By Anthony Baratta
Even the smallest company has an Excel or Access guru who builds large Excel spreadsheets or Access applications to track critical company information. They start out as single user tools and grow into pseudo-multiuser time sinks. Excel spreadsheets and Access applications have a standard growth pattern towards multi-user tools, for which they are ill suited.
As a desktop application Excel doesn’t have internal versioning or workflow tracking and is limited to single user access at a time. Access, as a mini-database application, is definitely a step up from Excel but its form designer and CRUD features are not setup for a positive user experience and is also limited to single user access (unless only used as a front end to MS SQL Server).
Even when you move to a cloud based spreadsheet application, SharePoint custom list or SharePoint Access Web App, you don’t have row level data security, granular security, row level record locking, or robust workflow that ensures approvals and data integrity.
When has Excel run amok?
It’s simple to identify an Excel spreadsheet run amok. You have multiple spreadsheets linked together in order to provide a master aggregated / summary spreadsheet. But what about those spreadsheets used for gathering information and then consolidated by a single employee either by email or file shares? Time spent on coalescing data from multiple people is fraught with user error and data integrity issues.
When has Access spun out of control?
Access applications are great for tracking relational data, but are limited to single user access. When the pressure to share the access data forces the user to allow access to multiple users via a file share or create linked databases you’ve crossed the line between Access’s sweet spot and the need for a multi-user web application.
What about the risk to the company?
Finally, you’ll find Excel spreadsheets and access applications that are used to track important lists and company attributes. Maintenance of these lists can be critical for monthly or quarterly reporting, but are now a single point of failure with little or no version tracking.
Many of these spreadsheets and access applications currently fly under your IT Department’s radar, and need to be discovered and inventoried in order to identify those with the highest risk to the company and therefore targeted for upsizing. And while the files and workflow that surround them can be the basis for the specification, the next challenge is keeping upsizing project cost effective.
Don’t be surprised by a corrupted spreadsheet or access database fouling up your internal company reporting / tracking.
Before it’s too late…
Take time to dig into the data collection processes in use by your company and identify those mission critical processes that should be replaced with a robust application that:
- Is accessible by multiple users (via login) via the web any tie and on any platform
- Tracks processes with online review and approval
- Codifies complex calculations and business logic
- Integrates with your ERP, billing and CRM systems
Web-enabled App Integrates with RegOnline to Increase Garden Show Attendance
Support the promotion and event management of the annual trade show for a B2B product company
This company hosts an annual vendor/dealer show to introduce new products and encourage sales of existing products. The previous tracking and event management application ran on MS Access and frankly, had reached the limits of the technology platform. 2Plus2 was engaged to upgrade to a fully-functioning, web-delivered application. In addition to replacing the technical platform, new capabilities were added allowing the event managers to automate and track communications between corporate and the Vendors & Dealers, to manage hotel rooms and the associated flight information for sponsored attendees, and to track year-by-year attendance, show sales, and show expenses.
New for 2013, 2Plus2 added integration with RegOnline allowing attendees to manage their own room and flight information. This data is returned back to the Company and integrated with the known vendor / dealer show information. The company now has a robust view of participation for their premiere sales and marketing event – the annual Trade Show!
Multi-tiered Approval Workflow Saves Money and Time
Support Finance Department (internal) with managing day-to-day cash balances and tracking revolving LIBOR accounts.
When the Company needed to update a legacy daily cash balance application they turned to 2Plus2 to develop a comprehensive Functional Specification and then develop the new and improved banking system to meet current and future needs.
The new Application tracks fund transfer requests through a multi-tiered approval workflow. Additionally, the Banking Application assists with the management of the daily cash and revolving line of credit balances. With the new application in pace, the company has the ability to reduce their loan interest payments and ensure that enough cash is on hand each day to successfully and more efficiently manage operations.