<- All posts

Enterprise Inventory Management | In-Depth Guide & Key Tools

Ronan McQuillan
11 min read · Jun 17, 2024

Enterprise inventory management is the foundation of a huge range of processes across finance, logistics, operations, ITSM, planning, and many more.

The core challenge here is achieving a centralized, accessible view of assets, products, raw materials, tooling, and other inventory across our entire organization.

Today, we’re covering everything you need to know.

We’ll start by checking out the basics of enterprise inventory management and what it achieves. Then, we’ll move on to some of the specific technical challenges that enterprises face when tracking and handling inventories.

Then, we’ll move on to thinking about some of the specific tools that can support us here before seeing what Budibase brings to the table for ITSM teams in large organizations.

Let’s jump right in.

What is enterprise inventory management?

Enterprise inventory management is the sum of all of our efforts to organize, store, track, maintain, and utilize information about our inventories. We’ll think about the specific items and resources we might be dealing with here in a second.

First, though, it’s important to understand what managing inventories means at a more general level.

An inventory is a centralized record of the current state of our owned assets - or some subset of these. As such, our top priority is ensuring that this reflects the real-world state of our asset estate.

This includes the details of specific items, as well as their quantities, locations, statuses, intended usage, values, related processes, governance rules, and more.

The goal of enterprise inventory management is first to maintain an accurate picture of our organizational assets, and second to help ensure that these are used as effectively as possible across their lifecycle.

Therefore, inventory management is deeply intertwined with a range of other processes, including asset management, supply chain, logistics, sales, warehousing, maintenance, and more.


What kinds of inventories do enterprises store?

Obviously, we can’t list every possible resource that an organization might need to keep track of. Instead, it’s worth considering the specific categories of inventories that we need to be aware of.

First of all, we can distinguish between tangible and intangible assets. An intangible asset is something that we can’t physically interact with like a software license or a data set. Still, though, we’ll need to document these, along with their intended usage and relative costs.

More often, though, we’re dealing with inventories of tangible assets. We can break these into a few different categories, depending on the specific type of business we’re dealing with.

The most obvious is the physical products that we actually sell. In other words, stock inventories. The unique challenge for enterprises here is that this will typically be a highly complex system comprising multiple warehouses, locations, or franchises.

Related to this, manufacturing businesses will also maintain inventories of raw materials and components.

Then, there are internal-use assets. The most common examples here include IT devices, from end-user devices like laptops to networking and cloud management systems. Other examples include tooling, machinery, vehicle fleets, or even real estate.

Obviously, each of these types of assets can present very different challenges when it comes to managing inventories.

Processes reliant on enterprise inventories

We said earlier that enterprise inventory management has an outsized impact on a huge range of processes.

Let’s examine these in a bit more detail.

First of all, we have tasks that are directly linked to our inventory, for example, adding, editing, and removing items, analysis and reporting, or other stock management processes.

Our inventory management efforts are also a crucial part of all kinds of sales, aftersales, customer service, supply chain, logistics, franchise management, and other commercial processes.

As a very basic example, if we don’t have an accurate real-time picture of our inventory levels, handling sales will become very difficult.

Lastly, inventory management is deeply tied to a range of enterprise resource management processes, including demand forecasting, financial controls, compliance tasks, resource allocation, planning, and more.

7 requirements for managing enterprise inventories

Of course, businesses of all sizes need to handle inventories. However, this looks quite a bit different in the context of large organizations.

Here are some of the specific challenges that enterprises must contend with.


Managing inventory data across large enterprises requires extensive automation capabilities. Because of the scale we’re operating at, it’s essentially never going to be viable to manually manage our data.

The core challenge here is that we’re potentially dealing with a massive number of tools and processes that can impact our inventory data. So, we’ll need a range of data pipelines, ETL tools, API connections and other automation tools to maintain accuracy.

The key is to thoroughly mimic underlying business rules and processes while eliminating the need for manual interactions with our inventory data.


Centralization means unifying our data into a single, accessible source of truth. In the context of enterprise inventory management, this is particularly important, as there’s an outsized risk that data is siloed across different parts of the business.

When this happens, it’s almost impossible to gain a unified view of how resources are being used across the organization as a whole. This, in turn, inhibits decision-making and introduces avoidable risk.

There are several approaches we can take to centralizing data, including implementing data warehouses, data lakes, data catalogs, or other tools.


Naturally, enterprises have heightened security needs around their inventory data. This can be because the data itself is sensitive or because of the associated costs of disruptions or data loss.

Because of this, there are a few key security issues that most enterprises will prioritize, including using their own database tools, self-hosting inventory management software, and a host of other capabilities like SSO or SCIM support.

Many enterprises and other large organizations also prioritize open-source technologies to reduce the risk of issues like vendor lock-in, outsized support costs, or end-of-support for their inventory management tools.

Supply chain management

Another particular challenge of managing enterprise inventories is that our stock levels, values, and locations can change incredibly quickly. This is especially true of high-volume manufacturing businesses dealing with just-in-time supply lines.

As such, it’s critical for our inventory and supply chain management efforts to be closely aligned.

Integration and real-time data automation are top priorities to ensure that our supply chain and inventory systems remain consistent and interoperable.

Financial management

As we know, enterprise inventory management is highly focused on maximizing the value that we derive from our internal assets. There are a few key strands to this. For instance, calculating the current value of our asset estate at any given time.

However, this can also include financial controls, such as purchase order approvals, handling deprecation, and calculating lifetime costs of ownership.

This can require a range of custom solutions, including approval apps, checklists, and calculators, as well as connections to existing business platforms like invoice management or accounts payable tools.


There are several strands of reporting that we’ll need for successful enterprise inventory management. For instance, KPIs relating to stock volumes, loss, values, movement, order management, and more.

From a technical perspective, this raises two challenges. The first is around data operations. In simple terms, this means we need to centralize the appropriate data while also maintaining security, accuracy, integrity, and accessibility.

Beyond this, we’ll need to right visualization tools. Creating custom dashboards based on our inventory KPIs enables decision-makers and other leaders to quickly access real-time reports in order to garner insights.

Workflow tools

Lastly, enterprise inventory management typically requires a large number of distinct workflow tools. These are internal apps that are created specifically to carry out defined sequences of tasks.

For example, request forms, approval apps, admin panels, vendor management tools, complaints handling, inventory portals, dashboards, and more.

The key thing is having the capability to ship and maintain the solutions that we need to maintain our inventory at pace.

We’ll see what Budibase brings to the table here a little bit later.

8 internal tools for enterprise inventory management

First, though, let’s dive a little bit deeper into the specific kinds of internal apps that are most commonly used to help large organizations manage their inventories, especially around existing, centralized inventory databases.

Here’s what you need to know.


Large-scale inventory management can require huge numbers of different form UIs. At the most basic level, these are interfaces that are used to input data. When dealing with inventory management tasks, we can break these into two categories.

The first are data collection forms . These are used to either create a new row in a database or update an existing one. Examples include order forms and breakage reports or simply adding and updating items in our inventories.

The second are request forms. These are used to initiate a request for a particular resource, such as an item or data asset, or to kickstart a process or workflow. This is then subject to an approval flow, as we’ll see in a second.

CRUD apps

CRUD apps are used to interact with individual records within a database. That is, they allow us to create, read, update, and delete records. This is helpful in a range of admin contexts, including quickly making minor changes to our inventories.

However, in the context of enterprise inventory management, CRUD apps can be a little bit more complex than they might appear. This is because of the complexity of the data models involved, as well as the distinct permissions of various kinds of users.

As such, our CRUD tools must mimic these internal business rules, including using role-based access control to ensure that teams can take appropriate actions based on their levels of data exposure.

Field service apps

Field service apps are tools that enable colleagues to carry out particular workflows on-site. For example, in a warehouse, on a factory floor, or during a supplier visit. This is essential for maintaining continuity within our internal processes when agents are in the field.

Typically, this means carrying out administrative actions similar to those of our other workflow tools, including submitting reports, working through checklists, carrying out CRUD actions, or auditing stock levels.

Field service tools also enable colleagues at head office to schedule and oversee work in the field.

Check out our guide to free field management software platforms to learn more.

Approval apps

Enterprise inventory management processes include countless approval workflows. After a user submits a request for a resource or to initiate a process, an approval flow defines the steps that must be taken to approve or reject this request, along with the required follow-on actions.

An approval app is used to manage this process by leveraging automations and dedicated UIs to apply defined business rules to submitted requests.

For example, certain inventory approvals might be a simple matter of availability or user permissions, whereas others will require human intervention to make a decision based on more contextual factors.


Portals are self-service tools that enable internal and external users alike to take defined actions without having to go through our centralized inventory teams. For example, we might provide inventory-related portals to vendors, franchisees, suppliers, customers, or internal colleagues.

This might enable stakeholders to manage their account details, create orders, submit queries, provide updates, access reports, initiate approval requests, or carry out other simple inventory management tasks.

The priorities here are to boost efficiency by providing stakeholders with an accessible, user-friendly platform for accessing services and resources without compromising security or process adherence.

Admin panels

Admin panels are internal tools that enable responsible colleagues to carry out defined administrative tasks and view reports in a centralized location. Often, these are focused on clusters of tasks within inventory management, such as supply chain and logistics.

This can include several of the capabilities we’ve seen already, including handling approvals or submitting reports.

Admin panels also typically feature analytics relating to key inventory metrics. For example, providing real-time snapshots of stock volumes and values or performance insights across different locations.


GUI stands for graphical user interface. This is a tool that allows us to interact in a flexible manner with a particular data set.

This will typically involve some combination of visual elements, like forms, tables, and filtering UIs, as well as capabilities for writing, testing, and saving custom database queries.

In the context of enterprise inventory management, this is vital for a range of purposes. For instance, pulling out specific insights using data aggregation or searching for particular records based on complex criteria.

ERP tools

Lastly, we have enterprise resource planning tools. These are larger-scale solutions that aim to unify a range of functions, including inventory management, finance, operations, planning, logistics, and more.

Unlike some of the other clusters of tools we’ve seen, these are generally off-the-shelf solutions.

Ultimately, the goal is to maximize visibility and coordination across disparate internal functions. A huge part of this is furnishing us with the unified data we’ll need to successfully implement the other clusters of internal tools we’ve seen already.

Budibase for ITSM teams

Budibase is the open-source low-code platform that empowers IT teams to turn data into action.

IT leaders, solutions architects, data professionals, ops teams, systems engineers, and more choose Budibase to ship secure, professional internal tools in a fraction of the time.

We’re proud to lead the market for external data support. Budibase offers dedicated connectors for RDBMSs, NoSQL tools, spreadsheets, APIs, and more - alongside our built-in low-code database. Query mission-critical data sources without ever storing it in Budibase.

We also offer visual design tools, autogenerated UIs, powerful automations, optional self-hosting, custom components and data sources, free SSO, front-end JavaScript, flexible RBAC, secure environment variables, and much much more.

Take a look at our features overview to learn more.