Building a highly customized database of super-hero proportions
Congratulations! You’ve decided to bring your business into the now – and possibly even the future – with online database management. As you understand it, powerful data capture forms, real-time sharing, and sophisticated applications are going to make your workflow easier and your business more productive. You may even save a bit of money. Euphoria washes over you as you realize you are free from Access, Excel and SharePoint. You’ll be the office superhero! As you skip down the aisles of your workplace, yelling “I’m office Batman! I’m office Batman!” when it suddenly occurs to you; freedom means decisions. Decisions mean know what you want. Knowing what you want means understanding how all the data elements and day-to-day aspects of your business are connected and can impact one anoth…. You pass-out on the floor in marketing.
Don’t worry, you’re not going to wake up naked on the roof of your office, nor will you be unable to harness the power of your online database management system. For freedom, my friend, also means control. Once you actually learn what all the buttons in your personalized Bat-Mobile do, you’ll be swinging from the ceiling with Vicki Vale attached to your utility belt and frankly, feeling pretty bad-ass.
Building the Bat-Cave: Your Online Database
If you already have piles of structured or unstructured data, an online database service is great resource.
For most small medium enterprises (SMEs), a free or low-cost and flexible system that gives you total administrative control over your information can serve as a powerful building-block. But what else do you need? For a start, your online database provider must go beyond simply hosting your data on their server and deliver an intuitive interface that gives you control of the design of your data structure, simple mechanisms through which you can upload or extract data, and a variety of options for visually representing and sharing your information like charts, interactive maps, calendars and summary views (aka pivot tables). If you aren’t able to easily and independently or learn to create tables and charts, your provider should be available to give comprehensive support that has you up and running in a matter of minutes or hours or days- not weeks.
Let’s start with your basic Utility Belt.
Now, you can start from scratch a la Bruce Wayne, creating each of the database structures, fields and types or you can use a pre-formed template available from your online database service provider. The templates are the utility belt around which your data will be organized, purposed and packaged for personalized use. Compartments of your database utility belt can track inventory with corresponding item photo for easy movement and organization of goods. The Customer Relationship Management (CRM) compartment houses customer contact info while tracking interactions, logging individual and issues, help calls, sales or donation activity, filtering in as much or as little information you need. A third compartment takes care of activities related to events automatically updated from the event website. Reach in to compartment four and instantly view sales activity and status for individual clients or groups.
Anyone who has ever fought Gotham City crime knows you can’t win with just one tool. Bringing your arsenal to life in a complimentary way is the key to having the right response and getting ahead. The functionality and relationships among datasets within your online database are critical to properly capturing and organizing information. Embedding calculations and formulas ensure various data sets are updated uniformly throughout your system. Linking databases to one another allows your team to see client interactions corresponding to sales with one or many clients. Open a single client account folder and drill down to view their location, call history, pending sales or leads, shipments currently on route.
What is Batman without his toys?
Let’s face it, it’s the gadgets, gizmos and super thingies that make up for Batman’s lack of super-powers or intergalactic origin. A mortal man without bona-fide super-powers must rely on technology to get him through. And since 1990s Bat mobile doesn’t have Wi-Fi, we will turn to the power of online database applications to make you super.
Designing your own applications (or data modeling) means you can share more information faster than ever before. You can create customized reports that are automatically emailed or posted to a webpage at a time of your choosing. Field types captured in your database (dates, numbers, and currency, images, URLs and even encrypted fields) can be linked together in many-to-one as well as many-to-many relationships give you clear and sophisticated map of the linkages and relationships between items. Perhaps you want to email personal sales results to individual member of your sales team at the end of every month to see if they met their planned goals. Or feed client testimonials to your webpage or Twitter feed every Friday. Your logistics team can receive a detailed map out of each client to receive a shipment in the next two weeks along with the most efficient delivery routes. Updated in real time you can add graphs, charts and gauges to your personalized dashboard to tell you what you need to know about your internal and external actives as they are happening.
How wonderful to arrive back at the Bat Cave each night, flip on your computer and receive a real-time update of exactly how many super-villains you defeated this month, the number of lost batarangs, total damage to city property, along with a customized news-feed.
With great knowledge comes the ability to organize and react. Having control over your data allows you to see your workflow and outcomes in a new light. Now, feel free to get up off the floor and continue skipping down the aisles of your workplace-but for God’s sake, put on a cape.