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Posted Tuesday, May 22, 2012 11:49 PM



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Comments posted to this topic are about the item Use Tools

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Post #1304695
Posted Wednesday, May 23, 2012 2:12 AM

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Personally I think that automation is good and strive to do get it done automated. Job fails? Put another job in that recovers it and puts it "straight". That and a robust logging and reporting gives me a lot less to worry about.
Being proactive means I have more time for the more interesting things instead of fixing things reactively. This adds value to what I do and is normally appreciated by superiors.

And anyway - if I ever come to the point where I have automated all my job tasks then I am at the point where I need to move anyway as I reached my apex and it is time to find something more interesting again. (
Post #1304768
Posted Wednesday, May 23, 2012 3:06 AM

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I was rather shocked when I read this editorial.

When Steve said he often gets told by IT workers that if they automate too much, they'll become redundant, that got me thinking. By deliberately retaining inefficiencies so as to continue to receive money, they're effectively defrauding the company.

A number of times, I have introduced more efficient processes that have ended up with either reduced headcount or, more often, an increase in capacity without the need for extra recruiting. If I or others like me didn't do that, the company as a whole would suffer, increasing the risk to all the employees instead of the few. I don't know how I could square it with my conscience if I were prepared to do that to others but not to myself. No, if a company could do without me, I shouldn't be working there.

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Post #1304791
Posted Wednesday, May 23, 2012 3:20 AM



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I agree with the points in this editorial, there's a lot of resistance from some jaded IT staff about improving their processes and tools, in case they 'do themselves out of a job'. This isn't necessarily true - while the ideal day for a DBA is spending time behind an interesting magazine (because, of course, all your scripts work PERFECTLY and the estate is running itself under your excellent management!) in reality there is always work to do.

If I can write an SP and a bit of ASP code to effectively automate a boring manual process (hundreds of manual INSERTs, anyone?) or do this using tools like bcp or BULK INSERT, all the better. If I can use the SQL Search SSMS plugin rather than complex queries on sys.objects with sp_msforeachdb, all the better. If I can use UCP, PBM, even SQL Dashboard, or some of the Red Gate products to take the hardship out of my job - brilliant. Steve's absolutely right - while I'm not manually monitoring for disk space problems or data file growth, I'm doing something interesting like performance tuning or planning for growth (or, indeed, posting on here!)


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Post #1304793
Posted Wednesday, May 23, 2012 4:23 AM

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I agree with the main point of the article. Automation is a good thing. Freeing up time for more useful tasks is clearly a good thing for morale and efficiency.

One thing that these tools will often lead to though, is a dulling of your core skills and situational awareness. In a previous life as a flying instructor, I had many students wanting to use their brand new Garmin Sat Navs or asking me why we couldn't switch on the other radio navigation instruments or the auto-pilot (they are available for a reason after all). These tools are amazing, not only giving you your horizontal coordinates, but also giving you your vertical position, endurance information, calculating your track, ground speed, ETA and many things besides. These are all things that pilots of light aircraft traditionally do using a combination of their brain and their MK1 eyeball. They probably take up the majority of the pilot's workload in the cockpit (and 99% of their mental capacity) so they are perfect tasks for automation.

My answer to students would always be the same. Apart from the usual "what if the batteries run out" argument (a very valid point), the more important point for me is that if you want to be a good pilot, you need to understand for yourself what the plane is doing. Don't rely on a tool just spitting out numbers and take it as gospel. You need to know the significance of all the factors that have gone into the calculation. If you know these, your brain will alert you to a problem far sooner than a GPS notification message. Lastly, abdicating your decision making puts you out of the loop, so that when a change of plan is required (emergency or otherwise), you've lost the bigger picture. Automation should enforce your decision making, rather than replace it.

This long analogy applies equally to IT. Whilst the tools are great, if you don't invest the time to step through tasks for yourself and understand what they are doing, and why, there will be a time (usually when the batteries run out ) when you need to change something and will be at the mercy of circumstances you're not aware of.


Kindest Regards,

Frank Bazan
Post #1304823
Posted Wednesday, May 23, 2012 6:24 AM



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My attitude is that I'd rather spend the time creating a standardised way of retrieving the information in future and produce an easy output than spend the time trying to go directly to the output but needing to spend the same amount of time doing it next quarter.

The ethos of effective I think is summed up by Abraham Lincoln: Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe.

The next tree would only take two maybe three hours (including top-up sharpening) thus saving you at least 50% of the time for each tree cut down in future - awesome eh? If only he knew about a chainsaw - but then that just goes to say the right tool can save so much effort

I fully believe in automating repetitive tasks and I believe people who keep things manual must do so because they realise they don't add value in the eyes of their customers.

I have a never ending list of work that as fast as I can automate it, users are asking for new things that get tacked on to the back of the queue. There are two reasons:
1) I increase people's appetite for my product i.e. reports and database improvements by delivering what they need, not just just what they want, and educating them on how we could make their reporting more effective
2) The business is always generating amendments to existing processes and creating new ones. No business is static and as such even if you can't users actively wanting work from you, surely you have enough on your plate with keeping pace with business change?

Post #1304882
Posted Wednesday, May 23, 2012 6:34 AM
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Interesting article!

Just talking about automation and the pros and cons with staff here. I believe as long as you fully understand what you are automating then go ahead automate it! By automating DBA functions you show your employer that you can provide value added and it looks good on your resume too.

With automation of tasks and functions you are then free to dive deeper into your environment and learn more interesting functions of the database technology.

Here is my example. I have created and automated reporting system the collects all types of information from all our SQL servers (production, development, UAT and disaster recovery site) which includes jobs status, versions, editions, licenses of third party products and SQL server services status just to name a few. My boss was so impressed that he convinced the director to allow me to go to the DevConnections conference last year in Florida. Now, this is a big thing because our company never does that sort of thing. Anyway, my point is with the basics covered with automation I had time to fully automate our disaster recovery site. That was fun, succesful and I learn a lot about replication. This too looks good on my resume.

With automated tasks, your job becomes more interesting, you learn a lot more about your environment and you now have time to learn more about technology thus making you a more valueable to the company.

If you are worrried about your job, then you are already one foot out the door. If that's the case, automate tasks and show them off and you will be surprised at what you learn.

Finally created reports that show management that you also collecting stats like number of SQL servers, number of jobs your system have executed and the percentage of successful jobs. Management loves numbers and graphs, this too will make you look like a star.

Just my 2 bytes worth



Post #1304887
Posted Wednesday, May 23, 2012 6:43 AM
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In software, in society as a whole, productivity increases wealth. People who try to maintain jobs by keeping things inefficient are in the long run hurting themselves, and others.

To explain: In colonial times, over 90% of labor in the colonies was involved in food production. Now it's down to around 5%. All that 'excess' labor is now directed to other productivity. Industrialization and automation effectively made us all richer, not poorer.


-- FORTRAN manual for Xerox Computers --
Post #1304896
Posted Wednesday, May 23, 2012 6:53 AM
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I so often see people working in IT fail to take advantage of all the tools we have to automate much of their jobs. They often tell me if they automate too much of their jobs, they won't be needed and may get let go.

I've automated much of my job, but by doing so my workload and responsibility grows much faster than my salary or respect. And when automation needs to be modified due to changes in requirements, I have less time, since I'm responsible for 10 times the number of projects I was a few years ago...
Post #1304906
Posted Wednesday, May 23, 2012 6:59 AM



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In my humble opinion automation gives you more time to focus on other tasks but it also gives you a thorough understanding of the task you've automated and a better understanding of the scripting language you used for the automation. The introduction of an "enterprise scheduling package" in our operations area has certainly put a different perspective on "local" vs. "global" automation as well.

Just about everything I know about PowerShell I've learned from writing scripts to automate a task.
Post #1304913
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