Database Normalization – Would You Fly An Airplane Without Instruments?

A well designed database can provide the user the analytics and data that could be the difference between profitability and filing for bankruptcy. You probably wouldn’t get on a plane that didn’t have a dashboard or controls. Imagine running a business if you did not know how much inventory you had, which orders had been placed or who owes you money.
Your business may last awhile without proper structure but to survive long term you need to have controls to succeed. Just as an airplane dashboard can tell you how fast you are going, how much fuel you have, a database is a dashboard for your business or organization. Flying blind is not a recipe for success.

How Do I Know That A Database Is An Accurate Reflection Of The Business?
A database is only as good as the information that is in it and retrievable. “If you allow two or more places for the same information to exist, that creates the possibility that it can get recorded differently” (Dettwiler). The approach of normalization is to remove the anomalies and have an error free database. Normalization is a systematic approach to eliminating errors in a database. “The sets of rules are called normal forms” (Adamski and Finnegan AC A15 ).
The first three layers creating error free tables are called first normal form, second normal form and third normal form. Not very exciting but each layer of normal form must be addressed to insure error free tables. High business profits would be exciting however.

What Is First Normal Form And Why Is It Important?
“First normal norm is the first step to creating a problem free database. It addresses eliminating repeating groups in individual tables”(Microsoft). First normal form addresses repeating groups. The Program 1 field and the Program 2 fields are considered repeating groups and must be addresses if the database will be free of errors.

Client Number
Service Rep
Department
Program 1
Program 2

101
John
Collections
125
07

102
Bill
Customer Service
185
03

The table has two classes which are the program attributes. They need to go in a separate table. This is a very simple illustration but imagine if the business now has thousands of clients with hundreds of products and services to choose from. If all of this data was organized in a single table it would be a very difficult system to use. You could have customers enrolled in hundreds of your products and services, the data would flood the screen. It would probably be tough to find the information you want.

Normal Form is a Systematic Approach to having Error Free Tables
Each level of Normal Form addresses where errors can occour in a systematic manner. There is still repeating data in first normal form. This will get addressed in the following level of second normal form.

Client Number
Service Rep
Department
Program

101
John
Collections
125

101
John
Collections
07

102
Bill
Customer Serv
185

102
Bill
Customer Serv
03

Each level of normal form addresses an issue in the table. No one normal form level will solve all database errors. Normal form is just the roadmap to error free tables in the relational database. It is up to the developer to follow it.

What is Second Form and Third Normal Form?
In Second Normal Form we want to further eliminate redundant fields in the database. Too much repeating data can make a database very cumbersome and slow to use. If you can’t find what you are looking for quickly it could make your business unmanageable. Information is valuable only if it can be retrieved quickly in a manner that allows for interpretations that make a difference. Again, good data could be the difference between staying in business and going out of existence.
Third Normal Form is a continuance in the construction of anomaly free tables. Third Normal Form addresses fields that are dependent on the non candidate key determinant and places them in a new table with the determinant as the primary key (Adamski and Finnegan AC A18 ). If you ever want to sell your company, the buyer will want to look at all of the pieces of the company. When people buy businesses they are not just interested in the business, they are also interested in the structure and management of the business. If the structures are bad or unmanageable, you may scare off any prospective buyer.

Conclusion
The fact is that databases aren’t going away. Having a good database is just as important as having good customer service, marketing, branding or a good product. If you don’t manage all the pieces of your business, your business will go out of existence. If your customers are falling through the cracks and are not being managed it may cost you the relationship. When you stop communicating with them, they may start communicating with your competition. Do things right the first time and design the database right upfront. Take the time in the beginning to identify all of the fields and data that you wish to manage. You even need to consider future modifications you may want to add later.
Works Cited Page:
Dettwiler, Jim. “Database Tips.”. Jim’s help pages. March 6, 2009. March 6, 2009 < http://www.icehouse.net/jim_d/database.html#Normal
Adamski, Joseph J, Kathleen T. Finnegan. Microsoft Office Acces 2007. Boston: Thomson Course Technology, 2008.
“Description of the database normalization basics.” Microsoft Corporation. January 29, 2007. Microsoft Corporation. March 5, 2009. http://support.microsoft.com/kb/283878
Adamski, Joseph J, Kathleen T. Finnegan. Microsoft Office Access 2007. Boston: Thomson Course Technology, 2008.