Thursday, July 16, 2009

Automating; the Good, the Bad, & the Ugly

So, when it comes to building a reporting solution why is it that users just want to "Automate" their already overly complex and convoluted Excel or Power Points? Almost every engagement requiring a "Report" seems to start out the same way. There are two primary trains of thought, the first is to "Get Everything" and the second is to "Automate Everything".

Business Analyst say they want "everything" when they don't know exactly what a "Reporting Application" is or they don't know exactly what they want in a Report or Report Application. It's kind of like the General Contractor, who'll tell you he does "anything" when you contact him/her to build you a Deck or replace your Roof. Anytime I see ambiguity at this level, I question the understanding level of the individual making the claim or request.

There are two tactics I find very helpful when faced with a request that seems to be less than well thought out. First I really listen, what i mean is that with active listening I can get down to the core of the request. The Business Analysts / Requester will sometimes begin to realize the request is not so well thought out and revise it in their own minds. Secondly I break the request into smaller parts. By doing this I can sometimes build a flexible modular solution the client can re-use in other projects or independently.

The phrase "just because you can, doesn't mean you should" is worth stating at least once or twice in the course of fulfilling many requests.