Choosing the right (Microsoft) tool for the job.

I work in events and facilities management for a University and often have multiple projects to track as well as multiple work orders open with various other departments on campus (i.e., IT, facilities, custodial, dining, security, etc.). I'm looking for a better way to track and manage all these various and disparate projects. I'm fairly savvy with excel and am starting to get in to the more advanced features, but I want to make sure I use the right tool for the job. Based on the software I already have access to due to institutional licenses, my choices come down to Microsoft Excel, Access, or Project.

I'm looking for advice and opinions on which of the three would be the best choice. I don't mind a learning curve and don't mind doing front end work, as long as the payoff in the end is worth it. The main things I'm looking for are:

•Tracking work orders from multiple different departments. If I can create something in VBA to take the automatic emails I get through outlook every time I submit a work order and input the information into whichever program I end up using, so much the better.
•Assign employees to different projects either as the person heading it up or as the person that needs to follow up to make sure that the other department completes the work.
•Create reports to see project progress and timelines.
•Ability to set task dependencies.
•Ability to create multiple parts for each project/task.
•Ability to attach or link to supporting documentation.
•Integrate budgets from other excel workbooks.

I already do all of this on paper or in simple excel workbooks and already do a good job of pre-planning, but overall I just need a more streamlined way to do everything. We're growing as a department and I'm taking on more responsibilities so I need a way to automate a lot of this, or at least make my digital work product "smarter."
Joe XAsked:
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Dale FyeOwner, Developing Solutions LLCCommented:
What you need is a database application; don't try to make Excel do database work, use Access.

There are lots of people here in the Access community who will be glad to help you with the process of developing the application, as long as you don't ask them to do it for you.

I don't know what version of Office you have access to, but there is a sample task management database available for download here:

I have not downloaded and looked at this, but I would anticipate it would already have a lot of what you are looking for.

Depending on the version of Office you have access to, you might also be able to select from among the templates which are displayed when you open Access.

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Joe XAuthor Commented:
I've never used Access before so I wasn't sure if it was right for what I needed and as I said, I don't mind putting in the effort to learn it, but I don't have the time to put effort into something that isn't going to pay off.

I'm currently using Office 365 so I'll definitely check out those templates. Thank you!
Joe XAuthor Commented:
For those with this same question, essentially, I just needed confirmation on what I already knew, that I should use Access.
Scott Fell, EE MVEDeveloper & EE ModeratorCommented:
>  right tool for the job.... ..... I don't mind a learning curve

You have ms project and I suggest putting some time aside to learn that. You may already have something being at a university, but there will be online courses and examples.  Spend your time to learn about that tool, then start moving what you have in excel to project.

From experience, trying to develop something in access/sql server is going to take a lot more time than you think and will need to be continually marinated and updated.  

There are also free online tools worth looking into such as a kanboard. I use  You can run this locally or if the university gives you some web space to host open source projects, you will be in business.
Scott Fell, EE MVEDeveloper & EE ModeratorCommented:
If you already have office 365 project, that sounds like your answer!
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