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Buttering up the end user

Some end users are happy with a short wait when calling up an application, others can be downright hostile. Good DBAs properly manage the different pockets of end users in an organization.

End users can be categorized into two groups -- those who can wait and those who won't.

After calling up a specific database application, some users, possibly accustomed to a delayed response, use the time to do another task or sip that second cup of coffee.

Others, however, will get downright nasty.

Your problem? You bet. But a good DBA knows how to handle both groups, ultimately heading off any problems and end-user hostility, before they turn into big headaches.

DBAs have accepted the myth of having a black box role instead of stepping out of the thing and talking with the end-user community.
James F. Koopmann,
Oracle-certified DBAPine Horse Inc.

Segmenting end users into how they handle response times is a proven way to prioritize problems and issues catered to each group, said James F. Koopmann, an Oracle-certified DBA who runs Denver-based Consultancy Pine Horse Inc.

Often, DBAs have their heads stuck in a database searching for issues, but rarely visit the data center to see how end users are coping, Koopmann said.

"People tend to be administrators without understanding the application or what the end users are doing," Koopmann said. "DBAs and a lot of administrative people have accepted the myth of having a black box role instead of stepping out of the thing and talking with the end-user community."

When response time is instantaneous and things are running smoothly for end users, DBAs need to take this picture-perfect opportunity and document everything they can about the application and queries within the database. Doing the work now, will help prepare DBAs for when things go wrong -- and they will.

A good DBA should focus on users who are experiencing slow response times. Start first by notifying the users that response time performance is deteriorating and become proactive, Koopmann said. Upfront communications can go a long way, in these cases.

If users can be notified that they are experiencing performance deterioration before they begin to complain about it, the DBA will be viewed as very proactive and committed to customer satisfaction, Koopmann said.

"If you don't solve these problems, the ability to save face with the end-user community deteriorates fast," Koopmann said. "These users can give you the biggest headaches, but if you map out the types of transactions that they're doing within the database and are able to segregate and monitor the weights around those things, then they are easy to find."

Dealing with headaches has been the job of Subhash Chahanni, an Oracle DBA with a large Michigan manufacturer dedicated to database performance issues. Chahanni said his company is working on eliminating legacy systems, causing growing pains for some users.

"When an end user expects a certain level of response time and suddenly that response isn't instantaneous, then it becomes very difficult," Chahanni said. "We're trying to find problems before they become noticeable by the average end user, but when you are upgrading systems, challenges are inevitable."


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The organization of the IT department also affects the way a DBA deals with the end user, said Craig Mullins, site expert and director of DB2 technology planning at BMC Software Inc. Large enterprises can have a dedicated group of DBAs developing new applications for end users and have another group focusing on the back end of database management, Mullins said.

"If you can automate your administration practices such that you can find problems before they occur, then you can often avoid the end user," Mullins said. "You're always going to have to deal with end users in development, and trying to engage them as much as possible is important in that process."

When you think you've got these two groups of users under control, there's always that third group of user -- the user who demands instantaneous response from an application that doesn't require immediate response. Koopmann warns that while a more instantaneous response will boost a DBA's image, in some cases, your time may be best suited to more important tasks.

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