“If you change the way you look at things, the things you look at will change.”
A long time ago, I set up the first database at our marina. It’s the one we use to this day. I had experience with “My Mail List” so I understood the basic concept of how data entry worked, for example I understood what fields were, but I really didn’t know much more than that. It was 1989. The thing that drove me crazy was when I set up the database I couldn’t figure out how to get around one particular problem. The problem was when someone owned more than one boat.
The database system is created from records and you can assign each record a unique number. This typically becomes a customer ID.
The reason this was such a hurdle was when I tried to create an invoice or work order using the information in the database via the Customer ID, and the customer had more than one boat, I couldn’t. The features of the 1989 program would not allow it. It had the ability to create a complex relationship where two databases “talked” to each other; one based on humans, one based on boats. The two databases integrated allowing you to you could see that one customer had multiple boats, but again, you could not use that detailed information like boat license on the invoice.
So what to do…
It took several weeks of “playing” with the system. Then it dawned on me. The human is not the customer, the boat is the customer! I could create multiple records for each boat’s individual information and just mark the additional records as “no mailing” so the customer would only receive one flier in the event I did a mass mailing.
It was simple, brilliant, and took an entirely different way of looking at the situation. Just because the manual kept calling the “human” the customer didn’t mean in all cases of creating a database the human would be the customer! For example, at a vet clinic people have multiple pets and the pet would be a customer.
I have refereed to this problem many times over the years when trying to solve other problems. Sometimes you have to stop and align your business goals with the goals and outcomes of the problem you face. With my database creation problem, it’s like there were two different languages being spoken, but once the common ground was found, we understood each other!
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