Great Debates: Excel vs. Access

I look at Excel as a gateway to data management and database programming. Let’s start with the basics on a familiar tool.

Someone asked me why I focus on using Excel to teach people how to think in data instead of Access. My answer was pretty simple. Most people in the workforce is going to have more experience with Microsoft Excel than Microsoft Access.

To introduce basic concepts so that more people understand how data works, Excel is the most familiar for my audience. I admit, more technical people will choose a database over a spreadsheet. There are situations, though, that you don’t need a database right away.

For example, if you’re starting a business and you only have 200 customers, you probably don’t need to spend thousands of dollars on software and a developer to manage that data. Maybe not even hundreds on any of the software being advertised on the internet. Maybe you still feel comfortable using paper and you can handle the admin work. It really just depends on comfort level and resources (whether its budget or knowledge of managing data).

From personal experience, I took no joy inheriting Excel files and miscellaneous database solutions that was poorly built, structured, and documented. I’m willing to bet the cause is because the folks responsible for implementing missed out on applying basic concepts. Personally, I believe the concepts are applicable even if the tool is a piece of paper and a pen.

Thoughts? Questions? Let’s talk story, holler @ me.

Excel Is Useless

Anyone can have Excel on his or her computer just like anyone can have a guitar at home. But what you do with it is what counts. Can you think of any “Rock Stars” in Excel? (Photo Credit: D. Ramos, Museum of Pop Culture in Seattle)

Reading my daily periodicals, a headline caught my attention: “CFOs No Longer See Excel Skills as Vital for New Hires“.

After building a successful meetup and finding professionals who are interested in using spreadsheets, I stayed calm and collected but curious. The basic gist of the article is that Excel as a skill isn’t more necessary than having the skills of adaptation. I can completely agree with that.

So why is my blog titled “Excel is Useless”? I’ve spent enough time with a variety of companies to see a pattern that involves Microsoft Excel. I had plenty of colleagues who had “Excel Skills” at different levels. My most successful colleagues were open minded to change and were able to adapt their thought processes to leverage Excel.

Sometimes software is sold as a magic pill to solve all your problems but it’s only as useful as the person using the tool.

Questions? Comments? As always, holler @ me and let’s talk story.