Back in August, I was asked by the Framework team to assess their database operations and propose some new strategies. The organization is going through an impressive expansion--Timeraiser is now in 12 cities across the country!—and their database needs to catch up with them. I thought I would give all of you a sneak peek of my plans.
Databases tell stories, and it is amazing what you can learn about day-to-day operations. I considered this my crash course in Framework. One of the first things you realize about an organization like Framework is that you need to think creatively in order to make a database work for them. Often people see a database as simply a place to store information: the digital equivalent of a filing cabinet. This would work just fine if your company and its industry were also simple and predictable. In the case of Framework, their programs and initiatives are varied, interconnected and growing, requiring me to propose a more fluid model. How do we make it flexible and lightweight enough to adapt to change?
The plan starts with the database software or application. Framework uses Salesforce.com, a SaaS option that allows a great deal of customization, done either in house or by companies specializing in Salesforce. This cloud computing application is ideal for our organization, where one of the goals is to re-imagine ways of operating in a digital age.
Here is where Salesforce was when Framework first built the database. You were given a vanilla database and offered the option to recreate it in your own image—a revolutionary idea when many organizations used the industry-standard software and forced their data to conform. What has changed between then and now is how we can go about this customization. It just so happens that this development in Salesforce coincides beautifully with Framework’s existing, tech-savvy approach.
Enter AppExchange. Users can install third-party applications that will help them create a database environment perfectly suited to their own unique needs as well as those of their industry. According to the website, 44% of their apps are free, with many more discounted for non-profits (!!!). More apps are being added to the site on a regular basis.
Essentially, these apps allow you to either import or export data to accomplish particular tasks. This can help to eliminate the need to manually input or retrieve records. Here at Framework, we have been using other cloud-based or online applications to accomplish tasks outside of the database and then moving the information to Salesforce. For example, we have used MailChimp for email campaigns and Eventbrite to help organize tickets sales for Timeraisers. With AppExchange, many of these applications can be seamlessly integrated, saving precious hours of data input drudgery.
And so, the plan:
1. Pare down our existing customizations.
2. Research the best apps for our needs.
3. Eliminate as much redundant and manual data input as possible.
4. Produce a database that is streamlined and reflective of best practices.
By reconfiguring the database in these ways, it will survive changes to Framework’s goals and everyday operations. The database will also be able to adapt to changes in technology. When better apps emerge, we can adopt them without having to re-imagine our core database. When there is an obstacle, we will just say “There’s an app for that!”
I’ll keep you all blog-posted on my progress.