Excel Formula To Calculate Length Of Time Between Two Times ERP Vs. Microsoft Access

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ERP Vs. Microsoft Access

So you want to learn more about why ERP is better than a basic accounting package and some spreadsheets. I mentioned that spreadsheets have a high error rate and are inherently single user. I’ve discussed reporting from a database, but it’s much easier to do the same from Excel. What you may be left with is the assumption that using a database is the way to go. That makes some sense – and all things being equal I agree with you. But I don’t, all things are not equal.

The king of do-it-yourself databases is Microsoft Access. It’s actually a pretty decent product – with a good community of users, if not experts, at least familiar with it. Access is a good choice if you decide to follow this DIY direction, there are a few reasons.

Access is relatively cheap. It is part of Microsoft Office – although the version with access is more money. It’s about $300 more to get the database tools. You get a few extra things, but not many useful tools other than access.

“Programming” access using built-in wizards lets you create a few tables and forms, reports and queries at the end of a solid work day or two. So, call that $500 of programming time and $1500 of software and you could have your inventory, order schedule, purchase order report, etc.

What happens now is very serious – and the next time you spend a lot of money.

After your database is created and your purchase orders are going out to vendors, you realize you need to get things done. Sellers are annoying, sometimes they send you exactly what you want, in the exact quantity and price on the PO – but often they don’t. So over time simple access databases begin an insidious march towards something deadly – complexity!

It gets more complicated as time goes on.

If you were to go back in a time machine, and reevaluate everything you need to do, you’d realize that your original concept lacked any kind of checks and balances. If your people don’t make mistakes – your vendors and customers do. Your database (and spreadsheets) need to cross reference things to try and detect and prevent errors. Turns out it’s hard.

Any decent database configured to do this stuff should have programming. That means it has to have some visual basics and that’s not something anyone can do. You can hire cheap college students to do that, but be prepared for them to last a year or two. And they don’t finish the whole program.

I’ve seen some amazing Access databases in my day. I have seen databases that interface with CAD and CAM tools, calculate nesting requirements for their software, generate MRP demand etc. When I talk to those clients, a conservative estimate is that they spent 200 to 300 thousand dollars to write the app. This is almost always a well-paid engineer or network administrator on staff full time. The business gets to the point where (whether intentionally or not) they feel trapped. They fear losing this person. Usually when I arrive, it’s because Access database technology has reached some limit (Access databases cap at around 500-800 megabytes for their useful size). Or it’s because the designer quit, retired, got hit by a bus or won the lottery.

Checks and balances are essential for this system to work, without them you are half a step better than a spreadsheet but 100 yards behind the finish line. They are incredibly difficult to program and create. Don’t be stupid. You are much better off spending 10-20k on a simple ERP than going down this road.

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