September 10th, 2010
When it comes to your data, consistency is key. If you are trying to maintain all of your information in one centralized database, whether you’re the only user of the database, or you are sharing it with many other users, having ways to maintain consistency is very important. And there are easy ways to do this too!
First, probably the simplest way of keeping clean, consistent data is by using drop-down menus. For example, if you have a field in your database to track what Industry each of your company records are in, you will want to use a drop-down menu for this. Otherwise, you can have misspelled values or typos, which will create duplicates and make analyzing your data a nightmare.
Second, create workflows if possible. For example, I recently set up a workflow that created a series of Tasks for a client every time they changed the Account Type field to “Customer”. This allows my client to have a consistent series of activities/tasks to complete for every customer, maintaining not only consistency, but making sure that nothing falls through the cracks.
Another way to maintain consistency is to set up default responses for specific fields in your database, where you find you are putting the same information in all the time. For example, if you are located in NJ and all of your clients and contacts are also located in NJ, you can set NJ as the default State that appears for all new records. This not only maintains consistency, but is a time-saver too!
Formula fields help when you have dates or other calculations that need to be uniform across all records. If you are dealing with Invoices, and your default terms are 30 days, then you can have a field that automatically calculates 30 days from today as the due date for the invoice.
And finally, setting up mail merge documents/letters within your database will guarantee consistency. A perfect example of this would be a written proposal. If you have a standard “template” for your proposals and want to make sure the language is consistent across all proposals, but you don’t want to accidentally leave information from the previous proposal in the new one, you can set up a mail merge template within your database system. This way, all of the key information for THIS proposal will automatically get populated into the document, and all of the remaining text will be the same. Any additional changes can be done through your word processing software after the merge has been completed.
While this is not a finite and complete set of ways to maintain consistency, they are the top used and recommended.
Kendra Von Achen is President of DB Pros, a database & business consulting company based in NJ. For more information on this and other database-related topics, contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit their website at www.dbprosconsulting.com.