bike or van?

which is best?


or van?

that would depend what you want to do right?

which is best spreadsheet or database?
Err… that would depend what you want to do right?

I can tell you from personal experience – don’t go to collect your Chinese or Indian takeaway on a motor bike. And equally don’t try overtaking on narrow county lanes in a dagenham dustbin.

Same story with technology, for any element of a project, some products will support you, some will fight against you.
Need a quick gantt chart to keep the suits off your back – a spreadsheet is a great choice.
Need to reconcile the output from several different systems – consider a database.
Need to control the changes a user can make – maybe consider a database with a compiled front end.
Need to give the users the flexibility to develop reports and analysis you couldn’t know about – consider a spreadsheet (interface at least).

Time after time I see people doing the equivalent of moving house on a motor bike.

do you agree?

I think there is a delicate balance between using the second best tool for everything, and benefiting from the consistency. And picking the best tool for each job, and having to learn lots of different interfaces etc.

What about you? do you think it is possible (or reasonable?) to bend a spreadsheet to do anything, or do you actively select the right tool for the job?



3 Responses to “bike or van?”

  1. Ross Says:

    Good old Duke and Tranny eh,

    I guess for me it’s not just about what is right (logically, so to speak) but about what i can deliver. A Spread sheet is good for a lot of things but there’s no way i would use it if i could do a better job with a diffrent tool. If however i cant use the better tool (C/C++ xll for example) will i do it in somthing else – you bet ya.

    Too often i see people (computer geeks) talking about what the right thing is, “I should write this is C, it wil take me 2 years, and 6 months to test, but the run time will be 100th of the VB alt.” – Yeah good stuff but i need it now, and for the next 6 months – its not just about the tool:

    Don’t pick up a Chinese on a bike – what if the takeawy is 15 miles from home, and it’s all you’ve got.

    If I can I will, if I can’t I’ll think about if I should.

  2. Simon Says:

    those are all good points, whats realistic and client preference are important factors.
    You really cant steer a bike whilst carrying a takeaway, without squashing or spilling it. Unless there is a technique I don’t know about.
    You can do it on a push bike and just not use one of the brakes, but on a motorbike you need your right hand for the throttle and left for the clutch so you have to dangle the takeaway which then interferes with the steering. Luckily many takeaways deliver now.

    Your point about C v VB is a good one. it been shown time and time again that customers would rather have something not as good sooner. But the geeks still don’t get it (I include myself in that as I get caught out with this too).

  3. Marcus Says:

    I use a similar analogy when talking with clients using a Porsche against a 4WD. I also compare Access to a 1-tonne ute while SQL Server is a Semi-Trailer.

    From the business’ perspective some of the problem comes back to the ‘when you only know how to use a hammer’ scenario. I recently saw a spreadsheet that was around the 400 mb mark, another business unit sending around a 7.5 mb spreadsheet to collect a couple of dozen pieces of data (it also contained 33,000 array formulas – al calculation which could have been centralised). The data was also collated in Excel. Excel was the business’ hammer and that perception prevented them from seeing the possibility of other tools for the job.

    I can’t recall the last Excel solution I developed that was solely Excel. There’s usually a data repository, sometimes email or Word documents.

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