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  1. #1
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    Jul 2002
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    Praha, Czech Republic
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    help me win an argument and keep my job...

    I'm currently struggling with a my employer over the redesign of our internal database. it's proving difficult because I'm not convinced he really knows what he's doing. I'm wondering if anybody has experience arguing the following...I need a fresh perspectives:

    1) table relationships: my employer likes to copy information from tables instead of linking using foreign keys. E.g.: entering a state name in a field as opposed to entering the state's ID from a separate "state" table.

    2) We ship orders for many kinds of customers (e.g. 1 customer-1 ship addr, 1 customer-many ship addr). I am advocating a model similar to Amazon: store more than one shipping address and allow user to choose. I would greatly appreciate someone's advice on how to relate multiple shipping with 1 customer account - store many addresses related to customer? Store shipping address with each order? Are there any solid arguments for viewing shipping address history?

    4) multiple contact names: he insists that we need only store one contact name with every client. Yet, multiple contact names/numbers are currently stored all over the place (e.g. in memo fields, in name fields - even multiple names/numbers in one phone field). It's frustrating...

    3) keep it simple: I like keeping things simple as well, but during our scope meetings he asks "do you really need it?" And when someone says yes, but only for this reason he says "then you probably don't need it?" and that someone says "no, I guess I don't need it". The users have valid reasons but are convinced to do without for the sake of simplicity. My argument is robustness, future possibilities, avoiding human error.... I need the CLINCHER ARGUMENT for being thourough and adding the features that make a DB last. I feel my employer is ignoring their 7 years experience using a bad system and wanting more.

    If anybody has examples or personal experiences I'm dying to hear them. Thanks in advance.

    JOS

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Apr 2002
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    Toronto, Canada
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    20,002
    you are not going to win that argument, not because you are right -- which you are -- but because your employer is so hopelessly wrong, but has all the power

    you need to find yourself a new employer
    rudy.ca | @rudydotca
    Buy my SitePoint book: Simply SQL

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Jun 2003
    Location
    Ohio
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    Offer to save your employer money by developing the entire application as a Microsoft Excel spreadsheet. That appears to be all the he wants.

    I do agree that the shipping address should be stored with the shipment record. If you update the customer's shipping address, you still want to know that past shipments were directed to the old address. That is historical data and should not change.

    blindman

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Dec 2003
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    Canada
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    710
    Perhaps you can persuade you boss to bring in a consultant skilled in data modeling that he is willing to listen to. You've got to let your boss think it was his idea. You let the consultant model the system and leave you to build it. Work as closely with the consultant as you wish. Let the consultant win the day for you. Make sure the users attend the meetings to hear the consultant out and change their world view.

    Even if you bring him in for half a day to win your arguments for you by revealing the benefits that's a good start.

    Caveat: Always be prepared for "What does the consultant know."

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Jan 2004
    Location
    Surrey, UK
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    1

    Re: help me win an argument and keep my job...

    1) I would write out a scope for him with all of the ideas/approaches you are proposing with a column next to each for long and short term "benefits" (of taking that approach) and "consequences" (of not taking that approach) and a column to say whether he has authorised you to implement that idea/approach.

    2) Get him to sign it to say that it is indeed the scope and he understands any consequences listed there for the parts he is saying you don't need.

    3) Keep a copy.

    4) Spend the next 6 months - 1 year preparing a really good "I told you so" speech for him while finding an employer that will trust you as a professional and trust in your recommendations.

    I wish I could suggest another way for you but he sounds like a lost cause. He obviously dowsn't understand the difference between just getting a job done and get a job done right!

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Apr 2002
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    listen, i've been a manager, and if any employee came to me and said "here, sign this" i would not even read it, and start actively looking for reasons to let the employee go

    don't create an "i told you so" speech, either -- don't burn those bridges, just leave, and leave on friendly terms
    rudy.ca | @rudydotca
    Buy my SitePoint book: Simply SQL

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Oct 2002
    Location
    Baghdad, Iraq
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    Re: help me win an argument and keep my job...

    What your employer is asking doesn't sound entirely unreasonable, from a business perspective.

    The client may not always be right, but he's not always wrong either.

    1) table relationships: my employer likes to copy information from tables instead of linking using foreign keys. E.g.: entering a state name in a field as opposed to entering the state's ID from a separate "state" table.
    The key problem here is that hard to track bugs can arise when information is not properly updated. And those bugs *will* arise because it's impossible in any real life application to centralize all the updating code. (This is the same argument for having integrity checks managed by the DBMS.)

    2) We ship orders for many kinds of customers (e.g. 1 customer-1 ship addr, 1 customer-many ship addr). I am advocating a model similar to Amazon: store more than one shipping address and allow user to choose. I would greatly appreciate someone's advice on how to relate multiple shipping with 1 customer account - store many addresses related to customer? Store shipping address with each order? Are there any solid arguments for viewing shipping address history?
    Isn't this an area you could compromise on? Start with 1 address and later move to more, iff users demand it? Be ready to make compromises!

    4) multiple contact names: he insists that we need only store one contact name with every client. Yet, multiple contact names/numbers are currently stored all over the place (e.g. in memo fields, in name fields - even multiple names/numbers in one phone field). It's frustrating...
    Are you sure he's not right here? You might argue that it's nice to have a second contact, but realistically, all those memo fields aren't going to go away.

    Unless your design is perfect, and with the constraints of SQL based tools it's never going to be. You can try to reduce the amount of ad hoc data, but you can't completely get rid of it.

    3) ... My argument is robustness, future possibilities, avoiding human error.... I need the CLINCHER ARGUMENT for being thourough and adding the features that make a DB last. I feel my employer is ignoring their 7 years experience using a bad system and wanting more.
    There is none. The art of engineering is balancing the needs of the users with the business's bottom line. If you demonstrate some genuine respect for your employer's opinions, it will make your arguments more persuasive.

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Oct 2003
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    706

    Exclamation Re: help me win an argument and keep my job...

    Originally posted by johnoswackhammer
    I'm currently struggling with a my employer over the redesign of our internal database. it's proving difficult because I'm not convinced he really knows what he's doing. I'm wondering if anybody has experience arguing the following...I need a fresh perspectives ...
    JOS
    #define lecture ON
    Okay, J-wack, let's first cover Office Rule Number One: Do not try to "win" an argument with your boss! You will lose your job!

    Recognize that your boss (and whomever else you may discuss with) is not your adversary but:
    • your devil's advocate, and ...
    • someone who is working toward exactly the same goal as you are, and ...
    • someone whose perspective and whose responsibilities are probably broader than yours, and ...
    • someone who, when the dust has finally settled, has the authority (because s/he also has the business responsibility ...) to decree what shall be done. "The buck stops with that person, not you."

    The day will come (if you don't blow it) when you will be entrusted with that kind of authority and when that day comes you will see firsthand exactly what I mean.

    You also have the business responsibility to make sure that your voice is clearly heard and understood, so that by the combined efforts of you, your boss, and everyone else on the team, the business has the least forseeable exposure to the risk of a Scrap effort and thereby a Sunk cost. You do not have the business responsibility to "win," nor to see to it that your opinion prevails or that it floods-out all the others. Quite the opposite is true, even if you think you are right, and even if you are! Other opinions may be raised with which you may or may not agree. Voice your objections in turn, but remember that those opinions have equal right to be "on the floor" as yours did, and they might even be better!

    The final decision may be something you 100% disagree with. You may come away from that meeting dead-set convinced that the company's about to make the worst decision it ever made. (Maybe it did!) You may click on your headhunter's private link, vowing that you won't allow your name to become stuck with such a disaster! Swallow your pride. Geddoverit.

    For, now, you also have the responsibility to, once the decision is made, accept that decision and to implement it as specified, and without further objection! Once the decision has been made, it is final and the full responsibility for it rests solely upon the person who made it, whom you must not besmirch whether or not that person is "your boss." If you have nothing good to say, then say nothing.

    Pardon me if I'm just blathering here... but you know, no database is worth losing your job or even your status over. But I've seen it happen. (Consultants see a lot of internal politics and sometimes we're hired to quietly cover for some belligerent who doesn't know he's about to get canned [for just this reason!]...)
    Last edited by sundialsvcs; 01-20-04 at 20:54.
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  9. #9
    Join Date
    Oct 2002
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    Baghdad, Iraq
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    Re: help me win an argument and keep my job...

    Originally posted by sundialsvcs
    #define lecture ON
    That ought to be a #pragma.


    For, now, you also have the responsibility to, once the decision is made, accept that decision and to implement it as specified, and without further objection! Once the decision has been made, it is final and the full responsibility for it rests solely upon the person who made it, whom you must not besmirch whether or not that person is "your boss." If you have nothing good to say, then say nothing.
    I'd just add that while I agree with sundial's remarks, they have to be taken in light of various other remarks that pretty much wrote the employer off as a PHB from a Dilbert cartoon.

    If I took these remarks out of that context, I'd point out that, in practice, the blame sometimes *does* land on you, even if it's not fair, and if you were working on a critical application like in a hospital there are certainly situations where you would be responsible at least to your own conscience. All this can materialize legally, so it's good to keep a journal of what happens. FYI, when scientists take notes they use a ballpoint pen in a paper notebook because forensic analysis of the ink is admissible in court.

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Jan 2004
    Location
    Toronto
    Posts
    33

    Red face Employment Modeling

    LOL, funny thread, but oh-so-true.

    Company politics can be much more complex than any data modeling project! Yeah, weigh in your job, or your status in the firm v.s. coming out as right.

    You are definitely right with regards to the data model, but only argue your point so far. If vetoed don't mention it again until the issue is raised again by the users, and your opinion is asked for. And come accross as trying to help users and make the boss look good.

    I avoid working with closed-minded people. In fact closed minded people can make any kind of relationship (not just work) tough. But not everyone has the flexibility to pick their boss. There are good bosses out there too. (no really, I'm not kidding)

    You know your boss the best, and how far you can push before it will come back to hurt you.

    Good luck !

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