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Last couple of weeks I've been searching for some project management solution for a place where I work at the moment.

There we rely on excel spreadsheets, but we meet limitations like access rights and concurrency (I have to work with a local copy of a spreadsheet and twice a day dump it to the main spreadsheet) and software versions compatibility (some people have the latest office, some have 2003).

Redmine was the closest, but it really does not meet our needs - excel spreadsheets suck, but they have some stats tools, and anyone can edit them without any extra learning.

Now, not to be immediately (or at all) proposed to use in production, but rather as a proof of concept, I would like to play with OODBMS or XML DB on my spare time, to make a web app for managing repetitive tasks which can however vary, for a group of 5-10 people, to be used not instead of 'serious' solutions, but maybe along with them.

So I wonder, would these DB management systems work here or should I learn relational databases and ORM in details instead of wasting my time with these? Would they allow to clone existing workflows descriptions and fine tune them for another task? Would they be difficult to maintain?

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ever thought about google docs ... as a solution to your business problem? – blank Jun 19 '11 at 20:00
First, it's not fun. ) Second (seriously) I know plenty of people who would never ever host anything about their business at google docs. It's not like my (not yet existing) amateur app is better and more reliable than google docs, some people just won't use google docs. But yes, it's handy, I sometimes use it.. – Roman Grazhdan Jun 19 '11 at 20:04
I could be wrong but based on what you're describing, a DB probably would be more inline with the needs you have... BUT a DB is ONLY a storage tool. Granted with proper queries you can do some pretty neat things but often times the real power of a DB is only brought out when its used via a well developed software application. If you have people in your staff that are not technically literate then you definitely will want to look into other options. – Kenneth Jun 19 '11 at 21:14
up vote 1 down vote accepted

I've done consulting with a large company that was making excessively heavy use of excel spreadsheets for a wide variety of HR and corporate financial applications (e.g. processes for approving capital expenditure), and they very successfully replaced the spreadsheets with XML documents stored in XML databases. This pretty much mimicked the workflow of the existing (semi-automated) systems, but immediately gave much better management reporting because all the data was in a central database rather than flowing around the company in uncontrolled email. So yes, it can be done, and yes, it can deliver benefits.

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