We recently asked ITKnowledge Exchange members what's on their new year's wish lists for working with end users. Here is one letter to the editor. Click for the complete list of letters.
Member David L. writes: Boy does this question open up a can of worms!
I think that the finger pointing in IT's direction (most of the time) is sheer lack of communication and lack of defined business processes. Really, technology is just another set of business tools for the users -- and their bosses are the ones who define the business rules and processes telling us how to design, implement and maintain our databases and other tech resources.
Users should not care about managing and maintaining databases. They should care about managing and servicing customers or whatever their job is.
In my experience, when a user is angry and pointing fingers at IT, it is usually the result of them doing their best to work out of bounds. This could be from not checking Excel spreadsheets and trying to bulk load bad data, only to freak out because they really should have had the customers order data ready much sooner (and it should be in the same format every time). Or they are submitting a query, despite any warnings, to show all order details for all customers over the course of the past year for a report due tomorrow (and what are you going to do with n-million records?!).
So my wish is this. Department managers and directors . . . please manage and direct. IT managers and directors . . . please make sure that you communicate with the other department managers and directors. If they don't "have time" try to establish some other single point of contact for each business unit or department and work with them. Often.
Once your business processes, workflow and whatever else are defined, then everyone is on the same page. Document it. Share it. And don't become complacent with it.
So how does this actually make its way to the users? Education and training. This does not have to be formal training (though environments free of distraction always work better). It could be a message board or Wiki on your Intranet. It could be a user group that meets once a month. It could include a strong initial training initiative for new employees; if you start off on the right foot, everything just comes a whole lot easier.
All in all, while DBAs and systems administrators will probably be involved in these types of things -- these are not things we should have to initiate. And once you do have everyone on the same page, I think that you'll find troubleshooting is easier because the environment is more controlled.
This leaves more time for managing systems, improving performance, increasing reliability, etc.
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This was first published in January 2006