The Perfect Storm

For years I have been arguing that the combination of Excel and Access is the strongest “story” in Microsoft Office – and the most ignored.  I have used these two products together and separately to deliver solution after solution that are robust, cost-effective, flexible and frankly usually a dream to use.  But I could not imagine using one without the other, and I am amazed at how that is an uncommon experience out there.  I think maybe it is finally time that this be remedied, remedied because of significant efforts in other parts of the Microsoft Offering – specifically SharePoint and “The Cloud”.

Oh sure … anyone who knows me knows that I am somewhat cynical about all this “Cloud” noise.  But perhaps it’s not cynicism as much as it is that dreaded “experience” thing that us grey-beards keep bringing up.

My opinion of the Cloud is GREAT !!  Bring it on !!  It’s a big opportunity for my clients, potential clients and for all of us out there trying to make a living delivering or supporting Excel and Access solutions.  But once again Microsoft is caught in the old “Shiny Object” thing where they get excited about one technology (NT, IE, SQL Server, Networking, etc., etc.) and everything else suffers in the message until the thrill wears off in senior management.

Unfortunately this is a bad time for that habit.  To promote “The Cloud” is wonderful, but where is it without a reason to go there?  And what can “The Cloud” allow to happen that hasn’t happened before?  A large part of the the answer can be found in Microsoft Office itself.

I believe that with the advent of SharePoint and now “The Cloud”, this is Excel and Access’s finest hour and biggest  opportunity.  With Excel Services and Access Services, PowerPivot, the availability of Doc libraries and Checkin and Checkout, the time is right for a complete re-think of how people are using Excel in their organizations ….  and in my mind the result should be an acceptance that some of that rethink should lead them to Access, some to PowerPivot and some lead them to re-engineer their existing spreadsheets and bring them into the 21st century by using Excel for wat it’s now meant to be – namely a “Data-Centric Analytical Tool”.

I will be providing more on this topic going forward, but I’m VERY interested in anybody’s take on this (even you Harlan especially 🙂 )…

Talk soon.


About Biggus Dickus

Dick is a consultant in London, ON Canada who specializes in Microsoft Excel and Microsoft Office Development.
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4 Responses to The Perfect Storm

  1. sam says:

    Assuming Sharepoint is new technology, ask MS to name 5 things that they feel can be done with SP that cant be done with existing technology….

    • Biggus Dickus says:

      Hey sam….

      Not my job … but I am told that EVERYBODY’s installing SharePoint and that they expect to get lotsa value out of it. I suggest you go to the SharePoint sites at to find this out as I don’t have that answer available just now 😉 ..

      You may be right about that but I think MS thinks their offering is better overall. I don’t have an answer to that one myself.

  2. Marcus from London says:

    Hi Biggus,

    Similar to yourself I’ve developed many solutions over the years based on Excel & Access as they compliment each other well. On several occasions Access had to be migrated to SQL Server to handle the data volume.

    However my personal observation – based on a working life in the IB sector – is a migration away from this collaboration between Excel & Access. In several IB’s I’ve worked, Access has been actively banned from end users. This has typically compelled users to contort Excel in painful and excruciating ways. Increasing the row count has only made this worse.

    Further IB’s, like other sectors such as the legal industry, tend to be very paranoid about their data. I can’t see how any IB’s would allow any of their data in ‘the cloud’ when they’re stringent enough about controls while the data is within their own domains. Sony’s recent security breach only adds fuel to the paranoia fire.

    So from what I’ve witnessed, the marriage between Excel & Access is (sadly) in trial separation, heading eventually to the divorce court. Excel is being relegated more and more to a convenient reporting GUI while the back-end is SQL Sever/Oracle and the glue is SQL and C#.

    This tends to be supported by contract listings on jobserve, where the number of pure Excel/Access/VBA roles is in decline. Almost half now also ask for .Net experience where the Excel/VBA experience is required to help migrate Excel based solutions to other platforms.

    • Biggus Dickus says:

      Hi Marcus …

      Yes you are absolutely corrcet in your assessment of the situation in the Marketplace.

      But I am convinced that there is an opportunity in the near future to turn this trend back somewhat so that corporations will once again take a look at the combination of Excel AND Access. I believe it is time for Microsoft themselves to start promoting the two in tandem and especially in conjunction with SharePoint and also SQL Azure and their entire Office 365 offering (to say nothing of Windows even).

      The fact that there is a VBA story in there is necessary for the transition to whatever new language(s) that will replace it, but for the foreseeable future I see VBA still in the game.

      As far as migrating Excel to other platforms I would be willing to argue that data-driven Excel is the natural migration path for today’s Excel. Excel With Access and Powerpivot in conjunctin with SP and Azure, BI databases, etc. is the natural progression in my books. I just wish Microsoft agreed.

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