Bad business decisions can often be the result of inadequate or out of date information. Yet many office workers are using an increasing quantity of data to fulfill their roles. Information can be found on staff desktops, file shares, memory pens, in spreadsheets and documents and on web sites.
Within the IT department, technical staff are challenged with how to manage the data from disparate systems. As information workers need to use this information, friction may understandably develop. So the challenge for the organization is how best to empower information workers while meeting the need for security and data reliability, all within budget constraints.
Microsoft Access provides a quick and easy way to build databases and database applications to meet immediate departmental needs. Given the availability of this tool, it is very common for a customer database, stock information, or any of a huge number of business-specific information sets to be captured in Access.
Microsoft estimates that 97 percent of all Access databases are used on a time-limited basis or exist as an individual or small team application. This is appropriate in most cases, but in a small percentage of cases the application could be said to become over-developed.
As the database fills an information hole in the department, so more data and more functionality is added until the database becomes business-critical. More often than not, these databases are developed in-house by a keen amateur, there’s one in every company or department. The problems arise when the key person leaves the company or is no longer able to maintain the system. The critical application may become over-burdened and unstable or, at least, can no longer be improved as the developer is no longer around.
You may not even be aware of the extent to which Access is being used. In one Warrington-based company where the author worked in in the late 1990’s an audit was undertaken to assess the possible impact of the Y2K bug on Access databases in the company. A search on the main company servers revealed over 150 databases!
A reputable software development company can take an existing Access database and redeveloped into a new platform that is more scalable and reliable. Although bespoke development like this can seem expensive, it needs to be judged against the potential risk to the business continuing with the current solution. Like-for-like functionality can be built using SQL Server, MySQL or Oracle databases with web pages instead of Access Forms. A redevelopment can also give an opportunity to add valuable new functions.
So the moral is, if you need to use Access for a critical process, make sure that you have plans in place to maintain it. Get as much documentation from the incumbent administrator and have an exit strategy.