Access Application - Training a Backup Developer

Hello, experts -
I have a developed a fairly robust application consisting of an Access 2010 front end  with a backend SQL Server DB.  It has some Office automation features and other bells and whistles.  It has become fairly important and entrenched in our operation, and as such I need to train a couple of backup developers in case I get hit by a bus or decide to retire someday.  

My question isn't technical - instead I am interested if anyone has an outline or other ideas about the best way to approach this transfer of knowledge to a new developer so they can support the application.

Unfortunately, the two people I've been given as backups have varying levels of experience using VBA, so I believe I may also be doing some advanced VBA training along the way, as well as orienting them on the application.

Any ideas or experiences you would care to share would be most appreciated!
IT Project MgrVBA/SQL developerAsked:
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I'm in a similar situation except that I am a consultant and the client doesn't even have on-site staff that I could train.  I've tried two part time developers and neither could cut it.  It really worries me since the applications are large and the business rules complex.  As a result, a lot of what I do during development might seem simplistic but my objective is to make it as easy as possible for someone to look at code and queries and decipher them.

Since you actually have warm bodies available, you could start with having THEM create some documentation.  Both user and technical.  This is a way to get them to examine parts of the application in detail and hopefully come to understand how they work.
IT Project MgrVBA/SQL developerAuthor Commented:
Good idea - I actually have a user's guide and an system Administrator's guide that they have reviewed.  I have the beginnings of a technical manual that I started.  I will could start with that and work together with them on it.
Jeffrey CoachmanMIS LiasonCommented:
Then they should start right where you started,...
From the beginning...
Table design, and general database theory.

If you simply try to train them in VBA first, then they will tend to look for a code based solution to every problem.

The kicker here is that an Access database requires proficiencies in may different disciplines
Table design
Queries (Joins, criteria, ...ect)
Form and Report Design
...etc it will be difficult to train someone to be an exact "replacement" for you...

The most useful skill we be how to troubleshoot.
Getting to the root cause of an issue will enable them to know where to go next.

For example:
Issue: Access keeps crashing.
They need to know to ask:
If this issue is with all users, ...or just the one user.
Issue for all databases , ..or just this database.
Is the user using the database properly.
Is the database split
All Updates installed.
What exact user action caused the crash...

This logic will be completely different if the question was about an existing record not being updated, ...or a bizarre error message

They also will need to know how to make changes to he database, ...or at the very least know who to ask to make these changes.

A great many Access developers will avoid training others to insure "Job Security"

I can't tell you how many questions here start out with:
The previous developer left, and we have no details on the database...

So, at the very least, ...find a seasoned Access developer to partner with.
This may save you the trouble of training someone who may not have the skills, ...or desire, learn every aspect of your application.


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IT Project MgrVBA/SQL developerAuthor Commented:
Thanks for your words of wisdom, Jeff!

I guess you're right - I will have to start at the beginning and see how much they already know about Access in general and move into the code a bit later.   Unfortunately in our org of >10,000 employees, good Access developers are either hard to find or are good at hiding (I'm guessing the latter).  So I will take what I have been offered and train them up as best I can.

Your point about troubleshooting is a great one - basic troubleshooting skills are so important - and also training end users to take screenshots of any errors, and keep track of what they were doing at the time!  I have saved all my emails with various errors we've experienced during the development process.  I think that would be a good place to start.

As far as making changes, I actually have a very detailed process of how to move objects from DEV to TEST to PROD, so we'll practice that as well.

We've got a list of enhancement requests, so figure I'll work on together with them on the less urgent ones until they prove or develop the required level of skills to fly on their own.  Probably start them on developing reports, etc. and let them graduate to functions that actually manipulate data.

Just thinking through the order of things helps - thanks!
Jeffrey CoachmanMIS LiasonCommented:
Yes, ...also keep in mind that Access development is something a person should be "interested in", ...not "forced to learn"

Some people are good a math, others Literature,
Some people just want to use the database, and go home,
...other will want to stay and learn more...

The Access/Excel users might be a good place to start looking for candidates.

Good Luck.


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