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Über dieses Buch

This book covers the practical aspects of database design, data cleansing, data analysis, and data protection, among others. The focus is on what you really need to know to create the right database for your small business and to leverage it most effectively to spur growth and revenue.

Databases for Small Business is a practical handbook for entrepreneurs, managers, staff, and professionals in small organizations who are not IT specialists but who recognize the need to ramp up their small organizations’ use of data and to round out their own business expertise and office skills with basic database proficiency.

Anna Manning—a data scientist who has worked on database design and data analysis in a computer science university research lab, her own small business, and a nonprofit—walks you through the progression of steps that will enable you to extract actionable intelligence and maximum value from your business data in terms of marketing, sales, customer relations, decision making, and business strategy.

Dr. Manning illustrates the steps in the book with four running case studies of a small online business, an engineering startup, a small legal firm, and a nonprofit organization.

Databases for Small Business teaches non-techie entrepreneurs and professionals how to:

Design a small business database from scratchExtract the maximum profit from your data Follow guidance on data protection lawEffectively use data collection and data cleansing techniquesTrain staff to leverage your data

Inhaltsverzeichnis

Frontmatter

Chapter 1. How Data Can Benefit Your Small Business

Abstract
Collecting and analyzing data is important to your small business because it can improve efficiency and profitability. Data can provide a record of what has been going on—who your customers are, what their demographic is, and what they’ve bought. It can enable you to find trends—for example, your customers’ favorite products. There are hidden patterns in data that are important to your business, such as groups of products that sell together. Data can provide an archive that can be searched.
Anna Manning

Chapter 2. A Small Engineering Company: Case Study

Abstract
This chapter introduces the first of three case studies that serve as examples throughout the book. Many readers will identify closely with only one of these and it is perfectly reasonable to select the case study that best fits your situation or experience. To recap, Chapter 3 covers a small law firm and Chapter 4 covers a small nonprofit.
Anna Manning

Chapter 3. A Small Law Firm: Case Study

Abstract
This chapter describes the small law firm case study. The details of its initial stages of development are outlined, together with the employment of growing numbers of staff and the adoption of new technology. Marketing plays a central role in the firm, being fundamental to its growth and success. Databases have the potential to play a key role in its marketing policy and in many other aspects of the business. However, as you’ll see, many tasks of the law firm can be carried out by affordable, easy-to-use, off-the-shelf technological solutions. Marketing is one example where databases are useful for small businesses, as tailored software is prohibitively expensive.
Anna Manning

Chapter 4. A Small Nonprofit: Case Study

Abstract
This chapter introduces a case study of a small nonprofit, called Connecting South Side. The work of the nonprofit is described in some detail so that you can understand the requirements for collecting and analyzing its data. Data is collected on a series of MS Excel spreadsheets and Word documents. The information in this chapter sets the scene for later chapters; there is no need to take notes or remember every detail.
Anna Manning

Chapter 5. Aligning Your Database With the Goals of Your Small Business

Abstract
In order for small businesses to get the most out of a database, it must be designed with the goals, metrics, and levers of the business in mind. In summary, goals aim to move the business in a given direction, levers are variables that can be changed with the intention of bringing about such a move, and metrics measure the progress of the goals and the levers. This chapter explains these three components in detail.
Anna Manning

Chapter 6. Choosing Between Spreadsheets and Databases

Abstract
Small businesses frequently use spreadsheets when a database would be more appropriate. This is often due to widespread familiarity with spreadsheets and the short learning curve required to begin using them productively. Time and again there is a lack of in-house knowledge about databases and their potential benefits.
Anna Manning

Chapter 7. Designing Your Small Business Database

Abstract
A well-designed database will be easy to use, straightforward to adjust, and provide reliable outputs. A poor design, on the other hand, may still work initially but is likely to deteriorate with time. Problems may arise, such as erroneous or missing data and, eventually, the database is likely to be dropped by the business altogether.
Anna Manning

Chapter 8. Data Protection, Security, and Privacy Policy

Abstract
Most businesses hold some personal data, for example, personal information about customers or employees. If this data relates to someone who can be identified, you are likely to have important legal responsibilities. The financial consequences and the impact on your reputation if that data is breached can be significant; the exact nature of the penalties depends on the jurisdiction that applies to your business. As with any law, it is important to know how it affects your business, how to comply, and how to incorporate any requirements into your business policies. In addition, data breaches can result in other expenses, such as reimbursement to customers and data recovery costs.
Anna Manning

Chapter 9. Collecting Your Data

Abstract
Clear goals are essential for efficient data collection. The best any technology can do for your small business is help it move toward its goals cheaply and quickly. Chapter 5 covered setting business goals, levers, and metrics. Chapter 7 addressed database design, with business goals very much in mind. This chapter introduces data collection and explains a number of methods for doing it.
Anna Manning

Chapter 10. Cleansing Your Data

Abstract
Every set of data contains some errors. Detecting and removing these oversights, known as data cleansing, can often be a lengthy process. However, efficient data cleansing is essential in order to be able to come to accurate conclusions from data analysis. In addition, one of the principles of the Data Protection Act (described in Chapter 8) is to ensure that your data is accurate and, when necessary, is up to date.
Anna Manning

Chapter 11. Maintaining Your Database

Abstract
Database maintenance aims to keep a database running smoothly. Databases are not static; data is added, deleted, and moved around and, over time, such changes can cause the database to become sluggish. A poorly performing database can cost you money and waste users’ time. Database maintenance includes backing up your database, compacting the database, and protecting the data. There are overlaps between this chapter and data cleansing, which is discussed in Chapter 10. This chapter discusses the jobs that you need to carry out on a regular basis.
Anna Manning

Chapter 12. Searching Your Database

Abstract
There is little point in storing your data in a database if you cannot access it efficiently. For example, customers don’t appreciate being kept on hold for a long time while you search the database for their details. In general, it is straightforward to find data quickly if you understand a few basic techniques.
Anna Manning

Chapter 13. Analyzing Your Data

Abstract
You cannot press a button and expect all your data analysis to be conducted automatically. Data analysis involves detailed examination of the elements or structure of your data and can be fundamental to business decision-making.
Anna Manning

Chapter 14. Reporting Your Small Business Data Analysis

Abstract
Small businesses report the results of data analysis to internal decision makers, external consultants, funding bodies, and accountants and many others on a regular basis. Database reports contain useful information for decision-making, which should link directly to the business’ goals.
Anna Manning

Chapter 15. Acting on Reports

Abstract
Data analysis reports, if carried out efficiently, enable you to learn how well your business is meeting its goals. If changes are required, the quicker these can be carried out the better so that your business remains as competitive as possible. These actions can involve making permanent changes to the database. In contrast, Chapter 16 considers how to respond to one-off external requests for data without making any changes to the database.
Anna Manning

Chapter 16. Acting on Outside Requests

Abstract
Up until now databases have been designed with business goals in mind. But what happens if a request comes in from an external source with someone else’s goal as its focus? How can you extract the appropriate data from the database?
Anna Manning

Chapter 17. Archiving Your Database

Abstract
Chapter 16 addressed how to meet outside requests for information, which often requires the storage of a lot of historical data, the amount of which becomes ever larger as your business expands. In addition, legislation such as the U.S. Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002, requires publicly traded companies, accountants, attorneys, and others to store business records for five years and financial data for seven years following an audit. This increases the burden of storing historical data even more.
Anna Manning

Chapter 18. Storing Your Database in the Cloud

Abstract
Cloud computing refers to storing and accessing data and programs over the Internet rather than from your computer’s hard drive. There are a number of key characteristics of the cloud:
Anna Manning

Chapter 19. Searching Online Databases

Abstract
Many small businesses search government and commercial online databases for information about areas such as law, grants, and research in their field. The key to searching online databases efficiently is to become familiar with the search techniques that you can apply to almost any database, including article databases and online library catalogs. Understanding such techniques is important, because searching online databases is a bit different from using web search engines.
Anna Manning

Chapter 20. Training Your Staff

Abstract
In order for your business to benefit from your database, your staff must be trained how to use it effectively. As you have seen, a complete understanding of databases goes much wider than operating the database itself. Data protection legislation, data cleansing procedures, data collection methods, database maintenance, and data analysis together with many other issues are also important. You need to consider all these aspects when designing a staff training program. Approaches to training are detailed in this chapter. Staff training should ensure that there is always someone available who is able to handle any issues that might arise: relying on just one person is not a safe policy.
Anna Manning

Appendix A. Appendix

Abstract
The purpose of this appendix is to cover the first steps for:
Anna Manning

Backmatter

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