At our recent Trilix launch party, which took place Sept. 21, I had the opportunity to speak to a few different people about *that* old database that is still so critical to their business operations, but for which they need a better solution. It may not sound like a *fun* party topic of discussion, but it’s actually one of my favorite things to discuss with our clients. (I do work in technology, after all.)

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The fact that a few people mentioned this problem to me in one evening is not that surprising. How these databases come to be and eventually become a source of both pain and perceived efficiency: I could probably collect a book of stories. It’s the skeleton in every company’s closet, and some clients talk about it in a whisper, as if talking about it outloud could make the database crash faster.

You know the one: the database that someone built 10 to 15 years ago because at the time that was a viable solution, but that is still relied on for critical day-to-day work more than a decade later. Every small to mid-market company has one lurking somewhere. As businesses expand, these “starter” databases become a lower priority to upgrade, but somehow become more critical to daily operations.

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Why do we settle and continue to use this old database, rather than move forward and identify a solution that is reliable and stable? Old habits die hard, I suppose. If it technically “works,” why improve it?  Budget is certainly a viable reason. Ultimately, it’s often not until there is no one on the team who knows how to update the database that harsh realities kick in. If the database crashes or gets corrupted, all related manual processes surrounding that database become 10 times worse. When that happens, some people may be unable to do their jobs, so progress in that work area just stops. But not all hope is lost. This is an opportunity to do things the right way.

I love to help clients turn what were meant to be temporary databases and into efficient systems. It’s not a very long process: We look at what the database does today, what it could be doing if it were a system, and go from there. Little things like electronically collecting signatures on a document, or even scheduling reports so that they run independently of “pressing the Run button” can make a big difference in how a team operates. I once had a client that came into a requirements session with stacks of receipts and printed spreadsheets that were—no kidding—about three feet high because they were managing expense reporting entirely manually for their company. The problem? A database and workflow that did not meet their needs. (Thankfully, this client saw the insanity in continuing to process expense reports with no system and implemented an off-the-shelf expense reporting system.)

That old database that haunts your sleep needs a plan. Rather than consider it a working asset, it should be deemed a great reason for taking your business to the next level of maturity. While there is an initial investment to automating a process or turning that database into a real system, the amount of money and time saved always proves to be a valid long-term investment. Not to mention a relief, though you may not be as much fun at parties anymore.

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