Band-Aid or Scratch

No more Band-aids!

Sorry to make your brain hurt, but it's time to discuss databases. Yes, yes I know…a complex, tedious subject—but necessary because there is a very good possibility that lack of familiarity with databases is stifling your business growth.

We're back to the classic questions:

  • Should I port my old databases?

  • Should I keep putting on Band-Aids?

  • Should I start from scratch?

If t'were done, 'tis best t'were done quickly — Macbeth, Thane of Cawdor, on removing Band-aids

Here’s the thing: we've talked in this space before about Big Data and how it literally helps you to predict the future. If you have been using multiple programs to run your operations, track your finances, and manage information about your customer, you have databases scattered all throughout your organization with information is almost useless to you.

Manual Labor

Worse yet, you're doing yourself no favors by collecting data manually from one database and then transcribing it elsewhere, typically into a spreadsheet with data from a different database and trying to match it up. This process is subject to human error at every stage. Good grief! Even the Girl Scouts selling their cookies are often using tablets these days to keep track of their sales. Do you really want to be less cutting-edge than the Girl Scouts?Transcription errors aside, being a manual process means it won't be done quickly, often, or enthusiastically. By the time you get the information you want it is usually out-of-date. Moreover, the results can be stored in different databases or different spreadsheets, leading to reports which contradict each other.How often have you held two reports in your hand supposedly reporting similar facts, and asked "Well, which one is correct?" and then been faced with the answer "Well, they both are…sort of. You see when we…" Really! Who needs that sort of headache?

Consolidation

If you're making the effort to capture large amounts of data, especially from disparate sources, and storing it on outdated systems, you may as well be writing it on paper forms and putting them in a filing cabinet. The only way you can find anything useful is through a tedious manual search. Finding relationships between various bits and pieces is going to be nearly impossible. The good news that ETL (Extract, Transform, and Load) software automates this process.With proper design and setup, consolidating your databases into an organized and useful form is simple. ETL is typically used to consolidate data from multiple databases (and additional sources, such as data-mining) to construct a data warehouse.A data warehouse brings structure to Big Data. It integrates all of your data for reporting into a single database, irrespective of source. You now have one source of truth for your organization. The data is updated automatically and it’s stored in a way that makes it easy for analysis and reporting.

The Takeaway

In truth there was never any question. Ever since the technology has existed we should have all been consolidating our data. It is no longer just information—it is the very lifeblood of your business.Once you know what an individual piece of data represents, whether it's an expense, a sale, a backorder, the number of refunds you processed in June, or the average length of time spent on a Customer Service phone call, it becomes useful in context.You can suddenly see that the new office in Backwater, Idaho is bleeding money like someone slashed an artery—and act on it! You don't have to wait until the end of the second quarter with losses in the hundreds of thousands to address a problem.

So will you maintain your current way of doing business, or are you going to learn something from the Girl Scouts and step into the future?