The philosopher Aristotle did not have a database management system (DBMS) – not electronic anyway. But he believed in the importance of differentiating and analyzing data. In his book “Categories” he presented 10 ways to describe something.
These included: quantity, quality, place, time, position and action.
He was ready to consolidate the data, determine their interrelationships and draw conclusions. Such a penchant for classification – which Aristotle applied to biology, among other things – has been a driving force in creating the analytical mindset for all of Western civilization.
He believed that the way we approach data matters.
While the ancient Greeks seem to have surprisingly calculated astronomical data with amazing analog computers, such as the Antikythera Mechanism, we know of none that stored or analyzed data.
But if it had been possible, the elders might have been happy to use a DBMS to capitalize on their good ideas. (Also read: Database Management Systems: Is the Future Really in the Cloud?)
There are many reasons to support the idea that you too could use a good DBMS in your life and work.
1. A database management system is an extension of human logic
You might be wondering why I am referring to philosophy and biology in an article on Databases for Technical Professionals. Well, as much as we love digital machines and what they can do for our lives, we haven’t merged them yet.
And the computational powers that we as flesh-and-blood technicians give to our computers are but an extension of the reasoning power of the human intellect. The database you create to manage human knowledge will improve your abilities to correlate, query, and report the information collected by your organization.
Running your business with a well-developed DBMS is the logical thing to do.
2. Computers can answer many questions quickly
Susan: “John, can I have your email address please?” “
John: “Sure, it’s [email protected]”
Meanwhile, John is a little irritated that this is the 15th time he’s been asked for his email address in his first week on the job. John is shocked to discover that there is no central database where he works, and everyone seems to have developed their own spreadsheets with varying levels of precision and completion.
Even simple collections of data like a master contact list or database table are sometimes overlooked by organizations in a rush to put out fires and be seen as productive.
The cumulative waste of time across the organization by individuals searching for such information could be quite surprising. But a centralized database, easily accessible to anyone, can provide quick answers to questions that surprisingly resemble the categories of our ancient analytical philosopher.
- How many units were sold in the last quarter?
- In what colors is the product available?
- Where is the conference taking place this year?
- At what time is the meeting with the client next week?
- What actions are needed to achieve our goals?
3. Some questions can be really complicated
Being able to dig deep into data and discover information is the raison d’être of ideas as new as data mining and analysis. But conventional databases have been answering complex questions for decades. You might want to know how many employees are qualified in a certain field.
A simple query of a spreadsheet or searching for data in a directory can easily yield the information you need. But what if you need to locate only qualified employees of a certain state who have five years of experience, are willing to relocate, and speak a certain foreign language? To query data based on multiple criteria, you need a database management system.
The more complex the request, the more robust your DBMS must be. A good system tells you everything you need to know with a few mouse clicks.
4. We are easily inundated with information
Keeping it simple is a good idea in any area of life. No one wants to get bogged down with unnecessary demands or additional tasks. But a good database usually has a simple front end that is intuitively understood by the user. And it structures the data in such a way that we humans can enter it without too much difficulty.
While data terminology and concepts may be specific to the user’s core competency, the user experience itself allows one to focus on the data rather than the complexity of database links and forms. data.
A well-organized database makes a large treasure chest of information more manageable and gives the user only what they need at that time to do their job better.
5. Automation is the key to efficiency
Normally, you turn to automation to do repetitive tasks that would take up much more time at hand. ENIAC created firing tables for military planners in minutes versus weeks required for human work on a similar task. Charles Babbage called for a steam solution for calculating navigation charts.
You rely on your personal computer to handle menial tasks that could have been time-consuming and labor-intensive for previous generations. (For more on Babbage, see The Analytical Engine: A Look Back at Babbage’s Timeless Designs.)
Compiling a wide variety of inventories or other such information and making them available for queries and reports is a necessity in today’s business world. A quick search of the Google database gives almost instant results based on analysis of perhaps millions of sources.
As your data collection increases, you will need more sophisticated automatic processes to find the level of efficiency you desire for your business.
The exception to this could be when it would actually take longer to create the automated process than to perform the manual operation itself. It is quite easy to get so absorbed by the development of a digital tool that it becomes really overkill.
Suppose in the time it takes you to develop that killer app, the old school admin who manages office supplies could have kicked it up and gone home for dinner. A DBMS is a tool that must be used over the long term.
6. A DBMS is better than manual processes in many ways
Data environments are made up of data, hardware, software, people, and procedures. The advantages of using databases have been adopted by many and may be related to particular characteristics of the DBMS.
For example, while Excel spreadsheets and Access databases are typically used by one person, true database management systems allow simultaneous access by multiple users.
A database is a single software application that can use many tables, forms, and reports, rather than a plethora of spreadsheets owned and maintained by people across the organization.
A good database is a one stop shop for bringing people and processes together. It even provides for such mundane things as spelling and syntax consistency and the elimination of so much duplication of effort. (For more on spreadsheets, see How Spreadsheets Changed the World: A Brief History of the PC Age.)
7. You want to earn and save money, don’t you?
We should all rejoice in the ways that database management systems can improve our lives and our work. But much of business activity is aimed at making more money or reducing excessive working hours in pursuit of particular goals.
The efficiency gains produced by your DBMS will likely be worth the time, money, and effort spent on database completion.
Sound logic is useful for all facets of life. It is also an integral part of database management. While you might be more inclined to work on your own DBMS after reading this article, there is a corollary to the claim that you need a database management system. You also need a good database designer.
This is someone who can sit down with pen and paper and draw diagrams showing the ideal data flow and the best ways to enter, capture, analyze and report information. After all these years, we still need categories and classifications to properly analyze data. Good database experts make good databases.
Life is complicated. Sometimes you need all the help you can get to find the right approach to the data you face every day.
You need a database management system.