vrijdag 10 september 2010

Intuition and IT

IT is one of the most hardcore techs. One might easily think that in areas like these there is no room for, let alone need for intuition.

But this week intuition served me very well. The customer had reported a problem with a report, in which the number of predicted new employees was thrice the number that was actually being enrolled.

I have no access to the production databases, though i do have the privilege of being able to run the reports in production. Maintenance of this application has been “rightshored” to India, so after some inspection I forwarded the problem to the India team.
The next day they came up with a solution: they had found a view in which a clause was missing in one of a long list of UNIONED select statements. I checked and the result seemed indeed correct. Still I felt a huge amount of doubt. Intuition.
Yes, intuition is usually based on arguments or observations which have not yet reached consciousness. I closed the chat, got myself a cup of tea and forced myself to think. And indeed a couple of questions came up: why had no one noticed this problem before? This report has been in production for nearly two years. True, it was a problem report. Several issues had turned up with the numbers in this report over the past 2 years. But those had mostly been about 1 or 2 employees. Why did this problem crop up now? I asked the India guy, a capable guy by all indications, what was special in these data. He started searching, but could not come up with much.

I walked in on the customer representative, both for an occasional chat and a question on another topic which I needed to ask her. While discussing things, she volunteered some extra information: the 30 employees were not really new, but the result of a take over. They were also depicted in the wrong area of the report.

Back on the chat with India, the problem was quickly solved: the india guy quickly found that a crucial date was missing in the data our application imported.

Further reading:
Making Management Decisions: the Role of Intuition and Emotion, byHerbert A. Simon, Camegie- M ellon U niversity
IT consultants must learn to trust their intuitions, blog by Chip Camden

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