Why use a database? – Repeat After Me!

November 29, 2009

Let me give you a real world example about how a well constructed database system can take the strain of your business and improve your productivity at the same time!

Every Friday, one business I know used to have to generate specific personalised reports for around 40/50 clients. Even though they were using a database system this took on average four hours every week.

They would create a report for the first client, save it to a folder with a unique name. They would then, using Outlook, create a new email for this client, locating the email address and backup email address from within Outlook. The body of the text would be modified to personalise it for the client.

After clicking “send” they would repeat this process for each other client!

It did not take long to create a system where the operator opened a form listing all clients and then clicked a box next to each specific client needing a report that week. That took around sixty seconds to do. They then clicked on one more button and the system took over automatically creating each personalised report and emailing it directly to those who needed it using a personalised email. The system logged the email and saved copies of the reports.

This upgrade also helped in other ways as the original system meant that email addresses were being used from two different sources and I have already explained in a previous blog why that is not good business practice.

This one simple update to an existing system saves around TWO HUNDRED HOURS each year. Put another way, that is more than a month’s salary for one person who could now be put to work elsewhere in the business.

So when was the last time you reviewed your work processes? Have you ever reviewed them? How many repetitive jobs do you undertake every day, week, year? Sometimes it can be very difficult to see what is right in front of you!

So you undertake a review and discover several processes that you just know you can streamline but you say to yourself that it is going to cost too much to sort out.. or is it? Many will fall into the trap of just looking at the cost of developing such enhancements and ignore the full benefits both in financial and productivity terms.

Then there are the intangible benefits! Think back to my earlier example, two hundred extra hours to work on getting more sales or adding value to existing sales. How much extra revenue could that produce for your business? You could soon find that the cost of development has been more than covered by the extra revenue!

So if you find in your business processes that you continually have to repeat it might just be worth considering ways you can boost your efficiency and in doing so…. your bottom line profit!


Why use a database – Quality Counts!

November 22, 2009

I said in my previous blog that I would cover “why” you should use a database. “Why” is a small word with a big meaning and as there are so many reasons why a business should consider using a database, I am going to break this down into bite size chunks!

First of all I am going to cover the need to have good quality, accurate information recorded no matter what system you use. I would argue that for any business the quality of your contact with your clients/customers is one of the most important aspects that needs to be considered.

Let’s just take a moment to consider our own personal experiences with other companies and organisations. How do you feel when you receive correspondence that has your name spelt wrongly? It happens to me all the time and yes I know my surname is not that common but the companies that take the time to get it right move up in my estimation and are more likely to get my business now and in the future!

Okay, so mistakes happen but then how much more annoying is it when you tell them about the mistake yet it is still not corrected! If companies cannot achieve something as basic as spelling your name correctly, what else are they doing wrong!

Most people will shop around and attention to detail can help give you the edge against your competitors.

No matter what client information you need for your business you can guarantee it is like storing shifting sand. Details constantly change. People move house, change their mobile phone numbers, change email details, move jobs, have children, get married, get divorced! The list is never ending!

Maybe you have client details recorded on a spreadsheet. Perhaps on more than one spreadsheet! Maybe you also have details recorded in a paper file and in an accounting package? So you phone a client and find out they have moved. You note this in the paper file but forget to update the spreadsheet and the accounts package.

You don’t realise that there is a problem until that invoice you sent out 90 days ago has not been paid and you have not been getting responses to reminder letters. By the time you have established what has happened you have not only wasted valuable business hours chasing payments but also your cash flow has been adversely affected possibly costing you more money by way of interest charged or not gained!

A well written database system will store client information ONCE and used it throughout your business. This makes it far easier to keep up to date which saves you time AND money.

My next blog will consider the importance of NOT wasting time in business!

So just what is a database?

November 18, 2009

Discovering what exactly is a database is a good place to start! In almost any business you will frequently hear the phrase “I need to update our database” or “according to our records…..”

Well if you do an internet search to find a definition of the word “database” you will see a whole bunch of different definitions. Some are very technical, “A collection of interrelated data items stored together without unnecessary redundancy, to serve one or more applications”, others less so.

I prefer to think of a database as any collection of information that has been organised in some way shape or form. Also most definitions refer to the use of computers to store data but that is not necessarily the case.

Before the explosion in the use of Blackberry’s and pocket pc’s and the ever increasing versatility of the mobile phone, one of the most important business tools in use was the personal organiser! It seemed like every business person carried around (and many still do!) a leather bound bundle of paper which contained everything he or she needed to conduct business! It has the diary to record all appointments. The contacts section where every important phone number and address is written down. It has the meeting notes section where every last detail of each meeting can be recorded. Your tasks can be organised and just about anything else you want to record for both business and personal use!

How many businesses rely on paper? Orders in paper form, hand written invoices or sales slips/receipts, all neatly filed away in folders ready for the book keeper or the accountant. This information is the life blood of any and every business and in the truest sense of the word any such collection could be defined as a “database”

Having said that database’s do not always have to be in electronic format when we talk about the world of business, many are! But even here there are so many ways in which you can store data electronically. The most obvious one is the electronic version of the personal organiser, for most this is Microsoft’s Outlook.

Many also use word processing documents and spreadsheets to collect and record information. All of these formats can be called “databases” BUT sooner or later most will recognise the need to use a true “database” program to store that much needed collection of information and “Why” will be the subject of my next blog!