Monthly Archive for September, 2022

Microsoft Access: Introducing You to the Database(ics)

Microsoft Access arguably doesn’t share the same fame as other Microsoft products. However, it still packs a punch. Read on to find out what it can do.

Microsoft Access

Data, data, data. It’s what most businesses boil down to; it holds the secrets to success, but if improperly managed, it is the cause of problems. It needs to be stored effectively and efficiently to keep this rich source of insight and strategy working in your favour.

The solution? Databases.

This leads us to today’s menu of discussion as one of the first mass-market database programs for Windows, Microsoft Access.

What is Microsoft Access:

Microsoft Acess is a data management system (DBMS) produced by Microsoft and part of the Microsoft 365 Office Suite.

It uses a graphic user interface (GUI) and software development tools. It’s suitable for people with and without coding experience and is used to store, manage and visualise large quantities of data.

Microsoft Access is an excellent database software solution for individuals and small to medium businesses. 

Applications of Microsoft Access:

  • Creating forms for data entry 
  • Importing data from other databases (such as Excel)
  • Creating reports that you can save in a PDF format for printing and sharing
  • Designing forms for data entry and viewing

Components of Microsoft Access:

Tables

The backbone of all databases is the tables, which hold the data and information. Like Excel, you can build tables of rows and columns, each with a field name and the rows representing a record.

Creating all the necessary subject-based tables for the data required is the first step of creating a database in Microsoft Access.

Queries

In Microsoft Acess, you can use queries to apply conditions that will sort, search, and filter the data into relevant views, so specific information in the database is easier and quicker to find.

You can also use Queries to calculate, summarise and combine data, and create automations with no code.

The database query language is SQL (Structured Query Language). However, you only need to learn SQL if you wish to be an advanced Microsoft Access user.

Relationships

You use Relationships to create a connection between different tables with related fields. The result of building a Relationship between tables is one table with common fields that have their relationships with other tables defined.

Relationships are essential when creating Microsoft Access databases. They reduce redundancies and repeating data.

Forms

Forms are a fundamental Microsoft Access component as it controls how the user interacts with and operates the database. For example, people can enter, edit and display data using them.

You can also design and revise forms to reflect their purpose.

Reports

Reports are a way to format, summarise and show the results and information given by the database. Once you have created the report, Microsoft Access saves it in an uneditable format, such as a PDF.

Macros

Microsoft Access Macros allow the database to carry out actions automatically. It is essentially a simplified version of coding where, instead, you select a list of actions from a drop-down list to create the automation.

The order of actions given in your list will be the order in which the automation performs the steps and doesn’t require code in a Visual Basic for Applications (VBA) module.

Modules

Modules are where user-defined actions, functions and global variables created using VBA are written, stored and accessed in Microsoft Access.

VBA is more powerful and versatile than Macros, but it is more complex to add functionality to the database and is usually the choice of advanced Microsoft Access users.

Interested in improving your Microsoft Macros mastery by learning how to use VBA? Click here to find out more about our extremely popular VBA course.

If you want to learn more about Microsoft Acces, check out some of our Tips and Tricks here!

Your needs are at the heart of our enterprise. We look forward to hearing what your training requirements are and how we can help you or your company reach your goals every step of the way.

3 Reasons Why Automations Will Change Your Business for the Better

Automations are one of the biggest buzzwords around – we’d likely all love to automate our mundane tasks at home, but how can they help in the workplace?

Automations in business

So what are automations?

Automations essentially are the use of technology to replace or reduce manual human input, and they come in two main forms;

  • Physical devices Eg. the humble dishwasher
  • Digital software Eg. scheduling a repeat event in a calendar app

The latter, digital automation, has become increasingly popular in business, with the Covid-19 pandemic triggering a steep increase in the shift towards automated processes, especially by small businesses and solo business owners.

In fact, McKinsey states that: 

“…recent data show that we have vaulted five years forward in consumer and business digital adoption in a matter of around eight weeks.”

(Click here if you want to read more on the digital technology uptake during Covid-19)

But why the rise in popularity? 

1. Automations save time

By reducing mindless, slow, recurring processes, there’s more time to focus on tasks that can’t be automated. For example, administrative work and responding to leads; two highly time-consuming aspects of business but don’t always require human input.

By automating these responsibilities, hours of an employee’s day can be saved. There is now more time available for your team to focus on devising and implementing innovative and creative solutions that will drive your business forward.

Not only this, but automations may also improve your employee’s morale. 

It goes to stand that increasing the time taken on menial tasks means more an employee can achieve in a day. This greater productivity can lead to greater work satisfaction and fulfilment. 

2. Quality assurance 

Automations are also helpful with quality assurance and improving consistency by minimising the potential of human error. 

Depending on the individual, people can sustain concentration anywhere from 10 minutes to an hour. Therefore, for tasks like data entry or those tending towards repetitive, frequent breaks are recommended to maintain focus.

Given the already significant to-do list most of us face on an average day, breaks are a commodity, with speed generally trumping accuracy. Mistakes are inevitable.

For example, a spreadsheet can be populated almost instantly using an automation. This is quicker than someone individually inputting data and reduces the chance of avoidable phase-out-induced mistakes.

3. Cost-effective

Automations are also a cost-effective solution for scaling up small businesses. 

As discussed, employees can achieve more daily by reducing the time spent on repeatable tasks. The increase in efficiency leads to greater productivity in the workplace. Therefore companies can function at a higher rate without requiring an equal uptake of new employees.

By investing in automations, small businesses can put their resources to better use and compete with companies that operate with a larger workforce.

Not ready to invest in fully automating your company?

Don’t worry. There are a few free softwares that are simple to use and don’t require any coding experience that can get you started on creating some simple automations.

In fact, our previous blog discussed one such software. Click here to find out more!

Microsoft Power Automate: How to Get Down With the Flow

Want to stop wasting time on tedious, repetitive tasks? Maybe it’s time to try Power Automate! Read on for our guided tour and an example to get you started.

Microsoft Power Automate does what it says on the tin. It lets you automate things. It even enables you to automate almost anything without coding, making it far easier to pick up and learn. Moreover, it’s free for all windows 10 and 11 users!

It can use your favourite applications to synchronise files, collect data, send reminders and emails or anything else that tempts your imagination. It even has pre-built automation templates for standard processes that are customisable to suit your needs better.

Power Automate was previously known as Microsoft Flow, and it comes in two types:

  1. Part of Office 365 – accessible if you have an Office subscription.
  2. Power Automate Desktop – a desktop application that integrates with Office 365 and is accessible even if you do not have a paid Office subscription.

Paid subscription or non-paid subscription, you won’t be missing out on what Microsoft Power Automate has to offer.

Taking just a little time to learn how to automate business processes using this app will save you time, speed up work and reduce costs.

Power Automate

There are two main components for Power Automate; the Console and the Flow Designer

Power Automate Console

The Console is the first thing you will see when you open Microsoft Power Automate Desktop. To start with, it will be empty, but new flows will be stored and accessed here.

There are options here to change settings and to access Help and documentation, but most important are the options to manage existing flows and add a new flow.

Power Automate Console
Power Automate Console

Power Automate Flow Designer

The flow designer will appear when you are creating a new flow or editing an existing flow.

You can think of flows as a series of actions that run sequentially in the order you supply. They can be programmed to make decisions using conditionals or loops that will repeat the same actions several times.

Power Automate Flow Designer
Power Automate Flow Designer

Flow Designer: Actions

At the top left-hand corner of the Flow Designer, you will see a bar named ‘Actions’.

This area lists all the actions that Power Automate can perform, including working with files and folders, text, emails and even specific applications such as Excel.

Power Automate Actions List
Power Automate Actions List

Power Automate has the actions in categories, which expand by clicking the arrow next to each category, or it’s possible to search for a specific action in the search bar at the top of the action pane.

To add an action to your flow, you can either double-click it or drag and drop it onto the main working area.

Power Automate can automate highly complex sets of actions, but it is also quick and straightforward to create these automations.

For instance, we can create a flow to open Excel, display a box with a custom message and close Excel with minimal effort, as shown in the example below.

Example: Open Excel, display a box with a custom message and close Excel

1. Download and install Power Automate

The first step is downloading and installing Power Automate, which can be found here.

If you’ve somehow managed to avoid creating a Microsoft account, you may need to sign up for one before getting started. However, this is free, and you can use a preexisting email account. For example, an Outlook.com, hotmail.com, live.com, or msn.com account should work.

2. Create a New Flow in the Power Automate Console

To create a new flow, simply click on the “+ New Flow” button at the top left of the screen.

Create new flow in the Automate Console

Power Automate will ask you to provide a name for the flow.

New flow naming window

Decide on a name for the new flow and click “Create“. In this case, we have named it “ExcelandMessage“.

3. Launch Excel Action

The next step is to locate the “Excel” actions in the Action list and expand the category.

Expanded Excel action in the Action list

Double-clicking or dragging the “Launch Excel” action to the main working area will launch the dialogue box window with options to open a new, blank Excel document or an existing one.

Launch Excel Window

We can change other options, but we will leave everything in the default setting.

4. Create Dialogue Box After Excel Launches

Next, we can expand the Message Boxes category in Actions and drag the ‘Display Message‘ action into the working area.

Again, a dialogue box is displayed that lets us enter the message box title and the message to display, along with other options.

Display Message window

In this case, we have set the Message box title to “Excel Message“, the message to display to “You just launched Excel with Power Automate“, and save this action

5. Close Excel Action

Similarly to launching Excel, we locate Excel actions and expand the category but this time, select the “Close Excel” action.

Close Excel Window

Again, we have the option of whether or not the document should be saved.

The completed flow looks like this:

Completed flow in the Flow Designer

6. Save and Run the Automation

With all this done, we can save the flow and close it to return to the Power Automate console.

Here we can see our newly created flow (it is possible to run a flow whilst still in the flow designer, at any stage, to test it).

We can run the newly created flow just by clicking on the ‘play’ button. Excel opens, and the message box is displayed.

Excel launching with Excel message displayed

On pressing the ‘OK’ button, Power Automate runs the last action and closes Excel.

In addition to all the built-in actions, Power Automate allows you to record yourself performing any task in Windows and use this as a Flow or use the recording as part of a flow using built-in actions.

Microsoft has an online Learning Path to get you started with Power Automate, and you can find it here.