How Manufacturers Use Office 365 Data Insights to Drive Decisions

May 2nd, 2020 | Microsoft 365

When it comes to digital transformation, any technology change you invest time, money, and resources to adopt should, in some way, contribute to improving your customer experience by utilizing your employees for their full value. The fluctuations in market demand must be accounted for, which requires 360-degree visibility into supply chain KPIs that can only be achieved by improving strategic planning with real-time, dynamic reports. We’re seeing an increasing number of manufacturers use Office 365 data insights to meet customer demands and develop more innovative ways to do business.

The manufacturing industry has shifted to embrace technology innovation as companies face new challenges such as:  

  • Decentralization across channels and geographical areas  
  • Customer demands that force mass customization 
  • Demand schedules tightening making it difficult to manage supply and demand economically

When manufacturers use Office 365 data insights, they are able to identify opportunities for improvement. Office 365 applications and features can be configured to enable staff on the floor to enhance efficiency with automated processes and streamlined communication. Microsoft’s integrated suite of tools also allow for the transmission of accurate information, secure data, and real-time reports that both the floor managers and the leadership team can use to improve processes and embrace new ideas strategically.  

Manufacturers Use Office 365 Data Reports to Spend Less Time Focusing on the Past and More Time Planning for the Future

Many of the small and midsized manufacturers we have talked to face a common challenge: integrating and managing disparate systems and tools.  

The use of multiple disparate systems and technology requires manufacturers to gather data from across the organization’s various departments. Those tasked with reporting will spend hours communicating with sales, marketing, design, services, engineering, and production just to get the information they need to begin. They will also spend a significant amount of time pulling information from supply chain vendors and contributors whose internal reporting processes may not be much better. It can take a month or more to gather and consolidate the information, but then you still have to deal with juggling disparate data sources across various systems and excel sheets.

A combination of workarounds and disparate systems may seem like a suitable solution for some if it accomplishes what it’s supposed to for the time being.  

But, think about how much work goes into building quarterly and annual reports using this method, only to deliver information that is outdated by the time it reaches the leadership team. The data is stale, often laden with human errors, and the reports are static snapshots that limit the way the data can be visualized and adjusted for different perspectives. When manufacturers use Office 365 data insights, they can more efficiently, quickly, and easily understand what is going on in the business and when. 

Leverage Customer Behavior Patterns to Guide Business Decisions

As business processes change and opportunities arise, the kind of reports referenced above cannot guide business decisions in real-time without manual updates and formatting. When the processes and technology of a manufacturing company are accompanied by data silos, they not only limit business insights. Data silos result in reporting gaps that limit the collaboration between sectors of the business that must be aligned to balance service level and cost and do so in a way that keeps up with competition and customer expectations.  

  • What are customers buying?  
  • What are they not buying?  
  • What products are they returning?  
  • What products are frequently sent back for repair or maintenance, and when?  

All of these are questions that, when answered with easy-to-navigate data reports, can drive business decisions for the future. Executives can use accurate reports that compare data across multiple business units to highlight opportunities to enhance customer satisfaction and develop innovative products and services that proactively meet their needs and expectations.  

Make Data-Driven Decisions on the Spot

The inability to use data to visualize real-time business insights and explore opportunities hurts collaboration. As a result, it is more difficult to plan for and implement new business processes capable of keeping up with competitors and customer demands. More dynamic planning that takes into account the need for organization-wide collaboration and data consistency. The synergy of information and customized data visuals built into Office 365 can enable departments to have a holistic view of the business and how their efforts either improved or detracted from overall company success.   

By connecting these disparate segments of the business with instant data insights, manufacturers can make informed decisions earlier, and with more confidence than they have in the past. They can see a complete view of the product journey and use this information to understand each department’s impact overall results. For example, instead of waiting to slow down the production of a product when sales drop, your team leaders can identify issues and trends across the entire business cycle, from the delivery of supplies and parts, throughout the production and distribution of products, and to the feedback and maintenance requests of your customers.  

Identify Bottlenecks and Innovate Business Solutions to Drive Efficiency

If you’re one of the many manufacturers who have embraced ERP software and done so successfully, you’re likely ahead of the game. However, there are limited customizations that can be made to the software without supporting integrations. Office 365 integrates with hundreds of well-known applications, including ERPs popular among manufacturers. Microsoft is continuously releasing new application hooks to accommodate the unique needs of businesses across the globe.

Still using Quickbooks or another accounting system in place of an ERP? Find out why manufacturers are the number one users and implementers of ERP solutions by reading our blog: Why You Need a Manufacturing ERP System (Not Just QuickBooks)

Customize Office 365 Integrations for Automated, Real-Time Reports

By integrating your ERP with Office 365’s features and tools, you can use tools like Power Automate to build custom workflows that are configured to support an optimized version of your operations and systems. Because the O365 platform’s interoperable applications sync data in real-time, you can build automated data input workflows that source information like production line progress, current inventory supply, and customer purchases to display with visual, agile Power BI reports. The customized consolidation and visualization of business-critical data enable manufacturing leaders to predict consumer needs and innovate new offerings that speak not to what people say they want, but to what their actions show they need. 

How Can Manufacturers Use Office 365 Data Features Productively?

Any IT investment should be made with both the short and long-term initiatives of the business top-of-mind.

Before you decide to make a technology change like moving to Office 365, you should have an established and agreed upon intent and vision for successful implementation. Consider:  

  • Will investing in Office 365 make you more profitable?  
  • Will it increase your market share?  
  • Will it assist in developing new business models?  
  • Will it be readily received and easily adopted by your staff? 

If your company already pays for an Office 365 subscription, help your employees make the most of their technology with these Microsoft Office 365 Quickstart Guides.

Are You Ready to Take Advantage of Office 365?

Unfortunately, Office 365 alone does not have the power to transform your business. The term digital transformation may be a little worn for wear, but it highlights a key part of implementing the enterprise-level features available with an Office 365 subscription. It’s not a switch you flip on and walk away. It’s a transformation of the way you think about your technology, your operations, your people, and how all three can be positioned to optimize productivity and results. More often than not, this requires developing an IT strategy for creating an agile technology solution capable of accommodating your business initiatives and embracing both industry and economic shifts.  

Your company’s Chief Information Officer (CIO) or outsourced Technology Solutions Partner should be your go-to resource for helping you determine what it will take to implement Office 365 in a valuable and efficient way. Manufacturers who take the time to plan and gather documentation for an Office 365 project better position the technology for success.  

When Office 365 is implemented by people with the right level of business knowledge and Microsoft expertise, the technology solution can drive manufacturing improvements and results. By involving a strategic IT consultant from the beginning, you can reap the benefits of Office 365 for manufacturers.  

Our IT consultation team works with your leadership and your staff to understand your business needs so we can effectively research and design a technology solution that best fits your manufacturing business.  

Let us help you determine if Office 365 is the right fit for your business. Schedule time to talk with an Aldridge representative today, and we can help you weigh your options.