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Juan Soto founded IT Impact, Inc. (an Access development company) after working at an ice cream factory in Chicago. The factory's large Enterprise Resource Planning system required that he spend hours manually calculating whether a final batch of ice cream really made the company money. He had to factor the waste for every step of the manufacturing process and soon realized that he could automate the analysis with Access. He built a complex Access system which was soon used throughout the entire operation.
In this Q&A, we asked Juan to share his experiences and knowledge of Access that he's gained designing and building Access solutions that help businesses build customer relationships.
What's the most interesting Access project that you've worked on?
I developed a solution for a firm that lays sea pipe on the ocean floor. Laying pipe is a risky proposition at sea because it requires precise measurements and accurate readings. The system consisted of two components: A Pocket PC app, which measured the integrity of the pipe before it was welded and Geo-tagged the pipe's location at sea. The second component was an Access program that compiled all of the information into reports at the end of the project. The program saved the company months of manual data calculations, allowing them to accurately report the pipe information to the federal government. Designing a solution that performed in that type of harsh environment was a real source of pride for me.
What resources do you recommend for someone just getting started with Access?
I recommend dissecting the templates from Microsoft to see how the pro's do it. I still get great ideas from there. You also need to learn basic database theory from a beginner's book and learn how to work with basic database elements: tables, forms, reports and queries. Once you master them, you'll be ready for programming. But the best way to learn in my view is actually building a database from scratch. Start with small databases and work your way up. Offering your services for free to nonprofits is a great way to learn and get started. Take your time and you will soon learn to love Access as much as I do!
What does Access provide that makes it such a good companion to SQL Server?
There are many reasons why Access is great with SQL: data security, ability to handle hundreds of users, wonderful backup tools, reliability and speed of analysis. I've developed database solutions with almost a million records using Access and SQL with no problems! Start by using the free version of SQL Server 2008 Express R2. It might be all you need to store your data.
What do you think the Access community can do to spread the word about Access?
I'd love to see a more concerted effort promoting Access development as a career choice both for college graduates and for database professionals looking to develop their skills. Many parts of the country don't have local data professionals and so anyone starting an Access consulting firm in those areas would do well.
In 2012 I'm committed to helping others choose Access development as a career, which I do, in part, by posting career articles on LinkedIn's Professional Microsoft Access Developer's Network.
Has being an Access MVP benefited your business, and if so, how?
2011 was a turning point for the firm when we decided to just focus on Access with SQL Server, and share our knowledge with the Access community. Writing for Office.com, writing for my blog, and doing SQLSaturday.com events was recognized by Microsoft when they gave me the MVP title. My only regret was not striving for the title sooner. In 2011, I also hired Access MVPs Ben Clothier and Mark Davis, both outstanding Access developers, making us one of the premier Access development firms in the World.
You can read more about IT Impact at its website AccessExperts.net. They take pride in designing Access solutions that help business "Discover the power of your dataTM".
BTW Juan's all-time favorite ice cream flavor at that time was Moose Tracks, which used a caramel ingredient. It's still sold today in Moose Track Ice Cream flavors. It required heroic efforts to produce because the recipe was finicky and had the highest loss ratios (pounds of ingredients lost divided by pounds of product produced.)
I'm creating a large database for the company I work for and what they're looking for is an easy way to do "searches" so that they can find information on specific queries, (ex. all 500 volt motors, with RPMs of 1700 and higher etc.) I'm inputing all the data in an Excel spreadsheet then exporting it into Access. I know you can apply filters in Excel - but since there is going to be over 4000 rows, a filter isn't specific enough; thus trying Access. Am I right?!