Access-Ability? Waiting for insight at SPC12

My history with building business solutions goes way back to MS-Access 1.0 (“Cirrus”). Although it was meant to be a PowerUser tool, I found that I could employ it to build powerful (but not large-scale) business solutions relatively inexpensively. I made my living by teaching Access Developer courses, and using that exposure to get contracts delivering solutions. I loved Access, especially as it progressed through ever more powerful versions.

In the past 10 years, I have lost track of Access – I had a brief spike of interest when SharePoint 2010 came out, but those hopes were quickly dashed due to inadequate tools for SharePoint. However, my interest is piqued again, with even more vigor this time. One reason for my interest is that design view has been removed from SharePoint Designer – a move that seems to make sense to almost no-one: I mean, if your product is called ‘designer’ why take out ‘design view’. It’s like having a carton that says ‘milk’, where the fine-print says “contains no actual milk”.

The reason that the removal of Design View looks like a disaster is that this is one of the most important ways that SharePoint is used in the enterprise. SharePoint Designer allows actual people (not us strange ‘computer people’) to quickly build solutions that solve real business problems.

Access used to be that tool, but IT hated it: People were building business critical solutions that ran on a PC at someone’s desk. The first IT would hear about it was when there was a security breach, a desperate request for recovery (after corruption or accidental deletion), or when the key person left, leaving the database locked and no record of the password. But the new Access stores its data in SQL Server. The good news is that IT is in control of this resource, and it’s backed up and managed. The bad news is you’ll (hopefully!) need to follow some type of process to be able to create a new database on the SQLServer. Smart IT departments will make it fast and easy for you to spin up small databases, so that you can quickly test out ideas. If the idea turns into a really useful application that needs to grow, you’ll be able to justify access to more resources.

On November 12, I’ll be in Las Vegas along with 10,000 other SharePoint groupies for Microsoft’s SharePoint Conference. One of the things I’m really looking forward to digging into is whether Access is going to deliver on its promise: A great PowerUser tool that lets you create great apps quickly and expose them to colleagues via SharePoint, all while using an industrial strength database that is run by IT with all the benefits of recoverability and reliability that that implies.

I hope I’ll see you there!

I’m also really excited to say that I’ll be giving away 20 copies of my book at the Avanade Booth (#805). Please come by and say ‘hi’, and enter to win. You can read more details and see the draw times at the bottom of this blog post.

About Ruven Gotz

Ruven Gotz is a Director with Avanade, Microsoft’s Global Partner. As a Microsoft SharePoint MVP with over 20 years of IT industry experience, Ruven has spent the past nine years delivering award-winning SharePoint solutions for a wide range of clients. Working as a Business Analyst and Information Architect, Ruven is able to apply his eclectic education and varied experience in Psychology, Computer Science, Economics, Software Development and Training to get to the heart of complex problems. Ruven is a great communicator who is able to discuss technology concepts in language that is relevant to his audience, whether they are from IT or business. He has become a leader in the use of visual tools to help his clients and team members achieve shared understanding of problems and goals and shared commitment towards implementing a successful solution. Ruven recently authored “Practical SharePoint 2010 Information Architecture” (Apress) Ruven lives in Toronto, Canada. On Tuesday nights in the summer, you’ll find him racing his 24’ sailboat ‘In the Groove’ (NOTE: Ideas and opinions on this blog are my own: I am not representing my employer.)
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6 Responses to Access-Ability? Waiting for insight at SPC12

  1. Pingback: Access-Ability? Waiting for insight at SPC12 - SharePoint Experts - Bamboo Nation

  2. Rajesh CR says:

    Good Post. I also did promote Access in 1998. It was great tool for single user

  3. Marc D Anderson says:

    Ruven:

    You and I have similar backgrounds and we – ahem – remember back about as far. This stuff used to be easy to decide about: there was no such thing as an end user because there were no tools for them to work with. Then along came Lotus 123 and then Excel (and others). All of a sudden, anyone with a PC on their desk (and they proliferated fast) could create and analyze their own data. IT freaked out then, and there was some validity to that. I worked at a management consulting firm back then with all the MBAs and I rarely saw a spreadsheet that didn’t have a significant error in it. That’s true to this day, IMO.

    The thing is, the data doesn’t belong to IT – it never really has – and IT should enable everyone to do what they want to do with their own data. IT is a service – a cost-sucking service at that – and it should be run as a service. If those data owners want to use Excel or Access or SharePoint to munge their data, then IT had damn well better make it happen by helping it to happen.

    Ok, that’s my big picture opinion. I’ve heard about how Access with SharePoint 2013 will be leaps and bounds better than anything we’ve ever done in SharePoint Designer, but I haven’t seen anything real. I’d love to believe it, but those folks in Redmond can come up with some darn impossible to fathom things, so I always try to withhold judgment until I’ve actually built something with the new method. (The more I work with SharePoint the less I trust the new stuff, especially after the old stuff that works disappears with some odd rhetoric to explain it.)

    You and I both will be looking for that magic from the new Access stuff. Given the pointless neutering of SharePoint Designer 2013, there had damn well be *some* good story.

    M.

  4. Pingback: MySPC 2012 » Marc D Anderson's Blog

  5. Marcel Meth says:

    Ruven,

    I’d love to see an update. I heard from people that Microsoft was really pushing Access. What did you see and hear about it? Any good resources you can point us to?

    • Ruven Gotz says:

      Hi Marcel,

      I don’t have an update yet, but as soon as I have time to do some ‘hands-on’ work with it, I’ll report my findings. At this point I’ll just say that I’m “cautiously optimistic”.

      -Ruven

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