Is Your Data Dead or Alive?

Feature Article | October 1, 2003 by admin

According to McCuan, “Future Beef’s real albatross….was an expensive computer system that ran enormously complex software.” And quoting Darrell Wilkes, the company’s cattle and supply expert, “We were pouring all this data in, but we could never get the data out.” McCuan goes on to report that when Wilkes asked his staff for yield numbers, they didn’t have a clue because they couldn’t retrieve the data from the computer system. And this assessment was echoed by outside auditors and a bankruptcy firm, which noted that “…. data is difficult to obtain and often of questionable validity….” and “….records of the business are incomplete and as a consequence lack total accuracy.”
You may not be tracking 300,000 beef cattle on their way to the supermarket, but you can feel the pain of business owners who bought an expensive computer system and can “never get the data out.” Maybe you’ve sat in front of your PC like many other small business owners and with clenched fists raised, shouted “Just give me my damn report!” And like many others, finally resorting to Post-it notes, scrap paper, and spreadsheets while your computer system sits there like the roach motel of that old TV jingle. Your data’s going in there, but it sure isn’t coming out alive anytime soon.

What’s the problem?

Maybe you’re thinking, “That’s not me. I can get reports from my system.”
But what are you getting? Just the ten reports that your business management system thinks that you need? Or did you have to buy a bolt-on reporting package that promises to “unleash the power of your data and turn information into wisdom.” What happens when you’re working late at night and want to analyze your inventory by article, season, and weight? Do you have to call your daughter’s computer whiz kid friend to write a report for you?
All right. Maybe your business management software does give you the reports that you need. And maybe you can easily create your own. But what can you do with them? Can you drill down from a monthly delinquency report to the customer’s name, address, and phone number and automatically create a dunning letter? Can you re-sort a sales analysis by region, state, month, sales rep, product category, or article? Can you toggle between dollars, euros, and pesos? Can you take a customer’s name, drag it over to a report icon, and trigger a payment history?
If you’re running a typical mid-market business management package, the answer to the questions we’ve posed is “No, not really.” Every day you see all of your business data – customers, payables, receivables, and inventory – go into your accounting package or database-driven system, but you never see it come out.
Or your data is as painful to extract as a bad tooth, and your staff would do anything to avoid having to create a new report. Maybe they’ve built their own personal databases. They’re spreadsheet savants and pivot table pros, extracting, formatting, and pivoting data with the best. Trouble is, when you all sit down to review your sales or budget for next year, no one has the same data.

Is there a solution?

Of course there is – and it’s been designed from the ground up to provide data that’s fresh and lively. Something we at SAP Business One call a Live Report.
SAP used its expertise, over 30 years of ERP experience, and input from customers just like you to develop reports that small and midsize business owners really need. SAP Business One has hundreds of predefined reports – managerial reports, bookkeeping reports, stock reports, financial reports, and decision support reports.
But we also realize that sometimes you want to run your own queries against the data. No problem. SAP Business One offers complete support for all types of ad hoc queries, whether your approach is “I wonder…,” “What if…,” or “Let’s see what happened.” With the powerful query assistant, it’s extremely easy to compile the information that you need when you need it – and in a format that makes sense to you.
Have you customized the system with your own data fields? No problem. SAP Business One Live Reports knows about your changes and can get to all the data.
Don’t have a lot of time to learn how to use a complicated reporting system? Or do you have employees for whom data is four-letter word? No problem. SAP Business One is simple to use, with an interface that is truly intuitive and supportive.

What else can it do?

Now you’re thinking, “OK. SAP Business One has hundreds of predefined reports and I can run my own queries. It’s easy to use. That would solve many of my reporting problems. But is that all?”
Of course not. And here’s where it gets interesting.
Each report, whether a predefined one or an ad hoc query, gives you access to the underlying data and related business transactions via drilldown to get to the details and Drag&Relate™ to access related documents and information. What could be easier than using a mouse to drag an invoice number over to a customer icon to run a report? For example, you have an open item and you want to find out what’s going on. You simply take the open item from the report and drop it into your customer file to get the customer’s phone number. Or drop it into the inventory report to see if the item’s in your warehouse. Or drag to the vendor record.
Do you need complete freedom in how you create and distribute reports? Because you’re working in a Windows environment with its familiar and standard user interfaces and functions, easy operation is guaranteed. Every report that you generate can be converted into a personalized letter or Excel spreadsheet and sent as e-mail with a click of the mouse.

Take a closer look

Here’s a more detailed example of how it works. Every morning your accounting staff automatically gets a report delivered to their desktop that displays aging payables for which they are responsible. The report lists the customer, invoice number, amount, and age. To get behind the numbers, the staff can open the invoice and go to the details – and even to the source documents. They can also get detailed information about the customer, such as location, phone number, or fax number. Depending on company procedures, they can run a payment history report to determine if the customer has a history of late payments. Or look for special payment terms. Or find out if the customer has filed a complaint about the delivered product.
What are some of the functions that support this scenario? First, there’s the workflow that triggers the delinquency report and delivers it to the appropriate person. Then there’s the drilldown capability that allows your staff to go to another transaction and get the details behind the numbers. With the Drag&Relate function, the user can drag the payee’s ID number to the payment history report. Because the data in the report is “live,” your staff can find out more about the customer, item, or transaction.
We have many examples of how the integrated reporting capability of SAP Business One delivers data that is fresh and alive.
A retail storeowner wants to know which items are moving and which are still on the shelves. She can get the information first thing in the morning, at the end of the day, 7 times a day – whenever she wants it. And she can slice and dice the data in ways that help her make important purchasing decisions.
A business manager receives daily updates of all business irregularities, such as unpaid invoices, open price quotes, unfilled orders, or missing items. With a single click, he links to MS Word to create a letter to a customer or a vendor.
A sales manager analyzes sales in three dimensions: sales by customer, sales per item, and sales per agent. She converts the currency to euros and sorts the data by region. She creates a cross-section among the three dimensions to gain a better view. And she creates charts to display the data graphically and drills down to get to the details.

Sounds too good to be true!

Now you’re thinking, “What’s the catch?”
There isn’t one. With SAP Business One, you get:

  • All the data, all the time
  • Pre-defined reports
  • Ad hoc queries
  • Access to all data fields
  • Drilldown and Drag&Relate

And you don’t have to purchase additional reporting tools.
You’ve heard all the claims about increased productivity, increased profitability, and turning information to knowledge and knowledge into wisdom. But think about the scenarios that we’ve presented above. Imagine how having a delinquency report with drilldown and Drag&Relate can improve your staff’s productivity and improve your payables recovery rate. Maybe you won’t have to write-off so many dead accounts. And that would surely increase your profitability.
Are you a retail business owner with a lot of unsold inventory sitting in your warehouse or on your shelves? Wouldn’t it help to know what your profit (or loss) margin is on each item that you sell?
Up-to-the-second reports can help you spot trends, detect emerging problems, and make decisions faster. You can quickly go from the overview to the details, using drilldown and Drag&Relate. You can present critical information graphically, or send it to colleagues in a spreadsheet or e-mail.
SAP Business One reporting is flexible, usable, but most importantly, it’s reliable. Because you never want to hear an auditor say, “Well, we’re not really sure about these numbers.”
And when Inc. magazine highlights your company, you want to be “entrepreneur of the year,” not a “failed genius.”

Brenda Mackay

Brenda Mackay

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