Have you ever started to scope a project for a specific business process, for example, a departmental KPI scorecard, and discovered that "ad hoc" reporting and data access were part of the expectation? Beware! The term "ad hoc" carries a wide range of expectations. Generally, the more technology-savvy clients have the highest, and frequently most unrealistic expectations. They imagine point-and-click access to both summary and detailed data. They envision slicing/dicing/drilling on any available data element. They want Web-delivered, instantaneous response, with crisp, precise, printer formatting from web pages.

Most of these client expectations are technically feasible, but a single software tool, from a single data mart, rarely delivers them in an ad hoc fashion. Why?

  1. Multidimensional data marts that deliver summarized numeric data perform as the best slicing/dicing platforms.
  2. Relational data marts that offer text and numeric data perform as the best detailed reporting platforms.
  3. Instantaneous access to summarized data requires prior knowledge of the requirement (not ad hoc), so that the summary might be designed, pre-calculated, and made available without real-time aggregations.
  4. Many multidimensional reporting tools do not effectively deliver ROLAP data, and vice versa.
  5. Many easy-to-use and effective web-deployment tools do not support formatted print pages.

It seems

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that every tool has its design limitations, and that "ad hoc" expectations imply data access and reporting without limitation. Then how do we deliver on this monumental expectation? Simply eliminate the unbounded nature of "Ad Hoc" reporting, which we'll pick up on in the next tip.

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This was first published in September 2002

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