By Ritesh Patel, CIO, Office Brands


The famous phrase “knowledge is power” implies that knowledge enhances potential or ability. The recent focus of our Technology Mentoring Program at Office Brands has involved raising awareness of how the knowledge base in ERP systems can enhance and improve business performance.

The business environment is currently challenging for independent dealers in the office supplies sector. If we are to survive and thrive, the smart adoption of technology systems needs to be a high priority for this channel.

Over my career I have witnessed some businesses that have implemented an ERP system but still revert to manual processes and behaviour, never realising the real value of their technology investment. The staff behaviour post-ERP implementation does not change and old habits to download supplier price lists or log onto multiple online portals to check for product, cost and inventory information still occur.

Accessing these multiple systems and spreadsheets wastes time, to the detriment of business productivity.

There are three simple areas a business needs to focus on to ensure their ERP Investment is delivering value:

  1. Your ERP is the Knowledge Base for Product Information

To improve the efficiency of business, the Office Brands Data Team aggregates product data from multiple suppliers and make this information accessible to all our members via the OneX Product database. The team collates product from key suppliers, verifies and enriches the data which integrates to your ERP platforms on a daily basis.

Furthermore, Office Brands undertakes monthly competitor analysis by web-scraping online prices from our competitors and actual selling prices from our members ERP systems, which are aggregated in our central data warehouse. With these data points we ensure that our top 1000 products are always competitive and deliver targeted margins to our members.

Office Brands, as a buying group, performs the heavy lifting for its members in relation to data aggregation and enrichment. We are also proactively pricing products using various data points and analysis so that Office Brands dealers do not waste valuable time in front of multiple spreadsheets and portals.

  1. Your ERP is the Knowledge Base for You to Grow Your Average Order Value (AOV)

Educating the sales team on the value of the product information screen in your ERP system to increase revenue and customer profitability is a vitally important function of the business. The current integration from our central Product Information Management system distributes over 60 data points for over 30,000 products into the ERP system of its dealers. Product merchandise information, such as upsells, cross-sells, attributes, images, etc, are all readily available.

If you are selling chairs, the associated products section will highlight the chairmats, etc, and the attributes will even tell you the chair’s AFRDI rating. Your sales team will appear more professional when they have this information at their fingertips to quickly answer customer queries.

Again there is no need to research this information externally, it is all readily available in your ERP.

 Your ERP is the Knowledge Base and Foundation for Your Marketing Automation and CRM Journey

I cannot emphasise strongly enough the importance of having accurate customer information in your ERP system. As a golden rule you should only have named email address, not generic sales@, admin@, accounts@, etc. These emails will be blocked by mail servers and will be unsendable if you are trying to market to them via marketing automation platforms.

Dealers need to spend the time to segment customer data in their system by white collar worker size and ABS industry classifications, which will be used to send personalised and relevant communication to your customer segment.

The above examples are not revolutionary but are the one percenters, which are often ignored. Independent Dealers will need to change their paradigm of ERP systems from a transactional tool to a knowledge base to improve business performance.