Microsoft Access application development has been a favorite of mine for many years, because it lends itself to a rapid application development cycle and can provide a cost-effective custom solution for small businesses. I want to illustrate this with two examples of recent projects I have completed.
Client 1 - 2nd generation retail business taking over from 1st generation businesses
Problem - Payroll commission computation was time consuming and error prone. Inputs came from 2 different enterprise sources and were not in a clean format.
Solution - Access is terrific for merging Excel based exports from enterprise databases like point of sale and employee timecard systems.
Impact and Learnings – The payroll officer absolutely loved the end product! The steps of the solution follow the same process she was familiar with, but saved her hours of tedious work and provided greater accuracy in the resulting reports.
A strength of Access is its ability to easily integrate with other products in the Office platform and make use of the strengths of products like Excel and Outlook, and this project shows that the combination of Access queries and VBA code can be used to apply even complicated business rules.
Client 2 - Professional business needing to generate lots of client based letters
Problem - Letters have lots of data fields in them. Word mail merge was routinely failing and often error prone to set up. It also resulted in one document that included all clients’ letters. Documentation of what was sent to whom was problematic.
Solution - Word mail merge can be difficult to work with. This was further complicated in this instance since the data resided in an encrypted Access database due to the sensitive nature of the client data. The simpler solution was to push the data TO Word instead of pull it FROM Access.
Impact and Learnings – The business users of this solution love the ease at which they can now generate and archive client letters. Gone are crashing, error prone, or time consuming Word mail merges. The super user who sets up the templates and mappings finds the solution easy to use and right on target with their goals.
Again, this project shows the strength of Access' easy integration with other products across the Office platform; this time with Word. Although Word mail merge allows you to select and filter data, Access is much stronger at organizing and querying data. Understanding and using the best tool for a project is key. This project also enables the user to self-serve by creating additional Word templates on their own, and then easily set those up to be used from the Access application.
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