Demystifying database software
In 2009 there will be more data, information and images created than have been produced throughout the last 5000 years combined.
Have you ever wondered what on earth we are going to do with all this data? That is, how can people and businesses use data to become more organised, more productive, and better able to share information?
As a reseller you see companies of all sizes with information scattered about everywhere; in spreadsheets, in documents and on paper. These are prospective customers for databases. Databases are crucial in bringing all the information together in one central location, so businesses and even individuals can improve productivity and reduce manual administration.
Running a business presents challenges to companies big and small when it comes to tasks like tracking customers’ outstanding payments, maintaining up-to-date employee records and improving measurable business outcomes. However, there are database programs that exist to take the hassle out of all of the above.
For some, databases may still seem intimidating and the exclusive domain of big business, but the truth is that easy-to-use, inexpensive database software does exist. Databases free up the time business operators spend managing a business and allow them to get on with what they do best: grow the business!
Whether you’re talking to the director of a large company or someone self-employed, database programs provide ready-to-use administration solutions for every type and size of business.
A well-designed database program offers business management solutions that include:
- Managing contact and customer lists
- Tracking projects and tasks
- Co-ordinating group activities
- Creating quick and easy reports
- Tracking employee information
- Printing invoices, letters and mailing labels
- Connecting data, people and teams
- Storing digital assets and their descriptions.
A database is simply a big stack of cards with several bits of information on each card from text, numbers and dates, to images and web links. The database is what allows people to sort the ‘cards’ into lists (or ‘tables’ in database terms) which in turn means you can store, sort and search lists of customers, projects you are working on, and items or images however you wish.
The main advantage of storing data in a database, as opposed to spreadsheets and documents, is that databases are far more searchable – for example, you can’t ask Microsoft Excel to find “which customer purchased product X?”.
Whilst many companies utilise applications that have database-like functions (such as address book, calendar and photo management programs) and find them extremely useful, these programs cannot store all the different data in one central location, nor can they use the different data from different locations to perform as many functions. But a genuine database can. For instance, your prospect might have a list of customers, and a list of items they have sold. By ‘relating’ these lists they will see all the items a particular customer purchased – just ask them to try doing that with a spreadsheet! By linking all the records together they can improve the search functionality, which in turn makes their data more meaningful and adds value to managing the business.
Key benefits of using database software include:
- All the data is stored in one central location
- Databases improve accuracy of data entry
- Data entry forms can be designed to look like a paper form or online form
- Easy creation of detailed lists to view a found set of records
- Generation of correlated and meaningful reports
- Ability to import and export information with ease
- Security features can limit access to information to only those who need to know
- Creation of formulas and calculations to analyse information and solve problems
- All users have concurrent access to information stored within the database
- Automated printing of mailing labels, reports, invoices, badges for events and paper entry forms.
So databases are for every business, big and small, and 2009 is a great year for companies to take a closer look at the information in their business and think about how it could be put to work.
Steve McManus is General Manager, FileMaker Inc., Asia Pacific and is responsible for managing the full range of FileMaker software in the Asia Pacific region. Steve has a wealth of experience in business development, channel management and understanding distribution models.
0800 444 929