Zen in the art of data management

(Radhika Shankar was an international journalist before she boarded the technical and marketing content writing train about 10 years ago. She has enjoyed her writing journey that took her to creating advertising campaigns, documenting the nuts and bolts of computer hardware and software to a wide range of audience. When her demanding cat Cindy lets her, she loves to escape into writing about food and culture or even trying to play the veena.)

Being at a Microsoft MVP (Most Valuable Professional) summit -- where I was surrounded by subject matter experts from around the globe speaking passionately about their journeys in the art of database management -- was a humbling experience. Yet, it was also a Zen moment for me to hear these masters talk about their introduction to Microsoft Office Access.

While every journey into the art of data management is unique, the varied paths of these Access MVPs (Most Valued Professionals) had one common and familiar challenge that they all had to meet and conquer to gain their mastery in the art of data management. This one common challenge sounded so familiar to me and perhaps will to you too.

Recalling the day long ago (I was engaged in sprucing up the data at a non-profit organization), when I was handed a box that the board members had all agreed was the key to all their data management issues. My challenge was to achieve the Zen with the contents of the box- the Access program on a few floppies (remember those?) and an oversized user manual. Yes, it was a long time ago, before the days of Office Online and all those blogs and user forums.

Though my journey ended happily with the creation of a data management solution that worked for the organization, the journey was slow due to the lack of information and directions and I hear that the challenge remains today because of an overload of information so, if you are considering or have started your own explorations into the art of data management with Access, here are some directions that might help make your journey a happier one:

· Begin with the demystification of Access terms.

· You wouldn’t start building a house without a blueprint! A database is no different: grasp the Database design basics.

· There are many ways to crack an egg: Check out the 6 key considerations when creating Access 2007 databases.

· Get moving and create a new database.

After you have mastered the art of data management with Access at your workplace, and have time to wonder about what next, try infusing the Access Zen into your home to help you with:

· Managing your contacts

· Organizing your nutrition and fitness needs

· Keeping track of your belongings

· Managing your personal accounts ledger

· Customizing your event planning

A parting Zen kōan (a question or statement containing aspects that are inaccessible to rational understanding, yet may be accessible to the intuition.) Access works in harmony with various other programs so, if your information is currently in an Excel spreadsheet, a Word document, InfoPath forms, or in Outlook e-mails, explore how to bring all your data into Access so that you can manage it from Access. Here are some video’s to get you started:

· Collect data in Access 2007 by using e-mail

· Merge Access data with Word

· Create an Access database/Excel workbook solution

Finally, if you’ve had your own Zen moments with Access, I’d love to hear any insights you’d like to share from your journey.