Changes In Procurement Practices Are The Death Of Us All …

  • Just replied to someone on LinkedIn in a  conversation about Access work getting really thin lately …  Thought my response might be a good blog .. (additions in blue) ..

    Jeff asked …”Has the market shifted to hiring contract programmers? “

  • My response …

    Jeff …

    From my observations Corporations have switched to a “Contractor-Only” model (and the “Preferred Vendor” model).  There is the possibility of project-base work but that seems to only be available to the big consulting firms now. I have several times recently worked on contracts or turned down contracts to do what is basically a project because the procurement folks simply could not conceive of the idea of me working on a “pay as you play” or a fixed price model for a specific project in Access or Excel. I was “Dick Moffat” so as a “person” they could only think of me as a potential contractor – even though I am actually an incorporated company. Once they knew I was areal “person” their heads exploded when trying to fit me into their model…

    So I’ve had to go to the clients’ physical office (which sometimes mean being away from home for months at a time btw) every day for 8 hours for weeks until the contract ends at which time there is no on-going arrangement to even support the work I did for them going forward. So the users keep asking me to help them for free because they are frankly screwed… Eventually they have to simply stop using the solution because there is no support and no changes or revisions. The corporation simply can’t conceive of this model anymore no matter how hard I try to explain it to them.

    This is a totally dysfunctional protocol but it seems to have become locked in and I cannot see this changing. This is not good for us “gypsy developers” nor is it good for medium-sized consultancies nor for the customers themselves. But that doesn’t seem to matter .. Once procurement gets ahold of the process it will never give up .. sorta like when IT began to clamp down on PC work in the name of security but moreso in the interest of keeping their jobs.

    In the end the losers are the Companies (we really don’t matter I’m afraid) as they end up paying more and more for less and less, while the supply of capable developers shrinks away to nothing over the next 10 years and then they are left totally dependent on technology but with no one skilled enough to help them keep it going – except maybe someone 12 time zones away ;-)

    But they’ve have lotsa cool, useless stuff to view on their cell-phones ;-) ..

    I went into this biz because I could see the need for these technologies to be forever (and still do) and that enhancements in technology would only allow us to do more and better for the same clients. It wasn’t supposed to end up this way.

    Dick

Posted in Access, Access Solutions, Analysis Services, Business Intelligence, Excel, Excel 2013, Microsoft Access, Microsoft Access 2013, Microsoft Excel 2013, Office 2013, Office Automation, PowerPivot, Process Automation, Spreadsheets, the Cloud, VBA | 1 Comment

Windows 10 – To Infinity and Beyond !!!

Buzz

As I discussed here earlier the following has been officially announced by the MSM:

http://www.bbc.com/news/technology-32658340

There are all kinds of implications of this – and one of them is NOT the death of Windows … quite the contrary.  Even if Microsoft in an act of immense stupidity DID want to kill Windows (and btw I was once told I couldn’t use the work “kill” in emails of my Microsoft internal email account – really – nuff said) it ain’t gona die.  Look at how long they’ve tried to get rid of Access and it still hangs around like a bad smell.  Windows will be around long after I am free of this “mortal coil”.

And so this means that IF Access runs on Windows 10 (and it will from 2010 and up) then we will be able to offer solutions to customers with zero chance of being made obsolete in their or our lifetimes.

<< Addendum … 05/12/15 … And it is apparent that Office 2016 is also going to be the last version of Office Client in the same way (and for the same reasons).  Office Client will be changed incrementally going forward just as Windows will.  This means that anything developed in Office 2016 will have a long tail … and it will be almost impossible for Microsoft to pull a licensing game and make it impossible to keep using Offices 2016 (including Access 2016) for a very long time if not forever – even if that ends up some day meaning an annual license fee of some kind – which would be fine with me as long as it’s not too high.

Furthermore I would be willing to bet that it won’t be long before  Microsoft realizes that their little experiment with a “Office for Windows” that will work on all devices but will still SUCK ;-) … is not going to fly and they will have to admit that Office Client running on Windows 10 (and on Azure RemoteApps to any device you might need) will be the past and future of Office for many, many reasons. >>

Also remember that IF you use SQL Azure as a backend, for the exact same reasons IT will not become obsolete either – unless Microsoft completely loses all ethics and morals and intelligence.  How can they now go to corporations that bet on SQL Azure and tell them they MUST change to a new upgraded version that BREAKS their existing app?  From now on it can only be new capabilities that do NOT break existing ones.  And how could they possibly make the prices rise in a way that would punish the small solution … just ain’t gonna happen.  They have locked themselves in tight on this one … I like that :-) ..

That SHOULD be good news for us all … It’ll help us all sell our “wares” with more confidence and maybe, just maybe, we will reach the point where we don’t have to apologize for what we believe is a good fit for so many companies worldwide and will continue to be for years to come .. if we push it.

Dick

p.s. This also applies to spreadsheet solutions btw :-) … BIG TIME.

p.p.s. Please God forgive me for any copyright infringement I have performed herein …

Posted in Access, Access Solutions, Cloud, Excel, Excel 2013, Microsoft Access, Microsoft Access 2013, Microsoft Excel 2013, Office 2013, Office Automation, Spreadsheets, the Cloud, VBA | 5 Comments

Microsoft Excel And Azure RemoteApps … How About A Full-Featured Version Of Excel On Every Device?

I recently posted here about the opportunities for Access Developers in the Azure RemoteApps technology.  I know that it will cost your clients a bit more than the free ride they have been on with Access (some of them for decades – I know – I have several like that).  But the possibility of a continued life for your Access apps that you have invested so much time and effort into and which despite all the nay-sayers you probably run a huge chunk (if not all) of your business on cannot be ignored.

But there is another shoe to drop and here it comes …

Excel 2013/2016 running on Azure RemoteApps offers everything that Microsoft says they want to get eventually get to with their Office for Windows “thingee” – but it offers it RIGHT NOW !

And this with all the Data capabilities, PowertPivot, PowerQuery, VBA AND “touchy-feely” capability on every kind of device you want be it Apple Macbooks or iPads or IPhones or any Android Device and EVEN on Microsoft Windows phones and tablets (go figure) AND EVEN ON YOUR PC !

I have migrated an Excel model from client Excel which uses Data Connections to fill PowerPivot tables from a SQL Azure Database and I can not only view it but also run Slicers and VBA code in it and refresh my data on any of these devices as well.

Here is a picture of an Excel file running on my MacBook Pro:

Screen Shot 2015-04-08 at 11.23.30 AM

Keep in mind that this is fully functional including VBA and Data Connections.  It is actually displaying data retrieved from a SQL Azure Database when I click the button in the middle.  Pretty simple but works on my Mac ..

Here’s the same file on my iPhone 4s (yes I’m still going blind using a 4s :-) ) … It hasn’t broken yet so I keep using it…

Excel_I4SLiterally the same file … when I switched to my iPhone it disconnected my Mac and took me right to the open Excel file just like in WTS (which RemoteApps bascially is anyway).

One of my BIG worries is that with the release of the “dumbed-down” Windows for Office version of Excel some EVP or “C-level” boss will get sent a file from their office with VBA and data features and other cool stuff that doesn’t exist in the NEW version and all hell will break loose when the file simply won’t work on his iPad or his Windows Phone.  How do you explain this?  How did Microsoft not think that this would become an issue?  that’s what throws me :-( ..

So in conclusion (although really this is just the beginning) if you want to use Excel on all your devices Azure RemoteApps can deliver a REAL Excel file to you now (with all the “touchy-feely” stuff you really need and VBA and data connectivity too).

Check it out at :

http://azure.microsoft.com/en-us/services/RemoteApp/

Dick

Posted in Analysis Services, Business Intelligence, Cloud, Excel, Excel 2013, Microsoft Excel 2013, Office 2013, Office Automation, OLAP, PowerPivot, Spreadsheets, the Cloud, VBA | Tagged , , , , , | 3 Comments

Microsoft Access Client With SQL RemoteApps and SQL Azure Might Just Be What The World Is Looking For About Now

OK … Here we go…

Enough time has elapsed since the teaser about “Access Forever” …

Today I am going to build a case for using Access Client Software forever (or effectively forever) in the Cloud and on any device. Really I am.

Firstly I have to say that seeing Access in the Preview of Office 2016 is a surprise to me – a pleasant one. I do still think though that the Access Team should drop the pretense of creating a full-featured database environment under the name of “Microsoft Access” to run in a browser. Frankly I have suffered through 3 iterations now and they still haven’t produced anything that I would use for more than keeping Christmas card lists :-) .. If it’s that hard to do (or if the company refuses to give you enough resources to make it happen) then just give up … drop Access Web .. Enough is enough. Nobody cares.

So where does that leave Access client ?

1. There is and will always be a need for a database tool for RAD development of “Departmental” databases. I am sooooo sick of knowing that so many out there are limping along with bad user-designed, built and maintained email-based Excel “applications” that scream out for a database to organize it all. Or you are spending far more than you can justify to get a solution in the browser that is frankly less capable, and infinitely more difficult to maintain and revise?

The need for a tool that can satisfy this “market” is huge and we who use it know that Access Client is the right tool for that kind of work. Add to that long-term stability and we might really have something.

2. The imminent release of Windows 10 and Office 2016 is a game-changing moment. There is every indication that Windows 10 is going to be a “Base OS”. For the foreseeable future backwards compatibility is going to be a valued feature of this OS – for a long time. If an application runs on Windows 10 it will run on at least the next few versions of Windows (if not even forever until the eventual end of Windows). I foresee that an app that runs on Windows 10 can be assumed to be available for at least a decade and maybe even two. Although I have had solutions that have lasted longer than that I can’t see anyone expecting any more than twenty years use of any application.

Despite what the marketing folks would like us all to believe in their usual self-serving way, every business in the world is NOT in a constant state of dramatic overhaul and change. There are many, many, many businesses that do not change their processes every year and who have been doing and plan on keeping on doing the same business for years and years. Everything does not always change … in fact most don’t.

3. With the broad release of SQL RemoteApps we are able to stage Microsoft Access solutions “in the Cloud” for an amazingly small cost (http://azure.microsoft.com/en-us/services/remoteapp). This site says it all:

Run Windows applications anywhere
Azure RemoteApp helps employees stay productive anywhere, and on a variety of devices – Windows, Mac OS X, iOS, or Android. Your company’s applications run on Windows Server in the Azure cloud, where they’re easier to scale and update. Employees install Microsoft Remote Desktop clients on their Internet-connected laptop, tablet, or phone—and can then access applications as if they were running locally.

Yes … it runs your Access application on any of the listed devices .. With Touch capabilities where needed using a new version of Microsoft’s RDP software.

4. But even more exciting is the fact that if you can connect this RemoteApps staged Access Frontend to a fully features SQL Azure backend exactly as you would to an On-Prem SQL Server (http://azure.microsoft.com/en-us/services/sql-database/). And because SQL Azure’s pricing is based on the number of processors you need (1) and the amount of data you will end up with (which is next to nothing in 100% of Access apps when compared to most SQL Azure users) the cost for the SQL Azure part is ridiculously small and is unlikely to ever rise in the foreseeable future.  Alternatively I know of several people using AWS and seem to be having luck with that. Alternatively you could probably also stage SQL Server on a VM running through Azure and get the same result.  Lots of options.

5. The same way as with Windows, Microsoft has put themselves in a position where they will be unable to evolve SQL Azure until it makes current solutions incompatible. There is no way that they will be able to go to their SQL Azure users in 5 years or 10 years and tell them that they will have to migrate all their mission-critical solutions to a new version that would leave old solutions cut off at the knees. That is NOT going to happen .. Ever!

So to summarize:

a. An Access client solution (with Forms and reports and VBA and all that good stuff) that works in Access 2013 that is migrated to SQL Azure backend and run on Azure Remoteapps SHOULD run for decades, if necessary, without being made obsolete and
b. Can deliver your existing applications to users securely anywhere with an Internet connection and
c. Can be used on nearly every device you could imagine wanting to use it on (PC’s Macs, Tablets, Phones, Fridges(?)) and
d. Will be scalable beyond anybody’s imagination of just a few years ago and
e. Even if Microsoft ends up dropping the Access client in the future (which is a distinct possibility If you use the run-time of Access 2013 in a Custom Image on RemoteApps it will not only be license free forever as well. Microsoft shouldn’t mind because they’ll make it on the RemoteApps and SQL Azure database and
f. ALL IN THE CLOUD !!

The problem with this picture is ? I’d like to know.

If you’re interested in keeping your existing Access solution alive at a manageable cost and without a complete rewrite, with all the complexity and risk involved to say nothing of the training and deployment and on-going maintenance, feel free to give me a call. Or go out and figure it out yourself but please let me know how it goes.

Dick

p.s. Here is an Access Main Menu on my Macbook Pro

RAMac

and here is the same on my iPhone (hard to read though :-) ).

IMG_2100

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 34 Comments

Access In The Cloud – Forever?

OK – here goes …

1. Have you and your business used Microsoft Access to help run your business for years ?

2. Are you pretty much completely happy with this Access solution and have invested a great amount of money and time to get to this point?

3. Have you been told over an over again that Access “sucks” and regardless Access is “going away” anyway leaving you and your solution orphaned and finished?

4. Have you been convinced by all the noise that your new “solution” has to run in the browser?

5. Do you feel that you also need to be able to run your solution on every device on the planet (PCs, Macs, iPads, Android Tablets, Surface tablets, iPhones, Android phones or Windows phones)?

6. Do you feel you need to “scale” your solution across more than one network and maybe even around the world?

7. Do you realize that many, many business processes do NOT change all the time and that if you have a good long-term business going on that you would like to continue using these applications perhaps for decades to come?

8. Yet you also realize that there may still be occasional changes that you would need to be initiated with as little cost as possible and with as little disruption as possible?  Hello Microsoft Access :-)

9. But does the prospect of rewriting the Access app (that works for you very well) in some other technology scare you to death ?

10. Does the prospect of revisiting every business process you have confronted over the life of your existing application make you weak …?

11. Do you see something absurd in spending a whole lot of undefined new money creating a new “browser-based” solution that in its best incarnation would simply replace what you already have but with absolutely no guarantee that it will even do what you need it to do if it works at all?

12. Do you understand that there is a limit to the amount of money you can justify throwing at the need for automation of your particular business process but that you realize that it requires a customized solution that cannot be bought “off-the-shelf”?

13.Are you staring at the prospect of this business process that is so important to you going back to being run on user-maintained spreadsheets as your only realistic future?

14. Or would you simply like to continue using your existing Microsoft Access solution using Access for the foreseeable future at a cost that is a fraction of any alternative?

15. Might you be willing to pay someone like myself and my associates to help you initiate such a solution and to provide support on an on-going basis .. again in a cost-effective way?

etc…, etc … ?

If all these things are true then I am here to tell you that there is a very real solution available now thanks to a series of decisions made by Microsoft themselves in the past year …decisions that will allow you and your business to take advantage of the new “Productivity and Platform” Microsoft that Mr. Nadella has been promoting.  All this in a way that will actually make Microsoft happy while allowing you to sustain your existing solutions while paying a reasonable monthly license fee for use of the necessary technology based on your usage rather than a major upfront cost.

A technology combination that will be good for at least the next decade and hopefully much longer.  It includes keeping your current Access application running in your current version of Access , involves delivery to any of the above mentioned “platforms” … in fact delivering the same exact solution to all of them.  And it involves costs that are more than reasonable and manageable and definable over time.

If you are interested in this concept I will need to know how many people out there might be interested.  I need to know that this is something people really want/need.

Please contact me at dick@plogic.ca and let me know what you are dealing with, what your plans are and what this would be worth for you.

But please do  not waste my time with the usual anti-Access bs that some people with too much time on their hands enjoy moaning on and on about because they have no idea what they are talking about ;-)

Dick

 

Posted in Access, Access Solutions, Cloud, Microsoft Access, Microsoft Access 2013, Office 2013, Office Automation, Process Automation, Spreadsheets, VBA | 5 Comments

Referencing Workbook-Level Range Names In An Inactive Workbook

I was never satisfied with all the stuff on the Internet about referencing Workbook Level Named Ranges in other open spreadsheets.  So a looong time ago I dinked around and came up with this syntax:

Range(activeworkbook.name & “!Accounts”).address

That worked great for about two minutes until I realized that this wouldn”t work for files with spaces in their name …  So I came up with this syntax:

Range(“‘” & activeworkbook.name & “‘!Accounts”).address

Notice the subtle apostrphes :-)….

Turns out this will work with every conceivable file name (assuming uyou’re using an English version of Windows).  I’ve used it for years and have never seen anyone else mention it.

Other examples of thos technoque are:

For Each c In Range(“‘” & ThisWorkbook.Name & “‘!tblParentTabs[ParentFile]”).Cells

x=Range(“‘” & “Master Data Migration template _08-21-14 v2 – CHUNK #1 DM1.xlsx” & “‘!Accounts”).address

I know how this works … now someone’s gonna jump on here and propose an alternative syntax and show ways that this won’t work  .. but I think I’ll stick with this one as it works for me and has safely for more than a decade.  You decide I guess :-)

Dick

 

Posted in Uncategorized | 6 Comments

Microsoft Says What They Really Think

Thanx to Debra over at Contextures for letting me know about this presentation from the Office 365 Garage Series:

http://blog.contextures.com/archives/2014/07/28/excel-roundup-20140728/

What we’re seeing here is an open statement by Microsoft that full-featured client Office is dead and that we must all grasp onto the Web-based Office.  In fact they actually say that there is literally nobody using VBA or VSTO anymore at all … and that the future belongs to JavaScript and HTML5 using the Office Web apps.  To make their point they have a “Top 5″ cool things list (mentioning that usually it’s a top ten but they could only come up with  5 – oops ;-)  ) …

I’d really like to know what the message really is here?  I know for a fact that the Web app for Excel and Access are sad shells of the capabilities of the core application.  I also know that many, many people all around the world are getting daily value out of those full-featured client products and could forever frankly.

It tells me that Microsoft has decided that since very few people seem to GET all the big features of these full products then they just have to dumb the technology down and encourage people to jump on the bandwagon for Office 365 and Office in the browser.  They seem to not understand that when Excel or Access solutions are created by one user they get used by many, many more people every day.  They seem to look at licenses as only valuable if each and every user ends up developing for themselves alone.  The fact is that if users end up doing it all themselves the entire technology will be dumbed down and marginalized (as if it hasn’t been enough already).  I have no idea who they might be talking to (if anyone) to get this opinion?

How can any self-respecting  software company openly “dis” their own full-featured product in favour of a new “version” (and I use that term loosely) that is significantly less capable, meanwhile abandoning the literally millions of people around the World who rely on the full product in running their business every day?

Frankly in this presentation they drive a stake through the heart of anyone trying to make a living being expert in Excel and/or Access client which will finally mean the end of any support for all those using the product with frankly no alternative replacement.

I cannot believe what I am seeing and I can’t believe how many of the usual suspects of Office “thought leaders” are trying to salvage something out of this debacle by trying to embrace this new “technology”.  There is no “there” there I’m afraid people.

This technology is being pushed on JavaScript and Web developers who don’t give two s**ts about doing development in Office and never will.  AND it is being pitched to end users, as if they have the time and knowledge to develop this kind of stuff in their spare time, let alone support it and evolve it once in production.  There is no opportunity for a “professional” in this space.  There is no money to be made chasing this dead end and we all have to remember that getting paid is all it’s about …

And if you think this is just the ravings of a bitter old guy then go ahead and think that … but I am just looking out for all of you .. it’s too late for me.

Posted in Access, Business Intelligence, Excel, Excel 2013, Microsoft Access, Microsoft Access 2013, Microsoft Excel 2013, Office 2013, Office Automation, PowerPivot, Spreadsheets, VBA | 16 Comments