Manual Reports vs. Report Automation & Scheduling Tools

Ilmie Sham Ku

Ever have that dream where you are running but getting nowhere? Frustrating, isn't it? Well, this feeling can be the same when it comes to business reporting. Trying to "run" fast by manually extracting the latest data, plugging it into countless spreadsheets, and then making sure the right people have access to the information, only to repeat the process all over again on a daily, weekly and/or monthly basis can be exhausting and unproductive.  This is what work nightmares are made of.

The simple truth is that no one likes to repeat the same manual tasks over and over again. Manual reporting not only takes up valuable resources but hinders management and growth efforts in wholesale distribution businesses as it is often riddled with human error and inaccurate data. Many wholesale distribution businesses are aware that they need to improve their reporting but are unsure how to go about it - mainly because their current software may not be robust enough for advanced reporting or they are unaware of the report automation tools available in their software. This is why reporting functionality and reporting automation are still one of the most frequently requested features by the companies searching for software that we speak with.

But, before we get into the many benefits of report automation tools, a disclaimer is necessary. Reports of any kind are only as good as the data that is used to generate them. This is not to be taken lightly. Wholesale distribution businesses that have multiple systems with disconnected data and/or outdated data are in danger of looking at the wrong information to make business decisions as the accuracy of your reporting will be greatly skewed.

It's important to implement the right all-in-one business management software which allows businesses to store essential data across all channels in one central hub. This in itself has numerous benefits such as only having to update information once,  thus reducing the chance of human error and providing users access to real-time, accurate insights into business performance. Most importantly, it provides the framework for you to be able to create, automate and schedule the delivery of accurate and meaningful reports.

One-Off Reports vs. Report Automation

There is a significant difference between creating one-off reports that have to be replicated during set intervals whether it's daily, weekly or monthly, and using automated report tools. Instead of manually re-keying information and re-generating reports from the beginning every time, automated reporting allows users to create a report once, and then have that report update based on specific criteria, or as a result of refreshing the data or changing timeframes. One example of this type of report is through live-linked data between your business management system and reporting tool of choice (for example Excel or Power BI). In this situation, once a report is created using live-linked data, the user simply has to open the existing report, hit refresh or plug in a date range to get real-time insight into specific information. No more typos, no more cut and paste errors and no more skewed results!

Report Scheduling with Blue Link Business Management Software 

With Blue Link's Automated Routines Manager, (or “A.R.M” for short) you are able to create and schedule rules-based, automated reports using real-time information stored within the system. The tool's functionality goes one step farther, allowing users to render the report into PDFs or Excel format, create an email and send it to all appropriate stakeholders based on certain criteria in the system or set timeframes.  Our customers are particularly fond of this feature because of the time savings it provides just by eliminating manual re-keying.

Here are a few examples of what you can do with report automation and report scheduling:

Weekly Sales Reports

Your sales team can use information such as sales-by-date to determine the progress of sales on a weekly basis or any other set interval.  This allows teams to know, in real time, about changes in sales volume throughout the week and allows them to monitor any other KPIs to make strategic decisions around reordering inventory, or creating targeted campaigns to leverage dates with higher or lower order volumes. Using Blue Link's A.R.M, you can automatically schedule the creation and delivery of the report to the appropriate people at a set time, let's say every Monday at 9:00 AM. You no longer have to manually create or share this report.

Automated Order Management

With A.R.M you can automatically email order confirmations, invoices and overdue notices and alerts to customers or internal teams without any need for human intervention. For example, when your customers place an order,  you can set a rule-based action to send those customers a confirmation once the order is shipped and marked as such in the system. The invoice is then automatically posted, changing the status in the system and emailing the invoice directly to the customer.

You no longer have to manually send each customer individual invoices or have awkward conversations around overdue payments as these are now automatically emailed to the customer. How much time would this type of automation save your business? Think about what other tasks employees will be able to accomplish with that free time.

A year later using A.R.M and our phones ring less, we have less emails to respond to, less complaints to address, we have decreased staff, increased productivity, and reduced errors. Because of this we have saved time, money and overall our staff are much happier, and so are our clients. Thank you Blue Link!

– April Tobin, CSR & Warehouse Lead

Warehouse Workflow Management

With Blue Link's A.R.M functionality, you can send orders from all your sales channels directly to the warehouse to be picked, packed, and shipped if they meet certain pre-determined criteria. For example, you can create a rules-based automation workflow to send orders to the warehouse if the status of that order is "payment received". The system will generate pick slips so that the warehouse staff can begin picking items. You no longer have to manually print out orders, allowing information to be distributed efficiently and consistently to the relevant warehouse staff in order to get orders out the door faster and without errors.