Data integration and inventory control

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Data integration was one of the hot topics at the Internet Retailer Conference (IRC) held a couple of weeks ago in Chicago, and that means that people are catching on to the idea that measures like inventory control are important. You may ask, really? Data integration is a hot topic? Although speakers admitted that it is not the sexiest of topics, it is definitely one that online retailers are paying attention to.  In fact, IRC surveyed attendees and asked ‘Why invest in eCommerce Technology?’ and ‘Data integration’ was the number one reason with 42% response rate.

Todd Morris, CEO & Founder of BrickHouse Security, was one of the speakers addressing this topic and communicated an interesting perspective as a current online retailer and a past ‘evil software vendor’.   This article summarizes many of the great points made by Todd during his talk.

So, how do you know if you have data integration problems?  Basically, you might have a problem if you find yourself manually inputting the same inventory tracking data more than once, and/or realize that if sales double you would need twice as many people to input all your data.  Most probably, your business’ data lives in different places such as your shopping cart, your email inbox, order manager, warehouse management software, asset tracking software, etc.  And sometimes when someone asks a question, you know that you should know the answer but you don’t know where to find it – this is a clear indication for the need to integrate your data with quality software that combines your inventory management system, order management system, and all your other systems.  The goal of data integration is to provide a single view of the truth and reduce manual work and errors.

How to Improve Your Data Integration When It Comes to Inventory Control and Everything Else

Once you’ve had enough manual inputs and errors and realize the need for integration, first take two steps back and re-think how you do things.  Think of where you would like to be and where you are now – where’s the gap? Prioritize your projects, and if data integration rises to the top of the list then it’s time to make some decisions about your inventory control system and other systems.

  • Build vs. buy
  • Vendor elimination
    • Treat it as an elimination rather than a selection process – make your vendors work hard to get your business
  • Product vs. project
    • Inventory management is essential. Make sure that you understand what is inventory you can use right away and what you can’t. You need to figure out whether you’re paying for a finished product that you can begin using today, or if you are paying for a project that is a product customized for your needs.  It’s not that one is better for an effective inventory system. It really depends on your needs, but just be conscious and aware of making this decision.
  • Truly open
    • Make sure you will truly be able to get your data, and integrate with other systems easily. For instance, you should try to get inventory control software that is connected with your order management software.
  • Documentation is key
  • Data portability
    • If you leave the system, you should be able to take your data with you. You can find software that allows for this type of portability, no matter what kind of data you have. This is true for small and large companies alike. There are several small business inventory software options and large business software options of this kind that store your order management data too

So, there you go. If you think you may be wasting time on manual processes and looking for data, then it may be time to take on a data integration initiative that covers inventory control and all your other data systems.