Poor Business Information Management – What Is It Costing Your Business?
By Greg Sevior
Is your business drowning in information?
Are you buried under tons of paperwork and just don’t know where to start? Are you spending more time doing the paperwork than running the business?
Does you current business data management system provide ready access to your business data and perform the analysis necessary to make informed business decisions?
These may seem like simple, basic questions but in many small and medium-sized businesses they go unasked. What does this mean to the bottom line of your business?
Business data management is paramount to making your business profitable and successful. Making your information and data work as hard as you do, and turning it in to an asset rather than a liability, will give you the edge over your competitors. Effective business data management could be the key to the business success that you have been looking for.
The HOW TO of Business Data Management
All businesses today generate and need access to significant amounts of information and data, much of which is critical to the efficient and profitable operation of the business. Information like customer contact details and sales data, appointment scheduling, stock control or managing production flow and financial records is the life-blood of any business. It needs to be managed effectively to get the most out of it.
Just the process of collecting and recording business information can take a great deal of your staff’s time, and therefore your money. Just as important as collecting business data is HOW it is managed and used. Many hours can go into recording business data, and just as many of those hours can be wasted if the information is not stored in a way that provides ready access or analysis of the information it contains. Obviously, recording business information on random notes or even in structured text documents such as Word is better than nothing. But information stored this way is difficult to track and even more difficult to search. Performing any meaningful analysis on large amounts of data stored in this fashion is virtually impossible.
Using spreadsheets, such as Microsoft’s Excel program, will provide access to structured information as well as the ability to perform some effective business analysis over small subsets of data. However filling out spreadsheets and keeping them up-to-date can be a time consuming task. And what do you do when you have voluminous amounts of data that you want to analyse for trends, or business opportunities. Unlike databases, spreadsheets are limited in the number of records they can manipulate and rarely provided the correlation between disparate data holdings that is required to perform meaningful analysis.
Making the Most of your Business Information
I think we all can agree that proper business information management is an important aspect of effective business management and should be a core consideration in ensuring the success of your business.
As you have probably realised by now, using hand written notes, document files and even spreadsheets may not be the most efficient way for you to manage and make the most of your business information. In fact, when you take in to account the time and effort necessary to collect and store the information, collate it, and then try to make sense of what it all means, you have likely come to the conclusion that unstructured business data is costing your business not only tens of thousands of dollars in time and resources handling the information, but also many thousands of dollars in missed opportunities that proper analysis of that data could have identified.
For the efficient and effective management of business information you really need a database. Databases provide significant advantages over other forms of information capture, storage, retrieval and analysis. More importantly a database enables rapid access to any data held within the database through sophisticated, and yet in most cases easy to use, search functionality. Most database systems today handle virtually any size data-set, be it large or small, and have the ability to perform tasks as simple as ‘Customer Relationship’, ‘Inventory Management’ or ‘Asset Management’, right through to the more complex sales and/or trend analysis, across ten or even hundreds of thousands of individual records.
Perhaps equally as important is the ability of relational databases, such as the Microsoft Access database, to vastly decrease the time and effort required to collect the data. With functionality such as data import, default field values, lookup tables, drop-down lists and the ability to enter common data (which may be used often across 1000s of records) only once, they can significantly reduce the time and effort required to collect and store information.
Over time there have been many database applications available. Whilst all these database systems have provided the basic data storage and retrieve capability, more modern-day database applications such as Microsoft Access Database provide a graphical user interface, simplified querying and comprehensive internal reporting functionality which is capable of analysing and charting vast amounts of data in very short periods of time, often only seconds. Microsoft has gone to great lengths to incorporate all the modern features required by any business to effectively handle their information management and analysis needs. Microsoft Access Database comes packaged with the ‘Office’ (professional) suite of software tools, and its integration with those tools makes passing information and data between documents, spreadsheets and databases a simply process which greatly enhances and simplifies its data collection, analysis and reporting capabilities. Existing users of MS Access Database will also be aware that several of the sample databases that ship with the Access Database, whilst basic in design, already provide some good business information management tools.
Whilst Microsoft’s Access database is easy to use, allowing basic databases to be easily built by the novice, it also contains advanced functionality and features that can be used to build more powerful, integrated business information management systems. Consequently, a number of ‘business to business’ companies specialising in the development of custom, business specific, Access Database applications have emerged. Where you have a need to build a database to meet a specific requirement within your business, but just don’t have the time or someone with the advanced training and knowledge required to build the database in-house, then using a specialist Access Database developer may be the answer. As there are many such companies offering this service the development rates are usually very affordable, and you will find that the time required to have a functioning, customized database, up and running will be significantly reduced.
Effective, efficient business information management is a must for anyone wanting to grow their business and their profitability.
About the author: With over 20 years experience in business database systems, Greg runs GI Business Database Solutions which specializes in development of custom MS Access Database programs for small to medium-sized business enterprises.
Since 1996 GI Business Database Solutions have been creating affordable custom Access databases to meet the specific business needs of their clients. Keen to see that even small business have the opportunity the get the most from their business information GI Business Database Solutions have provided a range of FREE business related databases on their website, many of which are currently in use by 1000s of business worldwide.
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