Ad hoc is Evil and It Must Be Eliminated!

Kevin R. Quinn's picture
 By | februari 08, 2011
in WebFOCUS, Ad hoc, Business Intelligence
februari 08, 2011

I recently gave a presentation on BI implementations to an audience of both IT and business professionals.  As I claimed, “Ad hoc is evil and it must be eliminated”, I drew some startled looks – and a few chuckles – from the crowd.  Imagine what they really thought when I told them I wasn’t kidding.  

The truth is, gradually reducing the level of ad hoc access to your data is a good rule of thumb for any BI deployment.

Now that I have your interest, let me explain what I really mean. Ad hoc access to a data warehouse, or to any data for that matter, is a necessary evil.   Why?  Because you’ll never be able to anticipate every question your users will want to ask. The ideas, concepts, and needs of business users are constantly shifting and evolving.  And, so will their inquiries. 

On the other hand, many business users will ask similar ad hoc questions, or even ones that are exactly the same. As the steward of BI applications, you can monitor ad hoc activity, and use it as guidance for the dashboards or parameter-driven reports that are added to the environment as you move forward.  This will eliminate the need for the question to be asked ad hoc in the future.

So why, then, is ad hoc so evil?  Ad hoc queries and reports can often produce different results when posed by different users.  This can cause problems, for example, when these two workers come to the same meeting with conflicting information.   The effort required to tweak ad hoc reports also wastes a lot of time.  First, you had two users who spent part of their day building a report.  Then, those two users spent time arguing over whose answer was correct.  And, chances are, they will both go back and re-generate the same report again to validate their results. 

But, imagine that the benevolent BI implementer –YOU – monitored their questions and produced a dashboard that would enable both to get the exact same answer in a fraction of the time. By eliminating the ad hoc question, you have purified the results and made everyone more efficient in the process.

Many BI platforms provide the ability to monitor and report from an activity log, so that those who oversee BI environments can do exactly what I described. If you’re in the market for a BI platform, make sure this feature is included.