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What is Ad Hoc Analysis and How to Perform it in 2024?

Ad hoc analysis is a method of data analysis that focuses on answering specific, one-off questions or addressing unforeseen problems that arise within an organisation.

Ad hoc analysis is an essential aspect of business intelligence that enables businesses to respond to specific, unanticipated questions or issues. Although it may not be as structured as regular reporting, ad hoc analysis is a powerful tool that helps organizations adapt to dynamic business environments and make well-informed decisions.

What is Ad Hoc Analysis?

Ad hoc analysis is a method of data analysis that focuses on answering specific, one-off questions or addressing unforeseen problems that arise within an organisation. Unlike regular reporting or scheduled analyses, which follow a predetermined structure and frequency, ad hoc analysis is conducted on an as-needed basis to provide immediate insights into a particular issue or situation.

Examples of Ad Hoc Analysis

Here are some real life examples of ad hoc analysis in the business world:

1. Sales Performance Analysis

Imagine a company's sales team experiences a sudden surge in sales for a specific product. 

Management wants to understand the cause behind this increase and whether it's a temporary phenomenon or a sustainable trend. 

By performing ad hoc analysis, analysts can dive into the data, examining factors such as geographical regions, customer segments, and marketing campaigns, to identify the reasons behind the unexpected sales spike. 

This information allows the company to capitalize on the opportunity, make informed decisions, and allocate resources effectively.

2. Customer Churn Analysis

A subscription-based business may notice an unusual uptick in customer cancellations. To address this issue, analysts can conduct ad hoc analysis to investigate the reasons behind the increased churn rate. 

By examining data on usage patterns and feedback, analysts can identify potential causes, such as a specific feature dissatisfaction or a competitor's actions. 

3. Operational Efficiency Analysis

An organization may want to assess the efficiency of its production process after a sudden rise in production costs. Ad hoc analysis allows analysts to evaluate various factors contributing to the increased costs, such as raw material prices, labor costs, or machinery performance. 

By identifying inefficiencies and areas for improvement, the organization can implement changes to optimize its production process, ultimately reducing costs and increasing profitability.

Benefits of Ad Hoc Analysis

Ad hoc analysis offers numerous benefits including real-time insights, improved resource allocation, increased collaboration, customized analysis and risk mitigation:

1. Real-time Insights

Ad hoc analysis allows organizations to obtain immediate information about specific issues, enabling them to make well-informed decisions and respond effectively to various situations.

2. Improved Resource Allocation

Ad hoc analysis enables organizations to identify areas of growth, potential risks, or inefficiencies, allowing them to allocate resources more effectively to maximize returns and minimize waste.

3. Increased Collaboration

Ad hoc analysis often involves input from multiple departments and stakeholders, fostering cross-functional collaboration within an organization and leading to better decision-making and a more comprehensive understanding of the business landscape.

4. Customized Analysis

Ad hoc analysis can be tailored to address specific questions or issues, ensuring that the insights generated are relevant and actionable for the organization's unique needs.

5. Risk Mitigation

By leveraging ad hoc analysis for risk mitigation, organizations can benefit from timely identification of risks, allowing them to implement appropriate measures to minimize the likelihood or impact of adverse events. This proactive approach to risk management enables businesses to maintain stability, protect their assets, and safeguard their interests. 

Moreover, ad hoc analysis can help organizations uncover hidden patterns or correlations in their data that may signal potential risks, offering valuable insights for decision-makers to act upon.

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How to Perform Ad Hoc Analysis in 4 Steps

Alright, let's break down the ad hoc analysis process into four easy steps that you can follow:

Step 1: Define the Problem or Question

The first step in performing ad hoc analysis is to clearly define the problem or question that needs to be addressed. 

This involves understanding the context of the issue, identifying the specific information required, and setting the objectives of the analysis. 

Having a well-defined problem or question ensures that the analysis remains focused and relevant, providing actionable insights that can help drive decision-making.

Step 2: Gather and Prepare Data

Now that you know what you're looking for, it's time to collect the data. 

You might need to pull data from internal databases, external sources, or even third-party apps. 

After you have the data, make sure to clean and prepare it for analysis. This might involve removing duplicates, filling in missing values, or transforming data types. Proper data prep is crucial for getting accurate and reliable insights.

Step 3: Analyze the Data

With the data gathered and prepared, it's time to dive into the analysis. 

Depending on your problem or question, you'll need to choose the right analytical techniques and tools. This could include data visualization, statistical methods, or machine learning algorithms.

This is where a tool like Polymer comes in handy - you often have data which is messy, unorganised and a pain to analyze. Polymer uses AI to turn data into a beautiful data workspace which allows you to sift through the data using interactive tags. It also allows rapid creations of interactive graphs/charts, perfect for ad hoc analysis.

During this phase, it's crucial to explore the data from various perspectives and identify patterns, trends, or correlations that may provide valuable insights into the issue at hand. 

Iterative exploration and analysis help ensure that all relevant aspects of the problem are considered, leading to a comprehensive understanding of the issue.

Step 4: Interpret and Share Findings

The final step in the ad hoc analysis process is to interpret the findings and share them with relevant stakeholders. 

This involves translating the results of the analysis into actionable insights that can inform decision-making, as well as presenting the findings in a clear and concise manner, using visualizations or reports as needed. 

Sharing the insights gained from ad hoc analysis with the appropriate decision-makers ensures that the organization can act on the information, capitalize on opportunities, or address challenges effectively.

How to Perform Ad Hoc Analysis in Excel

Performing ad hoc analysis in Excel is quite common, as it's a widely-used tool with robust data analysis capabilities. Here's a step-by-step guide to help you perform ad hoc analysis using Excel:

1. Import Data:

First, you'll need to import your data into Excel. You can do this by opening a new workbook and either copying and pasting data from another source or importing data from external files like CSV or TXT. You can also connect to databases or online sources using Excel's built-in data connection tools.

2. Clean and Prepare Data:

Before analyzing the data, ensure that it's clean and well-organized. This can involve:

  • Removing duplicates (Data tab > Remove Duplicates)
  • Filling in missing values (use functions like IFERROR or VLOOKUP)
  • Transforming data types (Text to Columns or Excel's Power Query Editor)
  • Reorganizing data using filters or sorting

3. Analyze the Data:

Excel offers a variety of features for data analysis, including:

  • Pivot Tables: A powerful tool to summarize, analyze, and explore data in a tabular format. (Insert tab > Pivot Table)
  • Conditional Formatting: Visually explore patterns and trends by applying color scales, data bars, or icon sets based on specified rules. (Home tab > Conditional Formatting)
  • Formulas and Functions: Excel has numerous built-in formulas and functions that allow you to perform calculations, manipulate data, and uncover insights. (Formulas tab > Insert Function)
  • Charts: Visualize your data using a wide variety of chart types, such as bar, line, pie, or scatter plots. (Insert tab > Charts)

4. Interpret and Share Findings:

After analyzing your data, interpret the results and draw conclusions. Consider using the following features to present your findings:

  • Data visualization: Use charts and conditional formatting to convey your insights effectively.
  • Formatting tools: Use Excel's formatting options (cell styles, number formatting, etc.) to create a visually appealing and easy-to-read report.
  • Comments and notes: Add comments or notes to specific cells to provide context or explain findings.

Ad Hoc vs. Post Hoc Analysis

Ad hoc analysis is a method of data analysis that focuses on answering specific, one-off questions or addressing unforeseen problems that arise within an organization. Post hoc analysis is a type of data analysis that is performed after an event has occurred or after data has been collected. 

While ad hoc analysis is often conducted in real-time and on an as-needed basis to address specific questions, post hoc analysis is performed retrospectively to examine past data in order to identify any patterns or trends that may have been missed during initial analysis.

Both approaches can be valuable tools for organizations looking to make data-driven decisions.

Tools for Ad Hoc Analysis

There are many tools available for performing ad hoc analysis, ranging from general-purpose data analysis and visualization tools to specialized software designed specifically for ad hoc analysis. Here are some commonly used tools for ad hoc analysis:

  1. Polymer Search: An AI-driven tool with GPT capabilities. It’s a popular choice amongst businesses due to its ease-of-use and clean interface. 
  2. Microsoft Excel: Excel is a widely used spreadsheet program that provides a range of data analysis and visualization features. It is often used for ad hoc analysis due to its flexibility and ease of use.
  3. Tableau: Tableau is a data visualization and business intelligence tool that provides a range of features for exploring and visualizing data. It is a popular choice for ad hoc analysis due to its user-friendly interface and powerful data visualization capabilities.
  4. Power BI: Power BI is a business analytics service by Microsoft that provides interactive visualizations and business intelligence capabilities. It is often used for ad hoc analysis due to its user-friendly interface and powerful data visualization capabilities.
  5. QlikView: QlikView is a business intelligence and data visualization tool that provides a range of features for exploring and analyzing data. It is often used for ad hoc analysis due to its powerful data analysis capabilities and user-friendly interface.


All businesses should conduct ad hoc analysis to stay agile and responsive to the ever-changing market conditions. In today's data-driven world, ad hoc analysis is no longer a luxury but a necessity for businesses looking to stay competitive and thrive.

Posted on
January 24, 2024
under Blog
January 24, 2024
Written by
Rand Owens
Founding team member at Motive (Formerly KeepTruckin) and passionate about all things Marketing, RevOps, and Go-To-Market. VP of Marketing @ Polymer Search.

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