, especially for non-technical users
Unmatched depth of data visualization options with high customizabilityPaid plans can be expensive for complex needs
Advanced features like AI-powered insightsMay not be the most cost-effective option for smaller businesses
Integration with Microsoft ecosystemRequires advanced knowledge and training for reporting
Free desktop version for basic exploration
Microsoft Power BI pros and cons. Read more detailed overview.

5. Canva

Canva report example for ad hoc reporting screenshot by author

Basic ad hoc report example from Canva template library, screenshot by author

Features

  • Drag-and-drop interface: Easy to use for creating reports visually with minimal technical expertise.
  • Pre-designed templates: Offers a variety of report templates to jumpstart your design process across various industries (e.g., marketing reports, sales reports).
  • Data visualization: Integrates basic charts and graphs (e.g., bar charts, pie charts) to represent data visually.
  • Design tools: Leverages Canva’s design capabilities for adding images, text, and branding elements to reports for a professional look.
  • Collaboration tools: Enables report sharing and basic collaboration features.

Who is it for?

Canva Reports is ideal for non-technical users, small businesses, and individuals who need to create visually appealing and easy-to-understand reports without complex data analysis features. Perfect solution for designers and if you need to create one presentation with quick charts.

Canva Pros & Cons

Very user-friendly, ideal for non-technical usersLimited data source connectivity and data analysis capabilities compared to dedicated BI tools
Strong focus on design and creating visually appealing reportsLacks advanced automation features
Free plan available for basic needsFree plan has significant limitations
Easy collaboration featuresDoesn’t provide advanced analytics capabilities, like filtering
Can be confusing for those who don’t use visualization tools
Pros & Cons for Canva reports

6. Tableau

Tableau dashboard example

Dashboard example from Tableau, screenshot by author

Features

  • Data visualization: Extensive library of customizable data visualizations (charts, graphs, maps, etc.) for creating interactive dashboards and reports.
  • Data connectivity: Connects to a wide range of data sources, including cloud-based services, on-premise databases, and flat files.
  • Drag-and-drop interface: Offers a visual interface for data exploration and report creation.
  • Ad hoc analysis: Enables users to explore data from different angles, ask questions, and uncover hidden insights.
  • Collaboration tools: Enables report sharing, collaboration, and data storytelling features.
  • Mobile access: Access and interact with reports and dashboards from mobile devices (with Tableau Mobile).

Who is it for?

Tableau caters to a broad audience, including business analysts, data scientists, and executives. It’s suitable for businesses of all sizes that require powerful data visualization and ad hoc analysis capabilities. However, it’s not a great option for non-technical teams and businesses with small budget.

Tableau Pros & Cons

ProsCons
Powerful data visualization capabilities with a wide range of chart types and customization optionsSteeper learning curve compared to drag-and-drop tools
Strong data connectivity to various sourcesPaid plans can be expensive for smaller businesses
Enables ad hoc analysis and data exploration for deeper insightsLimited built-in automation capabilities
Collaboration features for effective data storytellingRequires advanced IT knowledge to create dashboards
Mobile access for on-the-go data exploration (with Tableau Mobile)
Overview of Tableau Pros and Cons for ad hoc reporting. Learn more about Tableau pros.

7. Grow

Grow dashboard example screenshot by ajelix team

Dashboard example from Grow, screenshot by author

Features

  • Data integration: Connects to various data sources (databases, cloud applications) to centralize your data for analysis.
  • Data transformation: Cleans, transforms, and prepares data for analysis using ETL (Extract, Transform, Load) processes.
  • Data warehousing: Stores and manages data in a central repository for efficient querying and reporting.
  • Data visualization: Offers a variety of charts and graphs (e.g., bar charts, pie charts, line graphs) to represent data visually.
  • Self-service analytics: Empowers users to create reports and dashboards without relying on IT.
  • Alerts and notifications: Set up automated alerts based on data insights to stay informed.

Who is it for?

Grow seems to target businesses of various sizes, particularly those seeking a comprehensive BI (Business Intelligence) solution. Its data warehousing and transformation capabilities cater to companies with complex data needs, while its self-service analytics features benefit non-technical users.

Pros & Cons Of Grow

ProsCons
Offers data integration, transformation, warehousing, and visualization capabilitiesUnclear pricing structure (may require contacting Grow)
Self-service analytics empowers users for ad hoc reportingMay require some technical expertise for data transformation features
Offers alerts and notifications based on data insightsMight be overkill for very small businesses with basic reporting needs
Have to contact team to get a free trial
Grow cons and pros overview

Conclusion

The perfect ad hoc reporting tool empowers data discovery. Options like Ajelix BI and Looker Studio offer user-friendly interfaces for basic needs.

Businesses seeking advanced analytics or design elements can explore Zoho Analytics and Canva Reports respectively. Power BI and Tableau cater to complex data with their robust features, making them ideal for in-depth exploration.

Ultimately, consider ease of use, data needs, and budget when choosing. Most platforms offer free trials, so experiment and find the software that unlocks hidden insights within your data.

FAQ

What are the key considerations when choosing ad hoc reporting software?

Consider ease of use, data source compatibility, collaboration features, and budget requirements when choosing ad hoc software.

Where can I find free ad hoc reporting tools?

Ajelix BI, Looker Studio, Power BI and Canva Reports offer free plans with basic functionalities. These can be great starting points for exploring ad hoc reporting.

Ready to create ad hoc reports with Ajelix BI?

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