Key Capabilities to Look for in Software for Distribution

By Mike Mathews | April 4, 2024

When looking at software for distributors, it's important to find something that prepares you for sudden changes in the industry at a moment's notice.

What You Need in Software for Distributors

Managing a distribution business today is like driving across uncharted and unpredictable terrain. One moment, the road is smooth and paved; the next, it’s rutted, mired in mud, or ends at the edge of a body of water. To keep moving forward, you need a true all-terrain vehicle—a business that is ready for anything.

Whether you’re a manufacturer, wholesaler, or retailer, you maintain relationships with vendors, customers, and employees. The type of distribution you’re engaged in affects which of these areas is most important to you—but you must pay attention to each of them, nonetheless:

  • Supply chain disruptions - If you are not prepared for this, it can have cascading effects on your inventory. This leads to stockouts and disgruntled customers.
  • Sudden labor shortages - Your manufacturing or order fulfillment processes may come to a standstill if you don't develop a plan to deal with this.
  • Changes in the marketplace - How customers interact with your business and acquire your product changes. If you can't keep up with these changes, you might find yourself at a competitive disadvantage very quickly.

Simply focusing on efficiency in your business systems is no longer adequate; you need systems that also provide adaptability and resiliency.

Microsoft Dynamics 365 offers you several great enterprise resource planning (ERP) and customer relationship management (CRM) software solutions that can help you not only optimize your current processes but also prepare for the various challenges the market will throw your way.

In this blog, we’ll consider the core features you need in future-proof ERP and CRM software for distribution businesses.

How Does the Software for Distributors Handle Core Functions?

The world of CRM and ERP software solutions is well-developed, and almost any solution you look at for distribution management will cover core business functions. Software for supply chain management should include inventory management, warehousing, inbound and outbound logistics, planning, procurement, and order fulfillment. Ideally, this software would integrate with solutions to manage relationships with suppliers and customers.

It’s wise, however, to dig a bit deeper into any distribution software you’re considering—with an eye toward flexibility and being ready to meet challenges as they arise.

ERP Software for Distributors

You might consider how an ERP System such as Dynamics 365 Supply Chain Management helps you adapt, automate, gain business insights, or manage inventory. Let’s take a closer look.


Can the ERP software adapt as your business morphs over time?

  • Suppose there’s an opportunity to expand your distribution-specific business by adding a manufacturing division. Can you expand your ERP solution to cover manufacturing functions? The Dynamics 365 ERP we implemented for FORCE America covered 15 distribution centers and four manufacturing sites.
  • If you need to shift from a central distribution hub to multiple, smaller operations, can your system adapt? If geopolitics or natural disasters suddenly make it difficult or impossible to work with critical suppliers, how quickly can your distribution software adapt to doing business in new countries?


Does the software facilitate streamlining warehouse operations or transportation logistics with automation, machine learning, or other artificial intelligence (AI) technologies? As the recent pandemic demonstrated, unexpected labor shortages may move automation up the priority list from nice-to-have to necessary almost overnight.


Does the software provide tools to gain greater insight into your supply chain? For example, software that supports the creation of a supply chain digital twin lets you explore the potential effects of thousands of possible scenarios on your operations. This, in turn, enables you to forestall or meet predicaments head-on. Modern, cloud-based solutions like Microsoft Dynamics 365 leverage AI to provide advanced analytics—a must for the business of the future.


Stockouts or delays in order processing or fulfillment can easily drive customers to your competition.

  • Does your distribution software handle real-time inventory tracking, provide the insight you need for accurate demand forecasting, and facilitate optimizing your inventory levels?
  • Does your distribution software streamline communication between sales, procurement, warehousing, and order fulfillment to ensure you can take advantage of new customer relationships and avoid overpromising or underdelivering on orders?

The ERP of the Future Is an Integrated, Modular Solution

Separate systems are a major hindrance to optimizing operations, foreseeing potential problems, and responding to a shifting landscape. It’s important to choose distribution software that integrates with other business systems so you can eliminate data silos and let information flow freely between all areas of your business.

In Dynamics 365, Microsoft has developed a flexible, modular platform for business software. Your business can build an ERP or CRM by choosing from a suite of applications; as your needs change or the business grows, you can add new applications or users. Additionally, niche extensions from independent software vendors are available on Microsoft AppSource.

Dynamics 365 seamlessly interconnects with Microsoft Power Platform, which empowers citizen developers with low and no-code tools for creating apps, websites, automation, and reports. Integration with Microsoft 365 productivity programs places crucial business information where it’s most needed—in the communication and collaboration software your teams use every day: Outlook, SharePoint, Teams, and more.

System Usability Unlocks System Power

Powerful business systems only go as far as their users can take them. If you adopt distribution software with strong capabilities and an inefficient user interface or a steep learning curve, it may take a long time to see the return on your investment.

If you experience high turnover or need to train employees on new functions, usability comes into play again—how quickly can you get a new user up and running in your system? In this sense, a user-friendly system is a long-term adaptive business advantage.

The Dynamics 365 user interface brings the familiar user experience from Microsoft 365 applications to world-class distribution software, making it easier for your employees to learn, explore, and develop skills in a Dynamics 365–based ERP or CRM.

In addition, users can access cloud-based Dynamics 365 via a web browser on any device—desktop or laptop, tablet, or mobile phone.

Stoneridge Software: Your Partner for Dynamics 365 Distribution Software

Stoneridge Software partners with businesses of all sizes to implement distribution software solutions using Microsoft Dynamics 365. As a certified Microsoft Solutions Partner and part of Microsoft’s Inner Circle (the top 1% of Microsoft partners), we work with companies to create integrated ERP and CRM systems that provide the flexibility and resiliency you need to thrive in today’s marketplace. After your system goes live, we stay by your side to provide ongoing training and support.

A Dynamics 365 distribution ERP is more than a move to a new platform—it positions your business to adapt, grow, and confidently face an uncertain future.

To learn more, contact us today.

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