The What, Who and How of Small Business Database Access and Use
Posted by Resource Nation on November 21, 2013 in Business Technology [ 0 Comments ]
As small businesses and startups just start to emerge and build on initial proposals and structures, there are some basics that often get lost in the mix. One of these is the specific game plan for database use. That’s use, not development or acquisition.
The kinds of problems that entrepreneurs and small business leaders face are different on a case-by-case basis. Some businesses secure contracts, but find they lack support and can’t figure out how to use database products and services. Some neglect the process altogether until they realize that their needs for data are bigger than their idea people previously thought. Any of these kinds of situations can lead to serious operational challenges in how a growing business moves forward based on the use of important data.
First, it’s essential for new businesses to really understand what kind of data is going to be valuable to specific processes and operations. Some of this might be intuitive, like getting customer names, but other elements are more elusive: nobody will think about them until after they are needed. For example, getting new product data quickly entered into the system will allow for more analysis of what the business offers. Without this, order takers and salespeople can get caught up in redundant or inconsistent systems, where they don’t know ‘how much of what’ is being stored or sold.
When data is inaccessible or incomplete, lots of scenarios arise where the right hand doesn’t know what the left hand is doing. It becomes necessary to do a lot of painstaking back-work to clarify contract details or try to direct physical operations like shipping or dispatch. All of this starts to impact the viability of the business.
The next principle involves training or, as some businesses call it, professional development. Whatever it’s called, to be successful, this kind of program has to be targeted towards specific categories of users.
In many ways, it’s the understanding and correct use of database tools that makes the difference. Some numbers from a Cisco-commissioned study by InsightExpress show the prevalence of the following types of incorrect use:
- misuse of company computers: 44%
- unauthorized network access: 39%
- incorrect and unsafe remote work access: 46%
- misuse of passwords: 18%
Startup or small business leaders need to ask questions about who is handling front-line operations, including the average skill set of these workers, and what they are comfortable with in terms of technology. In addition, leaders will often ponder over these kinds of questions:
- Have vendor support tools been passed along to workers?
- Is a database interface structurally different than what a workforce is used to?
- Have people on board identified themselves as having certain computer skills when they were hired?
Related: Top Tips for Talent Management
This third principle involves not only how people enter data into database systems, but how they extract single queries or build detailed reports. It’s one thing to create and view a simple Microsoft Excel spreadsheet; it’s yet another thing to reach into a teeming mass of data and pick out specific columns in tables that will provide actionable items on those reports that are central to leadership meetings. According to the E-Commerce Times, some databases are inherently more popular (because of user-friendliness) than others, including Microsoft, Oracle and IBM offerings, with Microsoft in the lead. A “Microsoft bias” might have a little to do with the dominance of the MS operating system on non-Apple personal computers.
Again, more vendor support may be needed. Businesses may need to look to outside consultants or piggyback on the skill sets of some other involved parties. In any case, getting these questions answered is a big part of implementing successful data strategy for growing business operations, so that the actual bricks and mortar processes don’t get ahead of what can be recorded and analyzed back at headquarters.