I was interviewing a candidate yesterday and a question came up about her use of databases. Another interviewer commented that many people did not like the previous database the association was using, and now there were even some unfavorable comments about the new one.

Everywhere I have ever been there have been people who did not like the database.  

When I think about what causes this dissatisfaction, I surmise that there is a minuscule sweet spot between robustness and simplicity.

On one hand, databases could be simple and easy to use, but it would limit their ability to store large amounts of data and sort it into many fields. The more complex databases can accommodate volume, but do require patience, detail and training to extract the information from them. 

All of the end users want simple reporting from a complex back end, and this intersection remains elusive. The more information that is stored, the more that is required to retrieve and manipulate it.

As you plan, not only for databases, but for other projects, it is worth your time on the front end to assess where you fall on the robust vs. simple spectrum. If you will truly use vast amounts of data or take action based upon small nuances, it is worth the investment to collect and manage information. But if you really just want a headcount, you don’t need to obtain demographics at the door; using a simple clicker will accomplish the job just fine.

— beth triplett

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