Relational Databases: Keeping Up with Operations

20 Apr

Technology Enabled Business Solutions

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In simplest terms, a “database” is a collection of records. To many, databases are simply a technological representation of linear tasks that provide the benefits of electronic storage, security, time savings, etc. Linear databases basically replicate a standard file folder structure that we are familiar with when working in a program like Windows Explorer. These are all great benefits to any organization.

As our desire and ability to access information has changed, however, the linear database model has its shortcomings.

The Birth of Relational Databases

Databases really began to evolve and provide the ability to extract desired information with the birth of the relational database model, as first proposed by E.F. Codd in 1970.

A relational database stores records according to how they relate to each other, making it multi-dimensional. With a relational database, you can quickly compare information because of the arrangement of data. Using the relationship of similar data increases the speed and versatility of the database.

The benefits of a relational database become very apparent when applied on a larger scale. Take Amazon as a prime example of a relational database. If you were buying socks from Amazon, sorting through a linear file structure to find the pair you want would take an exceedingly long time. There would be folders filled with different options based on size, color, pattern, etc. With a relational database, you are able to search on multiple dimensions and effectively filter your results. Relational databases help the user find what they want and the owner better understands user behavior.

Keeping Up with Operational Tempo

As relational database technology is being applied more and more in every facet of life, the expectation for all software to perform as a relational database is starting to overstep most current business practices and legacy IT systems.

The majority of business applications fall into a linear (i.e., folder, Excel spreadsheet) system because this is easily understood. In essence, these linear systems are an electronic replication of the typical management system three-ring binder. Pertinent information is there but is not easily usable. Unfortunately, systems such as these don’t often align with operational tempo, which, in reality, requires a relational model to create better access and utilization, as well as ease of use.

Case Study: Code &Compliance Elite

Code & Compliance Elite (CCE) is one example of a relational database that Kestrel recently developed and is deploying to help chemical distributors meet and manage Responsible Distribution management system requirements. The Responsible Distribution Codes of Management Practice, compliance programs, and related documents are all housed in CCE to allow for efficient tracking and documentation.

To enable ongoing compliance management, Kestrel also develops and maintains a number of tools tailored to Responsible Distribution in CCE, including:

  • Document management – storage, access, and control
  • Internal audit
  • Corrective and Preventive Action (CPAR/CAPA)
  • Task and action management

CCE employs a relational database structure with linear attributes (such as folders), where necessary. Even these folders, however, link to associated documents and owners to connect all applicable parts and procedures without requiring the user to dig through files.

Understanding and being able to evaluate components of an existing management system is key to extracting those pieces that lend themselves to relational use. When companies are able to do this, the end product is an operational management system that integrates technology with operations and meets the operational tempo of the business.

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