I was once working with a client during implementation of a new association management system. At one point we got into a lengthy discussion of how to use the database to automate, as much as possible, the collection of application information from a certain type of member.

After discussing how we could use the software to do what the client needed to do, and getting a sense of how much work (meaning $) this would require to make it work correctly, it dawned on me to ask the most important question: “How many transactions are we talking about?” The answer: roughly 75.

A quick look at the math suggested a solution to this problem was going to wind up costing about $250 per application.

So before you go too far down the road discussing how your database can help address a problem, make sure the problem is big enough to merit the discussion at all. Start by asking, “How many people/customers/transactions/staff does this affect?” If the number is small, it will likely be just as easy to process data manually as it will be to program the database to do it automatically.