Joy (cithra) wrote,
Joy
cithra

the medium-sized picture?

There is a phenomena that happens when you teach someone who doesn't like, or doesn't know much about computers how to do something using them, like generate a report or download a dataset. Particularly if then you go through several iterations of people holding that particular job, so that someone with a limited instruction set teaches that set to their replacement. You often end up with someone who knows how to do one particular thing on the system extremely well, but not much about other, related things it is also possible to do with the system.

Case in point: one of the systems I wrangle at work is used to pull together information to build audit case-files. It's actually a batch processing system that talks to a different computer where the actual information is stored/work is done. The case-file contains two main chunks of data that must be queried for; in addition, the method of query for one chunk varies depending on whether the return was filed on paper or electronically.

[I realize this is vague, but it has to be - I like my paycheck, and I'd like to continue collecting it.]

So you've got what has traditionally been three separate queries, at a minimum, for between 50-500 cases, depending. Usually handled by two, if not three separate people, then collated when the cases are built. The person in charge of managing the case-building process is really good about splitting the required information out into the three or four chunks and then collecting all the data back together and disbursing it as needed - no small feat of planning since some of the information requested takes a number of weeks to arrive after it has been requested.

Then someone with a broader knowledge of how computer systems work (that'd be me) comes along, looks at the instructions for the three-four different queries involved, pokes around a bit, and comes to the conclusion that it can all be done at once. Another bonus is it doesn't require anyone to split out the electronic filers vs. the paper filers - I can handle that at the query level.

But here is what I find interesting: the hardest part of the whole business is explaining to people that it's possible to combine the three batch requests into one. Because they're used to thinking of them as three separate, unrelated processes rather than three differing instances of the same process. And my real question is: why/how do I manage to correlate the information I have accreted over the years into some kind of systems view of things when other users don't. Training in observation from my anthropologist days? Excessive curiosity as to how things work, in general and in specific? A tendency to speculate about the shortest possible way of restating the parameters of a situation? I suppose curiosity on my part could subsume most other possible answers, so maybe I'll stick with that.

[See what happens when I finish all my crosswords so I don't have anything to fiddle with during lunch?]
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