Cutting to the Chase

People come running into the DBA’s corner office (okay, windowless cube) with all kinds of issues and they’re not sure what’s a database problem, what’s an application problem, or what is just a general complaint.

Here’s some examples of vague requests:

  • “Man, this application is so slow.”
  • “The profit numbers on this report don’t seem right.”
  • “I think it’d be really cool if we had a new tool for our warehouses.”
  • “Have you read this article on database report tools?”

DBAs, being the selfless workers that we are, want to immediately drop everything and focus on their problem – but that’s not always the right answer.

As a DBA, you can help eliminate the confusion with a simple question: “Okay, let’s make sure we’re on the same page: what actions do you want me to take right now?”

The three bold words are the important ones to stress, because sometimes you’ll get answers like:

  • “Oh, I didn’t really want you to do anything – I just wanted to see if you’d heard that from anybody else too, or if it was just me.”
  • “I want you to double-check the numbers in the report.” (Well, that may not be the DBA’s job – it may be better to route them to the reporting team.)
  • “It depends – are you doing anything right now?” (Answer yes, and take a minute to show them what you’re doing.  It’ll scare them off just knowing you don’t sit around dreaming of ways to spend that big fat paycheck.)

Do yourself a favor: before you jump into the telephone booth to change into your Superhero costume, take a minute to ask the person exactly whose life they want you to save.  No need to be seen in those tights if you can avoid it.

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4 Comments. Leave new

  • My favorite one is, “Have you been doing anything with the database?”

  • HAHAHA, yeah, I should have included that. That’s usually the best question.

  • “Man, this application is so slow.” I get this fairly frequently with our ERP system and it is not easy to nail down. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve walked around the building asking people if XXX software is slow today? Many users simply cannot give you an answer. “It’s always slow.”

    I’ve been thinking about creating a blog post with a set of actions to benchmark when everything is optimal and then to run during possible performance issues to quantify the difference.

  • Jason, that is so true and funny in so many ways
    “Have you been doing anything with the database?”


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