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Processes can dramatically improve your work until they don’t.

As always with something like this, I like to start with a definition so we are all starting in the same place. From dictionary.com.

  1. a systematic series of actions directed to some end.
  2. a continuous action, operation, or series of changes taking place in a definite manner.

Really a perfect definition for what I want to talk about. In our case the end is a problem we are trying to solve. So for example:

Problem: Customers are complaining that they don’t know who’s working on their request, or when it’s being completed. They feel out of the loop.

  1. When grabbing a request from the queue email the customer to let them know you’ll be working on it.
  2. Once the request is completed email the customer to let them know their work is done.

Problem: The same problem occurring over and over again is a waste of time and money.
Process: After the third time a problem occurs it increases in priority and a root cause must be found and a solution implemented.

Now, these both seem like reasonable processes to me. The problem is, that over time we can run into issues. Sometimes processes can become less useful and even start causing more problems than they solve. Sometimes the process was a bad one to begin with and needs to be revised. And sometimes you just start to get so many processes that it’s difficult to get work done. Because of this, you should continuously review your processes. As you work them try to decide if they are still useful, or if there are improvements that can be made. This is, of course, going to depend on your environment, but you should never be afraid to bring up possible revisions (but make sure you accept criticisms and possible outright rejection of your suggestions).

Problem: A new tool was put in place that automatically sends emails to the customers after certain checkpoints. Now they feel like they are being a bit overwhelmed by constant emails.
Process: Revision: You should stop manually sending emails unless there is a specific need for contact. Revision of the due date or questions about what’s needed for example.

Problem: Over time so many new processes have been implemented that work is taking longer and longer to get done.
Process: Make a slight change to the process so that if no procedural fix is possible then you have no choice but to accept the problem will occur and come up with a quick fix for when it does. Then review the existing processes and see if something can be done to reduce the number of them and the time they take to use.


My name is Kenneth Fisher and I am Senior DBA for a large (multi-national) insurance company. I have been working with databases for over 20 years starting with Clarion and Foxpro. I’ve been working with SQL Server for 12 years but have only really started “studying” the subject for the last 3. I don’t have any real "specialities" but I enjoy trouble shooting and teaching. Thus far I’ve earned by MCITP Database Administrator 2008, MCTS Database Administrator 2005, and MCTS Database Developer 2008. I’m currently studying for my MCITP Database Developer 2008 and should start in on the 2012 exams next year. My blog is at www.sqlstudies.com.


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