By Bill Kennedy - The spreadsheet report on my computer was refusing to balance, when the IT Manager dropped by. (I later found the problem. Someone had overridden one of the formulas with a number, so that line was not updating properly.)
"You should get one of my staff to write the report for you," she said brightly. "We're creating them for everyone. In fact, you could learn to make them yourself." She was proud of her new SQL Reporting Services and couldn't resist showing off a little.
After she left, I wandered over to the Accounting Manager's office and asked her about this reporting tool. It turns out she's using it too. I asked her how much training she had needed and she answered none. It was so much like doing reports from Microsoft Access that she just played with it until she had the answer she wanted. I asked her how to use it and she showed me how you access the tables from Excel. After that it's like any spreadsheet. That actually set off alarm bells for me, as I pictured anybody with a little Excel knowledge accessing our payroll records.
"Relax," she said. "You have to get the IT department to grant you access to the tables first. Just let them know which ones you need."
One thing I admire about Microsoft is their drive to make the way their different products look the same. It isn't just the savings in training time, it's also the confidence that people feel when they see something they recognize.