Data is at the centre of business
Businesses have experienced a drastic transformation in the last two decades, shifting from paper-based job books, journals, and cumbersome file cabinets to an electronic storage platform with the aim of consolidating and integrating business data. At the centre of this shift is the advance of database management systems – computer programs used to create, maintain and use collections of logically related records and files, otherwise known as databases.
Today, databases are commonplace in business and serve multiple purposes from tracking simple customer records to storing mission-critical, enterprise-wide data. The rationale behind databases is simple: they allow for a very effective and efficient way of maintaining important facts about business that can be manipulated to retrieve valuable information.
The creation of information from data is a significant advantage of databases. By collating data across multiple time periods and business entities, we can learn previously unknown facts: consumer behaviours, seasonal trends, highest-selling products, and potential market niches – information that can enable organisations to outperform their competitors, improve sales and survive in the long-run.
Essentially, business data is a gold mine that if explored and managed adequately can create significant advantages: better performance, better intelligence, reduced administrative overheads and increased profits. These are the reasons why leading companies invest heavily in database development, transforming raw data into information – an asset that can be used for the benefit of business.
Getting IT right
Considering a strong commercial case for databases, it is surprising that some organisations, especially small companies, still resolve to manual, paper-based processes to handle potentially mission-critical data. The reasons for such behaviour are multiple:
- Fear of IT investment:IT investment is still an odd child in the corporate budget family for many organisations. Tarnished by bad press, a myriad of failed projects, misconceptions of unmanageable costs, and common complacency, information technology is viewed by many as a desirable, but a risky investment limiting its adoption, and electronic databases are not an exception.
- Difficulty in quantifying benefits and ROI:For all businesses, especially in today’s economy, the logic behind any investment is straightforward: what’s the size of the prize? With the benefits and ROI of database systems varying on a per company basis, it may be hard to commit to what seems to be a purely intangible asset with uncertain returns.
- Ineffective product delivery:Finding the right solution and the right technology partner can mean the world to the success of a database development project. Poor products and ineffective delivery can create a significant barrier to database investment.
A Business Guide To Database Investment
It is important to have a structured approach to database investment and to find the right technology partner to deliver an effective, cost-appropriate solution:
- Define the project: Database development may involve the implementation of new databases, extension of existing legacy systems, and integration with other IT assets, such as external databases, desktop and online applications. Understanding the type of database solution your business requires will help you shape the vision of the end-product and give you a rough estimate of the required investment.
- Identify stakeholders: Consider your organisation and the users of the system. Who will use the database? How will it be used? Conducting a stakeholder analysis and involving various individuals across or outside your organisation in the discussion will clarify user requirements. Potential conflicts of interest will surface allowing you to document access restrictions, data requirements and to start documenting functionality.
- Create a comprehensive requirements document: By interacting with various stakeholders, you will be able to list the functionality that the system will have. This step should not be restricted by budget constraints - outline all system requirements, those that are absolutely critical and those that are auxiliary. Try to document various business processes and work flows that will use the database: What are the steps? What logic is needed?
- Prioritize: Once you have documented the potential system requirements, you should prioritise the list based on importance, cost, and value-added. While obtaining price estimates may prove difficult, the functionality can be evaluated against internally-generated metrics, such as time saved due to availability of data.
- Select the solution: Your business requirements may be completely satisfied by an off-the-shelf database system that matches the criteria identified in the previous step. Alternatively, if you require a product that is not readily available on the market or the proposed system will need extensive customization, you should consider investing in a bespoke solution. Before committing to a particular database system, ensure that you consider the technology behind the database and that it will match your existing IT infrastructure.
While most of the above steps can be completed internally, getting a technology partner early in the process can improve the chances of the project’s success and will set clear expectations about the solutions available and the required investment.
Database Solutions and You
Developing a new database systems can be a labour intensive process and requires a strong foundation in database concepts including normalisation, integrity and optimisation. Getting the balance between these factors is essential for minimizing problems, maximizing the value from time invested, and creating maintainable and scalable systems while providing effective and responsive support for application systems.
You should consider investing in a database system, if:
- You want to reduce the amount of information you store on paper reducing error rates and risks of lost information
- You want to cut down administrative overheads and time you spend searching and managing data
- You want to have an ability to analyse your data across a range of parameters to identify valuable information
- You want to consolidate a variety of data resources together giving you a unified view of your organisation
- You want to improve the timeliness, quality and consistency of data used in decision making
Canary Database Solutions
The team at Canary has a solid foundation in database design and implementation. We specialise in developing systems using Microsoft SQL Server and have a strong experience with a number of open source and commercial database packages.
We offer a variety of database development services:
- Bespoke database solutions: Design, development, implementation and support of new database systems based on exact business requirements.
- Legacy system upgrades: Redevelopment and extension of legacy databases, including migration to alternative platforms and technologies.
- Database optimisation: Improvement of database performance, data structures and data integrity through proven methodologies and techniques.
- Database maintenance: Ongoing support, administration and maintenance of database systems, including regular back-ups, consistency checks, data tests and disaster recovery planning.
- Data analysis and reporting: Design, development and implementation of business intelligence systems, advanced reporting and data analysis tools.
- Data integration: Integration of business databases with other systems, applications and data sources
- Data security: Design and implementation of industry-grade data security measures, including role-based data access restrictions and data encryption
- Database hosting: Effective and secure hosting of databases ranging from small business data sources to data warehouses
Key types of database systems we have delivered:
- E-commerce systems for improved sales management
- Industrial automation systems
- Business management solutions for small-and-medium enterprises
- Chronic disease administration and patient management solutions
- Asset tracking systems for vehicle management
- Employee performance evaluation systems
- Online values assessment systems
- Centralised information stores
Contact us to see what we can do for your organisation with our bespoke database solutions or click here to read about some of our clients’ success stories.