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Sometimes we just have to manage the exceptions
21 October 2010, by , in Data Management, 4 comments

A client of mine was telling me about a problem they have with fraudulent credit card charges, which require a bit of work on the behalf of accounting staff to fix. As we discussed the issue, it dawned on me to ask “How often does this happen?” The response: “Once every couple of months.”

The message here is simple: Because we are pursuing success and not perfection, we’re never going to have a system that will control for every possible exception. While the chargebacks are annoying, they occur so infrequently that it’s not worth our time and effort to try to address this problem. We just have to learn to manage these exceptions.

So whenever you get into a discussion about what the database can’t do but should be able to do, remember to ask how often this situation actually occurs. You may be surprised to learn that the problem is so exceptional, it’s not worth discussing.

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  • Wes — Good point. Sometimes the urgent things in life can take our focus off of the important. Tony

  • Well put, Tony.

  • Wes, very good advice.

    During our design meetings with customers implementing netFORUM software, we train our analysts to ask this question all the time. I myself have been drawn into deep discussions about a very arcane and convoluted “requirement”. At some point, I have the sense to ask, “What kind of volume are we talking about here?” If it happens a few times a day, then maybe we continue the conversation. But if they say, “Remember that time last year?” then we put it in parking lot.

    Over time, I’ve found more and more that people are not strident about coding to the exceptions. ROI is on everyone’s mind and they’re not going to want to spend $5,000 to customize and complicate a process that costs them 10 hours of labor per year to manage.

    I will often get out the calculator and try to compute a rough cost of what it takes to deal with the exception (quantity of occurrence * minute to process each exception * $50/hour * 7 years of running the software). If the exceptions costs you $300,000 and a software mod will cost around $10,000 then do the mod. But if the mod will cost you $25,000 and your labor cost is $15,000 then don’t do it.

  • Wes Trochlil

    Well stated, Darryl. Calculating the ROI is a really good way to go, especially if the user doesn’t believe their exception is that exceptional. 😉

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National Association of Life Brokerage Agencies

“Wes was able to come in and offer tangible, relevant advice that made us more productive immediately. I value his understanding of databases but more so, his understanding of how nonprofits work. There was no lost time educating him about how membership organizations are “different.” Wes recommended changes in processes as well as tips and tricks that were easy to implement made an immediate positive impact.”

Mary Pat Paris, Executive Director
International Registration Plan

Mary Pat Paris
International Registration Plan

“This is the second database implementation we’ve done since I have been at Western Arts Alliance (WAA). The first I did on my own. This time we engaged Wes Trochlil as our database planning consultant. Let me tell you, this process is a whole lot easier having Wes on your team! For a small association like WAA, it’s tempting for board and EDs to question the justification and expense of a database planning consultant. But it’s the small associations that need Effective Database Management the most. Wes strengthened our planning process, clarified our needs requirements, helped us steer around solutions that couldn’t meet our objectives, and saved us money in the long haul.”

Tim Wilson, Executive Director
Western Arts Alliance

Tim Wilson
Western Arts Alliance
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