There's a site on the internet that I've been using quite a lot lately. It's very handy: you tell it what ingredients you have lying about in your fridge or cupboard, and it tells you what you can make out of them. Ingenious, effective, and a real time-saver - no more rummaging around in cookbooks hunting for some inspiration.

It's always a joy when you can take a variety of things you already had, and without much in the way of effort, turn them into something far better. And, in case you're wondering where all this talk of food is heading, database software such as Microsoft Access can do just that. Many businesses treat their databases as nothing more than storage - akin to throwing those ingredients into the cupboard, forgetting about them, and starting again with something new every time you go shopping. However, given the opportunity, the software can turn your data into something far more useful, and without any effort on your part.

So what can you get out of an Access database? In essence, a greater understanding of where your business is, where it's been, and where it's going. Access can produce reports that assess any aspect of your data, showing you the relationship between disparate pieces of information, and how the relate to the wider company. So, for example, an online entertainment store can not merely store information about customers and their purchases, but also analyse that data to find key trends and concerns - such as identifying which books are favoured by Scottish women in their twenties, or how much the average man in his 50s will spend during an individual visit. Alternatively, a manufacturer can compare pricing or supply problems concerning raw materials to other aspects of the company's business.

The analysis that Access provides can make a real difference to the progress of your business, allowing you to identify problems before they arise and to capitalise on positive developments as soon as possible. In order to get the most benefit from the software, it's important to get to grips with every tool and technique that it offers - and a short training course can help you to do just that.

However, there are an awful lot of training providers out there. How do you go about picking the right one? Well, the first place to look is at what the trainer actually guarantees that they'll provide; it's not just a matter of a training company saying 'we'll teach you to use the software', but also of ensuring the best possible service, in order to produce the best possible results. And one essential part of that most effective service is guaranteeing that the course will never be cancelled, that it will go ahead when you need it. After all, business doesn't stop for your organisation just because the training provider wants to cancel a course.

On the other hand, the trainer should also be willing to reschedule the course if it suits you to do so - the overriding principle here must be that the course happens when you need it, and only when you need it. There's no reason to distort your plans for the benefit of a company that ought to be providing a service for you. And there's also no reason for the service to end when the course reaches its conclusion: find a training provider that offers long-term support after the course, and you'll have found a solution that ensures everything you or your staff learnt can be put to good use once back at work.

After all, there's precious little point in any training if your business is not going to feel the maximum possible benefit. And training in the use of Access really can make a huge difference to how your company operates, to how it learns from the past and adapts to the future. Training and Access together really can be a recipe for success.