The case for a custom database solution
We have often written about the benefits of a bespoke database system, especially if you are currently using paper, email and/or spreadsheets to manage your business data. The main benefit is that every organisation is different and will therefore have different data processes and reporting requirements. In comparison with outdated legacy systems, custom software is purposefully designed to work efficiently and effectively with your requirements compared with an off-the-shelf software solution. The next question we are often asked is “But won’t a custom online system cost more than an off-the-shelf database like Microsoft Access or similar?”. The cost of bespoke software is much less than you may think compared to off-the-shelf databases like Access. Initially, some off-the-shelf solutions may appear to be cheaper, however, they do not offer the flexibility to customise them to your exact data processing needs. The reality is that it will potentially cost a lot more to customise an off-the-shelf system which may still not be fully fit for purpose despite the extra costs compared to what bespoke software development offers.
So what can a custom database system do for your business?
Customer Data Portal
If you are collecting data or information from your clients, having them directly enter it into their own portal allows you to collect it efficiently, however, it also allows a lot of other things including:
- Online Help
- Instant analysis (are those results what that specific client should be expecting)
- Fault Diagnosis
- Expert interaction (allow your team to see the client’s results/feedback and comment on them).
Site Visit Results/Feedback
Engineers and Inspectors (or similar), that visit clients/customers/prospect’s sites will often have to fill in forms, provide feedback and determine needs/requirements and/or eligibility for certain criteria (do they meet XYZ standard). Having them submit the details to a bespoke database system, via a mobile or web app, will allow a much faster analysis of the results to provide instant results of indicative results (subject to a review that can happen elsewhere). You can even automatically generate and deliver certificates should they “pass”.
When you find that one of your main company activities is research, with many people using that research it’s often useful to have this research in a database it allows all sorts of additional functionality, from prevention of duplication to detection of changes. This allows you to translate bytes of research, then when it’s updated get this flagged for a re-translation ready for output. Staff or customers can search the database before undertaking their research to ensure that it hasn’t already been done, and even finding sources and grading them with reliability factors.
With any of these systems in place, one of the key benefits will be automation, for example, emails being triggered at specific times (when a new entry is added, or a field is out of specification, or something needs updating). You can easily report on data being out of date (customers need prompting, engineers need sending out, research needs translating).
Traditionally systems like these would be sending out emails (some of them send out a lot of emails), however, there are all sorts of possibilities for integration with today’s social media integration. You could send messages via SMS, Web Push notifications, WhatsApp and plenty of others as well. This all enables you to ensure that the relevant people get the messages and alerts that you intend them to rather than email being subject to AntiSpam filters.
When we provide our recommendations we will be evaluating your requirements and deciding with you, would you be better off with a complete bespoke database system built from scratch or do we take a system like SuiteCRM and then modify fields and modules using its native module builder, add in some additional code and taking all of that as your final system. All of this is done in liaison with you, listening to your needs as a company and combining that with our many years of experience to provide what we feel is the best solution for you.
There are other benefits too. A bespoke and cloud-based software solution will be much easier to maintain and keep in line with any changes to current or future business processes, compared to off-the-shelf software which will incur licensing fees and hefty customisation costs as your processes change and expand. Moving from a paper-based/spreadsheet-based system may sound daunting but we are here to explain everything involved in the migration and will assist in every stage to make the transition as seamless as possible for you and your team.