Data plays a critical role in making sure we have the right information to run a business. But what if that information is leading you astray? Data comes through in prolific amounts these days. When it’s coming from just about every direction, it’s probably safe to say that not all data is good data. There’s bound to be some mistakes in there or information that is just not necessary to you.
When you’re working diligently to keep your inventory management up to scratch, don’t let poor quality data bring you down. One of the biggest mistakes is treating bad data as if it is good data. This information can lead you in the wrong direction and have serious implications for your staff, operations, and bottom line. Here are some of the tell-tale signs that bad data is impacting your inventory and ultimately your business.
Mismatched inventory and supplier data
Your online inventory management system is key to tracking what stocks are available and ready to sell. It shows how many items are on the shelf and when they can be dispatched. It also highlights which items are deemed good to sell. However, when a supplier discontinues a product, recalls it or makes it obsolete, how soon does your system know? If that information isn’t communicated to the online inventory management system, then your business might continue to list it and risk it. This mismatch of data can lead to problems if customers try to purchase this discontinued product from your online store. If the data isn’t updated in real-time then these mistakes can happen numerous times across your inventory stock and you can risk customer satisfaction.
Still using spreadsheets
Perhaps your company has implemented an online inventory management system, but no one trusts the system or the data from it. People may be unfamiliar with the system or resistant to change. Or the data could be incorrect, as seen in the example where obsolete items were still on the inventory register.
As a solution, teams start using spreadsheets to track data instead. Except now none of the numbers matches and there’s a version control problem. People have the information saved in multiple places and it’s hard to know which one is the most recent spreadsheet. If people don’t trust the online inventory data but are willing to jeopardise it with spreadsheets, then it’s a tell-tale sign that either way your data is not good quality.
Introducing new software to the team might be met with hesitation but that can be mitigated with good change management.
Your inventory is coded with free-form text boxes
Let’s say you’ve got 15 different brands of denim jeans that you sell. Yes, each brand has a different name but are you still writing out each of the brand names in your inventory data? If you are having staff write the data, there’s a higher chance for mistakes and human error — people can spell things differently, with hyphens, and with or without capital letters and it has the potential to distort your data. See if you can minimise the number of free-form text boxes in your data. Think about using numbered codes for each brand of jeans instead of words.
Article by Melanie Chan in collaboration with our team of Unleashed Software inventory and business specialists. Melanie has been writing about inventory management for the past three years. When not writing about inventory management, you can find her eating her way through Auckland.