Author: Yogi Schulz
Summary :Database management systems help growing businesses manage increasing volumes of data to improve customer service, control costs and accelerate product or service development..
By Yogi Schulz
Is your business experiencing any of the following?
We’ve all been at this meeting, the one where various executives show up with their own spreadsheets, each purporting to describe the same situation. Problem is that every spreadsheet contains different numbers. Not only is this frustrating, it’s often the first indication that a business is experiencing a data management problem.
The problem of different numbers is a growing one among today’s businesses. One simple example is the seemingly innocuous question: “How many employees do we have?” Consider the number of ways this can be answered: Should the count include full-time and part-time employees? Does it include summer students? What about employees on disability leave? Should the count include new hires that are still on probation? What about hourly or contract workers? With so many permutations, could the spreadsheet contain a formula error?
In this case, multiple answers to the question are defensible. No wonder every spreadsheet contains different numbers.
- As businesses grow, the volume of data they accumulate grows exponentially. Managing this data deluge becomes increasingly difficult just at the moment when superior data management becomes more important to business success.
- As businesses expand, more sophisticated tools are needed to manage data. Tools that serve start-ups well are overwhelmed by the demands faced by larger businesses.
- A database management system (DBMS) is a powerful tool used to store data, secure it, protect it and make it quickly available to people who need it.
- A DBMS enables a business to squeeze more value from the data it collects for improved decision-making.
The data management problem
Most businesses make extensive use of Microsoft Excel and Microsoft Access to manage data. These are powerful and effective tools that serve us well. However, expanding businesses often encounter challenges associated with accessing and sharing data that these tools were not designed to address.
Excel and Access are designed for single user access to entire documents. The minute a second employee tries to access the same document, a message “Open for Read-Only?” pops up. The purpose of this message is to ensure data integrity is maintained. A business doesn’t have to grow much before these messages escalate from a mere annoyance to a full-blown crisis. This is what a DBMS, which is more sophisticated, is designed to solve. It controls access at the record level – such as a single row within a document. This lower level of access is technically complex to achieve but ultimately provides huge benefits.
A second issue is that data is often replicated many times in many spreadsheets. Over time these spreadsheets evolve into multiple versions of the truth because they are not all updated as the underlying data changes. For example, when a customer moves, the address change may not be applied to all the affected spreadsheets. Similarly, when a last-minute adjustment to revenue is unevenly applied, it leads to different revenue and net income graphs being produced for the same time period. A DBMS reduces these misleading discrepancies significantly.
What are the other primary functions of a DBMS?
- It manages concurrent access to data in a predictable, repeatable and controlled manner for multiple end-users. For example, banking systems and airline reservation systems use a DBMS to provide global access to data.
- Also, it is an important component of making data available on every device across the business. For example, a DBMS and its supporting computing infrastructure enable quick access to purchase orders or to customer purchase histories.
- A DBMS can make the same data available to multiple applications, and enables the sharing of customer data across order entry, invoicing and accounts receivable.
- A DBMS creates backup data copies for disaster recovery. Data can be quickly recovered and operations restored after a fire or a data management error.
Often quick and reliable access to data is viewed as a very soft benefit. While it may be difficult to quantify the value, easy access to accurate data is often what improves customer satisfaction and differentiates competitors. Customer queries can be answered quickly, accurately and at lower cost, and bids can be prepared with high assurance that the work can be delivered profitably.
The right system can manage almost infinite volumes of data and can respond to thousands of data requests concurrently. This way, the data growth that accompanies business expansion can become a source of competitive advantage not a risk that threatens business viability.
Regardless, an advanced database management system is a valuable tool that can ensure business growth, and ensures that businesses aren’t hampered by tools that are overwhelmed by the volume of data.