I've asked a similar question of the CRM gurus overhere, but I wanted to get a second opinion from you unbiased dB guys. I am new to the world of databases, but I've been doing my homework, and I know some basic concepts (relational dB, many-many relationships, normalization, etc), as well as elementary VBA.
Though our company currently keeps data on Filemaker, I've already begun working on a transition to Access, because I feel it provides more power and control, though at the cost of a steeper learning curve. In my various searches to learn more about designing an Access Database, I came to learn about CRM software, and more specifically, Microsoft's CRM, both its online and server based version. It occurred to me after reading into it that maybe we wouldn't even need a database program like Access or Filemaker if a CRM can accomplish the same thing.
What do we use our dB for? Essentially a stand-alone catch-all for searchable information. The Filemaker database we set up has a single table, accessed and searched using a single form, which is contact-based, not account-based (some of that lingo I've been picking up!). Most of the records in that table are straightforward business contacts, but we might also use a record to store, say, a websites login information (ie our company paypal account). This kind of info is stored in the "Notes" column/attribute, in which we stick everything we don't have a attribute for. Another good example of this is the sales/order history of our customers - Instead of having an integrated solution that grabs our order data from QB, our employees manually enter sales info as lines in the Notes box in our Filemaker form (ie "4/20/11, Order#1234, (4) Product-Code-0123, EmployeeID"); it's workable enough when looking up records using the form, in the Filemaker table display, this comes out as one big mess.
Our database setup makes me want to dry hump a porcupine. Hopefully you all will agree that this nonrelational dB setup with a catchall "Notes" attribute is in dire need of redesign. I happen to prefer Access to Filemaker, but they are both essentially front end dB software.
Anywho, to any of you who have experience with CRMs in general and Microsoft's online CRM in particular: given our intended usage of the database, would switching to Access first offer any advantage over just exporting our data into the CRM and using its database instead?
Any links, opinions, or general knowledge dispensation on these topics will be both read and appreciated. Cheers!