Such Happiness In Thought Happens

January 4, 2008

God is in the details

Filed under: MS Office — Tags: , , , , — Duane @ 1:06 pm

“God is in the details” is a quote provided by Ludwig Mies van der Rohe

While some may take it as a religious quote, Mies was an architect and used it in regard to architect designs. Why I am using it? To illustrate a valid point people miss when using computer programs. Whether it be a Word document, Excel spreadsheet, Access database, Powerpoint presentation or a project, it is best to start on paper and fully understand what you are trying to achieve, before you go gung-ho in the program. This blog will look at planning before using the required program and some points to think about before undertaking the task.

Even though I know how to use most Microsoft programs extremely well (except for in depth VBA coding) before I undertake an important task I sit down and think about what it is I am trying to achieve. This may involve talking to other people to receive their input, doing some research or doing a mud map on paper to start with. If I see and understand it on paper, it makes it easy to design it in the required program. If I am not happy with an aspect, so what? I can change it on paper and keep modifying it until I am happy with a final product.

Here are some suggestions about how to plan ahead:

  • Sketch out on paper what you want it to look like 
  • Talk to people involved and get their input
  • Think of the formatting you want to use/perhaps talk to the people who will use what is being created so they have input. Knowing what format you want to use, makes it easy to apply formatting quickly across the board. Otherwise you can spend a lot of time going back and redoing text, tables, etc when you should have been finished by now.
  • Ask technical people if there is a better/easier way of doing an Office feature you don’t know well. This may mean not talking to your IT person/department, but talking to someone who knows the program better than you do. We can always learn new things.

To illustrate what can happen when you don’t talk to all relevant people, I recently created an Access database at work, which now will not be implemented. Why? Because one of the main people who would be using it found a number of faults with the output of the data. She was aware that the database was being built and what it would achieve, but I did not include her with any of the requirements or what it would look like, until the majority of the work was done. That basically meant one month of work was wasted. Well not really it helped me remember some aspects of Access I had not used for awhile (hadn’t taught it in nearly a year).

But I had sat down with the originators of the idea, obtained what they wanted to achieve, then went about writing on paper what tables I needed, the fields they would contain, the reports/outputs that different people would want, and basically really nutted out what I wanted on paper first. I was then able to quickly create the tables, input some dummy information and see how it looked, tweaked what needed tweaking. Then came the queries to generate the outputs required, the forms, reports, etc. I created macros as required to automate the process, as none of the end users know how to use Access well, thus switchboards would facilitate end user control.

Another example is for a subject at university. For an assignment for one subject we had to create some forms that people would hypothetically fill out. I started on paper with what I thought a possible form could look like and showed it to my colleague. She came up with some modifications and after we were both happy with the form, I created the form in Microsoft Word in 10 minutes – table layout, text and formatting. No need to reformat parts as we were happy with what it would look like on paper.

So what am I trying to example? Then next time you have to create an important document/spreadsheet (especially one that a contract or something equally vital will depend upon) take a few moments and think about what the end result should look like and put your thoughts down on paper BEFORE you open the required program.

1 Comment »

  1. […] to create a schedule/timeline/work order/etc. So this refers back to my previous posts about “God is in the details” – decide what needs to be done, then after you have brainstormed it, then put it in Microsoft […]

    Pingback by Project tips and tricks « Such Happiness In Thought Happens — February 12, 2008 @ 6:25 pm

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