Follow the yellow brick road…

December 4, 2009

The Wizard of Oz has just turned seventy years old and is one of the most watched films ever! So just what exactly has this got to do with good database design?

Well in the film Dorothy and her trusty dog Toto have to follow the yellow brick road to finish their journey. Along the way when they left the road they met all sorts of problems but eventually with the help of some new found friends Dorothy got back onto the road and eventually reached her destination.

No matter what business you are in you will have set procedures to complete a specific task. You might have to follow a specific sales process. Maybe there are legal restrictions and requirements to consider. Perhaps you are using set scripts when staff speak to customers. Are you sending out catalogues and brochures?

So when you or your staff step off the “yellow brick road” are you running the very real risk that something might go wrong? Is that vital piece of information you need to complete that sale missing? Ask yourself how many times YOU have cut corners and ended up going back to re-do things. I know I have many a time and almost every time I have ended up spending extra time back tracking and starting over!

How much time does it take to sort out problems caused when people don’t stick to the script or the laid down procedures. In business we all know time is money! Perhaps you use scripts, check boxes and tick lists to help, but are they always followed or used?

So here’s the thing! If in your business you have set procedures, what safety net do you have in place to keep everything on task? It might be that a database system can do exactly that for your business. A good system can make sure that every “i” is dotted and every “t” crossed. Never again forget that vital piece of information to complete a sale!

I strongly recommend any business to take time out and consider exactly what is in place to make sure that procedures are followed?

How much quicker would Dorothy arrive at the Emerald City if she had not ended up in the castle with the wicked witch and instead stayed on the yellow brick road?

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!