Microsoft Office Development in Kansas City

With an estimated more than two hundred thousand copies of Microsoft Office in use in the greater Kansas City area it’s always interesting to see how people have leveraged and in some cases pushed the limits of MS Office applications such as Microsoft Excel and Microsoft Access.  When customized as specific-purpose applications, these tools have gained a mixed reputation over the years. They are loved by end-users and department heads needing to get a custom application in place quickly and often loathed or at least feared by professional software developers or IT staff sometimes left to support the applications.The traditional saga of a customized Microsoft Access or Microsoft Excel application typically falls along the story line of an IT department unable to support a functional area or department within an organization with their custom software needs and that department taking matters into their own hands and building a custom application using tools they are familiar with in their daily activities. The results are varied but the issues and motivations are consistent. Often development efforts hit a brick wall once the built-in wizard and other intrinsic capabilities are exhausted and the department is left with a clunky solution that may get the job done but not without some pain. In the case where the department’s skill level is sufficient and they have the time to invest, the results can be quite spectacular but problems can occur when the department wants to take things to the next level and do something like access other corporate data repositories to avoid redundant data storage and maintenance. IT departments that weren’t originally able to assist often end up being involved at some level anyway either in terms of infrastructure support (share rights, security, remote access, etc.) or they inherit the application and become responsible for maintenance or integration at some point during its evolution.For a variety of organizational and business value reasons, I have delivered both temporary and permanent solutions based on customizing Microsoft Access and Microsoft Excel and in some cases Microsoft Word. I once even had a very specific requirement which involved automating and customizing Microsoft PowerPoint—but that’s another post. When done correctly and done with support from the IT group at least in terms of infrastructure and data integration guidance, these applications can provide rapid value to a department and the greater organization. In one particular instance, after battling the issue of IT not having the time to support departments’ software development needs and not wanting to limit departmental efficiencies by not having these needed applications, one customer decided to embrace the issue in a rather creative way.  It hired an outside firm to work as a liaison between the different departments and the IT folks. The firm’s job on a part-time/as-needed basis was to provide enough technical support and coaching to the departments as questions arose during their development efforts and to work with appropriate IT resources to help orchestrate the deployment, support and system integration requirements of the applications.  This made a tremendous difference in relationships between the departments and helped deliver a number of highly useful and valuable applications that may have never been built. After this “pilot”, the customer ultimately realized the value of this new role and hired someone on a permanent basis. The more organizations take a similar approach and embrace the demand for custom applications by empowering departments to build their own at least on a temporary/prototype basis by providing even minimal support, the more organizations will realize benefits they may never have known to  exist.