We are huge fans of online inventory apps such as Unleashed Software, Trade Gecko, Cin7 and Dear Inventory. They have many features that you would find in an ERP that costs tens of thousands of dollars a year. Manufacturers, distributors and wholesalers can track complex inventory in multiple warehouses, support sales agents on the road, and handle items in various sizes, colours, kits and combinations.
One of the differences between inventory apps and a full ERP is in the depth of the reporting. If you only want a sales executive to see just their numbers it can be hard to configure. Or if you want to calculate commissions after removing freight and returns. Often if you’re using an inventory app you have to export data and create a custom report in Excel each month.
Eventually, as a business scales, this manual reporting becomes too hard. Either it takes too long to get critical information that you need to steer the business. Or the native reports in the inventory app can’t show the exact information you need.
Both situations increase the risk that you will make the wrong decision, or the right decision far too late.
Some businesses spend a fortune making the leap to ERP just to get better reporting. While a fully operational ERP can set the foundation for rapid growth, it does involve a lot of cost and pain in the transition. Apart from the annual sticker price, there’s the effort in retraining all your staff to use a new and more complex system.
Knowing when to make the leap is a personal decision left to each business. Often the better approach is to squeeze as much as you can out of your existing set-up, and decide on and monitor the factors that will trigger an investment in ERP.
In fact, there is a workaround that will keep you on your existing systems a little longer and save you a lot of money and heartache.
You know all that manual fiddling in Excel each month for your custom reports? You can automate that once by creating rules in a business intelligence dashboard. And all that data in your inventory app that doesn’t appear in the native reports? You can pull that out through a software-to-software interface (called an API) and show it in a business intelligence dashboard. And you know how you’re waiting around for your internal accountant or bookkeeper to produce that custom Excel report? You can get the data in real time in a business intelligence dashboard.
A business intelligence (BI) dashboard can pull data from your inventory app and show it in an unlimited number of custom combinations or in multiple dashboards. You can have one that shows personalised reports for employees or partners; one that combines information from multiple inventory apps for management; and one that shows KPIs from different sorts of apps (CRM, inventory, accounting) to the executive team.
We have compiled a list of scenarios below where a BI dashboard can save you hours each week or month or help you make key decisions in real time, not a week later.
- How to give your sales team or external partners a personalised dashboard showing their sales numbers and targets from Unleashed Software
- How to calculate sales commissions automatically from sales in Unleashed Software without including freight, promotional stock, samples, etc.
You can also check out
- a rough comparison of the costs of inventory app, BI dashboard and ERP
- Here’s our frequently asked questions about how we make custom dashboards for you