Stop Printing Reports from your ERP Software

Mark Canes

The history of ERP Software, and before that, accounting software, has leant heavily on reports. In earlier, batch-based systems, users would generate reams of pre-posting edit reports on impact printers every day. At month end, several more forests were destroyed in the name of audit trails and frozen-in-time reports.

As software evolved, the accounting software system started providing users with more timely and meaningful data, and many a sales manager or business owner became accustomed to finding a stack of sales analysis reports on the desk each morning. And again, at month end we now saw management reports being printed by clerical employees and filed for management meetings, and some of these reports were even actually looked at by a manager every once in a while.

We've now evolved to a point where modern ERP Software provides all the information you may want in electronic form, whether by on-screen dashboards or timely auto-emailed PDF reports, and many other modalities. And for the most part you always have the ability to re-create (or reprint) any report or document retroactively. There's really no need to print a report unless you plane to use it at that exact moment in time. And many businesses still print reports at specific times and file them somewhere - perhaps out of habit or a fear of losing data. The true cost of doing so is measured not just in paper and printer ribbons or toner, but in terms of the time it takes to print and file, and the real estate costs of all those filing cabinets.

So let's once again examine a scenario: you print the accounts receivable aging report at the end of each month, and file that report in a filing cabinet. I don't. We are both asked to provide the auditors with the aging report from 7 months ago. So I click my mouse a few times, get to the report selection screen, enter the report date, and generate a PDF that I email to the auditors. Elapsed time: 40 second. Meanwhile, you're still walking over to the filing cabinet. Once you get there, you'll have to find the report, walk it over to the scanner (or fax machine, heaven forbid), etc.

In reality, assuming you are using an appropriate, modern ERP system with proper backup processes in place, I cannot really think of any reason to print a report that you're not going to use immediately - and even then, perhaps your tablet or notebook computer would suffice?