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Don't be frightened: Learn to live with databases

27th May 2005
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During May, AccountingWEB and IT Zone members confronted their fear of databases, following promptings from Simon Hurst to stop using spreadsheets for inappropriate tasks.

Along with long-time AccountingWEB member Neil Eglintine, Hurst has been spearheading the database crusade since 2001. But the profession has generally stuck its fingers in its ears, started humming to itself very loudly and buried its head in Excel.

In an Excel seminar at the Digita user conference at the end of April 2005, Hurst returned to the topic: "One of my pet hates is when people use spreadsheets when they should be using databases. If you're storing lots of data or doing data input with lots of transactions, use Microsoft Access instead," he said.

Accountants tend to overuse Excel because they're familiar with it,...

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Replies (3)

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By Anonymous
31st May 2005 13:26

Places to start with Access ...
I'm primirily an IT person but with an interest in Finance. I can recommend Access as a great way of learning about databases but like most Office applications there are probably more features than you need which can be a bit daunting when you first use the program.

There are a lot of books on the market which explain relational database theory - I'd recommend at least doing a little Googling to find out about primary keys, fields and normalisation it will really pay dividends if you are seriously contemplating spending the time to learn Access.

The only thing I would say against Access is that I would not use it for an enterprise scale application and it does not have the robustness of its big cousins SQL Server and Oracle (scalability, performance, recovery etc). But it's great if you want a small to medium-sized database for your workgroup.

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By Richard Willis
31st May 2005 18:06

What about the workers?!
I am pretty good at Excel and can get by in Access. The reason why most of our in-house ad-hoc work is done in Excel is that I am one of only two people in the place that wouldn't run up the road screaming at the mention of Access.

The problem with Access is that unless one has time to do the full front end bit, people unfamiliar with it will either be unable to use it or will mess it up. As most people in a commercial environment are at least comfortable with Excel, one can knock up spreadsheets which they can and will use intuitively without too much additional coaching required. Protecting the bits that they may feel inclined to mess up is simple, and if they want or need to extract bits for their own use, they can.

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By neileg
01st Jun 2005 15:05

Not the whole story, though!
I'm hardly going to disagree with the editorial above, am I?

Bu I have to say that the dedication to Ecxcel goes further than that. I am horrified at the number of reports that I have seen written in Excel by accountants. What about Word, for goodness sake!

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