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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Nov 2005
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    Vague Data Requests

    'How long is a piece of string?'

    I'd be interested to know how other DBAs and analysts out there deal with tail-chasing execs who can't be bothered to give specific questions (or don't even know what they want) when asking for data.

    I find myself having to ask the same questions over and over again and always getting vague answers that get me no closer to knowing what they really want. Then they get pissy about being asked to be specific and/or blame me for their missing report. It's like they expect me to be a mind-reader or simply omniscient!
    Any tips on how to pin them down without a gun?

  2. #2
    Join Date
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    Make a swag, label it clearly as a swag, present it as a swag, and ask for more specific input once they've got that in front of them. This might not work for everyone, but I've found it quite successful.

    -PatP

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Nov 2005
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    5
    Well, yeah, this is what I'm forced to do all the time, but I find it really irritating to be wasting my time making swags. Frankly, I have a lot to do without doing a job twice (or more)! I'd like to find a way to avoid this. It makes me quite tetchy and I find it harder and harder to stay polite and not shoot them.

  4. #4
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    Why don't you want to shoot them? Find a good place to hide the bodies, then have at it.

    Assuming you are in the US, you are guaranteed a trial by your peers. I'm sure that a bunch of us would be willing to show up and sit on the jury. Given a group of twelve DBAs on the jury, I positively defy any lawyer to convict you of anything worse than "discharge of a firearm within the city limits" and possibly "littering" if you don't clean up afterwards. We'd probably chip in to cover the fine(s).

    On a slightly more serious note, keep track of the time you spend on projects. Show your manager what the first cut cost, and then what the revisions cost... Let them decide which one of those was "wasted effort" due to unclear specifications. My guess is that once you and your manager start to show a united front, the "powers that be" will start to realize how much their behavior costs, and they'll either decide that they're happy with it (and you can then relax), or that they need to correct the behavior (and then you can relax).

    -PatP

  5. #5
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    BTW, you get easy questions...

    Mine would run something like: "You've heard of quantum string theory, right? How long are the strings and what's the standard deviation of the lengths?"

    -PatP

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Jan 2003
    Location
    Massachusetts
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    Not sure I have this right, but theoretically, they are less than the Planck Length, and as such are unmeasurable. Therefore, you can give them a line of 0's, and not even have to bother with the database. Easy, right?

    My big problem is getting project managers to try their applications against SQL 2005. I bet you can get kids to eat brussel sprouts in spinach with less effort.

    Still, the user training idea from Pat is probably your best bet. Especially if you are dealing with accountants or accountant-like people.

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Feb 2004
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    Quote Originally Posted by Pat Phelan
    Make a swag, label it clearly as a swag, present it as a swag, and ask for more specific input once they've got that in front of them. This might not work for everyone, but I've found it quite successful.

    -PatP
    What's a swag young Pat?
    Testimonial:
    pootle flump
    ur codings are working excelent.

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Feb 2004
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    Ah - strategic, wild, approximated guess?

    Sounds a bit like a technique we have perfected in my organisation - Requirements Specification By Provocation (obviously less snappy). If user is convinced that the management tool they need does not warrant any of their time to specify requirements then throw together any old crap (maximun construction time - 15 mins), make it a lurid colour and pop it on their desktop. Constructive dialogue usually ensues once the dust settles.
    Testimonial:
    pootle flump
    ur codings are working excelent.

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