Reader: “Hey Dave.. Dave? Do you have the latest version of our customer spreadsheet?”
Dave: “Yeah it’s on my desktop, hold on I’ll email it over, it’s called ‘Customers 2016 copy (1)(1) v2 Newest.xlsx’”
Managing your organisations data is definitely difficult which is why starting out a spreadsheet may suffice for holding everything, Customers, Projects, Contact Details, orders… It goes on and on – which is why you should be moving on from abominations like on Dave’s desktop.
Dave: “What is the next iteration?”
Well, the next evolution of your company data would be to store it in a database on a server.
Dave: “Huh What is a database”
Funny you should ask Dave, a database is much like a spreadsheet typically they consist of rows and columns but instead of worksheets you store them in tables. You can also arrange these tables in such a way that makes them link to each other – for example a Customer may have submitted an Order. This means a row in the Customer table would be linked to a row in the Order table, thus being relational, enabling the data to be linked to each other in meaningful ways. This being the foundation of one of the main database systems, the SQL database.
These sorts of relational databases enable you to store and manage your data more effectively than ever before, however the magic doesn’t end there. Often websites and mobile apps integrate with these databases allowing you to interface with your database with animations, login screens, cool looking buttons, data reporting etc, etc from anywhere in the world. Commonly known as CRM’s they can massively help business efficiency – decreasing time spent searching or verifying data and increasing time aiding company peformance.
A very recent example of how this has benefitted a business, is converting a customer who manages mortgages. They came to us with a horrific spreadsheet, this was converted and imported into a SQL database living on a dedicated server with a tidy looking website to interact with it. This means instead of appending a new row filling out all the little cells and rows with customer or mortgage information, they now fill in some textboxes, click some buttons and it’s all done. All of which was bespokely written and designed to best fit their business and work flow.
Some key features baked into their system include:
– Access from anywhere.
– Geographically and physically. Spain on a laptop, London on a mobile, yeah why not!
– Integrated security.
– All passwords and sensitive info is hashed and scrambled using the best standards.
– Automated backups.
– Databases can be configured to be automatically backed up, so if you accidentally wipe some data – no problem just restore from this mornings backup.
– Intuitive UI.
– The website built that users interact with is built to be as intuitive and easy to use as possible, requiring little to no training to get up and running.
– Detailed Reporting
– Since the data is nicely organised in a database, instead of manually looking at the rows and columns, you can query the database using a language called SQL to pull the data out in many creative ways to show end of year reports, daily user logs, most common first names, anything you need.
Dave: “That’s amazing, can I log in and search for when i placed an order? Can I make it show last months profits? Can I make it show me a random picture of a cat when I log out? Can I automatically send emails to customers?”.
Yes, yes, absolutely and yes. I can create a completely custom system that perfectly slots into your business’ workflow and requirements – Including showing pictures of household pets.
That’s barely scratching the surface of how you can manage your data and increase business efficiency. Countless times have I walked into meetings seeing paper thrown all over the place or seen spreadsheets with poorly organised data across four different worksheets.
It’s 2019 Dave, time for the SQL.