User Woes (1 Viewer)

EternalMyrtle

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Several years ago, I started creating a database at work with no previous experience. As time went by, my skill level has increased dramatically and it has taken years of experience and hard work to get where I am now. In this time, I learned everything I could about table structure, data normalization and the design and programming of the front end by reading books and web resources like this forum. I even took a couple of VB programming courses at a local community college on my own dime. I am still no expert and am always learning new things but I have some real skills and knowledge that are not easy to acquire.

The database grew from a single-user box tracking tool that I created for myself (based on a built-in Access template) to a project tracking tool used by our Business Development (BD) department, the head of which happens to be my supervisor. The database is split and BD is using Runtime to access the .accdr file. Everything is custom-made specifically for them and it is working great and such a huge improvement over what they had before.

However, the database is still evolving. I am still perfecting the front-end and creating reports as they are needed so the data they need can be outputted with ease. The problem is that my boss wants to be able to get information out at a moment's notice and feels threatened by the fact that I am the only one capable of doing designing reports and queries. Her argument is that it is imprudent that only one person knows how to design the database. In her opinion, nobody in the office should be the only one who knows how to do anything. She is worried that “something will happen” [to me, I guess] and that nobody else will have the skills to do anything about it. So she thinks I should be able to train her or somebody else to do this.

She is not very technically competent plus she is busy so I think training her to use the full version of Access would be extremely difficult. Training anyone would be difficult as it has taken years of hard work to get where I am.

How do I handle this situation?
 

Gasman

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I would say she does have a point. You are the single point of failure regarding that project tracking tool, if anything happens to you.

I expect you have no documentation that describes how the system is setup.?

That would go someway to alleviating her fears if something happens to you. Someone else could at least come in and have something to refer to.

I'd be looking for an enthusiastic colleague, keen to learn what you have learnt over the years, to train up as an assistant.
 

EternalMyrtle

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Thank you. Project documentation is a great idea.

There is someone here who is enthusiastic to learn (but not in our department). I made that suggestion and she did not seem open to it.
 

plog

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How do I handle this situation?

Play along. Worse case, you get a bruised ego if she's right.

I think she has a good idea and you are taking this too personally. It sounds like you think she is diminishing what you have done by proposing that someone can pick this up easily and quickly.

This can actually be good news if you are right. If it really is too hard for someone to pick up quickly, you've just made her realize your value. If not, your opinion of your talent is over-inflated. From a politics standpoint, you should try and have her be the one to learn it.
 

EternalMyrtle

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I think she has a good idea and you are taking this too personally. It sounds like you think she is diminishing what you have done by proposing that someone can pick this up easily and quickly.

Not really taking it personally just not sure how to do it in practice. Just give her a copy of the front end, hide the tables, and tell her to go to town?
 

Frothingslosh

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Not really taking it personally just not sure how to do it in practice. Just give her a copy of the front end, hide the tables, and tell her to go to town?

Find out how much she knows about Access. You may well have to give an Intro To Access Development course before doing anything else.
 

plog

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Even you shouldn't be working on the live copy of the front end or back end. You should have a test environment--copies of both FE and BE. Set up a directory for her to play with the whole thing where she won't screw anything up.
 

EternalMyrtle

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Even you shouldn't be working on the live copy of the front end or back end. You should have a test environment--copies of both FE and BE. Set up a directory for her to play with the whole thing where she won't screw anything up.

I never work on it live. Good idea about the separate directory for her though.

She will want access to the live backend otherwise she won't be able to get the data she needs at a moments notice. That will probably be an issue.

Keep in mind she is not technically competent in any way at all...
 

EternalMyrtle

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Find out how much she knows about Access. You may well have to give an Intro To Access Development course before doing anything else.

I already know this--she knows nothing and her technical skills are minimal. She can't even map a network drive
 

EternalMyrtle

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Do you know the concept of bus factor ? :)

Ha ha, no, I was not familiar with that but of course it makes sense.

I think my original post is perhaps a little misleading: I don't have a problem with somebody else being hired to help with development or even training someone with aptitude. The issue is that I don't think she is the right person for the job.
 

EternalMyrtle

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Do you know the concept of bus factor ?

The video in the external link is pretty interesting:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q52kFL8zVoM

I like my boss as a person but she is totally the type to obsess over the color of the bike shed...;)

IMO, the bottom line is that they should fork over the money to hire someone with real skills who I can work with (and maybe even someone whom I can learn a thing or two from) rather than trying to train a total novice who has another job to do. I tried to convince them to go down that road years ago and hit a brick wall.
 

Frothingslosh

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Yeah, if your boss has no computer skills, this will be rough, but you'll still need to suck it up and try to train her, I'm afraid. Hopefully she'll realize she needs to get a more computer-savvy person trained after failing for a few weeks.

If not, well, your resume IS up to date, right? ;)
 

EternalMyrtle

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Yeah, if your boss has no computer skills, this will be rough, but you'll still need to suck it up and try to train her, I'm afraid. Hopefully she'll realize she needs to get a more computer-savvy person trained after failing for a few weeks.

Ha ha, I know. I already told her I would start training her next week. If she manages to get any real involvement with the development she is going to make this a nightmare because she obsesses over nonsense and doesn't see the forest through the trees. Luckily, I am fairly certain she will get overwhelmed and fail. Sadly, I doubt they will fork over the dough to pay somebody with real skills :(

I guess my original question was more of a rant than a question :eek:

As for my resume, I am an accidental database developer and am self-taught so I feel like my options are limited but I should really figure it out because I sure as hell don't want to do my "real" job if I don't have to.
 

Frothingslosh

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because I sure as hell don't want to do my "real" job if I don't have to.

I hear that. My "real" job is to run canned reports in a 30 year old mainframe system. I'm technically about 2 steps below an actual data analyst.

Oh, and I occasionally get to inventory things like 'Workplace PC's' and 'Office Supplies'. :mad:
 

jdraw

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If your Boss wants to have access to current data, just look at the organization chart, and you should quickly see that it is easier to "go along" than to object. From my reading of this thread she has 2 basic needs at the moment.

1- she wants to play database(more on this later)
2- she feels vulnerable (and the organization's business as well) that design, development, maintenance and support is a single point of failure --YOU.

A few thoughts from several years in corporate data admin.

Every system/database for use by anyone other than the developer, should have documentation that shows purpose, design, user/operator instructions, backup/recovery information, technical specs and maintenance logs. Sounds like overkill, until something major fails. As has been said, there should be "environments" for development, testing/acceptance, operations/production and maintenance. All of these data management/admin practices require discipline and communication.

When you are designing/developing a database application, get others involved. Build a data model, build test data and scenarios --get users, interested management, casual users etc involved in a game we called "stump the model". I have posted it before here. If you have to make "concocted statements" so others can correct your obvious mistakes, so be it. Get people involved - many of them will be users/supporters of the system. Keep them happy and participating.
For those technically inclined, get them on the team. Give them instructions and authority (with supervision) -- you don't want to be chief cook and bottle washer for every potential application that comes along. Train the techies to understand the whys and hows of the disciplined approach. It will take the heat off of you and add a comfort factor to the Boss and superiors.

Now getting back to the Boss's wanting access to the data. I recall (and it's been a while) where we had online systems doing government services involving grants and loans, multiple projects under several pieces of legislation. It was a multiuser online system integrated with finance. The old way was individual systems for every "assistance program" (20+ of these) that were reconciled monthly-- a real PITA. The online system showed factual expenditures/commitments/approvals etc. Some more progressive users and some "bosses" who were responsible for individual "assistance programs" wanted to access the database to do summary reporting and some statistical analysis. Other bosses concurred that there requirements were valid. Our data admin group said, it's an online system. You can't/won't necessarily get the same numbers if you do your queries 2 minutes apart. Not to worry --they knew what they wanted. We gave them readonly accounts and almost immediately there was a major complaint - the data keeps changing.
Hmm?? The requirement was to have access to data for queries/reports and analysis. Agreed. But the solution we proposed, was to give a Point in Time database -- actually -several. MonthEnd, QuarterEnd, CalendarYearEnd and FiscalYearEnd. These were put on separate servers, fully documented and READONLY. Users became quite proficient; very familiar with the data and trends; and appreciative of some discipline on the overall processes. There was even a group led by users to identify the most requested queries/reports/data. These requirements were passed to the data admin group who agreed with design, naming conventions etc; and queries/reporting was developed by techies in user areas using the stump the model approach. They had to go through the documentation, testing and quality assurance processes, and had a whole new respect for data and database than before. They could even bring readonly data into local spreadsheets for analysis and presentation.

So I say, go with it. Others have a lot to learn -it's taken you years as you said. It doesn't just happen overnight. They have learning to do - and you can help ( or complain/confront). Helping is by far a better strategy.

Good luck.
 

EternalMyrtle

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Good morning. I just wanted to follow up on this and thank you all for your insight. It really helped me put this in perspective and sort out ideas.

With your help, I realized that my boss was actually raising two separate issues last Friday, one legitimate, one less so. The legitimate one, as all of you have pointed out, is that I am the ONLY person keeping this project afloat and that is not prudent. The database is starting to be recognized as a valuable asset and it has become more political (before it was just about the joy of making it, to be honest) and I need to accept that reality.

The less legitimate issue is a little harder to describe. Her main motivation for being able to "do what I do" as she calls it is to be able to look good when the owner of our company asks her for information. She has NEVER expressed any interest in the design of the database although I tried many times to get her engaged. She wanted a database, she wants it to be perfect but she doesn't want any real involvement in it. In fact, after I split the database and released it, she didn't even use it for months. It wasn't until one of our senior staff starting asking me for reports that she suddenly took an interest. Now she wants to be able to write her own queries and make her own reports in case she gets asked for something new and I am not here to help her but she doesn't want to put in the effort to really learn how to do those things.

I would almost be willing to bet my right arm that my boss wants nothing to do with database design. In fact, I gave her a development copy of the database, advised her to read up on normalization and data structure tried to arrange a day to begin training and she has not replied or even looked at the development database. I can almost guarantee that she doesn't want to put any real time or effort into learning this.

It's like she wants to learn about France (the database) and to speak French fluently (development) but believes she should be able to do this painlessly in 30 minutes. If she can't, she won't bother trying. Basically, she really just wants to have a good accent when she visits France so that people will be impressed.

This may sound harsh or overly critical but I think I know her pretty well after all these years. And this doesn't mean I don't like her or think she has any strengths (she does), I am just very aware of how she operates and what her limitations are.
 
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EternalMyrtle

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Having said all this, I would enjoy teaching people who are committed to learning.

Judging by my boss's sudden silence, my guess is that she already knows she is not committed enough. Chances are that she will either try to find someone who would be a better fit or outsource the project to an outside company :/

Thank you all again for your candid opinions!
 

gemma-the-husky

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one issue is that despite the work you have done, you probably do not own your database.

UK law at least, anything you do for your employer belongs to your employer.

I think a lot of developers are self-taught. It's the sort of thing that you struggle to teach formally, I think.

Always keep a safe copy of your front end, where no-one touches it. Not being sinister, but just in case your boss (or anyone else) corrupts the master version. make sure your data is backed up daily.
 

Solo712

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Having said all this, I would enjoy teaching people who are committed to learning.

Judging by my boss's sudden silence, my guess is that she already knows she is not committed enough. Chances are that she will either try to find someone who would be a better fit or outsource the project to an outside company :/

Thank you all again for your candid opinions!

Hi EM,
this all sounds eerily familiar. Most companies that have committed to some in-house app development will face some internal crisis such as you indicate. As a consultant I usually steer the conversation to the following topics:

* consider the cost & benefit of keeping the application (vs possibly using some COTS). Remember to include the conversion effort both in SW development and the operation of the app.
* is the app good as-is ? Or do you consider further substantial development ? If the application is ok and does not need more than some trivial tweaking once in a blue moon, I usually recommend going to a local SW (MS Access) developer, rather than trying to develop alternative sourcing for the app support in house. Costwise it almost always works better.
* document, document, document: this applies to both documenting the software itself (through intelligent commenting of the code and tables) and the admin procedures around running the app. Writing a user guide is a very useful exercise which often leads to discovery of important issues, and workarounds.

My $0.02 to the debate.

Best,
Jiri
 

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