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 – 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!