Data bases for dumb dumbs.

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Data bases for dumb dumbs.

Postposted on Tue Feb 19, 2013 2:26 pm

Hey all. If you've been through one of my threads before you may recall I was a Industrial Design/manufacturing engineer that did way too many things. Well I've left that life behind... relatively speaking. At any rate I'm now a new sales rep (inside and outside if you must know) for a small company that is desperately in need of not only an IT person but also a database. They currently have Access, but they don't have any idea what to really do with it. 2/3 of their business is still 100 percent on paper. I'm pushing the move to all digital simply so I can better data mine each and every customer to develope instructional statistics for our different products and businesses. I'm soon going to be the only sales rep in my department as the other one is retiring so... TMI, sorry.

At any rate this is not my forte but being ignorant is no excuse so I reach out to you guys. What would be a good couple of softwares and tutorials or articles for me to read, try, mess around with to calibrate my mind to understand

1. What is really possible.
2. What is the true time investment in building such a system.
3. What are other unforeseen benefits might I get back besides data for marketing and easier to track file systems.

Thanks in advanced guys. :D
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Re: Data bases for dumb dumbs.

Postposted on Tue Feb 19, 2013 3:51 pm

kamikaziechameleon wrote:Hey all. If you've been through one of my threads before you may recall I was a Industrial Design/manufacturing engineer that did way too many things. Well I've left that life behind... relatively speaking. At any rate I'm now a new sales rep (inside and outside if you must know) for a small company that is desperately in need of not only an IT person but also a database. They currently have Access, but they don't have any idea what to really do with it. 2/3 of their business is still 100 percent on paper. I'm pushing the move to all digital simply so I can better data mine each and every customer to develope instructional statistics for our different products and businesses. I'm soon going to be the only sales rep in my department as the other one is retiring so... TMI, sorry.

At any rate this is not my forte but being ignorant is no excuse so I reach out to you guys. What would be a good couple of softwares and tutorials or articles for me to read, try, mess around with to calibrate my mind to understand

1. What is really possible.
2. What is the true time investment in building such a system.
3. What are other unforeseen benefits might I get back besides data for marketing and easier to track file systems.

Thanks in advanced guys. :D


Ummm.... five?

More seriously, without knowing what it is you're actually storing and what you plan to do with it, it's impossible to give you a realistic answer.

How do you plan on getting data into the system? Will it be entered by all users (sales people) or by specific people? Will it be entered in batches or interactively? Are all of the people local or do they need remote access? Same with data going out... what kind of reporting requirements do you have? Will people need to access the data directly, or will you be sending reports to people? Or both? Don't just think in terms of what is done right now - think about where the company might want to go.

What kind of security do you need? In other words, how sensitive is the data? Is it okay if one sales person sees data for another sales person? What kind of auditing do you need? In other words, how critical is it that you know that data for a sales person was actually entered by that person? What are your up-time requirements? How long do you need to keep data? Does your data need to integrate with any other systems - for example, accounting, payroll, etc?

If all you need to do is store sales data, you might be perfectly okay with a good MS Access design and a good backup plan. If you need something more robust... honestly, it would be irresponsible to start making suggestions without knowing more about your needs.

Next thing... and please, understand that I am in no way trying to discourage you here... be very careful. Document everything. What I am reading of your situation is that you are a sales person, working at a company that has no IT staff, and that does most of it's business on paper; and you want to build a data infrastructure for them, but you're asking basically where to begin. Lots and lots of red flags there.

Who is going to be responsible for making sure that your new system, whatever it is, does everything it needs to do to replace their paper system - or even work in conjunction with their paper system? Who is going to support this system when you're not around? Who is going to be responsible for the routine maintenance, the backups, fixing bugs, end-user support, etc? I'm not questioning your capabilities - just suggesting that you find out up front what is expected of you.
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Re: Data bases for dumb dumbs.

Postposted on Tue Feb 19, 2013 4:29 pm

The best bet is to buy a packaged system.

Do the research and find a match. these days trying to write a sales and info system is reinventing the wheel.
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Re: Data bases for dumb dumbs.

Postposted on Tue Feb 19, 2013 6:18 pm

A company I worked at used Access 97 and 2000 for many years with special front-ends and apps that interfaced with the backend. For a starter system, that'd work if you knew VB or learned that kinda stuff.

But yeah, we had a programmer in-house. If you don't have that expertise, either hire someone (not likely if you don't even have an IT guy) or buy a system like Arvald suggested.
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Re: Data bases for dumb dumbs.

Postposted on Tue Feb 19, 2013 6:37 pm

Scrotos wrote:A company I worked at used Access 97 and 2000 for many years with special front-ends and apps that interfaced with the backend. For a starter system, that'd work if you knew VB or learned that kinda stuff.

But yeah, we had a programmer in-house. If you don't have that expertise, either hire someone (not likely if you don't even have an IT guy) or buy a system like Arvald suggested.

NNNOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!

My daily work life is infested with badly (originally) bodged Access 97/2000 DBs that are poorly maintained, never once documented, and prone to breaking every time an Office 2007/2010 update comes in through the corporate update push. They throw random errors whose codes appear in no compilation of Access error codes, their UI is abysmal, and they require far too much care and feeding for anyone to bother with in today's environment.

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Re: Data bases for dumb dumbs.

Postposted on Wed Feb 20, 2013 10:12 am

Thanks guys all this is Hugely helpful as I'm not novice to the concept of all digital and file systems management but what I want to do and what the similarly forward thinking co-workers want is still undefined.

@cphite

I essentially want to make a method for documenting, linking, indexing and aggregating all of our sales data, from early quotes and estimates all the way to invoices.

Right now we have half of a database system but it is so... segmented it doesn't really do anything but add time.

Who will put in the data, and who will maintain the database are a series of VERY good questions. How important is tracking who does this, how accessible do i need it to be? Should I be able to tap in when travelling? I don't know any of these things. I need to sit down with management and outline a more comprehensive path for development. What do we want it to do and what don't we want it to do.

In terms of transparency that isn't a problem, everyone needs to see what everyone else is doing in the data base, so I'd need to see other reps quotes and projects so if someone is sick, dies, quits, things don't come to a halt. Security is somewhat ambiguous because we will need to know if we are going to layer it in with our accounting data/software. I don't think any private company wants its books floating on the internet unprotected.

I couldn't agree about liability and maintenance issues more. My goal is not for me to upkeep it or even build it but to guide its creation to help bolster the company going forward and remove much of the human element in this system so that our rather small and focused force can operate better and more fluidly.

For example we will spend hours to a day just going through old files and systems to find information so we can project potential earnings since the accounting of the company is not accessible to us sales guys. We rely on the records of past employees in our department and... they aren't always so reliable.

@Arvald

Looks like you might be right on this. Will see when I've determined what we are actually doing.

@Scrotos

What you are talking about would be nice but yeah we have me and an electrical engineer ad-hocking every thing computer in the company. I'm using a computer that takes 15 mins to open MS outlook, and that is after i cleaned it up.

@Captain Ned

I see and have been personally witnessed to this at a prior job so I know what you are talking about. Anything Instructive though, say an article I can read to better shape my understanding of Databases?
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Re: Data bases for dumb dumbs.

Postposted on Wed Feb 20, 2013 10:32 am

kamikaziechameleon wrote:I essentially want to make a method for documenting, linking, indexing and aggregating all of our sales data, from early quotes and estimates all the way to invoices.
...
Who will put in the data, and who will maintain the database are a series of VERY good questions. How important is tracking who does this, how accessible do i need it to be? Should I be able to tap in when travelling? I don't know any of these things. I need to sit down with management and outline a more comprehensive path for development. What do we want it to do and what don't we want it to do.


Based on these few lines you should be looking at an off the shelf CRM/SFA tool. The work is done, so you can focus on your job, so you can make your quotas and commission.
If you role your own, between learning, designing, developing and supporting, you will have no time left to do what you have been hired to do.

If you have hardware, you can go zero cost with the community version of SugarCRM, but this is only a minor step up from an in house solution as you will have to install, maintain, learn teach, etc...
I would spend some time evaluating the hosted options from SugarCRM, Salesforce.com, etc... this way you get a supported solution that you do not have to maintain.
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Re: Data bases for dumb dumbs.

Postposted on Wed Feb 20, 2013 10:45 am

kamikaziechameleon wrote:@Captain Ned

I see and have been personally witnessed to this at a prior job so I know what you are talking about. Anything Instructive though, say an article I can read to better shape my understanding of Databases?

Bottom line: Access was designed for desktop use, and does not work well when used as a back-end for multi-user applications. Anything more complicated than a non-critical, one-off single-user desktop app should be using a real RDBMS instead. MS SQL Server, MySQL (provided it is configured to use the Oracle InnoDB storage engine instead of the legacy MyISAM engine), or PostgreSQL are all far superior in terms of scalability, reliability, and data integrity.
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Re: Data bases for dumb dumbs.

Postposted on Wed Feb 20, 2013 11:03 am

Just throwing another option on the table, Oracle Application Express coupled with Oracle XE (eXpress Edition). Both are free, they come with certain limitations in terms of number of cpus and size of the database, but are vastly superior to Access. I think there's even a migration kit from Access to XE. http://www.oracle.com/technetwork/devel ... index.html
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Re: Data bases for dumb dumbs.

Postposted on Wed Feb 20, 2013 11:11 am

Someone beat me to the Oracle recommendation, but thats what we use here at Network Rail for almost everything. It's a combination of Oracle E-Business Suite and Oracle CRM.

We also have a very good materials system, and that's in IBM's Maximo software. It's also off the shelf and ready to go like Oracle is. They are not free though, but come with heaps of support and stability?

Another vote for not using Access btw. I got fed up of spending countless weeks migrating historic data from Access (with all the custom VB to go with it) into our Oracle/Maximo systems. I wouldn't wish it upon anybody... :wink:
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Re: Data bases for dumb dumbs.

Postposted on Wed Feb 20, 2013 12:55 pm

The electrical engineer in house is a big fan of filemaker pro, its what they had where he used to work. Any thoughts???
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Re: Data bases for dumb dumbs.

Postposted on Wed Feb 20, 2013 1:57 pm

I'm still open for a article on databases for dumb dumbs because this is all pretty abstract to me. I understand it to a point but I have no real centralized frame of reference. I've never personally worked in any database for extended periods of time. I have an idea of the power of one and what I want it to do but not how it should properly do it ya know. Not that I need to make it myself but I want to have a general idea of how to instruct a contractor to build one or something to that effect.

Think like your hiring an accountant, you only need to know enough to know if the one you are hiring can do what you need him to do ya know.
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Re: Data bases for dumb dumbs.

Postposted on Wed Feb 20, 2013 2:00 pm

Just to reiterate, you don't need a database. You need a CRM solution.


I'll just add Microsoft Dynamics CRM to the list. Their 800 number is on their front page. All these big CRM solutions providers want you to call them. Ask them questions, then go back to your co-workers better informed and come up with more questions for the providers. If you can't define what it is you want, you probably will want to consult an expert. A paid expert.


A special place in hell is reserved for filemaker. That said, it does have it's place in certain niches. It's certainly less of a pain than Access, and non-software techs are it's demographic.
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Re: Data bases for dumb dumbs.

Postposted on Wed Feb 20, 2013 2:01 pm

kamikaziechameleon wrote:The electrical engineer in house is a big fan of filemaker pro, its what they had where he used to work. Any thoughts???

FMP is like the Mac version of Access. If you don't have Macs it's pretty much a non-starter, and it's a single-user database like Access so it's not something you want to use with multiple users.
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Re: Data bases for dumb dumbs.

Postposted on Thu Feb 21, 2013 9:23 am

Ok so looking at CRM's... mind blown. Need to learn more. if only my computer had audio I could watch some videos.
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Re: Data bases for dumb dumbs.

Postposted on Thu Feb 21, 2013 9:54 am

Just so people don't weep for my soul, there was a slow migration from Access to MSSQL/.NET applications. Emphasis on slow, though.

p.s. Access 97 doesn't play well on Win7 x64.
p.p.s. Access 2000 sometimes gets cranky with Office 2010. At least it is fine on Win7 x64!
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Re: Data bases for dumb dumbs.

Postposted on Fri Mar 01, 2013 2:29 pm

looks like we are going to go with Microsoft CRM. As for who is going to setup the data base that is as of yet unsettled.
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Re: Data bases for dumb dumbs.

Postposted on Fri Mar 01, 2013 3:27 pm

I worked at a company as a Microsoft CRM 4.0 developer/support guy for six months. If you decide to go this route, my advice to you is: DO NOT host the CRM yourself. Choose the MS-hosted solution and save yourself a lot of hassle.

And definitely consider using Salesforce.com instead, it's a much better product that is more widely used and therefore you will find it much easier to get support.
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Re: Data bases for dumb dumbs.

Postposted on Tue Mar 05, 2013 11:14 am

Ok guys so a few more Ideas floating around, some less concrete than others. Right now this company, like many others is built on Windows and the microsoft services platform. What about freeware, what about Linux??? Beyond the obvious upheaval as most of the users are old and don't appreciate change, is there a functioning environment that a company could not only survive in but also flourish??? Or is it a compromise that is overall to limiting??? Just an idea.

Ok, this is a small company and cost is a huge thing for them. I hear mixed things on salesforce that is why I was guided to Microsoft CRM, that and the fact that it integrates seamlessly with outlook and the rest of the Microsoft suite. Ontop of that there is a whole scary new world of Microsoft business software out there that as things take off we could incorporate together and integrate as one. For example they have a Dynamics ERP accounting software. I'll be honest I don't know how enterprise focused many of these software are but I'm still intrigued.
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Re: Data bases for dumb dumbs.

Postposted on Tue Mar 05, 2013 4:18 pm

It really depends on what you want to do. "What about Linux?" is a broad question, and the answer can be complicated depending on what it is you're specifically looking at replacing. Me discuss, and probably other people, are willing to discuss it, but you'd have to be more specific.

Alternativeto.net is a good place to look for alterntives to software.
http://alternativeto.net/software/salesforcecom/

OSAlt.com is another good one, but not as comprehensive.
http://www.osalt.com/
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Re: Data bases for dumb dumbs.

Postposted on Wed Mar 06, 2013 4:51 pm

Flatland_Spider wrote:It really depends on what you want to do. "What about Linux?" is a broad question, and the answer can be complicated depending on what it is you're specifically looking at replacing. Me discuss, and probably other people, are willing to discuss it, but you'd have to be more specific.

Alternativeto.net is a good place to look for alterntives to software.
http://alternativeto.net/software/salesforcecom/

OSAlt.com is another good one, but not as comprehensive.
http://www.osalt.com/


I only mean that your data is essentially tied to the platform is it not. A paid for platform then has you hostage. Its an expensive ongoing cost for a smaller company to take on. I don't know enough about the financial viability of this company to know what they can comfortably do ya know.
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Re: Data bases for dumb dumbs.

Postposted on Thu Mar 07, 2013 1:54 pm

kamikaziechameleon wrote:I only mean that your data is essentially tied to the platform is it not. A paid for platform then has you hostage.


It's kind of up to the developers of the application about how nice they will be in regards to data migration. Some are cool about it while others are not.

Ok, so the discussion is about something more open, not just Linux.

Its an expensive ongoing cost for a smaller company to take on. I don't know enough about the financial viability of this company to know what they can comfortably do ya know.


That makes sense.

There are FOSS/OSS projects that might work for you. A quick search came up with Tryton, SugarCRM CE, and OpenERP. (Note: I don't have any experience with any of these, so I can't say which works better.)

Which way, hosted or self-hosted, is better is dependent on the company. There are a host of factors that go into the decision.
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Re: Data bases for dumb dumbs.

Postposted on Thu Mar 07, 2013 2:50 pm

Being where they are located internet is very unreliable. They actually have 2 different services in case on goes down for a few days they just swap to the other one. So remote databasing would be undesirable.
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Re: Data bases for dumb dumbs.

Postposted on Thu Mar 07, 2013 3:13 pm

The downside of hosting a business critical application locally is that someone in-house needs to ensure that the system is reliable and that there are proper disaster recovery procedures in place. UPS for the server, RAID for the disks, regular backups (including off-site) of all of the data, spare hardware in case a critical component in the server breaks, etc.
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Re: Data bases for dumb dumbs.

Postposted on Fri Mar 08, 2013 4:41 pm

just brew it! wrote:The downside of hosting a business critical application locally is that someone in-house needs to ensure that the system is reliable and that there are proper disaster recovery procedures in place. UPS for the server, RAID for the disks, regular backups (including off-site) of all of the data, spare hardware in case a critical component in the server breaks, etc.


The company is accustomed to this as they have a major server in house already that is critical to everything. Database could potentially run on that server.
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Re: Data bases for dumb dumbs.

Postposted on Tue Apr 02, 2013 10:18 am

It appears that stepping up to a more professional grade solution is out of the question at this time. Me and our other techsavy employee will be building a rudimentary database that should serve our purposes for the time being. I've been reading and will be taking some classes on it this month. Any tutorials you guys would like to point to or books you'd like to recommend please feel free.
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Re: Data bases for dumb dumbs.

Postposted on Tue Apr 02, 2013 10:55 am

You really should look harder at some of the Open Source CRM solutions people mentioned above. Don't try to re-invent the wheel.

If you're dead set on rolling your own from scratch (and do not kid yourself, this will end up being an *enormous* amount of work by the time the dust settles), you probably ought to be aiming to make it browser based. So if you're gonna head down the DIY slippery slope, I would start by looking at web development frameworks like Django or Ruby on Rails.
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Re: Data bases for dumb dumbs.

Postposted on Tue Apr 02, 2013 10:55 am

In short of something real (like Salesforce) you could develop it on SharePoint.

Definitely try to put together a 3-year plan for moving to something real though. Get the $$ to implement and then put a line in the sand after which you'll pull the trigger. This could # of concurrent prospects, $$ Sales, $$ inbound, $$ forecasted, etc). You'll also need to show what the objective benefits are to having a paid system. Feel free to shoot me a PM if you want, as I was on the Business Planning/Sales Support side of things at my company and we went through this same process.
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Re: Data bases for dumb dumbs.

Postposted on Tue Apr 02, 2013 11:22 am

just brew it! wrote:this will end up being an *enormous* amount of work by the time the dust settles


I've seen custom built applications to do this sort of thing before, and JBI is exactly correct. It ends up being way, way, way more work that you could ever imagine. Money is money, but time is money too, and the cost would be huge.
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Re: Data bases for dumb dumbs.

Postposted on Wed Apr 03, 2013 4:16 pm

Guys, if it was up to me I'd do it your way and be focusing on bringing in money and not this but it is what it is. :( I'm excited as it looks like fun but I'm not excited as it looks like a distraction from my real job too. I hope whatever I do here at least I learn and can use it for home data base development.

Thanks Usacomp2k3, I might take you up on that if I can get any traction after we get moving on this whole thing.
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