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database_800I am working now give or take 20 years in the hospitality business. I worked in “normal” operations in different positions, updated concepts or changed them entirely, I did also openings.

When it comes to admin two applications are really widely used: Word and Excel.
I don’t question here the use of Word (well, I believe, that Word isn’t often exactly the perfect solution; often it is also underused, when it comes to its potential) – but the use of Excel.

MS Excel (or other spreadsheet applications) is great for what it is made for – “to do numbers” and calculations. But, funny enough in a hotel most of the department don’t use Excel for what it is made for – but they are using Excel as a simple (and lackluster) database.

The problem is, that Excel isn’t a database application. And this shows…

While I can understand, that in the day to day operation, database apps seem like an overkill (a database has to be “developed” which takes definitely longer than starting to type into Excel; however on the long run, it would be a far more convenient – and definitely far better tool – which is easier to use day to day – and also has other advantages as reporting etc.).

Though I am surprised, when it comes to openings – that the development team of venues, still use Excel.

Imagine the OS&E list for a new opening. Equipment often isn’t so straight forward – so pictures are often included. There is a lot of information which is needed. Let’s face it: a) Excel is pretty much the worst application, handling pictures; and b) The table becomes very confusing.
This is overall the problem with excel spreadsheets (besides of the lack of reporting features): it becomes unclear.

Databases are different. You can have a reduced list, which doesn’t look any different than an Excel spreadsheet (in fact, good databases can export their data into .xls) – for the same data, you can also add fields for pictures, for videos, for sound (not often needed in a hotel) and so on. This is then displayed in a form, in which you can see one or several sets of entries. You can also export this into pdf so other people without the database have access to it (suppliers, etc).

Another example, where a database would be great is a Masterwine list. I have one in Excel, and it is bothering me every day. I created it – but I have added all necessary information – however this makes it very difficult to work with! A database would be so much easier.

So why isn’t a database used more widespread?

I believe this has several reasons:

1) MS Access. It is just a nightmare – Microsoft did really a bad job in making this application accessible (to pun intended). The result was, that people just overlooked the whole category and cross-used Excel, which is maybe not as suitable- but it is far easier to learn and understand.
2) Other applications were not much easier to use than Excel. MySQL is one which comes to my mind, and I feel, as I would need to be a hacker (or programmer), to be able to pull a proper database of.
3) Costs and Filemaker…filemaker-icon
Filemaker is definitely my favorite database application by far. In the current version (14th iteration!), it is WYSIWYG, it works as a modern application, you can use templates, and you can just make it as easy or as complex as you like or need. But there is a hook. Like other “killer” application (looking at you Adobe), Filemaker has a cost, which isn’t really as accessible as it gets (Microsoft applications are established and come often preinstalled on computers, so are no factor) – we are talking about 330 to 550 US dollars per individual license! Obviously there are discounts for 5 and more licenses etc. – but let’s face it, a normal company usually doesn’t spend that money in an application, which they (GM’s, Directors etc) don’t understand.

In my company Filemaker isn’t even endorsed by the corporate IT – that means, it can’t even “legally” installed on company computers!

This is a pity, really. Because “corporate life” could become so much easier, if you could use a database. Think about Facebook, or Outlook (or any other mail application), or warehouse programs, or even iTunes… these application, we all like, we all feel comfortable with are databases. Yes, they are developed and all… but an application like Filemaker, makes it extremely easy for the user, to create simple databases.

Filemaker is not even only great, because of its simplicity and WYSIWYG features – but they also offer a free iOS app, in which you can insert (and delete) records and even use advanced features like QR or barcode readers and so on (or adding pictures to the database directly from the camera of the phone/tablet).

This is my very own opinion about Filemaker. I really searched for free or less expensive database solutions (Filemaker had for a time a more domestic targeted application called Bento- but took it from the market) – but really never found one. Hence I don’t need to be paid (nobody sponsored me), to voice my opinion here.

If you would know a different solution, which is as flexible, modern, easy to use (…) please let me know.

To Filemaker Inc.- if you would like to sponsor me a couple of licenses, please feel free to contact me 🙂