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ERP Access – Getting Things Done 03/26/2012

Posted by TBoehm30 in Database.
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I need 20,000 products changed.  Can that be done this week?

If you went through the normal ERP screens, that would take forever (at 5 seconds each, that is almost 28 hours, or 3 ½ working days).  Who could spare that much time to get an important, but non-priority, project done?  Who would even have the patience to do that.

For most ERP systems, you wouldn’t have to worry about it taking up over 3 days.  This can be done reasonably easily using an import/export process.  You export the existing data and put it on a spreadsheet so that the new data can be entered easily.  Then, you save the spreadsheet in a format that can be used by the ERP system.  Importing the new data should be simple from there.  It can be done in just a few hours.

Even better would be someone who has direct access to the database.  Give him the raw data and let him create a quick query or program to insert the right data into the correct fields and tables.  That could be done in under an hour with the correct knowledge, skills, and access.

Who do you give that type of access to?  Who do you trust with the ability to make any type of change they want, without additional passwords and auditing?  Who would have both the access to make the change plus the knowledge of the risks of performing the change?

I have worked with many SMBs where the IT groups are great at some problems.  They can reset your password, diagnose network issues, and sometimes even troubleshoot the ERP.  Some problems, however, require more assistance than the IT department can provide.  Changing data in the database requires the knowledge of how fields are linked together and why.  You don’t want to permanently screw up the database because of integrity issues.  Normal databases have tables that should be linked together so that no data is repeated.  Most Normal databases don’t actually follow that to its final conclusion where absolutely no data is repeated (1NF to 6NF), so changing one table without the other might do some serious damage.

There is also a security issue.  If they can make any changes they want, what else can they do?  Would they be good enough to create new records?  Could they create the necessary records that would automatically pay someone some money?  Could they redirect money to themselves?  Some of those rules to separate duties are just for that purpose.  This project would definitely break those rules.

But, now we are back to having to manually update 20,000 records.  What do you do?  This won’t be a one-time occurrence.  You know that next week, someone is going to find another tweak for 20,000 records.

This is where you need someone trustworthy to work outside some of the rules.  You need someone who understands the data, has the access, and has the confidence to make changes to a production database.  Without that person, you are stuck with manually updating 20,000 records. 

You need someone who is good enough to say ‘no’.  If he can say ‘no’ to the boss when asked to make a dangerous change, then you can trust him with the access to make the important changes.  That is the deciding factor in trusting someone with access outside the rules.

Sometimes someone will ask for a change that seems logical, but could produce serious side effects to the system.  You need someone who can stand up, even to the boss, to say ‘no’ that won’t work.  Hopefully they are good enough to find a workaround, but the key is saying ‘no’.  I have worked with too many IT people who have a little knowledge, want to look good to the boss, and end up wrecking everything.

Another helpful tip is to test everything in a testing environment.  Don’t test in Production.  When you are hacking into the database to make a change, you need to double check everything.  Make the change in a test environment and then use the data.  Create some Work Orders, or Purchase Orders; solve some cases, or redirect calls.  You need to do regression testing on those changes.

If you don’t have someone at your company who is that good and that trustworthy, then good luck fixing the products by hand.  It should only take a couple of days without sleep. 

Tell me about your large tedious project; did you hack the system to fix it quickly, or have to spend days doing it the hard way.  I’d like to hear your stories, because it’s a global world out there and technology makes it happen.

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