Fingertips Intelligence have been doing database design for over 10 years and we like to give our clients plenty of advice before we start their project. If I could summarise all that knowledge into one page then it would be –

1. A database is a business tool and has to fit your business. It may seem obvious but if the database design does not operate the way you want it to, then it is useless. That’s irrespective of how it looks, what it does, or any fancy add-ins.

2. Do not make the initial scope too big. For most SME’s – a good database is one that will get delivered in under 3 months. Focus on the core problems you are trying to solve in the initial build and then plan for subsequent stages.

3. Consider the processes that underpin your business and how they function – and how they could be improved by having a database. E.g invoicing – consider just  customer invoicing for now :

  • It would be good if the system collated all the line items automating – having the invoice generated a click of a button
  • Have the customer details appearing on the invoice
  • Generated the next invoice number
  • Emailed the invoice to the customer

4. Think about having a dashboard showing what is going in the business and all show potential problems at a glance:-

  • Overdue invoices
  • Orders that are in production / about to be delivered

5. Joining up disparate information sources – to generate simple but effective business intelligence e.g :-

  • Before you might have had separate spreadsheets showing customers and their orders – now having a single comprehensive database can show you which customers are buying which services
  • Suppliers and stock levels – are different parts of the organisation using their own suppliers to purchase the same product ? Using a single database can highlight this and enable you to consolidate your purchasing

6. Management Reporting – this is one of the most important aspect of  database design – to be able to provide management with effective business intelligence at a click of a button. If a database has been well designed then these reports should be easy to create.

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