In the words of the inimitable Sherlock Holmes, “Data, data, data! I can’t make bricks without clay!”
Now, in your case, the bricks might be more efficient distribution practices or improved workflow, but no matter what the bricks are, the clay is always data. But how to get at that data, and make sure it’s the best data? It may seem like a daunting task, but if you’re equipped with the proper tools, it doesn’t have to be.
Not sure if you need to go to the trouble of gathering data on your company’s performance? Let’s dive into a brief “for instance.” Let’s say you’re a distribution company, and you feel good about how your business is operating. You feel like you’re in a good spot and that you’re about as accurate as you can be. But, you decide to do a little research anyway and gather some data on your business’ day-to-day operations.
Once you take a look at that data, you discover that you’ve got a surprisingly high error rate when picking orders. You dig a little deeper and realize that implementing a change to your workflow would address this issue. You, of course, take steps to address this issue, which results in fewer errors in the picking process. Fewer errors lead to greater efficiency, which leads to increased profits for you and your company.
This improvement to your business’ overall health would not have been triggered without access to quality data. Even if you don’t see an obvious problem with how your company is performing, the data can reveal areas for improvement. And unless you’re running a perfectly efficient company (and please reveal yourself, if you are), there are areas for improvement waiting to be uncovered.
What sort of data do you need?
While gathering data is undeniably important, gathering the right data is even more critical. You don’t want to waste time poring over statistics that don’t give you the information you need to improve, or, even worse, numbers that aren’t accurate.
So how do you go about determining what data to gather?
The first step in figuring out what data points to gather is figuring out what questions you need to be able to answer. Every company is different, but certain questions are universal.
What are your customers purchasing? How long does it take for your team to process a sales order? How often do you need to place an order with a particular vendor?
These are only a few examples of the sorts of questions you should be able to answer, and the sorts of questions that will help shed light on areas for improvement within your business, to help you make smarter decisions with your data.
How to go about collecting your data.
This might seem like the most challenging step in this entire process, but it’s actually pretty straightforward. You need to be using an Operational ERP system that gives you easily accessible visibility into your business.
Now, choosing an Operational ERP system is a complex task with many factors to take into consideration, but access to company data is one of the most important elements to keep top-of-mind when evaluating business softwares. If your current software doesn’t allow you to run a variety of reports designed to give you key business data in a useful format, including customized reports, that’s a problem that needs to be addressed.
What to do with that data once you’ve got it.
Now that you’ve harvested all that juicy data, it’s time for some good old-fashioned data analysis. This is the fun part.
Simply gathering the information isn’t enough. You need to invest some quality time (and/or money) into taking a careful look at what the data has to say about how your business is performing, how your company has changed over time, and where the industry is headed. Yes, you can predict the future with quality data analysis.
Data analysis is an acquired skill that is worth an investment, whether that’s a couple of crash courses for yourself, training for your current employees, or a new hire. And, like most things in life, you get what you pay for when it comes to data analytics. A quick glance at an Excel sheet is not going to give you the same valuable insights as a solid investigation into all that the data has to offer.
In order to stay competitive in today’s fast-paced environment, you need to get on the data train. Intelligent data analysis will not only help your distribution company continue to grow and keep up with the competition, but hopefully give it an edge when it comes to predicting where the industry is headed.
And if you want to throw on a deerstalker and bust out your magnifying glass while you’re at it, we say go for it.
This blog post was written in collaboration with Custom Information Services. Learn more about CIS at customis.com.