Reporting Red Flags: A Distributor’s Guide to Using Your Data

 In Best Practices

Best Practices for Reporting with ERP Software

Your company runs on data. Sales numbers and inventory levels are crucial parts of keeping your business up and running, but raw data alone does not a strategy make. Reporting is an essential piece of using your order-to-cash software to the best of its abilities. When done correctly, it’s the foundation for all your strategic business decisions. 

However, it’s not uncommon for distribution and product-centric businesses to struggle with accurate reporting. All those numbers mean ample opportunity for inaccuracies and missing details. And if you can’t start with accurate raw data, your reporting will be doomed from the get-go. We’re here to make sure that doesn’t happen.

Together, we’ll walk through some reporting red flags — signs that your strategy is due for an upgrade — and how getting those struggles under control could make a world of difference.

Red flag #1 – Does your inventory management leave room for error?

This first red flag might be the most important one. Take a moment to ask yourself — does your inventory management system allow for lots of picking and inventory-related errors? If you’re in a position where you have no way of preventing these kinds of errors, it’s time to reconsider your current processes. Errors like these are typical with more manual-dependent strategies. 

Moving to a digital, barcode-based picking strategy is a great way of eliminating those points of potential failure. No more “is that a 7 or a 1?” types of conversations. Certain software solutions (like SalesPad, for instance) will even block an order from progressing if the information is missing or inaccurate. You need to trust your inventory management process, since this is where reporting begins.

If you’re dealing with high levels of inaccurate orders, that means your data is inherently flawed. If you start with inaccurate data, it’s going to affect your restocking schedule, your inventory availability, and overall profitability. In the end, you’re left with unused, unsold inventory on your shelves. Or, maybe you’ll realize you didn’t quite have the resources you needed, and you can’t meet your customers’ demand. If you’re basing important business decisions around these reports, you need to be able to trust your raw data. 

The right reports help you make decisions about updating your inventory, and identify trends among your buyers.

Red flag #2 – Does your reporting lack intention? 

Your next move with reporting should be goal-setting. Structure your reports to follow your company’s business goals. Running reports is not a passive process limited to a few button clicks. It’s a process that will constantly need to be revisited and tweaked. Reporting is one of your greatest assets when it comes to making important business decisions. When your reports are on point, and you’ll have the numbers and research to back up whatever move you decide to make. 

Want to learn more about your customer’s purchasing trends? With accurate reporting, you can find out not only which products are selling the best, but what times of the year they’re selling, and the demographics of the respective customers. Are you trying to push a certain product with low sell rates? Are you looking to maintain high sales for a popular product? Use your reports to develop an iron-clad restocking schedule, or to inform how you market your products — the power of reporting is practically infinite. 

Dashboard Reporting view in SalesPad Desktop.

Red flag #3 – Does your reporting lack variety?

Running a variety of different reports that vary in scope is the best way of covering all your reporting-related bases. Think of it as asking for multiple opinions on one project. One report might give you a good place to start, but running several is the key to getting perspective. Keeping your reports as specific as possible is also considered best practice. You want to isolate your variables as much as possible to ensure the report’s accuracy.

However, this doesn’t mean that you’re only looking for the nitty-gritty details in any given report. A bird’s-eye-view gives helpful performance indicators too. To that end, SalesPad offers a Quick Reports option (along with 45 other customizable reports). Quick Reports gives users a fast and simple way to get an overview of gross sales by customer, order entered by sales representatives, and so much more.

Why reporting matters

If your reporting is mediocre, faulty, or non-existent, you’re flushing money away. You need to hone a great reporting strategy. Without accurate reports, you can’t get a true idea of the health of your business, or how it changes from year to year. 

With so many businesses moving to offer online ordering, this is an essential time to lay a foundation for reporting strategy. As your business grows and adapts, your reporting strategy should follow suit. It’s time to take another look at the way you’ve always done things.

It will take some time to learn what reporting strategies work best for your company’s needs, but there’s no time like the present to start experimenting. If you have questions about how to make your reports work for you, let us know! We’d love to help!

optimize order-to-cash processes in distribution

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