Your company’s data is pretty darn important. Your ability to interact with and glean insights from this data is key to your business in just about every industry. Whether that data is patient care records, the “recipe” for the MES processes manufacturing your drug, your customer list or sales trends this holds true. You probably have a great staff who love the company and have all the right intentions. But are you heading in the right direction? Is your data safe? Is it available? Can you guarantee the quality of it? Can you work with it fast enough? Maybe… Maybe not.

When “Well Meaning” Isn’t Enough

I was looking at the news today and a picture caught my eye… It was of an “art tragedy”… The image is below.. There was a fresco in a church of Jesus, it has been damaged over time by water and was in need of restoration. Pretty common story in old churches and museums across the world, right? Well what happened here is a great reminder for all of us – sometimes you need outside help… Sometimes “well meaning” isn’t enough…  You see.. A woman who attends the church didn’t like seeing this image of Christ damaged. I don’t blame her, we both love the same Jesus, and I see the value in works of art done in earlier generations and times. I love history. Well this woman could stand it no more, so she decided to take it upon herself to touch up the photo. Sadly, her results – while better than I could do – are.. well… pretty horrible. A goal in art restoration is to do as little “new” as possible and to bring things back to the state they were in.. In this case… Well if there wasn’t a before picture, you wouldn’t know what she was trying to do..

Oops

Pretend this is your data…

There are lessons for us in technology here… Being Well meaning isn’t always enough.. Sometimes you need to get trained, get help and get connected…

Get Training!

Managers – how up to speed is your team? Have they been supporting SQL Server 2000 their whole career? Do they even know the new features that came out in SQL Server 2008 let alone SQL Server 2012? Are your developers performing amazing feats of mental gymnastics because they aren’t harnessing the blessings of T-SQL improvements in SQL Server 2005, 2008 and 2012 and they still write T-SQL like it’s 2001? I think you’d be surprised… Are your DBAs afraid of virtualization still when there is no really great reason to be? Whether you go with individual mentoring for your team from a consultant (full disclosure – I am a consultant) or some great immersion training – like what SQL Skills offers, or Kalen Delaney offers through her SQL Server Internals courses. Or classes like my colleagues at Straight Path Solutions offer or some of the great virtual and in person training that my friend Brent Ozar and his great team offer (most for free, btw!)

Get your team some training and they won’t turn your masterpiece (The Data) into something worthy of a comic strip. Like my friend Karen Lopez says – LOVE YOUR DATA... Get them that training or mentoring.

Get Help!

Sometimes an outside opinion and set of eyes is what you need. Maybe you have an amazing staff and they’ve been suggesting that you implement x, y and z but it hasn’t happened. Maybe they don’t know what to suggest because they haven’t been exposed to a lot of different environments. This is where consultants can help. I don’t mean to imply that you need a consulting firm with 45 multiplying bodies taking over your operations… I’ve worked at companies that have gone that way and all I ended up seeing was more expensive and mass produced images that come out the same more often than not.. I mean consider an outside set of eyes to look things over. Perform a health check/assessment/sanity check or whatever they call it. It doesn’t have to be me or my colleagues. That SQL Skills company I mentioned? Great folks! Brent Ozar and his team? I love working with them. Karen Lopez and her company, InfoAdvisors? How can you not trust the woman whose motto is to love your data? There are countless great firms out there to work with and there seems to be enough work to keep us all busy without needing to horde our client base. Sometimes it is worth spending a little money up front to make sure you are equipped for what the future will bring. That painting was probably pretty obvious to anyone who walked into the room as that well meaning woman was “fixing” it… But maybe to her – lost in the “operational details” of doing the actual repainting didn’t take the time to see what she had gotten herself into. She didn’t realize she was stuck until she was REALLY STUCK… They may be able to save that painting now – but it is going to cost a lot more to fix.. It is going to take a lot longer and it is possible that they are going to have to replace it with a photo of the original…. Your environment is the same way… Switch to proactive mode. Look for problems before the occur and you’ll spend some money on training and outside help – but I guarantee you that you’ll spend less than calling for that help after your precious artwork has been turned into a monkey…

Get Connected!

In cities and towns all across America – there are meetings going on from SQL Server User groups… On twitter you can ask a help and add the #sqlhelp hash tag and get a worldwide audience of SQL Server experts (and no matter when you answer you’ll almost always get SQL Server MCM Robert Davis answering you it seems) actually answering you. Visit Stack Overflow… Ever hear of PASS? The Professioanal Association of SQL Server Users? They do all sorts of online and in person training – including the worlds largest gathering of SQL Server geeks for a week long conference jam packed with networking, learning and Q&A with the experts and the makers of SQL ServerThere is no reason for you or anyone on your team to be a lonely art restorer trying to solve the problem at hand late at night by yourself… These people are here to help and offer advice. You can chat about your plans and most of them are bold and friendly enough to laugh and say – you’re making a monkey! But they’ll suggest alternatives and contacts.. Check out SQL Server central! They have some amazing “Stairways” which are soup to nuts lessons on a topic. They start on the ground floor and build up to 500 level content. There is an entire community of people out there ready to help you and your team!

In closing – I’m not poking fun of this story. I feel for this woman who meant well. I’ve been in her shoes before as a full timer early in my career. I’ve helped a lot of folks out who have monumental tangles caused by well meaning folks who weren’t connected, weren’t trained and weren’t allowed to get help. I think this is a good story to learn from.

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