A database, explains Grossman, is like a house, and how it’s built depends on how you intend to use it. “Pretend that you’re going to buy a house, and there’s a kitchen and a dining room,” she explains. “Most people would say, ‘Well, I really like easy access between those two rooms because so much of what happens in those rooms is related.’ Things like the bedroom and the den, those could be elsewhere.”
“Think of what the house would be like,” suggests Grossman, “if the bedrooms and the bathrooms were next to the kitchen, and the dining room was far away. … Someone would say, ‘Who was the architect of this house?’”
Just like designing a house, designing or redesigning your database requires a good deal of forethought about needs.
For example, offers Grossman, the marketing database of a pharmaceutical company will never have a field that has anything to do with money. “Pharmaceutical companies don’t sell prescription drugs,” she explains. “You can’t go to a pharmaceutical company and buy a prescription … so when you look at the variables and relationships between data, dollars and cents don’t have to be there.”
On the flip side, catalog companies need to be able to track the amount of product sold, as well as when certain purchases were made and how many purchases were made.
Getting your database to reflect your business rules is the most important, and most arduous, part of the overhaul process.
“We’re going to talk about what you want to do with this tool,” says Grossman of the process she goes through when consulting with companies. “We’re going to look at the data; we’re going to see whether you guys even know what you have. [I’ll ask,] ‘Have you ever really looked at your data?’ It might not be the most interesting book you’ve ever read, but we’re all going to sit down and read it.”