An ad hoc query is a term originally used in information technology and computer software systems. Most application software programs are created with a programming database that can be accessed by anyone through certain generic queries and reports. This underlying database is usually accessible through menus found within the program. In contrast, ad hoc query software is a specifically designed program that allows users to create their own specific queries. Users of ad hoc query software do not need to have the detailed technical knowledge of computer programs. They simply use a friendly interface that allows them to input an ad hoc query and get the report they need.
The phrase “ad hoc” is a Latin term that literally means “for this.” It usually refers to a solution, method or unit designed to address a specific problem or task, or serve a particular purpose. Its application is very specific and narrow, rather than a general, all-purpose or widely encompassing one. Many people have heard of the phrase “ad hoc committee,” meaning a group that has been especially formed to study a specific issue. Ad hoc committees are often dissolved once they have completed their work and given their recommendations on an issue, which are often contained in a document called an ad hoc report.
Ad hoc analysis, as used in ad hoc query software programs, is also widely used in business intelligence. It allows the user to find in-depth, or more specific, information that is not usually found in regular business reporting. Using an ad hoc query, business people are able to find the answer to a very definite and precise business question. An ad hoc query often provides the answer sought in the form of a data summary report such as a statistical model or an analytic report.
A business manager or executive, can typically use ad hoc analysis without consulting a technical person. On a computer program, a user-friendly OLAP dashboard is the interface that enables them to access the data that they need. With a series of clicks, they can make an ad hoc query that then “mines” the relevant data from an original report or data source. The process is often quick and easy, even for non-technical people. Ad hoc analysis is therefore very useful to executives who need quick answers so that they can make quick, but informed, business decisions which may lead to the continued success of the company.