Databases - contact databases
People in your workplace may store contacts or mailout information in lists. This can result in duplication of work where many people keep the same contacts in their own lists and no-one has access to the other lists. These lists can also vary in their levels of detail, accuracy and currency.
Individuals may make their own lists of contacts for specific projects. These lists may not be updated, or even deleted, once a project is completed.
An improvement to this situation is to have a contacts database for your entire organisation. A contacts database is an electronic collection of records (contact details) about individuals and organisations that you deal with in the course of your work.
With a contacts database:
- Data is saved and can be used for a variety of projects and purposes.
- Everyone has access to the same, single set of data.
- Because everyone has access to the same data, errors can easily be spotted and corrected – details are kept up to date.
You may be currently using inferior alternatives such as spreadsheets, lists or tables in a word processing document, pieces of paper, or relying on human memory. Contacts databases allow functions that are often not possible with these alternatives, such as:
- linking individual contacts from the one organisation to a single record for that organisation
- flexible grouping of individual or organisational contacts as required for different purposes (e.g. to generate a newsletter mailing list, to identify referral agencies, to communicate with collaborators on a specific project)
- searching and sorting records by various criteria (e.g. to find all CLCs in Tasmania)
- the inclusion of predefined values for fields, thereby assisting with data entry and searching
- a variety of customisable outputs (such as mailing labels, email lists and reports displayed on-screen, in print or PDF)
Acquiring a contacts database
A contacts database is a relatively simple to develop. A database developer should be able to create and customise one quite cheaply.
You will need to buy copies of the relevant database management software (such as Microsoft Access or Filemaker) for each computer needing access to the database.