Use The Right Tool For The Right Job!!!
I am sure we have all experienced or heard the story of the home
renovation or auto repair that just went wrong, or certainly just
did not go easy. Ultimately, a tradesperson was called who generally
- with a flash of their toolbox and a quick trip to their truck
- got the job done in reasonably short order. Oh dare I forget
to say, they also charged us extra
once to fix our mess and
then the regular rate to do it right! In the meantime, if we were
lucky, we didn't flood our basement or have the wheels fly off
our car before the job was done right - with the right tools
and proper experience.
Well lately, for no apparent reason I might add, I seem to be
getting numerous people asking me to "have a look" at
their "database" they've been working on. Fair enough.
The next thing they show me is their spreadsheet.
I say to myself...
When I've calmed down, I remind myself this situation is similar
to most people's home renovation experience.
When it comes to software, it's common to see people using the
wrong program to complete a task.
Most corporate workers use three pieces of software. One for
word processing, one for spreadsheets and sometimes, one for databases.
Wording processing software
is for creating text documents such as reports, letters, forms,
articles, etc. They can include pictures, graphs, portions of
spreadsheets and database reports, but their strength is the
ability format the document into a good presentation piece.
used for creating results of calculations based on figures that
are put into the spreadsheet. Some elements of the spreadsheet
are textual or graphical, but the power of a spreadsheet is
its ability to do complex calculations using advanced formulas
with the information provided.
used to collect, manipulate, filter and report on various kinds
of data. Information from a database can be used in either word
processing or spreadsheets. Some database packages have the
ability to import and export the data between word processing
and spreadsheet software. Most databases have the ability to
create reports that look a lot like word processing documents
and can complete some calculations like a spreadsheet. The strength
of the database is its ability to manipulate and filter data
quickly and accurately. Database data is often a mix of text
I concede database development is an area that the majority of
corporate computer users stay away from. It can be complex and
intimidating to the average software user. You need to understand
how a database works, knowing the difference between tables,
queries and reports and how they work together.
Terms like "Normalization" and "Relational"
become part of your vocabulary - whether you want them to or not!
However, it's important to know when a database is the right
tool for a job. For your average software user, a family "gift
list" done on a spreadsheet for the family's annual gathering
is probably good enough. It's not a database, but it will do the
job you need it to.
Now, consider a small or medium business that wants the "gift
list" for its 5000 clients, sorted by those who have spent
over $5,000 in the last two years, and divided up by region -
by tomorrow. You might be able to glean this information from
your spreadsheet, but it probably wouldn't be easy nor would it
be a cost-effective use of your time.
Some people think databases are just for large companies, or
companies that have IT departments that "know that kind of
How do you know when you're going to be a large company?
Setting up databases properly when you're small will help provide
the information you need to help you grow. A well designed database
will last you for years. It will probably be one of the only things
that survives your company's growth, because your office space,
furniture or boardroom probably won't.
From time to time, we've all said to ourselves, "I should
have done it this way in the first place". Commit to making
today the day you decide to use the "Right Tool For The Right
Job" and get that database developed by that "tradesperson"
for your business needs.
Director of Strategic Planning
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