OK, I hope this series is not getting as tired as the Rocky or Rambo sequels, although there is a lot less bloodshed.  But, you may need one of these characters to gently prod you to start moving down the path to improving your data collection system.
With the assistance of a trained professional, you have explored every aspect of your operation and have come to the stark realization that there may be some gaps in your data collection processes.  Some of these were quite obvious, and some of these required a little digging.  In any case, there are problems to be solved.
It can be overwhelming: Where do you start?  How do you start? Why do you want to start? And, more importantly, why do you need to start?
Where do you start?  Rank your top issues, for example, (1) I am losing inventory, (2) Customers are receiving the wrong products, (3) I have no idea what I ordered, (4) I cannot tell my customers when their orders should arrive, etc.  Once this list is established, we focus on the next part.
How do you start?  From your list, determine the issues that have the most immediate impact.  Some high-priority items may require long term investments of time and capital, but there may be items that can show immediate results which may be lower on the list.  You may want to attack the “smaller” issues that are lower on the list, or you may see them multiplying as the larger issues get resolved.
Data Collection Why BotherWhy do you want to start?  After the internal studies, you may have found that you are hemorrhaging money, customer good will, inventory, etc.  Maybe it is that inner voice telling you that you can do better.  Whatever the reasons are, you are taking the initiative.
Why do you need to start? If you ever become a preferred vendor of large corporations, you may have to comply with quality reviews and standards.  Losing information and product is not too high on the list.
Your competition is raising the bar.  How do you want to be viewed by your customers: First call or last resort?  What do your auditors think of your current system?  What do you think of it?  Can you be more efficient?  Can you do more with less?  Can you give your customers the information and attention they need?
You will have to balance the costs of implementation vs. the cost of business as usual.  That is why hiring the right solution partner can help you determine what you can and can’t do, what is feasible–given your restraints, the proper mix of technology and process improvements, and what will yield the best bang for your buck.
How much will this cost?  We will go over some of these parameters in a discussion on Return on Investment (ROI) in the next installment.  We will also discuss data vs information and other edge-of-your-seat topics.