Why Every Growing Business Needs Database Development Services
6 min read
At its core, database development is the process of coming to a better understanding of how mission-critical data will actually be stored once it has been automated. It's about taking those important (but time-consuming) menial processes and turning them into something more efficient, more technology-driven and more forward-thinking than ever before.
In most situations, this process begins with a thorough business analysis on exactly what a company needs to accomplish, which will be compared with how that process is executed in the present day. At that point, it can be transposed into a proper database design by a database architect - which is when the real work begins.
Once that database is properly built by the architect, a web development team can then start to design a web application to allow users to interact with the data stored in that database. Not only does this make that crucial information available anywhere, anytime and on virtually any device, but it also allows them to finally work "smarter, not harder" as well.
What is the Best Database for Development?
By far, the best database for development purposes as described above involves the use of Microsoft SQL Server.
Microsoft SQL Server is an industrial-strength database server platform which brings with it the immediate benefit of scalability. It's a mature database management system (otherwise known as a DBMS) that dates back to the late 1980s, which is when Microsoft first brought it to market.
As is true with so many other elements of technology, it has evolved over the years with improvements in both functionality and performance. These days, it even supports cloud computing - a trend that is only going to get more important as time goes on.
What is the Database Development Process?
The first step in the database design process, as stated, involves a careful analysis of a company's business processes and needs. This is pivotal as it helps a development team better understand how data flows through an organization.
A business analyst will typically identify not only who needs the data to do their job, but what specific data as well. They will also work hard to understand when they need that data and other factors, all to support both the employee and the business process itself.
Each job role in the organization will obviously have a different set of data needs, so there is truly no "one size fits all" approach to this process. An executive, for example, will need to be able to view profitability reports at a moment's notice. An order entry clerk, on the other hand, will really only need access to customer and order data. All of this must be taken into consideration during the design process.
Then, screen mockups for the application can be designed to help visualize to users how the system will actually look and work. Keep in mind that most users will not be well-versed in database design - nor should they be. If you described the application to them using just words or complex database diagrams, their eyes would glaze over and they simply wouldn’t understand.
Instead, visualization techniques, such as building screen mockups, can be employed to help them understand how the information will actually be used, thus making the process faster and more efficient. All key stakeholders will be able to comment on the screen mockups and suggest changes or opportunities for improvement in the future. The primary question you want answered at this stage in the process by the stakeholders is “Does the proposed system present to me all of the data I need to do my job in an easy-to-understand way?”
Once those screen designs have been completed, a database architect will then get to work on translating them into an actual database design. What is presented on the screens dictates what needs to be in the database. This begins with defining all the tables. A table is made up of records of a like type; for example, a table called "Customer" would only contain customer records. Records are made up of data fields. At this point, the data fields can be identified, and their data type can be specified. The data represented on each screen mockup would then translate into data storage fields in a database table. For example, an “employee number” may be defined as an integer, where an employee first name field would possibly only be defined as a 30-character text field.
Next, the data table relationships would be properly defined - examples of which include an invoice that has product items. This is what is referred to as a "parent/child" relationship, or a "one-to-many" relationship if you prefer. The "parent" would be the invoice, and it would be stored in its own table. The product items on the invoice represent the “children” and would be stored in a different table.
At that point, the developers would add indices to the aforementioned tables to make them more efficient. Think of the Dewey Decimal System used in a library - it's a way to make finding the information you need more efficient by adding an index. That's what these indices are designed to do - make it as effective as possible for the database system to find what you're looking for.
Then, the database (and associated web application) would be set up in a test environment. This is when, once again, all key stakeholders can test it out, figure out what they like and don't like, and give valuable feedback that will be used in later parts of the development process. This testing is important because it also helps to identify issues, such as missing data fields, that may have otherwise gone undiscovered.
Once testing is finished, the application can be rolled out to all users. This commonly involves importing data from an existing data repository. Remember that in the early days of a business, it's common to use spreadsheets to store information. However, as a company grows, spreadsheets become woefully inadequate. That's when a database is needed, and that data can be imported into the SQL Server database directly from the spreadsheet.
Following the launch of the application, periodic maintenance will take place and additional support will be provided as the database continues to grow.
How to Create an Online Database
Once a database has been properly developed, the database architecture partner you've chosen can develop multiple applications built to access it over the Internet. Usually, if Microsoft SQL Server has been employed, the developer would use Microsoft’s ASP.NET web development platform to build web applications that allow users to interact with the data in the database. More than one application can access the database concurrently. Likewise, multiple users can access the database at the same time. This is a huge improvement over using spreadsheets to store data where only one user can access the data at a time and the data is prone to corruption.
The Benefits of a Database Development Company
All told, poorly designed databases usually lead to a wide range of different issues. Chief among these is the difficulty of scaling the database as both A) the volume of information contained within it grows, and B) the number of concurrent users does the same.
Not only does this lead to an inability to produce certain types of reports, but it also contributes to a difficulty in expanding the functionality of an application and poor database performance - none of which are factors you want to have to deal with.
Think about it like this: if a user has to sit for three minutes to wait for a result to be returned from the database, that's three minutes where they're not making money for your company. Multiply that by the sheer volume of employees you're working with, and you can begin to get a sense of just how much time inefficiency can waste.
If you try to solve this problem in-house, your employees may not have database design experience - which is something that risks the myriad of different issues outlined above.
The Benefits of a Database Development Company Are:
- Skilled database development companies will bring with them a team of people who have the specialization that your own people may lack. This includes database design, development, maintenance and more.
- Your company will almost immediately benefit from the scalability of the third-party development team, as the partnership will enable you to get support for your database virtually. Nobody has to come into the office to fix an issue, in other words. Not only that, but the entire process can happen much faster using a scalable team.
- Most importantly, your SQL Server database architecture partner will become a virtual part of your team - meaning that they're available to address issues and create new functionality anywhere, at virtually any time.
Concluding why growing businesses need database development services
Regardless of the type of business you're running, the foundation of growth always rests in how you position yourself to constantly become more efficient. But to do so, you need to make the process frictionless: not only for your employees, but for your vendors and customers as well.
At the center of all of this are the business systems that you rely on - systems that are themselves built upon databases. Therefore, having a resource that is flexible - and that offers deep experience that you don't have - in things like SQL Server database design and development isn't just important. It literally becomes a strategic initiative.
Having said that, these individuals do not necessarily need to be in-house employees. In fact, that's almost never recommended. They can be a development partner - one that is every bit as invested in the growth of your organization as you are. Database development services can be an enabler for this level of scalability, and they can absolutely form the foundation upon which your future success will be built.
To find out more information about our ASP.NET software development outsourcing capabilities, or if you’d like to discuss how to create an online database to power your business with Keene Systems CEO, Lance Keene click here to book a call with him. You can also download our eBook - Why ASP.NET Development Services Fuels Business Growth - to learn more about this essential topic.