Improving reporting efficiency

Today I presented to 142 of my closest friends at CPA Congress on the topic of ‘Implementing systems for improved reporting efficiency’, and I believe the presentation delivered upon what was promised. At any rate, no-one threw anything sharp and pointy at me during the presentation, so I am going to consider that a positive comment.

I told everyone that I would post my presentation, and the guide, to my blog, so this is the entry with it in. You can download, as a PDF, today’s slides and the accompanying workbook:

If you attended today’s session, please feel free to email me or to leave a comment on the blog to give some feedback.

Microsoft Access to SQL Server

I note this little gem from The Register: Migrating Access to SQL made (almost) easy that
documents the trials and tribulations experienced by the author in implementing the new Microsoft Access to SQL Server tool.

There seem to be some fairly basic and fundamental problems here with the tool – converting queries with dates (Access is chock-full of this) and double-quotes instead of single-quotes (again, Access 101, and a major deviation from the SQL standards).

There is also a fundamental issue – this is converting the data built in these internally-developed databases, but in most cases these databases are kludged together – not surprisingly ignoring the fundamental rules of database design! – such that the tables consist of a single flat table (Database Design Aarghs 101) and all the data rules contained in a multitude of forms that tend to do much the same thing.

I remember when I finally saw the light with Access that converting these developed programs and mature approaches into the programming code was ‘interesting’.  Access was in my opinion both the best thing and the worst thing that happened to database management in the 1990s.  It provided the full power of a relational database on the desktop of those that had never seen it before (good), and many many people used it to manage critical information without any design understanding or consideration of the business implications of their approach (bad).

I guess it’s like a gun – databases don’t create bad database design, people do…

Excel Programming 101

I had a quick email query from my brother-in-law at Bremer Ford. He had an Excel spreadsheet that he was having trouble understanding how they’d done it (neither of us could find any VBA code behind it, which confused us no end).

Found a spreadsheet with some arcane formula scratchings, like this:

Modify Data

The answer is that this is the absolutely ancient way of doing macros in Excel, which is what I suspected. It was introduced in Excel V4, and was replaced by Excel VBA. Excel V4, for the record, was issued in 1992. The modern way to do anything remotely approaching this is VBA applications, although I would never recommend that you put actual source data in Excel – it should be in a database (even MS Access) for robustness and backup purposes, and then you would extract that data to Excel for reporting. The link below has more:

And so – problem solvered. I suppose, though, it’s testament to backward compatibility that a 14-year-old macro still works in our version of Excel. I guess, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

When the system’s tail wags the organisation’s dog

This article was written for BDO’s business briefing for Autumn 2003. The article is reflective of a common theme that we find – businesses often resort to writing software as a first resort rather than a last resort, and end up working even harder to make their business work. It’s not that I’m against homegrown software, but I do see it cause enough grief that I suggest clients have a Bex and a good lie down before developing their own software. The article is also published at Enjoy.

Read more

Invitation to Present at Queensland CPA Congress

I have been kindly invited by CPA Australia to present at the Queensland CPA Congress in October 2006 on the topic ‘Implementing Systems for Improved Reporting Efficiency’.  Since this has the potential to be drier than last week’s dog food, I am trying to ensure that the audience doesn’t go to sleep 5 minutes after I do through what will hopefully be an interesting presentation for most people. 

This I will do by giving a comprehensive companion guide (that has all the boring details) to attendees, and focussing the presentation on a strategic approach to information systems implementing for reporting efficiency.  This discussion will be livened up with some war stories from the field.  Most of our clients do struggle with their reporting efficiency problems and these stories will be used to illustrate some of the issues we all cope with.

The official session guideline is:

Presentation Overview:  Implementing Systems for Improved Reporting Efficiency

This presentation addresses issues in selecting and implementing information systems – including but not limited to accounting information systems – in order to ensure efficiency in business reporting. 

A strategic framework to building your information systems is provided that can be used to assess your reporting efficiency and to suggest strategies that will improve your business’ response to this important commercial issue.

The presentation will include ‘case studies from the field’ in Micheal’s experience in addressing these issues for clients.  All attendees will receive a comprehensive guide with detailed discussion on the approach to implementing systems to achieve improvements in reporting efficiency.

The presentation is set down for 25th October 2006 from 3.20pm to 4.20pm at the Sofitel Hotel in Brisbane.  Hope to see CPA members at Congress this year.