Choose The Right Solution
The dilemma for most business people is which way to go. “Is a spreadsheet a better solution or do I need a database?” The driver to go with one or the other may not always be what you expect. It could be the cost of installation versus the cost of time spent by staff doing things the long way. What sort of data do you have? Are you counting widgets or hours? Are you counting expenses or doing a cost benefit analysis?
There is always a solution and we can help you find it. Not only that, we will help you find the most cost effective solution. There are many times when a spreadsheet is just as effective as a full blown database.
Choosing Between Spreadsheets and Databases
Many people confuse spreadsheets with databases and vice versa. This is not surprising since they both deal with large amounts of data. Consider the following table. The column at left is salesman and the figures across tell us the monthly sales.
This is a spreadsheet but can also be the basis for a database. In a database each record would be represented by the horizontal lines. So each salesman would be a unique record. The vertical lines represent the fields within each record. So Brian A has sales of $5000 in Jan and $5015 in Feb. Each record would have 6 fields representing the months.
So why bother having a database when we could represent the data just as easily in a spreadsheet. The answer is complexity and integration. Let’s consider another table for the same period.
This table represents the wages paid to each salesman per month.
Now, what if we wanted to do an analysis of the effectiveness of our sales persons? This could be achieved relatively easily in a spreadsheet. We might have a field for each month represented like this.
This could tell us that Brian cost us $4000 for the month and made us $5000. The effectiveness of Brian for that month was 25% or (5000-4000) ÷ 4000 = 0.25.
But representing this sort of data for each month for each salesman may prove to be a very time consuming and tricky thing to achieve considering these figures change monthly. Add the complexity of the cost of sales and it is easy to see that the spreadsheet will be starting to struggle. Not because it can’t handle the calculations but because it can get very clumsy indeed. There will be a need to jump around the spreadsheet populating new fields re-writing or adjusting formulas as you go. Spreadsheets with several pages can make this difficult to ensure you are in the right place; worse than that, it is easy to overwrite a formula. This can leave you wondering why the spreadsheet starts behaving badly.
This is where a database comes into its own. This data can build up for years. It does not matter how much of it is there. Controlling how much data is used and how much is excluded may be as simple as putting in a starting and ending date. The formulas will only recalculate for the data that you call for. It all happens behind the scenes. You may only ever see an input form and a report.
Simple problems need simple solutions. Here is where the spreadsheet rules supreme. More complex problems need to be looked at carefully to see what the best solution is.
We will be happy to assist with putting together the best solutions for your business. Our Spreadsheet or Database Design and Training services are available to our Website Design Clients as part of our Digital Business Growth System support services or as a stand alone project.
Continue to browse our website for comprehensive information and remember to take advantage of our easy Contact System. Our friendly team is standing by if you should need personal support. Please do not hesitate to Contact Us.