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.