Mistaken Assumptions

After reading Michael Brooks excellent book, 13 Things That Don’t Make Sense, recently, I found myself contemplating chapter 5 for some time. This chapter is simply titled, "Life." The closing remarks were quite striking and made me contemplate their implications for IT professionals. Here’s the most interesting quote for me:

So maybe life seems so strangely hard to make because we have no idea how it started; maybe Earth’s conditions did not generate life but merely provided a good home.

Indeed, scientists have no fact-based idea of how life began. In fact, many have admitted that it is impossible to determine how it began. Some even suggest that it should not be considered and that time would be better spent by investigating ways to improve the life that is rather than guessing at how that life came to be. Regardless of where we stand on that issue, it does raise some interesting questions about IT operations and I’d like to focus on just one:

What can we do to solve a user problem regardless of who created it?

Maybe you’ve noticed it too. People seem to have a strong need to assign blame. For example, an IT professional may say, "Well, it was the user who deleted the table. So it’s not our fault." That statement may be true, but does it solve the problem. I don’t think so. Why not implement a solution that prevents the user from deleting the table in the first place? Maybe we didn’t think of this need during the genesis of the database implementation, but the current events should reveal the need. When we play the blame game, we tend to fix something quickly without implementing a permanent solution.

This cited example of the database table deletion is most revealing. If you are using Microsoft SQL Server, for example, it will take about one minute to create a DDL trigger that will prevent any user with permissions from deleting a table. One extra minute now could save hours later (how long will it take to rebuild a table and restore the data?). The point is that, while user training is great, sometimes it doesn’t matter how the problem (is life a problem? I’m not sure…) started as much as it is important to permanently solve it.

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