SharePoint is the new MS Access

You know there is a type of program that every programmer dreads. That is the one that isn’t a program at all; it is a spreadsheet heaving with formulae or worse an MS Access database. The worst of the worst of these beasts is saving data straight into the database and just bypassing all your nice source-control system and all your best efforts at version control (and you can’t search it because it is all embedded in a binary file).

This stuff made by Lay Programmers is the foundation of many a system, but at some point it goes wrong and Real Programmers have to “just tidy up a bit” and put in some foundations and some structural steel. But, it takes years to get rid of them; especially if there are other 2-tier beasts that just go into the database. It probably takes a year to capture most of the use-cases into a “proper” client UI or a service and there are always some that need to be entered manually. Although the corner-cases only emerge at the end of a year;and that means calendar year-end, financial year-end and Australian year-end so you might as well wait another year.

Of course, we have all got rid of Access and don’t let people do that kind of thing. Hooray!

Except that we now have the SharePoint to deal with. Easy to set up as long as you don’t really want a backup and don’t mind that all the config and customisations are trapped on one machine. So easy to set up another site that you don’t bother to do a good job as you can just set another site up with another set of lists that is 85% the same as the last one. And we can finally pursue the dream of non-programmers making their own workflows. Yippee. Except when they need to be extracted and turned into the real thing. So easy to get so much mission critical data stored there that is really crucial and really hard to export.

So much about SharePoint is nice, the fact that 75% of data storage CRUD is done out-of-the-box and all in a web interface that is simple to use and integrated with Excel. It’s that last 25% that will keep me in programming work. I bet that all of these things are possible; of they will be if I pay a SharePoint consultant a fortune to fix it and if I just upgrade to the new version all this will be much simpler…

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