When you first start your business, it may be easy enough to organize everything through spreadsheets and a computer-based filing system. As your company grows, however, you may find that the sheer amount of information you have becomes cumbersome. When that happens, it’s probably time to implement a database. The benefits of databases over spreadsheets are numerous and can help you save time and money while growing your company.
How Is a Database Different From a Spreadsheet?
While both databases and spreadsheets keep you organized, a database can help you get to the next level of organization. A spreadsheet is a document that you must manually update with all the information you want to include. It is typically housed on a drive that can only be accessed by certain employees and often only when they are in the office. Since it’s a document, it may be tricky to get the information you want in a format that makes sense.
With a database, you have a central location that all employees can easily access no matter where they are. The database contains the most up-to-date information for your company on such things as employee information, sales contacts, marketing contacts and customer leads. A database allows you to organize this information in a variety of ways to see how productive certain areas of your company are, what brings in customers and where there’s room for growth.
A spreadsheet is easiest to maintain when your company is small and very few people have access to it. As your company grows, and you have more information and people you need to manage, you’ll find that the benefits of a DBMS, or database management system, far outweigh those of a spreadsheet.
Benefits of Databases Over Spreadsheets
The benefits of databases over spreadsheets include:
- Easy access. A database can be accessed by any employee with a solid internet connection at any time. That allows employees to more easily work on the road and from home. This is especially important for people who travel a lot for work or do sales calls since you want them to be able to pull up the latest company information.
- Fast queries. Searching for information or relationships within a large amount of data is typically much faster using a database versus Excel or some other spreadsheet software. One of the main benefits of DBMS is that you can easily hone the information you want and easily tailor your search.
- Multiple users. A database can be accessed by multiple users at the same time. This is especially beneficial for large businesses with many employees who need access to the same data at the same time.
- Flexibility. Using different views and search queries, users have the ability to see the data in a way that benefits them the most. For example, your sales team can just see information related to their sales efforts, while your human resources team can just see employee information. This is one of the benefits of using a database that all employees appreciate since they get the information that is important to them at a glance.
- Less room for error. Another of the primary benefits of databases over spreadsheets is that less manual inputting is done, leaving less room for error. Important contact information and financial information is often input automatically via a phone call or other software, meaning it’s more accurate and reliable.
The benefits of DBMS also include the ability to track trends and correct problem areas and more visual charts and graphs of the information you want to track.
Getting Started With a Database
Once you’ve weighted the benefits of databases over spreadsheets and decided you want to get started with a database, where do you begin? The best place to start is by asking others in your industry which database they use. Certain programs are tailored for certain industries (health care, for example).
With a handful of references handy, make calls and do your research. Sit down with someone from each database provider and have a demo showing how their system works. One database may be more intuitive to you than another or offer more useful features.
Designing and implementing a database can be an incredibly large and often expensive task. However, if you do it right the first time, the benefits of DBMS, like an increase in productivity and efficiency for your company, will make the investment in time and money worthwhile.
Leslie Bloom has worked in upper-level management positions in both publishing and the mental health field. In addition to years of business and management experience, she has more than 20 years of experience writing for a variety of online and print publications, including Metro Magazine. She holds degrees in both journalism and law.