ERP Reporting Strategy with NetSuite

How to Build a Successful ERP Reporting Strategy Step by Step

Enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems are an essential tool for modern businesses to manage and streamline operations — especially larger or more complex companies. ERP systems collect and store data from throughout an organization, giving decision-makers real-time insights into business performance. However, simply collecting data is not enough to stay competitive in today’s fast-paced market. To truly benefit from an ERP system, companies must be able to analyze and report on the data in a meaningful way. This is where ERP reporting comes in.

What Is ERP Reporting?

ERP reporting extracts data from a business’s ERP system and aggregates the information into digestible reports. ERP systems are designed to collect data from various business processes, such as finance, inventory management and sales. By centralizing real-time and accurate data, sophisticated ERP systems can generate reports and dashboards that provide stakeholders and managers insights into the company’s performance, shining a light on what the business does well — and where it can improve.

ERP reporting tools vary in complexity and functionality. Some ERP systems come with built-in reporting capabilities, while others require third-party software or add-ons to create reports. However businesses choose to leverage their ERP systems to generate reports, the goal of ERP reporting is to provide accurate and relevant information that informs decisions, helps businesses improve their processes and creates a more efficient and effective operation.

"By centralizing real-time and accurate data, sophisticated ERP systems can generate reports and dashboards that provide stakeholders and managers insights into the company’s performance, shining a light on what the business does well — and where it can improve."

ERP Reporting Explained

Generating and analyzing reports is a critical business function because it allows companies to track current performance and overall trends to make informed decisions. But for many businesses, processes and operations can be too complex to manually collect data in a timely manner, leaving business leaders to make uninformed decisions based on outdated or incomplete information. ERP reporting involves extracting data from different modules of an ERP system in real-time, consolidating it and transforming it into meaningful insights through reports, dashboards and analytics. These reports can provide valuable information to stakeholders within an organization, including management, department heads and operational teams, to help them make informed decisions and monitor the performance of various business processes.

For example, a business relying on data from unconnected, or “siloed,” operations may struggle with effectively allocating inventory because it needs to manually compile disparate data from across its supply chain through metrics, such as sales history, demand forecasts, manufacturing rates and current inventory levels. But with ERP reporting, managers can plan and allocate inventory using comprehensive, real-time data from throughout their supply chain, organized into easy-to-read dashboards and made instantly available.

But ERP reporting brings its own set of challenges, and businesses must implement strategies to effectively generate the reports they need using the features of their ERP system. Failure to follow best practices to avoid ERP reporting issues can leave companies with the same dilemma as manual reporting — an inaccurate, outdated or misunderstood view of operations.

Failure to follow best practices to avoid ERP reporting issues can leave companies with the same dilemma as manual reporting — an inaccurate, outdated or misunderstood view of operations.

5 ERP Reporting Issues to Avoid

ERP reporting can give businesses an advantage over competitors that use manual or siloed reporting methods, but it can also bring a variety of challenges. Here are some of the most common ERP reporting issues and tips on how to avoid them.

1. Poor Visibility

ERP systems often give businesses increased visibility into their operations, but it is important to routinely check to make sure there are no gaps in the system’s access to data. Departments that are not fully integrated into an ERP system can lead to fragmented data and an incomplete picture of a business’s operations. This can impact the accuracy of reports generated by the ERP system and have serious implications for decision-making. To avoid errors and gaps in reports, businesses should prioritize visibility when setting up and implementing their ERP systems and establishing their reporting structures.

2. Lack of Reporting Hierarchies

A reporting hierarchy is a framework that shows how a business’s data is structured. Without one, data cannot be organized, analyzed or presented in a clear and meaningful way. For example, a manufacturer may use a reporting hierarchy to generate reports that group goods by product lines or families. Then, more specific data, such as sales for individual products, can be contextualized with top-line numbers. By implementing a clear reporting hierarchy, businesses can improve data accuracy by creating guidelines for how data should be entered and collected. Without a hierarchy, reports may lack context or coherence, leading to inaccurate conclusions and missed opportunities for improvement.

3. Poor Data Capture

Reports are only as accurate as the data they’re based on, regardless of how they’re generated. To ensure accuracy, businesses should strive to find and fix any missing, inaccurate or duplicate data entries as soon as an inconsistency is identified. By catching poorly captured data early in the reporting process, analysts can course-correct and minimize the impact on the final report. If data is not collected accurately, consistently and in a timely fashion, decision-makers will struggle to reconcile data and identify weaknesses before they become major issues with far-reaching impacts. Businesses can implement data collection guidelines, train staff and invest in automated data capture technology to enhance the accuracy and reliability of their data, giving leaders better insights into how the business operates.

4. Insufficient Reporting Governance

Businesses need standardized procedures for generating, analyzing and distributing reports to ensure that all relevant parties are using the same data when making decisions. Without reporting governance, business leaders may find themselves with multiple versions of the same report, creating confusion and delays while analysts attempt to reconcile the data. Failure to implement effective reporting governance measures can leave businesses with inaccurate reports and contradictory views of a business’s performance — risking poorly informed decisions. Companies can avoid reporting governance issues by defining roles and setting clear parameters for data management and reporting procedures. Regular audits and updates to reporting procedures can also help analysts maintain uniform standards throughout their organization.

5. Overly Technical Reports

ERP systems are capable of complex data collection and analysis, but the reports they generate are often used by people who may not have a deep technical understanding of the system or the data it uses. Complex reports that require technical knowledge may be helpful for an IT team or specialized data analysts, but business leaders will likely benefit from more high-level reporting, especially when looking for big-picture information on the business’s performance. Reports that do not match the audience’s needs — in both content and presentation — may lead to misunderstandings or frustrations as users struggle to find the information they need. Businesses should prioritize user engagement and ensure that their ERP systems are capable of the level of customization they need to generate relevant and useful reports and address needs at all business levels.

ERP Reporting Issues and How to Avoid Them with NetSuite

7 Elements of a Successful ERP Reporting Strategy

ERP reporting can provide valuable insights into the performance and efficiency of various business processes — but only when it is done effectively. A successful ERP reporting strategy will likely use these seven key elements to ensure accuracy, relevance and timeliness when generating and analyzing reports.

1. Accurate Information

Accurate information is a fundamental aspect of a successful ERP reporting strategy because it forms the foundation upon which all reports are built. If the data being analyzed is inaccurate, it can lead to incorrect conclusions and poor decision-making that can negatively impact a company’s performance. By implementing routine quality checks to ensure that data is reflective of reality, companies can make better informed decisions, more easily identify areas for improvement and optimize business processes for maximum efficiency and profitability. In addition, accurate information helps build trust in the reporting system, which encourages its adoption and use by stakeholders throughout the company.

2. Full Business Analysis

Allowing for full business analysis enables companies to gain a comprehensive, holistic understanding of the business’s operations. By providing access to a wide range of data points and analytical tools, ERP systems help companies generate reports that facilitate in-depth analyses of processes to identify successes and find inefficiencies. As a result, managers have the information they need to optimize processes, reduce costs and improve overall performance. For example, data, such as sales trends, inventory levels and production rates, can be used to give context to financial performance reports and create more accurate forecasts. Additionally, a comprehensive ERP reporting system enables companies to track and report on key performance indicators (KPIs), which help measure progress toward strategic goals and objectives.

3. Self-Service

Empowering stakeholders with self-service access to the information they need helps streamline reporting and gives businesses increased flexibility. ERP systems that employ user-friendly reporting tools and dashboards give users quick and easy access to relevant data and insights, without needing to rely on IT or other technical teams. This saves time and resources while increasing the company’s agility and responsiveness — a necessity in today’s quickly changing market. Self-service reporting also enables users to tailor their reports to their specific needs and preferences. This often includes choosing which metrics to track, creating custom reports and setting up alerts and notifications for specific conditions. Self-service reporting can create a more agile and data-driven culture and increase productivity.

4. Single Source of Truth

ERP systems often collect data from several business areas, including those with multiple data entry points. ERP systems can streamline data entry by integrating data input and collection throughout a business into one unified platform, often with automation. This single source of truth can be used by all departments and stakeholders to ensure that all data used for reporting is consistent, accurate and current. This gives all stakeholders access to the same information, and decisions can be made based on centralized and real-time data.

5. Analytics Governance

Analytics governance is the practice of establishing policies to help ensure that reporting and analyzing data is effectively managed by emphasizing data accuracy and relevance. By designing an analytics framework that efficiently collects and organizes accurate information, leaders have access to relevant insights into business performance as needed — especially when integrated with business intelligence (BI) tools, such as high-level summaries and automated report generation and distribution. An analytics strategy must also be aligned with the business’s overall goals, achieved through open communication between data teams and stakeholders to ensure that the reporting system is benefiting the business to its full potential.

6. Implementation Roadmap

When designing and implementing an ERP system, reporting should be a priority, not an afterthought. Including a roadmap helps to establish a clear plan and direction for a business’s reporting plans. ERP systems collect and generate vast amounts of data, and it can be challenging to decide which reports to focus on. But roadmaps and guidelines based on the business’s needs and goals can help set priorities, identify potential obstacles and plan for how to overcome challenges. A roadmap can also help to align reporting efforts with the overall ERP strategy, ensuring that reporting is integrated into the ERP system from the beginning and that a business’s reporting needs are within the system's capabilities.

7. Flexibility

ERP systems are complex and therefore require flexibility in their reporting capabilities. Flexibility enables companies to tailor their ERP reporting to meet their specific goals and objectives. This level of customization allows businesses to focus on the information that matters most to them, improving the usefulness and relevance of their ERP reports. Flexibility also enables companies to quickly respond to changing market conditions and allows decision-makers to seize new business opportunities through new or adaptable reporting techniques and templates. And as businesses evolve and their needs change, ERP reports should adapt and scale accordingly. Without flexibility, ERP reports can become obsolete, resulting in inaccurate or incomplete data that can negatively impact decision-making.

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5 ERP Reporting Strategies

ERP reporting is not a one-size-fits-all process, and reports and dashboards are often customized to match a business’s structure and priorities. But most ERP systems can benefit from these common reporting strategies.

1. Dynamic Reporting

Dynamic reporting lets businesses interact with data in real-time and cater reports to address specific needs. This allows analysts to add or delete information, zoom in on particular areas of interest or change the report’s layout and format as needed. Dynamic reporting is often more useful than traditional reporting when it comes to answering on-the-fly questions because it can bypass predefined templates and create ad hoc reports. Due to its flexibility, dynamic reporting is a valuable tool for businesses in rapidly changing industries or highly competitive markets.

2. Single Source of Truth

As mentioned earlier, basing reports on a single source of truth helps minimize misunderstandings and contradictory data. Reporting discrepancies and inconsistencies arise when data is siloed in different systems or when departments use different definitions for terms. Creating a single source of truth can also increase efficiency by reducing time spent reconciling data from different systems or sources, allowing business leaders to focus more on analysis and decision-making than on asking questions and cross-checking figures.

3. Architecture to Support Global Users

Global businesses need a sophisticated architecture to ensure that users from across the company can access the ERP system without encountering technical barriers or delays. To implement a global strategy for ERP reporting, the system must be capable of switching among multiple languages, time zones and currencies. This can help improve collaboration, facilitate communication and reduce the risk of misunderstandings due to translation errors. Rather than relying on reports from local analysts, giving international users direct access to cloud-based ERP reporting data allows them to analyze performance and make well-informed decisions quickly, reducing or eliminating the delays often associated with overseas business operations.

4. Information Governance Measures

ERP reporting generally includes massive amounts of data, and that information needs to be properly managed to remain useful. Effective information governance measures keep data secure and complete by establishing clear roles for who — or which part of the ERP system — is responsible for maintaining quality and security standards. Similarly, information governance can ensure that any necessary compliance standards are met — both external government regulations and internal business policies. For example, a medical company must comply with local regulations to properly dispose of sensitive data and reports when they are no longer relevant or necessary to retain. An ERP system’s information governance measures can help meet those external standards, as well as internal reporting standards that help organizations manage their data and reduce risks. Governance measures should be continuously monitored and improved to identify inefficiencies and implement new ERP strategies where needed on an ongoing basis.

5. Restricted User Access Controls

Controlling which users can access data helps prevent breaches and maintain system integrity. By limiting who can access and input data, ERP systems protect sensitive information while preventing unauthorized changes to critical data sets. Data restrictions can also help users focus on the information that matters to their work without getting overwhelmed by pages of irrelevant data. Additionally, as more workers rely on multiple workstations and mobile devices, many companies have implemented new security measures in their reporting software to ensure that data is stored and processed securely across different locations, especially for remote and hybrid workers. This gives authorized users secure access to reporting data wherever and whenever they need it — an increasingly necessary advantage in today’s fast-paced and increasingly global economy.

ERP Reporting Strategies and Their Benefits | NetSuite

Reporting for Different Users

ERP reporting can be used to create reports that provide specific insights to different users based on their roles at the company. These reports can be customized to address a variety of user needs, from top executives to lower-level employees and everyone in between.

Executive

ERP reporting can be catered to executives by focusing on high-level summaries, presented in an easy-to-understand format that doesn’t require a deep understanding of the ERP system’s inner workings. Executive reports generally focus on KPIs, such as profitability measures, customer satisfaction and sales, to establish trends and track financial and operational performance. These reports also provide insights into the organization’s progress toward achieving strategic goals and objectives. In addition to general summaries, reports should be customizable, allowing executives to dive further into specific areas of interest to inform strategies and decisions.

Management

Management can use custom ERP reports to see detailed analytics on various management functions, including supply chain management, production workflows and inventory levels. This real-time data reflects the current state of the business and is essential for effective management. Visualizations, often charts and graphs, can help management quickly and easily understand complex data and identify outliers and problem areas. ERP reports can also automate many of the time-consuming manual tasks associated with management reporting, increasing productivity by saving managers and staff time and effort.

Third Parties

Through ERP reporting, suppliers, customers, auditors and regulatory bodies can be given access to relevant and useful real-time reporting data without compromising the privacy and security of sensitive information. ERP systems can share standardized reports in familiar formats or integrate directly with third-party systems to streamline communication and reduce errors. This allows third-party auditors to ensure compliance with relevant laws and regulations through up-to-date financial information. In addition to compliance, catering reports to third parties allows organizations to improve their relationships and potentially gain advantages over less efficient competitors.

Employees

Effective reporting for employees often requires personalization, training and support to ensure that even employees without data analytics backgrounds can get the most out of their reports. ERP reporting typically achieves this through customizable dashboards designed to give different employee groups access to relevant and useful information, such as performance metrics or job specific information, while restricting access to unauthorized data. Reports are often optimized for mobile devices and remote workstations to ensure that employees have access to real-time information regardless of their location. When staff effectively leverages ERP reporting technology, companies can increase efficiency and productivity and drive better business outcomes.

ERP reporting is not a one-size-fits-all process, and reports and dashboards are often customized to match a business’s structure and priorities. Reports can be customized to address a variety of user needs as well, from top executives to lower-level employees and everyone in between.

What ERP Reporting Should Document

Thanks to the customizable nature of ERP reporting, companies can generate different kinds of reports that satisfy many different needs, especially for one-time, ad hoc reporting. But many businesses use ERP reporting to study KPIs and track trends to monitor how successfully their strategies are being implemented and objectives are being met. These trends can also be used to identify areas of weaknesses early, before they become major problems. Some common categories to include in ERP reporting are financial metrics, such as sales, profitability and margins; workforce metrics, such as safety and productivity; and inventory metrics, such as turnover rates. Many reports also focus on customer values, including satisfaction and order fulfillment. When designing and implementing an ERP system, companies must prioritize their reporting needs to ensure that their proposed system is capable of generating and analyzing the reports they require to effectively run and improve their business.

Get the ERP Reporting You Need With NetSuite

Businesses that want to rely on an ERP system to generate their reports need to choose a system with reporting features built in — not included as an afterthought or third-party add-on. NetSuite’s cloud-based ERP solution offers robust reporting capabilities, making it easier for decision-makers to gain visibility with real-time and accurate data from throughout their companies. NetSuite ERP gives business leaders the tools and insights they need to effectively manage and improve their organizations.

With NetSuite ERP’s reporting tools, businesses can leverage far-reaching data to make informed decisions, improve efficiency and drive growth through customizable dashboards, easy-to-use report builders and automated data tools — saving time and resources at multiple levels of the reporting process. NetSuite ERP’s cloud-based software is also optimized for mobile access, allowing users to access real-time data from anywhere, at any time, streamlining communication and collaboration across the company. With NetSuite ERP’s reporting tools, businesses can spend less time on asking questions and double-checking figures and more time on growth and increasing profitability.

Collecting and analyzing data through reporting is an important function of business analysts. With the sheer amount of data required to stay competitive in an increasingly global economy, many businesses rely on their ERP systems to collect, organize and structure their data into accessible reports. But ERP reporting requires deliberate planning and strategy to avoid common pitfalls, such as poor visibility and overly technical reports. Businesses that implement effective strategies and follow ERP best practices can rely on their systems to give them detailed, current and accurate reports more quickly than even the savviest team of manual analysts. By leveraging ERP reporting, businesses can gain a deeper understanding of their operations, make improvements and better prepare for the future.

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This article was written by Lisa Schwarz, Senior Director of Global Product Marketing at Oracle NetSuite, and was originally posted to the Oracle NetSuite Blog on April 24, 2024.