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Chapter 8. Planning Databases > Follow the paper

Follow the paper

Paper can be an important clue to how people use data in any organization. Look for which reports get printed out regularly and what overhead slides get used in meeting after meeting. Both are signs of what people find useful. Examine not just what they contain but what form they take. You'll find great ideas for what should be in the database and what layouts will be most useful. Don't just mimic the hard copy, of course, but those papers will help you more than pushing people to jump feet first into an electronic approach.

The same go-slow, pay-attention approach applies in looking at your organization's existing databases. Likely, you'll find them everywhere: inventories, billings, and mailing lists. Some will still be in use, others long dormant. Almost any database older than seven years is going to be full of overlapping, redundant information. Don't slight them, however. Even if they're a bit creaky, they may contain useful data that you can import once you've built a new database.


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