Small businesses often run on thin margins, making small business owners wary of investing in new technology. New technology comes with up-front and maintenance costs, as well as a time cost for learning the technology. Then there are the hiccups during early implementation…adopting new technology can be a hassle.
However, databases are an incredibly powerful form of technology that offers amazing bang for your buck. Because databases are set up by programmers, business owners lose no time struggling to implement this technology themselves. Further, there’s a very small learning curve with most databases. Because databases are used in so many ways, most of us have actually interacted with them in our daily lives even if we don’t realize it. That makes learning to use your own company database much easier.
Most importantly, databases save companies money. From automating routine tasks to identifying new customers, databases empower business owners to run leaner, more efficient, more productive businesses—and compete like never before.
What Is A Database And How Is It Different From Spreadsheets?
You may be familiar with spreadsheets from using programs like Microsoft Excel or Google Sheets. These programs were designed to replace accounting ledgers, but they’ve developed into powerful tools for recording and sorting large amounts of numerical data.
However, spreadsheets have limitations. While they’re great for handling numbers, they don’t handle other types of data (like words or images) very easily. And while they can sort and filter data, it can be difficult to perform those actions if your spreadsheet features different types of data (imagine debts in one column and names in another). Further, while spreadsheets keep data organized, they’re not easy to read or visually appealing.
In contrast, databases are built specifically for storing and retrieving different types of data. A database is a collection of information stored electronically so that each record can be sorted and accessed in multiple ways. For example, a doctor’s office might keep a database of patients. Using that database, office staff can search for patients by their name, birthday, patient number, upcoming appointments, and similar information. Because data can be recalled through different methods, it’s always easy to find data fast. Overall, databases are more adaptable than spreadsheets, even storing graphics, audio, and video data.
But databases aren’t just for doctors. Any business with large numbers of customers, clients, vendors, or stock can benefit from using a database.
What Can A Database Do For My Business?
Competitive businesses turn to databases to increase productivity and cut costs. But there are many other benefits as well such as improved customer service, more reliable data, cost-saving automation, and better resource management. Here are few of the ways many businesses use databases effectively:
Analyze Data To Save Money And Eliminate Waste
You can produce reports from spreadsheets. However, if you’re using data from multiple spreadsheets or multiple systems, it can be time-consuming to pull that data together. In contrast, reporting can be automated with a database. You can design the reports you want, tell the system how often you want the reports run, and even set them up to send to specific employees automatically. Track your expenses in areas like marketing or maintenance and project trends in productivity or profits without the hassle you’re used to.
Beyond automation, reports from databases are more accurate than tradition reports because of the very precise information collected by databases. This highly-accurate information makes it easier to detect waste, cut costs, redirect spending, and spend in more cost-effective ways. Overall, databases help business owners make smarter decisions about their company resources.
Automate Tasks And Use Employees More Effectively
A recent survey from SnapLogic showed 90% of employees reported doing boring, repetitive tasks in their jobs. In fact, many employees report spending over 3 hours daily on repetitive tasks. Unfortunately, employers pay these workers to do tasks that could be automated, often with the help of a database. If employers automated these tasks, they could reassign workers to more complex tasks.
For instance, using a point of sale system makes inventory management much faster and more accurate. Store owners no longer have to close up shop and pay employees to count products. Instead, they can rely on a phone and a database to manage inventory as it enters and exits the shop.
Similarly, tasks like reporting, compliance, new employee onboarding and training, scheduling, and even following up with customers can all be handled by your database system, freeing up employees for more complex or creative tasks.
We’ve written before about the crippling effects of data loss and data theft. In addition to being more efficient, databases are often more secure than other systems for storing data. That’s because most databases are designed to protect data through a mix of highly-effective security practices. Depending on the types of data you store, your database might use methods like segmentation, limited lateral movement, multi-factor authentication, end-to-end encryption, and controlled access to data.
Manage Customer Data
Keeping track of customer data is extremely important. Nothing is more frustrating for customers than a mix-up that results in incorrect billing or delayed delivery of goods or services. If you’re tracking customer data in spreadsheets, it’s easy to enter data in the wrong field or delete a field altogether. Spreadsheets can also become cluttered and hard to read if too many different types of data are included together.
But databases simplify this. For one thing, well-made databases have clearly-labeled fields and can detect errors when incorrect data is entered. And because databases retrieve information using filters, users can easily sort data to show only the information they are actually working with. This helps employees work both more quickly and more accurately.
Collect Better Customer Data
Many businesses actually record more data on their customers when using a database. That’s because recording and using the data is easier, but also because many databases make it easy to record very precise information that can be immensely useful. For instance, online stores frequently track each user interaction to build profiles of their customers. These profiles can be helpful for improving their customer experience, creating more targeted marketing, improving lead generation and tracking.
Managing workers can be challenging, but an employee database can simplify things by storing all employee data in one place. This can include personal information, resumes, HR data, time, and more. Not only does this make it easier for your HR team by automating many simple tasks, but it also helps employees. When all forms are located in one place, employees can complete paperwork more easily and access information on benefits, leave time, and more without having to call anyone.
Signs Your Business Needs A Database
Unsure if your business should invest in a database? Here are a few signs:
- You have to check multiple places to find your data. Having data stored in multiple different systems creates confusion, wastes time, and burdens employees. It complicates reporting and may even increase costs if you’re paying for more software than is necessary. A database can bring all your info into one place, making it quick and easy to get all of the right data at once.
- You struggle to bring up data in current systems. This is a sure sign your current system is overloaded. You likely have too much data and not enough power to manage it. A new database will not only handle all of that data, but it can be built with your company’s needs in mind so that it grows along with your business for years.
- You’re using legacy software that may not be supported. Legacy software poses a number of problems. First, security is a huge issue. Newer software considers modern cybersecurity threats and receives import updates to keep your data safe, but legacy software either can’t support these updates or gets bogged down the more updates you add to it. (This could be part of the reason you struggle to bring up data in your current system.) Second, legacy software eventually becomes unsupported. Don’t wait until you are forced to change an essential system!
- Your current system doesn’t support data from important channels. Maybe you have data in multiple places because none of your current systems can manage data from all of your data sources. If you’re constantly having to search for software to fill gaps in your main software, then there’s a problem. Investing in one system for everything will make your life much easier (and your data more reliable, your company leaner, and your customers and employees happier).
Your Company’s Custom Database Is In Reach
TracSoft has been serving small- to medium-sized businesses in Columbus, GA for over 23 years. In that time, we’ve built secure, custom databases for businesses just like yours.
We partner with companies in diverse industries to create solutions for each unique business. Our databases are fully customized to your needs and built with the future of your company in mind. As your business grows, we can build out your database so it remains robust for years to come.
Ready to kick spreadsheets into the past? Contact TracSoft today!