I get a kick out of going to conferences. It's a lot of money out of pocket, and, as a consultant, it's a whole bunch of days with no cash coming in. But if I'm going to stay current in the information services business, I can't afford to stop learning.
I recently got invited to give a presentation on knowledgebases at a conference in Disneyworld. The knowledgebase field is a growing one, and this will be a wonderful opportunity for me to learn some more about it. I have to admit to feeling a lot of sympathy for the developers working in this area. Microsoft Access is a database, and I think we all have a pretty clear idea of what data is and how to manage it. Thanks to Dr. Codd, the father of relational database theory, we even have some pretty definite rules on how to organize and structure our data. It's not clear to me that knowledgebase development is nearly so well-defined.
I probably learn as much standing at the front of the room presenting as I do sitting in the audience listening. I always think of Will Rogers' statement: "It's not what you don't know that will get you in trouble. It's what you don't know that you don't know." When I have to go into a topic thoroughly in order to talk about it, I'm always surprised to find what I've taken for granted or only understood superficially. After a presentation, I inevitably end up in a series of discussions that begin with "Did you know . . .". And, often, I didn't know.
One of the things I've learned is that the technical problems I have working with Access are far simpler than the problems I have managing successful projects. There just doesn't seem to be a user manual for corporate life. In this issue, Mike Gunderloy discusses requirements planning for Access developers. Mike is very definitely a "been there, done that" kind of guy with extensive real-world experience in building Access applications. In this article, he delves into one of those non-technical aspects of an Access project that's essential to its success. Mike identifies just about everything important in that area, from the politics of requirements analysis to the importance of wide margins. I was really struck by his quote from Steve McConnell on satisfying your customers. If you find Mike's article interesting, let me recommend the book Exploring Requirements: Quality Before Design by one of the true geniuses in this business, Gerry Wienburg (he wrote the classic book The Psychology of Computer Programming).
On another front, for this month's "Access Answers" column, we've gathered together a bunch of the wizards who've been contributing solutions on the Access usegroups. These people have provided so much knowledge so often that Microsoft has recognized them with the designation of MVP. These gurus have helped hundreds of people, and this is our opportunity to give them a little well-deserved recognition. To paraphrase Winston Churchill, "Never in the field of Access endeavors have so few given so much knowledge to so many so often."
Finally, I've always believed that the really knowledgeable person doesn't actually know everything. The really knowledgeable person knows where to look up everything. This month, we start our search for the best Access resources on the Internet (see "The Best of the Net" for details). With your help, and the help of our judges, we'll give you a complete guide to Access information on the Internet. You can even win yourself a free subscription to Smart Access.
Knowledge is power. Think of Smart Access as your Access knowledgebase, delivered to your door every month.